NCAA Tournament Breakdown-South Region

>> Tuesday

For those people looking for a potential sleeper Final Four team, you have found the region. In fact, the 4-5-6 seeds in the region (Pitt, Michigan State, the good guys) may have as good of a shot making it out of the region as your 1-2-3 seeds (Memphis, Texas, Stanford). Memphis has a strong allergy to playing a grind it out, half-court game (Which will inevitably happen a couple of times along the way), Texas can play matador defense at times, and Stanford lacks the playmaking guards that you need to create a tough shot at times. Meanwhile, you have solid, balanced teams in Michigan State and Pitt who have been here before and know what to expect and how to handle the NCAA Tournament stage. Marquette may be the toughest team to predict in the tournament, and benefit from a benign opening round game that may be all they need to get a run started.

Sleeper Team: Mississippi State

Out of conference, Rick Stansbury's bunch barely resembled a CBI team. However, once they entered the SEC, the Bulldogs really came together on their way to a 12-4 SEC record highlighted by one of the best defensive performances in major conference play. In a potential game against Memphis, shot blocker extraordinaire Jarvis Varnado could disrupt Memphis's dribble drive motion offense. Jamont Gordon has the strength and athleticism to bother Derrick Rose and Chris Douglas-Roberts on both ends. If Phil Turner, Barry Stewart or Ben Hansbrough hit their perimeter jumpers, you could have your 8 over 1 upset in the second round.

Best First Round Game: Miami v. St Mary's

I am sure that many people, myself included, have St. Mary's winning in the 7-10 "upset". However, Miami has a nice group of guards led by Jack McClinton that could propel the Canes to tournament success. This will be the rare case of the smaller conference team having the edge in the frontcourt, with two of the WCC's best power players in Diamon Simpson and Omar Samhan. The Gaels hopes may rest on the shoulders of talented freshman point guard Patrick Mills, who has looked brilliant at times but also struggled in many of their high profile (ESPN) games (against Gonzaga, @Santa Clara, Kent State in the Bracket Busters). The winner of this game could give Texas a run in the second round, although the Horns did beat St. Mary's comfortably earlier this season.

Best Chance for an Upset: Oral Roberts over Pittsburgh

This would wreck my bracket, as I have Pitt making a run to the Elite 8. However, they have a tough first round game against an Oral Roberts team that has been to three straight NCAA Tournaments and would be experienced against top competition (wins over teams like Kansas and Oklahoma State the past few seasons). If Oral Roberts's explosive guard Robert Jarvis can get going, Pitt could be in trouble as Jarvis puts up points in bunches. Also, after playing four games in four days (three of them tough, physical affairs against upper echelon NCAA Tourney teams in Louisville, Marquette and Georgetown), Pitt may still be fatigued and face an uphill battle early if ORU starts off the game well. I expect Pitt to win in a close game, but an upset here would not surprise me and could be the roadblock towards a long tourney run for Panthers.

Regional Final: Stanford vs. Memphis

After taking a look at the stats, I have decided to with Memphis over Pitt in the Sweet 16, as the Tigers ability to get offensive rebounds will take out the Panthers.

Projected Winner: Stanford

All teams in this region have flaws, but I will go with the best player in this region (Brook Lopez) and the frontcourt depth of the Cardinal to advance. The Cardinal guards could easily succumb the pressure of Marquette in the second round and struggle to exploit their advantage with the Lopez twins. However, if they can get by that game, I like Stanford to come to San Antonio and beat Texas in their backyard and then knock off whoever comes from the other side of bracket (Memphis, Pitt, Texas or maybe even Mississippi State). Their key may be Lawrence Hill, who has regressed after an All Pac-10 season in 2007 but has the talent to score from anywhere on the court and complement the post play of Brook and Robin Lopez.


