MINNEAPOLIS -- Not to get all Jean Shepherd on you, but when I started as an undergrad at the University of Oregon there were no coffee shops near campus. Then one opened up on the corner near the bookstore, and it had couches and soft music and 50 different ways to drink coffee. It was the hottest place in Eugene. Lines for days. After a while, entrepreneurs started getting the idea that they could make a lot of money opening coffee shops. Then Starbucks moved in, and Seattle's Best, and the market was completely saturated. Nobody could tell the stores apart anymore. Too many coffee shops.
I dunno, internet bracket previews and predictions are sort of like that. Four years ago, the few available had something of a rare authority, but now pretty much everybody with a computer has posted their upset picks and are competing for attention as so-called experts. We're not in the prediction game
, but from logical and scarcity standpoints it seems a little silly to pile on. Instead, here are some ways that our boys can overcome the odds and win today.
And of course, if you are one of those folks who believe that the past indicates the future, there's Basketball State's Tournament Wiz
, which you can ask questions like 12 over 5
and No. 1's going down in the Round of 32
. I made it for you.  Butler vs.  Louisiana State
- 12:20 pm
South Region - Greensboro, NCAthletic Budgets (2008): BUTL: $10,595,162 LSU: $76,320,792 (-$66m/13%)
The Horizon League runner-ups, and one of our very few at-larges, are a better and more dynamic team than last year's but certainly doesn't have the seed to show it. For instance, the 2008 squad wouldn't have a chance in heck to hang with one of the best rebounding teams in the country on the glass. You have to like the chances of Butler's backcourt to handle LSU's high-scoring guards, and for HL POY Matt Howard to make life difficult for 6-7 Tasmin Mitchell, but it's unlikely the Bulldogs will win the rebounding battle against a team that averages 36.7 a game and blocks six per for good measure, so the ballhandling sloppiness of the past month has to be eliminated altogether. Upsetability: Medium-high.
 Cal State Northridge vs.  Memphis - 12:25 pm
West Region - Kansas City, MO
Athletic Budgets (2008): CSN: $9,391,641 MEM: $33,393,716 (-$24m/27%)
The Matadors made it through a down Big West by forcing a lot of turnovers, and there's the possibility for a little of that against a young and talented bunch of Memphis Tigers who have won 25 games in a row. And no matter what John Calipari says, it's still a horrible free-throw shooting team (hack! hack!). But CSN isn't going to match them halfcourt set-for-set, and will likely find themselves down by at least 20 at some point in the game. Hopefully that doesn't happen in the first 10 minutes. Upsetability: Low.
 Northern Iowa vs.  Purdue - 2:30 pm
West Region - Portland, OR
Athletic Budgets (2008): UNI: $14,180,945 PUR: $57,057,000 (-$43m/25%)
Purdue has a lot of backcourt explosiveness... we saw that first-hand in December when the Boilermakers buried Davidson. Northern Iowa isn't likely to be fazed by a shock-and-awe run, as the Panthers have been supremely even-keeled and methodical since their turnaround two months ago -- their work habits and their ability to stay within themselves is why they're here at all, and not halfway down the Valley standings like we thought they'd be. If they run their stuff and hit shots, like they've done since January, they'll hang. Upsetability: Moderate.
 Radford vs.  North Carolina - 2:50 pm
South Region - Greensboro, NC
Athletic Budgets (2008): RAD: $7,735,449 UNC: $61,044,532 (-$54m/11%)
Radford is built like a team that should sneak Tournament wins away from top names -- the Highlanders have two scoring big men in Artsiom Parakhouski and Joey Lynch-Flohr that would make it difficult for a high-seed to run roughshod over them. But a weak nonconference performance while the team found its wheels is why Radford ended up with an impossible draw, and this isn't the place where the never-happened can take place. But with both the aforementioned as juniors, the magic is likely a year away. Enjoy the experience. Upsetability: Very low.
 Chattanooga vs.  Connecticut - 3:00 pm
West Region - Philadelphia, PA
Athletic Budgets (2008): CHAT: $10,419,722 CONN: $54,614,088 (-$44m/19%)
The Mocs, who went 16-16 against Division I opponents this year, slipped into the Tournament when Davidson lost in the semifinals and the Wildcats' vanquishers (Charleston) left something on the floor the day before. It's a great story, though, because the team's senior scoring trio of STEFF-in McDowell, Nicchaeus Doaks and Kevin Goffney (45.8 combined ppg) get to go out together as SoCon champions and NCAA participants. The team's uptempo stylings likely won't work against a team that locks down every inch of floorspace, so it'll be two hours until the inevitable questions start: what the Moc is Chattanooga going to do for scoring next year? Upsetability: Very low.
