Road to the Final Four: Analyzing the Midwest Bracket's First Round

Jameson FlemingSenior Writer IMarch 18, 2009

Dayton, Ohio

(1) Louisville vs. (16) Morehead State

Why the Cardinals will win: These two teams met already this season and Louisville won the first matchup by almost 40 points. The Cardinals are the hottest team in the nation, winning the regular season title and the country's toughest conference tournament, the Big East Championship.

Why the Eagles will win: Morehead State has four players that average double-digit points, which could give Louisville problems trying to stop all of them. That's really the only logical reason the Eagles could win this game.

Who will win: Louisville. Obviously. The Cardinals' second-stringers could beat the Eagles with the kind of pressure they can crank up.


(8) Ohio State vs. (9) Siena

Why the Buckeyes will win: Ohio State is playing some of its best basketball of the season after reaching the Big Ten Championship game, knocking off Wisconsin and Michigan State along the way.

The Buckeyes aren't going to push the ball up and down the court, but with the half-court offense, Thad Matta's club is deadly. Ohio State ranks 26th in the country in offensive efficiency. That's going to allow the Buckeyes to score at will against Siena's porous defense.

Ohio State also won't be afraid to fall into Siena's up-tempo style. Some of the Buckeyes' most efficient offensive games came in their fastest paced games this year.

Thad Matta has three solid scorers in Evan Turner—who quickly has become one of the best players in the conference—Jon Diebler, and William Buford.

The majority of the games the Buckeyes lost this year were against stout defensive teams, not in games against great offensive teams. That's exactly what Siena is—a bad defensive team, but a great offensive team. Siena provides for a great matchup for Ohio State.

Why the Saints will win: Siena has incredible scoring depth, with six different players tallying at least eight points per game, including three scoring more than 13 per contest. Ohio State isn't a very good defensive team also. The Buckeyes' zone defense hasn't progressed enough to prevent teams from getting wide open three-pointers.

Teams shoot 35.2 percent from three against Ohio State and score over 40 percent over their points from beyond the arc—two extremely high ratios. Siena isn't about to light it up from long range, but Siena does have a few strong shooters that could knock down an extra long bomb or two if they get the open looks.

Siena will try to get to the hoops as often as possible and get easy baskets in transition. They are one of the most productive teams from two-point range. If the Saints find holes in the zone, they've got the kind of players that can drop mid-range jumpers.

Ohio State has had success in its most up-tempo games, but if Siena runs as much as they can, Ohio State will be forced to play the fastest it has all year. This could take the Buckeyes out of their comfort zone.

Who will win: Ohio State. Siena couldn't beat anyone of note during its tough non-conference schedule. The Saints feasted on less athletic, less talented teams in the MAAC. If the Buckeyes keep this game from turning into a track meet, they will dominate Siena in a halfcourt game.


Miami, Florida

(5) Utah vs. (12) Arizona

Why the Utes will win: Get to know Luke Nevil. It's 7'2'', Australian, and should be known as Andrew Bogut Jr. Despite the fact that Utah doesn't like to run up and down the court, the Utes still boast four players in double-digits. Utah will not have trouble scoring against Arizona's matchup zone. The Utes are a very talented team in the paint and beyond the arc.

'Zona's defense has statistically been awful despite the problems a zone can create.

What will win this game for Utah more than its offense will be suffocating Arizona in the halfcourt. Arizona hasn't seen too many teams that are as good defensively as Utah. The Utes are the best defensive rebounding team in the country and will clog the paint, forcing teams into becoming jump-shooting teams.

Arizona also only plays six players, which can cause issues of wear and tear.

Why the Wildcats will win: Becoming a jump-shooting team is what 'Zona can do best. The 'Cats get a high percentage of their points from three-point range to begin with, so if Utah gives them that shot, it could be a long night for the Utes.

Arizona has multiple players that can absolutely go off from long range, so Lute Olson's former team won't have any qualms with launching long bombs.

