2009 NCAA Tournament Preview - South

Instead of just listing my NCAA Tournament picks as I've done every year, I've decided to preview every team in the Big Dance. I'll tell you why to love them, why to hate them, and how far they can go.

While college basketball isn't my forte, I've gotten six of the past eight Final Four correct. I didn't have much luck in the early rounds last year, but I did very well in 2007.

Ryan West, who runs the Bracketology thread in the fourms, will also list his thoughts on each squad. His picks will be listed below mine, so you have two references to guide you as you're filling out your bracket.

2009 NCAA Tournament Preview - South

  1. North Carolina (28-4)

    WHY TO LOVE: The Tar Heels are the most dynamic team in the nation. Everyone knows about Tyler Hansbrough, but how do you keep Ty Lawson from penetrating? And if you stop both of them, Wayne Ellington and Danny Green are just going to drain threes.

    North Carolina went into Michigan State and clobbered the Spartans. They beat Duke twice. They were 13-2 on the road.

    Experience. The top five scorers are all upperclassmen.

    WHY TO HATE: Sometimes this team just doesn't focus on defense; the Tar Heels surrendered 72.7 points per game during the regular season - which ranks them dead last in defense in the ACC.

    Ty Lawson's nagging toe injury also worries me a bit.

    RYAN'S TAKE: The flashiest team in the NCAA. The only problem with this team is that they are very inconsistent on the defensive side of the ball. You know the names: Lawson, Ellington, Hansborough, Danny Green, and they can outscore any team in the nation. Problem is, if they can't play defense, they will not win the national championship. I have faith Roy Williams knows this too, as long as he doesn't cry every time he talks about the team.

    Outlook: National Title Contender THE VERDICT: North Carolina has proven that it can get the job done if it focuses. Given that the team lost three games this season, the players know that they're vulnerable. The Tar Heels are my favorite to win the Big Dance, and I'll be shocked if they don't at least make it to the title game.

  2. Oklahoma (27-5)

    WHY TO LOVE: Blake Griffin. Arguably the top player in the nation, the dynamic sophomore averaged 22.1 ppg and 14.2 rpg. He's capable of carrying his team deep into the tournament, just like Greg Oden with Ohio State two years ago.

    Willie Warren, Oklahoma's second-leading scorer, is also a freshman. That said, the Sooners complement Griffin and Warren well with experienced upperclassmen. Taylor Griffin (9.7 ppg, 6.0 rpg) and Austin Johnson (8.6 ppg, 3.9 apg) are seniors. Tony Crocker (9.6 ppg, 3.3 rpg) is a junior.

    The Sooners don't have a great three-point shooter, but the team as a whole hits 36.4 from long range. That's good enough.

    WHY TO HATE: Not much. The only thing that concerns me are Griffin and Warren being underclassmen. But they have the supporting cast to make up for that.

    RYAN'S TAKE: This team is young and not very tested with tournament play. They were bounced out in their first game of the Big 12 tourney. I understand that with Blake Griffin, they can beat any team on any night. But to win the national title, their guards will have to be the difference. This season they haven't had to be. Oklahoma doesn't force a lot of turnovers, shoot a lot of free throws, and don't have great guard play. Remember, no team that has lost its first game in their conference tournament has won the national championship.

    Outlook: Upset Alert

    THE VERDICT: A legitimate national championship contender. Griffin is unstoppable.

  3. Syracuse (26-9)

    WHY TO LOVE: Syracuse has no trouble scoring; the team averaged more than 80 points per game during the regular season, led by dynamic point guard Jonny Flynn (17.3 ppg, 6.5 apg).

    In total, five players averaged double digits. While none of them are seniors, none of them were freshmen either. In fact, Flynn is the only underclassman.

    The Orangemen have two solid three-point specialists in Eric Devendorf (38.6 3PT) and Andy Rautins (37.7).

    Syracuse defends the three well, limiting opponents to 32.4 percent shooting.

    WHY TO HATE: This team sometimes seems uninterested in playing defense. The Orangemen surrendered 70.9 ppg during the regular season - good for 12th in the Big East.

    Jim Boeheim has a national title, but for some reason, he hasn't been able to notch a single win in the NCAA Tournament since 2004.

