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Monday, March 16 at 11 a.m. ET

D.C. Sports Bog Live: Filling Out Your Brackets Edition

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John Feinstein and Tony Kornheiser offer some thoughts on the 2009 NCAA Tournament. Video by Atkinson & Co.

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Dan Steinberg and Eric Prisbell
D.C. Sports Bogger; College Basketball Reporter and Blogger
Monday, March 16, 2009; 11:00 AM

Dan Steinberg was online Monday, March 16 at 11 a.m. ET with college basketball writer and Press Break blogger Eric Prisbell to help you fill out your NCAA Tournament bracket.

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The transcript follows.

Read Dan's The 2009 Bracket Insta-React

More on the tournament:

Interactive Bracket.

HOW PRISBELL FARED

Kornheiser's Picks.

NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament Database.

Full coverage -- NCAA Tournament: 2009.

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Eric Prisbell: Welcome, everyone! As I have said before, I root for great stories, Marriott points and NCAA regional in Phoenix. I have all three this month. Maryland making the tournament is a great story. For Gary to take this team, with this talent, to the NCAAs, it will stand as one of the better accomplishments in his career at Maryland. And don't let anyone tell you otherwise! I'm headed to Kansas City with Yanda and Wise in a few days. Could not be a better sub-regional. Great coaches all around out there. And I get to spend four days with the most entertaining team in all the land, Memphis. On any given day, you could see Jesse Jackson or Worldwide Wes in or around the Memphis locker room. Last season I saw both. That is why i love this stuff.

I'm interested in Steinberg's picks.

Dan Steinberg: Wow, Eric is way, way ahead of me here. He has a stack of answers already done.

My only point on Maryland was that if they have enough talent, for better or worse, to beat UNC, maybe they also have enough talent to beat an admittedly decent Morgan State team at home. Or, go crazy, to win a road game against someone other than Georgia Tech and N.C. State. I still say it was a hell of a ride, and lots of fun to watch, and I wouldn't be surprised if they win on Thursday.

I'm headed nowhere, and I hate my early picks.

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Washington, D.C.: Do either of you believe that the Big East is just a little over hyped? The only Big East team I see making it to the Elite 8 is Louisville.

Eric Prisbell: I don't think the league is overhyped.

Notre Dame beat the tourney's overall top seed by 33 and did not even make the dance. A very powerful league.

This is 1985 all over again.

Three Big East teams in the Final Four. Pitt-Louisville final.

Time will tell, maybe there will be lots of upsets, but i don't see it.

Dan Steinberg: Well sure, I think the League is overhyped. Any time any league is called "possibly the greatest of all time" before the postseason has even started, it's overhyped. People are fond of using Georgetown and Notre Dame as evidence of the massive strength, but at some point if you're Georgetown and Notre Dame and you keep losing to every good team in your conference, it means maybe you're not that good. As we saw with the Hoyas, just because you're great in December doesn't mean you're great in February.

I would be shocked if three Big East teams make the Final Four. I have Pitt there, and nearly took Louisville, but I don't see it with U-Conn or Nova or 'Cuse.

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McLean, Va.: Wake Forest is a team that could make a Final Four run or could just as easily get upset by Cleveland State. Any feel on which Wake team will show up, the one who beat Duke and UNC, or the one who lost to Georgia Tech?

Eric Prisbell: The team that will show up will likely be the one that kept Johnson on the floor with two fouls, the one that kept shooting and missing threes, the one that lost to a Maryland team despite three or four future pros. Wake is a great story and it is great how they kept that recruiting class together. But the Demon Deacons should be better, and they could be in for an early exit.

Dan Steinberg: And here we'll agree. It's hard to imagine a team showing that lack of passion in the ACC quarterfinals will suddenly turn the switch back on a week later. The Deacs went something like 8-6 down the stretch, which doesn't sound like Final Four to me.

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Arlington, Va.: The team that no one is talking about is Memphis. They have a shut down D and can really intimidate teams. How far do you think they will go?

Eric Prisbell: Memphis causes me plenty of sleepless nights every year. Just don't know what to do with them. And I love that program. Fun to cover. What we know is that this team is a heck of a lot better since Calipari got smart and moved Tyreke to point guard. Memphis could lose in the second round or reach the Final Four. Hard team to predict. I think I have them in the Final Eight.

Dan Steinberg: I've long had a vendetta against CUSA in the tourney, even before everyone left. But I got burned with that D Wade Marquette team, and burned again last year by Memphis, which really should have won the title. So I figured this year, I'm done with all that: I picked Memphis to beat Pitt in the final.

I know this doesn't always work, but I'm pretty fond of picking national champions who came close the year before. (Kentucky in 98 after losing in the 97 final, Michigan State in 00 after a Final Four appearance in 99, the Terps in 02 after a Final Four appearance in 01, etc)

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Wake Forest, NC: I was listening to ESPN and Vitale whining about mid-majors not getting bids. His reasoning was so two faced I would like you to comment. He is saying that the power teams don't schedule mid-majors or lesser teams to play them. But who has been complaining for years that power teams are playing "cup cakes" in the pre-season? You can't have it both ways.

