Tag Archives: March Madness

Welcome to Bracketville 2010: Midwest Region

Unlike past tournaments I’ve got no real complaints this year the 65 teams selected for this year’s tournament. Some minor issues with the seedings, but we’ll get into that as we go along. For once the selection committee got it pretty much right, so if you are a fan of Virginia Tech or Mississippi State, life’s rough…

Last year was the first time that all four Number One’s made it to the Final Four since they’ve been seeding. While I do believe that the four top seeds deserve, because of the nature of some of the brackets there are at least two brackets where the top seed will not have a very easy time getting out of. So don’t count on all four top seeds making it out this year.

I know, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again until I’m blue in the face: In one-and-done tournaments like this there are three things a team must do well in order to go far: (1) you have to make your free throws; (2) you have to hit a high percentage of your treys, and (3) you absolutely, positively, unequivocally have to crash the boards (for reasons we won’t get into shooting goes way down at tourney time, so second-chance shots mean the world). To this list I am going to add a fourth from now on, because I have noticed that the one common denominator that has characterized upsets early in the tournament have been turnovers. Teams that turn the ball over 20+ times while creating less than 20 turnovers are generally prone to upsets.

Anyway, enough of the egghead stuff. Let’s get to it.

Midwest Region

I’ll bet Kansas is not real thankful that they are the #1 overall seed, because if this is what the reward is for it – arguably the toughest path to Indianapolis – then I’m sure they’d rather be seeded lower. That said they clearly earned it; there’s nothing the Jayhawks don’t have. Slashers. Shooters. Experience. Depth. A strong inside game. Fearlessness. This team is salty as hell, and in Bill Self they have the most underrated coach in college basketball. The road to the Sweet 16 looks pretty easy but it gets dicey after that.

Northern Iowa are balanced and don’t beat themselves, giving up only 10 turnovers and just 16 fouls, and they play a smothering defense. Disciplined teams like this I like. Plus they have depth going 10 deep. UNLV, on the other hand, rely on two stars in the backcourt but they are good at creating turnovers. That said the Runnin’ Rebels don’t have any size and they are lousy shooters from outside. If UNI were anywhere else in this subregion I’d have them going to the Elite 8, but they run into a Kansas side in the Round of 32 that is hitting on all cylinders right now.

Michigan State doesn’t have a true center this year, but still manage to play Tom Izzo’s physical style of play that relies heavily on rebounds and second-chance points. Injuries, suspensions and inconsistency have been anathema to the Spartans this year. New Mexico State is on the smallish side so they rely on ball pressure to create opportunities. Still, the Aggies go predictably could even with their pressure defense when they aren’t shooting the ball well, and at tournament time that matters. Michigan State in a walk here.

Maryland got hot at the right time, plus they do the things you want to do at tourney time well; up-tempo high-scoring offense that can push the ball while holding teams to really low shooting percentages both inside the 3-point arc and out. Glad that Houston finally made it back to the tourney but let’s not kid ourselves; they won four games in four days to win their conference tournament, so outside of that this is basically a .500 team. The Cougars get outrebounded by more than 8 per game and allow teams to shoot better than 46%. Maryland in a walk here for an interesting matchup with Michigan State in the next round.

UPSET SPECIAL #1: I know Tennessee beat both Kansas and Kentucky this year but there is just too much turmoil on Bruce Pearl’s team: 4 players arrested, one suspended. Still, they do hold teams to 40% shooting from the field and 29% from three-point range. That said, Steve Fisher has turned San Diego State into a program to be reckoned with annually. Inside muscle makes the Aztecs one of the best teams in the country in rebounding margin, and they shoot 47% from the field, so they clearly know what to do when the fireworks go out. That is a combination I like. Take the Aztecs in this one. (I will make one caveat, however: If Tennessee wins this then they will take out Georgetown in the next round and get to the Sweet 16. Otherwise they die on the vine here)

Georgetown should play much better than they do. They are inconsistent as hell, relying heavily on just two players. Plus, there is no depth, so the starting five must stay healthy and out of foul trouble. That said, there is probably no better preparation for the tourney than the Big East, and they did shoot 46% from the field. While I like Ohio – 74 ppg, 38 rpg, 7+ 3pg – they’ve lost way too many players to suspension, aren’t deep, didn’t beat anybody, and got here only by crashing their way through their tournament – which makes them another Houston. Georgetown gets to the Sweet 16.

Oklahoma State-Georgia Tech represents the most interesting matchup in this region. Neither do anything especially well but both had big multiple wins against Top 10 opponents. The Cowboys get a large part of their offense from behind the 3-point arc, and their guards can create matchup problems. The Yellow Jackets can also shoot from 3-point range but what separates them from the Cowboys is that they can at least hit the boards with a little consistency. Hard to gauge this one but I’m going to guess that because they’ve been here more recently OSU gets to the next round…

…Where Ohio State will be waiting. One elite player taking you far has not been idiosyncratic of this tournament in over 30 years, but that is what the Buckeye’s have in Evan Turner, whose refuse-to-lose play drove them to the Big Ten championship. Still, OSU plays with a certain nastiness I love at tourney time. I think UC-Santa Barbara actually matches up well with the Buckeyes – they move the ball well and create assists on offense while creating turnovers on defense – but I’m not seeing the Gauchos being able to contain Turner for very long. No surprised here; Ohio State in the Sweet 16.

– DaveyDoug

Welcome To Bracketville! 2009: The Final Four

The Final Four Is ON!!!

