Mar 9, 2012; New Orleans, LA, USA; Florida Gators guard Erving Walker (11) grabs a loose ball in front of Alabama Crimson Tide guard Trevor Lacey (3) in the second half in the second round of the 2012 SEC Tournament at the New Orleans Arena. Florida won, 66-63. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-US PRESSWIRE
I've now completed my bracket, which is based quite a bit on my guy instinct and what I believed before the bracket was put out. This year, I feel that the strength is with the middle seeds, 4 to 12 seeds, and that you might find the best value in those places. The top teams this year, while having some really good teams, aren't nearly as dominant as in the past, and will probably find themselves in tough games with the 4 to 12 seeds, as well as in the opening round games.
Many have already proclaimed that the South is the toughest region, and I would probably agree with that. Despite not having conference tournament winners, there's plenty of NCAA experienced teams in the South, and I think this is where there will be the most upsets.
UNLV is one of my elite 8 teams from this region. They are an explosive offensive team, and one that has shown they can beat the top teams out there. UNLV played in a strong Mountain West conference this year, as 4 of the 8 teams including UNLV are going to the Big Dance. Quite impressive for a mid major conference, though the Pac 12's abysmal season is partially to blame for the extra spots out west.
Xavier is another team that I think could surprise in this region. Duke is pretty much the red headed stepchild of the 2 seeds, and most expect them to be knocked off ASAP, including me. Ryan Kelly missed the ACC tournament with an injury, so they may not be at 100% this weekend. Their reliance on the 3 point shot is also a cause for concern, because they aren't a typical Duke team that is lights out from there.
Kentucky will be tested as well. In my opinion, Iowa State and Connecticut are both teams that are capable of beating them in the second game. Most have Kentucky on an expressway to the finals, but be careful with that because Iowa State and UConn both have the talent to spring an upset. Not to mention that Jim Calhoun is back for UConn and they are a much better team when he is on the sidelines.
The Midwest is perhaps the region that I really didn't have much trouble picking teams. I thought the top teams in this region have all been quite consistent all year, and because of that I picked the 1-2-3-5 seeds to make it to the Sweet 16. But once it got to that point, anything can happen.
Temple is perhaps my choice for a team that could completely mess up the tournament. The Owls are one of the best shooting teams in the country, have played a tough schedule, beat tough teams, have lots of NCAA experience, and have an awesome coach on the sidelines. Had they played in a major conference, people might be giving more thought for the Owls to the final 4. I have them to the elite 8, upsetting North Carolina, but falling to Kansas in a "road game" in St. Louis.
Other than that, I don't have many shocking picks in this bracket. NC State is a team I think could steal a point if you choose the 11 over 6 upset, but I don't think they will go farther than that. I think Michigan will have lots of trouble as the 4 seed, and don't see a reason to pick them to go very far. Kansas is the safe bet, though you can never feel truly safe with the Jayhawks, as they are a team that has been upset quite a bit under Bill Self.
Although the South gets a lot of credit for being tough, most are also quick to point out that the East has a lot of hot teams right now, as well as a couple of really talented top teams. Honestly, I think this is the most difficult region to pick, simply because I don't know what teams will show up.
Florida State is the 3 in this region. When they play their best, they are a team that could go to the finals. They've beaten UNC multiple times, as well as Duke. They also have a horrible loss to Boston College. Their defense is very good, while their offense can get stagnant, but also can be high powered when shooters are making shots. I think they are a little bit too risky to pick to beat Ohio State, but I wouldn't fault anyone for thinking they could go far.
Overall though, this is a bracket I felt comfortable picking the 1-2-3-4 teams. Ohio State and Syracuse's consistency is something that shouldn't be forgotten just because they lost their conference tournaments. I think this bracket may end up being an example to never get too high or too low on a team. I'm admittedly biased, so I picked Syracuse, but it wouldn't shock me at all if they lost before playing the Buckeyes. It also wouldn't shock me if West Virginia puts up a fight and scores a big upset in the second game.
Last but not least is the West region. This region might end up being quite wild when all is said and done. Missouri is a team that I really thought would have a great chance at the final 4, but I'm not sure I like their potential match ups out here. Marquette is a battle tested team that I think could give them trouble. The Golden Eagles have been playing really well for the last two months, and have the best 1-2 punch from the Big East. Michigan State, I think, is likely to be the first 1 seed to be knocked out. Despite the fact that they are also battle tested more than any other team, I feel that the injury to Branden Dawson could end up costing them.
Also, Memphis is a team that a lot of people think is capable of the upset, and I agree. The Tigers lost quite a bit of games early, but they were against a lot of really tough teams. 6 of their non-conference games were against NCAA teams, along with two against Tennessee and a road trip to Miami(FL). They didn't win many of them, but since then they have been red hot and have only lost two since the middle of February. Conference USA wasn't that bad this year, and they were still dominant, so they are a definite value pick as an 8 seed.
In the end, though, I think Marquette comes out of the region. Something tells me that their hot shooting will be able to carry them far this year, as well as their tenacity on defense.
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