Making the picks for March madness

Bobby Curran
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Friday - March 16, 2007
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Got your NCAA brackets ready to go? If not, here’s a piece of advice, not on whom to pick, but how to pick.

Rid yourself of favorite teams or any pre-conceived notions of who will be around at the end. Start with the first round and do it game by game. This method does not guarantee you’ll win your pool, but it does assure you’ll be surprised at your final four.

You’ll need some upsets if you’re going to win. Just about every year a 12 seed beats a five. Only once has a 15 seed beaten a two, and a 16 has never defeated a one seed. If you choose only chalk (a betting term for favorites) you’ll be respectable but will have no chance to win.

I’ve got two first round upsets in the Midwest region. I’m going with No. 12 Old Dominion over No. 5 Butler. I’m all for mid-majors getting their due, but Butler as a five seed is a stretch. I’m also going with No. 11 Winthrop over No. 6 Notre Dame.

I don’t have any upsets in first-round action in the West or East regions, but I’ve got a doozy in the South. I’m picking No. 13 Albany over No. 4 Virginia. The total of three first round upsets is the fewest I’ve picked in the last 20 years; it may be too few.

Already the tournament features incredible drama, with every team fighting for its basketball life. Add to that some of the intriguing coaching matchups that increase the intensity level: Marquette coach Tom Crean was a longtime assistant to Michigan State coach Tom Izzo, and they meet in the first round. In the third round, Pittsburgh coach (and former UH assistant) Jamie Dixon could face his former mentor, UCLA’s Ben Howland. They worked together at Northern Arizona as well as Pittsburgh.

Yes, it’s going to be crazy. There will be wild celebrations and shock and tears. There will be last-second shots and questionable calls, jubilation and desperation. And it will happen 16 times on Thursday and 16 more on Friday.

Here are my picks in the regional championships.

In the Midwest, I have a red hot Oregon team knocking off defending champion Florida. Sorry, Gators, but it’s so hard to repeat. In the West, I’ve got Kansas downing Pitt. I’d love to see Jamie Dixon get to the Final Four, but the Jayhawks have so many weapons. The East features North Carolina vs. Georgetown, and I like the Hoyas behind Roy Hibbert. The South will see Ohio State down Memphis in a squeaker.

In the final four, I’ve got Kansas over Oregon, and Georgetown besting Ohio State. And the national championship will be Kansas in a title game that will not be nearly as good as the semifinals.

For all my picks in every round, got to ESPN

Happy pooling!

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