RTC Bracket Prep: Midwest Region

Posted by jstevrtc on March 15th, 2010

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.

Edward Jones Dome Hosts the Midwest Regional

Region: Midwest

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.

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QnD Midwest Region Analysis

Posted by zhayes9 on March 15th, 2009

MIDWEST REGION PREVIEW (by Zach Hayes)

Favorite
Louisville, #1 Overall Seed, 28-5 (16-2), Big East Regular Season and Conference Champions

Should They Falter
Wake Forest, #4 Seed, 24-6 (11-5). Even more than Michigan State in the Regional Final, Wake could present the biggest match-up problem for Louisville.

Grossly Overseeded
Utah, #5 Seed, 24-9 (12-4). Utah tied for the Mountain West regular season title and tournament (carried by great computer numbers), but how can anyone say this team should have a higher seed than UCLA, Clemson, or West Virginia?

Grossly Underseeded
None. With the exception of Utah, the committee did an excellent job seeding this region.

Sweet Sixteen Sleeper (#12 seed or lower)
#12 seed Arizona. The last team in the field lucked out with an over-seeded Utah team then could throw their match-up zone at a Wake team that hasn’t handled a zone defense all season.

Final Four Sleeper (#4 seed or lower)
#6 seed West Virginia. If Alex Ruoff has a tremendous tournament and Devin Ebanks continues to progress into stardom, they have the personnel. A freshman PG worries me though.

Carmelo Anthony Award
Sherron Collins, 18.3 PPG, 5.0 APG, 38% 3PT- As Sherron Collins goes, the Kansas Jayhawks go. He has the chance to take this young team under his wings and lead them to another Final Four.

Stephen Curry Award
Ben Woodside, 22.8 PPG, 6.3 APG, 43% FG- Many college hoops diehards know Woodside and his scoring prowess already. Most casual fans will be introduced to him for the first time and his Cinderella Bison.

Home Cooking
Louisville, 1, 152 miles to Dayton. Ohio State, 71 miles to Dayton.

Can’t Miss First Round Game
#7 Boston College vs. #10 USC, Friday. A very evenly matched game between two teams with studs like Tyrese Rice, Rakim Sanders, DeMar DeRozan, and Taj Gibson. Can the Trojans keep it going?

Don’t Miss This One Either
#3 Kansas vs. #14 North Dakota State, Friday. An inexperienced and slumping Kansas team battling a fifth-year senior laden Bison squad. Could we have an upset brewing in Minneapolis? Don’t miss this one.

Lock of the Year
West Virginia will make the Elite 8. They’ll take down Dayton, North Dakota State and Michigan State en route to a rematch with Louisville.

Juiciest Potential Match-up (Purists)
#6 West Virginia vs. #2 Michigan State, Regional Semifinal. Two of the best rebounding and fundamentally sound teams in the nation could do battle for a spot in the Regional Final.

Juiciest Potential Match-up (Media)
#1 Louisville vs. #4 Wake Forest. The amount of talent on the floor in this game (Samardo Samuels, Earl Clark, Terrence Williams, Jeff Teague, James Johnson, and Al-Farouq Aminu) will have NBA scouts drooling.

We Got Screwed
Kansas, #3 Seed, 25-7 (14-2). Besides the fact that Kansas deserved a #2 seed over Oklahoma, they have to face the most dangerous #14 seed in the tournament (North Dakota St.) and the most dangerous #6 seed in the second round (West Virginia). I would feel a lot better about Kansas matching up with the other #6 seeds.

Strongest Pod
#2 Michigan State, #7 Boston College, #10 USC, #15 Robert Morris. BC-USC could be a fun 7-10 game while Robert Morris is no slouch for the Spartans.

Upset Special
#14 North Dakota State will beat #3 Kansas in the first round.

Region MVP
Terrence Williams, Louisville.

So-Called Experts
The general consensus seems to be Louisville and I tend to agree. Sorry for going chalk, folks, but they’re easily the best team in this region.

Vegas Odds to Win Region


2009-midwest-odds

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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: UCLA-Xavier & UNC-Louisville

Posted by nvr1983 on March 28th, 2008

- #1 UCLA vs. #3 Xavier (6:40 PM): Both teams are coming off hard-fought victories in the Sweet 16. Xavier obviously was challenged by West Virginia, who took them into OT and may very well have won if Joe Alexander had been able to hit a FT at the end of regulation (81% FT) or not foul out early in OT. The Bruins were challenged by Western Kentucky, who came back from 21 down at half as Tyrone Brazelton scored 31 pts abusing Darren Collison (before Collison fouled out with 5:39 to play). The Bruins held strong at the end and won with big efforts from Kevin Love (29 and 14–no surprise) and James Keefe (18 and 12–huge surprise).

