NCAA Bracket 2012 Predictions: West Region Guarantees to Take to the Bank
I don't know about you, but I believe the West region is the most exciting region in the entire tournament. While the South may feature bigger names, the West is loaded with upset potential. To me, that's what March Madness is all about.
Sure, it might be cool to see a Kentucky vs. Indiana rematch in the Sweet 16, but I'd rather be watching teams like Murray State, Long Beach State and Memphis make a run to the Final Four (which is definitely possible).
However, for those of you filling out brackets, the West region will the be the hardest to judge. There's a side of me that can see the "chalk" prevailing, but that's rarely the case. Regardless, I'm going to try to make some "guarantees" about this region.
Hang with me, because they might be radical.
Michigan State Will Be the First No. 1 Seed Ousted
After beating Ohio State last Sunday to solidify themselves as Big Ten champions, Michigan State earned the last No. 1 seed over such teams as Kansas, Duke and Missouri.
I'm not going to argue their seed. The Big Ten was a tough conference, Michigan State had the No. 1 strength of schedule and they've proven to be a solid contender. However, with that being said, they're still the weakest No. 1 seed and they will be the first No. 1 seed to fall.
North Carolina has a favorable path to the Elite Eight. Syracuse is the trendy pick to lose early now that Fab Melo is out, but they're still deep, talented and run a scary zone defense that most teams won't be completely ready for.
Kentucky is just really, really good. Many are predicting a third-round matchup against UConn to be a tough draw for the Wildcats, but why?
UConn is a "scary" team to see that early in the tournament, but Kentucky is Kentucky. They overmatch them at every position except shooting guard, and even then it's relatively close.
Michigan State, in my opinion, gets a tough opening matchup against LIU Brooklyn. While the Spartans should take care of business, LIU will have the ability to push the tempo and give Michigan State all they want from a second-round matchup.
Let's say Michigan State prevails and goes on to play the winner of Memphis and Saint Louis. Just for fun (and because it's what I'm predicting), let's say they play Memphis. That's a terrible third-round matchup for the Spartans.
Memphis is going to be a dangerous team. They match-up to Michigan State athletically and are likely the better defensive team. They're also coming into the tournament winners of 20 of their last 23 games.
On top of that, Memphis' backcourt duo of sophomores Will Barton and Joe Jackson might be better than Michigan State's Brandon Wood and Keith Appling.
I'm smelling an upset. Take that to the bank.
If There's a Cinderella Team, It's Coming from This Region
Remember when I said this region had the most upset potential? Of course you do, it was just two slides ago. Also, I literally just predicted that Michigan State, the West's No. 1 seed, would be beat in their second game.
If that doesn't scream upset potential, I don't know what does. However, does this mean that I think Memphis is going to run through the region? Not exactly.
While I do believe the Tigers will have a great shot at the Elite Eight if they beat the Spartans, there are still a few variables that will stand in there way.
Exhibit A: No. 12 Long Beach State, this bracket's most likely Cinderella story.
I absolutely love the 49ers; I have ever since the beginning of the season when they were busy playing all the powerhouses in their non-conference schedule. The 49ers beat Pitt at Pitt, Xavier and played both North Carolina and Kansas really tough.
After running through their conference tournament, the Big West champions are primed and ready to make a run to the Elite Eight.
The 49ers will have their hands full in their first-round matchup against New Mexico. The Lobos are also conference champions and they fully intend to make a run of their own. They're more than capable of doing so, and I'd like their chances if they were playing any other No. 12 seed.
Long Beach State senior guard Casper Ware is not going to let his team lose. The 49ers will beat New Mexico in a tight game, and then exact their revenge on Louisville. The Cardinals beat the 49ers rather easily early on this season.
Long Beach State has Cinderella written all over them, and they may just pull it off. They're at the very least, Sweet 16 bound.
