Wildest dreams and nightmare scenarios for 64 teams
The third annual dream and nightmare NCAA tournament scenarios for all 64 teams:
|NORTH CAROLINA (1)
Best Case: Ty Lawson has two good wheels, Wayne Ellington has his shooting eye and Tyler Hansbrough has a Psycho six-game run, averaging 25 and 15 as the Tar Heels cruise to another title. Kansas loses before the Final Four to spare Roy Williams the "This Is Your Life" story line. Duke gets bounced in the first weekend.
Worst Case: Ol' Roy relapses to Kansas-level tension on the sidelines, and Carolina is shocked in the second round by Arkansas. Lawson re-tweaks the ankle, Ellington shoots 1-for-10 and Hansbrough cannot sucker the officials into calling 14 fouls on the Hogs' big men. Kansas wins title, praises Bill Self for doing what Roy could not do in Lawrence. Duke advances to Final Four despite early-round injuries that Mike Krzyzewski bravely does not mention publicly.
|MOUNT ST. MARY'S (16)
Best Case: Band shows up. Cheerleaders have their hair done. Fans make it to their seats on time. Parents get pictures from pregame introductions. Nobody gets hurt. And nobody can take away that win over Coppin State on Tuesday.
Worst Case: North Carolina comes to play from the opening tip. CBS cuts away to other action after the first TV timeout.
Best Case: Dan Dakich has a group hug with sulking Kelvin Sampson recruits, D.J. White brings it for a full 40, Eric Gordon is on fire and the Hoosiers flash back to midseason form for a run to the Final Four. Suitably exuberant, Indiana offers Dakich the full-time coaching job, but he chooses to share the role with Bob Knight. Old-school Hoosiers weep uncontrollably. NCAA decides not to assess additional penalties for Sampson mess.
Worst Case: The team that is coming off losses to Penn State and Minnesota brings the same weak stuff into Raleigh and is routed in Round 1 by Arkansas. Three players quit at halftime. Two more write, "Kelvin, call me!" on their shoes. Fans grumble that this never would have happened under Knight, forgetting that his final Indiana game was a 20-point, first-round loss to Pepperdine.
Best Case: Razorbacks perform like the team that upset Tennessee in the SEC tournament, playing fast and fearless basketball and making big shots at key times to shock North Carolina in the second round. Hogs reach the regional final and John Pelphrey draws up a three-quarter-court pass for a winning turnaround jumper at the buzzer, aided by an unguarded inbounds pass. Karma is served.
Worst Case: Hogs perform like the team that lost to Appalachian State, South Carolina and Georgia twice. Patrick Beverly still can't shoot straight (missed 12 of 13 3-pointers in SEC tourney), the big men won't rebound (why does the 6-1 Beverly lead them in boards?) and nobody can check D.J. White inside. Hogs are gone in 40 minutes, then must return home to watch Memphis roll through Little Rock subregional.
|NOTRE DAME (5)
Best Case: Fighting Irish win four for the Gipper, returning to the Final Four for the first time in 30 years. Kelly Tripucka nostalgia rules. Luke Harangody outplays Tyler Hansbrough in Sweet 16 upset. In the regional final, Kyle McAlarney finally shakes free of Louisville (he was 3-for-14 versus Cards on Feb. 28) to hit the game-winner. Mike Brey enjoys newfound appreciation nationwide. Charlie Weis takes notes on how to win the big ones.
Worst Case: Laissez-faire defense that allowed opponents to score 80 or more points nine times in ND's last 17 games shows up in Denver, and George Mason obliges by perpetrating a first-round upset. Danny Ainge flashbacks are everywhere as Folarin Campbell drives through the Irish for winning layup. Nation notes that Brey doesn't look good in turtlenecks. Weis wads up notes, throws them away postgame.
|GEORGE MASON (12)
Best Case: Jim Larranaga whistles, Will Thomas scores and rebounds, Campbell hits big shots and suddenly it's 2006 all over again. Just like then, Mason shocks North Carolina on the way to the Final Four. Patriots beat Tennessee in regional final in overtime. Jai Lewis and Tony Skinn party on the Riverwalk. Larranaga once again turns down overtures from higher-profile schools.
Worst Case: There are no second acts in Cinderella's fairy tale. Notre Dame isn't caught sleeping on Mason this time around, and the Irish dispatch the Patriots with a hail of 3s in Round 1. Skinn groin-punches Leprechaun, gets thrown out of the arena.
|WASHINGTON STATE (4)
Best Case: Cougars confound and frustrate a series of up-tempo opponents, grinding them into sausage and grinding their way to San Antonio. They slow down Notre Dame, then Carolina, then Tennessee, and suddenly everyone wants to know why Derrick Low went from Hawaii to Pullman and who does Tony Bennett's hair. In the biggest upset of all, Bennett turns down whopper offer from Indiana to stay on the Palouse.
Worst Case: Unathletic Cougs can't keep up with Winthrop's perimeter quickness. Forward Daven Harmeling still can't go 100 percent on an injured ankle. Nobody's shots fall. Wazzu gets punked in opening-round shocker, and Bennett hops the first thing smokin' for Indiana.
Best Case: Gregg Who? Senior-led Eagles play like the clutch crew that eliminated Notre Dame last year, winning a first-rounder for the second consecutive March. Bracket collapse creates second-round game versus George Mason and they win that one, too, somehow advancing to the Sweet 16.
Worst Case: Eagles realize they're not as good as last year's version, fall behind 11-0 to Wazzu (which is like 22-0 to most teams) and never recover. Game is over by halftime. Bored fans in Denver spend second half debating what state Winthrop is in.
