Breaking Down the Brackets: Midwest Regional Preview

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Moving on with the Bracket Breakdowns, we are finally at the end. The Midwest Regional is up, now, Kansas' regional. But don't get too excited; we'll get to the Kansas-related stuff later. Like, the rest of today and Thursday. For now, let's just go over the rest of the bracket. Sound good?

Midwest Regional General Info:

Regional Site: Lucas Oil Statdium -- Indianapolis, Indiana

Conference Tournament Champions:  8

At Large Teams:  8

Power Conference Teams:  9

Mid Majors:  7

Pods:  Dayton, Miami, Minneapolis (8 teams)

Interesting Facts: 

  • This regional is easily the most difficult. I could throw a bunch of stats at you, but instead I'll just say that this is unarguable fact. Wake is uber-talented, Louisville is the second-best defensive team in the country and the bottom half is littered with high-potential teams (West Virginia, Kansas, USC and Michigan State). Oh, and two of the most-picked mid-major potential upset teams, Cleveland State and North Dakota State, are jammed in there as well. Ugh. Not cool, Committee. Not cool one bit.
  • Related to bullet point number one, this team is heavy on the defensive teams. Courtesey of this chart from Burnt Orange Nation's own Bracket Breakdown of sorts, the Midwest has 4 of the Top 10 defensive teams in the country and 8 of the Top 29. Gadzooks. Oh, and 12 out of the Top 91.

Team breakdown, matchup previews and prediction time after the jump....

Team Capsules

#1 Seed - Louisville Cardinals

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     Bid: Big East Champion

     Location: Louisvile, KY

     Record: 28-5 (16-2)

     KenPom Adj. Offensive Efficiency: 42nd

     KenPom Adj. Defensive Efficiency: 2nd

     Key Offensive Stat: FT% (301st)

     Key Defensive Stat: Steal% (6th)

Player to Know: Terrence Williams (F)

 

Louisville is just about as good as it gets on defense. On offense? Extremely Katy Perry-ish. You know, hot-and-cold, yes-and-no, in-and-out, up-and-down. Yes, I realize that is the definition of lame. But whatever. I liked it. If they can stay consistent on offense, they can win it all. However, more likely, their offensive shortcomings will be their downfall at some point.

 

#2 Seed - Michigan State Spartans

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      Bid: At-Large Big 10

      Location: East Lansing, Michigan

      Record:  26-6 (15-3)

      KenPom Adj. Offensive Efficiency: 33rd

      KenPom Adj. Defensive Efficiency: 10th

     Key Offensive Stat: Off. Reb % (5th)

      Key Defensive Stat: Off. Reb % (6th)

Player to Know:  Kalin Lucas (G)

 

Michigan State is awesome at one thing. Dominating the boards. But boy, do they dominate them. Still, they aren't consistent enough on offense for my liking. Physical as hell, good luck picking up any rebounds against them, but you won't see them in Detroit. Book it.

 

#3 Seed - Kansas Jayhawks

SKIP!

 

#4 Seed - Wake Forest Demon Deacons

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        Bid: ACC At-Large

        Location: Winston-Salem, North Carolina

        Record: 24-6 (11-5)

        KenPom Adj. Offensive Efficiency: 40th

        KenPom Adj. Defensive Efficiency: 14th

        Key Offensive Stat: 3-Point FG% (275th)

        Key Defensive Stat: Opp. 3-Point FG% (15th)

Player to Know:  Jeff Teague (G)

 

The Demon Deacons received plenty of play throughout January and even early February after a scoring-hot start, including a win over North Carolina in one of the best games of the year and a last-second victory against Duke, but they've fallen off the map recently. It isn't for a lack of athleticism or NBA-potential or talent; they just haven't quite figured out offense, yet. Particularly, the trey. So, they are one of those teams that suck when you're filling out your bracket. They have the ability to make a run to the Final Four, honestly, but also could conceivably bow out in an upset to Cleveland State, and I wouldn't be shocked. Ugh.

 

#5 Seed - Utah Runnin' Utes

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       Bid: Mountain West Champion

       Location: Salt Lake City, Utah

       Record: 24-9 (12-4)

       KenPom Adj. Offensive Efficiency: 52nd

       KenPom Adj. Defensive Efficiency: 21st

       Key Offensive Stat: FT% (3rd)

       Key Defensive Stat: Off. Reb% (1st)

Player to Know: Luke Nevill (C)

 

Nevill is the best center you've never heard of, and is the focal point of the Utes' offensive attack. Surprisingly, though, they aren't monsters with the second-chance points. Of course, they don't allow much at all by way of second-chance points, either, so it all evens itself out. They also shoot the three pretty well, so they could shoot their way to a win or two.

