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Image: Cast of "Dancing With the Stars"
Craig Sjodin  /  ABC
Brandy, front left, and Jennifer Grey, second from left, may be the strongest contenders of "Dancing's" season 11 cast. The rest are, from front left, Margaret Cho, Audrina Patridge, Florence Henderson, Bristol Palin, and from left in back row, David Hasselhoff, Kurt Warner, Kyle Massey Rick Fox, and hosts Brooke Burke and Tom Bergeron.
By
TODAY contributor
updated 9/17/2010 9:10:26 PM ET 2010-09-18T01:10:26
Opinion

The latest batch of sequin-covered celebrities hit the dance floor Monday as the 11th season of “Dancing With the Stars” kicks off its two-night premiere. While a whole lot of rumbas, waltzes and quicksteps stand between the competitors and the coveted mirror-ball trophy, it’s never too soon to speculate about how the upcoming action might end.

The ballroom babies haven’t even had their first dance, but that fact doesn’t stop fans from wondering about that all-important last dance. Can Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino channel his gym-tan-laundry energy into a jumping jive success? (Maybe.) Does David Hasselhoff have what it takes to tango to a win? (Ha!)

Video: 'No situation The Hoff can't handle' (on this page)

So now, before it begins, let’s predict the outcome of the ballroom bash.

The winner’s circle
The season’s sentimental favorite, Jennifer Grey, might as well make room for that mirror ball. Barring major foot fumbles or a paralyzing case of stage freight, it’s hard to imagine Grey not dancing away with the top honor.

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The “Dirty Dancing” star not only packs past experience, she also brings along an audience of dance fans who’ve long hoped to see Baby back in the ballroom. Add to that the fact she’s paired up with last season’s “Dancing” victor, Derek Hough (who has a fair amount of his own fans), and the 50-year-old actress is almost a shoo-in.

Almost. However, if Grey somehow fails to wow the crowd, her closest competition can be found in actress and R&B singer Brandy. She may not be known for her classic moves, but Brandy comes into the game with a background in choreographed stage routines and a sense of musicality — two big advantages.

Early backstage buzz supports a Brandy win, but there’s always a chance for a man to steal the show.

After all, in the previous 10 seasons, a gent took the trophy five times. That statistic works in Rick Fox’s favor. The former Los Angeles Lakers player, who might just be better known as the ex-Mr. Vanessa Williams, joins the show with a few good “Dancing” omens. First, former athletes often go far. Second, he’s tall, dark and preternaturally handsome, which never hurt anyone’s chances at anything. And third, he’ll have two-time “Dancing” champ Cheryl Burke on his arm.

If a man takes it all the way, it will be Fox.

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Wildcards
Unless … well, there are always a few wildcards who waltz their way into the finals. That means with a whole lot of luck and even more heretofore unforeseen talent, someone like “Jersey Shore’s” Sorrentino could take it. Just imagine all the fist pumping from the studio audience!

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Of course, crooner Michael Bolton knows music, so maybe he knows a thing or two about moves, too. He, along with The Situation and retired NFL quarterback Kurt Warner, make up the unguessable guys. Fab or flops, there’s just no telling.

As for the women to wonder about, there’s former resident of “The Hills” Audrina Patridge. Although Patridge and partner Tony Dovolani recently showcased a sample routine on late-night TV, the handful of steps just weren’t enough to gauge Patridge’s long-term chances.

At least she has as good of a chance as comedian and “Drop Dead Diva” Margaret Cho. Either would make for an out-of-nowhere win. But the unlikely wildcard to root for might just be Florence “Mrs. Brady” Henderson. She may be 76 years old and filling the obligatory “Golden Oldie” spot, but Henderson knows (or at least knew) how to dance in her musical theater days.

Video: Margaret Cho on her feud with ABC (on this page)

Don’t get too attached
OK. Some of those names are long shots at best, but they still have far better odds of grabbing the ballroom title than their remaining competitors.

Dance newbie and teen mom Bristol Palin will be cheered by some and jeered by others, but like most polarizing types before her, she can expect a short stay. Oh, she’ll probably last longer than former one-weeker Tucker Carlson, but she’ll be lucky if she matches Kate Gosselin’s five-week stint.

Actor and “big in Germany” singer Hasselhoff is sure to entertain, just not with his serious moves. Voters might keep him around for fun, but not for much more. And hey, that’s better than the star treatment some get.

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Just ask soon-to-be first cut Kyle Massey. It’s not fair, and it has nothing to do with his “Dancing” potential, but Massey just doesn’t have enough name recognition with the non-Disney-channel-viewing, post-tween contingent.

Whether the speculation is based on past impressions or just good guesses, there are no guarantees. Ultimately what each hoofer-hopeful brings to the dance floor is a question mark. And it’s not all about the fancy footwork. Popularity can beat a perfect paso doble every time. The winner will need as much charisma as rhythm, and their pro partners can’t teach that.

