Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

This Is How I See the Tournament

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

This Is How I See the Tournament

Article excerpt

Byline: Gene Frenette

If there's one team in March Madness that describes my NCAA tournament prognostication resume, it's probably Iowa State. Both of us run hot and cold, staying in the zone about as long as John Calipari can hold his team's attention.

The Cyclones can take you on some nice rides, capturing the rugged Big 12 Conference tournament and winning 14 consecutive games (four over NCAA opponents). But coach Fred Hoiberg (a.k.a. The Mayor) has a constituency that can inexplicably allow 102 points to West Virginia.

That apty describes my bracket reliability. On the plus side, I've correctly predicted the national champion five of the last seven years, being let down by Kansas in 2010 and '11.

Now for the flip side: I'm 4-for-16 on my Final Four picks over the past four years. A .250 batting average doesn't get many major-league hitters a lucrative contract, and it sure keeps you in the red with Las Vegas bookmakers.

This year, despite chatter about this being a wide-open tourney, I'm not buying it. I'm in chalk-heavy mode. My conservatism is so rampant that 14 of my Sweet 16 picks are top-four seeds. Something to consider: Every national champion since Kansas in 1988 has been on the top-four line.

Other than No. 1 overall seed Florida, which was assigned the softest draw in the South region, my Final Four picks didn't come without a lot of second-guessing. The toughest deliberation had to be Arizona or Wisconsin in the West, followed by Sweet 16 matchups of Duke-Michigan (Midwest) and Virginia-Michigan State (East).

First, the Gators have nothing in their path that makes me gun-shy about pushing their win streak from 26 games to at least 30. Pittsburgh in the round of 32 looks problematic, until you realize Jamie Dixon's team consistently underachieves (losing twice in the round of 32 as a No. 1 seed).

UF coach Billy Donovan might have trouble with his mentor (0-3 against Louisville's Rick Pitino), but I don't see former assistant Shaka Smart of VCU or first-year UCLA coach Steve Alford guiding their teams to an upset. UF has won 21 of its last 25 NCAA games because Donovan teams rarely get taken out by inferior opponents. …

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