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 to Akron or Hampton.
Nearly everyone in the world had Kansas in the Final Four last year and were rewarded with a 2nd round loss to Ali Farokhmanesh and Northern Iowa. While Sherron Collins is gone, that might have been a blessing in disguise. Everyone looked to him to make the big shots, limiting touches on the inside for the talented twins of Markieff and Marcus Morris. Aside from a question at the point, Kansas is a pretty complete team that can beat you from deep and punish you on the glass… but can they win without a floor general?
#2: Notre Dame:
Notre Dame being the best #2 is a testament to what a down year college basketball is having. Not that the Irish are bad, they are quite good in fact, but they are fairly easy to stop. A team that can pressure the 3-point line has a chance to knock off the Irish. They have guys that can hit the deep-ball and bangers that can grab the boards… but they are a true live and die by the 3 kind of team. If you believe in Ben Hansbrough and Tim Abromaitis, Notre Dame is your team… if you don’t, steer clear of the Irish.
When Robbie Hummel was lost for the season, many dismissed the Boilermakers’ chances of success. However Big Ten player of the year JaJuan Johnson and his running mate E’Twaun Moore had something to say about that, leading the Boilers to a #3 seed. They aren’t exactly peaking right now, but will be well rested heading into the tournament. When the shots are falling, they are nearly impossible to defeat, but any defensive lapses will be tough to overcome.
Louisville is a team with a bunch of very good players, none of whom have made the leap to full blown stardom. March is when legends are made and any one of their starters could step up an establish themselves. I think Peyton Siva will be a college star, but having only one starter over 6’4 is not a formula for a deep tournament run.
Vandy is another of the extremely talented teams that annoyingly can’t put it all together. At times they look lost on defense and take care of the ball worse than Jake Delhomme. John Jenkins is about as pure of a shooter as you will find in the country, but if he is having an off-night, it could be a quick exit for the Commodores.
Chris Wright. That’s all you need to know about the Hoyas. If he’s healthy, they are one of the better teams in the country. If he’s not, their offense will not flow and they will struggle. Word is that he’s healthy, but after that time off, one has to question if he’s in game shape. They catch a break since their opponent will only have half a day to prepare for them, but USC has the ability to stand up and turn the Hoyas dream into a nightmare.
#7: Texas A&M:
The Co-Headliner in what is sure to be an offensively-challenged game on Friday in Chicago. The Aggies can ratchet up the defense with the best of em and they can win ugly, but sometimes watching them try to score is more painful than watching Rocky V. They are not a fun team to play against, but they will only go as far as their offense leads them.
UNLV is a solid team. How solid remains to be seen. They beat a very good Wisconsin club, but also couldn’t get over the hump against BYU or San Diego State in any of their 5 matchups. They have question marks in the front court, but have enough depth and play very good defense, so they should be able to hang around in most games .
Illinois joins Michigan State as Big 10 disappointments this season. They have the experience, talent, and depth to be about 6 seeds higher, they just are missing that spark. Rumors are flying that some on this group are more concerned about their draft stock than succeeding in the tournament. If that’s not the case, they could win a few games here solely on their rebounding and defensive ability.
#10: Florida St:
Much like Georgetown’s success hinges on the health of Chris Wright, the Seminoles need Chris Singleton healthy if they have any dreams of postseason success. In a strange situation, the selection committee asked Florida State if he would play before they seeded them. The ‘Noles brass assured them that he will. If he does, they can lock up even the toughest of opponents. If he doesn’t, they don’t have the firepower to hang with many teams in the dance, if any.
I project USC to win the “first round” game against VCU, so this write-up will focus on them. They are a good team and defeated Texas, Washington, Arizona, Tenneessee this season, while taking Kansas to the wire. Asking them to play a game on half-a-day’s notice however, might be asking a little much, especially considering they have less depth than Paris Hilton’s acting career. Tough to see a jetlagged team that only goes 6 deep having enough in the tank to bang with a Big East team, but anything can happen in March.
(edit: 3/27/11): Seeing as how the team that I didn’t even write up just made the Final Four, I surmise that I should actually post what I had written for VCU before the tournament began: VCU is a team that loves the 3-ball. They shoot more than nearly every team in the tournament and make their fair share. Unfortunately that means at times they will start chucking them up from anywhere on the court. VCU is also pretty thin in the frontcourt and can be knocked off their game by physical defensive teams who pressure the 3-point line.
Richmond returns to the tournament with nearly the same squad that got beat by St. Mary’s a year ago. They were the best 3-point shooting team in their conference and run the truest version of the Princeton offense in the tournament. They have the ability to create mismatches and will capitalize on them. If the shots aren’t falling though, it will be a long night for the Spiders.
#13: Morehead St:
Thanks to winning the Ohio Valley Conference tournament, Morehead is now more than a name on a hat worn by poser frat boys in triple-popped collar polos. Morehead has a dominant low-post presence in Kenneth Faried. He’s undersized, but thanks to his long reach and jumping ability, the best rebounder in the NCAA. Their attention to detail on defense may allow them to stick around against Louisville, but sooner or later, the better athletes have to win… or do they?
#14: St. Peter’s:
The Peacocks like to spread the ball around and play ridiculously good defense. Their effective FG% given up, a solid predictor of tournament success is good enough for 3rd in the nation. They also have the senior guards necessary to spring a big upset, but they are relatively small and struggle shooting free throws. Purdue is a tough matchup and should win easily, but the Boilermakers seem to be reeling, so keep an eye on St. Peters.
You know the MAC is having a down year when their champion receives a #15 seed. The MAC is a much better conference than that, but Akron was the only team to step up when it counted, defeating arch-rival Kent State in the MAC Championship game. The Zips can ratchet up the defense, but don’t have much athleticism, can’t shoot free throws, and make way too many dumb mistakes to really be a bracket buster.
The Terriers are led by swingman John Holland who dropped 29 in the American East title game. They also have another solid guard that can fill the stat-sheet in Darryl Partin. Boston has run off 11-straight wins but the committee didn’t do them any favors giving them a 16 against Kansas. Unless a hockey game breaks out, the Terriers will be one and done.