GameSpot's March Madness 2009 Predictions

Who will be national champion? We put the question to a handful of the best basketball game developers, a couple of CBS sports writers, and NCAA Basketball 09 itself.

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Sixty-four entrants, a sweet sixteen, a final four, two finalists, one champion. It's the greatest numbers game in modern-day sports: the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament.

In celebration of the Big Dance, we've gathered together a group of tournament prognosticators from across the sports and sports gaming universe. A pair of sports writers from our sister site CBSSports.com, four members of the basketball game development world (representing Sony, EA Sports, and 2K Sports), and one lone sports video game hack (that's me!) come together and put their March Madness expertise on the line. As a final barometer of our prognosticators' accuracy, we're also including a simulated tournament from the recently released NCAA Basketball 09 March Madness Edition, released last week on Xbox Live.

Once the tournament begins, we'll be following our predictions (as well as some of yours) over at the GameSpot Sports Blog to find out who will end up with the most correct picks: the sports writers, the folks who make the games, or the video game itself? We'll find out starting Thursday, March 19, with the opening round of the 2009 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament. If you want in on the action for yourself, be sure to check out CBS's March Madness On Demand, which will stream all of the first-round matchups for free. Don't worry about getting in trouble with your boss. He'll probably be watching too.

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North Carolina is always a good pick to go deep in the NCAA Tourney.

The Developers

Marcus Stephenson

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  • Title: NBA Live Assistant Producer
  • Final Four: Louisville, Memphis, Pittsburgh, North Carolina
  • Overall Winner: North Carolina

What I Think:

I'm a huge Ohio State Buckeyes fan (from Columbus), but I only see them winning their first-round matchup against Siena, then losing to Louisville. I have three big upsets. In the first round, I have VCU knocking off the Bruins of UCLA, and in the second round, I have Oklahoma losing to Clemson. I also have Mississippi State riding high off their SEC tournament championship to knock off Washington in the first round.

My Final Four teams are: Louisville, Memphis, Pitt, and North Carolina. I really don't want to pick UNC, but I can't see anyone but Gonzaga challenging them in the South. Pitt is scary good, but I don't think they have the offensive firepower to compete with Hansbrough and Ty Lawson in their Final Four matchup. My sleeper teams of the tournament are VCU, Butler, USC, and Mississippi State. I love Phil Turner as a player to watch for Mississippi State, but also watch out for Toney Douglas of FSU, because he could be the difference maker in a second-round showdown against Xavier.

Again, I really don't want to pick the Tar Heels, but they have the easiest road to the Final Four, and I think the Hansbrough legend grows with a National Championship for UNC, as he goes down as one of the greatest college basketball players to never do anything in the NBA.

Zach Timmerman

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  • Title: Gameplay Producer, NBA 2K10
  • Final Four Teams: Pittsburgh, Louisville, North Carolina, Memphis
  • Winner: North Carolina

What I Think:

Arizona? Really? No love for the mid-majors yet again. But what's funny is that Arizona will make a run. A one-round run right into a horror Forest called Wake, who will be ticked off after a near loss to Cleveland State. Give ETSU some calls vs. Pitt, and it's a game. Look out for Tiggs, Pigram, and Smith—a nationally unknown threesome at ETSU. I hope CSU-Northridge didn't cheer when they saw who their opponent was. Binghamton will give America hope against Duke. Well, not really. It's easy to see why people like Dayton over West Virginia. Well, not really. Look for the fellas from the northern Dakota state to give Kansas a scare. In fact, I'm calling it a 3 vs. 14 upset…Woodside! Thrown up with three fingers!…

NDSU playing the Cinderella story of the tourney until they face West Virginia in the next round. Plus, I hate Kansas, with a passion. If only I could have a dollar for every time a person thinks Isaiah Thomas from Washington is the son of the Isaiah Thomas, I'd be able to pay off my mortgage. Utah State over Marquette is easy, but why does John Lunardi copy my picks? He must have passed over my Clemson pick, however. The Seminoles of Florida State, as much fun as they were to watch in the ACC tourney, will fall to a middle-of-the-terrible-conference Big 10 team, Wisconsin.

After a crazy first round, things settle into place where most of the top seeds continue on. However, the overrated UConn will leave Philly with a loss to BYU. They'll even knock off Purdue as my true Cinderella story. Cummard's name will go down in history as a tourney gem and as just a plain funny name.

In the end, look for the real number one seeds to prevail, with the Tar Heels taking it to Memphis in the final, giving Roy Boy Williams another title. NCAA College Hoops 2K6 co-cover boy FTW!

Bob Staite

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  • Title: Associate Producer, Sony NBA series, San Diego Studios
  • Final Four: North Carolina, Memphis, Duke, Michigan State
  • Overall Winner: North Carolina

What I Think:

Sleeper: There can be a lot of strategy and number crunching when trying to pick sleepers in the tournament. I use the "pick the team who's name sounds like an allergy medication advertised on television" technique. Ask your doctor about Akron.

Winner: I like North Carolina to win the whole thing. Some say their chances may be riding on the jammed right toe of Ty Lawson, but either way this is their tournament to lose.

Connor Dougan

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  • Title: NCAA Basketball Producer, EA Sports
  • Final Four: Louisville, Memphis, Pittsburgh, Oklahoma
  • Overall Winner: Louisville

What I Think:

This tournament is going to be wild. A lot of parity this year. There could be so many upsets in this tournament. All of the upsets in the conference tournaments shook my confidence a little when trying to fill out the bracket. Why the Big 10 got so many teams in the tournament is beyond me. Everyone get ready for some grind-it-out Big 10 basketball. Ugh.

