The Midwest Region is home to the Louisville Cardinals, the top seed in the tournament. Louisville is a solid, quality ballclub with a coach in Rick Pitino who, in my opinion, should already be in the Basketball Hall of Fame. However, I think the #1 overall seed is too high. Louisville has a style of play that appears to try to out-physical their opponents, but, more times than not in closer games, resorts to the jumper. I don't think they can win the whole thing with that style. The Cardinals' success is going to hinge on senior standout point guard Peyton Siva (10 PPG, 6 APG). It's now or never and he knows it.
I have Michigan State advancing from this region. Like Louisville, they have a cream of the crop coach in Tom Izzo. Like Louisville, the Spartans stake their claim in the paint but unlike Louisville, they have the bodies to do it for 40 minutes and win games. Their key player is junior guard Keith Appling (14 PPG, 4 APG) and I think he is at a point in which he can lead his team through the bracket.
|Win or lose, expect Pitino to be among the best dressed at the Big Dance. 1|
Kansas is the top seed in the region and that should surprise nobody. Bill Self is another elite head coach in the college ranks. Guard Ben McLemore (16 PPG, 5 RPG) may be getting more of the headlines in 2013 (and might not be playing in college in 2014) but Kansas will continue to advance in the later rounds is senior Jeff Withey (14 PPG, 8 RPG) dominates in the middle like he has all season. Kansas could win the entire tournament, but I have them losing to Michigan.
Michigan is consistently inconsistent but steps its game up for the big games. Their backcourt play (when it is “on”) takes away Kansas’ strength down low. It is a gamble of a pick and if I am wrong, do not be surprised to see Kansas cutting down the nets on April 8th in Atlanta.
My pick out of this region is Georgetown. Georgetown has been on fire in the last month. What sold me on the Hoyas was how they simply manhandled Syracuse twice in the regular season, including once in the Carrier Dome where the Orange never lose. Hoyas forward Otto Porter, Jr.(16 PPG, 7 RPG) has been playing out of his mind of late, scoring in double figures in 18 consecutive games. Georgetown controls the game as well as any team and every player on the court is a capable offensive contributor. Their “test” will likely be a Sweet 16 matchup with Florida and/or a Regional Final contest against Kansas (if I am wrong about Michigan winning a possible KU-UM matchup).
|John Thompson, II led the Hoyas to a championship in 1984. Can current coach John Thompson, III carry the torch? 2|
To paraphrase NFL wide receiver Randy Moss, “Straight chalk, homie!”
I expect a #1 Gonzaga vs #2 Ohio St. contest in the West Regional Final. I expect the Buckeyes of OSU to advance because, frankly, I am not sold on West Coast Conference basketball and its utter lack of defense and physical play. That doesn't mean Gonzaga isn't very good. And players like senior forward Elias Harris (15 PPG, 7 RPG) will enable the Bulldogs to zip through the earlier rounds. But this semi-Cinderella will meet the stroke of midnight should it cross paths with Deshaun Thomas (20 PPG, 6 RPG) and the physical, athletic, and deceptively quick Buckeyes.
Upset special: Ole Miss to the Sweet 16.
|Straight chalk! 3|
I also have chalk coming out of the region, but I see potential for a few minor upsets in the second and third rounds of the tournament in this bracket (the rounds of 64 and 32, respectively). I have been proclaiming the Indiana Hosiers to be fool's gold all year long, and thought I had some ammunition when they were upset by Butler in November. However, the Hosiers have proven, with their total body of work, that they deserve to be the #1 seed in the region. The household name on this team is sophomore forward Cody Zeller (17 PPG, 8 RPG), but I think the x-factor for IU is guard Victor Oladipo (14 PPG, 6 RPG, 2 StlPG, 44% - 3 pt. pct.). Oladipo can do everything…EVERYTHING on both ends of the floor and is why the Hosiers have a chance at a championship this season.
The Miami Hurricanes have made doubters out of the believers that “The U” was just a flash-in-the-pan team on a regular season hot streak. They won the ACC regular season title. They won the ACC tournament. Their 1-2 punch of guard Shane Larkin (15 PPG, 4 APG, 4 RPG, 2 StlPG) and 6’11” center Kenny Kadji (13 PPG, 7 RPG, 68% FG, 36% 3 pt. pct.) has been all but unstoppable all season. The Miami-Indiana matchup, should it happen, will be a meeting of flight (Indiana) versus fight (Miami). At high levels of basketball, I think fundamentals like rebounds and points in the paint win out which is why I think Miami would have the slightest advantage against the speedy, sharp-shooting Hosiers.
|Victor Oladipo of Indiana has the inside track on the Player of the Year award. 4|
I have OSU beating MSU and Georgetown U. beating “The U” for an Ohio State-Georgetown Championship Game, with the Hoyas emerging victorious. But that is a L..O..N..G way away. My personal “Sheet of Integrity” could easily be headed for the shredder by this time next week. So take my braket with a grain…better yet…a shaker of salt and enjoy March Madness!
|To be settled in Atlanta.... 5|
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