Eric Prisbell: With all due respect to Dick Vitale, I tuned him out in 1998.

Penn State, a big boy team, needed to schedule somebody, anybody, during non-conference play instead of playing CYO rec league teams.

Saint Mary's needed to beat Gonzaga once.

Davidson had its chance but certainly did not deserve to make the field. Please don't tell me Vitale said Mr. Curry deserved a berth.

Dan Steinberg: I think the legitimate complaint is that mid majors can't play the big boys on their home courts. As Jim Larranaga is fond of telling reporters, DI teams win something like 77 percent of the time at home. When so many of the OOC games are at the big boys' court, it's not really a fair measurement. I think schedules (like Maryland's) look a lot more cupcakish when you see H, H, H, H, H, H under the location, regardless of opponent.

All that being said, a bunch of the just-out mid-majors really didn't have impressive resumes IN conference, so I'm not outraged.

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Alexandria, Va.: Indianapolis is the home of the NCAA headquarters. Wouldn't it have made more sense for the committee to use a meeting room at the HQ instead of spending hundreds of thousands of dollars (probably more) on rooms, meeting rooms, food and drink at one of the more expensive hotels in Indy?

Eric Prisbell: That is a very good point.

I think it is fair to criticize them for this. But I believe the most important thing is to protect the integrity of the process, and I think they do a good job with this. When I participated in the NCAA"s mock bracket selection process two years ago, I learned a heck or a lot and came away with a lot of respect for the process.

Dan Steinberg: In this day and age, I'm surprised they didn't. Sports are still about throwing money randomly in the air, but the Super Bowl this year had less of that than before.

I'm sure the committee members had plenty of Coca Cola products courtesy of their corporate champion.

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Navy Yard (and AU alum!): did you ever get the feeling that, if the selection committee really had their way, that there would be no mid-major schools and the entire 65 team field would consist of teams from the big guns, no matter how poorly they did in the ACC/Big East/Big Ten/Big 12/SEC, etc? It gets a little bit oold with the mid-majors getting terrible seeds simply because they're not a big name. But Maryland gets a No. 10? Seriously?

Eric Prisbell: I love the mid-majors. But what mid-major really got hosed this season? Saint Mary's? Perhaps. Beat Gonzaga once -- as Arizona did -- and maybe Saint Mary's makes it. They were 0 for 3 against Gonzaga.

I thought Maryland would be an 11 or 12. I thought Butler would be a 7. The fact that Butler and Maryland were separated by one seed surprised me a little.

Boston College was overseeded. Simple as that.

But Siena got a 9, which was a little higher than I expected.

It was not like the committee, even with Mike Slive as chair, rewarded good seeds to the three teams from the SEC, whose entire conference deserves a two-year sentence to the CBI because of the dreadful performance all season losing.

I just think this was a down year for mid-majors. San Diego State maybe had a gripe.

Dan Steinberg: As noted above, it's hard for mid-majors to earn quality wins when all their quality opponents (OOC) are on the road. But don't forget, people like Tom O'Connor from George Mason are on the selection committee. These people are mid-majorites through and through. It's not like the BCS, which is run by the big boys for the big boys with no seats at the table.

You can make your cases for whichever teams you want, but if I offered your American team a chance right now to face St. Mary's or Arizona on a neutral court, and you wanted a win, would you REALLY choose Arizona? Really?

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Mt. Lebanonm, Pa.: No surprises in the picks?

I viewed Kornheiser's bracket. He seems to go conventional down the stretch. I was looking for some more variety in the projected outcomes, if those are called upsets, well then.. upsets.

Your take? Is it all just one and done for the teams with high hopes and not much else?

I'm not looking for the College of Rocky Balboa still it would be fun to see one or two go a long, long way. Siena? WKU? Cleveland State?

Thanks much.

Eric Prisbell: North Dakota State CAN beat Kansas but won't.

Western Kentucky WILL beat Illinois.

American CAN beat Nova but won't

VCU WILL beat UCLA.

Michigan WILL beat Clemson

Do not pick an SEC team.

Do not pick a Big Ten team not named Purdue or Michigan State.

Don't be afraid of Gonzaga.

Don't be afraid of Billy Hahn and Huggins, who could be headed back to the Sweet 16.

Take USC over Boston College.

Florida State is a Sweet 16 team.

In the end, lean on the Big East.

I have Zags as a Final Four team.

Dan Steinberg: Wow, that's a lot of words. I had Michigan and VCU immediately as well, and I'm thinking about taking Arizona State all the way to the Elite Eight, over Oklahoma, which terrifies me in retrospect.

I like Texas into the Sweet 16. I think I like Purdue into the Elite Eight, over UConn. And I think I like Utah State over Marquette.

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Burke, Va.: Where is Billy Packer this year? Love him or hate him, at least he had something to say. The remaining guys are interchangeable pieces.

