Mark Story

Mark Story's predictions: Final Four run is in the Cards

Predictions for the NCAA Tournament:

Final Four

Louisville: After the Cards beat UK, I wrote that I didn't see them in the Final Four. Having watched their suffocating defense in the Big East Tournament, now I do.

Memphis: By complaining (in advance) about not receiving a No. 1 seed, John Calipari assured that the Tigers will enter NCAA play with a massive chip on their shoulders.

Pittsburgh: My hunch is that Jamie Dixon's Panthers are going to have to beat in-state rival Villanova to make the final weekend.

North Carolina: If Ty Lawson's toe is reasonably healthy, Roy Williams' traditional season-ending crying jag won't come any time soon.

Champion

Pittsburgh: A team that plays basketball like the Steelers play football will bring another championship to the Steel City.

Upset specials

No. 12 Arizona over No. 5 Utah: Listening to critics pan their inclusion in the Dance should be enough to motivate talented but enigmatic 'Zona.

No. 11 VCU over No. 6 UCLA: Eric Maynor, the VCU star who beat Duke with a buzzer beater in the 2007 NCAAs, will add the Bruins to his upset résumé.

No. 11 Dayton over No. 6 West Virginia: I've just never had much faith in Bob Huggins in NCAA Tournament play.

Cinderella

I liked Siena (a veteran team that routed Vanderbilt in last year's NCAA Tournament) as my glass-slipper team, but its draw (Ohio State, with Louisville looming in the second round) is brutal. So I don't have a viable Cinderella.

I do have an ugly step-sister: The Southeastern Conference. I expect all three SEC teams ( Tennessee, LSU, Mississippi State) to lose in the first round.

Kentucky teams

Louisville: Will lose to Pittsburgh in the national championship game.

Morehead State: Will earn its first NCAA Tournament win since 1984 by beating Alabama State in the opening-round game Tuesday night. Will then lose to Louisville.

Western Kentucky: Illinois is beatable, but without Courtney Lee and Tyrone Brazelton, WKU does not have the firepower to pull off the 12 vs. 5 upset this season.

Bracket breakdown

■ The two teams that missed the NCAAs that I feel bad for are St. Mary's and Auburn. St. Mary's season was sidetracked by an injury to its star player, future NBA point guard Patty Mills. Auburn did what basketball teams are supposed to do: It improved throughout the season and won nine of its last 11 games.

■ Before Jerome Dyson got hurt, I thought UConn was the best team in the country. Without him, I don't.

■ Former UK assistant Leonard Hamilton has a favorable path for his Florida State team to reach the round of 16.

■ Ex-UK guard and Eastern Kentucky coach Travis Ford will win his first NCAA Tournament game as a head man when his Oklahoma State team beats Tennessee.

Don't forget the NIT

Evaluating the NIT is like picking minor bowl games: The challenge is figuring out which teams actually want to be there.

Don't know about the players, but Kentucky's fans are offended by even being in this event. In this atmosphere, I can't see the Wildcats going beyond a potential matchup with Creighton in the second round.

I expect Auburn to be a hungry team and to go to New York and win the whole thing.

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