Bracket Prep: Southwest Region

Posted by rtmsf on March 14th, 2011

Throughout Monday, we’ll be releasing our Bracket Prep analyses of each of the four NCAA Tournament regions.  The order will be as follows — please check back throughout the day for all four (all times eastern).

  • West – 9 am
  • Southeast – 11 am
  • Southwest – 1 pm
  • East – 3 pm

Region: SOUTHWEST

Favorite: #1 Kansas (32-2, 14-2 Big 12). When the Kansas that showed up on Saturday afternoon in Kansas City is the team we get, the Jayhawks are the favorite not only in this region but in the entire NCAA Tournament.  The problem is that isn’t always the team that plays (witness the near-miss against Oklahoma State on Thursday).

Should They Falter: #2 Notre Dame (26-6, 14-4 Big East). Many observers had the Irish pegged as the fourth #1 seed over Duke given their sterling numbers on paper, so we know they’re capable.  Quite possibly playing as well as anyone the past two months, Mike Brey’s team is well-positioned in its bottom half of the bracket to make a run at the Final Four.

Grossly Overseeded: #11 USC or VCU (19-14, 10-8 Pac-10; 23-11, 12-6 CAA). It’s questionable whether either of these two First Four teams should even be playing in this Tournament, and for them to get an #11 seed slot instead of a #12 or #13 is equally irresponsible.  Before playing near home and making a run to the CAA finals, VCU had lost four of five games; USC had been playing better of late, but the Trojans also went through a Pac-10 stretch where they lost seven of ten (remember, we’re talking about the Pac-10 here, not the Big East).  The #12 seed in this region, Richmond, is better than both of these two teams, and they’re also playing like it.

Grossly Underseeded: #6 Georgetown (21-10, 10-8 Big East).  We’re hearing that Georgetown’s straw that stirs the drink, Chris Wright, will play in the NCAA Tournament, and if he’s near 100%, the Hoyas are much better than a #6 seed.  If not, or if he’s closer to 50% productivity, then JT3′s team is very much overseeded.  Guess we’ll find out on Friday which is which.

Sweet Sixteen Sleeper (#12 seed or lower): #12 Richmond (27-7, 13-3 A-10).  The Spiders received a favorable #5/#12 matchup in playing Vanderbilt, a BCS team that will not wow you with its athleticism.  They also defend the three very well, holding teams this year to 30.1%, an important consideration with Commodore sharpshooters John Jenkins (40.8%) and Jeffery Taylor (36.4%) very capable.  #4 Louisville in the second round would be difficult, but the Cards are a star-less team that sometimes drops a stinker against an inferior team (see: Providence, Drexel).

Final Four Sleeper (#4 seed or lower): #6 Georgetown (21-10, 10-8 Big East). Again, it completely and totally depends on the health of point guard Chris Wright.  If he can go, the Hoyas are quite capable of knocking out #3 Purdue, #2 Notre Dame and, under certain circumstances, #1 Kansas.  Their offense is so much more effective with Wright leading the charge that Georgetown has only broken sixty points in one game since his injury.

Carmelo Anthony Award: JaJuan Johnson, Purdue. JJJ has been nothing short of awesome in this, his senior campaign.  Although Purdue has faltered in its last two games, he has been a model of consistency throughout the year.  In nineteen Big Ten games, he went for 20+ points in fourteen of them, and he plays 35 MPG while never getting into foul trouble.  Only once all season did the big man even pick up four fouls.  He knows that he must stay on the floor for his team to win, and he rarely reaches or finds himself out of defensive position.  Johnson is capable of carrying the Boilers on his back through a region if he gets enough support from his guards.

Stephen Curry Award: Kenneth Faried, Morehead State. Quite possibly the best mid-major player in America this year, the NCAA’s all-time leading rebounder is relentless around the basket on both ends of the court.  He grabs over 30% of the boards on the defensive end and over 20% on his own glass.  The Louisville interior of Terrence Jennings and Gorgui Dieng are going to have their hands full with the dreadlocked monster known as Faried in the first round.

