RTC Bracket Prep: East Region

Posted by rtmsf on March 15th, 2010

This is the second of our four quick-and-dirty region breakdowns. This will serve to help the quick triggers who like to fill out their brackets first thing on Monday morning. For the rest of you, we’ll be providing more detailed game-by-game analysis throughout the rest of the week.

Carrier Dome Hosts the East Regional

Region: East

Favorite: Kentucky, #1 seed, 32-2.  No surprise here, as UK is considered one of the top two national title favorites along with Kansas.  The Cats have one of the most talented starting lineups in the country, but have made a living this year sneaking past teams in the last few minutes.  The team that thinks they can beat Kentucky will have to find a way to deal with a strong inside tandem of DeMarcus Cousins and Patrick Patterson in addition to the playmaking abilities of John Wall.  Can anyone in this region bring that kind of defense?

Should They Falter: West Virginia, #2 seed, 27-6.  WVU comes into the NCAA Tournament with momentum, having won six in a row against top-drawer competition in the Big East.  They rebound with almost as much ferocity as the Cats, while coming in much more battle-tested in terms of schedule.  As an added bonus, they may have the most dynamic player in the bracket with Da’Sean Butler whom no less an authority than Evan Turner predicted would hit the game-winning shot in the Big East Tournament final.

Grossly Overseeded: Marquette, #6 seed, 22-11.  The Golden Eagles have won seemingly every close game they’ve played this year, but they’re probably not as good as you’d expect an 11-7 Big East team to be.  They were 2-6 against the RPI top 25, and most simulations (including Vegas) we’ve seen so far have MU as a relative tossup against #11 Washington in the first round.

Grossly Underseeded: Temple, #5 seed, 29-5.  Temple should have been a protected seed.  The Owls were 6-3 against the RPI top 50 and their defense is stickier then day-old sweat.  In a very competitive A10 this year, they outlasted several other NCAA-quality teams to win the regular season title and won the conference tournament as well.

Sweet Sixteen Sleeper (#12 seed or lower): Cornell, #12 seed, 27-4.  Jay Bilas’ nuttiness aside, Cornell is an excellent team that could grind it out with #5 Temple and #4 Wisconsin long enough to steal a couple of wins here.  The Big Red arguably have more offensive options at the end of the game than either of those two higher-seeded teams.  The trick will be to ensure that the game is close in the last five minutes.

Final Four Sleeper (#4 seed or lower): Wisconsin, #4 seed, 23-8.  Should Cornell not make a run, Wisconsin might be the team to get past Kentucky and Villanova to crash the Final Four.  With Jon Leuer back in the fold healthy, the Badgers have the inside/outside play along with Trevon Hughes to go along with their typically unbending defense to push the two sets of Wildcats to the brink.

Carmelo Anthony Award: Da’Sean Butler, West Virginia, 17.4 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 3.3 APG.  Six game winners in one season?  Sign us up.  Butler is putting together a magical senior season and could very well carry his team a few weeks more.

Stephen Curry Award: Ryan Wittman, Cornell, 17.5 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 42% 3pt.  Cornell’s star shooter is gifted enough to carry his team for a couple of rounds so long as the rest of his team contributes enough to keep the Big Red close.

Home Cooking: None are very close. West Virginia playing in Buffalo (~300 miles) is the closest during the first two rounds.  Cornell, if they can make it to the Syracuse regional, would undoubtedly have a huge local crowd (~55 miles).

Can’t Miss First Round Game: Clemson vs. Missouri, Friday @ 2:35 pm.  This game promises to be very athletic and all over the court.  Mizzou will bring its full-court pressure defense to bear against a team that also loves to trap and turn teams over.  Whoever can break through taking better care of the ball will likely have the advantage in this one.

Don’t Miss This One Either: Temple vs. Cornell, Friday @ 12:30 pm.  The subplot here is compelling enough, in that former Penn and current Temple coach Fran Dunphy faces his former assistant Steve Donahue at Cornell.  The styles of play will be similar, as both teams are mentally tough, but the individual matchups are also interesting — Lavoy Allen battling Jeff Foote inside and Ryan Brooks going up against Ryan Wittman.

