Monday, March 16, 2009

Here's What's Going to Happen: Midwest Region



Before I get started with this, I just want to say I fully expect this tournament to be one of the most unpredictable in years, and it wouldn't surprise me at all to see zero #1 seeds in the Final Four - well, it would surprise me, but not shock me. That being said, I'm sure my picks will suck hard, but so will yours jackass.


FIRST ROUND

#1 Louisville over #16 Alabama St/Morehead St: Naturally.

#8 Ohio State over #9 Siena: It seems weird to me to be picking the Buckeyes here after I pimped Siena all year, but I don't feel right picking the Saints. They had a good year, but not a great one, and although they played a whole bunch of good teams, they never beat anybody, although they did play Kansas tough. They aren't a good defensive team, which hurts in the NCAAs, but they do have good guard play, which helps. I just think Ohio State is starting to peak at the right time, and their guards can handle Siena's.

#5 Utah over #12 Arizona. Picking Arizona is the trendy upset pick this year, but I'm not buying it. While I really think Budinger, Wise, and Hill are really an excellent trio for Arizona, there's a reason why they were #62 in the RPI while Utah is #9, and they are #39 on KenPom while Utah is #25. Need more? How about Arizona is 132nd in defensive efficiency - just seven tournament teams are worse. They also allow opponents to shoot almost 36% from three, one of the worse marks in the country. Utah, yep, you guessed it; white boys shoot 38%, one of the better marks in the country. So go ahead and pick your trendy upset - you'll be wrong.

#4 Wake Forest over #13 Cleveland State. There are two schools of thought here. The first is that Wake Forest, who was once ranked as the #1 team in the country, is much better than a four seed and is a sleeper final four contender. The other is that Cleveland State and their super slow tempo and solid defense will be troubling for a team like Wake, who is a bit overrated thanks to their hot start and is horrible at taking care of the ball (200th in turnover %) and whose best player and point guard sports a 1-1 Ast/TO ratio. I am closer to camp #2 than camp #1, but I can't quite pull the trigger on an upset here.

#6 West Virginia over #11 Dayton. I really like West Virginia this year, despite Huggy Bear's track record of early round flameouts. And as much as I liked the A-10 this year, there's no way I can pick Dayton to beat the #8 team in the country according to KenPom. Oh, yeah, WVU is the #8 team in the country using Ken's ratings. I KNEW they were that good.

#3 Kansas over #14 North Dakota State. Give it up Bison fans, give it up. You're going to get destroyed. Almost a home game? What do you think it will be for Kansas? Do you really think Sherron Collins will let precious little gnome/elf/leprechaun Ben Woodside go off? Can those weak little girly armed sissy boys NDSU calls forwards handle Aldrich? Give me a break, nerds.

#7 BC over #10 USC. Looking at stats, I should probably be picking USC here. They are better defensively, and even though the Trojans turn it over way too much, BC doesn't force any turnovers. So the Trojans should probably be the pick. But how can I pick against big-game Tyrese Rice, as a senior in his last chance to shine? I looked, and in his junior and senior seasons he always played well in big games. This is another chance.

#2 Michigan State over #15 Robert Morris. Meh. Robert Morris isn't good enough to make this even remotely interesting.

SECOND ROUND

#1 Louisville over #8 Ohio State. Ohio State might be peaking at the right time, but so is Louisville, and the Cards are infinitely better than the Buckeyes. Yes, infinitely. Seriously, there isn't a single position where the Bucks have an advantage, except possibly backup center. Even OSU's best player, Evan Turner, can't compare to Earl Clark or Terrence Williams - whichever one you want to call the small forward.

#4 Wake over #5 Utah. Probably the toughest pick for me of the entire bracket. I really don't think Wake is that bad, and I think Utah is better than most think. Plus, Wake's strength is their athleticism, and Utah hasn't had much trouble with athletic teams (beat LSU and hung right with Cal). However Wake is better than either of those teams. And Wake's weakness is turnovers, but Utah sucks at forcing them. In the end, the matchup just favors Wake too much and hurts Utah, but I think overall Utah is every bit as good as Wake.

#6 West Virginia over #3 Kansas. There's no doubt Kansas has been super impressive this year, especially with all the talent they lost from last year's team. However, I think it's been a bit of a mirage due to the Big Twelve being down this year. The only good teams the Jayhawks beat in non-conference were Washington and Tennessee, a couple of pretty overrated teams themselves. This could go the other way if they can't stop Aldrich, but I'm going with the Mountaineers.

#2 Michigan State over #7 BC. I mentioned that it was tough to bet against Tyrese Rice, but when he has to go up against Kalin Lucas it's actually not that tough at all.

SWEET SIXTEEN

#1 Louisville over #4 Wake. Here's where I can finally pick against Wake, who should consider themselves fortunate for the draw they got. Remember how the Demon Deacons turn it over too much? Well, the Cardinals are the first team they are going to play who are good at forcing turnovers. Beyond that, they are the second best defensive team in the country according to defensive efficiency (behind Memphis-who played an easier schedule). The Deacs are a quality defensive unit themselves, but struggle against good offensive teams - which the Cards are.

#6 West Virginia over #2 Michigan State. Yep, that's right. Guess how many teams rank in the top 15 in both offensive and defensive efficiency? Two. Gonzaga and WVU, and Gonzaga has the added bonus of playing in a poor conference to pad their stats. And we aren't just stats-related here, believe it or not, the Mountaineers are a really good team. They get scoring from four players, with a healthy mix of inside and out. They're very athletic, but don't turn it over much. Although there's no seven footer here, they have good size including a 6-6 shooting guard. Everybody rebounds, and they do it really well, particularly on the offensive end. Remember this name: Devin Ebanks. He will be this year's Derrick Rose - but without the final four appearance, because...

ELITE 8


#1 Louisville over #6 West Virginia. So pretty much everything I said about West Virginia applies to Louisville, except they're much better in every facet of the game. The biggest difference here will be the fact that WVU doesn't shoot the ball well, and Louisville is one of the best in the world at not letting people shoot the ball well. The opposite applies, but I can't take a Bobby Huggins team any further, especially when they run up against Rick Pitino. Louisville swept WVU in the regular season, but only by a total of nine points so expect this one to be a war, with the Cards pulling it out in the end.

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