RTC Bracket Prep: West RegionPosted by rtmsf on March 15th, 2010
This is the third 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.
Favorite: Syracuse, #1 seed, 29-4. Jim Boeheim’s Syracuse Orange is the favorite in this region by a good margin. His team has lost their last two games and there are whispers that center Arinze Onuaku may not be available for the first two rounds, but SU is talented enough to survive the first weekend without him (as a comparison, UNC didn’t have Ty Lawson at full strength for the first weekend last year). K-State is realistically the only team in this region capable of standing toe-to-toe with Syracuse in terms of relative talent, but they play too loosey-goosey to actually beat the Orange.
Should They Falter: Kansas State, #2 seed, 26-7. Should Syracuse get upset, K-State is in position to take advantage. With a dynamite backcourt of Denis Clemente and Jacob Pullen capable of going off in bunches, the Wildcats could make a run to their first Final Four since the mid-60s. The quality of talent in this region just isn’t very deep, so outside of Syracuse or K-State, who else could realistically win the requisite four games?
Grossly Overseeded: Vanderbilt, #4 seed, 24-8. A team that lost to Western Kentucky, Georgia, South Carolina and Mississippi State, none of whom are Tourney teams, should not have gotten a protected seed with only a couple of marquee wins this year.
Grossly Underseeded:UTEP, #12 seed, 26-6. The Miners really didn’t start rolling until they integrated Derrick Caracter into the lineup, but they’ve been fantastic since then. At worst, this team should have been in the #8-#10 range. Instead, they’ll get an opportunity to prove themselves against the annual public darling #5 Butler, where Vegas has UTEP as only a 2.5-point underdog.
Sweet Sixteen Sleeper (#12 seed or lower): UTEP. For the same reasons as above, once UTEP beats Butler, they will also be able to get past #4 Vanderbilt who is probably overseeded, or #13 Murray State, a team they’re simply better than.
Final Four Sleeper (#4 seed or lower): BYU, #7 seed, 29-5. This is an easy one. Everyone knows that BYU is murder to play at home, and if the Cougars can get past their first two opponents (Florida and K-State), then they will have as partisan a home crowd as possible in Salt Lake City to play two eastern teams, either Pitt or Xavier and Syracuse. The problem for BYU will be getting there. They’ve had NCAA first round problems for the better part of two decades, and even though they’re much better than their initial opponent Florida, they’ll need to play really well to beat Kansas State.
Carmelo Anthony Award: Wes Johnson, Syracuse, 16.0 PPG, 8.4 RPG, 2.3 APG, 1.9 BPG and 1.7 SPG. Like Melo seven years ago, why not another first-year member of the Orange to lead his team to the Final Four and beyond? Much has been made of the fact that Johnson has been a little banged up for the last month, but he looked strong in the loss against Georgetown last week and will have had over a week to rest up for the first round game against Vermont. In much the same way as UNC losing in the ACC Tournament may have helped the Heels get healthy last year, the same could be true for SU and Johnson this time around.
Stephen Curry Award: Jimmer Fredette, BYU, 21.4 PPG, 3.1 RPG, and 4.7 APG. Fredette is the type of player who can go off at any time, as his 49-point and 45-point efforts this season attest. He knocks down over 45% of his threes and nearly 90% of his foul shots, so in those respects, he’s even more like Curry than simply the name of this award. BYU is a more talented team across the board than 2008 Davidson was, but Fredette has a chance to become a household name with a couple of big games this weekend.
Home Cooking: Clearly BYU if they can make it to the regionals in Salt Lake City, 45 miles from their campus in Provo, but Syracuse will also have the advantage of playing its first two rounds in upstate New York, just a couple hours down I-90. It will be ironically amusing to hear Jim Boeheim complain about this situation if they do end up having to play BYU in Utah.
Can’t Miss First Round Game: Butler vs. UTEP, Thursday @ 4:45 pm. As we talked about above, this is an evenly matched game despite what the Selection Committee thinks about their seedings. The tempos of the two teams are different, but the things that both like to do are similar — they both look to pound the ball inside to their bigs and find the guards cutting and setting up for the occasional three. It’s a shame that one of these two teams will go out in the first round.
Don’t Miss This One Either: Gonzaga vs. Florida State, Friday @ 7:10 pm. This one is intriguing because of the offensive firepower that the Zags bring to bear versus the defensive intensity that the Seminoles have at hand. Will Matt Bouldin and Elias Harris be able to solve the towering frontline of Solomon Alabi and Chris Singleton inside? Will FSU be able to find enough points on their offensive trips to outlast the freewheeling Zags?
Lock of the Year: Slot Syracuse into the Elite Eight. There isn’t anybody in their first three games who has the athleticism and ability to solve their zone defense or defend them well enough to outscore the Orange.
Juiciest Potential Match-Up (Purists): The purists would love to see a defensive-minded battle between #3 Pittsburgh and #11 Minnesota in the second round — a Big Ten/Big East battle du jour where the first team to fifty wins the game. Jamie Dixon and Tubby Smith would love it, but we doubt many viewers would.
Juiciest Potential Match-Up (Media): The media wouldn’t be as enamored with that game, but a #1 Syracuse vs. #7 BYU regional final would have lots of interesting subplots, including the home-court advantage that the Cougars would enjoy as well as the miraculous story of head coach Dave Rose’s survival of pancreatic cancer and ensuing redemption this year on the court.
We Got Screwed: Vanderbilt, #4 seed, 24-8. Vandy was gifted with a #4 seed, so they really don’t have much of a right to complain. But Kevin Stallings cannot be happy about getting shipped 2,500 miles from home as a protected seed to play a team that many feel can spring the upset. Of course, if BYU makes the regionals in Salt Lake, then the three other remaining teams really got screwed.
Strongest Pod: Milwaukee. #3 Pittsburgh, #6 Xavier, #11 Minnesota, #14 Oakland. We wouldn’t be surprised to see any of the first three teams in the Sweet Sixteen of this region. Even Oakland is capable of pulling an upset here if Pitt for some reason doesn’t show up.
Wildcard, Bitches: The wildcard of this region is the health of Arinze Onuaku’s knee. If he’s close to 100% by the Sweet Sixteen, then it may not matter who Syracuse is playing in Salt Lake City because there’s nobody in this region that can challenge the Orange. If he’s closer to half-speed, suddenly things get mighty interesting. Guess we’ll know more later this week.
So-Called Experts: The majority of experts and the country are picking Syracuse here, but it’s not a dominant selection like it is for Kansas and Kentucky. The rest of this region is just really weak, so even without a full-strength Orange, folks are hesitant to pick another team.
Vegas Odds to Win Title:
- Syracuse = 6:1
- Kansas State = 15:1
- Pittsburgh = 60:1
- Vanderbilt = 75:1
- Butler =75:1
- Xavier = 75:1
- BYU = 100:1
- Gonzaga = 200:1
- Florida State = 200:1
- Florida = 100:1
- Minnesota = 200:1
- UTEP = 300:1
- Murray State = 300:1
- Field = 50:1