Wildest dreams and nightmare scenarios for 64 teams

Originally Published: March 19, 2008
By Pat Forde |

The third annual dream and nightmare NCAA tournament scenarios for all 64 teams:


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

Pat Forde is a senior writer for He can be reached at