Thursday, March 20 at 10 a.m. ET

NCAA Tournament

Eric Prisbell, Adam Kilgore and Camille Powell
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, March 20, 2008; 10:00 AM

Post college basketball writers Eric Prisbell, Camille Powell and Adam Kilgore were online Thursday, March 20 at 10 a.m. ET to take your questions and bring you the latest news about the first-round games.

A transcript of the chat follows.


Eric Prisbell: Hello everyone. Been up since 6 a.m. Got a morning shootaround in. A radio interview. And now I'm at Verizon Center ready to go. Let's start breaking down games.


Adam Kilgore: You're looking ... LIVE! at room 922 of the Denver City Center Marriott. Regular readers of the chat will be excited to learn -- but not nearly as excited as I am -- that my seat in the media room is one spot behind Patrick Stevens and one spot next to Jerry Palm. (Although I was at George Mason's University of Denver practice when he arrived and never actually saw him.) If you don't think there's going to be a post on the D.C. Sports Bog about me interviewing Jerry about going 65 for 65 on his mock bracket this year, then, well, you just don't know me very well.

One more thing: I entered a pool (for fun only) with a buddy last night that I had never heard of before. You pick any 10 players and receive one point for any point, rebound or assist they accrue throughout the entire tournament. Kevin Love and Tyler Hansbrough are obvious, but who else would you pick? If there seems to be enough interest in the idea, I'll let you know our choices at the bottom.

OK, it's 8 a.m. local time, I've got the famed Marriott All-American breakfast on the way, the first day of the NCAA tournament starts in roughly two hours, my brackt is perfect, I'll be spending the day with Jerry Palm and Patrick Stevens and the altitude isn't affecting me too much. Folks, I have found Nirvana. Onward.


Arlington, Va.: Do you think Notre Dame has a shot to go deep in the tournament?

Eric Prisbell: I think they have a chance at the Sweet 16. Beyond that is a stretch because of the overall athleticism of UNC. WSU-ND is almost a toss-up at this point.

I like WSU, though, because of Kyle Weaver's defense. Underrated defender. Well, not underrated on the West Coast.

Mason-ND is why people watch the tournament. People don't watch the tourney for SOuth Alabama-Butler, Davidson-Gonzaga. That's my one gripe with the bracket. But i know the committee does not look at matchups when seeding.

Adam Kilgore: I would agree that the Sweet 16 is pretty much the realistic ceiling for Notre Dame. I'd pay to watch Hansbrough against Luke Harangody. Notre Dame has a really tough first-round opponent in Mason. I've been following the Patriots all week, and their experience combined with their relaxed demeanor makes them extremely dangerous. Not to mention they can shoot the three and defend the three-point line. As concerned as Mason is with stopping Notre Dame, the Irish may have just as hard a time stopping Will Thomas.


Summerville, S.C.: Do any of you see a Winthrop upset of Washington State as a good possibility? I do know one thing, it has the potential to be one of the lowest scoring games in tournament history.

Adam Kilgore: Yes, it does. Good point. This might the be the first time all year Wintrhop will try to speed up an opponent; Wintrhop is probably more athletic on the perimeter. Winthrop could win, but I think Wazzu's shooters and size will be too much eventually. Despite the excellent job by Randy Peele, you know Tony Bennett is not going to be out-coached.

Eric Prisbell: I don't think this is one of Winthrop's best teams. WSU is as fundamentally sound as it gets. I watched its practice in Pullman early in the season. Low is difficult to cover. They focus on rebounding and defense. I don't think a team in that conference will get caught by Winthrop.


Washington, D.C.: Which local team is going to stay alive the longest?

Eric Prisbell: Georgetown. Good luck beating Kansas, though. And better guard Curry out to 30 feet.

Adam Kilgore: In my bracket, it says Georgetown -- I don't have either Mason or American winning. But I would not be surprised if Mason made it out of the first weekend and Georgetown did not. I can't tell you how impressive Mason has been this week in staying both relaxed and focused.


Fairfax, Va.: Jim Larranaga seems quite happy at George Mason, and has said in the past he plans to retire there, but the Providence job has to be tempting since he's an alum. Have you heard anything regarding Providence's interest in Coach L?

