VCU will double it

David Teel

Newport News

Daily Press

VCU will defeat not only Wichita State but also Indiana to reach a South Region semifinal against Kentucky.

Think CBS could milk that matchup for a few promos? The Rams proving last year's unfathomable Final Four run was not a fluke, the top-ranked Wildcats striving for coach John Calipari's first national title.

Yes, Wichita State is first-rate, and no, VCU isn't as good as in 2011. But Shaka Smart's full-court pressure still orchestrates a hectic, turnover-rich pace, and after last season's Final Four and this month's Colonial Athletic Association tournament title, Smart and veteran players such as Bradford Burgess and Juvonte Reddic know how, and expect, to win.

dteel@tribune.com

N.C. State enters hot

Todd M. Adams

Orlando Sentinel

I like to look for low-ranked teams from big conferences that enter the tournament hot. To that end, I'd pick 11th-seeded N.C. State as my bracket buster for the first weekend.

Before narrowly losing to North Carolina (one of the NCAA's No. 1 seeds) in the ACC semifinals this weekend, the Wolfpack had won four straight games. That included a victory over tournament team Virginia.

While it probably lacks enough depth to make a real deep tourney run, N.C. State has a very athletic group of seven core guys — including five who average more than 10 points a game.

State opens with a very beatable sixth-seeded San Diego State team, then would play No. 3 seed Georgetown.

tmadams@tribune.com

Watch Long Beach State

Shannon Ryan

Chicago Tribune

No. 12 Long Beach State hasn't been to the tournament since 2007 and only earned a bid into this season's field by beating UC Santa Barbara in the Big West tournament. Whoop-dee-do, right? Well, the 49ers can handle No. 5 New Mexico in the second round.

They played a killer nonconference schedule, beating Pittsburgh and Xavier and losing to San Diego State, Louisville, Kansas, North Carolina and Kansas State. None was a blowout. Casper Ware, the two-time Big West player of the year, averaged 22 points in the conference tournament and is one of the best midmajor point guards in the nation.

Don't be surprised to see Long Beach State advance through the first two tournament games into the Sweet 16.

sryan@tribune.com

Could be day at the Beach

Mike Hiserman

Los Angeles Times

Long Beach State — the long-shot school from the long-shot conference — is the regular-season and tournament champion of the Big West, which should strike fear into … no one.

However, the 49ers played the kind of nonconference schedule that has left them confident of competing with anyone.

A big concern for the Beach is the health of guard Larry Anderson, who has a sprained right knee. The 49ers still have Casper Ware, and he's the type of veteran who excels this time of year.

Once past the Lobos, the 12-seeded 49ers should then be able to take down 13th-seeded Davidson, which will upset Louisville in a second-round game.

mhiserman@tribune.com