    RYAN'S TAKE: Another Jim Boeheim team that is making the tournament, who would have thought? This team is very balanced and talented, but seems to play very inconsistent. I'm very torn. They give up a lot of offensive rebounds, don't have a deep bench, allow a lot of 3-pointers, and turn the ball over a lot. They have shot 250 more free throws than their opponents, so one bad night in terms of officiating could cause an upset. But they also have Jonny Flynn, who is a great point guard and is almost unstoppable. This team has shown all kinds of swagger and depending on their matchups, could make a legitimate run to the Final Four. The matchup zone could be a nightmare for teams that aren't used to seeing it.

    Outlook: Sweet 16

    THE VERDICT: I don't want to put too much stock into what Syracuse did in the Big East Tournament - remember, they lost to Texas A&M in the first round the last time they won it - but I can't ignore it either. Flynn is amazing and this team is really good. Would an Elite Eight appearance surprise me? Not one bit.

  4. Gonzaga (26-5)

    WHY TO LOVE: Of Gonzaga's five losses, only one has come since New Years Eve. That defeat came against Memphis.

    The Zags are really dangerous from beyond the arc. Josh Heytvelt (42.3 3PT), Matt Bouldin (44.8), Austin Daye (41.8) and Micah Downs (39.3) seldom miss. Gonzaga hits 39.4 percent of its treys as a whole.

    Speaking of Heytvelt, the 6-11 forward is one of the better players in the tournament. Heytvelt averaged 14.9 ppg and 6.7 rpg.

    WHY TO HATE: People associate Gonzaga as a Cinderella. Perhaps the ugly step-sister would be a better comparison. The Zags have made it out of the Sweet 16 only once. They've been eliminated in the first round the past two years, making them a violator of Rule No. 3 of the NCAA Tournament Credo.

    RYAN'S TAKE: This is another typical Gonzaga team, dominating their conference, playing like madmen offensively. This team could make a run as long as they get Heytvelt the ball. He is a beast down low and the Bulldogs also have Jeremy Pargo running the show. This team takes care of the basketball, plays good defense (considering the competition), and shoots very well. In fact, they shoot 40 percent from the 3-point line. They don't use their bench much, so if a team like Memphis or Louisville pushes the tempo, they could struggle.

    Outlook: Sweet 16/Elite 8

    THE VERDICT: Every year, the Zags are picked by some to go deep, and every year, they disappoint. I'm not confident picking them to make it out of the first weekend.

  5. Illinois (24-9)

    WHY TO LOVE: The Illini have excellent size with Mike Davis and Mike Tisdale, complemented by Trent Meachem, an outstanding three-point shooter (40.9 percent).

    WHY TO HATE: This team can't score. It put up 65 points per game, and the leading scorer averaged 11.9. In fact, there was one contest where Illinois had just 33 points. This squad clearly violates Rule No. 5 in the NCAA Tournament Credo. Illinois' top three scorers are all sophomores.

    Senior point guard Chester Frazier could be out with a hand injury.

    RYAN'S TAKE: The Illini are very much overachievers this year. They are balanced on offense, are a top team in team defense, and play in a deep conference. Even though this team forces a lot of turnovers and doesn't depend on the free throw line, the Illini allow a lot of offensive rebounds and don't shoot a ton of 3-pointers. They also don't score a lot of points and are very young. If a team can get more than 60-65 points on them, they'll lose. They also haven't done well on the road this year.

    Outlook: Upset Alert/2nd Round Exit

    THE VERDICT: These sloppy, offensively challenged Big Ten teams seldom fare well in the Big Dance. Illinois will struggle to get out of the first round.

  6. Arizona State (24-9)

    WHY TO LOVE: James Harden - one of the top players in the nation. Though he's just a sophomore (read: not a freshman), Harden, a 6-5 guard, averaged 20.8 ppg, 5.4 rpg and 4.1 apg. He also nailed 36.2 percent of his threes.

    With their top scorer being an underclassman, it's a good thing the Sun Devils' second option is a senior. Jeff Pendergraph, a 6-9 forward, garnered 14.4 ppg and 8.5 rpg.

    In addition to Harden's sharp shooting, Arizona State has Rihards Kuksiks and Derek Glasser as dangerous deep options. Kuksiks and Glasser drain 45.6 and 40.9 percent of their threes, respectively.