Adam Kilgore: This is an important question. I have not heard anything, but it does make sense that both sides -- particularly Providence -- would be intersted. It's something that is certainly on our radar, and it will be even more so once the tournament ends. It should be pointed out, as Fairfax said, that Larranaga has constantly turned down overtures from bigger schools and repeated his allegence to Mason. He spoke yesterday about how proud and pleased he is with all the growth of Mason since the Final Four run.

Eric Prisbell: I have not heard anything about that. If I were Providence, it's worth a call. If I were Coach L, I would have many, many reasons to stay. Mason is in the midst of building on the legacy it started a few years ago. Special time there.


Bowie, Md.: Did Maryland request that they not have any NIT home games - their No. 5 seed was lower than I expected. Did Maryland want to avoid any possible conflicts with the women's NCAA tournament at Comcast this weekend? Or was it Maryland's awful performance two years ago against Manhattan at a half-full Comcast that convinced someone to send MD on the road?

Adam Kilgore: Since the NCAA took over the NIT, they've committed to seeding it more like the NCAA tournament and less on logistics and money-grab home games. In the end, Maryland just had a really, really unimpresive profile. The Terps lost five of their last six games, finished 18-14 with an RPI of 85, and those home losses to VCU, Ohio and American never went away. Even with all that talent, Maryland didn't even really earn an NIT home game.

Eric Prisbell: Gary Williams told me an assistant ran into his office at 9 p.m. Selection Sunday with the bracket and that's the first he saw that he was headed on the road to play at Minn.


Washington, D.C.: So, who do you think will be the upsets this year? Does the Big Red have a chance against Stanford?

Eric Prisbell: I think Cornell is a very strong 14 seed. But that's a bad matchup. Brook Lopez should dominate. Stanford has a chance to get to the Final Four, but I think Texas's backcourt will prove the difference in the Sweet 16.

USC has a chance to be a sleeper. As does Drake and Butler.

I am sitting across from the venerable Jon Gallo right now. noted sports writer and famed Georgia alum. Georgia may keep the run going, but I have Xavier in the Elite Eight.

Adam Kilgore: Agreed. Cornell has the goods for a 14 seed, but it's a rough matchup. Plus, it's in Anaheim. Early in the year, Stanford flew across the country and lost at Siena, but it's not facing that problem now.

But the Big Red is the best three-point shooting team, percentage-wise, in the entire tournament.


Cary, N.C.: Does Purdue have a shot to go long? I like them against Xavier in the second round. And Sean Miller better get used to coaching against the Boilermakers -- my sources tell me he is headed to Indiana next season. I wish.

Eric Prisbell: If I were Indiana, I would hire Scott Drew, Sean Miller or Tony Bennett, in any order.

Purdue does have a shot. They have strong guard play and play very good defense in terms of forcing turnovers. But they will be tested today against a very anti-Big Ten team, a team that likes to go 100 mph the entire game. Should be fun.

Xavier has so much balance and if Lavender is 100 percent, I have a hard time thinking Xavier will flop. This is a better team than the one that nearly beat Ohio State last season.

Adam Kilgore: How 'bout today's winner gets the Indiana job?

I'm with Prisbell on every point. Purdue is a young team that may have peaked this year a bit too soon, but the Boilermakers and Michigan State will be the best two Big Ten teams next season, and probably in that order.

Room sevice just arrived. Just when you think it can't get any better. ...


Gaithersburg, Md.: Okay, I still have time to tweak my brackets, and right now they're pretty boring (3 number 1 seeds in the final 4; Texas is the exception). Any surprise Elite 8 or Final 4 picks I should think about? My wallet thanks you in advance.

Adam Kilgore: Well, I can't say I know what you're talking about with the whole wallet thing, but here goes. I'm in roughly the same spot as you. My only real interesting pick in the Elite Eight is Southern Cal. Mayo is coming on so much, and I think Georgetown showed how vulnerable it can be against really strong, athletic teams in the Pitt loss. I've actually got Davidson beating the Hoyas, which won't please many folks here, I would imagine.