Eric Prisbell: I liked Billy Packer. I don't mind guys who are a little grumpy and have opinions.

Dan Steinberg: He's in Vegas. And he's certifiably insane. Did you see the thing about him and O.J.'s killer?

I think he's more than a little grumpy. The Mason thing really ended any affection I might have once had for the guy.

Kellogg is solid enough, but you're right that he's fairly dry.

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Baltimore: I'll make this short and sweet...

With all of the lampooning the Washington Post has done with Gary Williams and the University of Maryland, why hasn't there been an article written about how horrible a job John Thompson III has done with Georgetown and the numerous McDonald's All-Americans that make up their roster?

washingtonpost.com: What Happened to the Hoyas?; With Little Time, Hoyas Are Facing A Long Climb; Hoyas See Need to 'Relax and Play'; Georgetown Hoyas' Rapid Growth Results in Some Pains; Hoyas Approaching March Like a Lamb; At Big East Midpoint, Hoyas Face Steep Climb; It's Been Quite Cold Outside for Slumping Georgetown

Eric Prisbell: I respect your opinion and appreciate your comment. You raise an interesting point.

With regard to my college basketball coverage in general and not in reference to any Georgetown story, I do have plans for extensive coverage of AAU-related issues this summer. The stories I plan to write this summer about the college basketball world in general are a heck of a lot more hard-hitting than doing a story on one underachieving season at Georgetown. Count on that.

Dan Steinberg: Count on that! Whoo!

Thanks, Washingtonpost.com, for all those links.

Baltimore, I can tell you that way more readers care about the Terps than the Hoyas. That means we will over-cover Maryland when they go to the Final Four, and over-cover them when they struggle. I know these are very contentious issues for fans. A lot of fans for local teams resent all the attention Maryland gets in the press, good and bad.

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Herndon, Va.: Will someone PLEASE TELL ME why Arizona, who can't win on the road unless it's against a Division III team, is in this tournament??

Eric Prisbell: I think this was a tough call for them, and it had to be the last team in, even though slive won't say it.

The wins over Wash, Kansas, Gonzaga and UCLA are very good.

The road record is trash, so is the finish. But they don't have an awful loss near the end of the season. A dangerous and capable team. I gave a slight edge to Saint mary's but i was wrong.

Taking Terps and Arizona, teams with lots of losses, sent a message to teams. You have to beat someone of note -- on any court -- during the non-conference season.

Zona did. And Maryland beat Michigan State and Michigan.

Penn State played an exhibition season.

Dan Steinberg: What surprises me, aside from all that, is how many people are now picking Arizona to win its first game. The backward slide into the tournament is never a good omen, whether or not the bid was deserved.

Like I asked above, I assume you are a fan of a team. If I told you your team was about to play for the national championship on a neutral court, and you could pick the opponent out of Penn State, St. Mary's, San Diego State and Arizona, would you choose Arizona as the weakest?

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Chevy Chase, D.C.: How does Digger continue to earn a paycheck?

Eric Prisbell: Digger is entertaining I guess in a Lee Corso sort of way. But Digger always has about 112 teams in his bracket.

I like Bilas, Fraschilla and Gottlieb.

Not sure if Steinberg is still in the Vitale fan club ...

Dan Steinberg: Digger, as I noted, had top seed Pitt playing fourth-seeded Xavier for a trip to the Final Four, in what would presumably have been a rematch of their Sweet 16 matchup.

I like Feinstein.

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Alexandria, Va.: Will the Post have the Tourney Tracker available this year

Dan Steinberg: We made the decision not to use the TourneyTracker this year, although we will obviously provide loads of tournament coverage. I'll send you my bracket, if you want to compete against me.

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washingtonpost.com: Digger Makes Some Interesting Picks (D.C. Sports Bog, March 15)

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Hyattsville, Md.: Why is everyone sleeping on Texas? My sleeper team to sneak to the Elite 8. They have talent on the perimeter and on the inside. It's true that they have underachieved but i think they are set to go on a big run and sneak by Duke and Villanova to go to the Elite 8. Also, why doesn't any expert have UCONN winning the championship?

Dan Steinberg: I'm not sure that people are sleeping on Texas; Minnesota is not an imposing first-round matchup, and with its recent history I think Duke is clearly the least imposing of the two seeds.

As for Nova, that reminds me, I'm a bit surprised there isn't more outrage about things like Nova playing at home, Ohio State playing in Dayton, etc.

And as for U-Conn, one word: Dyson. The Huskies went 4-3 after losing Jerome Dyson, and while all the losses were good losses, they were still losses.

Eric Prisbell: Dan's right. The Dyson loss changed everything for U-Conn.

Texas can make a run. I just thought the Longhorns would have been better during the regular season.

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Downtown: How can Maryland fans consider a No. 10 seed in the NCAA tournament, an event the Terrapins barely made and probably shouldn't have (if you look at some of the teams they lost to and how many times they were blown out), a successful season? This team is only seven years removed from a national title, and now they're crowing about sneaking into the tournament as a No. 10 seed? Have expectations fallen that much in College Park?

