Monday, March 14, 2011

NCAA Tournament: East/West Preview

(photo courtesy of

East Region:

Favorite: #1 Ohio State

The Buckeyes are the top-seeded team in the tournament and rightfully so. They can do everything on the offensive end with Jared Sullinger dominating on the low block and Jon Diebler and David Lighty firing threes. Ohio St. is also in the top 10 in defensive efficiency, making them one of the country's most complete teams.

Main challenger: #3 Syracuse

Syracuse, North Carolina and Kentucky are all in the same boat. They aren't elite like the Buckeyes, but they all have one thing they can ride deep in the tournament. The 2-3 zone will always be an advantage for Syracuse in March, as most teams just don't face many zones during the season. Kentucky has NBA-level talent at the top but lacks depth, as does UNC. The Tar Heels also have a true freshman at point guard.

I think the Orange have the best chance to face Ohio State in the Elite 8 and also to beat them. North Carolina struggles to shoot the three-pointer at times and that will hurt them in their likely Sweet 16 matchup with Syracuse's 2-3 zone, which is susceptible mainly to teams with strong outside shooters. But I still think Ohio State is the pick to come out of this region.

Sweet 16 sleeper: #7 Washington

Isiah Thomas (the godson of former Pistons great and Knicks bust Isiah Thomas) led this team to a Pac-10 Tournament title with a late buzzer-beater and the perenially underrated Huskies have a chance to make some noise. North Carolina feel behind big early against both Miami and Clemson in the ACC Tournament and if they do so against the Huskies, they may find it difficult to crawl back into the game.

Also, don't be surprised if #11 Marquette gets by Xavier and even Syracuse as well. Don't forget the Golden Eagles did win their only regular-season matchup against the Orange.

West Region:

Favorite: #1 Duke

Rumors of a Kyrie Irving return leave the true potential of the Blue Devils in doubt: With Irving, they are the nation's best team; without him, they may not even advance past the Sweet 16. I think the West is the most difficult region in this tournament, as the top four seeds were all ranked in the top 10 at one point this season.

Main challenger: #4 Texas

I think San Diego State is a very good basketball team and many people are likely to disrespect them because they play in the Mountain West. The fact remains that their only two losses this season were to a full-strength BYU team who was consistently ranked in the top 10. With the right draw, I would consider them a Final Four possibility. This is not the right draw.

Despite their recent struggles, the Longhorns are probably the best bet of any team ranked fourth or lower to reach the Final Four. They are one of the best defensive teams in the country and the only real question is whether their youth will hurt them. Then again, what great college team isn't young these days? People forget that they ended Kansas' home winning streak earlier this season and were in contention to be #1 in the country before a few shaky conference losses.

Sweet 16 sleeper: #11 Missouri

When the Tigers are only the 11th-best team in your region, you know you have your work cut out for you. Cincinnati and Connecticut aren't ideal matchups for Mike Anderson's team, as their main weakness lies in the post where the Bearcats and Huskies have big bodies residing. But if they can get past Cincinnati and Connecticut has to work to beat Bucknell, the potential fatigue of Kemba Walker and the Huskies could help Missouri surprise and reach the Sweet 16. It's a longshot, but stranger things have happened.

Southwest/Southeast bracketology coming soon...

1 comment:

  1. Also keep in mind that if Syracuse gets to Newark they might be able to rile up somewhat of a home court advantage since they'll be only four hours from Cuse and close to NYC. That would definitely help.