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2012 NCAA Tournament Bracket Breakdown: East Region

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While, I’d love to share all of my final four picks, upset selections, and cinderellas with you guys, March Madness is a fund-raiser for me, not a charity event. Instead, I’ll break down the teams in the brackets and lay out what they need to do to win. From there you can decide how you will fill out your bracket. While I generally put together a few brackets, I’ll post my #1 bracket on Thursday at noon, moreso, so you have something to mock when it totally blows up thanks toAkronorHampton.

#1: Syracuse:

Syracuse is deep, maybe too deep. For all of the talk about the importance of depth, when you go 9 or 10 deep and your 6-10 are on the floor against a team’s 1-5 that’s where trouble happens . Granted they haven’t had much of a problem this season as they racked up a 31-2 record. Syracuse wants to run, the faster the game, the more they enjoy it. They are susceptible to a team slowing them down and forcing Scoop Jardine to run the offense. However, with their speed and ability to turn you over, that’s difficult to do.

#2: Ohio State:

The Buckeyes will almost always have the top player on the floor in Jared Sullinger. Where Ohio State struggles is when Sullinger gets doubled and no one (ahem, William Buford) doesn’t step up and shoulder the load. When Buford’s shot isn’t falling and Sullinger is doubled Ohio State can be in deep trouble. One of last year’s strengths, 3-point shooting, is no more which means they had better play lockdown defense and control possessions. When they are clicking on all cylinders, they are as good as anyone, when they aren’t they are very beatable.

#3: Florida State:

Florida State is red-hot and as confident as can be. They play smothering man-to-man defense and only allow teams to shoot 38% against them. They have a fairly balanced attack, but the key to stopping them is fairly simple. Stop their guards and force the Noles to make decisions. Yes, it’s much easier said than done, especially considering they have 4 seniors and a junior in their starting five. They have been inconsistent throughout the year, but seem to be peaking at the right time. If they can keep the train rolling, they could make a run.

#4: Wisconsin:

Wisconsin, as always, wants to limit possessions and turn it into a physical, grind-it-out game. They want to bang on the glass and play tough defense. They aren’t a sexy team, but they can execute in the half-court and force defense into over-pursuing. On the offensive side their go-to guy Jordan Taylor has found his shot again and is a threat from deep and tough to stop in the pick and roll.

#5: Vanderbilt:

Vandy is a team coming in hot and feeling pretty good about themselves after taking down Kentucky in the SEC title game. They use a motion offense to space the floor and have the shooters to connect from deep. They can also shoot free throws really well. If they have an Achilles heel it’s in pounding the glass. Still they have the bigs to get the job done as long as they aren’t out wandering around the 3-point line.

#6: Cincinnati:

Cincinnati lives and dies with the 3-ball. They made the most 3-pointers in the Big East, but also shot the most. They made a switch to a 4-guard offense midseason and that turned the whole thing around for them. A difficult team to prepare for because of their intense man-to-man defense and full-court press. As of late they have thrown in some 2-3 zone which is something else teams have to prepare for. Still, Cincinnati has some terrible stretches on offense where they seemingly refuse to pass. They are pretty awful from the line as well (64%). That said, they won’t be an easy out and can beat anyone in the nation when the 3-ball is falling… When it isn’t is when the Bearcats will be sent packing.

#7: Gonzaga:

The Zags love to play quickly. They shoot the ball well, rebound well, and can connect from deep. They have the talent to match up with the major schools, but lack the experience that sometimes plays a major role in March. They haven’t been all that good on the road this year, and sadly they won’t be playing any more games this season in the kennel. Another team that goes as their guards go. They can make things interesting, but they need their freshman to play more like seniors and limit mistakes.

#8: Kansas State:

The Wildcats win with their man-to-man defense. They stick to you like glue and force you into bad decisions. On the offensive side their go-to guy is Rodney McGruder. While he isn’t the shooter or the emotional leader that Jacob Pullen was, he is a slasher and can usually create his own shots. They want to get the ball inside as much as possible as they aren’t very impressive from long-range. They are however, talented enough to put a scare into the big boys.

#9: Southern Mississippi:

With 4 guys averaging over 9 points per game, Southern Miss is difficult to guard and stop. They aren’t a great shooting team, but they make up for it by outworking their opponents and playing aggressive defense. They thrive in the transition game, and are very dangerous in close games as they have a near 75% free throw percentage.

#10: West Virginia:

The Mountaineers don’t have a whole lot of momentum, but they have Big East leading scorer and rebounder Kevin Jones. Pair him with Truck Bryant and West Virginia can hang some points on you in a hurry. They aren’t great from deep, but they have the ultimate shooter’s mentality… shoot when you’re hot, shoot when you’re not. If they are hot, they can cause real problems for anyone in the field. If a team forces Jones and Bryant into bad shots, West Virginia will find themselves at home  watching the rest of the tourney on tv. +333

#11: Texas:

Texas goes as guard J’Covan Brown goes. He is talented enough to carry Texas to a win or two, but when he has an off-night Texas is toast. With 6 freshmen in the rotation this team doesn’t look ready to make a deep run, but as they underdog, they can definitely spring and upset or two.

#12: Harvard:

Harvard can shoot very well and take care of the ball.  They have a very balanced offense, but need Keith Wright to stay out of foul trouble as they have very little size and experience off the bench. What they excel in is playing their game. They get back on defense and take away just about any transition opportunities. They would love to play a game in the 50’s and must defend the perimeter as they only have one real threat from 3-point land.

#13: Montana:

Montana has their conference player and defensive player of the year.  They also have a starting 5 that each average over 9 points per game. They had better because they have absolutely no depth. In their conference tournament championship, they didn’t make a substitution in the 2nd half.  They play great defense but would prefer to get out and run… Unfortunately they face a Wisconsin team that will limit their transition. Because the game may be a race to 50, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that they could spring an upset, but everything would need to go perfectly.

 #14: St. Bonaventure:

The Bonnies burst the bubble of one of the tournament hopefuls as they somehow won the A-10 tournament. They have one of the most dynamic bigs in the country in Andrew Nicholson. He can beat you from inside and out and will need to for the Bonnies to march on. Their offense is insanely complex with over 100 plays they can run. The funny part about it is that 95% of them are to get the ball to Nicholson. The key to beating the Bonnies is obviously controlling Nicholson and forcing the guards to get it done from the perimeter. No one expects anything from the Bonnies, but if they get the right matchup, Nicholson could take them into the 3rd round.

#15: Loyola (MD):

They don’t possess the bullets to spring an upset in the tournament and draw a matchup with an Ohio State team that is far superior at every position. A nice story that they finally made it back to the big dance, but hopefully they didn’t book their hotel for too long.

#16: UNC Asheville:

UNC isn’t a bad team, they are just painfully small with the tallest guy in their rotation being 6’5. They want to run, run, run… Unfortunately, they are matched up with Syracuse who dares you to run with them. Should be a fast-paced game, but UNC Asheville has no chance.


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