Unbiased Predictions for your NCAA Tournament Bracket...Looking for the Cinderellas

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If there is any good news in the debacle of a season that was the 2010-11 Gopher Basketball season (seriously we need a name for this season) it is the fact that this can only help us when filling out our NCAA Tournament Brackets.

I love the bracket and I usually spend the better part of two days starring at it waiting for the blurriness to become crystal clear and the path to office pool greatness becomes obvious (like the guy in MallRats looking for the sailboat). I'm going to share what the bracket has wispered into my ear this year, but this is just between you and me. The first will be just some general predictions about first round upsets and then I'm picking a few double-digits seeds who have a real shot at making it to the Sweet 16.

Potential First Round Upsets

Missouri over Cincinnati - Cincy started the season 15-0 and have gone just 10-8 since, though 18 games in the Big East is no picnic. Mizz takes care of the ball and turns teams over as well as anybody in the tournament.

Marquette over Xavier - I was very impressed with Xavier last year. Tru Holliday is a stud and might make some Tourney highlight reals. But I'm taking the Big East here.

Gonzaga over St. John's - Why does it feel like every game I look at has a Big East team? St. John's has played great over the last month but Gonzaga's Gray and Sacre will be too much for the Red Storm to stop.

Michigan State over UCLA - I am well aware that the Spartans have been not very good this year. But UCLA turns the ball over way too much and I will never pick against Tom Izzo in the NCAA Tournament.

Double-Digit seeds looking to go 2-0

#12 Utah State

The Aggies are a 30 win team, the nearly beat BYU on the road (when BYU was healthy) and their numbers are hard to ignore. The only reason I would hesitate with this pick is that Kansas State is a very different team today than they were just a month ago, something has clicked. K-State could just as easily lose this game as they could make a run to the Elite Eight. But they better take Utah State seriously.

This team is very good defensively, they good balance on offense and they rank 2nd in the nation in defensive rebounding %. Forget that they play in the WAC or that their schedule was pretty weak, this team is very good. Get to know the Aggies...Tai Wesley is their leading scorer and rebounder. The 6-7 senior was the WAC player of the year, averaged 14.7 points and 8.0 rebounds. He's only attempted 8 threes all year but he got to the free throw line nearly 200 times. JUCO point guard, Brockeith Pane was also first team all-WAC. He averaged 11.6 points and led the team in assists.

After their forward and point guard, who regularly take the ball to the rim, the Aggies have a few shooters. Three shooters for the Aggies all took over 115 threes and all made it more than 35% of the time. Brian Green (47.2%), Pooh Williams (36.2%) and Tyler Newbold (35.3%) are all very good shooters (they would have started for the Gophers). Newbold was also first team all-defense in the WAC this year and Pooh Williams was first team all-defense a year ago. Jacob Pullen is very good but this Aggie defense is too.

#14 Wofford

This isn't just because this team has a few Minnesota kids on their roster. This team came into the season with relatively high expectations after winning their league last year, nearly knocking off Wisconsin in the NCAA Tournament and then returning the majority of their roster. But they struggled a bit in the first half of the year. They get to face a wounded BYU that had a legit shot at the Final Four, but this team hans't quite been the same after Brandon Davies to an honor code violation.

The Terriers have great scoring guards, they are experienced, they've been here before and they gave themselves a challenging non-conference schedule to get themselves ready for just this weekend. Noah Dahlman leads the Terriers with 20.0 ppg and the Braham, MInnesota native was named to first team All-SoCon. Jamar Diggs chipped in 14.0 ppg and Tim Johnson led the team in rebounds with 8.4 rpg. From the outside Wofford has two guys who attempted 125+ threes and both were over 41% for the year. Cameron Rundles (41.3%) and Kevin Giltner (41.6%) are the dangerous shooters that help to make this offense balanced and dangerous.

What may prevent this team from advancing is their defense. BYU can also score and on the season Wofford ranks 192nd nationally in points allowed per possession and they rank 217th in defensive eFG%. If this can turn into a shootout, look for Wofford to keep this close to the very end. If they can get by the 'Y' then they face the winner of St. John's/Gonzaga; both of whom are beatable. This

#12 Richmond

The Spiders have played the role of David before and this is another great opportunity for them. The SEC was pretty weak this year and Richmond is playing their best basketball of the year. Louisville in the second round is an exciting team but they too are beatable by the Spiders as they have struggled with consistency.

The Spiders landed two players on the A-10 first team and had another who was on the all-defense team. Guard, Kevin Anderson and center, Justin Harper are two average names but the dangerous duo combined for 34 ppg. Harper is a shooting big man. The 6-10 center led the team with 73 made threes, shooting with a 46.5 percentage from behind the arc. Anderson made 67 threes shooting 42.7% and leading the team in assists. Kevin Smith only scored 4.0 ppg but the forward was a defensive first teamer in the A-10.

On paper this team is better defensively than Vandy and about the same offensively. Vandy has former Gopher target Festus Ezeli in the middle but other than him this is a guard oriented team. I expect Richmond to not only hang with the Commodores but this will be an upset that could carry them past Louisville in the 2nd round.

#10 Penn State

I've never exactly hidden my love affair with Talor Battle, so I won't pretend like this would be a surprise to anyone, but this is a pretty good set-up for Penn State. Temple is no slouch they have wins over Georgetown, Maryland and Georgia but Penn State got a pretty good draw here. The thing about Talor Battle is that he is made for the NCAA Tournament, especially if Jeff Brooks is helping him out. Temple is good and San Diego State is also a good team but I think Penn State can beat both of them. I am less confident about this pick but it is worth noting.

Good luck!

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