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March 16, 2005

Bracket Projection

(1) Duke
(16) Delaware State
(8) Stanford
Mississippi St
(9) Mississippi State
(4) Syracuse
(13) Vermont
(5) Michigan State
Michigan State
(12) Old Dominion
(11) UTEP
(6) Utah
(14) Niagara
(3) Oklahoma
(10) Iowa
(7) Cincinnati
(15) E. Kentucky
(2) Kentucky


(3) Oklahoma : Sure, the Sooners were the Big XII regular season co-champions, but this is not a team that impresses one all that much. While they have picked up big wins over KU, Oklahoma State, and Connecticut, the Sooners also lost a disappointing game to Missouri and were knocked off by Texas Tech twice. OU does not have a player who can take a game over, and no Sooner ranks among the Big XII's top dozen in scoring or three-point percentage.


(14) Niagara : The Purple Eagles were the champions of the Metro Atlantic in the regular season and also won the MAAC's postseason tournament. Senior forward Juan Mendez is one of the best unknown players in the country. The Montreal native scores more than 23 points a contest while also pulling down 10 boards and shooting nearly 48% from the field. Niagara is also the eleventh best rebounding team in the country and among the top forty in (lack of) turnovers per game.

Best First Round Matchup

(6) Utah vs (11) UTEP : This is sure to be a popular upset pick. Regardless of whether it turns out that way, this should turn into a great battle. The Utes ruled the Mountain West this season but dropped the tournament title game to New Mexico. Center Andrew Bogut is amazing, but how will the team respond? UTEP's Omar Thomas averages over 20 points per game, while guards Filiberto Rivera and Jason Williams contribute about a dozen each. Both teams like a high-energy game.

Best Bet for a First Round Upset

(12) Old Dominion over (5) Michigan State : The Spartans were clearly the second-best team in the Big Ten this season, but that isn't saying a whole lot. MSU has no star player that can put the team on his shoulders, and the squad seems to have a knack for letting inferior opponents hang around. Old Dominion has lost just five times this year and boasts wins over Kent State, TCU, and St. Joseph's. The Monarchs also won ten of their last twelve games to end the regular season.

Best Potential Second Round Matchup

(6) Utah vs (3) Oklahoma : This game earns the honor because of the potential big-man matchup between Oklahoma's Kevin Bookout and Utah's Andrew Bogut. Both guys have great touch around the basket and are rebounding machines. Bogut has the height advantage and can step outside to hit the three, but Bookout has the bigger body and could try to pound away on the Australian. It's also matchup of two regular season league champs, OU from the Big XII and Utah from the Mountain West.

All-Region First Team

  G: J.J. Redick, Duke : 22.6 PTS, 41.7 3PT%, 93.3 FT%
  F: Hakim Warrick, Syracuse : 21.3 PTS, 55.4 FG%, 8.4 REB
  F: Juan Mendez, Niagara : 23.6 PTS, 47.9 FG%, 10.5 REB
  F: Taylor Coppenrath, Vermont : 25.3 PTS, 52.7 FG%, 8.9 REB
  F: Andrew Bogut, Utah : 20.6 PTS, 63.6 FG%, 12.2 REB

All-Region Second Team

  G: Omar Thomas, UTEP : 20.2 PTS, 51.8 FG%, 6.8 REB
  F: Lawrence Roberts, Mississippi State : 17.0 PTS, 45.6 FG%, 11.1 REB
  F: Shelden Williams, Duke : 15.8 PTS, 59.6 FG%, 11.1 REB
  F: Michael Haney, Eastern Kentucky : 13.5 PTS, 62.6 FG%, 8.3 REB
  F: Jason Maxiell, Cincinnati : 15.3 PTS, 53.7 FG%, 7.8 REB

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