Wildest dreams and nightmare scenarios for 64 teams
During the next two days, 64 teams will play in the NCAA Tournament with wildly varying expectations.
The biggest boys dream of a national title or a Final Four. For others, making the Sweet 16 would be a dream. Some simply hope to score a first-round upset. And some are just happy to be here and to collect the complimentary sweat suits and watches.
What are your favorite school's wildest dreams and nightmare scenarios? How good -- and how bad -- can it get? We have the answers:
Best case: J.J. Redick ascends into Dookie heaven with the RCA Dome net around his neck after beating Connecticut in the title game. Mike Krzyzewski passes Bob Knight and ties Adolph Rupp for second on the all-time championships list. Rest of America hates the Blue Devils even more.
Worst case: Second-round loss as Redick shoots 4-for-23, Shelden Williams fouls out and the freshmen falter. American Express takes Krzyzewski commercials off the air. Rest of America rejoices. And North Carolina advances to the Final Four.
Best case: Still in the game against Duke at the final media timeout.
Worst case: Out of the game against Duke at the first media timeout.
Best case: Pops Mensah-Bonsu's knee is fine, the GW mojo returns and the Colonials shock Duke en route to a regional final. Vindication for surprisingly low seeding is achieved.
Worst case: Pops' knee isn't fine and the Colonials are dispatched in the first round, serenaded off the floor with "oh-ver-ra-ted" chants.
Best case: Smart, experienced, skilled Seahawks handle George Washington, then finally get a shot at Duke. Two-time Colonial Athletic Association Defensive Player of the Year John Goldsberry does what almost no one else can do: limits fatigued J.J. Redick to nightmare shooting game and UNC-W has the upset. School isn't just called off for a day; they cancel the rest of the semester and go to the beach.
Worst case: GW gets on the offensive glass and in the paint at will off the dribble, exploiting its athletic advantage to beat UNC-W in the first round. Students unilaterally take the rest of the semester off and go to the beach.
Best case: Gerry McNamara continues hitting game-winners until the Orange have shocked Duke, terminated Texas and arrived in Indy.
Worst case: Gimpy McNamara has nothing left after Big East run, and the Orange are eliminated in the first round for the second year in a row. Angry 'Cuse fans decide McNamara really is overrated after all.
Best case: Aggies earn their first NCAA Tournament win since 1980 and don't stop there, marching on to the Sweet 16 before being eliminated by Duke.
Worst case: Aggies' horrible early-season schedule and weak Big 12 competition catches up with them, and they're overmatched in first round against Big East-seasoned Syracuse. Then somebody hires away Billy Gillespie and Texas wins it all.
Best case: Big Baby goes ballistic, leading the Tigers past Duke in the Sweet 16 and Texas in the regional final for LSU's first Final Four in 20 years.
Worst case: John Brady again shows why March is not his best month, losing in the first round to a lower seed for the third consecutive NCAA appearance. Big Baby turns pro shortly afterward -- and takes Tyrus Thomas with him.
Worst case: Guards shoot the Gaels out of the tournament in the first round, and it isn't close.
Best case: The Mountaineers Pittsnogle the entire regional. The 1-3-1 zone befuddles all offenses and the 3s keep falling all the way to Indy. No stopping at overtime this year.
Worst case: Southern Illinois guards the arc, punishes the Mountaineers on the glass, exploits their lack of athleticism and sends them home right away. John Beilein looks at scant returning roster and finds another job.
Best case: Salukis stifle the Valley-bashing by beating the Big East and the Big Ten on the way to the Sweet 16. And no cheerleaders are injured along the way.
Worst case: Valley-bashing intensifies after West Virginia hits its first six 3s and never looks back.
Best case: Native Hoosier Steve Alford is given a hero's welcome in Indy after leading the veteran, defensive-minded Hawkeyes back to the city where they won the Big Ten title three weeks earlier.
Worst case: Native Hoosier Steve Alford is given a hero's welcome in Bloomington as the new coach at Indiana after the Hawkeyes flame out in the first round against Northwestern State, leaving Alford with just one NCAA Tournament win as Iowa coach. (Then again, losing both a first-round game and Alford might only be viewed as one terrible development in Iowa City.)
