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NCAA bracket analysis

Victor Oladipo

Victor Oladipo

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Updated: March 12, 2012 1:46PM



The good news is the NCAA tournament starts Tuesday. The great news is the word bracketology now will disappear for 11 months.

This is the way one man looks at the field, and the track record isn’t too shabby. Last season Connecticut was the pick to win it all; thanks to Kemba Walker it was the right call.

Here’s the breakdown of the bracket (winners in all caps):

FIRST FOUR

MISSISSIPPI VALLEY STATE vs. Western Kentucky — The Delta Devils will be helped by their brutal early schedule.

IONA vs. Brigham Young University — The Gaels were the surprise at-large pick. When people get a look at Scott Machado, one of the best point guards in the country, this won’t be a shock.

VERMONT vs. Lamar — The Catamounts are a strong defensive team that can take advantage of all the attention Cardinals coach Pat Knight and his derogatory comments about his seniors will draw.

SOUTH FLORIDA vs. California — The Bulls are very physical, and it just isn’t the Pac-12’s year.

SOUTH REGIONAL

SECOND ROUND

(1) KENTUCKY vs. (16) Mississippi Valley State — It will be sentimental before the blowout as Delta Devils coach Sean Woods goes against the school he led to the regional finals 20 years ago.

(9) CONNECTICUT vs. (8) Iowa State — The Huskies are a different team with Jim Calhoun back on the bench, and they are the only team with a chance to repeat as champion.

(5) WICHITA STATE vs. Virginia Commonwealth — The Shockers have a good big man in Garrett Stutz, and the Rams can’t sneak up on anybody after reaching the Final Four last year.

(13) NEW MEXICO STATE vs. (4) Indiana — The Aggies are a very athletic team; the Hoosiers are a team with no NCAA experience.

(6) UNLV vs. (11) Colorado — The Runnin’ Rebels are going to be happy to get away from Mountain West teams.

(3) BAYLOR vs. (14) South Dakota State — Five of the Bears’ seven losses were to Kansas and Missouri; the Jackrabbits aren’t on that level.

(10) XAVIER vs. (7) Notre Dame — The Musketeers’ backcourt can speed things up against the Fighting Irish, who have had a lot of trouble scoring lately.

(2) DUKE vs. Lehigh — The Blue Devils just don’t lose NCAA games in the state of North Carolina.

THIRD ROUND

CONNECTICUT vs. Kentucky — This is a rematch of last year’s national semifinal. Connecticut’s Andre Drummond gets a chance to show he could be on the level of Anthony Davis of the Wildcats in a matchup of freshmen big men.

WICHITA STATE vs. New Mexico State — While most people watch Stutz in the middle, the Shockers have a pretty good backcourt that can run with the Aggies.

UNLV vs. Baylor — Teams aren’t shy about letting 3s fly against the Bears’ zone, and the Runnin’ Rebels have four players who can hit them.

DUKE vs. Xavier — The Blue Devils have plenty of Plumlees to take advantage of Xavier’s thin frontcourt.

REGIONAL SEMIFINALS

WICHITA STATE vs. Connecticut — The Huskies’ NCAA run has to end sometime, and the Shockers will take advantage of UConn still riding the upset of the overall No. 1 seed.

DUKE vs. University of Nevada-Las Vegas — This was a great national semifinal game in 1991. The Blue Devils should move on with a rare advantage up front.

REGIONAL FINAL

WICHITA STATE vs. Duke — By now, Stutz will be recognized as a legitimate big man, and Duke hasn’t done well against power players.

WEST REGIONAL

SECOND ROUND

(1) MICHIGAN STATE vs. (16) Long Island University — The Blackbirds have dominated the Northeast Conference the last two seasons. The Spartans handle themselves pretty well in the Big Ten.

(8) MEMPHIS vs. (16) St. Louis — The Tigers haven’t had a close game in their seven-game winning streak, and their depth should help against the Billikens’ solid defense.

(12) LONG BEACH STATE vs. (5) New Mexico — The 49ers are a veteran team that played a tough nonconference schedule.

(4) LOUISVILLE vs. (13) Davidson — The Cardinals won the Big East tournament and are finally healthy.

(11) COLORADO STATE vs. (6) Murray State — The Rams have faced a lot of teams that like to shoot the 3 the way the Racers do, so defending Isaiah Canaan won’t be anything new.

(3) MARQUETTE vs. (14) Iona — The Golden Eagles are still smarting over the quick exit in the Big East tournament, and Darius Johnson-Odom against Machado should be a great guard matchup.

(7) FLORIDA vs. (10) Virginia — The Gators, despite losing key reserve forward Will Yeguete, have picked up their play lately, and coach Billy Donovan is usually pretty good at containing star players such as Mike Scott.

(2) MISSOURI vs. (15) Norfolk State — The Tigers should make even passing the ball tough for the Spartans.

THIRD ROUND

MICHIGAN STATE vs. Memphis — The Spartans will try to make this a battle in the paint, and they usually win those.

LOUISVILLE vs. Long Beach State — The Cardinals have several guards who can help defend standout point guard Casper Ware.

MARQUETTE vs. Colorado State — Big East Player of the Year Jae Crowder will cause problems inside and out for the Rams.

MISSOURI vs. Florida — The Tigers can speed the game up even more than the Gators would like.

REGIONAL SEMIFINALS

MICHIGAN STATE vs. Louisville — Draymond Green will be tough for the Cardinals to handle underneath.

MISSOURI vs. Marquette — A game without real big men should be a track meet, and the Tigers usually prevail in those matchups.

