With this year's field of teams set for the 2010 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament, I took the chance to break down the regional bracket of my own favorite team, the West Virginia Mountaineers.
Probably the second or third strongest region out of the four, the East regional field of sixteen seems to benefit both the Mountaineers and Kentucky Wildcats.
Let's take a look at how it might pan out.
#1 Kentucky vs #16 East Tennessee State
Coming off a 32-2 season, John Wall and the Wildcats are poised to make a big run in the tournament this year.
That run will begin with a win over the Buccaneers of East Tennessee.
Prediction: Kentucky 78, East Tennessee 47
#2 West Virginia vs #15 Morgan State
The Mountaineers will start out the tournament against the MEAC's Morgan State, which should end up an easy win for the Big East Champions.
Morgan State is 0-1 against Top 25 opponents and played Louisville this year only to lose by nine points.
Prediction: West Virginia 74, Morgan State 61
#3 New Mexico vs #14 Montana
The 8th ranked (AP) Lobos of New Mexico will take on the Montana Grizzlies in the first round of play.
UNM's Darington Hobson in scoring (16.2 per game), rebounding (9.2), and assists (4.6). This should be a fairly easy win for the Lobos.
Prediction: New Mexico 69, Montana 57
#4 Wisconsin vs #13 Wofford
Coming off a 13-game win streak, Wofford is looking to make some noise in the NCAA tournament when they arrive to play Wisconsin.
But things look grim.
Last time they played a Big Ten opponent, it was at Michigan State where they lost by 13. With little scoring behind Noah Dahlman's 16.8 points per game, I can see Wisconsin taking this rather handily.
Prediction: Wisconsin 64, Wofford 48
#5 Temple vs #12 Cornell
I have friends that go to Temple, and I believe they may be celebrating at the end of this game (plus they beat Villanova this year). Both teams play terrific defense, but Temple lacks star power as well as aggressiveness. Should be interesting since Cornell is the best three-point shooting team in the country.
Prediction: Temple 61, Cornell 56
#6 Marquette vs #11 Washington
This one is certainly closer than it looks.
Marquette is an efficient scoring team, (see: Lazar Hayward and Darius Johnson-Odom), but they lack depth and they're small.
Washington on the other hand has Quincy Pondexter and Isaiah Thomas who can put up points but sometimes turnover the ball.
My gut tells me the slight edge is toward Marquette, although this one could be a toss-up.
Prediction: Marquette 68, Washington 65
#7 Clemson vs #10 Missouri
Here are two teams I don't know a huge amount about. Missouri sophomores: Laurence Bowers, Marcus Denmon, and Kim English will have to continue playing great ball in order to keep this gravy-train rollin', and I believe they can.
I'll mark this down as my first, if not slight, upset.
Prediction: Missouri 65, Clemson 60
#8 Texas vs #9 Wake Forest
Texas started out the year sharp, things were just working out for them (rankedNo. 1 on Jan. 17), but finishing in 5th place in the Big 12 was not what they had in mind.
Turnovers hurt the team and they need to get things together.
I think playing the up-and-down Wake Forest in the first round could be a gift to Texas.
Who know's who will show up?
Last season, Wake Forest was blown out as a #4 seed.
Prediction: Texas 74, Wake Forest 65
#1 Kentucky vs #8 Texas
Athleticism, speed, and just all around better play by the Wildcats should give Kentucky a big advantage.
Of course, anything could happen to such a young team, but I advance the young Wildcats.
Look for a fast-paced game and some mistakes by Texas.
Prediction: Kentucky 77, Texas 71
#2 West Virginia vs #10 Missouri
This could be a great game.
The Mountaineers will likely still be riding high but will need to score in the paint in order to pull this one out, unfortunately they lack any real big players (Ebanks listed at 6'9").
Bob Huggins knows how to coach in tournaments, and this is probably West Virginia's best chance at a championship.
The Mountaineers can handle this team as long as they can get scoring.
Prediction: West Virginia 66, Missouri 59
#3 New Mexico vs #6 Marquette
New Mexico has a hot scorer in Darington Hobson, and they will need him.
Going up against Lazar Hayward's Marquette team is no easy task.
This Marquette team is very good at controlling the ball over and scoring on every possession.
Marquette could certainly pull this one off, but with a lack in depth, I will give the slight edge to New Mexico.
Prediction: New Mexico 66, Marquette 60
#4 Wisconsin vs #5 Temple
Temple's run will end in the second-round.
They simply don't have the guns to match-up with a Wisconsin team who many took as a Dark Horse favorite to get into the Final Four.
Prediction: Wisconsin 74, Temple 66
#1 Kentucky vs #4 Wisconsin
Some critics believe Kentucky could be ousted in an earlier round because of their lack of experience.
They also said half-way through the year Kentucky would start to fall.
The Wildcats have really shown them up.
Not only have they recorded a 32-2 record, they won the SEC Tournament Championship in overtime against Mississippi State (75-74).
Trevon Hughes will have to keep the Badgers in sync like he did in their last game, the Big Ten Tournament semi-finals in a loss against Illinois.
If they go down early, they won't stand a chance.
Prediction: Kentucky 64, Wisconsin 59
#2 West Virginia vs #3 New Mexico
This should be pretty interesting.
If New Mexico were to win this game, in most cases, it would be considered an upset.
The Lobos come out of a conference of nine, five teams of which have less then .500 records. Still, ranked 10th in the AP poll, New Mexico has a good shot.
They better figure out a way to play against the Huggins 1-3-1 defense though, if they don't they could be in for a rude awakening.
West Virginia has made tournament runs in the past, with much less depth in their roster. If there's any chance of this team reaching the Elite Eight, it's now.
Prediction: West Virginia 67, New Mexico 63
Elite Eight - East Regional Final
#1 Kentucky vs #2 West Virginia
For all the marbles...or well, some of them.
The winner of this game will head to the Final Four and a chance at the Championship game.
Who has the better chance?
It's hard to tell.
Realistically, Kentucky holds the advantage.
With DeMarcus Cousins at 6'11", he has a few inches on any of the Mountaineer players, not to mention he's an elite re-bounder (10.2 rpg).
All the Huggin's 1-3-1 in the world can't help you if you can't keep Kentucky out of the paint.
Unless the Wildcats are tired out by this stage of the tournament, which I doubt, they will take the win and advance to the Final Four.
Prediction: Kentucky 75, West Virginia 71
Kentucky Wildcats Eastern Regional Winners.
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