Eric Prisbell: Fair points. This is from someone who co-authored three stories worth 11,000 words on terps recruiting: Making the tourney was a major accomplishment for this team and for Gary. It took everything he had.

Several coaches told me this Maryland team has roughly upper mid-level Atlantic 10 talent. One prominent coach told me Morgan State had more talent, aside from Vasquez. I don't know another coach who could have gotten more out of this particularly team.

I don't know everything Gary went through this season, but I know a lot of it. I have had private conversations with him up until the series ran. And to know the guy a little, to know the criticism he endured, most of which came from us, to know what I have called a toxic environment at Maryland in terms of tensions between Gary supporters and Debbie supporters, and to see him keep everything together, that showed me a hell of a lot. To see him compartmentalize things, truly impressive. I don't care what anyone tells you, we talked to 80 people, mid-season, at its low point, it was not guaranteed that gary would be coaching here next season. It was not. But he alone changed the trajectory of the season and proved once again his merits as coach.

The credit goes to no one but Gary Williams. I did not think he could get this team to the NCAAs. He did it. Count me as impressed with that.

Dan Steinberg: Well, I guess this was a set-up for me to disagree with Eric. In the preseason, a 7-9 conference mark and 10 seed would have probably been seen as a slight overachievement. After the BC loss or the Duke loss, it would have been seen as unexpected, for sure. And a lot depends on what happens this week, in terms of how this season is later perceived. Even one win makes a big difference, whether it should or not.

As for Eric's points.....if you REALLY have mid-level A10 talent but you go 7-9 in the ACC and make it to the semis, you must be coached by either John Wooden or God. And if your mid-level A10 talent can beat the number one team in the country, why can't they also beat Morgan State or Virginia?

To be clear, I thought it was over after the BC game, and it's absolutely impressive, but "he alone changed the trajectory of the season" by getting the Terps to go 5-5 down the stretch? I'll take a national championship over that.

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Go Huskies (The Connecticut Kind): Why all the hate on UConn? I don't think they'll win this year, but there seems to be a vitriol pointed at them that we used to reserve for Duke.

Eric Prisbell: Interesting. I have not noticed that this season. I saw it in 2006, with a UConn team that just did not seem to be having much fun playing together.

I don't know. As long as no one asks Calhoun about his salary, I think think should be cool.

Dan Steinberg: Maryland fans have incredible, incredible amounts of vitriol based on Rudy Gay and other local recruits who headed north. I'm not sure that others hate them as much. There was actually a big cheer for UConn during the AU selection show. Guess a lot of Connecticut kids go to school in Tenleytown.

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Injuries: What teams have injuries that I should take into account when picking my teams. I know Oklahoma lost one of its main players awhile back. Is he back? Anyone else? Thanks!

Eric Prisbell: Oklahoma's Blake Griffin is good to go.

Marquette lost James, a very good guard, and that will hurt.

UConn's loss of Jerome Dyson, a local kid, will hurt a lot, especially in late rounds.

Dan Steinberg: That's "future Washington Wizards Blake Griffin" to you, thanks very much.

I mentioned UConn going 4-3 post-Dyson. Marquette---against a horrendously difficult closing stretch--lost its final four regular season games, and went 1-1 in MSG (with the loss coming on that fluke play, but still).

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Anonymous: "Minnesota is not an imposing first-round matchup"

Minnesota beat Louisville

Eric Prisbell: I don't like Texas or Minnesota. Duke gets to go to Boston, with a chance at the Elite Eight.

When you see most Big Ten teams, run away. And run fast. I like Purdue and MSU. I have been waiting for Purdue to get it going.

Dan Steinberg: Minnesota beat Louisville before Xmas. Minnesota also went 3-6 to close the regular season, and has a loss at Northwestern.

But look, sure Minnesota could win. If I was the boss of this stuff, I'd be living in Vegas, not Petworth.

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Kensington, MD: Any chance the Dayton Flyers surprise the Mountaineers this week?

Eric Prisbell: Great job by Brian Gregory. I did not think Dayton could do it this season after losing Roberts.

But I like West Virginia as a potential sleeper.

Dan Steinberg: Agreed. West Virginia has been a dangerous sleeper no matter who its coach has been. But sure, there's a chance.

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Fairfax, Va.: Has Leonard Hamilton finally proved that he is a quality coach? He has fully bounced back from the Wizards debacle, hasn't he?

Eric Prisbell: He has. Great job by Leonard Hamilton all season. FSU is a good sleeper pick. Lots of size and Douglas is a great guard.

Dan Steinberg: Expect to hear more about Hamilton as the Wizards challenge Hamilton's 00-01 squad (I think) for the worst 82-game record in franchise history. College and pro coaching are not, and will never be, the same.

"Great" does not do justice to "Toney Douglas." Like all of creation, I have Florida State vs. Pitt in the Sweet 16.

