- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 16, 2006

Selecting a 15 seed to topple a No. 2 is nice, but the brackets with the best chances of collecting cash early next month usually rely more heavily on making the right call on how long 4, 5 and 6 seeds can stick around. Here are some teams that could both save and savage someone’s office pool entry.

Boston College

The Eagles might not have an imposing backcourt, but they reached the ACC final behind the frontcourt tandem of Craig Smith and Jared Dudley. Both are unselfish players and fantastic passers, traits that would be critical in a possible regional semifinal against Villanova. If the Wildcats don’t reach the Final Four, BC probably will be the team responsible.

LSU

The Tigers have plenty of athleticism as well as depth inside, and both are key ingredients in toppling Duke. Tyrus Thomas — assuming he’s fully recovered from an ankle injury — and Glen Davis could provide a tag-team on Shelden Williams in the regional semifinals, leaving it to J.J. Redick and a third option to be named later to win the game.

Northwestern State

Banking on Iowa to make an extended run is a fool’s errand, so why not be gutsy and call the 3-14 upset? The experienced Demons are a bit underseeded and will be able to take advantage of the Hawkeyes’ often shaky play. The next round would bring a meeting with streaky West Virginia or defense-oriented Southern Illinois, both of which are beatable.

Utah State

Usually at least one of the last teams into the field justifies the selection, and the Aggies have a decent matchup with Washington. The WAC runner-up played Nevada tough on the road in the conference final and could upend a Huskies team not nearly as good as last year’s No. 1 seed. Utah State won’t beat Illinois in Round 2, but anyone thinking of Washington in the Sweet 16 would be wise to steer clear.

Memphis

The Tigers have the talent to justify a No. 1 seed, but let someone else take John Calipari’s crew to reach the Final Four. The occasional lack of discipline is troubling, especially for a team that has not been challenged much in the last two months. Whoever survives the likely Kansas-Pittsburgh second-round game should roll past the Tigers into the regional final.

Oklahoma

Basketball’s version of a bad horror film, the Sooners keep coming back every year with a ponderous grind-it-out style that all but assures an early departure. Ignore the 20 wins and look closer at the consecutive one-point defeats of Iowa State, Texas Tech, Kansas State and Oklahoma State. Foolish folks will point to that stretch as evidence the Sooners “know how to win.” Smart people will realize it really means Oklahoma is just slightly better than mediocre.

Syracuse

It’s deja vu for the Orange, who marched through the Big East tournament last year only to be stunned in the first round of the NCAA tournament by Vermont. Don’t be fooled by one excellent week — Syracuse is still the team that muddled through the regular season with few impressive wins to its credit. The Orange won’t survive the weekend and could be ousted by Texas A&M.

Tennessee

The egregiously overseeded Volunteers received a far better bracket than they could have dreamed, but it would still be little surprise if the Vols don’t win more than one game. The SEC routinely produces at least one flop (though Florida’s presence in the league makes it easy to fill that quota). As a tie-in, the Missouri Valley team to slip into the second weekend is Wichita State, which will topple the Vols in the second round.


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