The Bruins can count on a big game from Love who finds a way to get his numbers because he knows where he needs to be. What the Bruins can’t count on is Keefe coming anywhere near those numbers. They need Collison, Russell Westbrook, and Josh Shipp to really step up their games this round. If they can get this inside/outside balance, they should control this game, but they haven’t looked that good since their opening round game against Mississippi Valley State. However, I’m not sure if that was more UCLA or their opponent. In either case, the Bruins haven’t looked like the team that most analysts predicted would cut down the nets in San Antonio.

As noted earlier, Xavier escaped with a win in their Sweet 16 game with Joe Alexander’s mistakes and some clutch 3 point shooting from B.J. Raymond. Even though Josh Duncan dominated the scoring last round, the Muskeeters are usually pretty good at spreading the ball around leading to their extremely balanced scoring averages. It will be interesting to see how they try to match up against Love, Collison, and Westbrook as that may be the key to the game.

Opening Line: UCLA -6.
Prediction: As Kevin Love said after their last game, the Bruins play has been “unacceptable”. I think that on paper (and when they are on) UCLA has all the makings of a championship team with a nice mix of experience, talent, and an inside/outside game. If they’re firing on all cylinders, the Bruins could blow this game wide open like they did in the early part of their Sweet 16 game. Unfortunately for Ben Howland, they have not been able to do that consistently. I think UCLA has have played with fire one too many times and tonight it will catch up with them. I’m going with Xavier in a hard-fought game earning a trip to the Final 4.

#1 UNC vs. #3 Louisville (9:05 PM): This is probably the best match-up of the weekend on paper. Both teams are absolutely loaded and appear to be playing at their peak. The Tar Heels have been the most dominant team in the tournament so far while the Cardinals have matched them in dominance the past 2 rounds. Both teams absolutely crushed their very capable opponents (Washington State and Tennessee, respectively) on Thursday night.

The Tar Heels’ calling card this season has been their phenomenal offense, but in the last round they showed Tony Bennett’s Cougars that they know how to play a little D too. Offensively, Tyler Hansbrough has been solid if not spectacular although he hasn’t needed to be so far in the tournament. One of the major drivers of the Tar Heels dominance in the tournament has been Ty Lawson who appears to be back near 100%. When he gets in the open court, I’m not sure if anybody can keep up with Lawson. Although those two get all the hype, I think the key to the game for UNC will be if Wayne Ellington can hit from outside. He’s the only great outside shooter that Roy Williams has and his ability to hit from 3 will be very important against Rick Pitino’s 2-3 zone. If he is hitting, Pitino will have a decision to make: let him bomb away or go man-to-man and risk having Psycho T go off.

Louisville is peaking at the perfect time. They made a very good Tennessee team look very bad on Thursday night although the Vols PG issues certainly contributed. They don’t have quite the star power that UNC has, but Pitino’s boys (David Padgett & company) are no slouches. Padgett has a lot of help offensively as the Cardinals have another half dozen guys who can get in double figures on the right night. The key for the Cardinals will be how their defense controls UNC. It will be interesting to see how their press is able to handle Lawson and how their zone matches up against Ellington’s outside shooting.

Opening Line: UNC -5.5.
Prediction: I’m going with the Tar Heels tonight. They’ve been the best team in the country in the first 3 rounds and they weren’t even clicking offensively against Washington State. Louisville has a great team and that line is ridiculously high, but I don’t think Hansbrough will let the Tar Heels lose. He’s had a very good college career so far, but he hasn’t been able to get his team over the hump. This will be a tight game, but I think that Hansbrough will come up big down the stretch giving the Heels the slight edge. The Tar Heels were on the verge of going to the Final 4 before collapsing against Georgetown and I can’t see them letting it happen again. As an added bonus, this sets up a potential national semifinal of Roy Williams versus Kansas. . .(more on that set of Elite 8 games later)

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Sweet 16 Preview: West Region

Posted by nvr1983 on March 27th, 2008

- #1 UCLA vs. #12 Western Kentucky (9:40 PM): Already more than one analyst has declared that WKU is going to pull off the monumental upset in this game. And one UCLA blog is seriously tempting the Weauxfgods with its rather brazen mocking of the Hilltoppers’ chances in tonight’s game. (Retracted strikethrough: rtmsf thinks he is the Dennis Miller of the college basketball blog world). So we ask ourselves – is this possible? Could UCLA lose to a double-digit seed in the Sweet 16?