Best case: America learns that Northwestern State is located in Natchitoches, La., after the athletic, underappreciated Demons upset Iowa.
Worst case: America still doesn't know where Northwestern State is after a one-and-done rout.
Best case: Leon Powe puts team on his broad shoulders and carries the Bears past Texas in Dallas and on to the Sweet 16.
Worst case: The same team that lost at home to Arizona State late in the year shows up and is undressed by NC State's Princeton offense.
North Carolina State
Best case: Wolfpack reprise 2005, rising from a No. 10 seed to reach the Sweet 16. Along the way, they again shock a high-powered No. 2 seed close to its campus (UConn last year, Texas this year). Herb Sendek gets to go a second successive offseason without listening to calls for his scalp.
Worst case: Fire Sendek movement intensifies after once-promising season ends with a fifth straight loss, this time to Cal in the first round.
Best case: Longhorns complete an unprecedented 12-month Triple Crown of college sports by adding a national basketball title to the College World Series and BCS hardware. Spring football talk is put on hold in Austin until April 4.
Worst case: Spring football talk percolates Monday morning in Austin after the Longhorns are upset in the second round. Sophomores LaMarcus Aldridge and Daniel Gibson proceed directly to the NBA draft.
Best case: Aldridge and P.J. Tucker collide in the layup line Friday and leave the arena on stretchers. Penn pulls off first-round upset.
Worst case: There are no pregame calamities for Texas. Outsized Quakers lose by 30.
Best case: John Calipari comes to Indianapolis portraying himself as a millionaire Norman Dale, leader of a small-school miracle team from outside the BCS power elite. Runs the picket fence play at the end of the national title game for Rodney Carney, who makes the winning shot in his hometown. Calipari is given a new contract worth $4 million per year for life.
Worst case: Real small-school miracle team, Oral Roberts, dooms the Tigers to eternal ignominy by becoming the first No. 16 seed to beat a No. 1. Darius Washington and Shawne Williams turn pro. Calipari redoubles efforts to get Indiana job.
Best case: Octogenarian university founder Oral sees something more amazing than his vision of a 900-foot Jesus: The Golden Eagles in the second round. At a very trying time for his father, Eddie, coach Scott Sutton etches his name into history by guiding the Golden Eagles past Memphis.
Worst case: The Tigers have heard the ORU upset chatter making the rounds this week and are not amused. Golden Eagles lose by 40.
Best case: Just like in old Southwest Conference times, Razorback fans swarm all over Dallas in plastic pig hats and propel their team to an upset of Memphis and a berth in the Sweet 16.
Worst case: Arkansas fans buy all those tickets for nothing, watching their team fall short of a Memphis showdown by losing to Bucknell. Hogs still without an NCAA Tournament win since 1999, and Ronnie Brewer goes pro.
Best case: Pride of the Patriot League takes it one step farther than last year's breakthrough first-round win by making it to the Sweet 16. A Chris McNaughton hook shot beats Memphis to get there.
Worst case: McNaughton can't get his hook shot off against Arkansas' big centers and the Bison are eliminated in the first round.
Best case: Jamie Dixon gets fat new contract after snubbing Arizona State, breaking the program's Sweet 16 ceiling, grinding down young Kansas and Memphis squads and taking the Panthers to their first Final Four.
Worst case: Pitt goes a small eternity without scoring against Kent State and becomes this year's first-round No. 5 seed casualty. Center Aaron Gray, popular with the pro scouts, declares.
Best case: Golden Flashes hold a seance to summon the ghosts of '02, when they upset Pittsburgh to make the school's first regional final.
Worst case: Golden Flashes get their seance wires crossed and mistakenly summon the ghosts of '99, when they lost in the first round to Temple.
Best case: With players too young and confident to feel nervous, Jayhawks ride wave of momentum all the way to Indy. Finally in the Final Four, Bill Self suddenly finds himself hearing a lot less about the way Roy used to do things. Kansas enters offseason as the 2006-07 favorite.
Worst case: Locked into a half-court game with an unintimidated Missouri Valley opponent, young Jayhawks misfire their way into a second straight first-round exit. Self hears ad nauseam what a great job Roy is doing at North Carolina. Julian Wright and Brandon Rush go pro, scuttling '07 title talk.
