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Mike Moran: NCAA tournament guide to victory

AP
Clockwise from top left, Louisville coach Rick Pitino, Florida coach Billy Donovan, Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg and Arizona coach Sean Miller.

AP Clockwise from top left, Louisville coach Rick Pitino, Florida coach Billy Donovan, Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg and Arizona coach Sean Miller.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014
(Published in print: Thursday, March 20, 2014)

Let’s get the disclaimer out of the way first — I have not won an NCAA tournament pool since 1995.

Tyus Edney saved me that year. His length-of-the-floor dash in under five seconds beat Missouri in the second round and propelled UCLA to the national championship.

It’s because of March Madness and that tournament why I can remember the starting five — Edney, Ed O’Bannon, Charles O’Bannon, George Zidek and Toby Bailey. (Cameron Dollar did start for Edney in the final because of an wrist injury.)

I bring this up because the tournament starts Thursday. The play-in games are over and the field of 64 is set. If you haven’t filled out a bracket, now is the time. Let’s find your UCLA.

To help, I’ve broken the teams into three categories — studs, duds and noise-makers. It’s an easy concept. Florida is a stud. Louisville is a stud. Eastern Kentucky? Sorry. You’re a dud.

If it’s a toss up, I tend to lean toward location and which team is closer to its home court. I also always pick a couple 12s to beat a 5.

Note: Since UMass is in the field, resident Gazette Bracketologist Matt Vautour gave me the keys to the tournament guide. If your picks are wrong, blame him. I’ve gotten most of this information from his stellar work during the season.

On to the regions.

Midwest

This region is loaded. Good luck getting out of here alive. Three of last year’s Final Four teams — Wichita State, defending national champion Louisville and Michigan reside here.

Studs: No. 2 Michigan, No. 3 Duke, No. 4 Louisville.

Noise-makers: No. 8 Kentucky.

Duds: No. 1 Wichita State, No. 5 Saint Louis, No. 6 UMass.

Outlook: Undefeated Wichita State’s lousy schedule will bite it in a loss to Kentucky. Saint Louis’ struggles down the stretch and UMass’ consistent ability to fall behind will result in first round exits. A Calipari-Pitino Sweet Sixteen matchup sounds spicy. I like a Louisville-Michigan final in Indianapolis.

Winner: Louisville

East

Studs: No. 3 Iowa State, No. 4 Michigan State.

Noise-makers: No. 6 North Carolina, No. 8 George Washington, No. 10 St. Joseph’s.

Duds: No. 1 Virginia, No. 6 North Carolina, No. 11 Providence.

Outlook: I’m not buying Virginia. Defensive-minded teams typically don’t last, hence a loss to GW in the second round. Harvard is trendy, but Cincy is too athletic. Providence isn’t playing Creighton and UNC should at least show up for that one. It’s Iowa State-Michigan State in NYC.

Winner: Iowa State

West

Studs: No. 1 Arizona.

Noise-makers: No. 6 Baylor, No. 12 North Dakota State.

Duds: No. 2 Wisconsin, No. 3 Creighton, No. 4 San Diego State, No. 5 Oklahoma.

Outlook: This is my least favorite bracket. I don’t like anyone with the exception of Arizona. As awesome as Dougie McBuckets has been for Creighton, a one-man show rarely goes deep. I always get burned with Wisconsin, which isn’t a strong No. 2 anyway. I’ll see you Arizona, and raise you Baylor, which plays its first two games in San Antonio (location, location, location).

Winner: Arizona

South

Studs: No. 1 Florida, No. 2 Kansas, No. 3 Syracuse.

Noise-makers: No. 12 Stephen F. Austin.

Duds: No. 4 UCLA, No. 6 Ohio State.

Outlook: Kansas (St. Louis) and Syracuse (Buffalo) ease into the Sweet Sixteen after playing down the road from their locker rooms. Dayton wins the battle for Ohio with an upset of the Buckeyes. VCU can be toppled with quality guards and the Lumberjacks from the school with two first names has them. Florida and Kansas meet in Memphis, Tenn.

Winner: Florida

Championship: In a fantastic NCAA script, it’s mentor vs. student, Pitino vs. Donovan. Billy the Kid gets a third title in the house that Jerry Jones built.

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