Breaking Down the Brackets: A Few Interesting Match-Ups

FromMontanaToCrabtree breaks down the Eastern and Western brackets, while SemihErden breaks down the Southwestern and Southeastern brackets.  Here we go!

Eastern Bracket

Winner: Ohio State over North Carolina.

Interesting Bracket Picks

George Mason over Villanova. This is the toughest game to call in the bracket, if not in the tournament.  I know this isn’t an upset, but I feel like it needs some justification.  If the Tournament is about heat, Villanova is running cold as ice.[1] They lost 10 of their last 15, including a loss to the USF Bulls and the Providence Friars.  I don’t think that Villanova has righted the ship after their lackluster performance in the Big East Tournament.  George Mason wins.

Marquette over Xavier.  Xavier has been riding on the backs of the outstanding guard Tu Holloway, who averages 20 points and 5 assists.[2] Seen by some as a future NBA prospect – at least at the fringe[3] – I respect his ability as a college player.  Nevertheless, I think that Marquette’s edge in offensive rebounding[4] will give them the edge, especially given how close this game is going to be.  I don’t know that this will matter because I see Syracuse defeating either team in the Sweet 16. Marquette Wins.

Syracuse over UNC. I see UNC over Washington in a close one, and Syracuse over Marquette as mentioned above to set up what should be a great Elite 8 matchup.  I’m picking Syracuse because the top teams that Syracuse lost to have had one thing in common: good defense.[5] UNC ranks 20th in defense, not my favorite pick against Boeheim’s Orange. Syracuse Wins.

Western Bracket

Winner: Duke over Connecticut.

Interesting Bracket Picks

Michigan over Tennessee. This is a close one. The Wolverines make a greater percentage of their baskets[6], and even though they have a pathetic offensive rebounding percentage at under 24% of shots attempted, the shooting of Tim Hardaway Jr. – who has been on fire, by the way[7] – and more specifically the number of free throw attempts will overcome this lack of offensive rebounding.[8]

Memphis over Arizona. This is my 5-12 upset in the bracket, and I think for good reason.  Arizona is literally a one man show, and they likely won’t be able to keep it up after losing to Washington in the Pac-10 tournament.  Memphis’ defensive rebounding differential, almost 6% more offensive rebounds per shot attempted, is astounding, and also relevant against a team that, outside of Derrick Williams, may not have much firepower.

Texas over Oakland.  Why am I including this here? Mainly because Oakland’s Keith Benson[9] is a force – as everyone knows – but I don’t see Oakland getting past Memphis, so, for the sake of bracket integrity and disbelief of the hype, I’m picking SemihErden’s Longhorns.

Penn State over Temple. I pick an upset here, mainly because I think (despite my general skepticism of the Big 10 this year) despite Penn State’s basically inability to play any defense, they’ve been hot offensively and have had recent wins to show for it (Michigan State and a defensive battle against Wisconsin).  I’m also not liking Temple’s most recent regular-season loss to the Spiders of Richmond.

Southwestern Bracket

Winner: Kansas over Georgetown.

Interesting Bracket Picks

Florida St. over Texas A&M.  You better believe that defense makes the difference.  And the ‘Noles play it well – in fact, so well that they are the top defensive team in the country.  Look for Chris Singleton and co. to knock off an Aggie team that has looked lackluster on offense on several occasions this season (see 3 losses to Texas).

Kansas over Louisville. Though Rick Pitino & Co. looked good in the Big East Tournament (losing in the finals to UConn), don’t expect them to overcome the athleticism of Kansas and the Morris twins inside.  Preston Knowles is a phenomenal senior guard, but at the end of the day, Kansas is too complete on both ends of the ball to drop this one.

Georgetown over Notre Dame.  Shocker, I know.  But the Hoyas are easily the scariest 6-seed in the Tournament.  I know G-Town struggled toward the end of the season, but we all know that they’re a different team with PG Chris Wright.  The backcourt play of Freeman and Wright will prove to be too much for baby Hansbrough and the Fighting Irish.

Southeastern Bracket

Winner: Pittsburgh over Michigan State.

Interesting Bracket Picks

Michigan St. over Florida.  You heard it here, first.  Well, maybe not.  Everyone knows that Tom Izzo’s teams come to play at this time of the year.  Moreover, the Gators are easily the most overrated 2-seed in the tournament.  After getting waxed by Kentucky in the SEC Championship Game, expect the woes to continue with an early round exit to Kalin Lucas and the Spartans.

St. John’s over BYU.  A lot of people have BYU losing 1st round to Wofford.  I’m not so sure about that, but I do see them being ousted in Round 2.  The Red Storm will send Jimmer Fredette on his way to being JJ Redick in the NBA.

Pittsburgh over Wisconsin.  Frankly, I’m not even so sure that Wisconsin will make it this far.  But hey, I made the pick so I’ll stick with it.  I know folks are down on Pitt after their 1st round exit in the Big East Tournament.  In my mind, though, the loss will fuel Pitt’s fire and propel them into the Final Four.  Expect this one to be easy.  Double-digit easy.

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