Monday, March 12, 2012

BIAH Bracket Breakdown: East Region

You can find all of the regional breakdowns I did for CBT here.

Specifically, the East Region is here.

The NCAA Tournament prep from BIAH can be found here.

I've heard a lot about how the Orange have gotten an easy draw, about how Jim Boeheim's team should be able to scoot their way to the Final Four while twiddling their thumbs and working on their Buzz Williams' do-si-do.

I happen to disagree. Quite vehemently, actually. I can see the Orange running into quite perilous matchups in the Round of 32, the Sweet 16 and the Elite 8. In fact, I would got as far as to say that it would be an achievement for Syracuse to make it through to the Final Four. I think they are the favorite to get there, but I think they also will have one of the tougher paths through the bracket depending on how things break.

It would be an upset if Syracuse didn't make it to New Orleans. I'll get on board with that. But I wouldn't be shocked if the Orange got dropped early in the tournament.

Five story lines to watch:

1. Is Jim Boeheim a choke artist?: Boeheim is one of the greatest head coaches of our time. You don't win as many games as he has won in his career without knowing what you're doing. That said, he hasn't had the same kind of postseason success as the likes of Jim Calhoun, Coach K and Roy Williams. This season, Boeheim has one of the best teams he's ever had. They should make the Final Four, and I don't think a national title is out of the question. But if he stumbles early, you better believe that the "overrated" columns are going to come pouring in. And while overrated is probably an unfair term, an early loss would all but solidify Boeheim as one the anti-Tom Izzo.

2. Harvard' dancing, baby!: For the first time since 1946, the Crimson are back in the NCAA Tournament. Tommy Amaker has himself a tough defensive club that is capable of controlling pace and getting spots, two valuable qualities for an NCAA Tournament team. Can the Crimson pull a Cornell and make the Sweet 16?

3. Can Vanderbilt shake the label of choke artist?: Three of the last four year, the Commodores have lose in the first round of the NCAA Tournament to a 12 or a 13 seed. They've become notorious for their inability to close out a game or get a big win. That was always the catch: "Yeah, Vandy's good, but they ain't gonna beat ya." Well, on Sunday afternoon, they did. The 'Dores came back from five down against Kentucky in the final three minutes to hand the Wildcats just their second loss of the season. Is this a new era for Vandy? Does this win break that mentality of losing?

4. Cincinnati's turnaround isn't complete yet: I am a fan of this Bearcat team. I think that what happened between them and Xavier was more a result of the situation than it was a reflection of the people involved. I'm one of the few that actually believes that, however. Troy had a chance to talk with Yancy Gates up at the Big East Tournament and we had a chance to meet head coach Mick Cronin on our road trip. I like this team, both on the court and off of it. And if they can make a run to the Sweet 16 given the way their season changed course with the brawl, it will be a great story.

5. Can Sully win something?: Sullinger looks like he is coming dangerously close to being over-hyped. I don't believe. I know how valuable he is to the Buckeyes. But he needs to win something. Ohio State under performed this season, and while it wasn't necessarily Sully's fault, he is going to be the one to take the blame because he is the face of the program right now. Can he get the Buckeyes to the Final Four is what should be his last year on campus?

Best first round matchups:

No. 5 Vanderbilt vs. No. 12 Harvard: This matchup really intrigues for reasons that go beyond what will happen on the court. Vanderbilt, as we mentioned, has struggled to get out of the first round the last three times they've made it to the NCAA Tournament. Harvard, on the other hand, is a really, really good basketball team. They control tempo, they defend, they have a pair of quality big men and they have a point guard in Brandyn Curry that is one of the best facilitators in the country. He runs that team. There is a clear and substantial divide but a) that didn't stop Harvard from beating Florida State and b) Vanderbilt doesn't always play up to their talent level. This should be fun.

No. 7 Gonzaga vs. No. 10 West Virginia: Kevin Jones had an incredible season that went fairly unnoticed because of the struggles that the Mountaineers had as a team in 2012. He'll be matched up with Elias Harris, who was supposed to be a lottery pick two years ago but has seen his career kind of plateau in the two years since then. Gonzaga is the more talented team coming in and they are playing better basketball right now, but they are not a team that likes to get physical -- that would be WVU's bread and butter -- and they have some issues defensively when they are forced to use Kevin Pangos and David Stockton together in the back court. Oh, and this game is not only being played on the east coast, it will be held in Pittsburgh, which is not a far trip from West Virginia. WVU fans travel well. We'll see if the Zags do, too.