Eric Prisbell: My Final Four is also Kansas, UNC, UCLA and Texas.

I don't normally pick the favorites but UNC, UCLA and Kansas have been so dominant. I would take a substantial upset in my opinion for one of those teams not to make the Final Four.

Texas has beaten Tenn., UCLA and Kansas. Pretty solid.


Fairfax, Va.: What do you think of Cornell's prospects vs. the Stanford Cardinal -- is a Cinderella story in the offing?

Eric Prisbell: Possible, but unlikely. How do you deal with Brook Lopez offensively, and Robin Lopez, who plays great defense. Stanford also has a strong supporting cast, although no other play I would consider a star, which is why I can't pick them for the Final Four. But Stanford can rebound and play great defense. I think Cornell is overmatched.

Adam Kilgore: Cornell might shoot 40 three-pointers, given its disadvantage inside and how well the Big Red shoots.

That's two hopeful Cornell questions. Is Andy Bernard on today's chat?


Mt. Lebanon, Pa.: Good job to Adam for predicting Pitt's devastation of Marquette and Georgetown at the BE tournament last weekend.

Now, is he going to join Bob Knight (and me) and have the Panthers taking the trophy at the dance?

Adam: Go big or stay home.

Thanks much.

Adam Kilgore: Well, sorry, Mt. Lebanano, I'm staying home. I still really like that team, don't get me wrong. DaJuan Blair is an animal and Lavance Fields is one of the best leaders in the tournament. Under other circumstances, I'd put the Panthers in the Elite Eight. But I also picked Memphis to win the title back in August, and I'm not leaping off that bandwagon now. I'm not afraid of the free throws, Memphis has enough talent to overcome it. And like Calipari loves to say, they shot 73 percent in the pressure-packed CUSA tourney. I mean, they were only winning by 21 points when the majoirty of those shots were taken, they could have made or broke the point spread.

Also, for those of you worried I may actually know something about this game because of the Pitt pick, remember that I also picked North Carolina State for the Final Four in the preseason. Related story: The Wolfpack did not make the NIT. Or the CBI. But, I was pleased to be able to pick my other preseason choices -- Tennessee, UCLA and Memphis -- for the Final Four in the bracket. Kansas is the fourth.

Eric Prisbell: Adam is riding in the Memphis bandwagon along with Worldwide Wes all the way to the end. I just cannot pick a team to win a national title when it shoots 58 percent from the free throw line. But I love memphis's talent, especially Rose and CDR.


Please take this question!: I have about half an hour before I have to go to a meeting and my brackets will be sealed by the time I get back! Originally I had Stanford going to the final four, and then put Memphis in there, and I am now back to Stanford. Is there any chance Stanford could make it to the Final Four? Or it is foolish for me to put them in there? So much stress filling our one's brackets!

Adam Kilgore: I've got Stanford in the Elite Eight, but Memphis is my team this season. I believe college sports editor Matt Rennie has the Cardinal in the Final Four. How much will the Lopez twins be neutralized by Memphis' pressure and athleticism? I think too much.

Eric Prisbell: I have Texas beating both. Texas has the best backcourt in the country.

I think Memphis would have a good chance to beat Stanford. But you'd also have to watch Dorsey fouling out against Brook Lopez.


Washington, D.C.: There is talk that the two best games of the tournament are WVU-Arizona and USC-Kansas St. What are the can't-miss first round games for you?

Eric Prisbell: You nailed it. Those two are the games to watch. WV-Arizona I am really split on. I initially picked Arizona. The more I researched it, the more I talked to players, the more I like West Virginia. Arizona cannot rebound and has no depth.

Just sit back and enjoy Mayo vs. Beasley. Beasley told me a few years ago he was thinking about playing with Walker and Mayo for huggins. it didn't quite work out like that. But here they all are, minus Huggins, in an NCAA tourney game. USC is very young and getting better by the week. Trojans are an Elite Eight sleeper, although I like G-town.

Clemson-Villanova and St. Mary's-Miami should also be good.

Three of the games here in DC should be great. I'm really looking forward to Purdue-Baylor.