Best Case: Blake Griffin flexes and everyone else backs off, as the Sooners muscle their way to a regional final for the first time since 2002. David Godbold, whose 3-point percentage has declined every season, shoots it like he's a freshman again in a second-round upset of Louisville. Not even an Elite Eight loss to North Carolina can dampen the enthusiasm for next season with Griffin back.
Worst Case: The medical miracle falls apart. Griffin's surgically repaired knees go out on him and Longar Longar's fractured leg bone brings him to a halt. Sooners miss shots, struggle for offense and are run out in the first round by Saint Joseph's. Then Texas wins it all, Jeff Capel takes the South Carolina job and Bob Stoops loses out on three top recruits.
|SAINT JOSEPH'S (11)
Best Case: Every so often (1997, 2004), Phil Martelli finds the March magic -- and this is that year. Pat Calathes makes shots against Oklahoma, then Ahmad Nivins steps up as the Hawks stun Louisville to reach the Sweet 16. Jameer Nelson and Rashid Bey text their support. Martelli sells more copies of his new book, despite the impossibly cheesy cover. Villanova loses ugly in first round.
Worst Case: This isn't one of those years for Martelli. Oklahoma overpowers Saint Joe's inside. The Hawks are caught flat-footed on defense and the Hawk is caught taking plays off from flapping its wings. Nova pulls first-round shocker.
Best Case: Louisville's rotation of big men limits Tyler Hansbrough and the Cardinals' zone stops the Tar Heels to win in Charlotte and make the Final Four. Once there, Earl Clark becomes the best player left in the field and Rick Pitino outcoaches Final Four rookie Bill Self in the semifinals. Then the Cards beat Cinderella team Xavier for their first national title in 22 yeras. Kentucky loses by 20 in the first round.
Worst Case: Guards Jerry Smith and Edgar Sosa (a combined 7-for-40 from the floor this month) still can't find the basket. Centers David Padgett and Derrick Caracter get in foul trouble. Cards do what they did in 2003: lose a second-round upset game in Birmingham to a double-digit seed -- then it was Butler, this time Saint Joseph's. Meanwhile, Kentucky somehow sneaks into the Sweet 16.
|BOISE STATE (14)
Best Case: In a rerun of 1994, No. 14 seed Boise State stays with No. 3 seed Louisville up to the final TV timeout at the four-minute mark. This time it goes down to the final possession. Sharp-shooting Broncos (51.5 percent as a team) lose when they try to run a basketball version of the Ian Johnson Statue of Liberty play but boot the ball out of bounds on the behind-the-back handoff.
Worst Case: Team that lost to Montana State and Loyola Marymount gets smoked by Louisville pressure out of the gate, gives up 90 points, loses by 25 and returns to obscurity in the shadow of the Boise State football program.
Best Case: Pete Campbell and A.J. Graves are drilling 3s, Matt Howard is producing inside, Drew Streicher is locking up defensively and Mike Green is in total control in the backcourt. Bulldogs beat Tennessse and Louisville and bust into a regional final matchup with North Carolina. Ride stops there, but nobody cares. Brad Stevens is voted Greatest Teenage Coach Ever.
Worst Case: Bad draw becomes evident right away, as dangerous 10-seed South Alabama, playing close to home in Birmingham, beats Butler in the first round. Graves is harassed into another tough shooting night (he's 3-for-18 from 3-point range in the Bulldogs' three losses). Stevens looks even younger and less experienced next to USA's Ronnie Arrow and gets outcoached.
|SOUTH ALABAMA (10)
Best Case: Peanut Butter & Jelly nostalgia rules as South Alabama wins its first NCAA tournament game since 1989, during Arrow's first stint in Mobile. And doesn't stop there. Dangerous, guard-centric Jaguars went 4-1 against teams in the NCAA tournament, so they're seasoned enough to take down Butler and Tennessee in friendly Birmingham.
Worst Case: Playing in home state proves as overrated in the NCAAs as it was in the Sun Belt tournament, when the Jags lost on their home court to Middle Tennessee. Butler lights it up against sporadic South Alabama defense and USA brass goes back to work on fielding a football team.
Best Case: Bruce Pearl takes his orange suit coat up the ladder steps in the Alamodome to snip the last strands of net after leading the Volunteers to the national title. Chris Lofton's 25-footer at the buzzer beats UCLA for the title. Vols become the second program to win national titles in football, men's basketball and women's basketball (Maryland is the other), while Memphis loses in the Sweet 16. Pearl is later seen shirtless, wearing body paint and a headband on the Riverwalk.
Worst Case: A.J. Graves outshoots Lofton in the second round and Tennessee does what Tennessee has been known to do in men's hoops: go home early. Volunteers' streak of never reaching a regional final continues. Crowd in Alabama, where they don't much care for orange, loves every minute of it. Ronnie Cottrell's lawyer shows up to subpoena Smoky, since he can't get at Phil Fulmer. Meanwhile, Memphis wins it all.
Best Case: Coach Jeff Jones reaches back for some 1995 magic dust, when he coached Virginia to an upset of No. 1 seed Kansas, and sprinkles it on Tennessee in the first round. Eagles slow the pace, frustrate the Vols & and lose in overtime. They join Holy Cross on the list of Patriot League near-shockers in the first round.
Worst Case: Eagles team that lost to Brown and Loyola (Md.) wonders what it's gotten itself into against super-athletic Tennessee. Down 14-2 at first television timeout, it never gets any better. Fortunately for AU, nobody in D.C. notices.
Best Case: There is no Bucknell this year, no Bradley, no regional final meltdown. There's only Bill Self flashing that squinty-eyed grin all the way to the national title, whipping Roy Williams and North Carolina along the way. On the 20th anniversary of Danny Manning's carrying the Jayhawks to the title, they do it by committee this time.
