March 06, 2006


Well, that time of year is back! Golf season is upon us, green beer is right around the corner, and the NCAA tournament is coming up faster than Dale Earnhardt on a wall.

Here is my breakdown on my top 10 contenders for the national title. Bottom to top, here is who will be there in April and why.

10. Michigan State – Well, the Spartans were my preseason pick to win the national title, but they have done everything to disappoint me up to this point. With possibly the most athletic combo in the country in Maurice Ager and Shannon Brown, the Spartans can run with just about anyone out there. The dilemma up to this point has been that the traditional tough on the boards team that Tom Izzo has put on the floor each year looks soft. Paul Davis pouts after every foul he commits, every rebound he doesn’t get, and every free throw he bricks. He needs to step up his game big time in the next few weeks for this team to have a prayer at a sweet 16 spot, let alone a final four bid.

Verdict: Even though they look to have their lowest seed in recent memory coming into the tournament, these Spartans are lead by one of the greatest coaches in the game today. Izzo will have his boys ready and MSU will make noise when they put on their dancing shoes. This team is worthy of some consideration when filling out those office brackets we all know and love.

9. Tennessee – This time of year the only Tennessee hoops anyone is talking about (not that they should be) is the Lady Vols’. Well since Pat Summit makes me want to throw up in my mouth, it is refreshing to me that the men’s team has showed some promise this year. Now even though they have lost 3 of their last 5, they Volunteers have some big wins this year including defeating Florida twice, and winning @ Texas.

Tennessee is dependant on the shooting of sophomore guard Chris Lofton, (8-2 when Lofton scores 20 points) if he is cold from the field this team doesn’t have a chance. I think he’ll play well early, but fade fast when they travel into the sweet 16. I wouldn’t be shocked if Tennessee makes an early exit, but I still like them to move into the 3rd round of the tourney.

8. West Virginia – Last years Cinderella story is back with some tourney experience, and a don’t lose attitude. While they have some characters on their team including the ugliest man in division one, and a guy that looks like an overgrown hobbit from Lord of the Rings, these guys can play. Kevin Pittsnogle can flat out shoot the rock, and Mike Gansey is as clutch as they come. I love the heart that they come to the court with every game, and they will not be intimidated by anyone.

While they are a team that any trailer parker can crack a Natural Light to, I don’t think that they can make it beyond the elite 8. I won’t be completely shocked to see this group in the final 4, but don't ride them too deep in your brackets.

7. North Carolina – Let me start out by saying that if Roy Williams doesn’t deserve to win the coach of the year award, then Bobby Knight doesn’t need anger management, and Eddie Sutton should quit AA. This guy has proven that he is in a class of his own with the clip board. I had written off UNC at the beginning of the year after they lost their top 7 scorers, but this team has proven that they are the real deal. They are 10-1 in their last 11 games, including a huge win @ Cameron on Saturday night and I think they will continue to roll going into the tournament.

Tyler Hansbrough has led this team as a freshman, and he will continue to do so throughout the tournament. If UNC can make it to the ACC championship game they will earn themselves a probable 2 seed in the NCAA tournament. I think this team can make a run into the elite 8, and depending on their bracket don’t be shy about putting this group of kids into the Final 4.

6. Memphis – The Tigers are a surprise to a lot of people, but I have loved this team all year long. They are one of the most athletic teams since the UNLV team of the early 90’s. This is the most entertaining team to watch, and I think that you will be seeing quite a bit of them in March and April. Although they lost a tough one to UAB this year, their performance early in the season @ Duke, along with defeating UCLA & Gonzaga has sold me on the Tigers.

The only down side to Memphis is their weak conference schedule. They haven’t had a true test since the beginning of the New Year when they were handled easily by Texas. I think that John Calipari will be able to get his guys ready for the dance however, and I look for the Tigers to turn some heads. Rodney Carney wants to go out on top, and what better way then for him to make a trip back home to Indianapolis for the final 4.