One thing we know for certain is that the Bruins will not score enough points to obliterate the Hilltoppers. The question is whether the Toppers will be able to score enough points to put enough pressure on the Bruins to make something interesting happen. The answer lies in WKU’s backcourt of Courtney Lee (20/5/2) and Tyrone Brazelton (14/3/4), who have collectively averaged 44 PPG in the NCAAs thus far. UCLA’s perimeter defense is notoriously good at shutting players down, but will have their hands full with this pair.

On the other side of the ball, the Bruins have talented guys at every position. While uber-frosh Kevin Love has taken most of the headlines, Darren Collison, Josh Shipp, and Russell Westbrook have provided solid perimeter play to compliment the Pac-10 POY along with Luc Richard Mbah a Moute on the inside. The Bruins cruised in their first round game, but ran into a stiff challenge in the 2nd round against Texas A&M. In the end, they survived with some timely shooting from Love and a little help from the stripes. One of the concerns for the Bruins is that while their Ben Howland-designed defense has been as good as advertised, they have struggled offensively in the tournament outside of Love and Collison, who combined for 40 of the team’s 51 points versus the Aggies. UCLA is talented enough and this region is weak enough that they probably can get to San Antonio without bringing their “A” game, but eventually they will need more from Shipp and Mbah a Moute, who is still recovering from a sprained ankle.

Opening Line: UCLA -13
Prediction: I think that UCLA will eventually get pissed off at all the press they have gotten for getting away with calls (looking around . . .). This is a really big spread for a Sweet 16 game, but I guess it is a 1 vs. 12 so maybe it isn’t that big of a spread. Maybe Vegas Watch knows what a typical 1-12 spread is although I don’t think it happens that often. Anyways, the Bruins should be too much for the Hilltoppers and advance by double digits pulling away at the end after a hard-fought game. Even if their offense isn’t clicking, their intensity and athleticism on the defensive side of the ball will rattle Western Kentucky.

- #3 Xavier vs. #7 West Virginia (7:10 PM): The Musketeers may be the least heralded #3 seed of all-time and could be considered a mid-major of Cinderella of sorts, but after West Virginia knocked out Duke I’m pretty sure the Mountaineers have enough national goodwill that the crowd won’t be rooting that hard against them.

As I noted in an earlier preview, Xavier throws out a deep lineup with 5 players now averaging between 10.1 and 12.1 PPG to go along with a solid defense. For those that still doubt they are a legit team, I would suggest that you look at their wins over teams from power conferences in the first 2 rounds. Yes, Georgia’s record was mediocre at best, but they were hot coming off their SEC tournament run while Purdue had been a solid team the entire season in the Big 10, which admittedly isn’t having a great year.

West Virginia will counter with Joe Alexander, a rtmsf favorite, and a set of players who have adjusted well to the contrast in styles between current coach Bob Huggins and former coach John Beilein. As anyone who watched this team come from behind to beat #2 seed Duke in the 2nd round knows, Huggins has a nice stable of guys who can really play as they controlled the 2nd half of that game.

Opening Line: Pick ‘em
Prediction: I’m going with the A-10 champs. These two teams are pretty evenly matched. Xavier doesn’t have a “star player” like Alexander, but they probably have a little more depth and experience and I’m going with that for the win.

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West Regional Analysis

Posted by nvr1983 on March 19th, 2008

For our second-to-last regional analysis we look to the West, which has 2 of the most storied programs in the history of the sport as its top two seeds.

Teams
#1 UCLA: The Bruins seem to be the popular pick among analysts. We can clearly see why. They have experience (and no UF to go through this year), an inside game, an outside game, and a solid coach. Ben Howland has done an excellent job getting the Bruins to play defense, which has long been a trademark of Howland’s teams. When you combine that commitment to defense with talented offensive players and the easiest region in the tournament, you have all the makings of a championship team. The big question with UCLA is their health. Pac-10 POY and uber-freshman Kevin Love (lower back spasms) and his sidekick inside Luc Richard Mbah a Moute (sprained ankle) will have to be near 100% for them to cut down the nets in San Antonio. Schedule/Roster.

#2 Duke: Coach K (everyone’s favorite leader who happens to coach basketball) has done an outstanding job utilizing this flawed team’s strengths while managing go cover up its huge hole in the inside most of the season. The Blue Devils have several outstanding perimeter players in Kyle Singler, Greg Paulus, DeMarcus Nelson, and Jon Scheyer, but they have absolutely nothing inside unless they drive by their guy on the perimeter. While ESPN (and the rest of the media) would love to have the Blue Devils advance to the Final 4, we think they rely on the outside shot too much. One of the nights they will have an off night and unless it’s in the first round, their opponents are too talented and the Blue Devils are too weak on the inside for Coach K’s squad to overcome it. Schedule/Roster.

