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March 18, 2009
What We Think
March Madness Staff Picks

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Here's how Basketball Prospectus' staff sees the next three weeks unfolding:

Bradford Doolittle:

Final Four: Memphis, North Carolina, Louisville, Pittsburgh
Champ: Memphis. Memphis won 20 percent of my 1,000 simulations. We'll see just how much Conference USA is in the Tigers' numbers.
First-Round Upset: Wisconsin over Florida State. This is a Pomeroy ratings pick.
Sweet 16 Surprise: Southern California. Trojans are playing their best ball, plus their first two opponents (Boston College and Michigan State) are overrated.
Steph Curry Award (player who comes out of nowhere): Eric Maynor, VCU. I don't know that he's really coming out of nowhere because he is a senior. Still, I don't think it's widely known how explosive of a scorer he can be. If he can have a big game against UCLA's defense, he'll catch a lot of eyes.
Best Game: Memphis vs. Missouri in the Sweet 16
Where will you be Thursday at noon ET? In the press area of the Sprint Center in Kansas City, watching Memphis against Cal State-Northridge while trying to get my wireless Web access working so I can watch the other games.

John Gasaway:

Final Four: Memphis, Pittsburgh, Carolina, Louisville
Champ: Memphis
First-Round Upset: Wisconsin over Florida State
Steph Curry Award: I'm sorry, I know it's not from "nowhere" but Tyreke Evans. He could walk down the street right now and no one would know him.
Best Game: I'll stick with first round so I know it will happen: Oklahoma State vs. Tennessee. Fast and fun.
Where will you be Thursday at noon ET? Doing a live chat of course! Woo!

Anthony Macri:

Final Four: Wake Forest, Connecticut, Pittsburgh, Oklahoma. The Demon Deacons have been talented enough all year and after some down time, put it all together. Connecticut has the easiest road to the Final Four, Pittsburgh is the best team coming in, and Oklahoma has the most dominant player.
Champ: Pittsburgh. Any team that can do on the boards what they do gives themselves a chance no matter what they shoot. It's the Big East's year, and Pittsburgh has been the best in that league all year (even if Louisville did finish first in the conference).
First-Round Upset: Mississippi State will not only get a first-round upset, but they will do so on the back of their Steph Curry Award winner, Jarvis Varnado. Varnado is not an unknown to NBA scouts, but because the SEC was bad this year and Varnado played on an inconsistent Mississippi State team, much of the country does not know him as well. They will after this tournament, when he busts out like Antonio McDyess did a few years back.
Sweet 16 Surprise: If the Siena Saints can get past Ohio State in the first round, I think they can take out top-seeded Louisville. I think this is a relatively weak group of top seeds, and I think Louisville's guards can be exploited by a veteran Siena squad. The Saints' frontcourt isn't anything to sneeze at, either.
Steph Curry Award: Varnado
Best Game: American vs. Villanova will be a great game. Both teams have great backcourts and can make big shots, and both will do so in their contest against each other. Every bracket I fill out for "fun" I change my pick on this game.
Where will you be Thursday at noon ET? Working--at a standing weekly meeting, actually--but my BlackBerry will be on constant update until I can get in front of a TV later in the day...I can't wait!

Kevin Pelton:

Final Four: Kansas, Memphis, Pittsburgh, North Carolina. I'm most uncertain about the Midwest bracket, where I could see any of the top three seeds or West Virginia advancing to Detroit; and the East, where Duke is a strong number two to Pitt.
Champ: Memphis. But I could still change my mind and go with North Carolina.
First-Round Upset: Cleveland State over Wake Forest. I'm not counting Wisconsin/Florida State. None of the 13 seeds or lower is especially appealing to me--that's why they're 13 seeds or lower--but Cleveland State is solid and has beaten a No. 3 seed (Syracuse) on the road. They also played tough at another No. 4 seed, Washington.
Sweet 16 Surprise: Clemson. Nice matchup against Oklahoma should they get past Michigan. I'd love to see the Blake Griffin/Trevor Booker matchup.
Steph Curry Award: Kenneth Faried, Morehead State. Faried came out very well by my schedule-adjusted translations. He finished second in the country in rebounds per game behind Griffin, so perhaps he can make a name for himself against Louisville after finishing with 21 rebounds in the play-in win over Alabama State.
Best Game: Tennessee/Oklahoma State. Two up-tempo teams with interesting styles in a game that is literally a coin-flip by log-5 methods? Sounds fun.
Where will you be Thursday at noon ET? Collecting the last of the brackets for our work pool before taking off to watch Washington/Mississippi State with my brother.

John Perrotto:

Final Four: Louisville, Memphis, Pittsburgh, North Carolina
Champ: North Carolina
First-Round Upset: Utah State over Marquette
Sweet 16 Surprise: Arizona State
Steph Curry Award: Kenny Hasbrouck, Siena
Best Game: Boston College vs. Southern California

Joe Sheehan:

Final Four: Louisville, Memphis, Pittsburgh, Syracuse. I have very little confidence in the #1 seeds this year. Louisville got a great draw, which is why I advanced them. Pittsburgh...I'm still skeptical that DeJuan Blair will play four straight games and not get into foul trouble. Yes, I think Syracuse is this good.
Champ: Syracuse. Yes, this good.
First-Round Upset: North Dakota State over Kansas. The Bison are loaded with seniors and they shoot very well. Kansas turns the ball over a lot, and is swfully reliant on freshmen.
Sweet 16 Surprise: Mississippi State is a coin flip to beat Washington, and too physical for Purdue. Advance them, please.
Steph Curry Award: Jeremiah Dominguez, Portland State. America loves little guys, and they don't come much smaller than the 5'6" Dominguez, who will lead the Vikings to a first-round upset over Xavier.
Best Game: Syracuse 91, North Carolina 88, OT, in the East Regional final.
Where will you be Thursday at noon ET? Home, for just the second time in 13 years, twitchily awaiting the "dah-dah-dah-dah-dah-DAH-dah-dahhhh" that means it's here It's finally here. After passing on the traditional Vegas trip, I'm stockpiling supplies for four days of the madness, interrupted only by 18 holes Saturday morning.

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64 Teams, 64 Thoughts (03/18)
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The Essential Bracket ... (03/18)

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