Worst Case: The nightmare continues. UNLV makes shots, Kansas gets uptight and Kansas State alum Lon Kruger is the latest to slip the dagger into the Jayhawks. This time, it's the second round instead of the first or fourth. Meanwhile, Ol' Roy wins a second title at Carolina and Michael Beasley takes K-State to the Sweet 16.
|PORTLAND STATE (16)
Best Case: Kansas forgets to sew NCAA logos onto uniforms and gets hit with five technical fouls before the jump ball, and the Vikings make four free throws. Coaches decide it will never get any better than that, pull the team off the floor and go home.
Worst Case: Kansas shows up in proper uniforms, wins the jump ball, dunks on the opening possession, takes a 32-6 lead and wins by 50.
Best Case: Kruger works more March magic, surviving Kent State, stunning Kansas, outlasting Clemson and finally falling in a regional final against Georgetown when UNLV cannot contain Roy Hibbert. Wink Adams makes 14 3s in the first three games, proving himself to be one of the more underrated players nationally. Larry Johnson phones in his congratulations to the Runnin' Rebels. Richard "The Fixer" Perry does not.
Worst Case: Rebels reveal themselves to be average at best away from home (their six road/neutral wins are the fewest of any RPI top 45 team), lose opener to Kent State team with twice as many road/neutral wins. Kruger scratches itch and takes another job.
|KENT STATE (9)
Best Case: Team that finished the season winning 11 of its last 12 keeps on rolling through UNLV and catches Kansas looking ahead, pulling off the biggest NCAA tournament win by a MAC team since the Golden Flashes made the 2001 Elite Eight. Kent State then beats Vanderbilt in Sweet 16 before losing in the regional final. Everyone realizes what a hidden gem coach Jim Christian is.
Worst Case: Flashes play like a team that hasn't faced an RPI top 30 opponent since Jan. 2 and are shot out of Omaha by UNLV, which ranks 23rd in RPI. Despite that, Indiana realizes what a hidden gem Christian is and hires him.
Best Case: For the first time since 1997, the Tigers win an NCAA game -- and don't stop there. For the first time since December, the Tigers win four in a row and advance to their inaugural Final Four, beating Wisconsin in the regional final on a last-second 3 by Terrence Oglesby from 26 feet. Coach Oliver Purnell gets so excited he almost changes facial expressions. Clemson fans get so excited they pry their eyes off spring football for up to 15 minutes at a time.
Worst Case: Notorious bricklayers clang six straight free throws in the final minute, blow a lead and are upset in the first round by Villanova. Clemson fans mourn for 60 seconds, then turn their attention back to spring football.
Best Case: Last at-large team in the Dance justifies its inclusion by stunning Clemson, then takes advantage of upset in the bracket to face No. 13 seed Siena in the second round. Suddenly Nova has won two games and has advanced to the Sweet 16, and everybody remembers why they loved Jay Wright so much when his team won 30 games in 2006.
Worst Case: Nova looks like a poseur better suited for the NIT when it gets routed by the Tigers. Sophomore Scottie Reynolds goes pro and Wright follows, taking an NBA job. Saint Joseph's makes the Sweet 16.
Best Case: Coach Kevin Stallings successfully appeals to have the benches put at the ends of the court in Tampa and convinces his team it's playing at home in Memorial Gym. It works. Shan Foster makes everything, A.J. Ogilvy mixes it up inside and the Commodores make the Sweet 16, where they nearly beat Kansas. Meanwhile, Butler stuns Tennessee in the second round.
Worst Case: Benches stay put on the sidelines. Vandy realizes it's not at home and rolls over once more, losing for the fourth time in its last five games away from Memorial. Siena exploits lax Dores defense for 80 points. Tennessee wins it all, Ogilvy decides to return to Australia and Stallings takes another job.
Best Case: Salty Saints team that beat Stanford early and ripped eventual WAC champ Boise State by 23 on the road late finds a paper tiger in Vandy. Saints show up loose and confident, are unafraid to run with the Commodores and hit enough shots to pull off the upset. Second-round loss to Clemson doesn't feel bad after one big victory.
Worst Case:Siena can't handle A.J. Ogilvy inside and coach Fran McCaffery's wife, Marg, can't handle the calls going against the Saints. Known for her caustic critiques of the officiating, Marg gets run by the refs during the second half. Siena gives up 95 points and loses by 15.
Best Case: Tim Floyd slaps some junk D on Michael Beasley in Round 1 and O.J. Mayo takes it from there -- all the way to the Final Four. Mayo averages 23, 7 and 7 as the Trojans knock off Wisconsin, Cinderella team Davidson and finally Kansas in the regional final. UCLA flames out and the Trojans are the only L.A. team in San Antonio. And it turns out Mayo actually means his ludicrous statement that he wants to stay in school.
Worst Case: In Round 2, USC runs into Wisconsin, which is the Washington State of the Midwest -- and if you saw what the Cougars did to the Trojans twice, you know how bad that is. (If you didn't see it, Wazzu won by 15 in Los Angeles and 24 in Pullman.) Mayo gets frustrated by Michael Flowers' defense, takes bad jumpers and shoots USC out of the tournament. Then goes pro. Floyd returns to his Southern roots by leaving for LSU.
|KANSAS STATE (11)
Best Case: Wildcats lose a classic to USC but enjoy their first trip to the tournament since 1996. So much so, in fact, that Beasley and Bill Walker decide they really are too young and immature to go pro, and they return for their sophomore seasons. Kansas gags prior to the Final Four yet again.
Worst Case: Wildcats melt down against USC defense and lose handily. Players listen to Frank Martin once every six trips downcourt on their way to a sixth loss in their final eight games. Beasley and Walker don't even get their uniforms off before signing with agents. Kansas wins national title.
Best Case: Six players score 12 points each in four straight games as the Badgers crash the Final Four, beating Georgetown and Kansas along the way. Every offensive possession of every game includes a minimum of four passes, four screens and a high-percentage shot. National media (ESPN included) sing Badgers' praises, forcing chip-on-the-shoulder Wisconsin fans to get some new material.
