washingtonpost.com  > Sports > Leagues and Sports > College Basketball - Men > NCAA Men's Tournament
John Feinstein's Austin Regional Analysis

Best-Laid Plans Could Go to Waste

Monday, March 14, 2005; Page G13

Gee, what a surprise, the committee trying to set up a Duke-Kentucky regional final. One problem: It isn't likely to happen.

On the one hand, Duke clearly deserved a No. 1 seed based on what it did in the ACC tournament this weekend and on the fact that it could have won all five of the games it lost during the regular season. On the other hand, the Blue Devils may be the most vulnerable of the four No. 1 seeds. They won't lose to Delaware State in the first round but might struggle against either Stanford or Mississippi State in the second round.

Led by Taylor Coppenrath, Vermont dominated its conference, was 26th in RPI, and played a tough schedule. The Catamounts deserved better than to be relegated to a No. 13 seed. (Alden Pellett -- AP)

The most popular first-round upset pick nationally is going to be Old Dominion over Michigan State -- with good reason. ODU is well coached and has won 27 games, and the CAA has a history of at least threatening first-round upsets. There are two reasons not to pick this upset: Everyone's going to pick it and Tom Izzo is pretty good in the NCAA tournament.

The other first-round matchup in this half of the bracket is a joke: Syracuse-Vermont. How can Vermont be a No. 13? The Catamounts' RPI is 26th, their strength of schedule in the top 20, they dominated their tournament and three of their losses were at Kansas, at North Carolina and at Nevada. Who does Mr. Chairman Bowlsby (don't you love it when he refers to basketball teams as "institutions"?) think he and his band of merry men (and woman) are kidding here? This is a joke, a sham, a rip-off. (No, Tony, I never wrote a book on the America East.) What this says is there is nothing a school from a one-bid league can do to get out of that 13th- to 16th-seed ghetto. Coach Tom Brennan, Taylor Coppenrath and T.J. Sorrentine deserved better.

Syracuse will beat Vermont and then take care of the Michigan State-Old Dominion winner and should beat Duke.

The Orange has the kind of front line and quickness that will give the Blue Devils a difficult time. It also has four key players from its championship team of two years ago and a lot more depth than Duke. Syracuse should play in the regional final. If it doesn't (even if it does), it can be argued that Mike Krzyzewski has never done a better job than with this team. Of course, that's because Duke gets all the calls.

Who Syracuse or Duke play in the final is anybody's guess. If Kentucky was on the "one line," as the TV guys call it, until it lost yesterday, then it should have been the top-ranked No. 2 seed. That should have put it in the same regional as Washington, but that couldn't happen because Duke and Wake Forest couldn't be in the same regional.

The Wildcats will maul Eastern Kentucky, coached by former Wildcat icon Travis Ford, in the first round and then should handle Cincinnati, which is dangerous because Bob Huggins's teams always play defense. But Cincinnati hasn't been past the second round since reaching the round of 16 four years ago.

This will be Calvin Murphy week for columnists, writing about the last time Niagara made the tournament (1970) led by Murphy. Everyone needs to write early, because Niagara isn't likely to be around long, playing Oklahoma in the first round.

This may be one of Kelvin Sampson's best coaching jobs, taking a team picked to finish in the middle of the pack in the Big 12 to a No. 3 seed. The dangerous floater in this quarter is Utah, led by Andrew Bogut, the Australian center some say may be the first pick in the NBA draft.

Most likely first-round upset: Old Dominion over Michigan State.

Most over-seeded team: Michigan State.

Most under-seeded team (in the entire tournament): Vermont.

Best story likely not to be written: Coach K, more than a coach. (Just a joke for Maryland fans.) Seriously: Tubby Smith to Virginia?

© 2005 The Washington Post Company