Arizona shouldn't be too worried about its depth because even though they only play six players, the 'Cats play a zone defense that allows them to conserve energy. This is also an Arizona team that isn't going to push the tempo like many of the great Wildcat teams of the past.

Arizona's matchup zone can also cause problems if Utah doesn't adjust to the ever-changing gaps of the zone. Finding those gaps is key to developing an offensive rhythm. The zone has caused a few teams to have some of their worst offensive games of the season.

Arizona has three outstanding scorers in Chase Budinger, Nic Wise, and Jordan Hill. All three score at least 15 points per game.

Who will win: It's very, very tempting to pick this upset because of the incredible talent of Budinger, Wise, and Hill. But Arizona has too often than naught been absolutely awful defensively. The odds are Arizona is bad defensively again and Utah wins the game.


(4) Wake Forest vs. (13) Cleveland State

Why the Demon Deacons will win: Wake Forest has three future NBA stars in Al-Farouq Aminu, Jeff Teague, and James Johnson. Typically, teams with the most future NBA talent do the best in the NCAA Tournament. Teague is one of the best scoring floor generals in the country. He's shown a penchant for scoring 30 plus points on any given night.

Johnson is a good rebounder with a great scoring touch as well. When the Wake Forest inside-outside combo gets going, the Deacons are almost impossible to beat.

Wake Forest has had no trouble this year forcing teams to speed up the tempo play to the Deacons' liking. Cleveland State will try to make it a halfcourt game, but that won't hold up when Wake tries to score every possession within the first 10 seconds of the shot clock.

Why the Vikings will win: Cleveland State is one of few mid-majors that are as long and athletic as major-conference programs. They are a very scrappy bunch that can slow down even the most explosive offensive teams. The Vikings slowed the Syracuse attack to a halt and made scoring impossible for West Virginia.

They might not be able to slow things down much, but there's a good chance the Vikings will be able to force Wake Forest to grind things out during enough possessions to prevent the pace of the game from getting completely out of hand.

Wake Forest has struggled holding onto the ball, while Cleveland State is extremely strong at forcing turnovers. CSU must make WF get careless if it wants to have a chance.

Who will win: Wake Forest. The Demon Deacons may be a young team, but few teams with this much NBA talent lose this early in the NCAA Tournament. Wake Forest was too good for too long this year to lose to a Cleveland State that can't score.


Minneapolis, Minnesota

(6) West Virginia vs. (11) Dayton

Why the Mountaineers will win: Ken Pomeroy's efficiency rankings love the Mountaineers. Despite 11 losses, Pomeroy's model ranks them in the top 10 in the country. West Virginia is a productive, versatile offensive team, and an in-your-face defensive team.

The Mountaineers will rebound as well as anybody in the country, making scoring even more difficult for opponents. Dayton is terrible offensively, which against West Virginia's size and skill will be magnified.

West Virginia can score in many different ways. Alex Ruoff, Da'Sean Butler, and Truck Bryant can all hit a three-pointer. But when the long balls aren't falling, West Virginia can really score in the paint. Butler and Devin Ebanks are some of the most talented mid-range players in the Big East. Freshman Kevin Jones is also starting to come around offensively.

If all of the Mountaineers' shots aren't falling, they can always fall back on getting second chance points as the sixth best offensive rebounding team in the country.

It's questionable whether Dayton even deserves to be in the NCAA Tournament. This team isn't very good offensively and its defense is pretty good, but not outstanding. Those same Pomeroy rankings place Dayton 83rd, the worst at-large team to make the tournament.

Why the Flyers will win: Chris Wright is a high flier that can excite the crowd with rim-rattling dunks as well as just score on a consistent basis. Dayton may not score much, but the Flyers have a few players capable of getting hot enough to put just enough points on the board.

Dayton's defense can be devastating, holding opponents to a low shooting percentage and frequently turning them over. The Flyer's defense is the only reason why they made it out of the Atlantic-10 and into the tournament.

Who will win: West Virginia. This one shouldn't really be close, as the Mountaineers are a sleeper team to make it to the Elite Eight. The Mountaineers will control both ends of the floor. Dayton won't be able to score and won't keep Bob Huggins' team off the scoreboard.