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Washington, D.C.: Dan, I contend that all four #1 seeds making the Final Four last year is the worst thing that's happened to the tournament. Now, analysts on TV are safe to project all chalk and morons turning in their brackets with all #1 seeds have some justification, rather than being ridiculed because there's NO WAY that could ever happen. Agree?

Eric Prisbell: I hate picking No. 1 seeds and only feel really good about two: Pitt and Louisville.

I take a 4: Zags.

Dan Steinberg: Agree agree agree. I used to have a rule that I couldn't pick more than two one seeds, and I had to have a team lower than a 2. 1-1-2-4 and 1-1-2-3 used to be my faves, but I hate all the four seeds this year for sure, and my favorite three (Kansas) is in that Louisville-Michigan State bracket.

If you're going to take chalk, you should forfeit your talking head paychecks.

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DC: I have not been able to watch as much ball this year as I would have liked (and I never know what I'm doing anyway) so I have decided this year to do no thinking on the bracket at all, and go strictly by the Pomeroy rankings.

This puts me in the awkward position of picking Memphis to win it all. Can I really bank on a team whose toughest game all year was a scrimmage against their women's team?

Eric Prisbell: Trust Memphis at your own peril.

Picking Memphis to win it all. Might as well light a match to torch your bracket now.

We'll check back in three weeks to see if I am wrong. Maybe Tyreke Evans turns into Carmelo.

I'll be the first to admit I am wrong if it happens.

Dan Steinberg: I've already said why I'm backing Memphis, so instead I'll say that every year, I consider "would I enjoy March Madness more as a spectacle if I didn't pick a single bracket and just watched games for the sheer joy of it all."

I'm convinced the answer is Yes, yes, a zillion times yes. But I lose my courage at the end and submit like 47 brackets to 33 different pools. And then I can't even keep track what I'm rooting for and I hate myself all over again. Maybe this year I'll finally find the nerve to just say no.

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Arlington, Va.: You like Gottlieb? Really? He's nothing but a Big 12 homer. Mike Brey's best move ever was kicking him off the ND squad.

Eric Prisbell: He has grown on me.

Dan Steinberg: Meh.

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GO EAGLES: "American CAN Beat Nova but won't"

Please elaborate.

GO EAGLES!

Eric Prisbell: I see a close game for the most part. American has a lot of confidence from hanging with Tenn. last season. An experienced bunch. But Nova can score and I just think Nova edges them.

Dan Steinberg: American also has the second-longest win streak in the nation, behind Memphis. And players who have grown playoff beards and shaved their numbers into their heads. And seven (I think) seniors, and a coach who's been around the way. And two guards who, standing on each others' heads, are still shorter than Thabeet.

Ok, that part was a joke. For tournament picking purposes, you have to be a brave soul to take anything under a 13 to win. As our crazy amazing graphic in this morning's special section showed, 14 seeds are 15-81 all time in the first round. You don't stake your wisdom on a .156 winning percentage.

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Capitol Hill: Not an NCAA tournament question, but a local one: Any thoughts on Hobbs being retained at GW? How many more dismal seasons will it take before he is cut loose?

Eric Prisbell: I think he should have jumped ship a few seasons ago after they had that great season. His stock seems to have slipped, to say the least.

Dan knows Hobbs a lot better than I do.

Dan Steinberg: I hear the Colonials will be playing Mason next season. That's a great development for the area, and could put them down the road of a more challenging non-conference schedule, which would pay dividends in the A10.

It's impossible to talk about Hobbs's stock without speculating what The Post's reporting did to that stock in the magical season, and I'm a little bit too close to all of that. In terms of really remarkable plummets, GW going from No. 7 (yes, No. SEVEN!!!) in the country to missing the A10 tournament two years in a row is far more shocking than what's happened to Maryland. GW needs to find some sort of recruiting sweet spot, between the Lutheran guys and the current crop.

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Silver Spring, Md.: What are Binghamton's chances against Duke? When is that game on?

Eric Prisbell: It is the late game on Thursday.

Coach K has done a great job with this team. I love Henderson as a player. And the Elliott Williams move has paid off. I like Duke to get to Boston.

Dan Steinberg: This relates to the GW question with Kevin Broadus and his resurgent Binghamtoners being featured in the N.Y. Times. Not in a good way. They seem to have talent, but so did UMBC last year, and they just couldn't stick with Georgetown.

On the other hand, Belmont?

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Ashland, Ore.: Seven Big 10 Teams and six from the Pac 10. Do you guys laugh out loud when you hear members of the selection committee say "we don't consider a team's conference" during the selection process?

Eric Prisbell: They don't. Having gone through the mock process at the NCAA headquarters, I can say with certainty that they do not consider conferences. They consider who did you play, who'd you beat, etc.

