Tag Archives: NCAA

Welcome to Bracketville 2010: East Region

East Region

Nobody in the tournament has as much talent as Kentucky, but let’s not kid ourselves; it is raw as all get out. If Kentucky is going to get out of this region, then youth had better be served because there are a lot of landmines in this region. DeMarcus Cousins and John Wall are the frontcourt-backcourt go-to guys, arguably the best duo in the country – but they are freshman. The pressure hasn’t caught up with them yet, and Wall is probably one-and-done. There isn’t anything this team can’t do. East Tennessee State represents no problem for the Wildcats, but waiting for them going forward is West Virginia, New Mexico, Temple, Marquette, Clemson, Texas, Wake Forest, or even an experienced and deep Cornell.

The best 8-9 matchup of the tournament: Texas-Wake Forest. Don’t sell Texas short: They spent most of the season in the Top 5 before losing 9 of 16 down the stretch, so clearly there is Top 5 ability here. Wake had their own issues, losing five of six down the stretch. This is a battle of two teams going south at the wrong time, so somebody’s going to be fix their problems if only for one game. I’ll take Texas to win here and give Kentucky all kinds of fits before folding like a cheap tent.

UPSET SPECIAL #3: Despite the seedings this is as even a matchup as they come. Both Temple and Cornell do the exact same things well. They both shoot the ball well, including from 3-point range, and they are among the best in the nation in scoring defense. What does it for me is (1) Cornell returns every starter from last year, and experience and depth do mean a lot at tourney time; and (2) Cornell is one of the best in the nation in turnover ratio (1.55). Plus, Cornell has some size in the paint, so even if their nationally ranked 3-point shooting (10+ 3pg) goes out, the Big Red know how to compensate. This is a much better Owls team than in recent years, but the Ivy League is well represented this time out. Cornell in an upset.

Wisconsin’s trademarks are a stifling defense and an efficient offense; plus they turn over the ball fewer times than any team in the nation. But the Badgers are not the bangers on the boards that they have been in recent years and they are having health issues going into the tourney. Fortunately they were gifted a motivated Wofford team that doesn’t do anything well but wins games with as weak a schedule as they had. Quite frankly I’m looking forward to the Wisconsin-Cornell matchup in the next round, where I think Cornell’s tenacity and experience takes apart an underwhelming Wisconsin side. Somebody has to be this year’s Davidson; I’m going with the Big Red. Cornell gets to the Sweet 16.

UPSET SPECIAL #4: Not a lot of size at Marquette, but they did rebound well from losing a lot of talent from last year’s squad. A good 3-point shooting team that is also good at the free-throw line, two things you want to do well at tourney time. But there is virtually no size inside so they don’t rebound well. A guard-oriented team like the Golden Eagles is tailor-made for Washington, who is also guard-oriented and were ninth in the nation in scoring. Despite the lack of size the Huskies are scrappy as hell and manage to actually hit the boards with some frequency. A down year in the Pac Ten, but this was a matchup I’m sure the schedulers made a mistake on. Washington wins this one.

It must be the record that got New Mexico a 3-seed. A 29-4 record in an unusually tough year in the Mountain West is what got them this high a seed. That said, this is a Steve Alford-led team, so I have no doubt he has them well prepared for the tournament. Montana ranks nationally among the best in shooting but they didn’t play anybody of note and practically backed into the tournament from a weak year in the Big Sky conference. This one is a no-brainer. A surprisingly easy subregion for a mid-major nets the Lobos a trip to the Sweet 16.

The trendy pick in this 7-10 matchup is Missouri. Their frantic, full-pressure defense is hard on teams that haven’t yet seen it. The Tigers led the nation in steals and force over 20 turnovers per game. But there just isn’t any size and the go through long stretches of cold shooting, especially from the perimeter. Clemson forces a lot of turnovers, also, but they are less effective in their halfcourt offensive sets (any team that is plays deliberately, uses the shot clock and takes care of the ball could frustrate them). That said, Clemson plays with a certain nastiness inside that matters at tourney time and can make up for cold offensive stretches. This has the possibility of being a very low-scoring game, but I’ll take Clemson.

Gawd I hate Bob Huggins, but man if he doesn’t have a team this year. How he convinced the best players from New York to come to Morgantown is beyond me. The team that had the toughest schedule in the country finished 27-6 and won the Big East for the first time ever. The Mountaineers aren’t a team; they are a force of nature. Not much they don’t do well but the one thing they do especially badly is shoot free throws and that matters. I like what Todd Bozeman has done at Morgan State, turning that team into a consistent league winner and getting them to score in bunches, but this game is a no-brainer. West Virginia beats up Morgan State, bangs it out against Clemson to reach the Sweet 16, and then easily dispatches New Mexico to set up a showdown with Kentucky in the regional final.