REGIONAL FINAL

MICHIGAN STATE vs. Missouri — Tom Izzo’s Spartans missed the Final Four last year to end a two-year run. They’ll get back by going inside against the Tigers.

EAST REGIONAL

SECOND ROUND

(1) SYRACUSE vs. (16) North Carolina-Asheville — The Orange won’t lose two in a row.

(8) KANSAS STATE vs. (9) Southern Mississippi — The Wildcats survived the Big 12 with some strong defensive performances, and the Golden Eagles haven’t seen many teams that do that.

(5) VANDERBILT vs. (12) Harvard — Once everybody is done with the SAT jokes they will see that the Commodores have way too much size for the Crimson.

(4) WISCONSIN vs. (13) Montana — The Badgers are tough to prepare for because nobody plays defense and controls the pace the way they do.

(11) TEXAS vs. (6) Cincinnati — The Longhorns have been improving at the end of the season while the Bearcats were talking about being overconfident after losing to Louisville in the Big East tournament.

(3) FLORIDA STATE vs. (14) St. Bonaventure — The Seminoles are an outstanding defensive team, and they should enjoy trying to contain Atlantic 10 Player of the Year Andrew Nicholson.

(10) WEST VIRGINIA vs. (7) Gonzaga — The Mountaineers are a young team that’s still learning how to take advantage of Kevin Jones’ talents. The Bulldogs have to deal with travel as well as Jones.

(2) OHIO STATE vs. (15) Loyola (Md.) — The Buckeyes will be looking to get the taste of the Big Ten tournament final loss to Michigan State out of their mouths.

THIRD ROUND

SYRACUSE vs. Kansas State — The Orange’s 2-3 zone will cause havoc for the Wildcats’ young guards.

VANDERBILT vs. Wisconsin — The Commodores have an inside and outside game and will spread out the Badgers on defense.

FLORIDA STATE vs. Texas — Watch for Michael Snaer to add to his list of buzzer-beaters.

OHIO STATE vs. West Virginia — The Mountaineers just don’t have an answer for Jared Sullinger inside.

REGIONAL SEMIFINALS

SYRACUSE vs. Vanderbilt — John Jenkins’ outside shooting should scare the Orange, but the Commodores will have more trouble handling the speed of Dion Waiters and C.J. Fair.

OHIO STATE vs. Florida State — A cagey point guard like Aaron Craft can handle the Seminoles’ pressure, and when he does, it’s a break for the Buckeyes inside.

REGIONAL FINAL

SYRACUSE vs. Ohio State — There are great matchups inside and outside in this one, but karma gets a say sometimes. The Orange have found their way to New Orleans for the Final Four twice before.

MIDWEST REGIONAL

SECOND ROUND

(1) NORTH CAROLINA vs. (16) Vermont — Come on, the game is in Greensboro.

(8) CREIGHTON vs. (9) Alabama — Doug McDermott gets a chance to show the country how he averaged 23.2 points while shooting 61 percent from the field and 49 percent on 3s.

(5) TEMPLE vs. (12) South Florida — The Owls are loaded with quality guards, and they should give freshman Anthony Collins all he can handle.

(4) MICHIGAN vs. (13) Ohio — The missing word “state” keeps this from being an early tournament upset.

(11) NORTH CAROLINA STATE vs. (6) San Diego State — The Wolfpack are still steaming over the end of their ACC semifinal loss to North Carolina, and C.J. Leslie and Co. should take it out on the Aztecs.

(3) GEORGETOWN vs. (14) Belmont — The Bears are always a chic upset pick, but the Hoyas’ size keep that from being a good idea.

(10) PURDUE vs. (7) Saint Mary’s — The Boilermakers and Robbie Hummel are a sentimental pick, but they will try and muscle the Gaels all over the court.

(2) KANSAS vs. (15) Detroit — Usually facing the Horizon League champion scares the daylights out of teams, but the Titans just don’t match up to the Butler teams that reached the national championship game the last two years.

THIRD ROUND

NORTH CAROLINA vs. Creighton — The Tar Heels have a bunch of players who can match Doug McDermott’s scoring prowess.

TEMPLE vs. Michigan — There will be a ton of good guards in this one, but Temple’s depth might be the difference.

GEORGETOWN vs. North Carolina State — The Hoyas are one of the best passing teams in the country and one of the best passers is center Henry Sims. That makes them too tough a matchup for the Wolfpack.

KANSAS vs. Purdue — The Jayhawks’ inside-outside combination of Thomas Robinson and Tyshawn Taylor are way too much for the Boilermakers to handle.

REGIONAL SEMIFINALS

NORTH CAROLINA vs. Temple — The Tar Heels will simply outscore the Owls.

GEORGETOWN vs. Kansas — The Hoyas are an underrated defensive team. They will relish stopping a player like Thomas Robinson inside and will use a ton of fouls doing it.

REGIONAL FINAL

NORTH CAROLINA vs. Georgetown — These schools met in this round in 2007. The Tar Heels win this time.

FINAL FOUR

MICHIGAN STATE vs. Wichita State — The Spartans don’t mind playing good big men, and they love the opportunity to make teams match up with them. The Shockers’ run ends here.

SYRACUSE vs. North Carolina — The Orange will win only if the zone keeps the Tar Heels from hitting 3s and if they rebound well enough to keep North Carolina point guard Kendall Marshall from operating in transition.

CHAMPIONSHIP GAME

MICHIGAN STATE vs. Syracuse — Tom Izzo’s first national championship in 2000 was orchestrated by Mateen Cleaves. Twelve years later Draymond Green gets to play that role, finding a way to operate inside the zone to get the whole team involved in the offense.



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