Lock of the Year: New Mexico will advance to the Sweet 16. I don’t see much of a threat for the Lobos in their pod. Their second round game will either be against an over-seeded Marquette squad or a Washington team that lost seven games in the Pac-10.

Juiciest Potential Matchup (Purists): New Mexico vs. West Virginia, Sweet 16. This should be a tremendous basketball game with the lengthy West Virginia wings trying to contain Darington Hobson and Roman Martinez shooting the three. Da’Sean Butler may be the difference in crunch time, but the Lobos have a point guard advantage with Dairese Gary.

Juiciest Potential Matchup (Media): Kentucky vs. Texas, Round 2. The media will love to talk about all the NBA talent on the floor in this one, as no fewer than a half-dozen first-rounders will be scattered between the two starting lineups.

We Got Screwed: Marquette’s seed is actually quite favorable, but they have to face Washington in the first round and likely New Mexico in the second round in San Jose, California. Those two teams both reside on the west coast, setting up a quasi-road game.

Strongest Pod: Temple, Cornell, Wisconsin, Wofford. I could see both lower seeds pulling off first round upsets in this 4-13-5-12 pod. While there’s no Kentucky or West Virginia to boost the group, this pod from team 1 to team 4 is the strongest.

Wildcard, Bitches: Wisconsin could potentially be a poor matchup for Kentucky. If they slow the pace and keep the game in the halfcourt, Wisconsin can pull off the upset. In the end, though, I see the UK athleticism winning out and the Wildcats advancing to the Elite Eight.

So-Called Experts: Most experts are going with chalk with top seed Kentucky facing #2 seed West Virginia in the regional final. Some felt that the Mountaineers should have been a #1 seed and New Mexico doesn’t pose an enormous threat as a #3 so far away from home in Syracuse.

Vegas Odds to Win Title:

  • Kentucky = 3:1
  • West Virginia = 10:1
  • New Mexico = 60:1
  • Wisconsin = 40:1
  • Temple = 100:1
  • Marquette = 100:1
  • Clemson = 200:1
  • Texas = 100:1
  • Wake Forest = 200:1
  • Missouri = 200:1
  • Washington = 200:1
  • Cornell = 300:1
  • Field = 50:1
rtmsf (3998 Posts)

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3 responses to “RTC Bracket Prep: East Region”

  1. Dave Smith says:

    Great info. Thanks. i have to quibble with comments on teams playing near or far from home. New Mexico doesn’t exactly “reside on the West Coast.” It’s a long drive from San Jose! Once you’re over an 8-10 hour drive, the distance from home is nearly irrelevant to most fans; they have to get on an airplane whether its a two-hour flight or a four-hour flight. I ran an analysis a couple years ago of team performance in NCAA tournaments based on the number of time zones a team played from home and could find no correlation between wins and losses and time zones from home. Everybody assumes it’s relevant and talks about it, but it means nothing as far as I can tell. It probably ticks off coaches and players that they have to travel, but it seems not to effect how they play. Maybe a more accomplished statistician than I would tackle this problem someday.

  2. rtmsf says:

    Dave – I don’t have a regression analysis to back this up, but I think you see it in two situations. First is when there is a true home environment, such as the case where Syracuse is playing in Buffalo and can pack the place with their fans. A similar situation is when UNC/Duke have their first two rounds in Raleigh, Greensboro, Charlotte, etc. They never lose those games, and I would argue in part it’s due to those homecourt advantages. The second case is when you have western teams who have to travel east, especially if they play an early game (like 9am PT). I’ve seen that one happen several times b/c they’re just so sluggish to start the game that they are out before they get their legs under them. Those are just anecdotes, though. By and large, I don’t know that being 500 vs. 1500 miles away from home matters all that much, which you referred to.

  3. Dave Smith says:

    True on the home environment. But those teams are usually playing from a one seed anyway and ones rarely lose on the first weekend regardless of site. We have to let the NCAA make a little money from ticket sales!

    A 1 seed last lost on the opening weekend in 2004 when both Kentucky and Stanford fell. A curiosity: from 1993 9 seeds have a winning record vs. 8 seeds 36-32. But despite fewer opportunities, 8 seeds have won twice as many games against 1s. 8s have 6 wins, while 9s have only 3 in that time period.

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