North Carolina has the easiest road to the Final Four.
The Midwest bracket is the bracket of names. Every year one bracket has a gravitational pull toward the legendary names. With North Carolina, Kansas, Georgetown, the return of Michigan, Temple, Purdue and even NC State there’s reason to believe anything can happen.
North Carolina fans for the second time in recent memory are hinging on injury reports, with power forward John Henson’s wrist. Henson contributes 14 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks a game, as well as an intimidating presence that changes any thought opponents have about entering the lane. He is key and it’ll be a story you’re going to get sick of throughout the tournament.
Round of 64
No. 1 North Carolina over No. 16 Lamar/Vermont
Carolina cruise control.
No. 8 Creighton over No. 9 Alabama
Creighton is one of the best scoring teams in the nation, racking up 79 points a game on 51 percent shooting. They have one of the best players in the nation in Doug McDermott who brings 23 points and eight rebounds on 61 percent shooting while also converting half of the threes he takes. Nobody wants to deal with that.
Alabama plays good defense and can match up with McDermott, but should struggle to score with the Blue Jays.
No. 5 Temple over No. 12 California/USF
Temple has a trio of guards that pretty much handle everything in Juan Fernendez, Ramone Moore and Khalif Wyatt. All three are good man-to-man defenders and should lead Temple passed the winner of the play-in game.
No. 4 Michigan over No. 13 Ohio
Ohio was not a favorable draw for the Michigan Wolverines because of their ability to defend the perimeter and hit the offensive glass. The Bobcats don’t shoot well, but have a guard in D.J. Cooper that will hang all over freshman Wolverine guard Trey Burke like a cheap suit.
Overall, Michigan has too many big game players, depth and pride to let this upset happen. You have to be able to shoot well to beat their 1-3-1 zone, which actually looks quite tenacious at times considering the lack of true athletes.
The Bobcats will be a pesky opponent, but ultimately Michigan will be able to pull away with playmakers like Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr.
No. 11 North Carolina State over No. 6 San Diego State
The Aztecs of San Diego State lost four starters from last year’s team that brought coach Steve Fisher back to prominence. They like to get easy buckets in transition and are a very poor perimeter team outside of their only returning starter Chase Tapley.
The Wolfpack also are not a perimeter team other than the streaky Scott Wood — the team's anchor. If Wood is off, the house goes up in flames, simple as that.
NC State should be able to frustrate the Aztecs with their size, physicality and unselfishness. If they can get a couple of treys from Scott Wood, they should be able to upset the Aztecs.
No. 3 Georgetown over No. 14 Belmont
I don’t see how Belmont begins to deal with G’towns size and length. The Hoyas start four players over 6’8, but despite their size and athleticism, they still manage to not win games. Their offense tends to look confused and discombobulated, but when the game gets late you can count on PG Jason Clark to make something happen.
Belmont lives and dies by the three. They’re going to have looks, but I just cannot believe Georgetown will continue to underachieve. John Thompson III will have his squad ready and they will use their size to smother both of Belmont’s shooters.
No. 7 St. Mary’s over No. 10 Purdue
Every time I watch Purdue they look pitiful. I don’t like their body language. It was nice to see Robbie Hummel return from two serious knee injuries to bring Purdue back to March Madness and you know he’ll be focused and ready, but the rest of the team is suspect. It just does not seem like there’s much in the cupboard. Barring a heroic effort from Hummel, the Boilermakers will be watching the St. Marys-Kansas game.
No. 2 Kansas over No. 15 Detroit
Of all the power games, Detroit probably has the best chance of pulling an upset. They have some players with size and should not totally get bowled over. Kansas has been vulnerable to the upset over the years. This would be the biggest, but not impossible.
Which #1 seed do you believe had the easiest road to the Final Four?
Round of 32
No. 1 North Carolina over No. 8 Creighton
As efficient as Creighton is on offense, North Carolina is better. They also play better defense. Creighton’s precision snipers give them a punchers chance, but Carolina should be able to have their way with the Bluejays.