    WHY TO HATE: Arizona State is inconsistent offensively; it averaged just 69.6 ppg - which ranks them sixth in the Pac 10.

    Also, the Sun Devils have some strange losses. There's no reason they should have lost to 18-12 Stanford and 17-14 Washington State at home. They were double-digit favorites in both contests.

    RYAN'S TAKE: This team has a very good core of starters on their team. In the tournament, you are playing a lot of games in a short period of time, so they need to explore their bench more. They allow teams to shoot a lot of 3-pointers and they aren't a very good offensive rebounding team. They have an All-American in Harden who can take over games and is definitely leaving for the NBA. If they run into a team that can shoot the ball well or rebounds well, they are in serious trouble. They could make a run, but I don't see anything past the Sweet 16.

    Outlook: Upset Alert/Sweet 16

    THE VERDICT: Arizona State has the raw talent to make it out of the first weekend. Asking the team to go further with a young leader and an inconsistent offense could be asking too much.

  7. Clemson (23-8)

    WHY TO LOVE: The Tigers can beat almost anyone because they shoot the three extremely well. Trevor Booker, K.C. Rivers, Terrence Oglesby and David Potter all hit better than 39 percent from long range.

    Clemson was 7-4 on the road this season. The team also clobbered Duke at home, winning 74-47.

    WHY TO HATE: Clemson started the year with a sterling 16-0 record. Since then, they're just 7-7. The Tigers won early at Illinois and Miami, so it's not like that record was entirely inflated by beating up on lesser opponents. However, they're record clearly overrates them; they obviously were mediocre in ACC play.

    The Tigers haven't won a single game in the NCAA Tournament since 1997. They were upset by No. 12 Villanova in last year's Big Dance. However, you can attribute that to the fact that point guard Demontez Stitt was a freshman last season. He'll be more effective as a sophomore.

    RYAN'S TAKE: This team is another that confuses me. They started so hot, but like a typical Oliver Purnell squad, cooled way down as the season went on. They are long and athletic, but I thought last year was the year they were really going to make a run, and they got upset in Round 1. They force a lot of turnovers and don't allow a lot of 3-point field goals, but if they don't force turnovers they usually give up easy baskets. If Clemson plays a team that takes care of the ball, they are probably going home early.

    Outlook: Upset Alert

    THE VERDICT: Clemson has the experience and shooting to go far, but their late-season mediocrity concerns me. I'd have a major problem picking them to advance to the Sweet 16.

  8. LSU (26-7)

    WHY TO LOVE: LSU is led by two fourth-year players: senior guard Marcus Thornton (20.9 ppg, 5.5 rpg) and redshirt junior Tasmin Mitchell (16.4 ppg, 7.3 rpg). Experience is huge in March, and that's something the Tigers clearly don't lack.

    Thornton (38.7 3PT) and sophomore guard Bo Spencer (41.7) are dangerous from outside. Spencer averaged 11.7 ppg during the regular season.

    The Tigers were 6-3 on the road. They won at Kentucky and Tennessee as considerable underdogs.

    WHY TO HATE: I don't trust Trent Johnson. Johnson, formerly Stanford's head coach, never really prepared his old Cardinal team well for the NCAA Tournament. I distinctly remember the 2007 NCAA Tournament, when Stanford had no idea what to do about Louisville's full-court press. They were debacled, 78-58.

    RYAN'S TAKE: Oh how bad the SEC is. LSU has Marcus Thorton who averages 20-plus points a game. LSU is a very good rebounding team and that could be a key in limiting opponents' opportunities in the tournament. Teams with one really good player usually exit relatively quickly. LSU fits that mold perfectly. They have a lot of upperclassmen. New head coach Trent Johnson usually doesn't perform well in the tournament, even though he rode out the Lopez twins as far as he could last year. I think they are done in the first weekend.

    Outlook: Upset Alert

    THE VERDICT: I'll never pick a Trent Johnson-led team to advance deep into the tournament. Maybe LSU wins a game or two, but that's all I'm predicting.

  9. Butler (26-5)

    WHY TO LOVE: The Bulldogs are capable of pulling a few upsets in March because of their three-point threads. Gordon Heyward (44.5 percent) and Zach Hahn (41.3) are deadly from long range.

    Matt Howard, the team's leading scorer, is a talented 6-8 forward who averaged 14.6 ppg and 6.7 rpg.