Worst Case: The Bo Ryan Way loses to the JT III Way in an all-dogma duel in the Sweet 16. Late flurry gets the Badgers to 49 points in defeat. Fans have to listen to more media members saying how dull Wisconsin is. Marquette reaches regional final. Brett Favre stays retired.
|CAL STATE FULLERTON (14)
Best Case: Titans celebrate 30th anniversary of their first and only NCAA tournament appearance by pushing Wisconsin to the limit. They hit 3-pointers from all over, lead at halftime and into the final five minutes before losing honorably. That clears the way for baseball season.
Worst Case: Midget Fullerton team of 6-6-and-under players get pushed around by Brian Butch, Marcus Landry and Greg Stiemsma, can't hit its 3s and goes 12 minutes without scoring. It's another 30 years before the Titans make it back again.
Best Case: Bulldogs gladly embrace their role as two-point underdogs, play without the tightness they displayed as favorites in the West Coast Conference tournament and make a run to the Sweet 16, shocking Georgetown in the process. Josh Heytvelt rediscovers his assertiveness, Austin Daye continues to blossom and opponents can't keep a defender in front of Jeremy Pargo. The trout fishing remains too good for Mark Few to leave.
Worst Case: Zags get the same treatment Stanford got last season: Fly across country for a 9:25 a.m. PDT tipoff against a team playing in its home state. Zags handle it every bit as poorly as the Cardinal did, fall far behind out of the gate and never recover. Few finally listens to offers from BCS league teams and flies the coop.
Best Case: Stephen Curry goes thermonuclear shooting the ball, averages 30 ppg and leads the Wildcats to the regional finals, running their winning streak to 26 on the way. Davidson shoots Gonzaga out of the gym, somehow figures out how to guard Roy Hibbert in the second round, grinds past Wisconsin in the Sweet 16 and finally succumbs to Kansas in the Elite Eight. Nation appreciates the work of point guard Jason Richards, who leads the country in assists, and the Wildcats' brute refusal to beat themselves. Bob McKillop's hair is perfect.
Worst Case: McKillop's tie slides slightly askew at tipoff, an indication of impending doom. Team that never did beat an RPI top 100 opponent once again comes up short against elite competition. Davidson sneaks up on nobody and cannot counter Gonzaga's height. NCAA tournament losing streak stretches to eight, dating back to 1969.
Best Case: Hoyas finish proving there is life after Jeff Green by grinding their way to San Antonio, where they again upset North Carolina and then slow down Memphis to win the title. The team, which is 5-0 in games decided by five points or fewer, wins two more that way in the Alamodome. Guards Jonathan Wallace and Jessie Sapp make all the big shots, Hibbert shuts down the lane and JT III makes every opponent play at Georgetown's preferred pace. Thompson and Thompson become the first father-son title winners.
Worst Case: Team that occasionally struggles to score and really struggles to create shots off the dribble goes cold against unafraid Gonzaga in the second round. Rigid offensive structure means Hibbert doesn't get enough touches in the post, which means the offense bogs down, which means the Hoyas can be beaten. Early.
Best Case: Buoyed by the knowledge that America East winner Vermont won a game in this tournament in 2005 and No. 16 seed Albany pushed No. 1 Connecticut in 2006, Retrievers play loose and confident against the Hoyas in Round 1. Good doggies are still in it midway through the second half and lose respectably.
Worst Case: Bad doggies freeze up in their first-ever tournament appearance, don't score for the first six minutes and fail to break 50. Hibbert blocks three shots with his elbows.
Best Case: Tigers break through the regional-final barrier and don't stop until they win the title. Derrick Rose auditions to be the top pick in the NBA draft. Chris Douglas-Roberts makes every clutch shot. Joey Dorsey shuts up and plays. John Calipari shuts up and coaches. And everyone makes their free throws. Establishment conferences flush with football money forced to watch outsider cut down the nets.
Worst Case: Tigers find the Houston version of the Plush Club the night before they play Pittsburgh in the regional semifinals. Dorsey makes it rain, curfew is broken, Calipari dismisses it as a vast Big East conspiracy. Memphis goes 6-for-17 at the line and loses by a deuce. Rose and CDR go pro. Cal inquires about open jobs in the establishment conferences.
Best Case: The complimentary sweat suits all fit. The hotel rooms are spiffy. And since the game against Memphis is late Friday, 28 teams will probably already be eliminated by the time the Mavericks tip off.
Worst Case: Once they finally do tip off, it's over in a matter of heartbeats. Memphis racks up four fast-break dunks in the first four minutes and scores 105 points. And the sweat suits don't fit right after all.
|MISSISSIPPI STATE (8)|
Best Case: Jarvis Varnado blocks eight shots against Oregon, Jamont Gordon has a triple-double and Charles Rhodes outplays Malik Hairston in an opening-round victory. Two days later the Bulldogs push Memphis to the limit before falling in Round 2.
Worst Case: Rick Stansbury has been eliminated by a lower seed in three of his four NCAA tournament appearances -- make it four out of five after Oregon takes down the Bulldogs in Round 1. Jamont Gordon goes pro.
Best Case: Tajuan Porter and Maarty Leunen combine to make 10 3s against Mississippi State, Hairston posts a double-double and the Ducks advance to the second round. The grumbling about coach Ernie Kent is put off at least until next season.
Worst Case: A team that lost eight of its last nine games this season against what would become NCAA tournament teams shows that it isn't ready for the Bulldogs, either. Ducks surrender too many easy shots, lose by 15 and listen to renewed chirping about Kent's fitness to lead. And prep football star Terrell Pryor announces for Ohio State.
|MICHIGAN STATE (5)|
Best Case: Drew Neitzel retains his Big Ten shooting stroke, averages 29 points in two victories and leads the Spartans into the Sweet 16. The world remembers how good Tom Izzo is, simply for the fact that he gets something out of his sketchy array of big men. Everyone quits bagging on the brutal Big Ten, at least for a weekend.
