Let's start our run of barely coherent regional ramblings with the East. It's a Texas blog, so you do the math. The other 3 will follow in short order and also look for a preview of the Minnesota game.
You can read Nobel Peace Prize winner John Nash's anaylsis of the tournament here. Dude's numbers are solid and he's won me money in the past. Mainly from bets on him striking out with chicks by tonguing a protractor.
Playing Captain Stubing to Huck's Love Boat, we have Scipio's musings on the Horns' first round matchup aqui.
Biggs will shine with help from Blair.
So, going East, we have a region that's a tale of two brackets. Starting in the top half of the bracket, I don't think you can draw it up any better for the Pitt Panthers to advance to the regional final. Okie State and Tennessee are too small to put up any kind of a fight against Pitt's size inside, and neither of these teams are disciplined enough on offense to take advantage of whatever favorable perimeter matchups they'll have on that end. Out of all the one seeds, Pitt has a proverbial path of least resistance to the sweet 16.
The next foursome includes what should be an interesting 5/12 battle between Wisky and FSU, and a walk by XU. Florida State took it on the matchup chin by drawing the Badgers, a team that plays excellent team defense and methodical offense. The key for the Badgers is keeping FSU from playing volleyball on the offensive glass. They're good enough to slow down Douglas but if they can play good position team defense, it will lead to favorable block out position helping to close out possessions against a very athletic Seminole club. FSU would have been better served facing a wide open style BCS conference team or an undersized mid-major. Sorry tomahawks, Wisky advances in a prototypical 12-5 upset special.
Xavier should take care of PSTU for two reasons. First, XU won't play bored like it has much of the last two months. Two, their lack of size won't be an issue against PSTU. Romp.
In the second round game, Xavier has just the personnel tonic for the Badgers, mainly because their 3 best players, Brown, Raymond, and Anderson are athletic wings that can create and score. Throw in Jackson, a good sized point guard as another dribble penetrator and creator. If you can make Wisky help and recover from a variety of positions, you can exploit their lack of quickness. Xavier will. Musketeers advance.
In the battle to get to the regional final, the key will be, yes, you guessed it...Tyrell Biggs. Not the Olympic boxer, but Pitt's power forward. Xavier's personnel group, which reminds of the Kenny Battle/Marcus Liberty Illini clubs in that they are all similar sized athletes, will play one legit big man, Jason Love. And Love will certainly be on all everything post Dejuan Blair. That leaves undersized Derrick Brown to keep glass-eater Tyrell Biggs off of the boards in one on one situations, or BJ Raymond blocking Biggs off the weak glass when Brown goes to double Blair. Look for Biggs to have a huge game, which is bad news when his team also rolls out Fields, Young, and Blair. Xavier needed to be in Louisville's bracket, not Pitt's.
Derrick Brown gives the Musketeers versatility.
The bottom half of the bracket is one of the weaker pairings in the tournament. Duke is probably the weakest 2, especially from an inside/outside balance standpoint. Nova is a weak 3 for the same reason, and although they've beaten Pitt once this year, I don't like how they matchup with the Panthers' size in a neutral setting. Oh yeah, the Cats have already lost to the 7th seed up top. In case you hadn't heard.
So, this is how it shakes out. Unlike most pundits, I'm actually pretty bullish on the Bruins. I love their guard play, and I think they can defend when they want to. Collison is the best point guard in the lower bracket, and certainly UCLA's supporting cast is better than any other 6 seed in the nation. I like them to beat VCU. And with the Cats beating American, it will be a battle of Collison and Shipp vs. Reynolds and Fisher. I like Collison as more of a pure playmaker here, and Shipp should be able to frustrate Fisher on offense and make Fisher play defense on the other end. Advantage UCLA. If Aboya can slow down Cunningham, and limit him on the glass, I think the Bruins advance. And I'm aware that the game is in Philly.
On the other side of the bracket, I like Duke to get by Binghamton.
Texas should be able to exploit the Gophers' lack of balance on offense, and specifically the ability to draw Dexter Pittman away from the bucket. Dex has cover options this game, and that's rarely good news for the opponent on the other end. Texas has advantages on the wings with James and Johnson, and this will be the key to the ball game as the Gophers pay too much attention to Abrams around the arc and Pittman in the paint. Look for GJ and DJ to go off.
Which leads to Duke vs. Texas. Remember the Kansas vs. Texas preview? Or as George Lopez would say, Member? In the preview I stated that if Self was stubborn enough to run traditional M2M vs. Texas the Jayhawks would get lit up. Well he was stubborn and Texas scored 44 first half points, and it wasn't until Self played a softer m2m and some box and 1 until the Hawks were able to get back in.
Ditto for this ballgame. If Coach K plays Smith to pressure Balbay, denies the wings against AJ/Mason/James/Johnson, and plays Pittman head up, Texas will drop 40 first half points on the Devils. If K plays Texas as he did Wake, a four man shell that extended to shooters only, Texas will get rolled. It's really that simple. Everything else is just shooting variance. And the Devils will have to be ice cold for it to make a difference if Coach K does the right thing defensively early on. Coach Kljhgtyhski has a gold medal and a couple of championships. He'll do the right thing. Duke wins.
If he's stubborn Texas can win.
Which leaves us Duke and Pitt. Levance Fields will be the key here, because he'll be able to neutralize Duke's pressure and find Blair in the low block or Sam Young roaming the baseline with Duke focussing help to Blair. On defense, Pitt will make Duke play one on one basketball because they'll stop penetration and deny easy ball movement and ball reversal exploiting Duke's lack of playmakers. Count on Pitt to pull defensive rebounds with the same ease in which Sailor Ripley beats me at Ebonics Scrabble. Pitt to the final four.
Bracket Sleepers: Wisconsin, UCLA
First Round Best Bets Against the Number: Pitt -20, Wisconsin +3, UCLA -7, Xavier -10, Okie State +3, American +16.5.
All Regional Team: Levance Fields, Darren Collison, Dejuan Blair, Derrick Brown, Gerald Henderson.
Madness, for my boy hiphop.