Bracket Prep: Midwest Region Analysis

Posted by EJacoby on March 12th, 2012

Throughout Monday, we will roll out our region-by-region analysis on the following schedule: East (9 AM), South (11 AM), Midwest (2 PM), West (4 PM). Here, Evan Jacoby (@evanjacoby) breaks down the Midwest Region from top to bottom. Also, be sure to follow our RTC Midwest Region handle on Twitter for continuous updates the next two weeks (@RTCmwregion).

You can also check out our RTC Podblast with Evan breaking down the Midwest Region here.

Midwest Region

Favorite: #1 North Carolina (29-5, 14-2 ACC). The preseason #1 team in the country, UNC is among the elite on both sides of the ball with a roster full of NBA talent. The one 33-point loss at Florida State in January remains a massive aberration in this otherwise sterling season. Roy Williams knows a little bit about postseason success; he’s taken North Carolina to the Elite Eight or further five times in the past seven seasons.

An Injured John Henson Might Be The Only Blemish For A Loaded North Carolina Squad Favored To Win The Midwest (AP)

Should They Falter: #2 Kansas (27-6, 16-2 Big 12). Kansas was on track for a #1 seed before a loss to Baylor in the Big 12 Tournament semifinals. Led by one of the two front-runners for National Player of the Year (Thomas Robinson), KU has been rock solid all season. The Bill Self era has included a National Championship as well as several early upsets. The makeup of this year’s Jayhawks leads us to believe they’re more likely to make a deep run than an early exit.

Overseeded: #11 NC State (22-12, 9-7 ACC). Not a whole lot of complaints with the seeding in this region, but NC State seems to have been rewarded a bit too much for its recent performance. The Wolfpack made a great run in the ACC Tournament and will be a difficult out in this Tournament, but they were squarely on the bubble just two days ago. A win over Virginia and close loss to North Carolina appears to have moved this team up from the potential First Four play-in game matchups to a solid #11, and it seems a bit unwarranted.

Underseeded: #8 Creighton (28-5, 14-4 MVC). Again, there’s nothing egregious in this bracket but Greg McDermott’s Creighton team got a really rough draw. Consider that the Bluejays won their conference tournament and finished with five losses while Gonzaga lost in the WCC finals and finished with six losses, both with a similar strength of schedule, and Gonzaga received the better seed. Creighton has a beef that it should be on the #7 line.

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Chalk City

Posted by nvr1983 on March 30th, 2008

It looks like Clark Kellogg will have bragging rights over the CBS Sports studio for the next week as for the first time in the 64+ team era the Final 4 will be composed of all #1s. In the end all four of these #1 seeds definitely seemed to be the best teams in their region.

All Chalk

East: UNC absolutely dominated every game they played. Louisville made it close for a little bit in the 2nd half, but Rick Pitino had no answer for Tyler Hansbrough, who apparently developed a great outside game sometime this year as he started to hit fall-away jumpers against good defense to put the Cardinals away.

West: So we got this game wrong. Out of all the #1 seeds, UCLA appeared to be the most vulnerable during their march to San Antonio. The Bruins looked very beatable between their drubbing of Mississippi Valley State in the 1st round and their beatdown of Xavier in the Elite 8. The one constant for the Bruins during the entire tournament has been Kevin Love, who has made himself several million dollars during this tournament if he decides to leave after this season. While everybody else on the team had at least one horrible game, Love showed up every night and is the reason that UCLA is in the Final 4. This didn’t hurt either.

South: After a shaky game in the 2nd round, Memphis looked like the #1 team in the country. After cruising in during the 2nd half of their win against Michigan State, Memphis dominated Texas in Houston. It seems like almost every analyst had Texas advancing out of this region. I certainly did although I was smart/fickle enough to change my mind and prediction before the Elite 8. Everybody picked on their inability to shoot free throws, but like Shaq they make them when it matters. In the Elite 8, Derrick Rose controlled the game winning the head-to-head match-up against D.J. Augustin ensuring he will be a top 2 pick in the draft if and when he declares (Beasley will be #1 unless a team really needs a PG). They will be a tough match-up for pre-tournament favorite UCLA.

Midwest: After rolling through the first 3 rounds, Kansas finally ran into a challenge in the Elite 8. Davidson put up a great fight, but in the end Kansas just had too much as they dominated the Wildcats on the inside the entire game. Stephen Curry and Brian Barr had great games for the Wildcats, who did a phenomenal job of getting back on defense to prevent Kansas from running the way they like. The Jayhawks took the lead for good on a 3 by Sherron Collins with 6:35 left. Davidson had a chance to win on the last possession, but Stephen Curry made a rare mistake for him in this tournament by taking too much time leaving Jason Richards to attempt a desperation 3 at the buzzer. Tip of the hat to Davidson and Curry who had a great game and tournament. It seemed to me that Curry ran out of gas at the end as he had a great first half, but did not have his usual second half explosion or one of his best shooting days today (4/15 from 3). Congrats to Bill Self for finally getting to the Final 4.

