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Mike Beas: NCAA Tourney predictions

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Your place of employment is having an NCAA Tournament pool. Or maybe your family because, well, it's March in Indiana and these are just two of the ways we roll. Your eyes are locked on the prize be it cash or $100 of stuffing your face at some local restaurant because few things are more delicious than bragging rights.

So you look at the brackets. Then you look at them again and again until bracket paranoia hatches the idea that East Tennessee State can knock off Pitt if the 16th-seeded and miles-out-of-their-league Buccaneers are hitting their '3's. Confusion runs rampant and you haven't even touched the dreaded 8 vs. 9 matchups.

For the past 11 months you've anxiously awaited the outset of another March Madness. Now it's here and you feel like someone who has spent the past hour renting out your forehead as a catcher's mitt.

Let's go through this region by region, shall we? And, please, put the pen down and use a pencil.

EAST — Pitt is everyone's darling. Not mine. Duke has flown as far beneath the radar this season as a Mike Krzyzewski ballclub possibly can, which makes them extremely dangerous. The Blue Devils, who can light it up from behind the 3-point stripe as well as anyone in the country, take out Pitt in the Elite Eight and advance to their 2,143rd Final Four.

SOUTH — North Carolina. The players and system are just too special in Chapel Hill. The Tar Heels eliminate Syracuse in the Elite Eight.

MIDWEST — Louisville scares me. If the Cardinals are college basketball's premier team right now then there are about 20 programs that could win this sucker. Sure, Louisville scates through the opening two rounds to Lucas Oil Stadium for the Sweet 16, but gets knocked off by Wake Forest, my choice to land in the Final Four.

WEST — Connecticut is a stretch of a No. 1 seed, but Memphis is the one playing in Detroit's Ford Field the first weekend of April. Locally, if Purdue stays hot it could be among the final 16 standing, but probably not the final eight. Next year.

My Final Four features three Atlantic Coast Conference squads: Duke, North Carolina and Wake Forest with the Memphis Tigers being the outcast of sorts. That means bitter rivals Duke and North Carolina in one Final Four semifinal with Wake Forest and Memphis being the other.

In the end, Memphis atones for last year's close call, beating North Carolina, 76-69, in the title game.

BE PROUD HOOSIERS, BOILERS: Had the opportunity to talk to Indiana men's basketball coach Tom Crean and watch Purdue recruit Patrick Bade at Saturday night's Hinkle Regional championship game.

Wow! and Wow!

Brainwashed at a young age to put a gold/black twist on life in general, I nontheless exited Hinkle genuinely liking and respecting an IU coach for the first time since … since … um, for the first time. Unwilling to put himself on a higher plateau than the rest of us, Crean is courteous and approachable, traits which surely make him a natural in the living rooms of sought-after recruits.

The Hoosiers are going to be fine. In two or three years, possibly downright frightening.

Bad news for Crean is that he'll have to face Bade, the 6-8 forward from Franklin Central, the next four seasons. Think Robbie Hummel, only left-handed and slightly physically more imposing, and that's Bade, who scored 25 points in the Flashes' 49-36 defeat of Lawrence North in the title matchup.

Tough and surprisingly quick along the baseline, Bade also can step out and drain the perimeter jump shot. At Purdue, though, it's how Bade performs defensively that will determine his minutes.

The Boilers reeled in a gem. IU, too.

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