Sunday, March 12, 2006

UCLA a #2, Illinois a #4

Before the season started, I predicted that the Bruins would play somewhat above their pre-season ranking, and the Illini would right about at theirs or below. Looks like I was right. I think the two seed for UCLA was a surprise. I expected a three. Likewise, the four seed for Illinois was surprise, as again I figured on a three.

UCLA could not ask for a better bracket in my opinion. They get a 15 seed in the first round (coincidentally also called the Bruins), followed by Marquette in the second round. Win that one and they're set to meet Gonzaga in the third round, who has played one tough team in the last couple of months (Stanford) who they beat at home (UCLA killed Stanford both at home and at Maples Pavillion this year), although they struggled in doing so. They also struggled in their conference tournament. They don't play anyone who defends like UCLA. A win over the Zags would set up a regional final against Memphis, who beat UCLA earlier in the season. But they play in an awful conference, and the Bruins are probably more tested at this point. I think they can get to the final four.

Illinois not only got dicked on their seed, but they also got shipped out west for the first round (they'll be playing alongside UCLA in San Diego), where they'll face Air Force, who shouldn't even be in the tournament, followed by Washington. That could be a very tough matchup for Illinois. On the plus side, the Illini have one of the best defensive stoppers in the country in Brian Randle, but Brandon Roy gets a lot of respect from officials, and Randle doesn't. If Randle spends a lot of time on the bench, the Illini are in trouble. Washington is not a good defensive team, and they're soft in the middle. The X factor in this one is Sean Pruitt. He could go off in that one.

I'll try to do a longer post on this tomorrow with all of my picks, but I thought I would crank this one out for now.

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