Worst Case: Neitzel goes back to being the MIA offensive force he was most of the season, and the Spartans again flop outside of East Lansing. Road/neutral record in February and March: 2-6. Make it 2-7 after a first-round flameout against Temple. State scores 53 points in defeat, intensifying criticism of the Big Ten's horrific offenses.
Best Case: Owls are the anti-Spartans, winners of six straight road/neutral games coming into the tournament, and they add two more in Denver as part of a growing Atlantic 10 movement. It's Christmas in March as Dionte Christmas averages 25 points in upsets of Michigan State and Pittsburgh before the party ends against Memphis in Houston. Coach Fran Dunphy's push-broom mustache begins catching on with the hipster crowd.
Worst Case: A-10 turns out to be overrated, and a team that lost nonconference games to College of Charleston, Akron and Providence isn't ready to handle a rugged, veteran Michigan State team. Dunphy's NCAA tournament record drops to 1-10. And the 'stache doesn't catch on. Rest of the Big Five teams in the Dance all win.
Best Case: Absurd Big East tourney roll carries over, picks up steam with Bob Knight endorsement, shatters Sweet 16 ceiling and does not end until the Panthers are in San Antonio losing a pitched championship battle to North Carolina. Sam Young keeps blocking shots, Levance Fields and Ronald Ramon keep making jumpers, and nobody can get close enough to take advantage of Pitt's scattershot free-throw shooting.
Worst Case: Take the Panthers out of the Garden and you take the starch out of the Panthers. Absurd Big East roll ends in thin mountain air against experienced Oral Roberts, intensifying the belief that Pitt will not get beyond the Sweet 16 anytime this century, no matter how it comes into the Big Dance. Panthers return home to watch West Virginia going farther.
|ORAL ROBERTS (13)|
Best Case: As Oral Roberts his own televangelist self used to say: Expect a miracle, and a miracle is yours today. Golden Eagles win their first tournament game in 34 years, shocking Pittsburgh and then beating Temple in a bracket-collapse second-round game. People recognize Scott Sutton as the latest hotshot member of a premier coaching family. Oklahoma is upset in the first round by Saint Joseph's, which leaves ORU to own the state.
Worst Case: God did not fill out a bracket, apparently, because there are no miracles happening in Denver, at least not where ORU is concerned. If Pitt can beat Louisville, Marquette and Georgetown on successive nights, it can handle the champion of the Summit League. Scott Sutton's NCAA tournament record drops to 0-3. Sooners go on a run.
Best Case: Golden Eagles win their first NCAA tournament game since the Dwyane Wade days by beating the same team they beat last in the 2003 regional final, Kentucky. Then they win another, beating a Stanford team overmatched athletically by Marquette's studly backcourt. Sweet 16 run equals Wisconsin's. Junior guards all come back to be seniors.
Worst Case: Kentucky team that matches up well with the Eagles (all backcourt, no frontcourt) extends the post-Wade streak without a tournament win to five years. Wisconsin makes Final Four. Jerel McNeal and/or Dominic James goes pro.
Best Case: Billy Gillispie enhances his reputation as a tough out in NCAA tournament play (he was 3-2 at Texas A&M, with the losses both by a point). Wildcats upset Marquette, then extend Stanford before every big man fouls out against the Lopez twins. Louisville is a second-round knockout, as well, sending Big Blue fans into paroxysms of glee.
Worst Case: The Wildcats beat exactly one NCAA tournament team away from home, and that was a Georgia team that, at the time, didn't even look like NIT material. After eight straight games decided by single digits, Marquette blows Big Blue back to Lexington on Thursday afternoon as one of the first teams out of the tournament. There the Cats can watch Rick Pitino take Louisville to the national title.
Best Case: Team Lopez is so overpowering it makes up for all the perimeter deficiencies and the Cardinal roll to the Final Four. There they get another shot at UCLA, there are no phantom fouls in the final seconds and Stanford gets into the title game before losing to North Carolina. Lopez brothers decide they like cartoons and Disney more than the NBA and come back for their junior seasons.
Worst Case: Stanford loses the press conference IQ matchup (but not the game) to Cornell. Then it loses (badly) on the court to a Marquette team that forces more than 20 turnovers from the Cardinal guards. Team Lopez leaves The Farm for The Lottery.
Best Case: The Big Red have forgotten how to lose (they haven't done it since Jan. 6) and make enough shots to extend Stanford into the final minute before defeat reintroduces itself. Media embrace Cornell kids for speaking in complete sentences. Ivy League benefits from change of scenery after years of Princeton-Penn hegemony.
Worst Case: Big Red players are too smart for their own good, realize the magnitude of the moment and gag against a Stanford team that has been here before en masse. Lopez brothers dunk six times on Cornell's heads, Stanford rolls by 25 and eventually the Cardinal returns to much nicer weather.
Best Case: Hurricanes win their first NCAA tournament game since Bill Clinton was in office, outclassing Saint Mary's. All 27 fans who make the trip to Little Rock chant "A-C-C!" finally figuring out that membership in that league has its privileges. That number swells to 64 when the Canes shock Texas in the second round and advance to Houston. Guard Jack McClinton regains his shooting form after going 6-for-23 in ACC tourney. America comes to appreciate the coaching of Frank Haith.
