Bracket Racket

By Jeff Lippman - March 21, 2008

Tennessee begins its quest for an eighth national championship in just a day, but Connecticut is the top overall seed and has designs on Geno's sixth. And Rutgers is ready to scrap, claw and defend their way past both of them.

North Carolina sets heel on the road to their third straight Final Four tomorrow, and LSU prowls for their fifth consecutive national semifinal.

Or was it Maryland trying to win its second national championship in three years. Or Stanford trying to prove they deserved the top seed while re-establishing dominant women's basketball on the West Coast.

Whatever the story, the NCAA Tournament will be a fantastic journey, but one that will ultimately reveal one of the aforementioned schools as the true champion.

Which school, you ask? Well, that is where I get to have my fun.

Greensboro Regional:

Best Opening Round Game: Iowa State (7) vs. Georgia Tech (10)
This matchup should make for an up-tempo, closely-contested affair. The Buzz can get up and down the court in a hurry and also led the nation in steals this season. Although Iowa State takes very good care of the ball, they just aren't used to playing the fast-paced game. If MaChelle Joseph can get her troupes to inflict their style upon the Cyclones, then I like the Yellow Jackets out of the ACC to take out ISU from the Big 12.

Upset Special: Liberty (12) over Old Dominion (5)
Readers of this blog know I've been loving the Lady Flames since they won the Big South Tournament. They might be missing one-third of the Frazee triplets, but the Lady Flames only lost three times all season. They were almost upset by Radford in their conference championship game, which may have awoken a sleeping giant. Team leader Megan Frazee hit the game winner with seconds left and will continue to lead her team past the Monarchs. The last time these two met was in the 1997 NCAA Tournament first round when top-seeded ODU destroyed the 16-seeded Lady Flames by 50 points. This year the score will be a lot closer.

The Rest of the Greensboro First Round:

UConn (1) over Cornell (16)
Texas (8) over Minnesota (9)
Virginia (4) over UC Santa Barbara (13)
Auburn (11) over George Washington (6)
Cal (3) over San Diego (14)
Rutgers (2) over Robert Morris (15)

Spokane Regional:

Best Opening Round Game: Xavier (9) over Nebraska (8)
Nebraska may have now made two consecutive NCAA Tournaments, but Xavier has won two consecutive A-10 Tournaments. Plus, the Musketeers best rebounder - she set the single-season rebounding record - and second-best scorer, Ta'Shia Phillips, is just a freshman. Nebraska's best player, junior All-Big Ten selection Kelsey Griffin, was around for last year's NCAAs, where her Huskers lost their first-round matchup with another A-10 school, Temple. Just to keep things consistent, I'm picking the A-10 over the Big 12 again in a tight one.

Upset Special: Montana (13) over Vanderbilt (4)
The last time these two teams got together in the NCAA Tournament, way back in 2005, the seedings - Montana a 12 and Vandy a 5 - were quite similar. That year, Vanderbilt had its way with the Lady Grizz, topping them 67-44. But this year will be different because of two reasons: Mandy Morales and three-point shooting. The point guard Morales averaged 27.5 points, 7.0 assists and 5.5 rebounds as the Big Sky Tournament MVP and is a three-time regional All-America finalist. The Grizz also boast the nation's best three-point shooter in junior Sonya Rogers, and as a team rank fifth nationally. A very well-rounded team, the combination of threes and the steady hand of Morales will put the Grizz over the top.

The Rest of the Spokane First Round:

Maryland (1) over Coppin State (16)
West Virginia (5) over New Mexico (12)
Wyoming (11) over Pitt (6)
Baylor (3) over Fresno State (14)
UTEP (7) over Western Kentucky (10)
Stanford (2) over Cleveland State (15)

New Orleans Regional:

In the New Orleans regional, the best opening round game and the upset special are one and the same:
Florida State (11) over Ohio State (6)

The Seminoles got beat up in the ACC this season. They will use that to their advantage. Playing in the Big Ten is like practicing tennis against the wall. The ball gets returned, but is that really a game? This will be a close one, though, for as much as I poke fun at the worst of the elite conferences, the Buckeyes do have a solid team. The 'Noles, however, play a different style of basketball that the Big Ten schools have yet to pick up on, and I don't see that changing in this one.

The Rest of the New Orleans First Round:

North Carolina (1) over Bucknell (16)
Georgia (8) over Iowa (9)
Kansas State (5) over Chattanooga (12)
Louisville (4) over Miami (OH) (13)
Oklahoma State (3) over East Tennessee State (14)
DePaul (10) over Marist (7)
LSU (2) over Jackson State (15)

Oklahoma City Regional:

Best Opening Round Game: Utah (8) over Purdue (9)
Here we have a small conference team who was ranked all season but didn't win its conference tournament, against a team that won its major conference tournament but did little else during the regular season to merit a first-round win. So which team has the advantage? The one with Leilani Mitchell. Mitchell transferred to Utah from Idaho to go dancing in the NCAA Tournament and make some noise, and that is just what she's going to do.

Upset Special: Temple (11) over Arizona State (6)
The Sun Devils have been underachieving all season, be it losing five times to Cal and Stanford, or dropping games to Texas, Texas Tech, Auburn or the Chinese National Team. OK - that game was in the preseason, but it's still funny enough to mention. Temple lost in the A-10 finals to Xavier, although the Owls were the top seed. The Owls, and more specifically their coach Dawn Staley, mean business going into the Tournament. With the A-10's most improved player, Ashley Morris, and senior Lady Comfort leading the way, I like the Owls over the Sun Devils on Sunday.

The Rest of the Oklahoma City First Round:

Tennessee (1) over Oral Roberts (16)
Notre Dame (5) over SMU (12)
Oklahoma (4) over Illinois State (13)
Duke (3) over Murray State (14)
Hartford (10) over Syracuse (7)
Texas A&M (2) over Texas-San Antonio (15)

Posted by Jeff Lippman at 08:44 AM on March 21, 2008

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