Dan Steinberg: That being said, Big 10 teams and Pac 10 teams have more chances to get good responses to the "who did you play, who'd you beat" questions, because they have 16 or 18 or whatever league games that they don't need to worry about. It's a massive advantage. Maryland got one chance after another to play top-10 RPI teams, and when they won two of them, they were in. Teams from smaller leagues just don't get that many chances to impress.

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DC: I don't fill out a bracket, because I'm an unctuous purist.

Eric Prisbell: Zach Berman chiming in with a comment?

Dan Steinberg: Was that directed at me?

I meant more for my own enjoyment, it might be cool not to have to worry about yet another barnburning 8-9 game. Maybe I'm wrong.

Great use of unctuous though.

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S. Rockville, MD: Prisbell:

"Michigan WILL beat Clemson"

"Do not pick a Big Ten team not named Purdue or Michigan State"

Is Clemson just that bad or Michigan (with Beilein) just tricky enough in the first round?

Eric Prisbell: Good to catch me on that.

I'm torn on this one, and it will keep me up very late before I make my final picks. I need to gather a few power bars, put on some music and sequester myself in a room for two hours to do my final picks tomorrow.

I am down on the Big Ten. But I'm in the tank for Beilein, one of the five best coaches in the land. The tiebreaker: I am down on Clemson. Team fades again. That team does not appear on one page right now. Lots of talent, but something is amiss.

I go Michigan!

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Charlotte, NC: I'm sick of my Dukies getting bashed. What happens is that we do GREAT in the ACC, and then in the NCAA the officials don't give us the respect we've earned through the season. It's hard to adjust to teams getting as many free throws as you do, when all season your skill and tenacity has been amply rewarded at the line. We almost need the refs to hose us in a game or two during the season, so that an evenly-officiated game doesn't shake us up so much.

Eric Prisbell: Is this a joke?

Yeah, Duke never gets any calls. Yeah, right.

Dan Steinberg: Ha. Also, maybe the full arenas at NCAA sites makes it harder for the refs to hear Coach K as he advises them on how to perform their jobs.

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Wilmington, NC: What's your opinion on the strength and advancement possibilities of Akron, Southern Cal and Utah? I'm asking prior to the tournament selection committee's choices.

Eric Prisbell: I like USC. I also like both Utah and Zona. Problem is, they play each other. Utah is a veteran team. Discount the loss to a non-Division I team, I like the squad.

Akron gets Gonzaga. Game over.

Dan Steinberg: The problem with Eric answering all these questions first is he never gets to see my responses. But I'll say it anyhow: the dude is all over Gonzaga every single year. If I'm remembering right. When's the last time they went to the Elite Eight? Oh yeah, 1999.

Southern Cal: Nah. Those teams that go on win-and-you're-in conference title rolls too often don't have enough left for the tournament. And the ACC is killer in the first round, plus BC has to listen to this "overseeded!" stuff all week. Take BC.

I can't decide on Utah, but I'm leaning toward them based on AZ's slow finish.

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Memphis: "This puts me in the awkward position of picking Memphis to win it all. Can I really bank on a team whose toughest game all year was a scrimmage against their women's team?"

I'm guessing this person is referring to the C-USA portion of the season. The Memphis non-con schedule was perfectly respectable. They played Xavier (loss), Georgetown (loss), Syracuse (loss), Gonzaga, Cincy, Seton Hall, etc...

Eric Prisbell: memphis plays everyone it can. They will play anyone, anytime, anywhere. You've got to respect that.

I like Memphis, but I just don't see the Tigers winning the whole thing.

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Mt. Lebanon, Pa.: Of the teams you mentioned in my question: VCU, Seminoles, Utah State, Michigan.. any of these loaded up with Seniors? Post grads?

In other words, guys built like DeJuan Blair or that moose from Washington?

Thanks much. Again.

Eric Prisbell: I just saw a list of the most experienced teams, but my head is spinning a little.

American and Utah are very experienced. Utah State's star is a 26-year-old who has recovered from drug issues. Utah State is a very well-coached team that can play.

Dan Steinberg: Eric Maynor, VCU's all-everything superstar guard, is a 14th-year senior, though he's the only senior starter.

Michigan starts two freshmen. So does Florida State.

Utah State starts three sophomores and a junior.

Marquette, the six seed facing Utah State, is incredibly experienced, even without James. (Starts three seniors and two juniors.)

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Staunton, Va.: If I want to win the money in my office pool, am I smart to just go straight chalk?

Eric Prisbell: Lean on the Big East and run from the Big Ten and the SEC. No matter what you do early, get the Final Four correct.

Dan Steinberg: NOOOOOOOO. No no no no no no no no no no.

If you don't care about looking foolish, pick a two seed to win it all. Just do it. You'll have a 50 percent stake in a team with, say, a six percent chance to win it all, instead of a three percent stake in a team with a 20 percent chance to win it all. Sure, if you're perfect, you'll win regardless, but if you go largely chalk you have no margin of error. Putting a four seed in the Final Four and picking a two seed to win it all gives you a margin of error. A huge one.

