This is the fourth 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: Kansas, #1-seed, 32-2. The overall #1 seed. The experts say there are no dominant teams this year, but for our money this year’s Jayhawks are just as dominant as North Carolina was in 2008-09. Top-flight weapons at every position. A solid bench. Excellent coaching. Youth. Experience. Any way you prefer to be beaten, they’ll beat you. That switch they flipped to put Texas A&M away in the Big 12 Tournament was scary, but that’s the sort of command of which they’re capable.
Should They Falter: Ohio State, #2-seed, 27-7. We all know how special Evan Turner is. But teams seem to make the mistake of thinking that this team has no other weapons. David Lighty, Jon Diebler, and William Buford are all capable of big games. They defer to Turner, yet Turner enjoys sharing the wealth. As a team, they almost never take a bad shot, a trait that will serve them well even more this time of year.
Grossly Overseeded: Northern Iowa, #9-seed, 28-4. Northern Iowa’s only win in the NCAA was 20 years ago. I know that has nothing to do with now, but the last four times they’ve been to the Tournament, they’ve been a popular upset pick and have always come up short. To be honest, based on their body of work, they’re probably seeded where they should be, it’s just that there are a few teams seeded lower than them that are playing a little better brand of basketball right now. If UNI can give us some results in the Tournament, then we’ll be happy to put some chips on their square in the future.
Grossly Underseeded: Michigan State, #5-seed, 24-8. At this point, we should all be used to Tom Izzo overachieving in the NCAA Tournament. This team went 14-4 in the extremely tough Big Ten. After that stretch in which they dropped three straight (at Wisconsin, at Illinois, and Purdue), everyone forgot about them. Then they won five of six to end the year before the conference tournament, the only loss coming against surging Ohio State. Don’t ever sell the Spartans short in the Big Dance.
Sweet Sixteen Sleeper: Houston, #13-seed, 19-15. Aubrey Coleman is the nation’s leading scorer at 25.0 PPG, and it looks like he and Kelvin Lewis have finally started to put it together. Honestly, we thought we’d see more out of the Cougars this year. They’ll be a tougher out for Maryland than everyone thinks. Houston is second in the nation in turnovers per game (8.8), and 12th in turnovers forced (16.8), nice numbers when you have a pair of guards who can scoop up those turnovers and score quickly.
Final Four Sleeper: #5 Michigan State. They can own a game through their work on the boards.