Mar 20, 2013 - By Bruce Tippets, Sports EditorBattled tested and experienced.
Those are the two things I look at when I'm filling out my NCAA tournament bracket.
Predicting the winner in the NCAA tournament is almost impossible. I can't remember the last time I was right.
That doesn't get me discouraged from trying.
I started watching college basketball when the calender turned to January to get my research going so I can have a respectable showing in the office pool.
The Mountain West Conference has become one of the best leagues in the nation.
With New Mexico, San Diego State, Colorado State, UNLV and Boise State all making the NCAA field, it's time for the conference to make some noise in the tournament.
The New Mexico Lobos have the best team in the league from top to bottom. The Lobos will carry the MWC all the way into the Elite Eight before their season is finished.
Louisville, Gonzaga, Kansas and Indiana all have claimed No. 1 seeds for the tournament.
Gonzaga should be the first No. 1 seed to be eliminated from the tournament because they weren't battle tested in a lot of the games they played in the West Coast Conference.
Louisville is on a tear after winning the Big East tournament last weekend at Madison Square Garden.
The Louisville Cardinals have to be one of the best defensive teams in the land with the full-court press they put on. I just don't think Louisville will have enough offense to get to the Final Four.
Another Big East team I thought that had a good chance to win the NCAA tournament this year is Georgetown, but I lost confidence in the Georgetown Hoyas when they fell to Syracuse in the Big East semifinal.
A little fact I learned after watching way too much television on the tournament this week is the Hoyas are the only team in the field without a senior on the roster.
I'm going to say Georgetown is my frontrunner for the title next season.
The game in a couple of weeks I'm looking forward to is when Duke faces Louisville in the Midwest regional final. In the past, I haven't been a fan of the Duke program at all.
That all changes this year.
This year, I like Duke because of the balanced offensive attack, and the Blue Devils have senior leadership all over the roster. That is another key in the three-week tournament.
Another factor is Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski. He is one of the best coaches in the tournament.
Duke was upset early in the ACC tournament by Maryland last week, but the setback gave Duke a chance to work on a few things and get the right mind set for a long stay in the NCAA tournament.
At one time, Duke was 13-0 and taking questions about the opportunity of going through the season undefeated. The Blue Devils finished the season with a 27-5 overall record.
Duke has wins over the champion of the Big 10 (Ohio State), Big East (Louisville), Southern Conference (Davidson), Atlantic Sun (Florida Gulf Coast) and the ACC (Miami).
Duke tops the nation with the No. 1 strength of schedule.
Five players are scoring in double figure numbers.
Mason Plumlee leads the way at 17.1 points per game. Seth Curry is second with a 16.9 average.
Ryan Kelly is third at 14.8 points per game.
Quinn Cook (12.5) and Rasheed Sulaimon (12.0) are both key players in the attack.
Kansas and Indiana are my other Final Four picks.
I'm going to look for Duke to beat Ohio State in the national semifinals.
Indiana should eliminate Kansas in a powerful Final Four.
In the championship game, Duke should beat Indiana for the title to give one of the greatest coaches another title on his resume.
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