We’ll be back later with a preview of the Final 4 along with some shots at Roy Williams going against his old school Kansas in the late game on Saturday. Check back throughout the week as we’ll be making more posts.

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Elite 8 Preview: Kansas-Davidson & Memphis-Texas

Posted by nvr1983 on March 29th, 2008

- #1 Memphis vs. #2 Texas (2:20 PM): The most-maligned #1 seed in recent memory, Memphis looked like they were playing with a chip on their shoulder in the 1st half against Michigan State as they absolutely crushed the Spartans jumping out to a 50-20 lead (that’s not a typo). If they play like that, it doesn’t matter if they continue to shoot free throws like Ben Wallace.

As the Spartans found out, Memphis has the most athletic team in the country. When they are on, they are virtually unbeatable. The problem is that if they aren’t then it comes down to the little things (like the aforementioned free throws). However, they were clicking on Friday night and they were absolutely scary. Honestly, it looked like a good NBA team was playing against a mediocre college team. The Tigers like to get out and run, which they do very well with potential top-2 pick Derrick Rose at point and C-USA POY Chris Douglas-Roberts leading the way. Defensively, they will need to focus on slowing down D.J. Augustin, who is by far the best PG they have faced. I am assuming they will put Antonio Anderson, who held Drew Neitzel scoreless (only 6 garbage time points), on Augustin but it will be a difficult match-up. He will need a lot of help from his teammates as Augustin is difficult to contain with just one man.

For the Longhorns to advance to San Antonio, they will need a big game from Augustin while utilizing Connor Atchley to take Joey Dorsey and company away from the basket. If Dorsey doesn’t come out the defend Atchley he could have a big game. If the Longhorns play their game and Memphis doesn’t play like they did in the 1st half on Friday, they should be in it at the closing moments. At that point, they will have to hope it comes down to free throws and Memphis reverts to its old form.

Opening Line: Memphis -3.5.
Prediction: In my bracket, I had these two teams meeting here and I picked Texas to advance primarily because of the home court advantage. I think Memphis is the better team, but playing what essentially amounts to a home game made it a toss-up. Most sportswriters/bloggers would use the argument that they picked a team at the beginning so they won’t change their pick even if the evidence shows otherwise, but here at RTC we like to use all the data available when making our predictions. The data we’re looking at shows that Memphis gave a good Michigan State team an @$$-whopping. Based on that and the fact that the court configuration makes it seem like the Texas fans are actually in Austin while the game is in Houston, we’re going with Memphis, but it will be close.

#1 Kansas vs. #10 Davidson (5:05 PM): Davidson has had a great run in the tournament so far, which has surprised many observers, but comes as no surprise to some of their fans after the Wildcats ran through the Southern Conference this season. The question is whether they can continue this run against Kansas, which may be the most complete team in the tournament.

While the Wildcats were able to play great defense against Wisconsin in the 2nd half, I’m not sure how they will be able to handle Kansas’s athletes. The Jayhawks go 7 deep (all on Chard Ford’s top 100 prospect list), which should create match-up problems all over the court for Davidson. The Jayhawks don’t necessarily have a star player who they rely on, but they are led by Darrell Arthur and Brandon Rush. However, they are so deep that any of the 7 could take over the game for stretches. If the game does come down to crunch-time, the ball will most likely go to Mario Chalmers. The Jayhawks will most likely try to get the ball inside to utilize their physical advantage, but they also have Rush and Chalmers, who both had shot over 40% from 3 for the season.

On the other side of the ball, Davidson has quickly become the media darlings. A small school with an excellent academic reputation and a baby-faced assassin (Curry), everybody in the nation knows about them by now. While their victory over Georgetown was considered by some to be a colossal choke-job by the Hoyas, their victory over Wisconsin was about domination in the 2nd half. I think the key to the game will be how Jason Richards handles the the pressure that Kansas throws at him. Rush will likely draw the assignment of guarding Curry (assuming Bill Self puts Chalmers on Richards), but if Davidson is running him off screens like they did on Friday night to free him up against Michael Flowers then all of the Jayhawk guards will get their shot at him.