Best case: Powerful forward Marcellus Sommerville, 7-foot center Patrick O'Bryant and bouncy guard Tony Bennett find out they match up pretty well with almighty Kansas and shock the Jayhawks for Bradley's first NCAA win in 20 years.
Worst case: Coach Jim Les finds out he doesn't match up very well with Bill Self, and the Braves are run out of Auburn Hills on a light rail.
Best case: Mike Davis' long goodbye extends all the way into April, punctuated by a fittingly bizarre return to Hoosier soil for a Cinderella Final Four game. Fans who have dog-cussed him for years allow that he didn't completely ruin the program after all -- then go back to arguing over which former Bob Knight player should replace him.
Worst case: Robert Vaden's ankle keeps him on the bench, Marcus Slaughter outworks Marco Killingsworth and San Diego State coach Steve Fisher does what he never did at Michigan: Beat Indiana without massively superior talent. Facing a big second-half deficit, Davis calls in sick for the second half. Hoosier fans dog-cuss Davis for the next 50 years for ruining their program.
San Diego State
Best case: Fisher channels 1989 and the Aztecs go on a Michigan-esque run to the Sweet 16. (Let's be realistic: No way he fully replicates '89 and wins it all.) They clip Indiana and Gonzaga to provide ESPNU with new "Pride of the Program" material for '06-07.
Worst case: Aztecs tune out Fisher the way the Wolverines once did. Freelance offense and laissez-faire defense results in first-round blowout loss. Nobody seems to care.
Best case: America's best long-running mid-major success story peaks with a Final Four run. Adam Morrison outduels Redick in a national semifinals game viewed by the biggest college basketball audience in years. Zags make the final and lose gallantly to Connecticut. Indiana tries to lure Mark Few away from the state, but he says his heart remains in Spokane.
Worst case: No-defense-playing Zags are shot out of the tournament, if not by Xavier in Round 1, then by the Hoosiers in Round 2. Zags bashed for serially underachieving since being accorded high seeds in recent years. Morrison becomes a lottery pick and Few finally starts listening to other job offers.
Best case: Musketeers maintain A-10 tournament roll by upsetting Gonzaga and Indiana to reach the Sweet 16. Meanwhile, X fans mock Cincinnati's NIT status.
Worst case: Thousands of miles removed from the security blanket of playing the A-10 tournament in Cincy, Xavier folds in the first round, giving up 50 to Morrison. Meanwhile, Cincinnati wins the NIT.
Best case: Golden Eagles create a Conference USA flashback by beating Alabama, UCLA and Gonzaga to set up a regional final showdown with Memphis. Steve Novak makes 18 3-pointers in three games, eclipsing Adam Morrison as the best tall, white shooter in the tournament. The world realizes that there is life in Milwaukee after Dwyane Wade.
Worst case: Alabama's athletes overwhelm the Eagles, who still haven't won an NCAA Tournament game since Wade left in 2003. Tom Crean leaves for Indiana, and point guard Dominic James (a Hoosier native) transfers with him.
Best case: Former UCLA assistant Mark Gottfried beats his old team to reach the Sweet 16 for the second time in three years. Point guard Ronald Steele plays 80 minutes without a break in San Diego, center Jermareo Davidson dominates inside and Jean Felix hits 3s and guards tenaciously on the wing. For five minutes in Tuscaloosa, they quit talking about who replaces Brodie Croyle at quarterback.
Worst case: The team that has lost its last two games and four of its last seven shows up in San Diego. The team that was shut out 14-0 down the stretch by Kentucky in the SEC tournament is the same unit Marquette encounters at crunch time. The team that has never succeeded in changing the subject from football in Tuscaloosa doesn't do so now, either, losing in the first round.
Best case: An injury-plagued year continues its late-season arc toward triumph. Ben Howland joins Jim Harrick and Larry Brown as the only post-Wooden coaches to take the Bruins to the Final Four. Returning a January favor from West Virginia's Mike Gansey, Jordan Farmar pokes the ball away from Memphis' Darius Washington in the dying seconds of the regional final.
