This is the first 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: Duke, #1 seed, 29-5. Yeah, I know it isn’t shocking that they are the favorites especially in what many are calling the weakest of the four regions, but the Blue Devils have a solid combination of perimeter talent (albeit limited in numbers) and interior players (quantity more than quality, but still something). With the way Jon Scheyer has been playing this season and the sudden re-emergence of Kyle Singler in the ACC Tournament, Coach K and the Blue Devils should have their sights set on Indianapolis.
Should They Falter: Villanova, #2 seed, 24-7. A Final Four team last year, the Wildcats had the appearance of a Final Four team a month ago (many will still pick them now), but after losing five of their last seven games to close the season some of that luster has worn off. Still we would be remiss not to list them here as all but one of those losses came on the road (neutral site in one case to a #6 seed) against a team that is in the NCAA, another team with a top-3 seed and another to a UConn team back when Jim Calhoun’s players still cared.
Grossly Overseeded: California, #8 seed, 23-10. I know they won the Pac-10 regular season, but as you may have heard the Pac-10 was awful this year. When we asked Mike Montgomery about the possibility that the Bears might miss the NCAA Tournament this year he was perturbed. While he might have made it into the NCAA Tournament it does not erase the fact that they did not beat a single team in the top 50 of the RPI ratings. The Bears might deserve a spot in the NCAA Tournament, but I think most people would agree that they have not earned a seed this high.
Grossly Underseeded: Siena, #13 seed, 27-6. This might be where they deserve to be seeded based on their resume this year, but this is the team with the most “growth potential.” The Saints struggled in their conference final, but they have won first round games as an underdog in each of the past two years. Last year they knocked off Ohio State as a #9 seed and the year before knocked off Vanderbilt as a #13 seed. With an experienced squad they would be a tough out as a #13 seed in any bracket.
Sweet Sixteen Sleeper (#12 seed or lower): Siena. Like we said they won their first round games each of the past two years and there might not be a team more set-up to be upset in the first round than the Robbie Hummel-less Purdue Boilermakers. If they get past Matt Painter’s crew, they will play the winner of the Texas A&M and Utah State. It won’t be an easy second round game, but since it is in Spokane, Washington, we can’t imagine that either team will have a huge following there (although Utah State could conceivably travel up there).