Last updated: March 18. 2014 9:12PM - 674 Views
By - sstinson@civitasmedia.com - 910-817-2671

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It could be a toss-up which is more frustrating and difficult to fill out, your taxes or your NCAA men’s basketball bracket.

As soon as you put pen to paper and began advancing teams towards the Final Four, you want to scratch everything out and start from the beginning.

You know it is probably wiser to flush your money down the toilet because you know some team like Manhattan is going to ruin your bracket and knock off your national champion in the second round.

Or worse, some “pundit” on TV convinced you Stephen F. Austin will be this year’s Wichita State and make an improbable run to the Final Four. So you have the school from Nacogdoches, Texas eliminating the tournament’s top seed, Florida, as well as Kansas in the South Region.

You daydream that only four victories separate the Lumberjacks from making their way to Dallas and you winning first place in your pool. Plus, you know no one else gave them a chance to get past VCU and your friends will talk about your prediction for years to come.

In the end, you take the cautious approach and do your research on all 68 teams in the field. You try to figure out if Louisiana-Lafayette’s Elfrid Payton will be able to match Creighton’s Doug McDermott in the scoring column. Or can Jeremy Ingram and the rest of North Carolina Central find a way to slow down Melvin Ejim and Iowa State.

It won’t matter because someone who doesn’t follow college basketball at all will win the pool because they let their 8-year-old fill out their bracket.

Which No. 1 seed will fall first?

Florida appears to have the clearest path to reach the Elite Eight as none of the other seven schools in the top half of the South Region looming as a true threats to topple the top seed.

Virginia has been fantastic in the last half of the season, especially in the ACC, but will more than likely face the winner of the Cincinnati-Michigan State game in the Sweet 16. The Spartans were ranked No. 2 in the preseason polls and is playing their best basketball at the right time.

Arizona’s road to the Final Four doesn’t appear to be as easy as Florida’s but it could come close. The Wildcats should roar into the Elite Eight.

Despite having met every challenge placed in front of them this season, Wichita State will more than likely be the first No. 1 seed to be eliminated. The NCAA selection committee didn’t do former Winthrop coach Gregg Marshall and his Shockers any favors with either Kansas State or Kentucky waiting in the third round.

Will Duke or UNC still be playing at the end of the weekend?

Duke earned the higher seed of the two schools at No. 3, but that doesn’t mean it will still be around come Sunday. It was only two years ago when Lehigh became just the second No. 15 seed in NCAA history to knock off a No. 2, when it beat Duke 75-70.

Duke should and the key word is should have little problems with Mercer Friday. It is the next round where things will become tricky with UMass, Tennessee or Iowa waiting in the wings. Any of those teams are capable of defeating the Blue Devils, but the play of super freshman Jabari Parker should get Duke to Indianapolis.

North Carolina may have a struggle from the get-go with its second round opponent — Providence. The Friars are heading into their game with the Tar Heels having moved off the tournament bubble by winning the Big East Tournament last week.

If UNC does survive against Providence, it appears Iowa State will be next up. The Cyclones are several pundits sleeper pick to make it to the Final Four and this is where the Tar Heels’ Road to Dallas will come to an end.

Then again, UNC may make it to the title game. Where’s the eraser?

Sports editor Shawn Stinson may be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 14 or on Twitter @scgolfer.

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