Garland Gillen / Eyewitness Sports

NEWORLEANS- As a child nothing raises the excitement meter like Christmas Day. The night before is a magical time of hopes and anticipation of a great bounty coming to you. I can recall on numerous occasions staying up until 1 am because I couldn't focus on sleep. That Nintendo, baseball glove, or new bike would soon be mine.

As an adult I feel the same way on the eve of the NCAA Tourney. I've been pouring over my bracket like I'm preparing for my final college exam before graduation. Hopefully my bracket looks better than my college GPA.

This year no teams for Louisiana will be represented in the tourney, but that will not stop the madness for me. This year to show my allegiance to the hoop gods I have amassed a crew to watch 12 hours straight of basketball greatness. I can smell those meat pies at Cooter's right now. There is no doubt in my mind sleep will be at a minimum Wednesday night. Except this time crushing my bracket picks will be dancing through my mind, and not hoping Tecmo Bowl will be under the tree.

Most of the money in Vegas is on Kentucky to take down the national title here in New Orleans, but I'm not buying it. The Wildcats go only seven deep, and the roster is littered with youngsters. I think Duke is the weakest two in the four brackets, and will not survive the Sweet 16. Coach Cal's squad will make it out of the South Bracket, but the dream will end in the Crescent City.

In the East and Midwest I'm sticking with the one seeds to make it to New Orleans. I love Syracuse's zone defense, and upperclassmen leadership. The 'Heels veteran group will deliver them the goods to make it to the Dome also.

The West will be my only bracket were the one doesn't survive in the Elite Eight. Missouri, playing for the last time in hoops as a Big 12 team, will run Michigan State out of the gym.

When it's all said and done I see the Orange lifting the trophy in the Big Easy. Controversy still swirls around the program from the Bernie Fine incident, and I think the 'Cuse has fed off that negativity. Last time the Final Four was here it was Coach Jim Boeheim cutting down the nets, and I expect the same this time around.

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