NCAA Bracket 2011 Predictions: 10 Teams That Will Likely Stumble Early
Probably the most difficult aspect of filling out the NCAA Tournament bracket is figuring out what top team will lose early, and then avoiding them to prevent the ripping up of one's bracket. It happens every year and every year it ruins many people's hopes of making some money.
Last year, it was Kansas and Villanova losing in the second round.
With few elite teams in college basketball this season, virtually every team has enough flaws to plausibly lose in the first weekend like the Jayhawks and Wildcats did last season.
Because of this, faith will be put into teams to go far that in most other years would not deserve it. I know, because one of the teams on this list I have going to the Final Four.
However, by avoiding some of these teams, not necessarily all, it could prevent you from letting your bracket survive for more than a few days.
In this list, I have included teams seeded six and above, because I view the 7-10 and 8-9 games as toss-ups. Those teams seeded six through four I feel can lose in the first round (yes it's still the first round despite what CBS thinks), while teams seeded higher I think can lose in the second round. Enjoy the Madness.
St. John's (6)
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No one will be seeing this guy in the tournament this year. D.J. Kennedy, the Storm's third leading scorer and leading rebounder, tore his ACL and is done for the year. Any time a team loses a major contributor, they become vulnerable, especially this late in the season.
There's also the fact that despite being incredibly experienced, St. John's has zero NCAA Tournament experience on their roster, which could influence their play.
Plus, their first opponent, Gonzaga, is a perennial threat to make a run and has the talent to go against many of the top teams in the country.
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Just look at those veins for a few seconds and try not to vomit...we good?
Playing no one except Xavier in the non-conference, Cincinnati started out strong, faded in the middle, then played well enough towards the end to warrant a pretty high seed.
The Bearcats' best player, Yancy Gates, is a force but has had problems staying aggressive on the floor. Outside of Gates, no player on the roster really scares opponents.
Going up against a sneaky good Missouri team that's experienced and has a ton of solid players, but no great ones (much like Cincinnati) makes the game a virtual toss-up.
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Having lost in the first round of their past two appearances in the NCAA (2008 and 2010) makes me fear for the Commodores despite having a solid team.
The big problem they could run into is if their outside shooting, specifically if John Jenkins goes cold. These guys average over 20 shots from the three-point line per game. Festus Ezili is an option on the block, but he won't be able to carry the team on offense for long stretches.
A cold shooting night from long range against an experienced Richmond team that's won 14 of their past 16 games will spell doom for Vandy.
Kansas State (5)
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Make no mistake, Jacob Pullen is one of the best guards in the country. He has the ability to single handedly win a game for the Wildcats.
However, can anyone name their second best player without looking it up? Some may point to Curtis Kelly, others Martavious Irving or Rodney McGruder.
For a big conference team that was a favorite to win the Big 12, that's surprising if there's no clear cut "Robin" to Pullen's "Batman".
What people did not predict was the massive hole that was left by Denis Clemente's graduation. Everyone knew it would leave a hole, no one imagined it would look more like a crater in that team.
One man shows typically don't do well in the NCAA tournament. Going up against a solid team like Utah State, which has been to the Dance the last two seasons, sounds like trouble for Kansas State—I can hear Frank Martin screaming already.
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Any time a team goes up against the best defensive player and rebounder in the country, they're in for a fight. That's what Louisville will have to deal with when they meet Kenneth Faried of Morehead State for the second time in the tournament (they played two years ago, with Morehead as a No. 16 seed).
Simply having played them before gives Morehead some idea of what to expect from Louisville. With Faried now a senior and better players around him (look out for Demonte Harper), the Eagles will come in to the game with the thought that they can win the game.
Louisville's pressure will probably get the best of Faried's fighters, but it won't be easy.
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In the last six years, despite having top notch talent and impressive resumes, the Texas Longhorns have made it out of the first weekend exactly twice.
For a team that's supposed to be one of the elite teams in the country, that track record in the NCAA's looks more like a middle of the road BCS school.
