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Almost Everybody Picks Duke


As SportsLine goes into its four-corners offense -- sending writers to all points of the country to cover every subregional -- we polled our top 10 hoopheads most intimately involved in covering the NCAA Tournament, to see if they really know what they're talking about.

The task was easy -- predict the teams that will advance through the first week of games.

Simple? Well, let's just say the results of the CBS SportsLine Sweet 16 poll were all over the board.

Maybe it's parity among the teams, or a simple disparity of opinion. Our 10 free-thinking writers reason that more than half the field is worthy of the Sweet 16.

They cast votes for 34 teams, leaving out No. 7 Louisville, but including No. 13 Siena. Pick enough teams, and they're bound to be right.

An upset special emerged from the picks -- 12th-seeded Detroit, which garnered two votes. To make Mark Alesia and Michael Happy look good, the Titans would have to survive UCLA in the first round and then blast through the second round, likely against Ohio State.

Our writers each had a reach or two, but found there's no need to stray too far from the seedings. Four teams were unanimous selections -- second-seed Maryland and a trio of No. 1s in Duke, Michigan State and UConn.

Alas, we have relatively little faith in the South's top seed, Auburn.

Only five of our 10 voters figure that Auburn will be erased in the first weekend, either by No. 9 Oklahoma State (three votes) or No. 8 Syracuse (two).

Go ahead, Tigers ... prove us wrong.

Writer Picks Comment
Mark
Alesia
Duke
Michigan St.
St. John's
UConn
This is my brain: Duke rolls to the championship. This is my brain on a big (but natural, of course) March Mayhem buzz: Temple or Cincinnati knocks off the Blue Devils before the Final Four. Got to stay sober, though. Nobody's offering odds -- not here, at least.
Ian
Browne
Duke
Kentucky
Auburn
Stanford
Anybody who says Kentucky isn't Kentucky these days will regret that statement by the end of March. Tubby Smith can coach, and Wayne Turner can penetrate like no other point guard in the country. Still, Duke will be just too much. The Blue Devils will avenge last year's regional final loss to the Wildcats by kncking off Tubby's troops in the national semifinal en route to their first national title since 1992.
Rob
Miech
Duke
Utah
Ohio St.
Stanford
The Blue Devils, who have extra incentive in St. Pete because that's where they lost to Kentucky in the Southeast final a year ago, will conclude their season-long clinic on fast breaks, rebounds and defense with a national title. The lone question left to ponder: How long will this dynasty last?
Ray
Buck
Duke
Kentucky
Maryland
Arkansas
Coach K makes sure nobody reads the press clippings. ... Kentucky continues to give Rick Majerus and Utah nightmares. ... For Maryland, two words: Steve Francis. ... St. Pete will open gates for Arkansas' 40 minutes of hell.
Dennis
Dodd
Duke
Utah
St. John's
UConn
Playing Duke, Connecticut and Syracuse has steeled the Johnnies for their first significant run since the Carnesseca era. If UConn's Jim Calhoun doesn't get to the Final Four this year, you wonder if he ever will. The Utes take out Kentucky (finally) in the Midwest semifinal and then cruise past an Arizona team that is spent after upsetting Michigan State. ... Still, it's Duke, forever.
Michael
Happy
Duke
Utah
Maryland
UConn
Despite its diminished presence in the Tournament, the best of the ACC remains better than everybody else.
Mike
Lurie
Duke
Arizona
Ohio State
Stanford
Duke gets tested once or twice but makes it, Arizona brings back its NCAA title expertise and gets hot, Stanford beats UConn in a classic rematch. In the difficult-to-pick South where No. 1 seed Auburn was the weakest of the four, Maryland comes out too tight after a favorable draw toward its first Final Four appearance and loses to NCAA-tested Jim O'Brien and his Ohio State Buckeyes.
Mike
Kahn
Duke
Kentucky
Maryland
Stanford
Everybody is afraid of Duke and rightfully so. Ths version of the Blue Devils is the best team since the Larry Johnson-Stacey Augmon teams at UNLV. The sleeper coming out of the Midwest is Kentucky -- winner of two of the last three NCAA titles -- and coming off an SEC championship. But the Cats aren't good enough to beat Stanford this time ... and nobody will even test Duke.
Anthony
Gimino
Duke
Michigan State
Maryland
North Carolina
Having only three teams invited to the party was a swipe at the prestige of the ACC, but the league gets the last laugh as its Big Three rolls into the Final Four with a 12-0 record. Duke is Duke ... and Maryland and North Carolina can beat everybody not named Blue Devils. It's not as if this has never happened before. In 1985, the Big East sent St. John's, Georgetown and Villanova to the semifinals.
Charlie
McCarthy
Duke
Kentucky
Syracuse
UConn
Do you remember the '91 UNLV team that was supposed to be ready for the NBA? Mike Krzyzewski does. His Blue Devils beat the Runnin' Rebels in the national semifinals. Coach K will not let his team suffer the same plight. Duke, '99 NCAA champion.

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