No. 4 Michigan over No. 5 Temple
This was the biggest flip-flop game of the bracket for me. I must have crossed out back and forth five times before settling with Michigan. It’s really a coin flip as far as talent goes. Both teams will rely on guards and perimeter shooting.
Slight advantage for Michigan goes to the coaching of John Beilein. He really has Michigan believing in his program.
Or I could just flip the coin again.
No. 11 North Carolina State over No. 3 Georgetown
Equal time rule for this slot. I have had all four teams, with Belmont and SDSU in this spot. It was tough to decide which one to ride out of those four, into the Sweet 16. If Georgetown gets past Belmont, NC State can matchup with their size and cash in on their erratic nature.
Georgetown has the ability to bury NC State, but the evidence points to an ugly game, with a little extra hustle and decision-making favoring the motivated Wolfpack. There’s always one Sweet 16 team that more or less is argued not to be tournament worthy. NC State is as good as anyone for that slot.
No. 2 Kansas over No. 7 St. Mary’s
St. Mary’s and star PG Matthew Dellavedova surprising can match up man-to-man with the size of Kansas. They might even be deeper, but once Tyshawn Taylor hits that other gear in the open floor, the Jayhawks should pull away.
With double-digit losses to Baylor and Murray State, one has to believe Kansas will have similar success.
No. 1 North Carolina over No. 4 Michigan
Fitting that Michigan’s return to national prominence would feature a game against North Carolina.
Michigan has absolutely no answer for Harrison Barnes or Tyler Zeller. None. The athletes at those positions are not even comparable. John Henson can rest for a couple weeks. Wolverine Nation will bark about being one shot away from Duke last year, but this is a different story. It’s a matter of size. If you don’t believe me watch their Big Ten tournament game against Ohio State.
No. 2 Kansas over No. 11 NC State
This Kansas team does not exude the softness of the Morris brothers teams. Thomas Robinson and Jeff Withey are stingy about allowing inside scoring. My question about Thomas Robinson’s remarkable season is: Where has he been? This guy has been on the bench for two years? Was he in the Morris brothers shadow and nobody noticed he is a 18-12 guy? I have a hard time he improved from a guy that gets 14 minutes a game, into a POY candidate. Seems semi-troubling to me.
Either way, this should be a solid game. If Tyshawn Taylor can push the ball and get some easy baskets and set up Conner Teahan (3-hand!?) and Releford for some perimeter looks, they should be okay.
Fact is, I’m just not impressed with this Kansas team. Sure, they have the 1-2 punch of Taylor and Robinson, but there just does not seem to be much else. No depth? Where are these big name recruits? The cupboard seems a bit dry for Self. Luckily, it looks like they have the easiest draw imaginable. I think Detroit, St. Mary’s and NC State will have looks at them—the stalwart’s will teeter a bunch, but not spill over.
No. 1 North Carolina over No. 2 Kansas
Can Travis Releford, defensive wing for Kansas check Harrison Barnes? That’s the big question along with the clash on the inside. Kansas’ ability to defend the post with Withey and Robinson could frustrate Zeller, Barnes and Henson. Finally a game that takes place in the paint. Kendall Marshall is just so much more efficient than Tyshawn Taylor. Marshall almost averages 10 assists a game with a turnover/assist ratio of 3.5.
I also like the ability of Zeller to get out in transition and outrun Withey and Robinson, who in comparison are operating on flypaper.
Coming into the season I thought North Carolina was almost the perfectly constructed team and would cruise to an easy title. It has not been easy, and losing their best defensive guard in Strickland did not help them. Three of their four losses were by a bucket and two of them were at the absolute buzzer.
They won’t be an easy out, even without much use of Henson. I believe the Midwest to be the junk drawer bracket. Even though there are a bunch of big name programs, most seem to be more light than heat.
If you liked this, my other breakdowns are much better. This region just made me angry and it was the last one I did in the midst of winding down from a sleepless Mountain Dew high. Nonetheless, I have pick by pick analysis of the South, West and East brackets on my blog. Here: http://ryanczerfas.blogspot.com/2012/03/2012-ncaa-bracket-predictions-pick-by.html