Opening Line: Kansas -9.
Prediction: The ride ends here for Davidson. They’ve had a great run knocking off 3 excellent teams, but I just don’t see them getting by Kansas who are very, very good when they play with intensity. I don’t think the Jayhawks will have much problem being hyped up for this game. That spells trouble for Davidson. I think Curry will get his 25-30, but it will come off a lot of shots. I see this game being close for most of the first half before the Jayhawks pull away early in the 2nd half and cruise in from there to win by about 10 points. Davidson just doesn’t have the athletes to match up with Kansas. You could have said the same thing in the Georgetown game (Wisconsin isn’t as athletic as either Georgetown or Kansas), but the Jayhawks won’t give up the ball 20 times like the Hoyas did.

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Sweet 16 Preview: South & Midwest Regions

Posted by nvr1983 on March 28th, 2008

South
#1 Memphis vs. #5 Michigan State (9:57 PM): It seems like a lot of analysts consider this the best of the Sweet 16 games. I just don’t see it. I’d take either of the 2-3 matchups (Tennessee/Louisville or Texas/Stanford) over this game, but I still think it should be an interesting game.

Tom Izzo has done a good job getting the Spartans back on track after a bad February stretch where they lost 3 of 4 games. The Spartans returned all 5 starters from last year so they obviously have experience, which helped them withstand that rough stretch. However, coming into the tournament not a lot of people were giving them much respect particularly with Pittsburgh waiting in the 2nd round. The Spartans surprised a lot of people, including me, by knocking off the Panthers. The Spartans are led offensively by a pair of 2nd team All-Big 10 players: Raymar Morgan and the more-heralded Drew Neitzel. The duo, who average 14.2 and 14.1 PPG respectively, will need a big performance out of freshman PG Kalin Lucas if they want to try to run with the Tigers (IMO not the best strategy).

If you’re a college basketball fan (and if you’re on this blog you certainly are one unless you ended up here doing a Google search for Erin Andrews), you know about Memphis’s inability to hit free throws. I don’t buy into John Calipari that Memphis won their 2nd round game against Mississippi State at the free throw line because they made more free throws despite going 15/32 from the line. It seems like there hasn’t been a single analyst who picks Memphis to win the title, but when I look at this team I see an unbelievably athletic team that is 35-1 and came very close to being undefeated at this point in the season. The Tigers like to run and utilize a Dribble-Drive Motion offense. Leading the attack are Chris Douglas-Roberts and the ridiculously fast freshman PG Derrick Rose. While having those two along might be enough to sustain an offense, Calipari also has solid players in Robert Dozier, Joey Dorsey, and Antonio Anderson. The result is an unconvential offense filled with freakish athletes, a combination that is very hard to defend. One big key for Memphis will be is if they can keep Dorsey out of foul trouble as he is their muscle inside (at least as long as he doesn’t try to talk trash like he did last year before he got beat down by Greg Oden).

Opening Line: Memphis -5.
Prediction: A lot of analysts think the Tigers will be the first #1 seed to lose. I could definitely see that happening, but just not in this round. The Tigers have too much talent for the Spartans. If the Spartans have an X-factor, it would be Lucas. Unfortunately, he will be going against Rose who is several levels above Lucas at this point in their careers. The result is Memphis winning by 5-10 points. I think they will outplay the Spartans, but will keep the game close with their “winning” free throw shooting.

- #2 Texas vs. #3 Stanford (7:27 PM): Along with the Tennessee-Louisville game, this was our favorite game of the long weekend. Hopefully, this turns out to be more exciting than than the Cardinals rout was.

I’ll get this over with now: nobody left in the tournament can guard Brook Lopez. If he’s on, he should be getting 30 a night for the rest of the tournament. By now everyone knows that his twin brother Robin is the more defensive-minded one, which has led some people to speculate that Robin may be more successful as a pro (think Joakim Noah or Anderson Varejao). While those two will control the inside, the Cardinal use Lawrence Hill, Anthony Goods, and Mitch Johnson to control the perimeter. This trio hasn’t gotten much respect including from yours truly. However, if Stanford wants to beat Texas in Houston, they will need this group to control D.J. Augustin (and for Trent Johnson to stick around for the 2nd half).

Rick Barnes has done a great job making the Longhorns into a national title contender a year after losing Kevin Durant to the NBA. The Longhorns are led by D.J. Augustin, who has taken his game to another level as he has not had Durant to bail him out like last year. Augustin also has great support from A.J. Abrams, Damion James, and Connor Atchley. While the Longhorns don’t really have an answer for Brook Lopez, I don’t know how well the Lopez twins are going to be able to guard Atchley when he steps behind the 3 pt line where he has shot 42.3% (41/97) for the year.

