By Jon Rothstein
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1. CAN IONA BEAT BYU IN THE PLAY-IN GAME?
Yes and it should be incredibly entertaining. The Gaels were the surprise of Selection Sunday and and now have a second life thanks to an arduous non-conference schedule put together by Iona coach Tim Cluess. The match up with the Cougars features a showdown of two dynamic point guards in BYU’s Matt Carlino and the Gaels’ Scott Machado. Look for this game to be in the 80’s and be a terrific prelude to what should be an unpredictable NCAA Tournament.
2. THE EAST AND WEST ARE BY FAR THE TOUGHEST REGIONS
Syracuse will have a difficult road to the Final Four with a potential Sweet 16 showdown looming with Vanderbilt. Ohio State is a high level two seed in this region and could face a very sturdy test from West Virginia in the third round of the bracket. Also, Florida State just hours after winning the ACC Tournament was dealt the unenviable task of dealing with St. Bonaventure big man Andrew Nicholson, a player who single-handedly carried the Bonnies to the Atlantic-10 Tournament title. The West meanwhile, is loaded and has a stalwart in Long Beach State as a 12 seed.
3. TITANS MEET AGAIN
March Madness is about great theater and there would be nothing better in the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament if UCONN and Kentucky met in Louisville. The Huskies have been enigmatic for the majority of the season but seemed to have turned a corner last week at the Big East Tournament in New York with Jim Calhoun back on the Huskies bench. If UCONN can beat a very good Iowa State team, there’s going to be some serious drama brewing at the KFC Yum Center next weekend.
4. YOUTH VERSUS EXPERIENCE
Josh Pastner has done a tremendous job with Memphis this season but the last person he wants to see across him from in the NCAA Tournament is Rick Majerus. The “mastermind,” as he’s known in some basketball circles, has a sneaky good Saint Louis team that can do the one thing that will frustrate the Tigers — make the tempo of the game at a snail’s pace. Look for the Billikens to advance in this one.
5. MID MAJOR REMATCH
VCU and Wichita State played a classic game in the 2011 Bracketbuster and you can bet the Shockers remember every second. A questionable late game call cost Gregg Marshall’s team a chance at the field of 68 and you better believe he’ll have his team ready for pay back. The Rams meanwhile don’t have the offensive threats they did a season ago but are significantly better defensively.
UPSET SPECIAL: Xavier over Duke in the Third Round
PLAYER YOU NEED TO KNOW THAT YOU PROBABLY DON’T: Lehigh’s C.J. McCollum.
FAVORITE: Michigan State
UPSET SPECIAL: Saint Louis over Michigan State in the Third Round
SLEEPER: Saint Louis
PLAYER YOU NEED TO KNOW THAT YOU PROBABLY DON’T: Long Beach State’s Casper Ware
CHALLENGER: Florida State
UPSET SPECIAL: West Virginia over Ohio State in the Third Round
PLAYER YOU NEED TO KNOW THAT YOU PROBABLY DON’T: Harvard forward Keith Wright
FAVORITE: North Carolina
UPSET SPECIAL: Saint Mary’s over Kansas in the Third Round
SLEEPER: Saint Mary’s
PLAYER YOU NEED TO KNOW THAT YOU PROBABLY DON’T: Belmont guard Kerron Johnson
I will be in studio with Joe Benigno and Evan Roberts Monday at 10 a.m. to break down the brackets.
Who’s your sleeper pick? Do you think Iona has a good chance to beat BYU? Break down the bracket below…