5. Texas – The Longhorns took care of business in the Rose Bowl, and now they hope their basketball team can have the same good fortune. This team has been on a roller coaster ride all year long, and I think that the car is on it’s way back to the top of the tracks just in time for March Madness.

Verdict: Since January 1st Texas has played 5 ranked teams, and they are 4-1 in those games. In my opinion LaMarcus Aldridge is the player most ready for the NBA game, and P.J. Tucker can be absolutely dominant inside. This team has all the makings of a final 4 team, and they aren’t a bad pick if your looking for someone different than what all the Duke slappies will be picking when they turn in their brackets.

4. Duke Unlike Dickie V, I am not on the J.J. Reddick bandwagon, I don’t wear blue and white knee pads, and I actually root for them to lose. Nothing makes me happier than a disappointed Cameron Indoor Arena, but I have to give them their do. Sheldon Williams is solid, and there aren’t many out there that can D him up. Reddick is one of the best shooters there is, and when he is on this team doesn’t lose often.

Greg Paulus can not make freshman mistakes in the tournament! If he plays well the Dukies will have a good chance to be in Indianapolis. For this team to beat the other top dogs, Melchionni and Reddick must stay hot from behind the arc, and Sheldon Williams needs to stay out of foul trouble. Coach K will be ready as always, and the Blue Devils will make their run in the tournament.

3. Illinois – They were there last year, and they will be there again this year. The Illini have 2 solid seniors that got a taste last season in St. Louis, and they will lead them into Indy. Dee Brown is a talent that is unmatched at the point, he demonstrates tremendous leadership, and doesn’t turn the ball over. They ended the year on a very positive note winning in Minnesota as well as dominating Michigan State @ The Breslin Center, which doesn’t happen often.

Verdict: This is a team that will surprise many come tourney time. James Augustine can go up and defend the top big men in the country, and the guy has good range. If they can sustain their defense for 40 minutes, they may make a return to the national title game.

2. Villanova – This group has the best back court in the nation. They are deep, they can shoot, they are good with the rock, and they flat out know how to win. I love Faye and Allen; I don’t think that there is a better 1 – 2 combination out there. Nova’s defense can be suspect at times, but this team will be in Indianapolis fighting it out for the title.

The only reason that I don’t have Villanova as my #1 going into the tournament is the fact I don’t see them being to go in and win a battle on the boards. They will be able to score with everyone, but a team that runs a 4 guard set will always have trouble trying to out rebound teams. Mark them in your brackets as far as you want, you won’t be disappointed.

1. UCONN – They have been in the top 5 the entire year, and they will prove why during the NCAA tournament. The Huskies have it all. They have the coaching, the guard play, great inside players, and excellent ball movement. They have 6 guys that could start on any team in the country, and that depth is unmatched in this years’ field. Jim Calhoun has been a winner since he came to Connecticut, and he will have his team ready to go when the tournament rolls around.

Verdict: Gay, Anderson, Boone, Williams, Brown, Armstrong…..there are no holes in this team. They will out rebound you, out score you, and out think you on the court. Bottom line is UCONN will be cutting down the nets in Indianapolis on April 3rd.

I know that you expected to see the likes of Gonzaga (led by a 70’s porn star look alike in Adam Morrison), George Washington (who may be the most over rated team in the country), Ohio State (not even a top 3 big ten team), and Boston College (couldn’t beat a top 10 team if their lives depended on it) but I have reasons for the 10 teams I chose. You may not agree with me, but I suggest you listen to me if you want to break your bookies like they were Rick Tocchet and you were Janet Jones.

Be back soon – Johnny Vegas


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At 7:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Duke& UConn go down, Villanova is down by 7 with 7 to go. Definitely a tournament of freak events.

At 7:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

good job predicting the top 10 teams in the tournament. none are in the final four.

At 1:01 AM, Blogger JohnnyVegas said...

I'd love to see the guy that had George Mason, Florida, and LSU in the final 4. This article was written during the conference tournaments prior to brackets being released. Obviously picking 5 teams from the same bracket wouldnt have been advised.


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