Worst case: Injury plague peaks when Farmar rolls an ankle and Arron Afflalo tweaks a knee in a victory over Belmont, leaving the Bruins depleted and defeated by Marquette. Both guys turn pro at season's end.
Best case: The other Bruins are still worth watching after halftime against UCLA.
Worst case: The other Bruins are in ruins well before halftime against UCLA.
Washington, D.C., Regional
Best case: Huskies put Duke under their paws one more time in the Final Four. Win third title in eight seasons -- the best non-UCLA run of championships since Kentucky won four from 1948-58. Jim Calhoun officially shoulders up alongside The Coaches K: Knight and Krzyzewski. And they move the campus from Storrs to Daytona Beach.
Worst case: In full jack-around mode, UConn is shocked in the second round for the second year in a row, this time by Kentucky. When six Huskies are chosen in the NBA draft -- including two who came out early -- this goes down as one of the biggest wastes of talent in history.
Best case: Great Danes rise to the occasion on their first NCAA trip, catch UConn off guard and stay in the game until the final five minutes.
Worst case: Great Danes freak out in their first NCAA trip, get first six shots blocked, fall behind 21-2 and are dog food by mid-first half.
Best case: Shagari Alleyne, the world's tallest bench fixture, comes in to block a Rudy Gay drive at the buzzer and save the Wildcats' season-redeeming upset of UConn. Cats exact revenge upon Michigan State in regional final when Patrick Sparks hits a rim-dancing 3 with his team down two. Intolerable eight-year Final Four drought ends with Tubby Smith's worst team playing in the dome where it lost by 26 to Indiana in December.
Worst case: Same Kentucky team that dithered its way to 12 losses -- most since 1990 -- shows up for first-round game against UAB. Faced with gut check against tenacious opponents, Cats check out. Rajon Rondo goes pro -- and so does Tubby.
Best case: Blazers' press melts down two college giants (UConn and UK) in one weekend. Squeaky Johnson frustrates more celebrated point guards Rondo and Marcus Williams. With second Sweet 16 appearance in three years, America rediscovers the joy and effectiveness of full-court pressure.
Worst case: Blazers' press meets a point guard who can handle it, and the scatter-shooting team that scored 37 against UTEP and 46 in the conference final against Memphis gets rolled up in the first round. Mike Anderson is hired away by Missouri.
Best case: Confidence buoyed by last year's Sweet 16 run, the rip-and-run Huskies return to that spot by strafing Utah State and outlasting Illinois. Brandon Roy is the tournament's leading scorer after the first weekend. And with Gonzaga eliminated early, Washington is again top Dog in its state.
Worst case: For the second year in a row, Washington fails to live up to its seed, losing in the first round to tempo-setting Utah State. With its top three scorers all seniors, Huskies' nice two-year run fades away. Meanwhile, Gonzaga reaches Final Four.
Best case: With Utah and BYU on the outside looking in, Aggies own the state -- especially after upsetting Washington and Illinois to reach the Sweet 16. Nation finally recognizes Stew Morrill as one of the better unsung coaches.
Worst case: Surprising at-large berth turns out to be undeserved charity as Washington blitzes Utah State from the outset and wins by 25.
Best case: Dee Brown and James Augustine rekindle the magic of '05 and roll the Illini to an unforeseen Final Four repeat. Illinois gets help when Kentucky upsets UConn, and in the bottom half of the bracket, when Michigan State beats North Carolina and Winthrop shocks Tennessee. By the Sweet 16, this is the top remaining seed in Washington, D.C. By the Final Four, everyone remembers why they loved Brown's spirit so much last year.
Worst case: The same team Bruce Weber ripped at the Big Ten tournament for lacking motivation shows up in the first round and is ousted by Air Force. Brown misses a dozen shots and his teammates don't pick up the slack, as the Illini fail to score 50 against the deliberate Falcons. Then comes the truly depressing part: next year.
Best case: Falcons offer a giant "take that!" to the legion of critics who bashed their selection by upsetting Illinois 50-49 for the first NCAA win in school history. And when Utah State upsets Washington, Air Force charges through that open door into the Sweet 16. Selection committee members seen chest bumping in back hallway in San Diego.