Michigan State vs. Connecticut…

North Carolina vs. Villanova…

Did you all see the regional finals? None of these teams won their region scoring more than 71 points. All four of these teams are monsters, with hella athleticism, play suffocating D and they are the best in the country at crashing the boards. I got two of them right (I had Pittsburgh and Purdue — YES, PURDUE — making it out of their regions, so sue me). The first game, MSU vs. UCONN, is the one I’m really looking forward to; it is going to be close. Because all four of these teams have the muscle inside we are going to see some violence in the paint in both games. The Big East Conference is the popular, sexy conference this year, but when Tom Izzo and Roy Williams have the teams they want there is no stopping (plus they beat some primetime teams in Louisville and Oklahoma to get here). So I’m putting my money on Michigan State and North Carolina to play for the national championship on Monday (besides, my brackets will still be intact if they do). I have the Tar Heels taking that championship trophy back to Chapel Hill (Ty Lawson knows how to control a game, so UNC has a better backcourt). It’s gonna be two of the best college basketball games of the year.

– DaveyDoug

Welcome To Bracketville! 2009 (South Region)

South Region

– As much as Tyler Hansbrough gets all the pub at North Carolina, it is Ty Lawson that holds the fate of the Tar Hells this year. They’ll be fine without Lawson (toe) in their first round sacrifice of Radford (puh-leeze!), but if he misses significant time by the time they get to the second round things could get very uncomfortable on Tobacco Road…

– …Because LSU is just the type of no-nonsense crusher that could make life miserable for North Carolina is Lawson can’t play. Not especially creative on offense in a down year for the SEC, but the Tigers do the little things that win you ballgames as well as blocking six shots per game while outrebounding teams by more than 5 per game. Butler has been a mainstay from the Horizon League for four years now and has made it out of the first round every time they’ve been in the tourney. Butler’s fifth-ranked defense nationally against LSU’s crushing interior defense should at least be interesting to watch, but I gotta figure that this is a matchup that favors the Tigers and the Bulldogs’ streak of first-round wins ends here.

– UPSET SPECIAL #8: Western Kentucky is getting some street cred in this tournament. They stepped up to the plate and made it to the Sweet 16 last year, giving the Sun Belt Conference a much-needed shot in the arm. The Hilltoppers (I love that nickname) lost some key players from last year but reloaded their up-tempo style of play and haven’t missed a beat (just ask Louisville). I would ordinarily take 5th-seeded Illinois in this matchup, with the third best scoring defense in the country, but they picked the wrong time to have health issues. Lose one starter and you can probably make up for it. Lose two and now you have a major problem. I’m going with the Hilltoppers.

– Everyone always expects Gonzaga to have a fairly good tournament, but that belief just hasn’t been justified recently. But Mark Few has them playing like they haven’t played in six years. This is a chameleon-like team that plays many different defenses and shows many different offensive looks – and is pretty adept at all of them. They raced through a West Coast Conference schedule and tournament in an up year. Akron was seventh in the nation in defending the trey and led the Mid-America Conference in turnover margin, but they had no big wins out of conference and showed no national profile. Gonzaga gets to stay home in their subregion so I like them against their end of the draw to get to the Sweet 16.

– Arizona State-Temple is as nondescript a 6-11 matchup as you ever see. Neither team really showed any kind of national profile given the relative weaknesses of their respective conferences this year. Both teams play lockdown defense – ASU a matchup zone, Temple a pressure man-to-man — so expect this to be a close low-scoring affair. This is a pick’em game, not really interesting but the kind of game that can break your brackets, so take the Sun Devils.

– I keep wondering who it is that Jim Boeheim pays off to get these gift draws every year for Syracuse. A #3 seed that has it this easy through its subregion. How is it that North Carolina and Oklahoma, the top two seeds in the South, don’t get it this easy? This is typical Orange b-ball: win the first 16 of 17, lose seven of ten, then make a run through the Big East tournament to steal a bid and an easy first two rounds. That said, they led the Big East in scoring and fgp. The lack of a supreme low post game is probably why they were wildly inconsistent this season. This is Stephen F. Austin’s first-ever tournament bid, so don’t be to upset if their starry eyes don’t lend themselves to giving the ‘Cuse any kind of roadblock. Syracuse in a walk through the Lumberjacks here and the Sun Devils in the next round on their way to the Sweet 16.

– Clemson should be much better than they are at tourney time. They are very physical with offensive balance and a veteran presence. But for some reason they never make their presence felt in the tourney. Michigan last made an appearance in the tourney eleven years ago. A guard-heavy team out of necessity, they are ahead of schedule in rebuilding. They don’t have a presence in the paint so rely heavily on perimeter shooting and go 11-deep. That said, the Wolverine’s youth and lack of experience should be tailor-made for the Tigers. A 9-9 conference record says Michigan shouldn’t have been here at all. Clemson sends them home early.

– All you need to know about Oklahoma is Blake Griffin, the likely NCAA player of the year. Without him the Sooners are nowhere. He can put them on his shoulders and take them deep into this tournament. But what could kill them in their guards, who are wildly inconsistent (look at the Big 12 tournament for proof). Morgan State is nothing special but finished the season 18-3 with a big win against Maryland mixed in. No real competition for Oklahoma here, but things get interesting in the next round, where a physical Clemson and their 1-3-1 matchup zone matches up very well with the Sooners. I’m guessing Clemson does an el foldo like they always do and Oklahoma makes its way to the Sweet 16, where their inside game outmuscles a game Syracuse on their way to a regional final matchup with North Carolina.

Midwest Region
West Region
East Region
South Region

– DaveyDoug