    WHY TO HATE: Butler started the year 19-1, but suffered very weird losses late in the season. It lost back-to-back contests against Loyola-Illinois and Wisconsin-Milwaukee. And in the Horizon Championship, the Bulldogs fell to Cleveland State.

    I mentioned above that Heyward and Hahn both shoot the ball very well from Area Code 3. Well, the team hits just 35.2 percent from beyond the arc, so that tells you that there are a few players who fire up way too many errant threes. The main culpruits are Shelvin Mack (32.0), Willie Veasley (32.7), Ronald Nored (23.7) and Shawn Vanzant (29.5).

    Howard, Hayward and Mack are the team's leading scorers. They're also underclassmen. Hayward and Mack are freshmen. Mack is the point guard, meaning Butler violates Rule No. 1 in the NCAA Tournament Credo.

    The Bulldogs also violate Rule No. 5. They averaged just 67.6 ppg during the regular season.

    RYAN'S TAKE: This team is very, very young. They start three freshmen, one sophomore and one junior. So, pretty much what I'm saying is, they will be very good for the next couple of years. But not this year. They do not play much, if any, of their bench. That will hurt them especially if they want to make a run. Plus, all three of their guards are freshman. They usually get dominated on the offensive boards and they aren't a team that frustrates the other on defense. I think this team could go home early.

    Outlook: Upset Alert

    THE VERDICT: Butler is too young to make any sort of run. In fact, the Bulldogs could have trouble getting out of the first round.

  10. Michigan (20-13)

    WHY TO LOVE: Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims are a dynamic one-two punch. Harris, a sophomore guard, averaged 16.8 ppg, 6.9 rpg and 4.4 apg. Sims, a junior forward, compiled 15.7 ppg and 6.9 rpg.

    WHY TO HATE: Michigan loves jacking up threes. Sometimes, that's pretty much all it does. Well, considering that the team as a group hits 33.2 percent of its long-range shots, that strategy doesn't bode well for its NCAA Tournament prospects.

    The Wolverines struggle offensively (67.2 ppg) and suck on the road (3-8). So, like many undeserving Big Ten squads, they violate Rule Nos. 4 and 5 in the NCAA Tournament Credo.

    Three of Michigan's top five scorers are freshmen.

    RYAN'S TAKE: Michigan is another team that plays a 4-guard offense. John Beilien has done great things there already and doesn't even have all of his recruits in order. Michigan has a very good point guard in Harris who is their leading scorer. If Michigan gets the right matchup, it could do some damage. They have shot the third-most 3-pointers in the nation. If they are hot, they can beat anyone. They have the big wins to show they can play with anyone.

    Outlook: Cinderella Watch/2nd Round Exit

    THE VERDICT: I've watched Michigan play on the Big Ten Network on numerous occasions, and I've been thoroughly unimpressed each time. I'll be shocked if the Wolverines win a single game in the Big Dance.

  11. Temple (22-11)

    WHY TO LOVE: Dionte Christmas has one of the more talented players in the NCAA Tournament. The 6-5 senior guard averaged 18.9 ppg, 5.9 rpg and 3.0 apg.

    Along with Christmas, three of Temple's top five scorers are seniors. One of those players, Ryan Brooks, hits 40.6 percent of his threes.

    The Owls have played well against top-tier competition. They won at Penn State. They knocked off Tennessee in December and Xavier in the A-10 Tournament. They also battled Clemson and Kansas down to the wire.

    WHY TO HATE: While Christmas is a physically gifted player, he also takes some poor shots. Christmas has fired up 277 threes this season, hitting just 34.3 percent of them. That's not a terrible rate, but that also happens to be a ton of misses.

    Speaking of Christmas, the senior guard scored two points in last year's tournament. He shot 1-of-11 and often complained to the referees about getting fouled. Thus, Temple violates Rule No. 7 of the NCAA Tournament Credo. Temple has a couple of weird losses. They went down to UMass, LaSalle and Long Beach State.

    RYAN'S TAKE: The Owls won their Atlantic 10 Tournament and stole a bid from a bubble team for the second year in a row. I think they will be happy with their placing and probably lose their first game. Temple shoots a lot of threes, hitting 37 percent from beyond the arc. But they aren't very good defensively and don't force a lot of turnovers.

