Wednesday, March 16, 2011

NCAA Tournament: Southeast/Southwest Preview

(photo courtesy of

Southeast Region:

Favorite: #1 Pitt

If the #2 and #3 seeds in this region were stronger, I would have no issue listing one of them as the favorite. But with Florida being the most overrated #2 in the tournament and BYU missing one of its best players because he had a sex drive, Pitt has by far the easiest road to the Final Four. They have good balance on offense and a solid defensive team, but I just don't see them as a contender for the national title. In this bracket though, they're the best there is.

Main contender: #5 Kansas State

This may look like a stretch to some, but let's not forget the Wildcats were a top-five team at the start of the year. Butler was ranked highly at the beginning of last season and was a #5 in the tournament, does anybody remember how far they went? And this Kansas State team is arguably more talented than last year's Bulldogs, Gordon Hayward aside. The problem is, this team can easily lose to grossly-underseeded Utah State tomorrow. This region is a potential mess.

Sweet 16 sleeper: #12 Utah State

I mentioned the Aggies already, but it bears repeating that this is a top-25 caliber team that was highly disrespected by the committee. I hate their matchup against Kansas State, but I think whoever wins can make serious noise. I like Wisconsin but they struggle away from home and I wouldn't be surprised to see them ousted by Belmont in the first (I mean, second) round either. Utah State's ceiling might be as high as the Elite 8. Honorable mention here goes to #10 Michigan State, who could upend Florida to make the Sweet 16.

Southwest Region:

Favorite: #1 Kansas

The Jayhawks are one of the deepest teams in the country and probably have the second easiest path to the Final Four after Pittsburgh. Second-seeded Notre Dame lacks the defensive chops to make a deep run and the first time their shots don't fall will be their last game. The Jayhawks are talented and likely motivated after losing before the Sweet 16 last season, so Bill Self's crew should be able to make a Final Four run.

Main contender: #4 Louisville

Like Tom Izzo, Rick Pitino usually coaches his teams further than their seed would suggest. A potential Sweet 16 matchup with Kansas might decide who comes out of this region, as I think these are the two best teams in the bracket. With all due respect to Purdue, no Robbie Hummel likely means no Final Four for the Boilermakers. It's too bad because with Hummel, they're a title contender.

Sweet 16 sleeper: #12 Richmond

Like Utah State, the Spiders are underseeded and dangerous. I think their game with Vanderbilt will be closely contested all the way through and whenever you let the lower seed hang around, it can spell trouble. This region, along with the East, is least likely to have a double-digit seed representative in the Sweet 16 because of the relative strength in the top four seeds. But if anybody here can do it, it's Richmond. They will need to play the game of their lives against Louisville to get there though.

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