 

#6 Seed - West Virginia Mountaineers

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     Bid: Big East At-Large

     Location: Morgantown, West Virginia

     Record: 23-11 (10-8)

     KenPom Adj. Offensive Efficiency: 15

     KenPom Adj. Defensive Efficiency: 7

     Key Offensive Stat: Off. Reb% (6th)

     Key Defensive Stat: 3-Point FG% (13th)

Player to Know: Da'Sean Butler (F)

 

I'm angry. West Virginia is the most underrated team in the country, right now, and they have a deep, deep run in them. I think. And I was planning on using that to win all of my bracket pools, and then they go and have them (hopefully) play Kansas in the Second Round. Boo. They are a team jam-packed with athleticism and height and length and all of that junk. Basically, a middle class man's Louisville. No, seriously, that isn't a bad comparison.

 

#7 Seed - Boston College Golden Eagles

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     Bid: ACC At-Large

     Location: Boston, Massachusetts

     Record: 22-11 (9-7)

     KenPom Adj. Offensive Efficiency: 27th

     KenPom Adj. Defensive Efficiency: 131st

     Key Offensive Stat: Off. Reb% (7th)

     Key Defensive Stat: Turnover % (299th)

Player to Know: Tyrese Rice (G)

 

Boston College a 7-seed? Give me a freaking break. They have some talent, sure, particularly in Tyrese Rice and Rakim Sanders, but come on. They don't play D at all, and their offense shouldn't be good enough to consistently penetrate USC's outstanding D. Unless Rice or Sanders shows up with their Superman cape on, they will hbe taking an early flight back to Boston.

 

#8 Seed - (the) Ohio State Buckeyes

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    Bid: Big 10 At-Large

    Location: Columbus, Ohio

    Record:22-10 (10-8)

    KenPom Adj. Offensive Efficiency: 26th

    KenPom Adj. Defensive Efficiency: 72nd

    Key Offensive Stat: eFG% (9th)

    Key Defensive Stat: FTA/FGA (2nd)

Player to Know: Evan Turner (F)

 

Hey! Finally, a 2007 National Championship participant has made the Dance again. Ohio State is good, and talented, but mostly raw. And, not as good as you may think. They had quite the run through the Big 10 Tournament in Indianapolis, though, so who knows: maybe I'm not giving them enough credit.

 

#9 Seed - Siena Saints

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    Bid: MAAC Champion

    Location: Albany, New York

    Record:  26-7 (16-2)

    KenPom Adj. Offensive Efficiency: 49th

    KenPom Adj. Defensive Efficiency: 90th

    Key Offensive Stat: Turnover % (46th)

    Key Defensive Stat: FTA/FGA (3rd)

Player to Know:  Kenny Hasbrouck (G)

 

I'll admit it, I'm partial towards the Saints. They have balance, they have plenty of guys who can create for themselves, and they aren't as terrible on D as you might expect. They don't have the firepower, I think, to take down the Cardinals, but they should certainly give the Buckeyes all they want and more.

 

#10 Seed - USC Trojans

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    Bid: Pac 10 Champion

    Location: Los Angeles, California

    Record: 21-12 (9-9)

    KenPom Adj. Offensive Efficiency: 62nd

    KenPom Adj. Defensive Efficiency: 19th

    Key Offensive Stat: Off. Reb% (34th)

    Key Defensive Stat: Block% (24th)

Player to Know:  Taj Gibson (F)

 

USC is all about balance, balance, balance. Well, at least amongst their Big Four, now with DeMar DeRozan's entire resurgence. Taj Gibson is the low-post threat that will send your shot into the fourth row and slam in your face. Dwight Lewis the three-point shooter. Daniel Hackett the straw that stirs the drink, the shutdown defender and the catalyst to their offense. But the Wild Card is DeRozan. He played the best basketball of his life at the Staples Center, and they won the Pac 10. If he shows up and plays like that, they could beat Michigan State. No lie.