    Outlook: One and Done/2nd Round Exit

    THE VERDICT: After last year's performance, I don't trust Dionte Christmas enough to award Temple a single victory.

  12. Western Kentucky (24-8)

    WHY TO LOVE: Unlike last year's Western Kentucky squad, this one is more offensively balanced. Four players average 11 or more: A.J. Slaughter (15.8 ppg, 3.6 apg), Orlando Mendez-Valdez (14.0 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 4.0 apg), Steffphon Pettigrew (12.7 ppg, 5.1 rpg) and Sergio Kerusch (11.2, 7.4 rpg).

    Mendez-Valdez (40.6 3PT), Slaughter (36.8) and Pettigrew (36.7) are all dangerous from outside.

    Though it was back in November, Western Kentucky actually beat Louisville by 14.

    WHY TO HATE: The misconception is that this Western Kentucky team is the same one that knocked off Butler in last year's tournament. That's not true. These Hilltoppers don't have Courtney Lee or Tyrone Brazelton, the two leading scorers from the 2007-08 squad.

    While all four of the aforementioned players are talented, they're all 6-5 or smaller. Western Kentucky doesn't have a dominant inside presence.

    The Hilltoppers were 7-7 on the road, but to be fair, they were 4-1 in away contests to close out the season.

    WHY TO HATE: The Hilltoppers from Kentucky are another Cinderella team. They have balanced scoring, are very guard-oriented, and shoot a lot of threes. They don't play great defense, so their games are going to be high-scoring. Depending on the matchup, this team could make a run. Remember: This team beat Louisville early in the year.

    Outlook: Cinderella Watch/2nd Round Exit

    THE VERDICT: Don't be surprised if Western Kentucky pulls off another upset. Given the right matchups, they have a shot to get out of the first weekend.

  13. Akron (23-12)

    WHY TO LOVE: Akron played Dayton closely, losing by just four points. They also beat Niagara on the road.

    WHY TO HATE: The Zips have trouble scoring consistently; they averaged just 66.9 ppg during the season. Their top scorer is Brett McKnight, who put up 11.3 ppg. That means Akron violates Rule No. 5 in the NCAA Tournament Credo.

    Akron also struggles from long range. The team hit 32.5 percent of its threes. Darryl Roberts (37.7 3PT) and Steve McNees (35.8) shoot well, but everyone else is at 33 percent or worse.

    The Zips have some weird losses; they went down to Northern Illinois, Bowling Green and Eastern Kentucky.

    RYAN'S TAKE: The Zips shoot a lot of 3-pointers and don't allow a good percentage from the 3-point line. They harass their opponent defensively and I think they could upset a high seed with bad guard play. They don't rely on the free throw line and force a lot of turnovers. The Zips could be a good story to watch on the first day.

    Outlook: Cinderella Watch/2nd Round Exit

    THE VERDICT: Not much to like here. Akron is young and offensively challenged, and can't hit its threes.

  14. Stephen F. Austin (24-7)

    WHY TO LOVE: Stephen F. Austin has two pretty good seniors: forward Josh Alexander (14.5 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 35.0 3PT) and 6-9 center Matt Kingsley (16.1 ppg, 7.8 rpg).

    Though the Lumberjacks were just 6-7 on the road, they were competitive at Texas Tech and Texas A&M.

    WHY TO HATE: Stephen F. Austin might as well join the Big Ten; the team scored just 66.2 ppg. Only Kingsley and Alexander averaged more than 7.5 ppg.

    The Lumberjacks struggle from beyond the arc; as a whole, they hit just 32.3 percent of their long-range jumpers.

    RYAN'S TAKE: This team has two very good post players in Kingsley and Alexander. The problem I see with this team is that their guard play isn't very good. They are top five in 3-point field goals allowed and 3-point percentage surrendered. They get out and force turnovers, and take care of the ball for the most part.

    Outlook: One and Done/Cinderella Watch

    THE VERDICT: Cinderellas typically aren't offensively challenged. Cinderellas don't struggle from three-point range. Cinderellas usually have an impressive road record. I don't think Stephen F. Austin is a Cinderella.

  15. Morgan State (23-11)

    WHY TO LOVE: Junior guard Reggie Holmes averaged 16.8 ppg and 5.5 rpg this year. He also hit 37.6 percent of his threes.

