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Elmore Sees Big East Run in Tournament

I was just about to fill in my brackets for the NCAA men's basketball tournament Wednesday night when CBS analyst Len Elmore called.

First, he did something that happens even less often than a Western New York team makes the tournament: He apologized for being unable to call before my deadline for a story in today's paper.

Then Elmore, who will be working all four games Friday at the HSBC Arena alongside play-by-play man Gus Johnson, told an entertaining story about his "competition" with that noted basketball expert, President Obama.

It seems that Elmore was doing a favor for the owner of a local establishment in Manhattan, the Blue Donkey, and going through his brackets when the President was on ESPN giving his picks. Patrons decided to turn the TV set off to hear Elmore.

"I said, 'you might have it wrong,'" cracked Elmore, who thought that the President's picks might be more worth listening to than his own.

"Last year, he got a lot right," noted Elmore.

In any event, the analyst expects some interesting games at the HSBC, with the Florida State-Gonzaga matchup especially "intriguing."

He believes it will come down to whether Gonzaga can cut down on its turnovers against "one of the top five defensive teams in the country"  and whether the offensively-challenged Florida State "can put the ball in the basket."

Elmore, who worked ACC and Big East during the season, thinks Syracuse fans concerned about meeting Vermont should relax a little bit and not be that worried that the 2005 upset by the Catamounts can be repeated.

"I don't think so," said Elmore. "The difference in talent is so vast between the two teams. I don't think Vermont has the athletes or the size."

The analyst is big on the Big East and sees five teams making it to the Sweet 16 -- Syracuse, West Virginia, Louisville, Georgetown and Villanova and all but Louisville making it to the Elite Eight.

And which Big East team does he expect to make it to the Final Four in Indianapolis?

"Believe it or not, the team most people have forgotten about is Villanova," said Elmore. "They have the experience and those guys play with intensity that is hard to match."

Believe it or not, President Obama hasn't forgotten the Wildcats. He also picked Villanova to make the Final Four.

-- Alan Pergament

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