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Brace yourself, because the Southeast Region could have the most upsets this year. Looking up and down this bracket and trying to decide who will move on can make a man’s head spin. Honestly, there really isn’t a clear-cut favorite to come out of this bracket. Chances are, if you pick most of the games right out of this region, you are going to be sitting pretty well. Let’s get started.
It really won’t matter who wins the play-in game, Pittsburgh will win by 20+. Pitt is the favorite to come out of this region in many brackets but it sounds like repeating history to me. They have had the #1 seed three out of the past four tournaments without a Final Four appearance.
Butler and Old Dominion is one game that I do not want to miss in the first round. Butler is a tough team, but asking them to repeat last years’ Final Four appearance is way too much. They get a very tough draw in the first round with an Old Dominion team that is on a roll, winning 13 of their last 14 games. Both teams rely on defense to be successful, but I give the nod to ODU on offense and they move on into the second round.
Analysts have claimed Pitt to be the weakest number one seed, and ODU will give them a run for their money. There is just something about this game that has upset written all over it. ODU definitely deserved a 6 or 7 seed and beat the likes of Xavier, Richmond, St. Johns, Clemson and George Mason in the regular season. However, I am still going to take Pitt to advance. But, if you want to take a salty upset, this is the one.
#5 Kansas State
#12 Utah State
Kansas State is a team I extremely like in this region. Jacob Pullen is a guy who has the tools to take a game over. They have had a roller-coaster season that included putting together a string of really great wins, and then tripping up against Colorado three times. Despite their 30-3 record, Utah State would still be classified as a Cinderella if they somehow pull off a win against K State. It won’t happen though. The Wildcats win by 10+.
Wisconsin fans have to be a tad nervous about drawing this Belmont team. Belmont is a very well-balanced team and won 12 straight games. The four loss Belmont team also boasts the nation’s second best three-point shooter in Rick Byrd. Wisconsin has won some big games, including a win over Ohio State earlier in the season. Playing the tougher schedule and having the nation’s best free throw percentage is going to give the Badgers the edge here.
A Wisconsin – K State match-up will be very intriguing. The Badgers definitely have the better D, but Pullen and the Wildcats have the better offensive attack. Kansas State will continue their run and beat Wisconsin pretty impressively.
#6 St. Johns
The St. Johns and Gonzaga match-up is another can’t miss game in the first round. These two teams also met in the 2000 NCAA Tournament when a then 10 seed Gonzaga, knocked off second seeded St. Johns. Gonzaga has a lengthy front line and could cause some problems for St. Johns as they rely a lot on penetrating to the basket. I like the Red Storm and their fast break offense to outpace the Zags and move on.
As everyone knows by now, BYU isn’t the same team without Brandon Davies. If the Cougars didn’t still have the nation’s leading scorer in Jimmer Fredette this could be a scary game for the BYU faithful. If this game does get close, BYU is an excellent free-throw shooting team and should be able to outlast Wofford, that is, if they even put up a fight.
I think BYU will be rooting for St. Johns to beat Gonzaga, just for the simple fact that without their main big man, it would be easier to get opportunities against a quick, fast paced team like St. Johns. The Red Storm are the kind of team I would like to see move on and upset BYU. This game will be close, but there’s no way Jimmer goes down this early.
#10 Michigan State
The UCLA, Michigan State match-up should be another dandy in the first round. Michigan State, regardless of their seed, is always a tough out in March. Although UCLA could be a real dark horse in the region if they can play to their full potential. This could be one of the best games of the first round and I think UCLA will come up with the win.
Florida has gotten a lot of flack from some, and praise from others. Do they truly deserve their #2 seed? Yes. The Gators won 11 games against top 50 teams and are 10-2 in their last dozen games. If you look up and down their schedule, they had a resume that doesn’t make their #2 seed seem that unreasonable. It will also help that Florida won’t have to travel real far for any of their regional games.
The Florida, UCLA match-up will have a lot of eyes on it, but I just don’t think this UCLA team is ready to take the next step and become an elite team in college basketball again. Florida is just overall a better team and shouldn’t have much of a problem with UCLA.
Sweet Sixteen Matchups
#5 Kansas State
This could be an epic game as both teams are more alike than one would think. Both average 73-74 points a game, both allow 61-61 points a game and Pitt has only lost one more game than K State over their past 12. Like I said earlier, I really think Kansas State has what it takes to make noise throughout the entire tournament. Pitt gets upset once again.
Florida drew a pretty lucky card in the bottom half of their bracket and without Davies I just don’t see how BYU can match-up against Florida. Jimmer will do all he can to keep this game close, and it might come down to the wire if Jackson Emery takes some of the load off Fredette. But Florida will just be too much to overcome.
Elite Eight Matchup
#5 Kansas State
I said right away I really like this K State team and I am going to ride them all the way to the Final Four. Pittsburgh, Kansas State and Wisconsin are better teams than Florida in my mind. Kansas State will be battle-tested. The Wildcats are also out looking for revenge from the 13 point loss to the Gators earlier in the year. I’m taking Kansas State to move on to the Final Four and get into the championship game.
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