SAPAKOFF COLUMN: NCAA tournament picks: Louisville over Kansas, and bracket buster upsets
Evidence of college basketball zaniness is strewn from Coral Gables to Spokane, and here in the Lowcountry on both sides of the Cooper River.
Ohio State and Marquette were unable to open the season at the Carrier Classic in November because of moist hardwood on the Yorktown flight deck.
Now it's NCAA tournament time, and the dance floor is just as slippery. Kansas is a No. 1 seed that just this month lost by 23 points to Baylor, which lost a home game to the College of Charleston, which lost to Anderson College at TD Arena.
Louisville, another No. 1 seed, appeared at TD Arena in December for an 80-38 win over the Cougars.
The Cardinals, among other things, have superior guards (Peyton Siva and Russ Smith), a reliable big guy (6-11 Gorgui Dieng, back after missing the Charleston game and six others with a broken wrist) and A-list head coach Rick Pitino.
At the Final Four fitting finish to a strange season, it's hard to pick against an ACC-bound Big East team in SEC-mad Atlanta during a year sprinkled with Big 10 dominance.
Around the bracket:
Top seed: Louisville
Regional final site: Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis
Best first-round game: No. 5 Oklahoma State, coming off a 15-18 season last year, vs. No. 12 Oregon, coming off a Pac-12 tournament title.
Bracket buster: No. 13 New Mexico State over No. 4 Saint Louis.
Star power: Creighton junior forward Doug McDermott, the sharpshooting son of Blue Jays head coach Greg McDermott, is the nation's second-leading scorer.
Unsung legend: Liberty guard John Caleb Saunders torched Charleston Southern for 27 points in the Big South championship game.
Geography madness: Oregon, No. 12 seed or not, will have a huge fan edge over No. 5 Oklahoma State in San Jose.
Officepoolology: Go with point spreads over seeding.
Best nickname: Albany Great Danes
Sweet 16 picks: No. 1 Louisville, No. 12 Oregon, No. 2 Duke, No. 3 Michigan State
Top seed: Gonzaga
Regional final site: Staples Center, Los Angeles
Best first-round game: No. 8 Pittsburgh has won 11 of its last 15 games, but No. 9 Wichita State and former College of Charleston assistant coach Gregg Marshall went 3-2 against the RPI top 50 (Pittsburgh 4-7).
Bracket buster: No. 12 Ole Miss over No. 5 Wisconsin.
Star power: Gonzaga's Kelly Olynyk, a 7-center from British Columbia who has big-league pitcher Tim Lincecum's old hair, leads the Zags in scoring.
Unsung legend: Iona 6-foot guard Lamont “MoMo” Jones is averaging 23 points as an inside-outside scoring threat.
Geography madness: No. 4 Kansas State potentially has a royal Kansas City edge over No. 5 Wisconsin.
Officepoolology: When looking for upset winners, choose a No. 12 or No. 13 for minimal risk (you didn't really expect that No. 5 or No. 4 to get past a top seed, anyway).
Best nickname: La Salle Explorers
Sweet 16 picks: 1. Gonzaga, 2. Ohio State, 3. New Mexico, 5. Wisconsin
Top seed: Kansas
Regional final site: Cowboys Stadium, Arlington
Best first-round game: No. 8 North Carolina vs. No. 9 Villanova, if only to see if Roy Williams and the Tar Heels can stage an upset bid against Kansas, where Williams was head coach from 1988-2003.
Bracket buster: No. 11 Minnesota over No. 6 UCLA
Star power: Kansas freshman shooting guard Ben McLemore might be the first pick in the 2013 NBA draft.
Unsung legend: South Dakota State's 6-4 senior guard Nate Wolters (22.5 points per game) is the Summit League player of the year.
Geography madness: Poor No. 5 VCU. The Rams are likely to face No. 4 Michigan in the second round, in Michigan (Auburn Hills).
Officepoolology: Beware teams that rely heavily on 3-point shooting (Creighton, for instance). You can absorb cold streaks over the long regular season but not now.
Best nickname: South Dakota State Jackrabbits
Sweet 16 picks: 1. Kansas, 2. Georgetown, 3. Florida, 4. Michigan
Top seed: Indiana
Regional final site: Verizon Center, Washington, D.C.
Best first-round game: No. 3 Marquette vs. No. 14 Davidson. The Wildcats don't sneak up on foes and Marquette has six top 50 wins (zero for Davidson). But Jake Cohen, De'Mon Brooks and friends are a tough out.
Bracket buster: No. 10 Colorado over No. 7 Illinois.
Star power: Miami sophomore point guard Shane Larkin was named ACC tournament MVP as Miami became the first non-North Carolina school to win the ACC regular season title outright and tournament title in the same season.
Unsung legend: Bucknell's 6-11 senior center Mike Muscala is a force inside (19 points, 11.2 rebounds, 2.4 blocks).
Geography madness: The UNLV-California winner won't be far from home for a second-round game against No. 4 Syracuse in San Jose.
Officepoolology: Work backward, picking your Final Four first to protect those picks against ill-advised upset impulses.
Best nickname: LIU Brooklyn Blackbirds
Sweet 16 picks: 1. Indiana, 2. Miami, 4. Syracuse, 6. Butler
Final Four: Louisville, Ohio State, Kansas, Miami
National championship: Louisville over Kansas
Reach Gene Sapakoff at 937-5593 or on Twitter @sapakoff.