 

#11 Seed - Dayton Flyers

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    Bid: Atlantic 10 At-Large

    Location: Dayton, Ohio

    Record: 26-7 (11-5)

    KenPom Adj. Offensive Efficiency: 144th

    KenPom Adj. Defensive Efficiency: 41st

    Key Offensive Stat: Off. Reb% (27th

    Key Defensive Stat: 3-Point FG% (40th)

Player to Know: Chris Wright (F)

 

What's funny is that Dayton was almost assuredly a much better team last season, but didn't make the Dance because their best player, Brian Roberts, got hurt. This year, Chris Wright took over as their Superstar, and they were able to squeeze in as an 11-seed. They could make some noise, but got a terrible draw and don't look to be able to match up with West Virginia's athleticism.

 

#12 Seed - Arizona Wildcats

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      Bid: Pac 10 At-Large

      Location: Tucson, Arizona

      Record:19-13 (9-9)

      KenPom Adj. Offensive Efficiency: 7th

      KenPom Adj. Defensive Efficiency: 132nd

      Key Offensive Stat: 3-Point FG% (15th)

      Key Defensive Stat: FTA/FGA (7th)

Player to Know: Jordan Hill (F)

 

Arizona is led by their Big Three of Chase Budinger, Jordan Hill and Nic Wise. The rest of the team are all role players, some more useful than others. Jordan Hill is as good as post men get, offensively, but he isn't nearly as good on defense. Of course, the entire team isn't nearly as good on defense, so it fits. If they show up and guard you for 40 minutes, their offense could beat just about anyone in the country. Problem is, they won't guard you, and it should cost them.

 

#13 Seed - Cleveland State Vikings

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      Bid: Horizon Conference Champion

      Location: Cleveland, Ohio

      Record: 25-10 (12-6)

      KenPom Adj. Offensive Efficiency: 121st

      KenPom Adj. Defensive Efficiency: 29th

      Key Offensive Stat: 3-Point FG% (306th)

     Key Defensive Stat: Turnover % (14th)

Player to Know: J'Nathan Bullock (G/F)

 

Cleveland State has talent, and can certainly pull off the upset of the hot-and-cold Demon Deacons. However, they aren't consistent enough on offense, and can't hit a trey to save their life, a usually necessary quality for a little guy to slay a giant.

 

#14 Seed - North Dakota State Bison

SKIP!

#15 Seed - Robert Morris Colonials

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     Bid: NEC Champion

     Location: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

     Record: 24-10 (15-3)

     KenPom Adj. Offensive Efficiency: 170th

     KenPom Adj. Defensive Efficiency: 91st

     Key Offensive Stat: 3-Point FG% (16th)

     Key Defensive Stat:  Turnover % (26th)

Player to Know: Jeremy Chappell (G)

 

Robert Morris can hit the threes. Robert Morris can guard you, well enough at least. They have the veteran leadership, with the 63rd most veteran squad in college basketball. Might I smell an upset coming?

 

#16 Seed - Morehead State Eagles

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   Bid: Ohio Valley Conference Champion

   Location: Morehead, Kentucky

   Record:19-15 (12-6)

   KenPom Adj. Offensive Efficiency: 173rd

   KenPom Adj. Defensive Efficiency: 171st

   Key Offensive Stat: Off. Reb% (16th)

   Key Defensive Stat: Off. Reb% (33rd)

Player to Know:  Kenneth Faried (F/C)

 

Morehead's biggest strength, by far, is rebounding. Which pretty much sucks, considering they are matched up against tall-as-hell Louisville. Good luck, there, Morehead.

 

The Matchups

#1 Louisville Cardinals vs. #16 Morehead State Eagles

What to Watch: Rebounding -- If Morehead is to pull the biggest upset in NCAA Tournament history, they are going to need to outrebound the Cards and get a hundred billion second-chance points.

Morehead State Will Win If: They rebound really well -- Like I said above, it's all about the glass.

Louisville Will Win If: They show up.

Player to Watch: Terrence Williams -- Dude is insane.

#8 Ohio State Buckeyes vs. #9 Siena Saints

What to Watch: Free Throws -- Neither team fouls much at all (in fact, tOSU the second-least, Siena the third-least) on average, so if either team can get free points at the free throw line, advantage. And in 8/9's, that is all it takes sometimes.

Siena Will Win If: They Can Speed it Up -- Siena likes to play fast. And it isn't that the Bucks don't like to play fast, but they would be out of their element, at least compared to the Saints. The faster the better for Siena.

Ohio State Will Win If: They Dominate the Glass -- tOSU has a huge size advantage, and in future NBA star B.J. Mullens has the best athlete on the floor. They should get as many second-chance points as they desire, and if so, it should do it.

Player to Watch: B.J. Mullens (Ohio State, C) -- Like I said, if he can be a presence on the glass, Siena doesn't have anyone to compete with him.

