JOHN L. PITTS: Only select few can win it all

JOHN L. PITTS

JOHN L. PITTS

CORINTH

We’re all fascinated by Cinderella stories this time of year, but let’s face it – Wofford is not winning the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.

Nothing personal, Terriers fans.

The names of the players and, sometimes, the coaches will change, but the team that cuts down the nets on the night of April 7 will come from a small pool of brand-name programs.

There have been seven different champions in the past seven years, and they’re the bluest of the contemporary college blue chips – Florida, Kansas, North Carolina, Duke, Connecticut, Kentucky and Louisville.

Add in two other former champions, Arizona and Michigan State, and you have just about described the entire universe of teams that are likely to win this season.

This is the time of year when reality intrudes on regional bias. After hearing all season about Ole Miss, for instance, it was a little surprising to folks around here that the Rebels are sitting at home right now.

Even though I picked Florida to win in my “Billion-Dollar Bracket” entry, it won’t surprise me at all if the top-seeded Gators don’t even get to the Final Four.

I did an ESPN.com bracket where I followed its various metrics and I wound up with Arizona winning. We’ll see.

Here are my thoughts on a few of the early matchups, and some possible games that could happen between now and the Final Four:

Upset specials: We all immediately start looking at the 5 vs. 12 games because they so often deliver upsets. All four of this year’s 12 seeds are dangerous – Harvard, Stephen F. Austin, North Dakota State and N.C. State. Boy, it’s weird to type “Harvard.”

Round of 32: Here’s where we might see what undefeated Wichita State is really made of, with a potential matchup against a Kentucky team that may be rounding into shape. I have San Diego State and Creighton advancing to the Sweet 16, too.

Round of 16: Florida could be in trouble if it meets UCLA here. Iowa State would stand a good chance of decking a 2 seed, Villanova, at this point.

Elite eight: I’m leaning on coaching reputation here, looking for defending champion Louisville (Rick Pitino) and Michigan State (Tom Izzo) to advance.

Final Four: In the billion-dollar bracket, I have Florida vs. Michigan State and Wisconsin vs. Louisville. I wouldn’t be surprised if I change that this morning, or at least think real hard about the wisdom of selling Arizona short at this point.

Two years ago, inspired by our pets, I did an online bracket that advanced teams with cat mascots. As it happened, Kentucky (Wildcats) won.

My cats think a billion dollars would buy a lot of cat food – the good stuff. We shall see.

John L. Pitts (john.pitts@journalinc.com) is sports editor of the Journal.