#3 Xavier: When the casual basketball fan first looks at the bracket, this seed might confuse them. However, the Musketeers have been solid all year-long and they are ranked #12 in both polls. The Musketeers play solid defense and have an extremely balanced attack with 6 players averaging between 10 and 11.7 PPG. They should be a formidable team in the West and could give the Blue Devils all they can handle if both teams get that far. Schedule/Roster.

#4 Connecticut: Before you get too excited about Jim Calhoun’s Huskies, you should realize that this isn’t a typical Connecticut team well other than their star point guard having a history of trouble with the law (A.J. Price joins the proud legacy of Khalid El-Amin and Marcus Williams). Price has turned into the leader of the Huskies. If Calhoun’s team is going to uphold his tradition of doing well in the tournament, Price will need help from shot-blocking savant Hasheem Thabeet and the teams 4 other players who average double figures (most notably Jeff Adrien). The Huskies will be hard-pressed to get by the Bruins in the Sweet 16 where their season will likely end, which is assuming they even get by a game San Diego team in the first round. Schedule/Roster.

#5 Drake: After graduating 4 starters from last year’s team, Drake vastly exceeded expectations this year going 28-4. To be honest, before this year we never would have imagine Drake with a seed this high. One interesting note is that Drake starts Klayton Korver (younger brother of former Creighton star Kyle Korver). We thing the Korvers have a Roger Clemens-like obsession with naming their kids. Schedule/Roster.

#6 Purdue: You have to admit that it’s sort of weird watching the Boilermakers without seeing the comb-over. We like Purdue’s talent and hustle, but we think they are a year away from making a run in the tournament. Schedule/Roster.

#7 West Virginia: Bob Huggins has done a good job keeping the program at a respectable level and avoiding the Morgantown cops. They face a tough matchup in the first round against a very athletic Arizona team. Win or lose we are predicting there will be couches on fire in West Virginia after the game. Schedule/Roster.

#8 BYU: The Cougars are led by Lee Cummard and Trent Plaisted along with strong team defense. The Cougars are a legit team that gave UNC a tough game earlier in the year after knocking off Louisville. If they survive their first round game against the Aggies, they will have to play UCLA in a virtual home game for the Bruins. Schedule/Roster.

#9 Texas A&M: After starting the season 15-1, the Aggies have been up and down. The question is which team will show up in Anaheim. Regardless of which teams show up, we can’t see them getting by UCLA in the 2nd round. Schedule/Roster.

#10 Arizona: Kevin O’Neill managed to get the Wildcats into the NCAA tournament despite the unexpected and temporary absence by Arizona legend Lute Olson. While the media has widely killed the Wildcats inclusion in the tournament, we think they are very dangerous primarily because of their strong schedule and NBA-quality talent (Jerryd Bayless and Chase Budinger). Schedule/Roster.

#11 Baylor: One of the feel good stories of the tournament, Scott Drew has turned this program around. Baylor relies on 5 guards and 1 forward for their offense. If you couldn’t tell, they (like Duke) doesn’t have much on the inside. Unfortunately for Baylor, their players aren’t as good as Duke’s. Schedule/Roster.

#12 Western Kentucky: Led by Courtney Lee (20.4 PPG), the Hilltoppers snuck in under the radar most of this year playing in the same conference as South Alabama. Lee will have to have a big game if Western Kentucky is going to knock off Drake in the first round. Schedule/Roster.

#13 San Diego: This is one of the most interesting teams in the tournament. They have shown people that they can beat big name schools this year (wins versus Kentucky and Gonzaga). Despite being the third best team in the West Coast Conference this year, the Toreros will be a stiff challenge for a UConn team that isn’t your typical Jim Calhoun powerhouse. One thing is certain is that the Toreros will not be in awe of the Huskies having played a strong non-conference schedule this year. Schedule/Roster.

#14 Georgia: The media’s darling last week will be put in an interesting situation in the first round. Can you have a SEC team be a legitimate underdog against an Atlantic 10 team in the NCAA tournament? The answer is yes, but can anybody outside of Athens, GA root for them? We say no. We hope Dennis Felton and the Bulldogs enjoyed their ride. Schedule/Roster.

#15 Belmont: Belmont will get a few minutes of fame playing against TV favorite Duke. Unfortunately, they won’t be on TV long as they will likely fall way behind Duke early in the game and their game is paired against the USC-Kansas State game. Schedule/Roster.

#16 Mississippi Valley State: Jerry Rice’s alma mater will last all of about 5-10 minutes against a UCLA team playing in Anaheim, CA. That’s about all you need to know about them. Schedule/Roster.

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