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COLLEGE BASKETBALL

Midwest regional -- the bottom line

Chris Dufresne's choices on the march to the Final Four

March 17, 2009|Chris Dufresne

Louisville won the regular-season and tournament titles in the Big East, the toughest league in this nation of leagues, meaning Rick Pitino's Cardinals should cruise through this bracket en route to the national title.

Stop. Anyone can predict that.

Try this: Louisville gets past Tuesday's play-in winner, hopefully Alabama State with 7-foot center Chief Kickingstallionsims, then cries home-field disadvantage for having to play Ohio State in Dayton. Except No. 8 Ohio State never makes it to Round 2 because it loses to No. 9 Siena, returning five starters from the 13th-seeded team that knocked out No. 4 Vanderbilt last year.

No. 12 Arizona is so happy/lucky it squeezed into the field that it takes down No. 5 Utah in Miami before falling to Wake Forest, which has chopped down Cleveland State.

Just so you're clear on this: Siena sticks to script and beats Ohio State in Dayton but, in the lower bracket, No. 11 Dayton upsets No. 6 West Virginia in Minneapolis. And what about poor No. 14 North Dakota State, whose coach, Saul Phillips, pleaded with the committee to ship the Bison someplace warm, but instead got sent to the Twin Cities to play Kansas.

Good news: The forecast this week is for temperatures in the 40s.

Bad news: Kansas as a team is really cold . . . hearted.

But then Dayton stuns Kansas. That's right, if Brian Gregory's Flyers can beat Marquette this season they can surprise a Kansas team that lost all five starters from its national-title squad.

Here's where it's cuckoo, because Dayton has made it to Sunday and so has No. 10 USC, which defeats No. 7 Boston College in a rip-roaring Friday game. USC then exacts revenge on Michigan State for 1987-88, when the Trojans lost the football season opener (in East Lansing) and ender (Rose Bowl) to the Spartans.

USC basketball right now has that ready-for-a-run look. The Trojans are fresh off a Pacific 10 tournament title and athletic enough to make it past the first weekend for the first time since the 2001 team raced to the East Regional final before losing to Duke.

Next stop: Indianapolis. Wake Forest, which has defeated North Carolina and Duke this year, topples Louisville. And USC, cheered on by a delusional and ever-shrinking media corps, beats the Wright Brothers (Dayton) before the dream ends with a regional loss to Wake Forest.

The odds of all this happening have been set at AIG's next bailout-amount-to-one.

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chris.dufresne@latimes.com

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