By Jon Rothstein
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WHAT FAB MELO’S ABSENCE MEANS TO SYRACUSE: All of a sudden, the Orange have a completely different look heading into the NCAA Tournament. Without their starting center, Jim Boeheim’s team will have to rely more on a skilled front court with James Southerland and Rakeem Christmas.
Even without Melo, the Orange are still going be the trendy pick to get to New Orleans. Look for a smaller brand of basketball headlined by sophomore guard Dion Waiters, who is starting more and more to resemble one of the better guards in the country.
FIRST ROUND UPSET: West Virginia over Gonzaga.
This may not be deemed a shock if it happens especially considering the fact that the game is being played in Pittsburgh but based on seeding, a win by the Mountaineers would be somewhat unexpected. Gonzaga has two terrific freshman guards in Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell — but how will they react to the NCAA Tournament? It says here not well enough to advance past the Mountaineers.
BOLD PREDICTION: The winner of the potential third round game between Cincinnati and Florida State will go to the Final Four.
With Syracuse playing without Fab Melo, this bracket could completely explode. Look for this game to be a terrific battle between a veteran team in the Seminoles and a revived program in Cincinnati. The Bearcats are back on the national scene after last week’s performance at the Big East Tournament and look like they have no signs of slowing down.
DON’T BE SURPRISED IF: Harvard gives Vanderbilt all it can handle. The Crimson are terrific defensively and have an Atlantic-10 level baseline with Keith Wright and Kyle Casey.
FEAST OR FAMINE? Cincinnati’s Yancy Gates. If he plays like he did in the Big East Tournament, the Bearcats can go to the Final Four.
PREDICTION: Florida State over Syracuse.
FAVORITE: North Carolina
The Tarheels have four first round picks in their starting lineup and another on the bench in freshman power forward James Michael-McAdoo.
FIRST ROUND UPSET: Alabama over Creighton
A lot of people like the Blue Jays as a trendy pick but this is a bad match up for Greg McDermott’s team. Anthony Grant is one of the elite defensive coaches in the country and is starting to get the offensive pop he needs from freshman shooting guard Trevor Lacey.
BOLD PREDICTION: Georgetown will reach the Final Four.
The Hoyas have become a different team since they’ve moved Jason Clark to point guard and have incredibly length defensively. Keep an eye on two freshmen — Jabril Trawick and Greg Whittington to play a major role in what the Hoyas do defensively.
DON’T BE SURPRISED IF: Detroit puts a scare into Kansas.
Butler’s success the last two years should prove how high the quality of play is in the Horizon League. Ray McCallum Jr. is a dynamite point guard who won’t be intimidated and he’ll be surrounded by a capable front court in Eli Holman and Lamarcus Lowe.
FEAST OR FAMINE? Michigan’s Trey Burke. He needs to be at his apex for the Wolverines to advance.
PREDICTION: Georgetown over North Carolina.
What’s your prediction for the East and Midwest? Make your case in the comments below!