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Arlington, Va.: So 'Cuse is in for a big fall again, right? Three-seed seems a little high for them - conversely a 5-seed for Purdue? I know everyone wants to knock the Big Ten but that just seems a little low.

Eric Prisbell: I had a 4 or 5 for Purdue, can't remember.

I think I did have a 3 for Cuse. This is a team that can reach the Final Four.

Dan Steinberg: Three seed seems a little high for them indeed. don't have the link handy, but it was suggested that Nova and Cuse both needed to be a three because of the three one seeds, and the desire to put off inter-conference showdowns as long as possible. Marquette and West Virginia, the other Big Easters, were sixes, also keeping them away from the number one seeds until the regional finals.

I'm with you on Cuse. I have them losing to Arizona State (or Temple)

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Potomac, Md.: Let me get something straight. Notre Dame gets bounced to the NIT, and BOSTON COLLEGE gets a 7 seed? What more was Notre Dame supposed to do? They beat LOUISVILLE. They squeaked by Texas. They won AT DePaul. They beat South Florida, Rutgers AND St. John's in NEW YORK. They lost twice to UConn by a combined total of 15 points. They came within 15 points of North Carolina. They were ranked Top-10 in preseason and they get elite recruits. Yet THAT'S not the resume of a NCAA 7 seed? Please.

Eric Prisbell: Notre Dame would not have made my field if there were 40 at-large bids instead of 34.

ND had a great win vs. Louisville. What else did they do?

They beat Texas. What else? Those were the only two top 50 wins. They were poor on the road. Their RPI is dead rotten at 77, which would have been the worst ever for an at-large by a lot.

Did not make the cut.

Dan Steinberg: They won at DePaul? No kidding? I think my JV high school team just won at DePaul.

Also, this--"They were ranked Top-10 in preseason and they get elite recruits"--is not necessarily a strong case for an NCAA tourney bid. I'm pretty sure Georgetown was and does, too.

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Washington, D.C.: How long does it take for these players to recover? People are talking about Syracuse being tired, but its a week later, and they probably won't have a real challenge until Sunday. I would think that is plenty of time to rest up.

Also how serious is Ty Lawson's injury. Is he expected to be a 100 percent by the second round game?

Eric Prisbell: I think Cuse will recover physically. I wonder about the mental state. But i think Cuse will make a run, maybe a serious one.

Don't have an update on Lawson.

Dan Steinberg: I don't know, four and a half games in four days is an awful lot, even if you're 19 years old. These aren't pickup games, these are high pressure, nationally televised games against bruising opponents. I think fatigue is a serious question.

I have a hard time believing Lawson returns at 100 percent.

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U of L: Has any team done more in the week leading up to the tourney to increase the number of people picking them to win it all than Louisville? An SI story calling them underrated, then cruising through the BE tourney, and then an overall No. 1 seed. Prisbell had them as a 2-seed last week! They have gone from a semi-sleeper pick to overrated very quickly. Any new 2-4 seeds we should be considering?

Eric Prisbell: I am always hesitant to put too much stock in the conference tournaments. Honestly, I would have preferred Louisville lose the BE tourney. The fact that Louisville won it has me a little concerned, because they still have six games to go.

I feel confident the champ will be Pitt or Louisville. I have switched about three times in the last 24 hours. My final picks will be in by Thursday and my sweet 16 will be up on the terps blog. Many fans have requested me to post my picks.

Dan Steinberg: Many fans have requested your picks? Really? How do you define "many?"

I would consider Memphis and Oklahoma, two seeds that are now a bit more off the radar merely because there's not a "1" next to their names. Villanova and Kansas intrigue me of the three seeds. I would consider none of the four seeds. I also think, on the heels of last year, we're destined for a major surprise into the Final Four.

I'm also fond of teams that lose in conference tourney semis: no appalling crash, but no glut of games and no overconfidence issues. In fact, three of my final four teams (UNC, Michigan State, Pitt) did not win their conference tourney.

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Team to Win it All: Okay, let's just get to the point. Which team are you picking to win the whole thing?

Eric Prisbell: Pittsburgh over Louisville.

Pitt has defense, rebounding, great point guard who does not turn the ball over, a beast inside in Blair and another threat in young. A veteran team that reminds me of MSU 2000. I have concerns about their outside shooting, but i take Pitt.

Dan Steinberg: I have Memphis over Pitt in the final. One of my concerns with Pitt is illogical but persuasive: national champions almost always have been there before. 12 out of the last 13 years, the national champion has recently been in the final four. Pitt has not been there since 1957. That concerns me.

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Barno, Md.: Steinz,

If I were Ernie Grunfeld, I would think long and hard about bringing Gary Williams in for an interview after the season.

I know great college coaches often don't make great NBA coaches, and I know Gary is getting up there in years. But I have always wondered how many more playoff appearances the Wizards would have had the last 20 years if Gary had been coaching the Wiz.

