I am sure most of you are super busy. Not with homework, but with filling out your brackets. “Who do I pick in this match-up?” “Who is going to make it to the Final Four?” “I am really stuck on this game!”
Let’s calm down a bit here. I am going to breakdown every region, starting with the South Region tonight.
Kentucky is the overall #1 seed in the entire tournament and I think they are the best team in this region. However, there are plenty of teams in this region that capable of knocking off the Wildcats. Duke, Baylor, UNLV, and Indiana, who beat Kentucky during the regular season, are capable of coming out the South Region.
Now, do I think that will happen? No.
But let’s take a look at the South Region.
Iowa State v. Connecticut – This is a tough match-up for me to pick, as are most 8/9 match-ups. When Connecticut is playing well, they can beat any team in the country. But they have had their struggles this season. André Drummond, Jeremy Lamb and Shabbaz Napier lead this young squad of Huskies against the “Mayor” Fred Hoiberg’s Cyclones, who are led by point-forward Royce White. Iowa State loads up on the perimeter while White patrols the paint. ISU can stroke the three as well as any team in the country and when they get hot, they can beat anyone. I feel that the Big East is over-rated this season (make that every season), so I have Connecticut losing to Iowa State in a close one.
Wichita State v. VCU – The 5/12 match-up isn’t any easier. Wichita State and VCU are two very good teams. Wichita State is led by their 7-foot center Garret Stutz, who averaged 13.5 ppg and 8 rpg. Wichita looks and loves to get up and down the floor, averaging 77 ppg and they play very good defense as well, allowing only 62 ppg. VCU was last season’s Cinderella team, making it all the way to the Final Four. They return to the tournament for the second year in a row led by their head coach Shaka Smart. One thing I don’t like about VCU’s chances is that they aren’t efficient on offense, ranking 122nd in the nation in offensive efficiency. They don’t shoot the ball well from the field or three-point range. One thing that will keep them in the game is their defense. They play very good defense and defense wins championships, look at last year’s championship game (although I can’t contribute the low point totals to great defense but rather pathetic shooting). They play a swarming, pressure defense that forces opponents to turn it over (610 times this season, leading the nation). I like Wichita State in this one.
Notre Dame v. Xavier – Ever since the Cincinnati/Xavier brawl, neither Tu Holloway nor the Musketeers have been the same. So what makes me think they will take down a Notre Dame team that I always feel is soft? The answer: Tu Holloway. Notre Dame is in love with the three-pointer and always under-performs in the tournament (remember when they got smacked last season by 10-seed Florida State). I am picking an “upset”: Xavier.
There might be some good games in this round, but only one game really intrigues me:
Nevada-Las Vegas v. Baylor – This could be one of the best games in the tournament and it will be taking place in the third round. Perry Jones v. Mike Moser is a match-up that will have NBA scouts drooling. While Jones gets a lot of hype for having all the tools to be “great”, his counterpart, Moser, has been under the radar for the majority of the year. Moser averaged a double-double this season, while having several “stat-stuffing” games. UNLV also poses one of the best three-point attacks in the country led by 46% three-point shooter Chace Stanback. Quincy Miller, Quincy Acy, and Pierre Jackson will have something to say before it’s all said and done though. But once it’s over, the Runnin’ Rebels will be runnin’ to the Sweet 16.
Duke v. Nevada-Las Vegas – One major flaw that the Blue Devils have is they lack athleticism. While they have little to no athleticism, the Runnin’ Rebels have a lot of athleticism. Athleticism stops opposing offenses in the tournament. Duke’s Austin Rivers is the only player on the team that can create for himself, while the rest of the team feeds off ball movement and open three-point shots. Nevada-Las Vegas plays too good of defense and they love to get out in transition and run. Rivers loves dribble around and shoot. In the end, that could spell a long day for the Blue Devils. I have the Runnin’ Rebels moving to the Elite Eight. They back? They back!
Kentucky v. Nevada-Las Vegas – Both teams are athletic, but Kentucky is more athletic, talented, and flat-out just better than Nevada-Las Vegas. I have Kentucky moving on to New Orléans for the Final Four.