Syracuse and Ohio State make for a top-heavy East region, but Florida State and Vanderbilt also come in brimming with confidence after winning their respective conference tournaments.
First Round Matchup I’m Looking Forward To: #3 Florida State vs. #14 Saint Bonaventure
I don’t see the Bonnies springing the upset here, but I can’t wait to see big man Andrew Nicholson take on Bernard James and the rest of a tough FSU front line. Simply put, Nicholson carried the Bonnies to the A-10 title and likely made himself a boatload of money in the process.
I like Florida State’s ability to force turnovers, and I think James and Xavier Gibson can do enough to slow down Nicholson in the post.
Second Round Matchup I’d Like to See: #3 Florida State vs. #6 Cincinnati
Not trying to make this FSU-centric, but there really aren’t many enticing second round matchups in this region. Both these squads have improved significantly over the course of the season, and it’s hard to imagine a more physical game than what would take place if these two met in round two.
As with the prior matchup, I would like to see Florida State’s front line battle with Yancy Gates down low, and a point guard matchup between Cashmere Wright and Luke Loucks would feature two guys with great assist rates.
First Round Upset I’m Picking: #13 Montana over #4 Wisconsin
The Grizzlies went 20-1 over their last 21 contests, and I think they match up well with Wisconsin.
Guard Will Cherry is a tough defender and would be able to pressure Jordan Taylor, while both teams have big men who can step outside and make shots in Derek Selvig and Jared Berggren. Montana has been very prolific from long range with three players shooting at least 40 percent from deep, including talented sophomore Kareem Jamar.
The Grizzlies also boast decent field goal percentage defense, and in a matchup that should be played at a relatively slow pace, I think at minimum it’s a close game.
First Round Upset I’m Avoiding: #12 Harvard over #5 Vanderbilt
There will most certainly be at least one 5-12 upset this year, but I just don’t think this is one of them.
The Commodores come in with confidence after beating Kentucky, and John Jenkins should be able to take advantage of suspect three-point defense from the Crimson. One of Harvard’s strengths on offense is its ability to get to the stripe, but Vanderbilt has one of the lowest opponents’ free throw rates in the country, which should help them come away with the win.
First Top Four Seed to Lose: #4 Wisconsin
I suppose this one is pretty self-explanatory after I questioned whether the Badgers could get out of round one. Ultimately I’m concerned that they rely far too much on the outside shot, which makes them vulnerable on an off shooting night.
Even if they get past Montana, Vanderbilt defends the three very well and doesn’t appear to be a good matchup in round two.
Sleeper Team: #5 Vanderbilt
I certainly didn’t expect to write this when I sat down in front of the computer, but the matchups aren’t half bad for the Commodores. I already touched on their likely opponents in the first two rounds, and their strong three-point shooting would at least give them a chance against Syracuse.
I’m not sure if they can actually spring the upset, but I certainly don’t like any of the other teams seeded outside of the top three in this region.
East Regional Champion: #2 Ohio State
This pick ultimately hinges on how well William Buford plays.
At this point, you pretty much know what to expect from Jared Sullinger, Deshaun Thomas, and Aaron Craft, but Buford is the wild card. It’s evident how much better of a basketball team the Buckeyes are when Buford is hitting shots, and I am banking on the senior getting it together for his final tournament run.
If they wind up facing Syracuse in the regional final, I’ll take my chances with Sullinger on the offensive glass against the Orange, who have struggled in that aspect this season.
East Region Bracket, TV Schedule, Sites, Announcers, Point Spreads
|1||#1 Syracuse def #16 UNC-Asheville 72-65||Thu, 3/15||3:05 ET||Pittsburgh||Harlan-Elmore||truTV||SU -17|
|2||#8 Kansas State def #9 Southern Miss 70-64||Thu, 3/15||12:40 ET||Pittsburgh||Harlan-Elmore||truTV||KST -6.5|
|3||#4 Wisconsin def #13 Montana 73-49||Thu, 3/15||2:10 ET||Albuquerque||Dedes-Wenzel||TNT||WIS -9.5|
|4||#5 Vanderbilt def #12 Harvard 79-70||Thu, 3/15||4:35 ET||Albuquerque||Dedes-Wenzel||TNT||VAN -6.5|
|5||#2 Ohio State def #15 Loyola (MD) 78-59||Thu, 3/15||9:45 ET||Pittsburgh||Harlan-Elmore||TNT||OSU -17.5|
|6||#7 Gonzaga def #10 West Virginia 77-54||Thu, 3/15||7:20 ET||Pittsburgh||Harlan-Elmore||TNT||Pick 'em|
|7||#3 Florida State def #14 St. Bonaventure 66-63||Fri, 3/16||2:40 ET||Nashville||Eagle-Spanarkel||CBS||FSU -6|
|8||#6 Cincinnati def #11 Texas 65-59||Fri, 3/16||12:15 ET||Nashville||Eagle-Spanarkel||CBS||CIN -2|
|9||#1 Syracuse def #8 Kansas State 77-59||Sat, 3/17||12:15 ET||Pittsburgh||Harlan-Elmore||CBS||SU -5|
|10||#4 Wisconsin def #5 Vanderbilt 60-57||Sat, 3/17||6:10 ET||Albuquerque||Dedes-Wenzel||TNT||VAN -1|
|11||#2 Ohio State def #7 Gonzaga 73-66||Sat, 3/17||2:45 ET||Pittsburgh||Harlan-Elmore||CBS||OSU -7.5|
|12||#3 Florida State v #6 Cincinnati||Sun, 3/18||9:40 ET||Nashville||Eagle-Spanarkel||TBS|
|13||#1 Syracuse v #4 Wisconsin||Thu, 3/22||Boston||SU -4|
|14||#2 Ohio State v Game 12 Winner||Thu, 3/22||Boston|
|ELITE 8 - REGIONAL FINAL|
|15||Game 13 Winner v Game 14 Winner||Sat, 3/24||Boston|