Published March 16, 2010
Each March, FOXSports.com's Jeff Goodman challenges a country full of college basketball fans (play our Bracket Challenge and join the public group Beat Jeff Goodman) by releasing his NCAA tournament bracket before the action kicks off later this week. Below are Goodman's explanations for his picks along with his filled-in bracket.
Kansas likely won't be tested until the Elite Eight in this region. The Jayhawks should breeze in the first round and also coast past the winner of the Northern Iowa-UNLV game.
Then will likely come a matchup against either Michigan State or Maryland, and I'm going with the Terps to advance to the Sweet 16 because, frankly, I just don't trust the Spartans this season.
On the other half of the region, look for a talented Georgia Tech team to come out via upsets against a one-man Oklahoma State team and also against the front-runner for Player of the Year, Evan Turner, and Ohio State. The Yellow Jackets have a dominant frontline and will need guard Iman Shumpert to step up to advance.
Georgia Tech won't get past a Georgetown team that has been tough to figure out in the Elite Eight, though, as the Hoyas will ride big man Greg Monroe en route to wins over Ohio, Tennessee and Tech.
It sets up a terrific matchup between Kansas and Georgetown -- one in which the Jayhawks will come out on top due to depth and point-guard play.
Syracuse won't cruise through to the Elite Eight, especially without big man Arinze Onuaku 100 percent, but the Orange should be able to get past the Gonzaga-Florida State winner and also take care of whoever gets to the Sweet 16.
I've got UTEP pulling a pair of upsets to face 'Cuse in the Sweet 16. The Miners' size will be tough for Butler, and UTEP also matches up well with Vanderbilt -- especially on the interior.
Pittsburgh is another team that could be primed to be knocked off, but the Panthers are tough enough to get past Oakland and Xavier and set up a terrific match-up of hard-nosed teams: Pittsburgh and Kansas State.
I'm giving the edge to Kansas State due to its abundance of live bodies up front -- and I have Frank Martin's Wildcats pulling the upset against Syracuse because of Onuaku's injury questions and also the fact they have guards who can make shots and get into the 2-3 zone.
Kentucky will have an interesting second-round matchup with either a Texas team that began the season 17-0 or a Wake Forest club that has struggled down the stretch, but the Wildcats boast a veteran point guard and one of the nation's top players in Al-Farouq Aminu. However, the Wildcats will roll and also beat whoever their opponent is in the Sweet 16.
The possibilities are Wisconsin, Temple and maybe even Cornell. All are well-coached and all will be a difficult matchup for John Calipari's team, but Kentucky will overwhelm any of them with its speed, athleticism and talent.
Over on the other half of the region, Washington will knock off Marquette in an upset. The Huskies are more talented and enter the tourney with some much-needed momentum. I'm going with Lorenzo Romar's team to get to the Sweet 16 with a victory over New Mexico in the second round as well.
That would set up a game against West Virginia, who should get past Morgan State and the Clemson-West Virginia winner. I've got Bob Huggins' Mountaineers advancing but falling short against a Kentucky team that boasts superior guard play.
Duke has the easiest path of any No. 1 seed, and that's why I'm going with the Blue Devils to beat Villanova in the Elite Eight.
Coach Mike Krzyzewski's team will face either California or Louisville (I'm going with Cal's 3-point shooters here) in the second round, and then I've got No. 13 Siena pulling a couple of upsets to get to the Sweet 16. The Saints face a vulnerable, Robbie Hummel-less Purdue team in the opening round and can also get past Texas A&M in the second round.
In the bottom half, it'll be a terrific matchup of guards with Villanova and Baylor in the Sweet 16. 'Nova will have to get past Richmond, and Baylor will be tested by a well-coached Old Dominion squad that will have knocked off Notre Dame in the first round.
A year ago, it was 'Nova who eliminated Duke.
But the Wildcats had experience and toughness. Now, the tables have turned and that's why I'm going with the Blue Devils this time.
Kansas vs. Kansas State
The two in-state foes have met three times, and the Jayhawks have won all three. I don't see anything changing if the duo hooks up again. It doesn't matter whether it's in Manhattan, Lawrence or Indianapolis.
Bill Self's team has too much.
Kentucky vs. Duke
This could get ugly. The Blue Devils have experience and a terrific trio in Jon Scheyer, Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler, but Duke doesn't have enough all the way around to slow down Kentucky.
The Wildcats would dominate in the paint with DeMarcus Cousins and Patrick Patterson, and Duke wouldn't be able to contain North Carolina native John Wall from getting into the paint and also pushing the ball for easy baskets in transition.
NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
Kansas vs. Kentucky
This is the one everyone wants to see. This was my preseason No. 1 vs. No. 2, and it's arguably the two most talented teams in the nation. You've got a coaching rematch from the national title game two years ago when Bill Self's Kansas team pulled the improbable comeback to beat John Calipari's Memphis club in overtime.
There's Sherron Collins, the senior point guard, against freshman sensation John Wall. There's Kansas frosh Xavier Henry, who was supposed to play for Calipari until he left Memphis for Kentucky.
There's tons of storylines, and it would be a heck of a game. One in which Kansas will hang its second banner in three years.