Ree Hines is rooting for Brandy simply because the longer the singer-actress stays in the competition, the longer pro partner Maksim Chmerkovskiy stays on Ree’s TV screen. Follow @ReeHines on Twitter to share your “Dancing” best bets.

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Photos: 'Dancing With the Stars' season 11

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  1. Bristol Palin

    Bristol Palin, former first daughter of Alaska, first entered the national spotlight when her mother, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, was selected to be John McCain’s runningmate in the 2008 Presidential election. After giving birth to her son, Tripp, and becoming a single teen mother in 2008, she became a spokesperson for the prevention of teen pregnancy and for other teen issues. Palin recently guest starred as herself on an episode of ABC Family’s "The Secret Life of the American Teenager." Her partner is Mark Ballas. (Bob D'Amico / ABC) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Kurt Warner

    Kurt Warner is the first quarterback to participate on "Dancing with the Stars." In 1999, led the St. Louis Rams to a victory in Super Bowl XXXIV. He eventually moved on from the Rams to the Giants and finally to the Arizona Cardinals in 2005. In 2007 he led the Cardinals to their first ever Super Bowl and was voted to his fourth Pro Bowl. He is partnered with Anna Trebunskaya. (Bob D'Amico / ABC) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Jennifer Grey

    Nobody puts Jennifer Grey in a corner! Grey starred as Frances "Baby" Houseman in the iconic 1987 box office hit "Dirty Dancing" with the late Patrick Swayze. Some of her other films include "Ferris Bueller's Day Off," "Red Dawn" and "The Cotton Club." Her partner is Derek Hough. (Bob D'Amico / ABC) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Kyle Massey

    Kyle Massey stars as Cory Baxter in the Disney Channel sitcom, "Cory in the House." He originated the role of Cory in Disney's "That’s So Raven," the first show in Disney's history to produce over 100 episodes. He will partner with Lacey Schwimmer. (Bob D'Amico / ABC) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Rick Fox

    A three-time NBA champion with the Los Angeles Lakers, actor and producer Rick Fox has appeared in a number of film and television projects, sharing the screen with actors ranging from Whoopi Goldberg to Henry Winkler, Angela Bassett and Shia LeBeouf. His partner is Cheryl Burke. (Bob D'Amico / ABC) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Brandy

    Brandy is a platinum-selling R&B and pop singer, actress, songwriter and record/television producer. In 1994, at the age of 15, Brandy released her eponymous debut album, selling over 6 million copies. She is currently filming Season 2 of the VH1 reality show "Brandy and Ray J: a Family Business." She will dance with Maksim Chmerkovskiy. (Bob D'Amico / ABC) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Michael Bolton

    He can sing, but can he dance? Michael Bolton has sold more than 53 million records, released 18 studio albums, won multiple Grammys for Best Male Vocalist and countless other honors, all while selling out arenas worldwide. His partner is Chelsie Hightower. (Bob D'Amico / ABC) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Florence Henderson

    Florence Henderson will always be best known in syndication worldwide as "America's Favorite Mom" and matriarch Carol Brady on the classic TV series "The Brady Bunch," which aired for five seasons (1969-1974). Henderson has been a celebrity spokeswoman for Oldsmobile, Tang, Polident, Rain Soft, Pepsi Light and Wesson Oil and maintains a busy schedule as a sought after motivational speaker. She will be partnered with Corky Ballas. (Bob D'Amico / ABC) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Margaret Cho

    Comedian Margaret Cho first performed stand-up in her native San Francisco at the age of 16. Her best-selling tours include the off-Broadway hit/concert film "I’m the One That I Want," "Notorious C.H.O.," "Revolution" and "Beautiful." She is also a regular cast member of the Lifetime series "Drop Dead Diva." She will dance with Louis Van Amstel. (Bob D'Amico / ABC) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. David Hasselhoff

    Listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as "The Most Watched TV Star in the World," David Hasselhoff has gained international fame in music, television and film. Hasselhoff got his start in entertainment on the soap opera "The Young and the Restless" and was pursued to play the lead role of the 1980's cult favorite, "Knight Rider." His famed skyrocketed thanks to 11 years in a swimsuit on "Baywatch." Don’t hassel the Hoff! He will dance with Kym Johnson. (Bob D'Amico / ABC) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Audrina Patridge

    Audrina Patridge starred in six seasons of the MTV reality series "The Hills." The aspiring actress made her debut on the big screen last fall in the thriller "Sorority Row." Other film credits include "Into the Blue 2" and "Honey 2." Last summer, Patridge made headlines steaming up TV screens in a commercial for Carl’s Jr. Her partner is Tony Dovolani.. (Bob D'Amico / ABC) Back to slideshow navigation
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Video: Can Audrina Patridge dance?

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