Hold on a second…give me a chance to pop in some ear plugs as Dick Vitale waxes indignant about some selection snubs. Count down to mocking a Selection Committee member on the world wide leader is T minus 15 minutes. Great television in any event.
Here’s my early rants and reactions to generate page views. Sadly we at March to March aren’t big enough for public floggings of NCAA members to generate interest. Instead let’s just talk basketball.
I lied when I said we don’t flog the Tournament Committee here. What the hell do these folks have against Kansas? I’m calling Missouri styled conspiracy shenanigans here.
This region is by far the toughest of the four which is a horrible miscarriage of March Madness justice considering the Jayhawks are the consensus number one team in the country. The committee did the Jayhawks no favors by placing the best number 3 and the best number 2 seed in the same bracket. UNLV in the second round and a third round matchup vs. Maryland or Michigan State is no cake walk either.
When you have a bracket on steroids, the seedings should hold true to form with the heavy weights taking care of business down the line. Ohio State vs. Georgetown as a sweet sixteen game and then a potential Buckeye vs Jayhawk clash of titans in the elite eight should be epic and too soon as far as I’m concerned. These are final four caliber games.
This region is as bad as the Midwest is good. I can’t remember a weaker bracket especially if Arinze Onuaku isn’t 100 percent. Pitt is the weakest three seed while Kansas State hasn’t really beaten a big time program this season. Hell, I’d argue that KSU is the weakest two seed. Frankly, the Orangemen were treated like the number one overall seed.
In the other half of the bracket, watch for UTEP as the 12 seed and BYU as a 7 to make some noise. If the Orangemen are knocked out early, there are no less than six or seven teams in this region that have a chance to get to the final four.
Congratulations to Syracuse for getting Kansas’ bracket.
In terms of style of play, this region is top to bottom the least physical and most perimeter oriented in nature which gives the teams with solid inside presence a competitive advantage.
For that reason, I think Big 12 teams Baylor and Texas A&M can really make some hay if they can control tempo. The Aggies play defense well enough to accomplish tempo related goals and Baylor has the guard play to control pace.
The Aggies should beat a hapless Purdue squad something along the lines of 38 to 28, and then move on to face the Blue Devils if Coach K’s group catches the Dr. Jekyl version of Louisville. If the Devils play the Cardinal team that shows up for Syracuse, Duke could be in for a long second round matchup. Provided the Devils advance, a game against the Texas A&M Aggies should be an intriguing one because the Aggies guard really well and have an interior presence to punish Duke in the paint and on the glass.
At first glance, I like Baylor to make a run in the bottom half of the bracket. The 3 seeded Bears and their zone are a bad matchup for a Notre Dame club that tries to backcut teams to death to manufacture offense. If the Bears meet up with Villanova in the sweet sixteen, I’ll take Baylor because the Wildcats have no answer for Acy, Lomers, and especially Udoh inside. Baylor and their zone can beat Duke as well.
Kentucky has a cakewalk to the elite eight. Texas and Wake are too schizophrenic to pose any threat to the Wildcats in the second round. Texas doesn’t have the personnel to stay in front of one elite ballhandler much less two. Wall and Bledsoe should have their way with Texas if the Longhorns sneak past a weak Wake squad who doesn’t belong in the tournament anyway.
UK’s sweet sixteen matchup may very well be against the 12th seeded Cornell Big Red. Temple plays a slow down style that is right in Cornell’s wheelhouse. Ditto for Wisconsin, who happens to be the weakest 4 seed in my mind. Teams that don’t have terrific guard play and struggle to score are beatable every night in the tournament and the Badgers are no different. Cornell doesn’t have a problem scoring and manufacturing points in the halfcourt with superstar Ryann Wittman who can carry Cornell past teams that will want to play halfcourt to halfcourt games. Cornell’s seven footer Jeff Foote is a presence inside as well, making teams defend inside to out.
On the bottom side of the bracket, Marquette as the 6 seed can shoot their way past New Mexico on the way to the sweet sixteen.
Clemson vs. Missouri will test the “you should always press a pressing team” theory in an interesting first round battle of the fullcourt press.
Ultimately this is West Virginia’s side of the bracket to lose because they’re going guard, bump, and grind opponents into submission. Simply put the Mountaineers are the most physical, athletic squad in that side of the bracket.
In a possible round of sixteen game, a Marquette vs. West Virginia matchup is a horrible one for Marquette when you consider the Mountaineers put four long athletes on the floor, in Jones, Ebanks, Butler, and Smith to handle Marquette’s perimeter centric offense by either head up man to man or implementing some screen switching. All four of these guys are capable of competing defensivley in the post and on the perimeter.
On offense, the Mountaineers will simply play volleyball on the glass until they get the rock into the cup against the tiny Golden Eagle lineup.
This sets up the showdown between Kentucky and WVU which should be a battle of youth vs. experience. WVU will need to get something out of their guards in this game and Kentucky will have to be patient in the face of the smothering WVU defense that will switch its way into a mismatch if you move the ball. Good patience will allow Cousins to really get into the mix and punish the WVU interior. Who wins is anybody’s guess.
Those are my initial thoughts. I’ll have detailed analysis on the four regions in the next two days as well as final four and championship predictions.
The Madness has begun in earnest. Let’s have some fun.
Love to hear your thoughts.
This article originally appeared on March To March
Follow Kevin Berger on Twitter: @MarchToMarch