Worst case: Selection committee members cover their eyes as Falcons are blitzed by Illinois in Round 1. Craig Littlepage's BlackBerry melts down under e-mail assault from Cincinnati and Florida State fans.
Best case: Spartans finally play like the top-five team they were expected to be, using tournament experience to their advantage in beating North Carolina and Tennessee. They advance to the Final Four by beating a UConn team intimidated by Matt Trannon's Hannibal Lector headgear.
Worst case: Paul Davis is pushed around in the paint by Jai Lewis; Drew Neitzel continues to be beaten off the dribble and caught up on every screen; and George Mason stuns the Spartans in the first round. The season is an official bust. And Shannon Brown goes pro.
Best case: Jai Lewis pushes Davis around in the paint, the Patriots beat Neitzel off the dribble and off every screen, and they validate their questionable inclusion in the field with a first-round win. Lewis, unable to stop at one tattoo and one porterhouse on every trip to the ink parlor and steakhouse, respectively, becomes a national curiosity.
Worst case: Lacking suspended guard Tony Skinn, the Patriots are blown out in round one. Hofstra, which beat George Mason twice in a span of 11 days at the end of the season, collectively fumes from its NIT vantage point. And Skinn takes a shot at Shannon Brown's jewels when he slides into the Mason bench, chasing a loose ball.
Best case: Tyler Hansbrough continues his Baby Sean May impersonation, Reyshawn Terry continues making Michael Jordan layups, David Noel continues making the big hustle plays, and the Tar Heels continue to forget that they were supposed to be an NIT team this year. Roy Williams reaches the Final Four and asks, "Where's dadgum Mike Krzyzewski?"
Worst case: Roy cries early when his Baby Heels finally act their age against a veteran Murray State team and are bounced in the opening round. Carolina returns home to watch Duke match its national title total at four.
Best case: Underrataed, super-balanced Racers have eight players score 10 points each against North Carolina and win their second-ever NCAA Tournament game. (Note: Murray's previous win was also over a Tobacco Road team -- N.C. State in 1988.) Mick Cronin, the only tournament coach short enough for Roy Williams to post up, appears to have grown a foot.
Worst case: Racers flop under the bright lights to lose their 10th straight opening-round game. Cronin becomes the next coach at Cincinnati.
Best case: You've seen NCAA Tournament shockers. Now meet the Shockers. In their first NCAA action in 18 years, the Missouri Valley's highest seed marches into the Sweet 16 by beating teams from the Big East and SEC. In response, state legislature signs bill forcing Kansas and Kansas State to play Wichita annually.
Worst case: Iffy firepower disappears altogether in 55-45 first-round loss to Seton Hall. Kansas and K-State continue to scoff in Wichita's general direction.
Best case: Pirates play like the team that spanked North Carolina State and Syracuse in consecutive January road games, rolling to the Sweet 16. In a fit of 1989 nostalgia, media commences search to find and interview Andrew Gaze. Everyone who ripped Louis Orr behind his back is now patting him there.
Worst case: Pirates play like the team that lost by 13 to Rutgers in the Big East tournament, by 42 to UConn a month earlier and by 53 to Duke in November. Nostalgia for 1989 leaves the building. It's open season on Orr once again.
Best case: Pearl Ball again wreaks March havoc, as the rejuvenated Volunteers charge into a regional final matchup with UConn. It ends there, with Pearl wearing an orange seersucker suit and a straw hat on the sidelines, but nobody envisioned Tennessee getting this far before the season began.
Worst case: Pearl Ball continues its late-season stall, as the inexperienced Vols are taken down by tournament-tested, underseeded Winthrop in the first round. Big Orange fans go back to forgetting they have a men's basketball team and return to obsessing about who's playing quarterback.
Best case: In their sixth NCAA Tournament try, coach Gregg Marshall and the Eagles break through against Tennessee and don't stop until they reach the Sweet 16 -- best performance ever by a No. 15 seed.
Worst case: Distinctly unamused by the widespread speculation of an upset here, Tennessee comes out fully amped. Thrown into disarray by the Vols' full-court pressure, the Eagles drop to 0-6 all-time in NCAA play. Marshall finally is snapped up by a bigger school.
