My 2008 NCAA Cinderella squad: the Miami Hurricanes
A) They're the local team, and b) I'm certain to be the the only one who picks them.
Why are the Canes being dissed nationally?
Because they're not that good, face tough competition immediately, and might well be satisfied just to make the tourney after early-season predictions of last place in the ACC.
The Hurricanes are gritty and work hard, attributes that will serve them well in a marathon like the Big Dance.
They endured a 2-6 streak and "rebounded." They beat Duke. I know, I know, this year is not one of their better product lines, but Duke is still a great team with powerful mojo...and the 'Canes held on for a W the Blue Devils wanted- badly.
Yes, I know UM lost in the second round of the ACC Tournament, but that was to a thuggish Virginia Tech team fighting viciously to get into the tournament (and ultimately failing).
When you see how far the Hokies go in the NIT, the Canes loss won't look as bad.
Miami's big men—particularly Anthony King and Jimmy Graham—should contain the "Merry Men" of St. Mary's, Diamon Simpson (no relation to Homer) and Outback-sized Aussie Ben Allen. Jack McClinton, meanwhile, will in all likelihood outscore another Blunder From Down Under, G Patrick Mills.
The Canes bench is better, and their conference better too. As far as "being satisfied to be here"—you can also say they'll be able play with a no-loss-either-way gusto.
Suppose they squeeze by St. Mary's on a wing and a prayer, next up is Texas. And no one knows the Longhorn system better than Hurricane head coach Frank Haith, who cut his teeth on that very staff and is soulmate to none other than UT Coach Rick Barnes.
Haith works the "Miracle in Houston," using his formidable motivational skills and inside insight, and we're on to the Sweet 16.
Maybe a mumps epidemic knocks out Stanford or Marquette, and the Canes advance against the juggernaut that will be the winner of the Pitt-Memphis game.
And that's when Mr. Toad's Wild Ride will most likely end. But making the second weekend would be huge for Miami—and even better for your bracket.
You'll be one of the few who had the guts to peel away from the pack and take a two-round chance on Cinderella's shorter, uglier, fewer-blue-chipper sister.
In a total-points pool, that make all the difference. Remember, when everyone goes with the high seeds, the small, unpredictable games become that much more critical.