 American vs.  Villanova - 7:20 pm
East Region - Philadelphia, PA
Athletic Budgets (2008): AMER: $10,327,314 NOVA: $23,925,128 (-$13m/43%)
The Eagles are one of the best shooting teams in Hoops Nation, and are really good at converting possessions into points. Except when they're playing top competition (shot 35 percent each against Georgetown and Oklahoma), which makes them like a lot of teams on this side. But they're also a decent ball control team (12 turnovers a game), and Villanova has shown the propensity to waste possessions. If the Eagles can show the same guts and grit they showed in the first half against Tennessee last year, and launch enough 3's over Nova, this could stay close. Upsetability: Moderate.
 Akron vs.  Gonzaga - 7:25 pm
South Region - Greensboro, NC
Athletic Budgets (2008): AKR: $17,942,424 GONZ: $11,009,859 (+$6m/155%)
When Gonzaga's had trouble this year, it's been with teams that have gone right at them. The Portland State upset was ignited by strong Viking rebounding, and that two-point near-miss by Mills-less Saint Mary's at Moraga last month was made possible by total paint ownership by the Gaels. While Akron doesn't have the size or depth to pull that off, they can make things extremely messy and confusing down low. If the Zips can gunk things up, keep the possessions long and the score low, they've got a shot. Upsetability: Moderate.
 Morgan State vs.  Oklahoma - 9:40 pm
South Region - Kansas City, MO
Athletic Budgets (2008): MORG: $7,497,661 OU: $76,945,880 (-$69m/9%)
The Bears have come a long way, elevating the MEAC beyond punchline status with a big win over Maryland, the league's first BracketBusters appearance and a strong double-championship. And they'll represent the league in the NCAA Tournament with a lot more pride and poise than the last few titlists have. But, of course, they don't have an answer for a 6-10 future NBA star who's just itching to showcase his stat-stuffing power to a national audience again. Upsetability: Very low.
 Binghamton vs.  Duke - 9:40 pm
East Region - Greensboro, NC
Athletic Budgets (2008): BING: $12,171,600 DUKE: $67,820,336 (-$55m/18%)
We all saw this coming, but the press-gang's coverage of Binghamton leading into this game has been more of the "Outside The Lines" type, thanks to this New York Times article that detailed the program's recruiting and admissions practices. And when you go about your business that way, that's the risk you take, because that's the kind of story the corps like to focus on. But this is a basketball game, and the way the Bearcats are set up (D.J. Rivera hoisted 190 more shots than second option Emmanuel Mayben), you don't need to be Coach K to formulate a successful game plan. Rivera will likely have multiple Dukies attached to his jersey all night. Upsetability: Low.
 Virginia Commonwealth vs.  UCLA - 9:50 pm
East Region - Philadelphia, PA
Athletic Budgets (2008): VCU: $14,170,232 UCLA: $66,088,264 (-$52m/21%)
UCLA suffered from a severe shooting power outage in the Pac-10 tournament, leaving the event with a 27 percent conversion rate against eventual champion USC. VCU, a strong field goal defense team anyway, loves that sort of stuff. The Bruins are stocked with Final Four experience and have a defense predicated on causing turnovers, but have had trouble guarding the 3 all year (allowing 36.9 percent, 269th nationally). This plays right into the hands of one Eric Maynor, who's already known for something called "The Duke Dagger." Upsetability: High.
 Western Kentucky vs.  Illinois - 9:55 pm
South Region - Portland, OR
Athletic Budgets (2008): WKU: $19,957,908 ILL: $52,685,040 (-$33m/37%)
If the day goes by without any joy, the night time certainly could be the right time. Aside from the WKU program's recent Sweet 16 experience, shared by many current players, the Hilltoppers have moved past a Jeckyll/Hyde era that saw historic highs (Louisville) and historic lows (Evansville) in extremely compressed timeframes (two weeks). A big reason for that is the kind of consistent, balanced scoring from a Mendez-Valdez/Pettigrew/Kerusch/Slaughter four-headed monster that's rattled off seven straight wins. Illinois is the kind of weak power-conference never-was that the star-crossed No. 5 seed was made for: horrible shooting, substandard rebounding and made up primarily of sophomores. Upsetability: High.