first_img Published on March 18, 2014 at 2:29 am The Daily Orange beat writers provide insight on who to key in on as you fill out your tournament bracket, and who to stay away from in the field of 68. NCAA Tournament play kicks off Tuesday at 6:40 p.m.Stephen BaileyFinal Four: Arizona, Florida, Louisville, Michigan StateThe No. 4 seeds are the hot seeds. It’s hard to pick against the Cardinals and Spartans after winning their respective conference tournaments in dominant fashion. Michigan State is as complete a team there is in the country, while Louisville is tournament tested and, yup, Russdiculous.National Champion: Michigan StateI know, the Spartans are becoming the trendy pick (I thought I was going to be the smart one). But looking past their talented, balanced and experienced roster, head coach Tom Izzo is as successful a March maestro as there is in the country.Syracuse’s finish: Loss in Sweet 16But it won’t be Andrew Wiggins and Kansas that knock SU out. New Mexico can feast on the Jayhawks’ frontcourt without Joel Embiid, and then do the same to the Orange. It’s not that Syracuse can’t make a deeper tournament run, I just don’t see the consistency.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textSleeper: New MexicoThe Lobos are led by 6-foot-9 power forward Cameron Bairstow (20.3 ppg, 7.4 rpg) and 7-foot center Alex Kirk (13.6 ppg, 8.7 rpg). Despite having never reached the Sweet 16, they have the shooting to balance out their offense and match up well with Kansas and Syracuse.Others: Baylor, Connecticut, OregonDouble-digit seed to take a chance on: ProvidenceDisclaimer: I’ve got Iowa State knocking off the Friars in the Round of 32. However, Bryce Cotton is good enough to lead Providence past North Carolina. With a different No. 3 seed, I’d put Providence into the regional round.Others: Louisiana-Lafayette, Stephen F. Austin, N.C. State, North Dakota StateTop seed to fall early: VillanovaThe Wildcats cruised through a fairly easy schedule, and each of the four losses they suffered were by a wide margin. If any No. 1 or No. 2 seed goes down in the first batch of games, it’ll be VU (they’re owed one after the Robert Morris game in 2010). But I’ve got Shabazz Napier and UConn beating the `Cats in the Round of 32.Trevor HassFinal Four: Florida, Michigan State, Arizona, DukeI think Florida squeezes out a couple close wins against UCLA and Kansas. Michigan State is peaking at the right time and is as tough an out as any team in the country. Arizona has the easiest draw of any of the No. 1 seeds. Duke has the toughest path, but it’s Jabari Parker’s time to shine.National Champion: Michigan StateAdreian Payne is a matchup nightmare, Gary Harris is a sniper, Keith Appling is healthy, Brendan Dawson’s a vicious rebounder and Denzel Valentine’s a great glue guy. The Spartans are fresh off a Big Ten tournament title and are hot and healthy at the right time.Syracuse’s Finish: Loss in Sweet 16There’s a reason Andrew Wiggins is being hyped up as the next NBA superstar along with Parker. He’s pretty good at basketball. Wiggins goes off, and Syracuse is bounced.Sleeper: BaylorBaylor’s knocked off Oklahoma State twice, Kansas State twice, Iowa State, Oklahoma and Texas since Feb. 1. It also beat Kentucky, Colorado and Dayton earlier in the year. There’s no reason the Bears can’t use their size and athleticism to take care of Nebraska and upset Creighton and Wisconsin en route to the Elite Eight.Others: Connecticut, Kentucky, TennesseeDouble-digit seed to take a chance on: North Carolina StateYou saw what the Wolfpack did to Syracuse. T.J. Warren is as proficient a scorer as there is in the country and N.C. State’s supporting cast is good enough. I’ve got the Wolfpack beating Xavier and Saint Louis. I don’t think it’ll beat Louisville, but if Warren goes berserk, it’s not out of the question.Others: Stephen F. Austin, New Mexico State, ProvidenceTop seed to fall early: WisconsinI’m temped to pick American over Wisconsin, but I don’t think that’ll happen. After that, Oregon, Brigham Young, Creighton, Louisiana-Lafayette, Baylor and Nebraska are all capable of knocking off the Badgers, who haven’t made the Final Four since 2000. One of them will.David WilsonFinal Four: Florida, Michigan State, Arizona, DukeI originally had Kansas here, but Joel Embiid’s injury scares me. If he’s totally healthy, though, I like the Jayhawks to get to Dallas instead of the Gators.National champion: FloridaIt’s the easy one, but I do think the winner of KU-UF wins it all. Too much talent on both of those teams, plus coaches with national championship pedigree.Syracuse’s finish: Elite EightLike so much of my bracket, this hinges on Embiid’s back. If he’s healthy, I think the Orange will struggle with Kansas. If not — and things don’t look promising for the center — SU should get to the Gators before falling.Sleeper: KentuckyThe Wildcats are peaking, and probably the most talented team in the nation. Wichita State is a relatively favorable No. 1 seed for a No. 8 to be matched up against and never rule anything out when UK plays in-state rival Louisville.Others: North Carolina, ConnecticutDouble-digit seed to take a chance on: Louisiana-LafayetteI’ve been riding UL-Lafayette really hard over the past few weeks. The ultra-talented Ragin’ Cajuns have a pair of potential first-rounders in Elfrid Payton and Shawn Long and can never be counted out of a game. They rallied from nine down in the final three minutes against Georgia State to win the Sun Belt Championship.Others: Nebraska, North Carolina State, Iowa, Tennessee, Arizona StateTop seed to fall early: Wichita StateThe Shockers got a tough draw. Texas Southern, a potential first-round opponent, is led by West Virginia-transfer Aaric Murray and former-Indiana coach Mike Davis on the sideline — not that they should lose to a No. 16 seed. That will probably come against preseason-No. 1 Kentucky in the round of 32. Comments Facebook Twitter Google+last_img

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