NCAA Bracket 2011 Predictions: Breaking Down the East Region
The East Region is an absolute beast of a bracket, no doubt about it.
For the second year in a row it appears that the overall No. 1 seed gets a difficulty draw as the east bracket contains too many brand name teams to count.
Anchored by No. 1 Ohio State, and No. 2 North Carolina, this side of the bracket also contains Kentucky, the SEC Champion seeded as a No. 4 and Syracuse as a No. 3. Yikes.
It should be an interesting three weeks. Here is a look at each team in the East and how they might fare.
No. 1 Ohio State
Conference: Big Ten
Key Players: David Lighty, Jared Sullinger
Predictions: If any team was built for March it is Ohio State. The only thing they really don't have is depth but that hasn't hurt great teams in the past such as the 2001 Duke team that only played seven players.
The Buckeyes have the right combination of inside and outside threats and a combination of youth and experience that makes them the clear favorites to cut the nets down in Houston. And despite the difficulty of this side of the bracket they are as equipped as anyone to deal with it.
No. 2 North Carolina
Key Players: Tyler Zeller, Harrison Barnes, Kendall Marshall
Prediction: The Tar Heels were riding as high as anyone in the country until they hit a Duke team on a mission in the ACC Tourney Final.
Now the Heels must regroup and learn some lessons from their habitual slow starts in the ACC Tournament and make some adjustments.
There is a lot of talent on this team capable of making a run, but given the youth and lack of NCAA Tournament experiences they may still be a year away.
No. 3 Syracuse
Conference Big East
Key Players: Kris Joseph, Rick Jackson
Predictions: Syracuse has the chance to make some noise from the No. 3 slot in the loaded east. It could have an eventual showdown with North Carolina and could and probably should win that game unless the Tar Heels start hitting some shots.
The zone defense employed by the Orange isn't seen by many teams outside the Big East so if they play it effectively who knows how far it could take them.
No. 4 Kentucky
Key Players; Brandon Knight, Terrence Jones
Prediction: The Wildcats are once again led primarily by freshman this season and unlike last season's team this one at times has looked like it.
Still there is plenty of talent in Lexington to make some noise. It would have been much easier for them had the selection committee ranked the SEC Champs higher than a four seed and the team they beat twice in the last week a two seed.
No. 5 West Virgina
Conference: Big East
Key Players: Casey Mitchell, Kevin Jones
Prediction: It has been an up and down year for one of last year's Final Four teams. They've had to deal with the departures of key players but the Mountaineers are dancing again.
For how long though remains to be seen. Many are even projecting a first round knock out by the winner of the 12/12 play in game between Clemson and USC.
No. 6 Xavier
Conference: Atlantic 10
Key Players: Tu Holloway, Mark Lyons
Prediction: Xavier has been a steady team in 2011 with some wins over tournament teams. Still being in the east is no picnic and the Musketeers have their work cut out for them.
Their second round opponent is a tough 11 seed in Marquette and that is far from a given. They can win it but they face an even tougher challenge if they win in a possible showdown with Syracuse.
No. 7 Washington
Conference: Pac 10
Key Players: Isaiah Thomas, Matthew Bryan-Amaning
Prediction: It shows you how far the Pac 10 has fallen when its conference champions is only a No. 7 seed.
Still the Huskies could make some noise if they play their cards right. They face a likely second round opponent in North Carolina that has made a habit of late to fall behind early. If that happens Washington is going to need to put them away or else they will go home earlier than they want.
No. 8 George Mason
Key Players: Cam Long, Ryan Pearson
Prediction: This isn't the same kind of team that made the improbable run to the Final Four a few years ago, but make no mistake the Patriots are for real.
Unfortunately for them they get a brutal draw that includes an opening round game against a struggling but still dangerous Villanova squad.
If as many predict they win they face a likely third round match up with Ohio State so the path doesn't get any clearer.