Worst Case: Only 24 fans make it to Little Rock because of travel issues. McClinton's shooting form stays MIA, and nobody rides to the rescue. Saint Mary's shows it isn't afraid of the ACC and takes the Hurricanes out in Round 1.
|SAINT MARY'S (10)
Best Case: The Gaels get their transition game in gear and super-quick Australian freshman Patty Mills tickles America's fancy by lighting up Miami for 25 points and five assists. Diamon Simpson racks up a double-double and fields double-figure questions about what happened to the "d" at the end of his first name. West Coast Conference justifies its three bids with three first-round victories. Saint Mary's gets its first NCAA win since 1959.
Worst Case: WCC gets run out of the tournament in Round 1, fueling bitter comments from ACC fans outraged that their conference got only four teams in -- and one of them just whipped the Gaels. Miami slows down Saint Mary's, forcing Mills into seven turnovers. And there is no easy way back to Moraga from Little Rock.
Best Case: D.J. Augustin wheels and deals, A.J. Abrams makes shots, Damion James produces inside and Connor Atchley continues his underrated contributions as Texas becomes the first school to win the title in its home state since UCLA in 1975. (Kansas was barely across the border in Kansas City in 1988.) The Longhorns beat Tennessee in the race to become the second school (Maryland) to win championships in football, men's basketball and women's basketball. Rick Barnes gets lifetime contract. Fans leave Colt McCoy alone for a few days. Sooners and Aggies lose early. Augustin comes back for junior year.
Worst Case: Ball-monopolizing Augustin dribbles holes in the Little Rock hardwood and shoots the Horns out of the tournament in the second round against Miami, going 6-for-21 from the field. (Texas is 8-5 when he takes 16 or more shots, 20-1 when he doesn't.) People wonder anew when/if Rick Barnes is going to win the big one. Oklahoma and A&M make the Sweet 16. Augustin goes pro. Bevo gets sick. A downtrodden state looks to McCoy for inspiration.
|AUSTIN PEAY (15)
Best Case: Everybody loves the underdog, so North Little Rock Coliseum reverberates with chants of "Let's go, Peay!" as the Governors push Texas into overtime before falling. Dynamic little point guard Derek Wright channels the freak-out feeling he had while scoring 43 points on Southeast Missouri State on Jan. 29. Solid old Dave Loos outcoaches Rick Barnes but doesn't have the horses to handle the Horns inside.
Worst Case: With Peay down 34-11, Peay chants die out midway through the first half. Augustin scores 43, not Wright, who ends up with eight turnovers. Governors remain winless in NCAA play since 1987, when they came within missed free throws of making the Sweet 16.
Best Case: The most crowded rafters in America must make room for a 12th banner. The only thing missing is a revenge game with Florida as the Bruins blast through six straight opponents to win it all. Kevin Love is Final Four MOP, outplaying Tyler Hansbrough in the title game. Darren Collison is the best guard in the tournament. Bruins D strangles every offense in its path. No last-second officiating bailouts are needed anywhere along the line. Dance team looks stellar in knee socks. And John Wooden is feeling much better.
Worst Case: Love's back acts up again. Luc Richard Mbah a Moute's ankle never heals. Wings and power forwards make no shots. Offense grinds to a halt in shocking second-round loss to BYU, as Bruins get a bad call against them in the final seconds. (Noise in the distance is Stanford and Cal fans laughing.) Dance team manager misplaces knee socks. O.J. Mayo takes USC to the Final Four. Love and Collison go pro.
|MISSISSIPPI VALLEY STATE (16)
Best Case: Injury-prone Bruins suffer a multiplayer collision in layup lines, leaving Love and Collison with concussions, Josh Shipp with a sprained knee and Russell Westbrook with a broken nose. Mbah a Moute still can't go on bad wheel. It's up to Lorenzo Mata-Real. Valley stays in the game until halftime. Band rocks the house in Anaheim.
Worst Case: There is no five-player pileup in warm-ups. Bruins take the court at full strength and win by 50. Band still rocks the house.
Best Case: Underrated Lee Cummard and Trent Plaisted play like vets and lead a stunning Cougars run to the regional finals for the first time since 1981. Danny Ainge is on "First Take." Robbie Bosco is found. Mitt Romney sends his support. Players bring their wives and kids to Phoenix.
Worst Case: Texas A&M puts BYU at an athletic disadvantage and the Cougars can't hit enough shots to compensate. They're out after Round 1, and Ainge's phone stops ringing. Romney sends his condolences, reminding BYU that this wasn't destined to be the Year of the Mormon.
|TEXAS A&M (9)
Best Case: Good Aggies show up in Anaheim -- the team that rolled to a 15-1 start, and later had a five-game Big 12 winning streak that included a dismantling of Texas. They beat BYU and stun UCLA before falling to Connecticut in the Sweet 16. Dominique Kirk hits 3s, and DeAndre Jordan steps it up inside. Mark Turgeon quits looking over his shoulder for Billy Gillispie. Longhorns lose early.
Worst Case: Bad Aggies show up in Anaheim -- the team that had five losses of 15 points or more, and actually went more than 16 minutes without a point at Oklahoma. BYU locks up Kirk, and Jordan continues to be a nonfactor offensively. A&M is one-and-done after scoring 48 points.
Best Case: Love The Drake. Bulldogs win their way into the Sweet 16 before dying with their boots on against UCLA. Nation falls in love with walk-on-turned-Missouri Valley POY Adam Emmenecker, his 3.97 GPA and quadruple major. Coach Keno Davis fields 2,000 questions on why he's named Keno (for a former player of his father's, Keno Hawker). Klayton Korver fields 1,000 questions on how he and his brothers all learned to shoot so well. Nobody can figure out how this team got so good overnight, and nobody cares.