Opening Line: Texas -1.
Prediction: If this game was outside of Texas, I probably would have gone with Stanford and the big guy inside. In the end, I think the homecourt and the Longhorns edge on the perimeter will let them pull away at the end of the game.

Midwest
#1 Kansas vs. #12 Villanova (9:40 PM): This weekend in Detroit will once again focus all the attention on Bill Self and his heretofore confounding inability to get extremely talented teams into the F4 (o-4 trips to the E8). Considering that this bracket was blown apart by Cinderellas last weekend, the Jayhawks are the odds on favorite to win this region.

Villanova has looked really good in their two games against Clemson and Siena, shooting 52% and holding its opponents to only 37%. Scottie Reynolds has found his stroke, averaging 23 ppg thus far in the Tourney, and dropping eight threes in the two games. Look for Kansas to focus in on stopping Reynolds, as Villanova simply isn’t nearly as good of a team when he’s misfiring (27 total pts in Nova’s last three Ls).

But let’s be serious here. Kansas is the most talented team that Villanova has faced this season, and their season-long inconsistency is the reason they ended up a #12 seed. Their best wins of the year were probably close wins over Pitt and UConn at home, and neither of those teams bring the noise on offense (#1 off. efficency) and defense (#5 def. efficiency) as Kansas does. Villanova will play hard, but by most measures, a run to the Sweet 16 renders their season a successful one, and they’ll be happy to be there tonight. Kansas has much larger aspirations in mind, and as such, we expect a blowout win here tonight.

Opening Line: Kansas -11.5.
Prediction: KU jumps out early and often. Villanova makes a run in the second half to make things interesting, but they never seriously threaten the Jayhawks tonight. Bill Self’s albatross will be judged on Sunday.

- #3 Wisconsin vs. #10 Davidson (7:10 PM): The undercard in Detroit tonight could end up being a total washout, we’re afraid. Davidson has looked fantastic in its two come-from-behind upsets of Gonzaga and Georgetown last weekend, and Stephen Curry’s legend is already concretely imprinted into the national consciousness. But we have a sneaky suspicion that the #1 defensive team in the land will absolutely lock up Curry, leaving the rest of the Wildcats struggling to pick up the slack.

The game that concerns us was the 6-19 (3-10 from 3) clunker (15 pts) that Curry put up against UCLA back in December. The Bruin defense (#2 nationally) keyed on Curry, which allowed the other Davidson shooters to get open looks early, as Davidson ran out to a quick early lead. But once UCLA figured out that they were going to have to guard all the Davidson shooters, they took control of the game and pulled away easily in the second half.

Wisconsin will probably employ a similar strategy. They’ll slow the game down to a crawl, and essentially dare anyone but Curry to beat them. You can count on a bruising, grinding, no-mistakes gameplan by Bo Ryan’s team, and honestly, short of a superhuman effort by Curry again, we don’t see any way that Davidson wins their way into the Elite 8. Gonzaga was soft mentally, and Georgetown forgot that they had a 7’3 beast underneath the basket, but Wisconsin is a different story.

Opening Line: Wisconsin -4.
Prediction: As much as we’d like to see the Curry bandwagon continue for another game, we just don’t think it’s possible. The Badgers will bump and grind him into a poor shooting night, giving him and his teammates more motivation for next year’s possible dream season.

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Midwest Regional Analysis

Posted by nvr1983 on March 19th, 2008

The rest of the previews are going to be much shorter than the East Regional Analysis because the other regions aren’t as loaded. Ok, you got me. That preview took way too much time given my schedule. Plus, the other regions suck. . .

Teams
#1 Kansas: Bill Self leads a loaded Jayhawk team into the tournament. They have all the tools–experience and talent in both the backcourt and frontcourt–that they need to win (although they are one of the few teams in college basketball that doesn’t take advantage of the short 3 point shot). The question is that will Kansas end its reputation for choking in the tournament. With a few exceptions (1991, 1993, 2002, and 2003 come to mind), the Jayhawks have found a way to lose to vastly inferior teams. The most notable example are 2005 and 2006 against Bucknell and Bradley respectively. We think the Jayhawks are too talented for that to happen, but the Jayhawks have proven us wrong before. Schedule/Roster.

#2 Georgetown: As we stated in our Big East finals review, we noted that the Hoyas have all the tools to win the tournament. They have experience, a very good backcourt, the nation’s best 7-footer, and a solid coach. Before the bracket came out, we were worried about Hibbert’s tendency to disappear for stretches when he should be able to dominate. However, their road to the Final 4 seems particularly favorable, which means they are a trendy pick to make it to San Antonio. Schedule/Roster.