    Morgan State handled itself well in a loss at Washington. A week later, the team went into Maryland and won.

    WHY TO HATE: Morgan State has trouble scoring consistently; it averaged just 66.5 ppg during the season. The team had 37 points in one game. That means they violate Rule No. 5 in the NCAA Tournament Credo.

    Only three players really shoot threes on this team, and one of them hits 30.9 percent from beyond the arc.

    RYAN'S TAKE: The Bears don't have a deep bench and that will hurt them against high seeds. They do take care of the ball or force a decent amount of turnovers. They don't score a lot of points and I just don't think this team will do very well.

    Outlook: One and Done

    THE VERDICT: MEAC teams tend to struggle in the NCAA Tournament. The Bears don't have the offensive power to buck that.

  16. Radford (21-11)

    WHY TO LOVE: Radford's not at full strength. Martell McDuffy (11.6 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 36.4 3PT) is out for the year with a suspension. So why is this up here? Because the Highlanders are 17-2 without McDuffy!

    Without McDuffy, Radford has three double-digit scorers. Artsiom Parakhouski, a 6-11, 260-pound junior, dominated the Big South conference, averaging 16.1 ppg and 11.2 rpg. Meanwhile, senior guard Kenny Thomas scored 14.8 ppg and drained 38.9 percent of his threes. Joey Lynch-Flohr (13.7 ppg, 5.8 rpg) also helps inside.

    WHY TO HATE: I had a feeling that Radford's "inferior" record was going to make them a No. 15 seed. Well, they're a No. 16. They don't have much of a chance of advancing.

    RYAN'S TAKE: I was looking at the box score of the game against VMI. Now, I understand VMI is the highest-scoring team in the nation at 91 points per game, but Radford had 27 turnovers. 27?!? Did they just hand the ball to them? The worst part about it is, Radford won the game! On this point alone and the fact that Radford averages about 16.5 turnovers per game, I don't think they will do well. Plus they don't force a lot of turnovers.

    Outlook: One and Done

    THE VERDICT: Radford versus North Carolina. Hmmm...

2009 NCAA Tournament Picks - South

Walt's 2009 NCAA Tournament Picks:

#1 North Carolina over #16 Radford
If Radford added a "B," it could be Bradford. As in Sam Bradford. And then they would be awesome.

#8 LSU over #9 Butler
Butler is really young. They start three freshmen. I'm not a big fan of LSU's, but I think the Tigers win this one.

#12 Western Kentucky over #5 Illinois
If Illinois wasn't offensively challenged enough, it may have to play this game without its senior point guard. Western Kentucky can put up points and has experience in the NCAA Tournament, so this is my 12-over-5.

#4 Gonzaga over #13 Akron
Gonzaga has had its troubles in recent NCAA Tournaments, but I don't see Akron as much of a threat.

#6 Arizona State over #11 Temple
I can't shake how awful Dionte Christmas was last year. He was 1-of-11 and often complained to the refs. Arizona State is more talented to begin with.

#3 Syracuse over #14 Stephen F. Austin
Hopefully this game doesn't go into 12 overtimes. In all seriousness, this is a nice, relaxing contest for the Orangemen after what they've been through.

#10 Michigan over #7 Clemson
This may surprise a lot of people on the forum because I've openly declared how much I hate that Michigan is in the NCAA Tournament. However, Clemson has a history of choking down the stretch and exiting early in the NCAA Tournament. They've been terrible since starting 16-0. Either way, the winner of this contest will be debacled by Oklahoma.

#2 Oklahoma over #15 Morgan State
Morgan State, named after epically horrific baseball announcer Joe Morgan, doesn't stand a chance. Maybe they should distance themselves from that Morgan guy.

#1 North Carolina over #8 LSU
Trent Johnson can't coach his way out of a paper bag when it comes to the NCAA Tournament.

#12 Western Kentucky over #4 Gonzaga
My second Cinderella (North Dakota State) dances on. Gonzaga always disappoints in March; the Zags couldn't even get past the Sweet 16 with Adam Morrison and Ronny Turiaf.

#3 Syracuse over #6 Arizona State
The Sun Devils have an inconsistent offense. I trust Jonny Flynn.

#2 Oklahoma over #10 Michigan
Blake Griffin. Ultimate debaclation.

#1 North Carolina over #12 Western Kentucky
I really don't see any team that can give North Carolina a challenge in the first three rounds.