Murray State Got Shafted and They'll Prove Their Worth
As the seedings were released for the tournament, I never really had a problem with any of them. That is, until Murray State's name popped up next to the West's No. 6 seed.
I understand the arguments: Murray State played in a weak conference, had a bad loss to Tennessee State, etc., etc. However, that bad loss to Tennessee State happened to be their only loss, and it was by four points.
They were four points away from going undefeated.
They also have good wins over Memphis, Southern Mississippi and Saint Mary's in their non-conference schedule. They also have one of the best point guards in the country in junior Isaiah Canaan. Seriously, if you haven't gotten a chance to see him play, now is your chance.
I thought a No. 4 seed might even be too high for the Racers, but I always kind of knew the committee wasn't going to award a No. 3 seed to a team with a strength of schedule that was ranked 158th in the country.
Regardless, what's done is done and Murray State has been shafted. While the No. 6 seed may be a bit of a slap in the face, the Racers did draw a favorable first-round opponent in Colorado State. Murray State will win this game by 10 points at least, as a statement to both the committee and their next-round foe.
That next-round foe is likely to be Marquette, and then things are going to get really interesting. Unlike most, I think Marquette is a bit overrated. However, they're still going to be the best team Murray State has seen this season.
Murray State will beat (yes, that's a guarantee) Marquette, but, unfortunately, I have to believe their tournament stops there. They would likely draw Missouri in the Sweet 16, and although the Racers match-up favorably with the Tigers, they would be overmatched.
Which leads me to my next slide...
This Is Missouri's Region to Lose
As the No. 2 seed in the West Region, Missouri has to like their chances to make a run to the Final Four.
After the Tigers run through Norfolk State in the second round, they'll either get Florida or Virginia in the third round. I can only hope that it's the Gators, but that has the potential to be a great first-round matchup.
But, for this article's sake, let's say Missouri is battling Florida in the round of 32. This would be a track meet, and I can't wait to see the results. While Florida is one of the fastest and best three-point shooting teams in the country, I can't help but think Missouri's defense and experience would be a huge factor.
On a side note, Florida is the No. 7 seed in this region. What is going on? Murray State as a No. 6, Florida as a No. 7? The committee did some weird things in this region, but it's going to make it that much more exciting.
Okay, back on track. If Missouri gets past Florida, I've already mentioned how I think they'll take down Murray State in the Sweet 16. That only leaves one team to beat on their way to the Final Four. If Michigan State somehow prevails and that's who they meet, then the Tigers could be in trouble.
Michigan State is the only team in this region that will pose as a threat to Missouri, and that's thanks to Draymond Green's play down low. However, I have Michigan State going out early, that leaves Memphis and Long Beach State (in my bracket, at least) as potential foes.
Game. Set. Match. Missouri. Final Four bound. TAKE IT TO THE BANK.
A Breakdown of the West Region Winners
- (1) Michigan State vs. (16) LIU = (1) Michigan State
- (8) Memphis vs. (9) Saint Louis = (8) Memphis
- (5) New Mexico vs. (12) Long Beach State = (12) Long Beach State
- (4) Louisville vs. (13) Davidson = (4) Louisville
- (6) Murray State vs. (11) Colorado State = (6) Murray State
- (3) Marquette vs. (14) BYU = (3) Marquette
- (7) Florida vs. (10) Virginia = (7) Florida
- (2) Missouri vs. (15) Norfolk State = (2) Missouri
- (1) Michigan State vs. (8) Memphis = (8) Memphis
- (12) Long Beach State vs. (4) Louisville = (12) Long Beach State
- (6) Murray State vs. (3) Marquette = (6) Murray State
- (7) Florida vs. (2) Missouri = (2) Missouri
- (8) Memphis vs. (12) Long Beach State = (12) Long Beach State
- (6) Murray State vs. (2) Missouri = (2) Missouri
- (12) Long Beach State vs. (2) Missouri = (2) Missouri
For your printable bracket for the 2012 NCAA tournament, click here