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Who has the moves to take 'Dancing's' mirror ball trophy?

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.
Image: Cast of \"Dancing With the Stars\"
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, David Hasselhoff, Kurt Warner, Kyle Massey and Rick Fox.Craig Sjodin / ABC
/ Source: TODAY contributor

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!)

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.

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, out 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.

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!

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.

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.

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 on Twitter to share your “Dancing” best bets.