Worst Case: Hate The Drake. Soft year in the Valley exposed when Western Kentucky runs the Bulldogs into the offseason in Round 1. Emmenecker can't contain Courtney Lee and must return to classwork earlier than expected. Korver can't get any shots off. Davis is outmaneuvered by Darrin Horn. And next year it's someone else's turn in the Valley.
|WESTERN KENTUCKY (12)
Best Case: Courtney Lee loosens up after a tight Sun Belt tournament and the Hilltoppers seize the opportunity to play a team every bit as inexperienced in NCAA action as themselves, upsetting Drake. Then they shock UConn in Round 2, advancing to the Sweet 16 for the first time since coach Darrin Horn was a player at Western in 1993. Lee plays his way into the first round of the draft. Ambiguous Big Red mascot achieves cult status.
Worst Case: Lee stays tight, shoots 2-for-13 and the Toppers don't play stout enough defense to slow down Drake's outside shooters. Western goes 0-5 against RPI top 50 for the season and is bum-rushed back to Bowling Green. Big Red gets stuffed in a trash can by belligerent Drake Bulldog.
Best Case: Hasheem Thabeet blocks so many shots that they have to ice his palm daily by the time the Huskies reach the Final Four. Pleasant memories flourish for UConn fans, since they won the last Final Four played in the Alamodome, but the Huskies are taken down in the title game by North Carolina. Everyone returns on senior-less team and UConn is preseason No. 1 for 2008-09.
Worst Case: Jim Calhoun calls timeout four seconds into the opener against San Diego, furious at his team for failing to line up correctly for the jump ball. Grabs A.J. Price by the jersey, barks profanity at fans behind the bench, dumps on officials and generally acts like the unhappiest man in the Dance. Team follows his lead, plays miserably and loses to the Toreros. Thabeet and Price go pro.
|SAN DIEGO (13)
Best Case: Big Game Bill Grier perpetrates the fourth stunning upset of his rookie head-coaching season, adding UConn's hide to those of Kentucky, Gonzaga and Saint Mary's (twice). Guard Brandon Johnson continues to play above his 6-foot-1 head, Gyno Pomare doesn't let Thabeet push him around and the Toreros make the round of 32 before calling it a season.
Worst Case: Grier has coached 58 fewer NCAA tournament games than Calhoun, and it shows. Huskies jump on top early and don't relent. Toreros get nothing inside, are forced into shooting too many 3s that don't drop and are dispatched by early in the second half. At least they're going back to San Diego, while UConn is going back to Storrs.
Best Case: Freshmen play grown-up ball. E'Twaun Moore gets to the hole. Robbie Hummel and Scott Martin make shots. Everybody D's up. Boilermakers make surprising regional-final run, whetting everyone's appetite for 2009 and a chance to do what Gene Keady never did -- play in a Final Four. Matt Painter makes gold suit coats trendy.
Worst Case: Freshmen play like nervous freshmen. Moore takes bad shots. Hummel gets pushed around. Martin goes 1-for-6 at the foul line. Team that wobbled down the stretch (3-3 last six) has hit the wall and loses to Baylor first round. Matt Painter's gold coat looks bad on TV.
Best Case: America embraces the Bears' bounce-back story as it runs to the Sweet 16. Who doesn't love a point guard named Tweety? Or a coach (Scott Drew) with all the relentless good cheer of his father (Homer)? Or a team that likes to run and shoot 3s? Baylor puts the Dave Bliss mushroom cloud further in the rearview mirror.
Worst Case: After a 20-year absence from the tourney, Baylor feels the pressure and folds. Team that showed serious signs of fading (4-6 last 10) confirms it with a no-defense, lopsided, first-round loss to Purdue. Someone in the crowded backcourt gets a crazy notion and goes pro.
Best Case: The Musketeers wear T-shirts that read "Mid-Major This!" and storm all the way to the Final Four. Drew Lavender goes mano a mano with UCLA's Darren Collison in regional final. Josh Duncan drags UCLA bigs outside and shoots 3s over them. Stanley Burrell guards Josh Shipp like his scholarship money depends on it. Four Xavier players make the all-region team, preventing Burrell from going ballistic on the voters. Sean Miller turns down Indiana and others, saying he's got the high-major job he wants.
Worst Case: Xavier runs headlong into Georgia karma train. Wobbly wheel leaves Lavender less than 100 percent and unable to guard Sundiata Gaines. Bulldogs choke off the Musketeers' break. Team that stumbled a bit down the stretch, losing twice to St. Joseph's in eight days, cannot regain its edge. Critics say mid-major A-10 did not prepare X for an SEC opponent, and Muskies have to take it.
Best Case: Fatigue makes cowards of us all -- unless you play for Dennis Felton. Bulldogs continue borderline-fictional SEC tournament run by pulling their fifth and sixth consecutive March upsets, toppling Xavier and Purdue to become the first (and probably last) 16-loss team to reach the Sweet 16. Felton goes from hot seat to contract extension. Even Knowshown Moreno and Matthew Stafford take a momentary backseat to Sundiata Gaines, Terrance Woodbury & Co.
Worst Case: Brutal treatment from selection committee and CBS catches up with the Bulldogs. After exhausting SEC run exacerbated by a tornado, they're forced to play the first game of the tournament Thursday afternoon. Adrenaline is long gone and legs are not back. Xavier cranks up the tempo and runs the Dogs off the floor. Spring football resumes dominating fans' consciousness.
|WEST VIRGINIA (7)|
Best Case: Joe Alexander lives up to Bob Knight's lavish praise, plays like the Stud of March, averages 30 points and seven rebounds, and leads the Mountaineers to the regional final. Big East seasoning helps WVU past Duke and Xavier along the way. Bob Huggins remembers what the second weekend of the tournament feels like -- he hasn't seen it since 2001, and has a string of memorable second-round flameouts.