– DaveyDoug

Welcome to Bracketville 2010: West Region

West Region

This is arguably the best regular season Syracuse side ever, these guys score are among the best in the nation in scoring (81+ ppg) and shooting (52%), and they hold opponents to 40% shooting. Problem is this is not a particularly deep side, foul shooting is an issue, and they don’t crash the boards especially well. So the things you need to do at tourney time they don’t do, and that is going to matter in a not-so-easy region. Hard to argue with their seeding, but no team has ever won an NCAA Tournament after having been eliminated from their conference tournament in the quarters. Vermont’s last visit to the tournament they won their first-round game against – wait for it – SYRACUSE. Plus, they know how to win on the road. As much as I would like to see an upset, Vermont isn’t that lucky this time. But when the shooting goes out – and mark my words, it will – better rebounding teams like Pittsburgh, Kansas State, Xavier, Brigham Young, and Florida State are likely to be waiting.

Don’t be fooled by the seedings: Gonzaga and Florida State is not the matchup you think it is. Kudos to Mark Few for building an Top 20 program in Spokane, but this team has not been able to get out of the Sweet 16 since 1998 and I’m tired of waiting on them to do so. One of the best shooting teams in the nation at 50% but very susceptible to physical, inside play, Few has good athletes but no elite ones. Florida State has an inside presence that can carry them far, which explains why they never rely on 3-point shooting. Plus, the starters all average more than 10 ppg, so if one goes cold there’s somebody else to step up. Add to that Few’s bitching and moaning about having to go to Buffalo to play a subregional and you have the makings of a Seminole uprising.

UPSET SPECIAL #2: One of the harder subregions to call, because Butler is hot right now, winning 20 in a row. The Bulldogs average 46% shooting and does mostly everything well, but they can’t shoot treys (34%), so they might want to keep in basic if they want to go far. UTEP is probably the wrong kind of opponent for Butler in the first round, just the kind of turnover-inducing, defense-intensive team (39% opposition shooting, 32% opposition 3-pointers) Butler loses to early. Judging by the number of NBA scouts that have been attending Butler games this year there may be some NBA talent in Indianapolis, but outside of last year there usually is a 5-12 upset or two in every NCAA Tournament. I’m betting this is one of them.

Vanderbilt doesn’t do anything especially well, they just do everything consistently, plus they don’t beat themselves. They do shoot 48% from the field and 73% from the charity stripe, so they don’t take bad shots and they perform the simplest tasks. 30-4 Murray State does way, way, way too many things really well. There isn’t a deeper, more balanced team in the field. The Racers (I love that nickname) are third in the country in shooting (50%), one of the best in the country in crashing the boards (plus-6), and they bring the defensive heat (11 steals). Problem is, Murray State had one of the weakest schedules in the NCAA. Let’s not kid ourselves, even at 30-4 if they hadn’t won their conference tournament the Racers would have gotten nowhere near the NCAA’s. Murray State’s last tournament win was in 1988; don’t count on this one being their next.

Anybody who knows me knows I’m never sold on Xavier. Not the world’s toughest schedule but they do score points (80 ppg) and hold teams to below 30% from 3-point range. Despite their run in the Big Ten tournament the only thing remarkable about Minnesota’s run to the tourney were their personal losses. Sure they beat Purdue but the Boilermakers have had injury crises down the stretch. Not the world’s best matchup but look for the Musketeers to at least win this one…

…Because Pittsburgh is nobody’s bitch. Sure they lost a ton of talent from the team that went to the Elite 8 last year but Jamie Dixon knows how to find tough, physical and athletic grinders who will also create opportunities on the offensive end. The Panthers don’t do anything especially well but they are a young team that isn’t afraid to take people on. It isn’t pretty but it is very effective. Oakland of Michigan turns the ball over way too much, panic when they fall behind, and are pathetic shooters from outside. Given their strength of schedule – or lack thereof – a 14-seed is being kind. Pittsburgh in a walk to the Sweet 16. They aren’t back yet, but the Panthers will be sometime in the next year or two.

Gawd I hate Billy Donovan! Exactly who the hell did he fuck to even get into the tournament and get gifted a 10-seed? Florida shouldn’t be anywhere near this tournament. Brigham Young – the best team in the country in scoring margin (19) and free throw percentage (79%), and third in scoring (84) — is going to wipe up the floor with the Gators. Quite frankly, I would ordinarily take BYU to go to the Sweet 16…

…If Kansas State wasn’t going to be waiting for them in the Round of 32. Not the world’s most talented squad but these guys play with a ferocity that I just love. Even against the best teams in the country the Wildcats may not have won but they sure kept it close and made their opponents realize they were in a street fight. Two things that kill them, though; they get turnover-prone, and they are horrid at the free throw line – and those are two things that can kill you. Not much to impress you about North Texas State, but they are scrappy and they find ways to win close games. Just like any underdog they stress ball security and three-point shooting. One of the more interesting 2-15 matchups this year, K-State is going to have to bury them early; you don’t want to let a team this scrappy hang around. That said, the K-State/BYU matchup in the second round will be entertaining as hell. Take K-State to get to the Sweet 16.

– DaveyDoug

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