Sunday, March 13, 2011

Bracket Help

About to enter your family/friends/office pool, but haven't paid too much attention this year? I got you covered.

I won't bore you with who you should pick as your champion -- mine, every year, is North Carolina, regardless of how they do in the regular season; this often comes back to hurt me -- and I won't just go over who the best upsets are, though I did do this the other day here and here.

Instead, here are five general tips for figuring out how you want to predict this year's field ...

1) Beware the East

While the Southeast Region is no slouch, the East bracket really brings the power. The winner of the George Mason/Villanova game could easily topple overall No. 1 Ohio State in the second round and there are several teams -- namely, Kentucky and Washington -- who seemed to be a seed or two better during the regular season than they were given.

My advice is -- unless you have a UNC-bias, as I do -- avoid picking a national champion from the East Region. I think you could make a case for the top nine seeds in this bracket to be your Final Four entry from this region which means no one team has a fantastic shot of making it.

2) Will we get a 12 beating a 5?

Every year, this seems to be the heaviest upset we can expect to happen, so who will it be this year?

Though Utah State is a solid bet in the Southeast Region, my preference is for Richmond over Vanderbilt in the Southwest. Richmond is fresh off winning the Atlantic 10 conference tournament and has won seven games in a row. Plus, the Spiders also won its toughest game of the season -- Purdue in the pre-conference schedule -- so they have big-game experience already.

3) Who has the easiest road to the Final Four?

My money is on Duke for this one, though Kansas is a close second. Duke is the No. 1 seed in the West Region and has as smooth a ride to the Elite Eight as a team could hope for; the only game Duke could lose before the Elite Eight is if floundering Texas gets itself together in time for the Sweet 16.

Duke also gets the benefit of playing the winner of San Diego State/UConn in the Elite Eight. Both those teams are athletic and scrappy, so their Sweet 16 matchup should be a dogfight, perhaps tiring out the victor for its matchup two days later with the Blue Devils.

4) Do we have a Final Four sleeper?

If we consider anyone lower than a 4-seed to be a sleeper, I think we have a few, but my favorite is Kansas State. The 5-seed in the Southeast has a tough first-round game against Utah State, then takes on the winner of Wisconsin/Belmont (I like Belmont for the upset), and then will have a date with No. 1 Pittsburgh.

The Panthers have been a force all season, but historically tend to flame out in the Sweet 16; Pitt has been a power since the early 2000s, but has only once (2009) gone to the Elite Eight. After that, Kansas State will have a winnable game against likely either Florida or BYU.

5) Does Jimmer have a chance?

The unofficial Four More Years Player of the Year does have a shot at March Madness glory because the Selection Committee was very good to our friend, Jimmer Fredette.

Jimmer and the Fredettes got a second-round date with St. Johns, a tough matchup for the Cougars because of the Red Storm's size, but the Johnnies are coming off a loss in which they lost their best player (D.J. Kennedy). St. Johns will be a tough out for BYU in the second round, but it is more than doable and the road gets easier from there.

After that, BYU gets to play Florida, who the Cougars beat in last year's NCAA tournament, albeit in double-overtime.

My take? If you like BYU over St. Johns, you can safely put Jimmer and his crew into the Elite Eight. Of the top teams in that bracket, I don't love BYU matching up with Pitt's size, but Jimmer will likely be favored against any other team in the Elite Eight.

--Michael Kelly

Labels: , , , , , ,


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home