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Keeler: Helpful hints for March Madness

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Tommy Keeler


It's the most exciting time in all of sports -- March Madness is upon us.

Technically the NCAA Tournament doesn't start until next week, which seems odd. Should they call it mid-March Madness or April Madness, since that's when both the Final Four and final will be played?

It will soon be time to start filling out those brackets for the work pools or the various websites, or even just for fun. The Northern Virginia Daily is once again having a contest, with the winner getting $75. Since employees and their families (sorry mom) aren't eligible, I figured I would give everyone a few tips to help them have a better bracket.
The first obvious thing to me is that you have to pick Duke to go all the way (it's what I do most every year).

Seriously, the Blue Devils are a great selection this year. They are 18-0 with Ryan Kelly in the lineup. He was out for six weeks with a right foot injury, but returned a few weeks ago and the Blue Devils have been rolling since his return.

They have great team chemistry this season. A healthy Kelly really helps Mason Plumlee because teams can't double him. The team as a whole reminds me a lot of the one that won it all in 2010, but I guess we'll find out for sure in the next few weeks.

Duke should get a No. 1 seed, and trust me they're not losing to a team like Lehigh this season.

I think one of the most important things when filling out a bracket is to look for possible upsets. You don't want to go too crazy with them, but there's always going to be a few.
The key is to look for teams that have been playing well at the end of the season. One of those teams might be in our own backyard -- JMU. The Dukes have been playing some of their best basketball at the end of the season, and I think they could be a very dangerous team in the tournament.

We all know how well teams from the CAA have done in the past. Of course, ESPN's latest bracketology has JMU playing in one of the play-in games with the winner playing Duke. If that happens forget about the last two graphs, but either way I do think JMU will be a tough team to beat when the tourney starts.

Another team I think can be dangerous is Virginia. It's not a given that the Cavaliers will even make the tournament, but if they do they will be tough to beat. They've had a solid season, and are battle-tested playing in the ACC.

I think VCU could also make a run. There's no question that coach Shaka Smart will have his team ready. Obviously, I think it could be a good tournament for the Commonwealth.
There are also plenty of other teams out there who could pull of some surprises. I think schools such as South Dakota State, Saint Mary's, Wichita State, Valparaiso and Creighton could pull off upsets. I also like the way UCLA is playing, after a slow start to the season.

Then there are teams that are towards the top that I think could have a shot at making the Elite Eight or even the Final Four. Teams like Miami, No. 1 ranked Gonzaga (does anyone really think they're the best team in the country?), Georgetown and Ohio State are all teams that I think have a shot at making the trip to Atlanta.

Of course, you also have to look for teams that have a good shot at being knocked off early. There are quite a few teams that I think are fading or are simply over-rated this year. I think teams such as Arizona, Florida, Kansas and Syracuse could easily lose in one of the early rounds.

Don't get me wrong, I could be wrong on all of this -- that's part of what makes it fun. You never really know what's going to happen when the Madness starts.

I'm sure for most of us our brackets will be in the trash before the first weekend is even over, but at the end of the day that's not what's really important. The best part of the March Madness is simply the fun and excitement of the tournament. The upsets and all the craziness that comes with it is what makes it the best sporting event in the world. If you can win a few extra bucks by making enough right picks, well that's just icing on the cake.

Contact Assistant Sports Editor Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or tkeeler@nvdaily.com



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