Tourney Preview: My Picks for This March Madness

Steve PopowskiCorrespondent IMarch 18, 2009

Midwest Region

Upset Special

No. 12 Arizona over No. 5 Utah

Based on seedings, it's an upset, but if this matchup was anywhere outside of the NCAA tourney, Arizona would be favored over Utah. Utah has only three wins against this year's tourney teams: a 66-65 win at home vs. Gonzaga, blowing out LSU at home, and an OT win vs. BYU. Arizona, on the other hand, has beaten Gonzaga, Kansas, USC, and UCLA while playing in a much more difficult Pac-10.


Most Risky Upset

No. 14 North Dakota State over No. 3 Kansas

In its first season as a Division I team, the Bison have exceeded expectations by just making the tourney and are one of the feel good stories of the tourney. If the Bison's Ben Woodside and Brett Winkelman get hot, they can take down a relatively young Kansas team. Just hope that if they don't, Kansas does not run the table.


My Elite Eight Matchup

No. 1 Louisville over No. 2 Michigan State

Louisville keeps proving me wrong, so why not give in and say they will not blow it? Michigan State always seems to do well in the tourney, and that can be attributed to Tom Izzo's coaching. I say Louisville wins a close one.


West Region

Upset Special

No. 13 Mississippi State over No. 4 Washington

Mississippi State is red hot right now, winning their last six games to make the tourney. They have the best shot blocker in the country in Jarvis Varnado, who I think will make a name for himself this March.


Upset that everyone will pick but will disappoint

No. 11 Utah State over No. 6 Marquette

Come on, so-called "experts"—Marquette has been rumbling with the big boys all year and has beaten teams like Villanova and West Virginia, and the games they lost at the end were nail-biters. True, Utah State is 30-4 and are playing three hours from home, but they only have one quality win, a squeaker over Utah.

A lot of people are picking this upset, but Marquette still has Jerel McNeal, Wesley Matthews, and Lazar Hayward vs. Utah State's Gary Wilkinson.


My Elite Eight Matchup

No. 2 Memphis over No. 1 UConn

Do not know how good Memphis is though, and they can definitely disappoint. I don't think that Missouri or Marquette are good enough to challenge. The emergence of A.J. Price to make up for the loss of Jerome Dyson has sold me on UConn. It took Syracuse six OTs to beat them in the conference tourney, and they have the experience.


Midwest Region

Upset Crazy enough that it just might work

No. 13 Portland State over No. 4 Xavier

Xavier is 5-5 since Feb. 7 and failed to win their conference tournament. They lost games to Duquesne, Dayton, Charlotte, and Richmond on the road, and then to Temple in the A-10 tourney. Even if they beat Portland State in a blowout, they are not going to get past the Florida State/Wisconsin winner.

Portland State is probably about as good as St. John's, but should have a good fan showing playing in Boise. Why not take them?


Upset most people will pick that will disappoint

No. 11 VCU over No. 6 UCLA

True, VCU has stud Eric Maynor, who led the Duke upset in the '07 tourney. I also think the addition of Larry Sanders will help their cause. When was the last time UCLA was sent home early? Ben Howland is too good of a coach to let that happen. UCLA has a ton of depth at guard with Darren Collison and Jrue Holiday, while boasting a good small forward with Josh Shipp.

I love watching VCU play, and I think if they were playing fellow No. 6's Marquette, Arizona State, or even West Virginia, they might have a shot.


My Elite Eight Matchup

No. 2 Duke over No. 1 Pitt

I love watching Pitt play, but Jamie Dixon is not a big game coach, and Pitt never gets far in the tourney. Coach K is a big game coach and has a team that is streaking right now. Two months ago, I would've said Duke in the Final Four would be ludicrous. The way they have been playing lately though, they get my vote.


South Region

Matchup of underperformers

No. 7 Clemson over No. 2 Oklahoma in the second round

I am not sold on Oklahoma, losing four of their last six. Clemson has been equally unimpressive, losing six of their last 10. Trevor Booker/K.C. Rivers vs. Blake Griffin/Willie Warren. Oklahoma may have the edge playing in KC, but Clemson definitely has upset potential.


Most Risky Upset

No. 11 Temple over No. 6 Arizona State

Christmas time come early? Dionte Christmas is shooting lights out right now, and even though ASU has James Harden and Jeff Pendergraph, they have been inconsistent this year and prone to the off night.


My Elite Eight Matchup

No. 1 UNC over No. 3 Syracuse

If Ty Lawson comes back healthy, UNC has the pedigree for a championship team.


Final Four: Memphis, UNC, Louisville, Duke

Champion: North Carolina