#3 Wisconsin: While we don’t think the Badgers have much of a chance of winning the NCAA title, they definitely deserved a 2 seed over Duke. Like your typical Bo Ryan team, they play excellent defense. Led by Brian Butch and Michael Flowers, the Badgers are team capable of making the Elite 8, but will have a difficult road getting there (probably USC and Georgetown). Schedule/Roster.

#4 Vanderbilt: Vandy is an exciting team to watch and capable of beating anybody (ask Bruce Pearl). They have a solid all-around lineup with 3 seniors. However, their mediocre defense all but guarantees they will trip up somewhere along the line. Schedule/Roster.

#5 Clemson: With a win over Duke and three close games against UNC, Clemson can play with anybody in the country when they are on. The Tigers are athletic and had a nice run in the ACC tournament, but their awful FT shooting will catch up with them making them unlikely to advance past a round or two. Schedule/Roster.

#6 USC: We think that everybody knows about and has seen USC at this point. OJ Mayo has turned the Trojans into one the tournament’s most talked about “sleepers”. After reaching the Sweet 16 last year before bowing out to UNC, Tim Floyd added 2 “diaper dandies”. Ok, so maybe that isn’t 100% accurate since Mayo and Jefferson are closer to Depends than Huggies and Mayo’s recruitment was more like OJ adding the Trojans to his schedule. One of the interesting and challenging things for the Trojans has been how the freshman were integrated into a team that was already good. After struggling early, USC has come together at the right time. Mayo has reined in his tendency to dominate the ball although he still lapses into his old habits occasionally. The Trojans NCAA fortunes will like ride on which Taj Gibson shows up. Gibson, who has been college basketball’s version of Steve Slaton, will need to come up big if the Trojans want to make a deep run. Either way, we enjoy having another guy named OJ at USC. We hope that he has better “luck” with relationships. Schedule/Roster.

#7 Gonzaga: At this point, Gonzaga is way past the point of being a Cinderella. This team has a lot of talent including several guys with pro potential. They have a solid squad with 4 guys averaging double figures. Their first round matchup with Davidson will be a must-watch. Schedule/Roster.

#8 UNLV: These aren’t your old school Running Rebels. Lon Kruger returns a very different team from last year’s Sweet 16 team as most of the roster changed (including his son). Their own hometown doesn’t seem to believe in them, as Vegas has put UNLV (the higher seed) as 2 point underdogs against Kent State. Schedule/Roster.

#9 Kent State: As we noted above, Vegas has Kent State as 2 point favorites. Apparently they don’t agree with the selection committee. The Golden Flash should be a tough matchup as they feature a balanced attack with 4 scorers in double figures. Schedule/Roster.

#10 Davidson: Led by Stephen Curry and coming in with a NCAA-leading 22 game winning streak, Davidson is a very dangerous team. The committee made an interesting decision to pit them against Gonzaga. This can be interpreted in one of two ways: knock out a dangerous mid-major in the first round or ensure a dangerous mid-major in the second round Schedule/Roster.

#11 Kansas State: We would love to see Michael Beasley make a run deep in the tournament, but with his sidekick Bill Walker most well-known for peeing in a towel and going 0-for-14 against Texas it will be a short run for the #1 pick in the 2008 NBA Draft. Schedule/Roster.

#12 Villanova: Jay Wright’s team was likely the last at-large team invited to the tournament. They are a young team with some talented players (most notably Scotty Reynolds), but they appear to be a few years away from being a threat to make a run (assuming nobody does anything stupid by leaving school early). However, Clemson’s awful FT shooting may let them stay in the game and allow Villanova’s talented players to steal a game. Schedule/Roster.

#13 Siena: Before you get too excited about their win over Stanford, you should remember that Brook Lopez was suspended earlier this season making Stanford a very different team in November. With a young team and the talent to beat Stanford (even if it wasn’t at his peak), Siena will be a very dangerous mid-major in a few years. However, their matchup with Vanderbilt will be a stiff challenge even if Vandy is soft defensively. Schedule/Roster.

#14 Cal State Fullerton: A team full of transfers (literally everybody transferred from somewhere else), CSF is a team that likes a fast pace, but will find out in the first 10 minutes that Wisconsin prefers a slow pace. They will quickly learn that it is easier to slow a game down than it is to speed it up. Schedule/Roster.

#15 UMBC: The winners of America East, a horrible conference except when Germain Mopa Njila becomes a household name for 15 minutes, UMBC should enjoy their hotel and the scenery because Georgetown is too talented and has too much experience to let UMBC hang around. We think. . . Schedule/Roster.

#16 Portland State: We’ll save both you some time (and us some research time). No #16 has ever won a first round game. Schedule/Roster.

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