Mark Story: NCAA Tournament predictions

Herald-Leader Sports ColumnistMarch 11, 2012 

NCAA Tournament predictions:

FINAL FOUR

Kentucky: Wildcats are most talented team in the field and, with three starters back from last season's Final Four team, are more experienced than people think.

Missouri: Over and over, I fall in love with smallish, guard-oriented teams. Here's another one. In the year before they join the SEC, Frank Haith & Co. are finally going to give Mizzou its first-ever Final Four trip.

Florida State: Ex-UK assistant Leonard Hamilton's Seminoles have beaten North Carolina and Duke twice each; a team that can do that can make the Final Four.

North Carolina: The only team in the field whose talent ceiling is close to Kentucky's — assuming that John Henson is at full strength for the tourney.

CHAMPION

Kentucky over North Carolina. If only the national title game turns out to be as good as the show these two put on in Rupp Arena Dec. 3.

UPSET SPECIALS

No. 8 Memphis will upset No. 1 Michigan State in the round of 32 in the West.

No. 11 North Carolina State will oust No. 6 San Diego State in the Midwest.

No. 14 Belmont will upset No. 3 Georgetown in the Midwest.

CINDERELLAS

No. 5 Wichita State is going to bounce last year's glass-slipper darling, VCU (a 12 seed) in the round of 64, then it will polish off No. 4 Indiana in the South before falling to Kentucky.

No. 12 Long Beach State will upset both No. 5 New Mexico and No. 4 Louisville in the West.

KENTUCKY TEAMS

Kentucky: UK will win the national title.

Louisville: U of L will beat No. 13 Davidson then fall to No. 12 Long Beach State in the round of 32.

Murray State: MSU will beat No. 11 Colorado State, then fall to No. 3 Marquette in an entertaining matchup of guard-oriented teams.

Western Kentucky: The Pomeroy ratings say WKU should beat Sean Woods and Mississippi Valley State. But I'm picking the senior-oriented Delta Devils over the freshman-heavy Hilltoppers for the right to face UK in the KFC Yum Center.

BRACKET BREAKDOWN

The East Region (Syracuse, Ohio State, Florida State, Wisconsin and Vanderbilt the top five seeds) looks the most formidable.

Before the Final Four, UK's toughest game may come in the round of 32 against either unconventional Iowa State or the talented but mostly under-achieving Connecticut.

Whatever the computer ratings say, I would have rather seen teams such as Drexel and Oral Roberts that had outstanding regular seasons in smaller conferences make the field as opposed to major-conference mediocrities like California and South Florida.

Mark Story: (859) 231-3230. Email: mstory@herald-leader.com. Twitter: @markcstory. Blog: markstory.bloginky.com

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