Rick Snider: Chalk this NCAA tournament up to Kentucky

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Kentucky will beat Florida State for the NCAA championship.

Forget No. 3 Georgetown, which will lose to No. 2 Kansas in the Sweet 16. Ignore No. 2 Duke, which is typically overrated. Top seeds Michigan State, North Carolina and Syracuse will miss the final weekend, too.

No. 1 Kentucky, No. 2 seeds Missouri and Kansas and No. 3 Florida State will reach the Final Four. Kentucky and Kansas are NCAA royalty. Missouri and Florida State are coming off conference tournament championships that prepared them for a second run.

Surely, the opening weekend will have some surprises. It is called March Madness, after all. No. 12 Virginia Commonwealth can beat No. 5 Wichita State. No. 12 Harvard has a chance vs. No. 5 Vanderbilt, though the Crimson should have been a No. ?10 seed with an easier path. No. ?10 Virginia may upset No. 7 Florida.

But no Cinderella will get beyond the Sweet 16 this year. Fans have been spoiled in recent years by VCU, George Mason and Butler, but it's too hard for an extended run this year.

Defending champion Connecticut could win its first game as the ninth seed, but the next game is Kentucky -- see ya.

Beating Wichita State would be another stunning win for VCU, but No. 4 Indiana is next. Virginia will be pressed to beat Florida, and No. ?2 Missouri follows.

No, go with the chalk in this tournament -- though maybe not in the Final Four. Still, forget anarchy ruling the bracket.

Kentucky is the tournament's overall No. 1, so picking the Wildcats is an unsexy but respectable play. Freshmen Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist weren't part of last year's Final Four loss to champion Connecticut. Davis made 154 blocks for the nation's top shot-blocking team.

Florida State will represent the underdogs as much as a third seed can. The Seminoles were the best ACC team this season even though they finished 24-9 with several strange losses. FSU beat North Carolina and Duke twice each, so this seasoned crew is ready to break through after reaching the Sweet 16 last year. Too bad coach Leonard Hamilton couldn't find similar success with the Washington Wizards.

If Kentucky and Florida State meet, it could be another low-scoring finale given both defenses.

Missouri won its last Big 12 tournament before it heads to the SEC next season. Four senior starters and a four-guard lineup show the Tigers don't get rattled or make dumb mistakes. Missouri already has 30 wins, including over Baylor in the conference tournament final.

Kansas was supposed to rebuild this season, but its young, massive frontcourt clogs the middle and frees up its guards from the outside. The Jayhawks may overachieve by reaching the Final Four, but historic powerhouses usually go a game further than expected.

Surely, the brackets will test your sanity, but the result will be simple. The best team will win. And that's Kentucky.

Examiner columnist Rick Snider has covered local sports since 1978. Read more on Twitter @Snide_Remarks or email rsnider@washingtonexaminer.com.

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