Best case: Allan Ray sees straight and shoots straight. So do the rest of the guard-centric Wildcats, who roll to the Final Four. By then this band of midgets has become America's Team, the most popular sporting entity out of Philly since Smarty Jones. Nova channels the spirit of Jake Nevin and wins the city's first major sports title since the last Nova championship, in 1985. Headlines scream: "Size Doesn't Matter."
Worst case: Allan Ray is understandably tentative after the gouging, and the Wildcats' nine good eyes don't see the basket much better. Sharpshooting Villanova is booted before it ever gets to leave Philadelphia by season-long underachiever Arizona. Home crowd does what it does best, booing Nova off the floor.
Best case: Hawks players grew up balling with Villanova's and aren't intimidated. They run their Princeton stuff crisply for layups. Defense and deliberate offense keep them in it until the final minutes, when they lose their legs from having contested the odious play-in game Tuesday night.
Worst case: Hawks lose their legs in the final minutes of the first half from having contested the odious play-in game Tuesday night, get blown out in second half, bus back to Jersey.
Best case: Hassan Adams is chastened after his DUI-related suspension. Chris Rodgers is chastened after his dismissal and subsequent reinstatement. The entire team is chastened after a lousy season. An upset of Villanova and a Sweet 16 berth makes everyone feel better.
Worst case: This team remains as unlikable as it's been every step of the season and bows out without dispute in the first round to a Wisconsin team with less than half as much talent.
Best case: Riding Alando Tucker for all he's worth -- and that's a lot -- Badgers beat Arizona. Game losing effort in second round against Villanova is as much as can be asked.
Worst case: Team that lost to North Dakota State shows why in offensively ugly flameout against Arizona. Badgers have about 3½ serious Division I players, not enough to beat anyone in the NCAA Tournament. Marquette and UWM move on while Bucky goes home.
Best case: Forget Adam Morrison, it's Nick Fazekas who morphs into Larry Bird and leads a small school to the Final Four. Fazekas outplays Boston College's Craig Smith, posts up Villanova and schools Joakim Noah on the way to Indianapolis and the NBA lottery.
Worst case: Still lacking upper-body strength, Fazekas finds out he's no Jordan Hasquet in first-round upset loss to Montana. Coach Mark Fox hired away by Kansas State.
Best case: In a banner tournament for iconographic American animals (Bison, Gators, Longhorns, plenty of Eagles), add the Grizzlies to the success list. Upset of Nevada, combined with Pacific shocking of Boston College, allows Big Sky breakthrough to the round of 16. All 12 people in the state of Montana are transfixed.
Worst case: Grizz fizzle against Nevada, failing to justify relatively high (No. 12) seed. Big Sky champ sentenced to return to the 14-16 seed range for the foreseeable future.
Best case: With America's best forward combo (Chris Smith and Jared Dudley) and improving guard play, the Eagles soar through a difficult Minneapolis Regional, make their first Final Four and finally get over on Duke in the national championship game. Al Skinner's understated sideline demeanor becomes the new rage in college coaching, where hyperdramatics have been the norm for years. BC's move to ACC, relentlessly criticized for two years, suddenly celebrated from Tobacco Road to Chestnut Hill.
Worst case: Quick turnaround from grueling ACC tourney combined with long trek to Salt Lake City leaves BC tired and vulnerable against a Pacific team that knows how to win in this event. Missed perimeter jumpers pile up in first-round loss. Skinner loses cool. Big East sends three teams to Final Four.
Best case: Forward Christian Maraker becomes the hottest Swedish import since Elin Nordegren, scoring 45 points in two games and leading the Tigers to the Sweet 16. Bob Thomason wins his third and fourth NCAA games of the last three years, marking him as the most underappreciated coach in the country. Big West measures itself against Big East's Nova in round of 16. Comes up short, but isn't embarrassed.
Worst case: Outmuscled inside and outplayed in the backcourt, Pacific loses in the first round for the first time in its three straight visits. Someone recognizes Thomason's ability anyway and hires him away.