Matchups you should hope happen:

No. 1 Syracuse vs. No. 2 Ohio State: In a bracket that is fairly bland, it will always be good to see the two best teams meet up for the right to go to the Final Four. As we mentioned, Sullinger is a hoss on the block for the Buckeyes, but Syracuse has a very big front line and one of the best post defenders in the country in Fab Melo. Would OSU has enough shooting to beat the Syracuse zone?

No. 5 Vanderbilt vs. No. 1 Syracuse: Speaking of shooting to be a zone. Vanderbilt is one of the most dangerous three point shooting teams in the country. With John Jenkins and Brad Tinsley in the back court and the improved shooting of Jeff Taylor and Lance Goulbourne, Vandy would be a tough matchup for the Orange. That said, Dion Waiters would have a field day if he was being guarded by either Tinsley or Jenkins. The best games in the tournament are when you get two teams with such contrasting styles. What wins out?

No. 4 Wisconsin vs. No. 12 Harvard: If you like scoring, than this game isn't for you. The winner might end up being the first to 40 based on the way that both teams like to control pace and focus on offensive execution. The most intriguing individual matchup here would be Jordan Taylor and Brandyn Curry. Taylor is not a secret nationally anymore, but Curry is. And he's good. A quality performance against one of the best in the nation at your position is a good way to make a name for yourself.

Upsets to watch for:

No. 13 Montana over No. 4 Wisconsin: I just think Montana matches up with Wisconsin so well. Their front court might as well be a carbon copy, with Derek Selvig playing the role of Jared Berggren and Matthias Ward growing out a carrot top to match up with Mike Breusewitz. I picked Montana in my bracket, and the biggest reason was the way their back court has been playing of late. Kareem Jamar is one of the nation's best kept secrets, and he's not even the star of this team. That would be Will Cherry, who outdueled Damian Lillard twice in the last week of the season and also happens to be a terrific on-ball defender. Good luck with him, Jordan Taylor.

No. 6 Cincinnati over No. 3 Florida State: Florida State was impressive in their run to the ACC tournament title. They were. But they also beat a Duke team that was without Ryan Kelly and a UNC team that was missing John Henson. I know they beat both of those teams in the regular season (has anyone ever gone 4-1 vs. Duke and UNC in the same season?), but I think the Seminoles go through too many lulls offensively. Case in point: Deivadas Dulkys is 12-19 from three in two games against UNC. He was 17-50 from beyond the arc in every other ACC game. And Cincinnati is a much better team than they were early in the season. They can go through their own scoring issues, but they've worked Marquette and beaten Syracuse in the last three weeks. That's impressive.

No. 8 Kansas State over No. 1 Syracuse: This is all you need to know: Syracuse is 341st in the country in defensive rebounding percentage. Kansas State is sixth in the country in offensive rebounding percentage. That's something that can be exploited if Kansas State's young back court doesn't get overwhelmed.

Upsets to avoid:

No. 14 St. Bonaventure over No. 3 Florida State: I haven't seen a ton of speculation about this pick, but it is definitely something I would avoid. St. Bonaventure relies on Andrew Nicholson to produce in the paint. The only reason they made their run through the Atlantic 10 Tournament was because he went for 23.7 ppg, 10.0 rpg and 5.3 bpg. Florida State has a front line stacked with tall, stronger, physical and old defenders. Bernard James is a completely different presence on the block than Kenny Frease.

No. 11 Texas over No. 6 Cincinnati: Maybe I am just overvaluing Cincinnati here, but I have a feeling the Bearcats are going to make some noise in the tournament. I'm just no sold on Texas yet. The Longhorns are a young team led by J'Covan Brown, who has had a terrific season but is still prone to getting overwhelmed by the moment. I'm just not convinced those freshmen -- Myck Kabongo, Shelden McClellan, Julian Lewis -- are ready to go up against the physical and aggressive back court of the Bearcats.

Five players you should know:
  1. Kevin Jones, West Virginia: He's one of the nation's most productive players -- he led the Big East in scoring and rebounding -- and he may very well be the best offensive rebounder in the country.
  2. Sean Kilpatrick, Cincinnati: No one talks about him when it comes to the best players in the Big East, but he is a two-guard that is as dangerous as shooter as anyone in the country when he gets it going.
  3. Andrew Nicholson, St. Bonaventure: I already touched on this topic a bit, but the bottom line is that Nicholson is probably going to end up being a first round pick in July. He can play, even if he gets dominated by FSU's front line.
  4. Kevin Pangos, Gonzaga: Mark Few's point guard is a high-scoring freshman that appears to be the next in the Matt Santangelo-Richie Fromm-Dan Dickau pipeline.
  5. JP Primm and Matt Dickey, UNC-Asheville: They aren't going to be around for long, but this back court duo might be the best at the mid-major level in the country. Their ability to create off the bounce should allow the Bulldogs to hang with Syracuse for a while.

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