They say Gary doesn't like to recruit? Fine, just coach: What could Gary do with a 10 man rotation of Gilbert Arenas, Caron Butler, Antawn Jamison, Brendan Haywood, Andre Blatche, Nick Young, Dominic McGuire, JaVale McGee, DeShawn Stevenson, Javaris Crittenton and a lottery pick?

Hey, a guy can dream right?

Eric Prisbell: I would like to hear what Dan has to say about Gary's coaching ability.

Dan Steinberg: Barno, do you do anything but post comments, chat questions and emails on the Washington Post sports site? You're keeping us in business, man.

Gary Williams coaching Gilbert Arenas? I mean, that's a bigger prescription for cover-your-eyes disaster than Jim Cramer on the Daily Show. The Wiz need a fairly flexible NBA guy, not a completely inflexible college guy.

You were joking, right?

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Arlington, Va.: Fran Dunphy is doing a heck of a job at Temple... not sure they could have found a better fit to replace Cheney.

Eric Prisbell: Great job. Not surprised they won the A-10 title.

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Chevy Chase, Md.: I'll put this out first, I am an unabashed Carolina fan/alum. I have no doubt this is our tourney to lose. That said, if you really think Dook is the same team that got bounced the first weekend the last two years, you should have your shiny, bald, over-sized dome examined. I fear a UNC-Duke Final Four match-up (the first sign of the Apocalypse along Tobacco Road), and I am not sure we can beat them three times. Now go back to touting the Gary Williams' talking points that were faxed over to the Post last night.

p.s. What is the early line on the Hoyas in the NIT?

Eric Prisbell: I am always accused of using Gary's talking points. That's a first.

I see Duke in Boston. I like this Duke team.

I still have issues with Carolina's defense. Losing Ginyard really hurt.

And god forbid anyone say Tyler is not the best player ever, fans in Carolina land will start sending emails. Poor Patrick Stevens of Wash times fame does not vote Tyler first-team all-acc a few years ago, the ACC does not count his vote for whatever inexplicable reason, and Stevens gets bombarded with emails.

Carolina is loaded. But I take the Zags, who also are loaded.

Dan Steinberg: My head isn't very big, actually. It's definitely shiny and bald.

Look, I watched three Duke-Maryland games, and I saw the Dukies several other times. Obviously they're not the same team, but I think the mystique isn't there any more. They don't have that aura they used to--hence, the guys from West Virginia asking if it was seriously possible that Duke had as many All-American kids as they did.

Would I fall off my sofa if Duke, a two seed, makes it to the regional final or Final Four? No, I would not. But I think it's increasingly easy to pick against them.

Georgetown AT Baylor? Now that's a long road trip.

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Mid-majors: I'll admit I follow college football more closely than basketball, but besides home court advantage, isn't the other complaint that the big guns don't want to play the "good" mid-majors? Why risk a loss against a top mid-major when you can play a cupcake mid-major, right?

Eric Prisbell: True. But if you do that, you hurt your RPI and you run the risk of turning into Penn State. Once again, Penn State played a non-conference schedule ranked 307th nationally. That, uh, will not cut it. The selection committee has made that very clear.

Scheduling is tough. You can schedule yourself out of a bid by scheduling too tough or too easy (South Carolina, Penn State).

Dan Steinberg: But the thing is, Penn State and South Carolina were both playing for bids in the final week of the season. If they had loaded up on tough mid-majors, played tough road games, and taken a few more early season losses, that may not have been the case. Like the questioner asks, I think there's still decent incentive for NOT playing a tough schedule. Look at Virginia Tech.

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Fairfax, Va.: I'm a USC alum and LOVE our path to the Sweet Sixteen. We get a team that with no elite recruits that should be a No. 7 seed in the NIT (see Harvard 82, BC 70). We should be able to hold our key guys to 28 minutes each against BC, so they'll be fresh for an overrated Michigan State team that scored the "luckiest" in the KenPom ratings.

Eric Prisbell: Hey, I vaguely remember you writing before, I think. I could be wrong. Boston College is a well-coached team. But I like USC. A hot team and DeRozan is really starting to play like most people thought he would. I thought USC was a dangerous team before the season. Would not shock me to see Tim Floyd's team get to Indy. They are a nice story. Good luck to you and thanks for writing!

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Mishawaka, Ind.: Teams like Notre Dame and Georgetown get everyone's best effort because they have so much talent. Teams like Maryland and, especially, Boston College get everyone's letdowns because their players played on parking lots at the summer camps. So you really can't take the resume of someone like BC seriously, once you factor in how hard the opponent played against them.

Eric Prisbell: That's interesting.

Boston College beat UNC and Duke. I take them fairly seriously.

Not sure how Boston College would fare in the Ivy League.

I am taking USC.

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Dan Steinberg: Ok, that went a bit longer than expected. Now I have to go back and read the transcript to see if Eric slandered me at all. Hopefully he wont do the same.

Enjoy, everyone, and any unctuous bracket purists who abstain, let me know how it goes.

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Eric Prisbell: Thanks a lot everyone. Talk to you all soon. Take care.

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