Some predictions:

I expect UConn to bow out in the Elite 8 (at the latest). Hasheem Thabeet is going to get into foul trouble, score six points, and watch his team lose from the bench.

The 5-12 seed upset has to be Western Kentucky over Illinois. Call it intuition or the fact that Illinois lost to Penn State in the regular season 38 to 33. How can I pick a team who put up 33 points in a game to advance?

Sleeper team:

I like BYU to make a run. Look for their 6-7 guard Lee Cummard to take them past Texas A&M and then maybe UConn. I also love Clemson. I like their style of play—they push the ball in transition and press full court. I think they're good—but probably not good enough to get by Oklahoma. Blake Griffin from OU will be one of the top players in the draft next year.

As for my pick for the national champion, I have to go with the Louisville Cardinals. They're the top team in the top conference and in the nation. It's their tournament to lose.

I hope everyone enjoys this year's tournament. It should be a good one.

The Writers

Gary Parrish (Read Gary's college hoops columns here)

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  • Title: CBSSports.com Senior College Basketball Writer
  • Final Four: Wake Forest, Connecticut, Duke, North Carolina
  • Overall Winner: North Carolina

What I Think:

We had four number-one seeds advance to the Final Four last season, but don't count on it happening that way this season. There aren't as many (if any) truly elite teams this time around, which means it's reasonable to expect lots of upsets, even at the top.

My Final Four: I'll go with Duke, North Carolina, Connecticut and…Wake Forest (over Louisville, because I want to pick a relatively big upset, and I like the Demon Deacons' talent). If it plays out that way, Duke and UNC will meet in the Final Four for the first time in history, and three ACC teams will make it to Detroit. From that group, I'll take UNC as the national champion, which would end Tyler Hansbrough's storied career in a suitable fashion.

Gregory Urbano

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  • Title: CBSSports.com's SPiN on Sports Producer
  • Final Four: Louisville, Memphis, Pittsburgh, Oklahoma
  • Overall Winner: Louisville

What I Think:

Starting with the Midwest bracket, I felt it would be a good idea to take Louisville here since I have them winning it all. I'd take Louisville over any team right now, not because they're the best or have been the best all year, but because they're playing the best right now.

Out West, UConn will certainly reach the Elite 8 to do battle with Memphis, but that's where it ends for the Huskies. With no Derrick Rose leading the break you would think that Memphis has slowed down, and they have, but they've learned to win in different ways this season.

Despite my surprisingly successful Seminoles waiting for the Pitt Panthers in the Sweet Sixteen in the East bracket, I don't see any answer for DaJuan Blair on the 'Noles roster. Pittsburgh will face its toughest test against Duke in the Elite 8, and a hot-shooting night could land the Blue Devils in the Final Four.

To wrap up the Final Four, expect Oklahoma to ride the shoulders of Blake Griffin in a big win over the top-seeded Tar Heels to advance to Detroit. The matchup between Griffin and Tyler Hansbrough will receive plenty of hype, but Griffin is ready for the pros while Hansbrough wishes his college days would never end.

In the Final Four, expect a last-second win by the Louisville Cardinals over Memphis, while Pitt has little trouble with Oklahoma. Despite having an easy way with the Sooners, the Cardinals match up too well with the Panthers and have the biggest head of steam heading into the tourney.

Brian Ekberg

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  • Title: GameSpot Sports Editor
  • Final Four: Louisville, Memphis, Pittsburgh, North Carolina
  • Overall Winner: Memphis

What I Think:

First of all: No Auburn in the Big Dance? As a completely non-biased Auburn alum, I'd like to quote sports radio's Tony Bruno: "That's an outrage!" Despite blowing it in the SEC tournament, there weren't many teams playing at a higher level than the Tigers down the stretch, even in a down conference year.

I'm picking Memphis to redeem themselves and win it all. They should have won it last year, holding the lead late only to blow it in overtime against Kansas. I like that John Calipari's team has won 25 in a row. I like that they've got perhaps the best defense going right now. I like the team's height, and I like the team's path to the Elite 8, provided they can avoid a first-round upset to a fast, scrappy Cal State Northridge team.

Overachievers: I like Florida State's grit, Gonzaga's scoring ability, and Missouri's speed, and I think they're all Sweet Sixteen material…at least. USC also impressed me in the Pac-10 title game against Arizona State, and I'm looking for the Trojans to take out Boston College in an always dangerous 7/10 seed first-round matchup.

Meltdowns: I'm looking at you, Arizona. I also expect Syracuse's run of luck to end in round two, with a loss to Arizona State. That LSU/Butler first-round matchup is intriguing too, and it wouldn't surprise me to see Butler's D take down the Bayou Bengals.

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Could this be Louisville's year? Several of the experts on our panel seem to think so.

The Game

So now you've heard from the writers, but what about the game itself? EA Sports recently simulated the 2009 Men's Basketball Tournament using the just-released NCAA Basketball 09: March Madness Edition. Here are some highlights from the virtual tourney:

Biggest upsets:

  • #11 Dayton over #3 Kansas 68-65 in round two.
  • #11 Utah State over #6 Marquette 69-63 in round one.
  • #11 VCU over #6 UCLA 74-68 in round one.
  • #7 Clemson over #2 Oklahoma 85-71 in round two.

Final Four Matchups:

  • Louisville 75, Memphis 68
  • Pittsburgh 86, North Carolina 80

Championship Game:

  • Louisville 76, Pittsburgh 70
So, there you. Four votes for UNC, three for Louisville and a single vote for Memphis. We'll be keeping tabs on all our predictions, and some of yours too, over the next couple of days in the GameSpot Sports Blog. With March Madness set to kick off on Thursday, you've still got time to fill out your brackets and let us know about your picks in the comments below.

Got a news tip or want to contact us directly? Email news@gamespot.com

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