#5 Utah Runnin' Utes vs. #12 Arizona Wildcats

What to Watch: Arizona's Second-Chance Points -- Arizona doesn't depend on the offensive glass, but they use it a helluva lot. The Utes, however, protect it better than anyone else in the country. So, if either side gives in, the advantage goes the other way, naturally.

Arizona Will Win If: They Hit from Three -- They are good from long distance, and if they can do it against Utah, that would be huge. Huge.

Utah Will Win If: Jordan Hill Gets Into Foul Trouble -- After Hill, Arizona doesn't really have anyone else to match up with Utah's 7'2" center, Luke Nevill. So, Hill will have to stay in the game as much as possible, or yikes.

Player to Watch: Tyler Kepkay (G, Utah) -- The Utes will need second option to Nevill in the low block. Kepkay is their next option, and he will likely need to step up and provide some semblance of balance for the Utes to win.

#4 Wake Forest Demon Deacons vs. #13 Cleveland State Vikings

What to Watch: Three-Point Shooting -- Neither team can hit the broad side of the barn, usually, so if either gets hot the game is pretty much over.

Cleveland State Will Win If: They Turn Wake Over Every Time Down -- Not every time down, but pretty much. It's the only way they should be able to stop Wake's offense.

Wake Forest Will Win If: They Protect the Paint -- Force the Vikings' offense outwards, and it becomes significantly worse. Allow them in, and they thrive. It's just as simple as that.

Player to Watch: Norris Cole (G, Cleveland State) -- If they are going to have a chance at getting hot from the perimeter, it'll be because of Norris, here. Light it up, Mr. Cole. Light it up.

#6 West Virginia Mountaineers vs. #11 Dayton Flyers

What to Watch: Rebounds -- It'll decide the game, folks. Whoever gets more opportunities and possessions and picks more rebounds up, they win. West Virginia's the favorite to do that, thus why they're the favorite to win the game, so yeah.

Dayton Will Win If: They Turn West Virginia Over -- They need some way to pick up possessions, and this is the easiest way to do it.

West Virginia Will Win If: They Hit the Three -- Ruoff is the main threat from way out there, but they'll take it from anywhere. If they can hit the long ball, then they should be solid. Sold, I tell ya.

Player to Watch: Alex Ruoff (G, West Virginia) -- If he is on, the game is over pending an explosion by Huggy Bear. If he can't hit, then the game should be much more interesting for a lot longer.

#7 Boston College vs. #10 USC Trojans

What to Watch: Turnovers -- Naturally. Whoever can take better control of the ball should win.

USC Will Win If: They Hit the Three -- I've seen USC a bunch this year. Product of living in Orange County, I suppose. Anyways, when they hit the outside shot (particularly Dwight Lewis), they are good enough to play to the second weekend. When they can't hit it, they lose to teams like Oregon State.

Boston College Will Win If: Tyrese Rice Goes Superman On Everybody -- I don't have much faith in most of the Golden Eagles. A potential superhero performance by Rakim Sanders would be fine, as well, but whatever.

Player to Watch: DeMar DeRozan (G/F, USC) -- Kind of like perimeter shooting. They were awesome during the Pac 10 Tournament when he was awesome. He is incredibly athletic, and could cause Raymar Morgan and Company plenty of headache in the Second Round. 

#2 Michigan State Spartans vs. #15 Robert Morris Colonials

What to Watch: The First Five Minutes -- If Michigan State can jump ahead with a big lead, this one should be over really quick. But, if Robert Morris can keep it close, the longer they keep it close the longer they believe they can win. Belief is a scary thing, folks, for a low-major to have.

Robert Morris Will Win If: They Hit the Three -- They are really good at hitting the shot, but will have to be spectacular to even think of the upset.

Michigan State Will Win If: They Out-Physical the Colonials -- If they show up with intensity, and use that old Tom Izzo fire, this one shouldn't be close. Robert Morris just can't match up, physically, with the Spartans.

 

RCT Predictions

Most Likely to Pull an Upset: Cleveland State (13-seed)

Most Likely to Pull a Surprise Run: USC (10-seed)

Final Four Favorite: Louisville (1-seed)

Underseeded: West Virginia (6-seed)

Overseeded: Boston College (7-seed)

Best Team No One Knows About: North Dakota State (14-seed)

 

The Bracket Breakdowns are done! Now, we can completely focus solely on those pesky Bison of North Dakota State.

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