(3) Kansas vs. (14) North Dakota State

Why the Jayhawks will win: Kansas has turned into a great team in the Big XII play after a slow start. The Jayhawks have a great young center in Cole Aldrich, who never misses if he gets the ball five feet or closer to the basket.

Kansas also boasts one of the best point guards in the entire country, Sherron Collins. The junior is a great free throw shooter and connects on more than two three-pointers per game. Collins is one of the best in the Big XII at getting to the free-throw line, allowing Bill Self's team to get a few extra easy points per contest.

The Jayhawks are also great defensively. Few teams can score consistently against them inside the arc and in the paint. Cole Aldrich is a solid rebounder and defensive presence that makes life a living hell for teams that want to attack the basket.

Why the Bison will win: North Dakota State is one of the best stories of the season. This team is loaded with fifth-year seniors and great shooters. Usually, hot shooting mid-majors struggle against power house major-conference teams because the mid-major lacks size.

But NDST has the height to be able to compete with Kansas. Only point guard Ben Woodside lacks height (5'11''), but Woodside is a fearless offensive shooter. He can take the ball to the basket with ease and gets to the line frequently. He could give Sherron Collins, who isn't the greatest defender, fits.

North Dakota State also has five players that are incredible efficient offensively. Kansas can't focus on just stopping one or two, or else the Bison will burn them elsewhere. They can score from the inside or outside. NDST is a senior-laden team compared to a Kansas team that's full of freshmen and sophomores.

Who will win: North Dakota State. About every other year a 14 seed gives a three seed a run for its money or even shocks them. This is the perfect opportunity for it to happen against. NDSU will use its great duo of Ben Woodside and Brett Winkelman to knock off the Big XII regular season champs.


(2) Michigan State vs. (15) Robert Morris

Why the Spartans will win: Michigan State is one the best defensive teams and rebounding teams in the country. Repeatedly, the Spartans stopped great defensive teams by out-rebounding them. Against a smaller Robert Morris squad, Michigan State is absolutely going to clean the glass. Plus, MSU is much more talented, winners of the Big Ten regular season didn't even come close to a let down game against any lesser team.

Why the Colonials will win: There really isn't a why you can justify this upset. Robert Morris got handled in every game it played against tournament competition and has multiple losses against RPI 200 or worse teams.

Who will win: Michigan State. The Spartans will use this game as a tuneup.


(7) Boston College vs. Southern California

Why the Eagles will win: The Eagles are an extremely talented offensive squad with multiple players with high efficiency ratings. Tyrese Rice is a very strong scorer, but also a reliable distributor of the ball. He's got the capability of absolutely taking a game over and leading the Eagles to victory.

Boston College crashes the glass better than almost every team in the country, which makes up for the fact that they are an average shooting team.

With wins against Duke and North Carolina this year, BC has shown it can beat anybody.

Why the Trojans will win: Southern California is one of the hottest teams in country, winning five consecutive games, including becoming the lowest seed to ever win the Pac-10 Tournament. USC is finally healthy and playing nasty defense. UCLA, the third most efficient offense in the country, had its worst game of the season against the Trojan defense, scoring less than a point per possession for only the second time this year.

Coach Tim Floyd uses "junk" defense to get physical with opponents and force them into tough shots. They won't turn a team over much, but opponents typically struggle to hit shots and don't grab offensive rebounds against the Trojans.

Freshman DeMar DeRozan is finally starting to figure out his role in the Trojan offense after struggling to fill the shoes of another star freshman, O.J. Mayo.

Boston College is terribly overseeded. The Eagles deserved a nine or 10 seed, which makes this game a virtual toss up.

Who will win: Southern California. The Trojans are too hot right and should be able to handle Boston College easily. They've got the guards to shut down Tyrese Rice, but also enough scorers with standout Taj Gibson dominating the post. The Trojans are finally living up to the preseason hype that had this team in the top 25. They could give Michigan State a real challenge in the second round.


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