Home Cooking: #2 Notre Dame, 96 miles to Chicago.  The Irish will be very well-represented in a city that often considers Notre Dame to be its “home” team anyway, and fellow Hoosier State school, #3 Purdue, also isn’t very far away (123 miles).  Top seed Kansas is happy to be heading 218 miles south to Tulsa, Oklahoma, smack in the heart of Big 12 country.  On the flip side, #4 Louisville and #13 Morehead State will have to fly over 1,000 miles west to do their Bluegrass State tango in the shadow of the Rockies.

Can’t Miss First Round Game: #8 UNLV vs. #9 Illinois (Friday, March 18). This one will be billed as UNLV head coach Lon Kruger taking on his old team, but we have a feeling that it will become much more than that.  Both of these teams have had their ups and downs over the course of the season, but there’s plenty of backcourt talent on the floor in this one to make it exciting — Demetri McCamey, Brandon Paul and DJ Richardson for the Illini vs. Tre’Von Willis and Oscar Bellfield for the Rebels.  Expect a defensive grinder that will come down to the last possession or two in Tulsa.

Don’t Miss This One Either: #5 Vanderbilt vs. #12 Richmond (Thursday, March 17).  We have a feeling that the Spiders are going to give Vanderbilt all they want in the first round of this one.  One year after a no-show against St. Mary’s, seniors Justin Harper, Kevin Anderson and Dan Geriot do not want to leave their productive careers at UR on a winning note.  Richmond comes into this game hot, having won eleven of twelve, while Vandy dropped three of its last four (including two at home) in the regular season.

Lock of the Year: No Northern Iowa Repeat for Kansas. KU gets itself into trouble when they don’t respect their opponent to the degree that they should.  Witness Saturday’s dismantling of Texas in the Big 12 Championship game, a matchup that Bill Self’s team had wanted since the Horns had come into Phog Allen and broken their long homecourt winning streak earlier this season.  Kansas will respect either UNLV or Illinois in the second round game, and also (more than likely) Louisville in the Sweet Sixteen.  If the Jayhawks are going to lose, it will be at the Elite Eight round or beyond this year.

Juciest Potential Matchup – purists: #2 Notre Dame vs. #3 Purdue in the Sweet Sixteen.  A potential battle of Indiana schools playing Indiana basketball in the Alamo City of San Antonio.  With seasoned upperclasmen Ben Hansbrough, Tim Abromaitis, Carleton Scott, E’Twaun Moore and JaJuan Johnson playing basketball with equal parts knowledge and skill, the purists would love to see this game in a little over a week.  It would be extremely interesting to watch how Matt Painter’s defense would try to slow down the vaunted Irish offense of Mike Brey.

Juciest Potential Matchup – media: #1 Kansas vs. #4 Louisville in the Sweet Sixteen.  The contrast between the folksy Bill Self and the slick Rick Pitino couldn’t be more stark, and the media would eat up this potential matchup between two of the best programs in the nation.  Both teams can go ten deep, and while Louisville doesn’t have nearly the star power that the Jayhawks have on its roster, the Cardinals run an effective style of pressure defense and bombardier offense that could give KU problems if Tyshawn Taylor and company fail to take care of the ball.

We Got Screwed: #10 Florida State (21-10, 11-5 ACC). Most of this bracket was pretty fair, but if any team has a complaint, it’s probably Leonard Hamilton’s Seminoles for receiving a #10 seed here.  It’s not often that the team who finishes third in the ACC will fall this far down the S-curve, but FSU’s shaky 3-3 finish without star forward Chris Singleton (broken foot) is the reason.  He was in uniform on Friday at the ACC Tournament in the Noles’ one-point loss to Virginia Tech, but he did not see action, and it’s questionable whether he’ll be healed enough to see time by Friday in their opening game against #7 Texas A&M.

Strongest Pod: Tulsa, with #1 Kansas #8 UNLV, #9 Illinois and #16 Boston U.  We all know about the strength of Kansas, but the UNLV/Illinois winner will make for a rough-and-tumble second round game for the Jayhawks.  None of the other pods in this region have anywhere quite as much talent as will be on display in Tulsa.

So-Called Experts: Ten of the thirteen ESPN experts picked #1 Kansas to come out of this region, with one vote each for #2 Notre Dame, #3 Purdue and #4 Louisville.  It’s safe to say that most of America will go the same way in this region.

Vegas Odds to Win Region:


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