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Guards drive the action in unpredictable East

This is the point where I remind people that Warren Buffett, genius financier and benevolent owner of your Buffalo News, has offered $1 billion to anyone who can pick a perfect NCAA bracket. Math experts estimated the odds are about 9 quintillion to one against it. I believe that’s nine plus 18 zeroes. It’s my theory that Buffett didn’t even know the odds. He watched me fumbling through my picks for 25 years at his newspaper and figured it was a fool’s errand to even try.

My odds are probably 90 quintillion – or slightly worse than the odds of the Sabres winning the Cup next season. After staring at the brackets for a few hours, I think every game is going to produce an upset. Sometimes, I’m right. But there’s a reason I don’t gamble.

Man, I can see this East region tearing everyone’s bracket to shreds. Maybe it’s my New England bias, but I see Providence, Connecticut and Harvard all winning in the first, excuse me, second round.

I’m also a big fan of guard play. It goes back to my childhood days, rooting for Jimmy Walker, Jimmy Larranaga and Ernie DiGregorio at Providence. Did I mention the Friars won the Big East and are in the field?

This is a great region for guards. At a time when the best players turn pro early, it’s amazing to have so many fine senior guards in one region: UConn’s Shabazz Napier; Cincinnati’s Sean Kilpatrick; Virginia’s Joe Harris; Villanova’s James Bell; Iowa State’s DeAndre Kane; Delaware’s Devon Saddler; Providence’s Bryce Cotton.

I almost left out Jeremy Ingram of North Carolina Central, which made the tourney for the first time. My old pal Allen Wilson, who loved his hoops, was a North Carolina Central grad. He’s probably looking down from above and warning me not to pick Iowa State over his alma mater.

But defying logic is what this exercise is all about. I like UConn and Villanova on Thursday night at First Niagara Center, though I’m tempted by Milwaukee. Hey, the 15th seeds are 3-5 against the No. 2 seeds the last two years. Who saw Lehigh, Norfolk State or Florida Gulf Coast coming? Perfect bracket, indeed.

Game to Watch: Iowa State-North Carolina Central. One of those classic contrasts in style. Iowa State is sixth in the country in scoring offense at 83 ppg. NC Central, the “other” team in Durham, is seventh in scoring defense at 58.5. Something has to give. The Cyclones, my pick to win it all, better not look past them.

Upset City: Harvard over Cincinnati. A chic pick, which doesn’t make it wrong. Tommy Amaker has most of the guys back from the team that upset New Mexico last year as a 14 seed. It won’t be nearly as shocking if the Crimson win this year. Vegas made Cincinnati, which needs a big game from Kilpatrick, a mere two-point favorite.

Clearly, they know that the 12th seeds are 23-29 in openers since 2001.

Sleeper: Connecticut. Remember 2011? The Huskies staggered into the Big East Tournament as a ninth seed. Led by Kemba Walker, they caught fire and never lost again, delivering Jim Calhoun his third national title. This team, a No. 7 seed under coach Kevin Ollie, also has a senior on a mission – Napier. Don’t sell them short. I’ll miss Calhoun roaming the sideline in Buffalo, even his swearing.

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