Worst Case: Pac-10 seasoning trumps Big East seasoning as Arizona streaks past West Virginia in the first round. Mountaineers lack an athletic answer for Wildcats point guard Jerryd Bayless. Huggins wears god-awful Colonel Mustard suit, compounding bad loss with bad fashion, then dog cusses the team every minute of the trip back to Morgantown from Washington, D.C. Pitt makes Final Four.
Best Case: Wildcats show they deserved their bid by busting into the Elite Eight, beating Duke along the way in a seven-year-old payback game from the 2001 title matchup. Bayless plays like Mike Bibby did in '97. Chase Budinger averages 20 points in three games on 10 shots per game. Ancient Lute Olson has the good sense to bow back out of the picture and leave the program to Kevin O'Neill.
Worst Case: Team that finished 4-8 shows up soft, gets smacked in the mouth early by Huggins' boys and never recovers. Bayless hogs the ball. Budinger fades out. Nobody else does anything. Once they get back to Tucson, O'Neill locks himself in the head coaches' office and says he's not coming out -- or letting Olson in.
Best Case: Mike Krzyzewski doesn't have to say, "I love my kids" and "This is about relationships, not winning or losing," until San Antonio. Blue Devils get good matchups the first three rounds, outfox opponents from the perimeter, hold on inside and ride their coach's unparalleled experience to the Final Four. Before regional final against UCLA, CBS microphones pick up Krzyzewski telling his team, "Fellas, don't be afraid to make a mistake. Just work together with me." They sink 12 3s to upset UCLA. Meanwhile, North Carolina loses in the regional final when Tyler Hansbrough is called for traveling while maneuvering for the go-ahead shot in the closing seconds.
Worst Case: Interior vulnerability catches up with the Blue Devils in the second round, leaving the tournament on a two-year streak of Dukelessness in the Sweet 16. CBS executives are on suicide watch. American Express is downtrodden. State Farm is crestfallen. Chapel Hill is euphoric. Heels win national title when Hansbrough is sent to the foul line 18 times in the final game. Joyful Roy Williams congratulates his team afterward on playing through so many injuries.
Best Case: America learns where Belmont is located (Nashville). America learns what Belmont is known for (music and music business majors). America learns that the Bruins are good enough at basketball to tag along with Duke into the second half before submitting.
Worst Case: Belmont is down so far, so fast that viewers quit watching before they learn anything about the school.
Pat Forde is a senior writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at ESPN4D@aol.com.
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NCAA Tournament 2008
Analysis• Katz: Sneak peek at Sweet 16
• Forde: Dorsey a confusing, entertaining enigma
• Low: Vols figuring out unsteady point-guard play
• Schlabach: Horn, Lee break through at WKU
• Dinich: Davidson proves it is no one-man show
• ATR: UCLA wins, Day 3 recaps
• Katz: Neitzel shoots Spartans into Sweet 16
• Gene Woj: Trent Johnson nearly costs his team
• Miller: Tough to stop Cardinal's Twin Towers
• Griffin: Wisconsin gives vintage performance
• O'Neil: WVU players embrace Huggs' toughness
• ATR: The end to IU's tumultuous season
• Katz: What's on tap for the weekend?
• Forde: Tampa was awesome ... wish I was there
• Schlabach: Still can't believe the 'Tampa Turmoil'
• Schlabach: Siena joins upset party in Tampa
• Schlabach: USD's Grier no long in the shadows
• Schlabach: WKU's Rogers hits 'dream' shot
• Dinich: Curry puts on a show against Gonzaga
• ATR: Arizona's questions, Pitt and MSU roll
• O'Neil: Belmont lets Duke upset slip away
• Griffin: Beasley, Walker team up to down USC
• Gene Woj: Kentucky's roller coaster ends
• O'Neil: Xavier survives Dawgs' upset bid
• Forde: Best case/Worst case scenarios
• Lunardi: Ranking the teams 64-1
• Experts: "Best of" lists for tourney
• Whelliston: Mount St. Mary's honors friend
• Forde: Bruce Pearl's purgatory
• Katz: Officiating has had a rough season
• Gottlieb: Scrutiny on officials higher than ever
• Katz: Mayo, Love exceed freshman expectations
• Rittenberg: Baby Boilers lead Purdue to Dance
• Wojciechowski: Liking Psycho T isn't about race
• Bilas: Grading the committee and talking snubs
• Regions: East | South | West | Midwest
• Forde: Super-sized edition of Forde Minutes
• O'Neil: Serendipitous storylines fill bracket
• Katz: Committee chair talks hot topics
• Wojciechowski: 15 suggestions to improve Dance
• Dinich: UNC's Tobacco Road to San Antonio
News• Curry says he's returning to Davidson next year
• Ford Field, Reliant raise NCAA tourney to new level
• UCLA's Mbah a Moute to have MRI
• Nova's Drummond done for season
• Vols' Pearl explains decision to start Prince
• Stanford's Johnson not changing after ejection
• UConn: Price tore ACL, likely to miss six months
• Love, Mbah a Moute on mend for UCLA
• Arkansas' Weems hurts knee, expected to play
Video• Vitale: Rounds 1 & 2 MVP
• Vitale: Round 1 prime-time players
• Gottlieb: Mid-majors make their mark
• Lunardi: Video previews for all 65
• Breaking down the East region
• Breaking down the West Region
• Breaking down the Midwest region
• Breaking down the South region
• ESPN experts fill out their brackets
Audio• Podcast: Bilas looks at Thursday's games
• Podcast: Gottlieb makes bracket predictions
Strategies• Tiernan: "Low-risk" bracket strategy
• Tiernan: "Medium" bracket advice
• Tiernan: "High-risk" bracket strategy
• Tiernan: "Dangerous" bracket advice
Photos• Day 4 photo gallery
• Day 3 photo gallery
• Day 2 photo gallery
• Day 1 photo gallery
More• Tournament Challenge | Bracket Master
• Insider tourney guide | BracketCaster