#2 Oklahoma over #3 Syracuse
This was pretty tough to decide. Both teams are talented and have top-tier players. The tie-breaker, however, goes to Oklahoma because Syracuse could be worn down from playing a billion overtimes in the Big East Tournament, and could be prone to losing to Arizona State. Oklahoma will definitely be here.

#1 North Carolina over #2 Oklahoma
Given that this is North Carolina's first challenge, I'll assume that Ty Lawson is healthy by this contest. If Lawson is fine, there aren't many teams that can knock off the Heels. Tyler Hansborough can help neutralize Blake Griffin.

Ryan's 2009 NCAA Tournament Picks:

#1 North Carolina over #16 Radford
Radford's defense stinks. I can only imagine how many points the Tar Heels put up. UNC blows the doors off.

#9 Butler over #8 LSU
Once again, the committee did me wrong. Both these teams I picked to get bounced in the first round. I think Butler wins a closely fought game.

#5 Illinois over #12 Western Kentucky
Well, I was going to pick the Illini to get upset. Then they got matched with the Hilltoppers who don't play good defense. In tournament play, defense outperforms offense. If Chester Frazier is playing, the Illini win a close game.

#4 Gonzaga over #13 Akron
Gonzaga will just be too much for Akron. The Zips have to fly across the country to play Gonzaga in Portland.

#11 Temple over #6 Arizona State
It seems every year I pick Temple to win a game and they always disappoint. Well I think they win this year(again). Arizona State allows a lot of 3-pointers in that 2-3 matchup zone and Temple makes a lot of theirs. Temple in a close game.

#3 Syracuse over #14 Stephen F. Austin
The biggest problem with Stephen F. Austin is their guard play. Syracuse rolls.

#7 Clemson over #10 Michigan
Clemson's press will cause Michigan to turn the ball over and the Tigers will get out and defend the three. If the Wolverines don't hit their threes, they aren't going to win. Clemson by 11.

#2 Oklahoma over #15 Morgan State
Oklahoma needs to figure its guard problems, but they will be more than fine against Morgan State: Sooners roll.

#1 Connecticut over #9 Butler
Both these teams are very good, and I think this will be a close game for awhile. The X factor in this game is Ty Lawson. He makes UNC offense go. If he isn't healthy, they could struggle. UNC wins a close game.

#4 Gonzaga over #5 Illinois
The Illini matchup well with the Bulldogs, but I just don't see how I can back a team that scored less than 37 points in a game twice. Gonzaga by 10.

#3 Syracuse over #11 Temple
Syracuse opened a lot of eyes this weekend. I think they will force Temple into lazy jump shots instead of attacking that 2-3 zone. Syracuse wins.

#7 Clemson over #2 Oklahoma
Clemson is the team Oklahoma does not want to play. Good guard play, a force to help neutralize Blake Griffin and ball protection. The Tigers could force the Sooners to go to their guards, which doesn't bode well for the Sooners. Tigers by 7.

#1 North Carolina over #4 Gonzaga
This could be the highest-scoring game in the tournament. Both teams love offense and don't really care for defense. Tar Heels 100, Gonzaga 91.

#3 Syracuse over #7 Clemson
Syracuse will force Clemson to slow down and that's not a pace Clemson wants to play. The Tigers allow too many easy baskets for my liking. Orangemen win.

#1 North Carolina over #3 Syracuse
North Carolina will go however far Ty Lawson takes them. I think it's past Syracuse. This would be a great matchup to see with Lawson vs. Flynn. I think North Carolina could get down the court before Syracuse got in its zone. UNC by 14.

2009 NCAA Tournament - Other Brackets

2009 NCAA Tournament Picks and Preview - Midwest Bracket

2009 NCAA Tournament Picks and Preview - West Bracket

2009 NCAA Tournament Picks and Preview - East Bracket

2009 NCAA Tournament Picks and Preview - South Bracket

2009 NCAA Tournament Picks and Preview - Final Four

2009 NCAA Tournament References

2009 NCAA Tournament - Stats, Facts, Trends and Tips

2009 NCAA Tournament Credo

College Basketball Picks

2009 NFL Mock Draft

2010 NFL Mock Draft

NBA Picks

2009 Fantasy Football Rankings Coming Soon

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