Adam Kilgore: I'm really interested in Vegas-Kent State because there could be about 200 points scored in that game. Miami-St. Mary's because of the Patty Mills-Jack McClinton showdown. Drake-Western Kentucky, two great coaches. (But, as Prisbell said, it's always a shame when when two small schools have to play in the first round.) Georgia-Xavier, the highest seeded mid-major agains the lowest seeded high-major.

Eric Prisbell: Kilgore, who do you have in Vegas-Kent State. I went with Kent State, but I'm worried about that pick. You?

Adam Kilgore: I've got the Golden Flashes as well. Not all that confident, I wanted to pick both teams. This is going to be an awesome, awesome first-round game.


Kansas City, Mo. : I've seen Bob Knight on ESPN a lot basically falling in love with Pittsburgh. Do you think they can match up with a team like Memphis if they get that far?

Eric Prisbell: I think Pitt could match up with Memphis. Pitt is a tough and athletic team. I question whether Pitt can get that far after the long run through the Big East tournament. We have seen it time and time again. Teams make a great run in the conference tournament and then flame out quickly, exhausted. I'll get a sense of how Georgia does in a few hours. Georgia players told me yesterday, "Hey, it's only one game! On Saturday, we won 2"

Adam Kilgore: That's a great line from those Georgia players. We got lucky in D.C. It's definitely the best region for storylines.

The General's fixation with Pittsburgh is a bit odd, but I do like his willingness to branch out. He knows a lot more about basketball than the rest of us.


New York, NY: Can you all offer up a few lesser known names that we should keep a look out for in the Tourney? Every year there's a few guys that I never heard of that break out.


Eric Prisbell: These names are household names for a lot of fans, but everyone may not know them.

Stephen Curry, Davidson

AJ Graves, Butler

Shan Foster, Vandy

Kyle Weaver, WSU

Courtney Lee, Western Kentucky

Josh Young, Drake

Stanley Burrell, Xavier (defender)

Adam Kilgore: There's this Tyler Hansbrough guy from UNC ...

Only kidding. I like this question. Prisbell stole Josh Young and Courtney Lee from me. I'll add:

Sonny Weems, Arkansas

Curtis Jerrells, Baylor

Terrence Oglesby, Clemson

Patrick Mills, St. Mary's

Diote Christmas, Temple

Jamont Gordon, Mississippi State

Mike Green, Butler


Rolla, Mo.: Big Ten guy here, and I'm finally over my bias after being burned for years in my picks. Don't have any of them going anywhere. Now, how many brackets out there are affected by home bias, or conference bias?

Eric Prisbell: Probably most of them. I tend to be a little biased toward West Coast teams. I try to watch out for that. And I tend to play it safe early, avoiding many upset picks. I try to win the bracket games, not get a lucky one right in the first round.

Here are some of my bracket pick highlights:

I picked 1996 Cuse to make the Final Four

I picked 1999 UCOnn to beat Duke in the Final

I picked 2003 Cuse to make the final four.

Adam Kilgore: I think it's smart to look at both conferences and where the games are played. I hate not picking Butler, but South Alabama playing in Birmingham is such an advantage. (Although I guess not enough of one to beat Middle Tennessee State in the Sun Belt tourney. I'm really vacillating on that one.) Anyway, while Pris is boasting, I will, too. My happiest moment ever as a braceketeer was picking No. 10 Seton Hall to beat Oregon and No. 2 Temple in 2000. Or it might have been 2001. It was the year they had Shaheen Holloway and Samuel Dalembert. One of the fondest sports memories I have.


Reston VA: What the heck is happening with area basketball when Coppin State, UMBC, George Mason, American, and Georgetown each get into the NCAA tournament, and supposed national power Maryland ends up in the NIT for the 3rd time in four years? Perhaps Maryland should join the CAA...

Eric Prisbell: The conference Maryland needs to join is the Missouri Valley.


Adam Kilgore: OK, everyone, the games start in little more than an hour. Don't let the boss see you watching the games. Good luck in the bracket pools. Keep checking the D.C. Sports Bog for updates all day.

Eric Prisbell: And Barry Svrluga just walked into the press room. Great day. Let's start. May I get every pick right!


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