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Get inside March Madness with SI.com's Luke Winn in the Tourney Blog, a daily journal of college basketball commentary, on-site reporting and reader-driven discussions.
3/14/2006 05:53:00 PM

Final Four Flip-Flopping

Hilton Armstrong
Hilton Armstrong and the Huskies are my title pick. but they're no lock.

I submitted my bracket to our editors this morning, so it could be stamped with the "expert" label and published on the site. After that, what usually happens is that a few people I know who aren't basketball junkies (be it friends, relatives or acquaintances) crib the picks verbatim for their pool. And since I've been in somewhat of a forecasting slump (last year, about all I had correct was North Carolina winning it all), I get the pleasure of receiving sarcastic messages of "thanks" from those folks throughout the NCAA tournament.

With that in mind this year, I'm issuing a disclaimer: I sat courtside at umpteen games this season, conducted many interviews with players and coaches, made full use of my Full Court cable package -- and yet, I have very little confidence in my 2006 predictions. I promise to cover the tourney for you here, but I can't promise to make you rich in pool cash. I filled out and scrapped four brackets last night, trying to summon the same spirits that showed me the way to a Duke-Arizona title game in 2001 ... and I went vision-less. I finally settled on the national champ my gut told me to select a few weeks ago: UConn. And, half-heartedly, I'm sticking with the Huskies.

(The consolation is that there's no consensus among SI's expert pool: Grant Wahl, the magazine's chief prognosticator, took Duke. Seth Davis, Stewart Mandel and Julia Morrill are all on the Villanova train. Both Kelli Anderson and I chose UConn.)

Because I'm still wavering on my Final Four -- UConn, Villanova, and then Texas and Memphis joining in after their regions are cleared out with upsets -- I'll give you three smaller bracket developments I am feeling good about:

- Indiana making a run to Oakland: For all the strain that the Hoosiers have been under this season -- rising into the upper echelon of the polls, then plummeting and watching their embattled coach resign -- they have a few tourney wins left in the tank. Upsets of Gonzaga and UCLA would be fine going-away presents for Mike Davis, and the fact that IU has to hit the West Coast (Salt Lake and Oakland) should be viewed as a good thing. More than a few Hoosiers wouldn't mind a vacation from the uneasy climate in Bloomington.

- Syracuse and Boston College's hot conference-tournament performances NOT translating into deep tourney trips: The Orange, who have to play on Thursday in Jacksonville after winning four tiring games in four days in the Big East tournament, drew a rough first-round matchup with Texas A&M. The Aggies, despite being the lowest-seeded team out of a major conference, have the No. 3-most efficient defense in the country, better than any team the 'Cuse beat in New York, even UConn. And the selection committee didn't treat BC kindly, giving it a four seed and forcing it to travel to Salt Lake. There, the Eagles will have to beat two solid West Coast teams (Pacific and Nevada) in one weekend.

- Kansas as a darkhorse Final Four team: I took Memphis out of Oakland, but the Jayhawks -- who have the nation's No. 1 most-efficient defense, and havoc-wreaking guards in Russell Robinson (at the point) and Mario Chalmers (at the two) -- can give the Tigers a serious test. And if KU enters the final eight, it should be able to handle any team -- whether it be UCLA, Gonzaga or Indiana -- standing in its path.

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