Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The 2011 4 Quarters Bracket Entry, West Region

(See previous post for East Region picks.)

So, in this region, we have the defending champs, a 2-seed who most casual/uninformed college hoop observers think is overrated and has been all season, a 3-seed that ran the New York City Marathon known as the Big East Tournament, and a 4 who's everyone's pick to get poleaxed in the first round.

Some of those things may actually be true. Here's my take:

First Round:
#1 Duke v. #16 Hampton: Only way Duke gets dropped is if they stay at a Hampton Inn and some chicanery ensues, like a mysterious bedbug outbreak confined to only the Duke rooms. Duke by (# of times "bitch" was said in the Fab 5 documentary times 10).

#8 Michigan v. #9 Tennessee: Bruce Pearl knew that he had the support of his university, no matter what else was swirling around him. Now he doesn't even seem to have that. Luckily, he got a perfect draw, against a Michigan team that lacks size or experience. Brian Williams and Tobias Harris can have decent games here, and if Scotty Hopson's hot, this one might run away from the maize and blue quite early. UT by 10.

#5 Arizona v. #12 Memphis: Memphis hasn't yet learned something that Tennessee has: "We're not a good three-point shooting team, so maybe we should cut down on shooting threes." Their biggest hope is to hit the defensive glass and get out in transition, but their opponents' offensive rebounding percentage ranks in the 260's nationally. Add to that the fact that Arizona does hit their shots, and this one's got blowout potential. Arizona by 14.

#4 Texas v. #13 Oakland: Oakland would be good if they could just find a quarterback. Wait, what? Oh, sorry, not the Raiders. This Oakland does have a pretty decent QB in guard Reggie Hamilton and a stud center in Keith Benson. Texas is the #1 eFG defense team in the nation, according to Pomeroy. Oakland is #3 in eFG offense. That's impressive, because it seems like the Oakland playbook either has "drop it in to Benson" or "shoot threes" on every page. Texas isn't so much a perimeter team, but here, they may have to be. Otherwise, Benson may rack a triple-double off of swatting Tristan Thompson and Gary Johnson's inside attempts. Many want to write off Texas because of some nebulous "Rick Barnes factor," but the guy's been to a Final Four, two Elite Eights, and two Sweet 16's, so let's stop pretending he fell off some turnip truck. This one will be a war, but... Texas by 3.

#6 Cincinnati v. #11 Missouri: This one comes down to Missouri's offensive execution (#27 in efficiency) against Cincy's defensive execution (#16). Mizzou's not coming in on a high note, losing four of their last five and averaging only 66 points in those losses. Of course, the last time we saw the Bearcats, they were dropping a 38-point loss to Notre Dame. This game promises to be tight, and could come down to free throws. Missouri hits 73.6% of theirs, Cincy only 66.6%. So... Missouri by 2.

#3 Connecticut v. #14 Bucknell: Early in the season, UConn looked like a one-man team. But, to survive in the Big East, Kemba Walker's sidekicks had to grow up fast. Now, an overmatched Bucknell team has to sit back and observe what guys like Alex Oriakhi, Shabazz Napier, and Jeremy Lamb have learned, especially through the kiln that was the five-game Bataan Death March in MSG last week. UConn by 25.

#7 Temple v. #10 Penn State: I love Talor Battle, but he can only do so much. He's brought it against some solid competition, but it seems that the stronger the opponent, the less support Battle gets. Temple's seemingly been a strong defensive team since Jesus was a sophomore, and this season, they're in the top 25 in two-point FG defense. So, they have quite enough horses to contain the Lions. Temple by 12.

#2 San Diego State v. #15 Northern Colorado: Devon Beitzel can score in bunches (21.4 ppg this season, with percentages of .583-.904-.384 on twos, FT's, and threes), and of the other seven players in NCU's rotation, five of them stand 6'7" or 6'8". Unfortunately for them, they're running into a great defensive team with one of the most athletic front lines in the country. Kawhi Leonard, Malcolm Thomas, and Billy White are hard to contain, especially with a steady point guard like D.J. Gay. Beitzel could keep this thing interesting, but the Aztecs are legit, whether you want to believe it or not. SDSU by 15.

Second Round:
#1 Duke v. #9 Tennessee: UT is a team that occasionally doesn't seem like it has its head on straight. Duke is a team that almost always seems in control. Tennessee may be able to control the glass, but can they make Nolan Smith, Kyle Singler, and Seth Curry all miss? Not sure I like those odds. Duke by 9.

#5 Arizona v. #4 Texas: It seems like this might be a fun game, but here's the thing: these are two of the top 50 teams in America in free throw rate. They like to draw contact and get to the line. Unfortunately for Texas, the Cats are 10% better. Unlike Tristan Thompson, a 48.6% FT shooter, Derrick Williams can live on and-ones all night long (74.4% FT). Arizona by 6.

#11 Missouri v. #3 UConn: Kemba's crew is just streaky enough to make this a very high-scoring game against the running Tigers. What we have to wonder is: how much is left in their legs after that conference tournament slog? If Missouri can keep out of foul trouble (they're 240th in opponents' FT rate), I think they've got a chance to pull this one. Mizzou by 7.

#7 Temple v. #2 San Diego State: This game, however, is very unlikely to be high-scoring. These are strong defensive teams who don't get to the line, don't put opponents on the line, and aren't tremendous when they do. Temple has a surprising array of scorers, with five guys averaging over 10 points per game. They may even have the best player on the court in Lavoy Allen. But, I like Leonard and Thomas to be able to keep Allen from putting his team on his shoulders. Either way, this one can be a great game. SDSU by 3.

Sweet 16:
#1 Duke v. #5 Arizona: Derrick Williams has to contend with both Plumlee brothers and Ryan Kelly in his grill all night. Between that size and the efficiency of Nolan Smith, the Cats would have to play a perfect game and someone else would have to pick up Williams' slack. Could happen, but it's pretty unlikely. Duke by 8.

#11 Missouri v. #2 San Diego State: Who can dictate tempo? In this one, it's easy to see Missouri getting overanxious and putting themselves in foul trouble. Just like against UConn, if they don't, it could be a great game. If not... SDSU by 6.

#1 Duke v. #2 San Diego State: Duke's biggest issue is that they can get three-happy. If SD State can keep hands in the faces of Curry, Smith, and Andre Dawkins, this will be an ugly game, but that's the kind of game the Aztecs need. I see SDSU as legit, so... SDSU by 5.

That's two down. San Diego State v. Ohio State in one semifinal. Who's next?

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