Patrick 4:26 PM  

Yeah, I really like Stanford especially after watching their game against UCLA last weekend. However, their guards are borderline awful. Lopez will be a lot to handle, but when looking at it objectively, Marquette could really give the Cardinal problems. IF Tom allows his trio to at least zone-press, Marquette could win handily if they hit their shots. If Stanford wasn't in line to play marquette, I could see them getting to San Antonio.

Also, I don't understand everyone love affair with Pittsburgh. They don't play well on the road (New York is really a home game for a lot of those players) and they are an awful free throw shooting team. Even though I picked Pitt to get by Oral Roberts, that would be the upset that I wouldn't be shocked with at all.

Overall, Memphis will make it out mostly because I don't think this region is as strong as people think. Look for the Tigers to get past Texas (who gets past Marquette primarily because Tom Crean gets flustered when coaching against a strategist like Barnes)

Zuch 5:39 PM  

When Pitt has been healthy, they have a been a real good team. It took time for Fields to get back into the rotation, but when he did they looked one of best in Big East.

Also, while I like Rick Barnes as a coach and think he does not get the credit he deserves, he would be far from an excellent strategist. In fact, I would guess that Crean devises a game plan to stop Augustin and Abrams that could really fluster Texas. Crean would generally be very good at pre-game preparations, especially when given a few days ahead of time. When he struggles (and has definitely improved over the years) would be coming up with something when the other team adjusts or has a great game plan of their own.

Iain 7:52 PM  

Aren't most medioce Coach's characterized by an inability to change gameplans during a game, or even at halftime? While I aggree that Tom Crean has gotten better than previous years at adjusting, he still seems to not do very well on the fly during the game. Part of his success could also be attributed to having a solid core of players who have been playing together for the better part of 3 seasons. While I'ld hope that would make them better able to adjust to playing in the NCAA Tournament, I think a one day turnaround to (probally) face a strong Stanford Team, at what fairly amounts to a home game, is a little much to expect unless he started watchign their game tape on Sunday night.

Vinnie 8:30 PM  

What I'm banking on is the mantra, "speed kills." I'm hoping our quick hands will be the Lopezes' doom (or doom de los Lopez). And I agree... Barnes is not a good game coach, as displayed by last year's inability to take advantage of a great starting backcourt and a once-in-a-lifetime weapon in Durant.

Zuch 11:45 PM  

Going into the game with a sound game plan would the most important part of preparation, and I think Crean would be very good at that. In game adjustments are important, and in most cases what separates the really good from best coaches. Crean has had to learn things on the fly with this being his first head coaching position, so I do credit him for improving on things.

Also, in regards to preparation for Stanford, I'm sure someone on the staff would be looking at that ahead of time and at least creating the framework for Crean to work with. In a setting like the NCAA Tournament, especially if you expect to make a run, you have to look at things ahead of time.

Patrick 10:12 AM  

I think Marquette needs to hire Tex Winter to be the x and o guy...that would spell DOOM for all NCAA opponents

Patrick 3:24 PM  

Despite all that has been said, don't you think the bracket actually sets up nice for long as they play the way they SHOULD play, they could easily get to the Elite 8 or Final Four as Stanford and Texas are not world beaters.

If they can just hit their many wide open 3-pointers

Iain 5:48 PM  

Does anyone know why Crean doesn't get any media love. With all the coaches who are poping up on radio and TV this time of year I can't remember him making any appearances on national TV. Do I just need to watch 22 hours of ESPN News a day or is he absent from the spotlight?

Zuch 5:49 PM  

Other than Stanford, I do really like this region for Marquette, and from any region you to have win one tough game/game you shouldn't to get to Final 4. This would be the one region where I can easily see a 6 vs. 4/5 Elite 8, and any of top six seeds making it there wouldn't surprise (even Mississippi State for those who feel the need to donate money and like the thrill of upsets).

Zuch 5:56 PM  

Crean was ESPN 1000 in Chicago yesterday, but with Marquette floating under the radar, they will be more of the hot attraction (mid-major or big name program) coaches. Should we get to the Sweet 16, I would guess that a Crean media tour would be in business.

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