Monday, March 12, 2012

BIAH Bracket Breakdown: West Region

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

Specifically, the West Region is here.

The NCAA Tournament prep from BIAH can be found here.

The West is absolutely loaded.

I cannot emphasize that fact enough. In fact, I'll say it again: the West is absolutely loaded. If any tells you that any region other than the West is the toughest, immediately stop paying attention to them because they have no clue what they are talking about.

Think about it like this: the No. 1 seed in the region is the team that has become notorious with NCAA Tournament success in Michigan State. Their second round matchup will be either Memphis, who is one of the most dangerous teams in the country right now, or A-10 runner-up St. Louis. New Mexico is the five seed in that region. At the other end of the bracket, Missouri, Florida, Marquette and Murray State make up the higher seeds. Assuming chalk holds, Missouri will be forced to play against a team that matches up perfectly with them while Marquette is stuck playing everyone's favorite underdog in Louisville.

Whoever makes it out of the west alive will be battle-tested.

Five story lines to watch:

1. Injuries: Michigan State is going to be without Branden Dawson after he tore his ACL in the last game of the regular season. Memphis is trying to work Adonis Thomas back into the rotation after he missed almost two months with an ankle injury. Long Beach State is waiting to see if Larry Anderson will end up being healthy for their opening round game against New Mexico.

2. Is Louisville for real?: They didn't look like it at any point during the regular season. But the Cardinals put everything together in the Big East Tournament and rolled to win over Marquette and Cincinnati en route to the title. They still aren't hitting their threes, but if Peyton Siva plays they way he did in the last two games, the Cardinals are going to be a tough out.

3. BYU and Iona as a 14 seed?: Why so low? Does this mean that Iona and BYU were the last two teams in to the field? And why did Iona and BYU get in over Drexel and Oral Roberts? And is it unfair that Marquette will be forced to get the winner of a play-in game instead of a low-major conference champion? I have a lot of questions about how this seeding went down. You should, too.

4. Mid-on-mid violence: No, Memphis and New Mexico are not mid-major programs. Let me be clear. But they are also not yet power conference programs, which is unfortunate because they are matched up with St. Louis and Long Beach State in the first round. All four of those teams are good enough to make the Sweet 16. I think the tournament is more fun when we have more cinderella potential.

5. Murray State playing in Louisville: Murray State is located in Murray, KY. Their opening round games are going to be played in Louisville. The other team in that region is Kentucky. You don't think everyone single member of Big Blue Nation will be pulling for the plucky underdog from their home-state? Colorado State will be getting a road game in the first round.

Best first round matchups:

No. 6 Murray State vs. No. 11 Colorado State: Murray State is going to be a trendy pick to win this game. It will be a de facto home game for them, Colorado State struggles on the road and the Racers are, well, the team everyone is going to root for. But Colorado State is a good team. They have a pair of really good guards in Wes Eikmeier and Dorian Green and are tough, albeit not that big, inside. They match up really well with Murray State, which usually means a fun game.

No. 3 Marquette vs. No. 14 Iona If the Gaels get by BYU, it will set up what could end up being one of the most entertaining games of the tournament. Marquette likes to press and they like to run. Iona doesn't press as much, but they like to run even more. Both teams are capable of putting up huge scoring totals. Scott Machado is a player you have to watch if you haven't seen him play yet, and the matchup of Mike Glover and Jae Crowder will be great.

No. 8 Memphis vs. No. 9 St. Louis: These are two really good basketball teams, and they play very contrasting styles. St. Louis controls pace, executes offensively and shoots very well from the perimeter. Memphis likes things to be more ragged where they can take advantage of their athleticism. Will the Tigers, who were the trendy sleeper pick before Selection Sunday, be disciplined enough on both ends of the floor to beat the Billikens?

Matchups you should hope happen:

No. 3 Marquette vs. No. 2 Missouri: Two of the most entertaining teams in the country to watch. What more needs to be said?

No. 8 Memphis/No. 5 New Mexico vs. No. 1 Michigan State: Both of these teams are very capable of knocking off the Spartans, and both are probably playing better than their seed right now. I think the Spartans will get by Memphis. Tom Izzo's team is just too tough for Memphis, who have had their issues on the glass this season. I don't think they get by New Mexico, however. Drew Gordon is one of the best rounders in the country, and the Lobos can really shoot the ball.

Upsets to watch for:

No. 6 Murray State over No. 3 Marquette: Marquette's best line up is when Davante Gardner is not on the floor and they are using Jae Crowder and Jamil Wilson on their front line. The problem? That will be the easiest line up for Murray State to matchup with. I think Marquette ends up adjusting their style to pound the ball inside against the smaller Racers, but that goes against what made the Golden Eagles a trendy Final Four pick the last two months.

No. 7 Florida over No. 2 Missouri: The Gators are one of the few teams in the country that won't get hurt if they go four guards against Missouri. In fact, that might even play into Florida's hands. With Mike Rosario coming off the bench and Brad Beal sliding over to the four spot, the Gators matchup well with the Tigers. It sounds corny to say this, but Florida will have a chance if their threes are dropping. Billy Donovan's team has a big of a variance in their performance as anyone in the country. If they are on, they are dangerous.

No. 13 Davidson over No. 4 Louisville: I'm just not ready to buy into Louisville yet. Their performance in the Big East Tournament was impressive, but I don't know if it is sustainable. Peyton Siva has struggled all season long. Will he be able to continue to play like he did in Madison Square Garden?

Upsets to avoid:

No. 12 Long Beach State over No. 5 New Mexico: I really, really wish that LBSU got matched up with someone else in their opening round game. The 49ers are legit. But they will also have one of their best players gimpy, if he's available, and New Mexico is a really good defensive team. I'm not sure the 49ers will be able to matchup with Drew Gordon in the paint.

Five players you should know:
  1. Isaiah Canaan, Murray State: If you didn't know already, Canaan is an all-american. He a deadly three-point shooter that can get into a rhythm when he reels of four or five threes in a row. He is good enough to carry the Racers.
  2. Drew Gordon, New Mexico: The UCLA transfer is a double-double machine and may be the best big man in the region.
  3. Scott Machado, Iona: The only player in the country on his level as a passer is Kendall Marshall of North Carolina.
  4. Mike Scott, Virginia: Scott is one of the most efficient players in the country and possibly the only real threat offensively for the Cavs. He puts up 20 and 10 regularly.
  5. Casper Ware, Long Beach State: In a region loaded with back court talent, Ware is as good as anyone. He's a big time scorer at the point guard spot.

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