Monday, March 17, 2008

Bracket Breakdown - Midwest Region

Team To Beat - Kansas

The Jayhawks are loaded this year. They have a huge front line, they have a group of very good guards, and with Brandon Rush and Sherron Collins healthy, they are deep and talented at every position. If Rush continues to emerge as a go-to scorer (as he did in the Big XII tourney) then the Jayhawks can go a long way.

Team To Watch - Clemson

The Tigers are playing their best basketball of the season after making a run to the ACC tourney finals. Clemson is a pressing team that goes 10 deep, with athletes at every position. Trevor Booker, James Mays, Raymond Sykes, and Sam Perry are all big and athletic, and can play at the top of their 1-2-1-1 press. Cliff Hammonds is their leader and one of the most underrated PG's in the ACC, while KC Rivers is the Tigers leading scorer. Clemson has also proven they are a tough group of kids - Hammonds is currently playing through a fractured wrist suffered while blocking a dunk during their 20-point comeback against Maryland, and James Mays wore a protective brace while taping three fingers together due to a broken bone in his hand for 13 games during the season. Free throw shooting is the Tigers biggest problem, and cost them in their three losses to UNC this season.

Upsets To Watch For - #11 Kansas State over #6 USC, #3 Wisconsin

A lot of people like #13 Siena over #4 Vanderbilt, mainly because Siena as Edwin Ubiles, who is 6'7" and mobile and can stay with 6'7" shooter Shan Foster, but I think AJ Ogilvy will be too tough inside for the smaller Saints. I do like Kansas State over USC, and even making it to the Sweet 16 with a win over Wisconsin. There is a reason Michael Beasley is expected to be the first pick in the NBA draft - he is a phenomenal talent that can go for 40 on any given night. Combine him with for OJ Mayo teammate Bill Walker and streaky shooting PG Jacob Pullen, K-State has the ability to beat anyone when they get hot, and can make a run through the first weekend of the tourney.

Best Matchups - OJ Mayo vs. Michael Beasley/Bill Walker, #7 Gonzaga vs. #10 Davidson

I can't decide what is more interesting here - the matchup between the two of the most talked about freshman in Beasley and Mayo, or the matchup between former high school teammates Mayo and Walker. Gonzaga and Davidson were probably the two mid-majors that everyone would have picked in the preseason to be a sleeper team in the NCAA's. I like Gonzaga in this game - Davidson still hasn't proven they can do more than play the big boys close - but Stephon Curry is good enough to lead the Wildcats past to much bigger 'Zags.

My Pick - Kansas

I think Kansas squeaks by Georgetown in the Elite 8 in what would be a matchup of possibly the two best front-lines in college basketball this year. I think that Kansas's guard play will be too much for Georgetown, with Robinson, Chalmers, and Collins taking the game over.

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