I don't blame the players. Kevin Durant, D.J. Augustin, A.J. Abrams, Damion James and Avery Bradley were all incredibly talented players who should have done better.
I blame the coach, Rick Barnes. If a coach has as much talent as he's been able to recruit over the years, he should have made at least one Final Four.
It's the same thing this year. With a nucleus of Jordan Hamilton, Tristan Thompson, Gary Johnson and Cory Joseph, the Longhorns are one of the most talented teams in the country. Three of them are potential NBA lottery picks.
Until they prove me wrong and make a deep run, I will not believe in coach Barnes' NCAA tournament coaching ability.
Oakland played an incredibly difficult non-conference schedule, going up against Purdue, Tennessee, Ohio State, Michigan State, Illinois and Michigan. They won't be afraid of the Longhorns, and they have an NBA player of their own in big man Keith Benson.
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This shouldn't be a shock to anyone to see the Cougars on the list. Losing one of their best players in Brandon Davies for a team that is already known as "The Jimmer Fredette Show" is one of the biggest losses of the season for a team.
Fredette is one of the best players in the country and probably the Player of the Year, but after him there's a huge drop in talent and that's understandable for a non-BCS school.
While I expect the Jimmers to beat Wofford, their second game will be against a team with much more talent and experience in either Gonzaga or St. John's.
Jimmer may drop 40, but the rest of his team may only get 20.
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Kemba Walker's performance in the Big East tournament was unlike anything I've ever seen from a player. Five games against top competition (except DePaul) in five days including an overtime. Yet Walker kept coming back and dominating the opposition. We're not sure how he was able to keep going unless he actually has an identical twin no one is telling us about.
Now with a few days off, Walker's legs may start feeling like something resembling a body part instead of jello, but let's flashback to the last time a team put on a similar performance—Syracuse back in 2006 when Gerry McNamara carried the Orange to four wins in four days.
What happened to them in the first round? They lost. Now, I don't expect Bucknell to beat the Huskies, but Cincinnati will have the advantage of having played against the mighty Kemba while Missouri is one of the few teams in the country that presses constantly.
If Kemba and Co. have trouble recovering from their incredible performance this past week, they could make an early exit.
San Diego State (2)
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Those of you who read my dark horse piece are probably scratching your heads thinking, "Wait, he picked the Aztecs to make the Final Four and he thinks they could make an early exit? That makes no sense!"
It's not called March Rational Thinker, folks.
I fully admit that despite picking them to make the Final Four, the Aztecs could absolutely lose their second game to either Temple or Penn State. Both teams are talented enough and have beaten top competition this season, so they'll have the ability.
San Diego State also struggled mightily against Jimmer Fredette, and Penn State's Talor Battle is very similar to him in his long range and the Lions' dependency on him to score 30 points in order for them to win.
I just really hope I'm wrong, otherwise my bracket will be ripped up faster than my TV getting muted when I hear Dick Vitale's voice.
North Carolina (2)
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Before the ACC tournament, I was going to take North Carolina to the Final Four no matter what.
Then they decided that it would be a challenge to play from 20 points down in each game and try to come back.
It worked against the inferior teams in Miami and Clemson, but not against Duke, who dominated them for the full 40 minutes.
While I try not to focus on a few games when making predictions, the fact that those games were consecutive and so close to the tournament, I couldn't ignore their deficiency at the beginning of each game.
In the second round, North Carolina will probably encounter the Pac-10 champion Washington Huskies (sorry, Georgia fans, I don't see it happening), a team not quite on the same level as UNC, but not that far off. Getting down by 15 points to the Huskies may be too much for the Tar Heels to overcome, even with Harrison Barnes finally tapping into his limitless potential this past month or so.
One would hope coach Roy Williams would have spent this entire week trying to find a remedy for this disease the Tar Heels ran into to make sure it doesn't happen this week. If he didn't, and the Tar Heels come out flat, it could end up being another disappointing season for the Tar Heel faithful.