Florida was ranked by the selection committee as the top team in the tournament, but which Gator team will show up in New Orleans? The team that started the season or the one that struggled late before rebounding to win the SEC tournament? We say a little of both, and that won't be good enough to repeat their national championship. Football may be a different matter.
The Gators should knock off Jackson State in their opener. But then it gets interesting. Arizona should be waiting in the second round. Lute Olson's team is talented but has not played to its potential for most of the season. The Wildcats will now and the Gators will need to play at the top of their game to advance.
If Joakim Noah and the Gators can bump off Arizona , we think Maryland will be waiting.
Forget the Terrapins' early departure in the ACC tournament. They weren't focused. Gary Williams's team will be for this one. Maryland is for real, and by the end of the regular season, the Terps were playing like the best team in the ACC. See you later, Gators.
The other half of the bracket is filled with good stories, ranging from the reemergence of Oregon to Winthrop, which will play the role of Cinderella (think George Mason) this year.
Winthrop, which is led by Michael Jenkins (15.3 points per game) and Torrell Martin (14.2), should start out by upsetting Notre Dame and the Eagles will follow that with another upset of Oregon, which will really create a buzz nationally.
The lower half of the draw should produce a Wisconsin appearance in the regional semifinals. The Badgers are methodical and tough. They love to grind opponents down. They will do that to Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and they will do it to either Georgia Tech or UNLV. And they will do it to Winthrop, which will simply run out of steam after a pair of upsets.
But beating Winthrop will also wear the Badgers down, which leaves . . . Maryland.