No. 9 Villanova
Conference: Big East
Key Players: Corey Fisher, Corey Stokes
Prediction: The Wildcats were suppose to be one of the elite teams in the Big East in 2011 but a late season nose dive has them scrambling for answers and having to face a much lower seed than would have been expected at the beginning of the season.
Still if the two Corey's can deliver a win against second round opponent George Mason and establish some confidence a win against top seed Ohio State isn't that unlikely.
Well maybe it is.
No. 10 Georgia
Key Players: Travis Leslie, Trey Thompkins
Predictions: While many are still scratching their heads as to how the Bulldogs were seeded this high, there is little doubt their stay could be a short one.
They face a tough second round match up with Washington and if they win that they get the unenviable task of playing an angry North Carolina who should still be fuming at how poorly they played in the ACC Championship game.
No. 11 Marquette
Conference Big East
Key Players: Jimmy Butler, Darius Johnson-Odom
Prediction: Buzz Williams has the Golden Eagles back in the tournament again with an interesting second round match up against Xavier.
If they pull off that win, which isn't impossible they will likely face a familiar foe in fellow Big East rival Syracuse whom Marquette beat in the two teams' only meeting.
No. 12 UAB/Clemson
Record: 22-8 (UAB) , 21-11 (Clemson)
Conference: CUSA (UAB), ACC (Clemson)
Key Players: Jamarr Sanders, Cameron Moore (UAB), Demontez Stitt, Jerai Grant (Clemson)
Prediction: In this higher seeded version of the play-in game two teams criticised for even getting the opportunity to square off.
Neither had terribly impressive resumes but both played some decent competition. Many are predicting a Clemson win and that is probably because the Tigers have played Duke and UNC tough.
UAB played Duke too but got ran off the court. Expect a rare Clemson victory in the tournament with a potential upset of West Virginia too if they get lucky.
No. 13 Princeton
Conference: Ivy League
Key Players: Kareem Maddox, Ian Hummer
Prediction: Princeton has already broke the heart of one of its fearcest rival and now the Ivy League Champs are looking to breaks some hearts at the Big Dance.
There is only one problem, they are smack dab in the middle of the most difficult bracket and they face one of college basketball's giants in Kentucky.
Princeton has slayed some giants before so nothing is impossible.
No. 14 Indiana State
Conference: Missouri Valley
Key Players: Dwayne Lathan, Car Richard
Prediction: This isn't the Larry Bird led Sycamores, but none-the-less they earned their way into the dance and are here to stay.
How long doesn't seem clear. Actually it probably won't be very long unless they can figure out Syracuse's zone defense in a hurry.
No. 15 Long Island
Key Players: Julian Boyd, Jamal Olasewere
Prediction: The Blackbirds have the task of taking on a North Carolina team that just got waxed by its bitter arch rival.
Long Island is a good story but most likely it will be a short one this year unless you believe in miracles.
No. 16 University of Texas San Antonio/ Alabama State
Record: 19-13 (UTSA) 17-17 (Alabama St.)
Conference: Southland (UTSA) SWAC (Alabama St.)
Key Players: Devin Gibson, Melvin Johnson, III (UTSA) Tramayne Morrer, Ramaine Butler (Alabama St)
Prediction: Not that it matters to anyone but these teams who wins their play-in game Wednesday night, but the winner gets Ohio State.
So unless you feel that this is the year the No. 16 seed beats a No. 1 seed then expect to see the winner of this game move over and take up the position of lamb for the Buckeyes.
Overall Bracket Prediction
In what can be described as an unbelievable bracket in difficulty, talent, and name recognition the top seeded Ohio State Buckeyes should still come out on top.
They have just the right mix to make a run and are certainly good enough to do it.
Expect a chalky Sweet 16 and Elite Eight as mostly the higher seeds should prevail given who they are.
In the end don't be surprised to see a Ohio State/ Syracuse Elite Eight unless UNC regains its pre-ACC Tournament form.
In the end Ohio State should come out on top.