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NCAA Tournament Regional Ramblings: The Midwest

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A glance out to flyover territory reveals a bracket that's probably the most balanced of the four regions. The committee says otherwise, but I think the Louisville Cardinals are the weakest number 1 seed. But I get what the committe did here. The 'Ville, like, won their conference and conference tourney and shit. Cool. Reward them. But for some reason they drew the toughest 4 seed and the toughest 2 seed. As for Kansas defending their title, the committee did them no favors. Placing two suffocating defenses on their side of the bracket is going to make it very difficult for the Hawks to make it to the elite 8. Let's get to the games.

bc
Floyd always has something up his sleeve.

I like Siena's upperclassman-laden starting lineup to give the young Buckeyes fits on both ends of the floor. On offense, Siena likes to put you in the mixmaster of penetrate and kick. Defensively, they'll get after you. You need good guard play to knock off the Saints. Siena with the mild upset.

Louisville doesn't have great guard play, but Sosa and the versatile Terrence Williams should be enough. The Cardinals pull out a single digit win to get out of Dayton.

In Miami, I expect a healthy Jordan Hill to neutralize Utah star pivot Luke Nevill. The problem with the Cats is Budinger is hot and cold and Nic Wise isn't an elite guard. The Utes Borha and Green sizzle from downtown, both shooting over 40% from deep. And Utah does it the right way by looking for their offense inside then out. It keeps everyone involved and it makes the defense not only have to defend the entire floor, but it also get them out of position helping and recovering. Utah is a better TEAM than U of A. They advance.

bc
Luke Neville is a young Dave Fietl.

Cleveland State brings a good defensive club to the other game in Miami. The problem for them is that they will be outquicked at all 3 perimeter positions, and they'll have a hard time closing out defensive possessions with boards because Wake is so physical. Wake advances to face the Utes.

Wake is going to attempt to take Neville out of this game by replacing Chase McFarland for Ish Smith to attack with a smaller lineup that can get up and down the floor. With guards like Smith, Teague, and Harvey Hale, the Deacons will be able to dictate the precise pace to neutralize the Ute big man. If that doesn't work, McFarland has the size to slow Neville down in a grinding game. Wake has too many weapons to lose here.

In the battle to get to the elite 8, one statistic will be key. Can Wake protect the basketball and make the ballgame a game of HORSE? If so, I like Wake's chances. Not only do they have better creators than Louisville, but they have guards that can improvise when things break down offensively. Louisville is too reliant on its press, and Wake should be able to punish pressure. Wake beat a good pressing Clemson team twice in convincing fashion. I like the Deacs to advance.

bc
Louisville is too reliant on the press.

On the bottom side of the bracket you have a Bob Huggin's coached team chomping at the bit after running into the 'Cuse buzzsaw in the Big East tourney. Ruoff and Buter should be able to exploit Dayton for a comfortable win.

Kansas routs NDSU with Aldrich dominating inside.

KU will struggle in the next game because WVA does a good job of identifying one player and taking him out of the game. Collins will be severely limited by the 'Neers on ball defense and it will take one of the young pups stepping up for the Jayhawks to survive. They won't be able to because they're still a year away. It's been a good year for KU. Very similar to Kevin Durant's freshman year in that Texas overachieved to a high seed, and then lost to a good defensive team with experience, hellbent on taking one player away. Note to Kansas, if WVA didn't get you, rest assured Travis Walton and the Spartans would.

Speaking of USC, I like Daniel Hackett and company to take away Tyrese Rice with some sort of Tim Floydian concoction like a hexagon and 2 or an protozoa and 1. USC advances to play an MSU team that will hold Robert Morris to 45 points in route to a single digit win.

Kalin Lucas is your difference in the next battle with USC. He and Travis Walton will control tempo against the slower USC guards. Izzo owns the tourney, and Floyd is only good for one upset a tournament.

Huggins vs. Izzo should be a defensive struggle. I like Kalin Lucas and Travis Walton to be able to find the improvizational buckets that Ruoff can't. Goran Sutton wins it with a buzzer beater in a 47 to 46 game.

In the regional final, it's going to be a battle of styles and which team can impose its style on the other. Can MSU slow down the Deacs and frustrate them in the halfcourt? Will the Deacs turn the game into somewhat of an open attack that allows Teague, Smith, and Johnson to operate in space? The difference is I think Wake can win in either style game. Up tempo is a no brainer win for Wake. But in a ground and pound game, Aminu and Mcfarland are big, athletic, and skilled enough to do damage.

Plus, if need be, Wake can zone the hell out of Sparty with impugnity now that Nietzel is gone. Who's going to ring the bell for MSU? On the other side, if Teague and Smith shred MSU's pressure man much like they did to Duke, what's Izzo's fallback? It's not in his DNA to play zone, or even play a sagging M2M. See last year's tourney game against Memphis. Izzo would rather lose by 20 than play a fancy Dan zone for long stretches. I love guards and I like Wake here.

bc
Teague crew will cut down the nets.

Wake to the final four.

Bracket Sleepers: Wake, WVA

First Round Best Bets Against the Number: Wake -8, Siena +3, USC -2, Kansas -10.

All Regional Team: Jeff Teague, Kalin Lucas, DaShaun Butler, Luke Neville, Terrance Williams.