Still time for Cinderella to arrive

The first round of college basketball's NCAA Tournament is supposed to be about its huge upsets. But this year the biggest upset possible came when there were no big upsets.

Five lower-seeded teams and underdogs did defeat higher seeds, but other than potent Virginia Commonwealth and Winthrop as No. 11s, none of them were double- digits. The favorites would go an astounding 21-11 against the point spread, with the last time that the favorites covered a majority of games being way back in 2000, so that was a shocking result.

In the second round, unfortunately both Winthrop and VCU proceeded to lose. That meant for only the second time since the tournament changed to 64 schools, no double-digit teams reached the Sweet 16. UNLV as a No. 7 is the lowest seed remaining, after defeating overrated Wisconsin.

There is still time for a surprise team to emerge, but it will take one big upset of a No. 1 seed for that to happen. In the meantime, the feeling is that the tournament has yet to begin. What would March Madness be without at least one Cinderella?

Sweet 16 - To get an idea of how people are doing so far in their office pools, one can use ESPN's contest as a guide.

Out of 3 million brackets, roughly half the field has all four Final Four selections still alive. Only 45 have all the Sweet 16 correct, and nobody owns a perfect bracket (the odds of filling out a perfect bracket for the entire tournament are more than 9 quintillion to 1).

So, to be doing well, one must have all Final Four participants still in the running. Having all the Sweet 16 correct would be godlike. But if your pool is run like most pools, you can afford to have some mistakes, as long as you finish strong.

Predictions - The best tournament teams in college basketball should have great guard play, the ability to shoot the three-point shot well, an excellent coach, good defense, a strong half-court offense and at least one star go-to player. It also helps to have a healthy roster and a home court advantage.

Third round point spread picks - Texas A&M -2 1/2; Tennessee and Ohio State Over 144 1/2 points total; Southern Illinois +8 1/2 and Under 125 1/2; UCLA -3 and Under 123; Georgetown -7 1/2; USC +8 1/2; UNLV +3; Florida and Butler Over 125.

Final Four - Never have all four No. 1 seeds reached the Final Four, with the closest time coming in 1993 when three No 1s and a No. 2 advanced. Historically the South region has been the most volatile, as only three of the last ten No. 1 seeds like Ohio State have made it. Only last year and in 2006 did all four No. 1s fail to get there, so a combination of wins and losses by No. 1 seeds in the next two rounds is a near certainty.

Also, a No. 7 seed like UNLV has never reached the Final Four, and two teams from the same conference have made it in eight consecutive seasons.

Florida, Kansas, UCLA, North Carolina, Georgetown, Ohio State, Texas A&M, and Memphis appear to be strong contenders. If any other team advances, it will be a major surprise.

Prediction - Last week I narrowed things down to Florida, Georgetown, Kansas and Texas A&M because, among other things, they owned the greatest overall differential in field goal shooting percentage over their opponents' field goal percentage against them.

National Champion - Georgetown is still alive.


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