Best case: Sooners get back to being the luckiest team in America, stringing together two more one-point wins to reach the Sweet 16. Michael Neal throws in a 3 to win opener and Taj Gray dunks a miss with his elbows to win the second. Much-criticized Big 12 advances three to the third round.
Worst case: Infamously balky March offense bogs down against UWM pressure and Oklahoma is out early. Gray and Kevin Bookout get in foul trouble, Neal jumpers don't fall and Terrell Everett commits five turnovers in 15-point defeat. Kelvin Sampson's blue-shirt look is officially declared outdated.
Best case: Bruce Pearl is gone but his players remain, and that's a good thing. Basketball in Milwaukee hasn't been this successful since Sidney Moncrief retired, as the Panthers again roll to the Sweet 16 and are joined there by Marquette. Joah (Tucker) outscores (Joakim) Noah in second round to become an overnight sensation.
Worst case: First-year coach Rob Jeter tightens up in tourney and takes his team down with him in a low-scoring first-round loss to Oklahoma. UWM's Horizon heyday is over; it returns to average hyphenated program status.
Best case: After five years of tournament underachieving with loose confederacies of uncohesive talent, Florida grabs the brass ring with a group that actually plays beautifully together. Final Four MOP Joakim Noah becomes most popular ponytailed baller since Sue Bird. Gators preemptively lock up Billy Donovan with 10-year, $30 million contract before the Wildcats come calling to replace Tubby Smith.
Worst case: With too many sophomores in their first starring NCAA roles, Florida plays tight against South Alabama and former Gators assistant John Pelphrey, who knows every move Donovan likes to make. Feeling the pressure in the second half, Florida succumbs again. Florida fans want coaches to switch schools.
Best case: Jaguars thrive playing up-and-down style that Florida likes and shock the Gators in Jacksonville. Matched up with another full-court team in Wisconsin-Milwaukee in the second round, South Alabama does it again to reach its first Sweet 16. Somehow, Pelphrey doesn't get another job and returns for '06-07.
Worst case: Donovan knows Pelphrey as well as Pelphrey knows Donovan. Armed with that knowledge and superior size, Florida beats South Alabama like a drum. Pelphrey gets Mississippi job.
Best case: The Hoyas are back under the son of the program patriarch. With Roy Hibbert dominant inside, Jeff Green scoring inside and out, and Brandon Bowman working the perimeter, Georgetown rides its Big East seasoning to a regional final for the first time since the Allen Iverson days. Rumors of a Michael Graham sighting circulate in the Metrodome.
Worst case: In Northern Iowa, the Hoyas meet another fundamentally solid team happy to play a first-round defensive grinder. Georgetown gets three shots at a winning basket in the final seconds and misses them all, joining fellow D.C.-area Georges (Washington and Mason) as first-round losers.
Best case: Panthers are still dancing on the second weekend of the tournament, and Greg McDermott is still their coach by the second week in April. With some help from Davidson, it could happen.
Worst case: UNI continues late-season swoon that cost it a higher seed. MoVal team that lost five of its last seven has no business beating someone from the Big East. McDermott takes another job.
Best case: The 3s fall for three wonderful weeks and the Buckeyes win the national title a year ahead of schedule. When Greg Oden shows up next fall, they're playing for a shocking repeat. Likable Thad Matta supplants less-likable Jim Tressel as the most popular man in Columbus.
Worst case: The 3s thud off Dayton rims, Terrence Dials gets in foul trouble and the Buckeyes go from Big Ten champs to being punked by the boys from the Southern Conference. Greg Oden can't arrive soon enough to change the subject.
Best case: Brendan Winters matches his SoCon final shooting by hitting six 3s, including the game-winner at the buzzer, and the Wildcats stun Ohio State (after losing to the Buckeyes by five in the 2002 first round). Dad Brian, the former NBA guard, could not do it any better. Coach Bob McKillop takes his classy demeanor nationwide.
Worst case: Defensive weaknesses exposed by Ohio State's inside-outside attack, Wildcats are dismembered in Dayton. School goes back to being known as the place Woodrow Wilson attended before moving on to Princeton (which, it should be noted, leads Davidson in all-time NCAA wins, 13-5).
Pat Forde is a senior writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at ESPN4D@aol.com.
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