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Tourney Talk with Jason King of Yahoo! Sports

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USC and UCLA are gearing up for the NCAA Tournament


USC and UCLA are gearing up for the NCAA Tournament | AP Photo/Danny Moloshok

We are counting down to the madness. One of the most exciting days in sports and the least productive work days on the calendar, the opening round of the NCAA Men's Basketball Championships, is less than 24 hours away.

If you haven't filled out your bracket yet, Jason King who covers college basketball and football for Yahoo! Sports just might be able to help you out.

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Be sure to join the LAist group, which can also be found on Yahoo! Sports. In addition to the prize to be determined that we're giving away, Y! Sports is giving away $1 million to anyone who can put together a perfect bracket and $10,000 to the best overall bracket.

King, a winner of multiple writing awards who formerly served as a college football and basketball beat writer and NFL beat writer for the Kansas City Star; gives us his take on the tournament, his predictions for the Bruins, Trojans and even the Matadors of Northridge along with his Final Four.

Do you think the committee did a good job with the field this year? Who do you think was snubbed?
I think the committee did a really good job this season. There are always teams that have legitimate gripes, and that's certainly the case this year with St. Mary's, San Diego State and Penn State. Still, if those teams got in and others got the shaft, you'd have a whole list of schools that were "snubbed." I didn't have any problem with the teams that got in - including Arizona. The Wildcats didn't finish strong, but they have some nice wins and, overall, a good body of work.

How much are you looking forward to Thursday? Do you think it is the best day in sports?

I think Thursday and Friday are the best days in college sport - if you're a fan. But if you're a sportswriter it's actually rather frustrating. You want to with your friends at the sports bar, watching all the games on satellite. Instead you're stuck at an arena all day, and the only games you get to see are the ones being played at the site you're covering. Sure, you can sneak into the back room and watch bits and pieces of other games, but it's just not the same.

What advice do you have to people filling out their brackets? Who are some sleepers out there you can give us?
It wouldn't surprise me at all to see Marquette make it to the Sweet 16. The Golden Eagles have lost five of six since point guard Dominic James went down with a foot injury, but four of those games were against Top 10 teams, and the fifth loss was in overtime against Syracuse. Every single one of those losses was close. I think Marquette's fortunes will change in victories over Utah State and Missouri. Look for Western Kentucky to defeat a Illinois squad that will be playing without point guard Chester Frazier. I've got Washington beating Mississippi State in the first round, but it also wouldn't shock me if the Bulldogs pulled an upset.

How impressed were you with USC's run through the Pac-10? Do you think that they can carry this momentum into the NCAA tournament?
I was very impressed with USC. It's amazing how much better that team is when (DeMar) DeRozan is aggressive on offense. Even though the Trojans were one of the most disappointing teams in college basketball for most of the season, they could go out on a strong note by getting to the Sweet 16, which hardly seems out of the question, considering Boston College is wishy-washy and Michigan State is overrated. There's no reason USC can't pull it off with a coach such as (Tim) Floyd, a freshman like DeRozan and experienced players such as (Taj) Gibson, (Daniel) Hackett and (Dwight) Lewis.

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VCU beating UCLA seems to be the sexy upset pick for the first round. Do you think that this is a reflection on VCU being underrated or UCLA being overrated?
A little of both, although I think a lot of people are down on UCLA, which I think is a mistake. I'm not saying the Bruins are a great team. They're not. But anytime you've got a coach such as (Ben) Howland on the sideline, you've got a chance to beat just about anyone. Something tells me the senior class of (Darren) Collison, (Josh) Shipp and (Alfred) Aboya won't go out with a loss to VCU. It wouldn't be a very fitting end for a group that's done such much for UCLA hoops.

Who do you think has a better shot at making a run USC or UCLA?

I think USC has a better chance, mainly because their second round matchup against Michigan State is more favorable than the one UCLA would face against Villanova.

A 16 seed has never beat a 1, but 15's have beaten 2's before. With that said, does Northridge have any shot at all with who many consider to be the best 2 seed, Memphis? Can they give them a game?

Unfortunately not. Memphis is too good. They've won more than 60 straight games against Conference USA teams, so they're not about to lose to Northridge.

Who do you have in your Final Four? Who do you think will win it all?

My opinion seems to change everyday. Right now I've Wake Forest, Connecticut, Pittsburgh and North Carolina in the Final Four, with Pitt beating UCONN in the final. If Ty Lawson, can get healthy it wouldn't shock me at all if the Tar Heels won it all. I worry about Lawson, though, because even if he's cleared to play, that injured big toe could flare up again at any moment. I think the storyline is one that will follow UNC throughout the entire tournament.

In addition to Yahoo! Sports Tourney Pick’em, there's also a 2nd Chance game that sets fans up to redeem themselves if their bracket is “busted.” The game gives users a chance to begin the madness again with a new bracket after the Second Round of games is complete. More info can be found at http://tournament.fantasysports.yahoo.com.