Midwest Region Breakdown: Rock the Chalk with the Jayhawks
For some reason the committee decided to give the #1 overall seed the toughest region of them all. Kansas is by far the most talented and deepest team on paper. Their best wins have come in conference against Kansas St. (three times) and Baylor, which is a little disconcerting that they didn't test themselves more during the non-conference schedule. The key is Xavier Henry, as I pointed out earlier this year, who has continued to improve during his freshman season and seems ready for the tournament. There just aren't that many other teams I feel confident in making the title game, let alone winning the whole thing. Kansas will likely be most people's selection to cut down the nets in Indianapolis this year and they're mine as well. It's the risk averse strategy and that's how I play the bracket.
The main advantage Kansas has over the bracket is their depth. Ohio State relies on their starters more than every other team in the country and you have to wonder if they're worn down a bit after exerting so much energy to win the conference title. The matchup against Georgetown, another team who lacks a bench, should be a classic showdown as both teams have shown the ability to win and lose big games. I'm advancing the Buckeyes because Georgetown is more susceptible to a letdown, as they've shown with losses to Rutgers and South Florida. Maryland is another one-man band like Ohio St. with much less talent around Greivis Vasquez. I won't be backing Izzo and the Spartans because Michigan St. flames out (four first weekend exits in eight years) more than you think.
First round upset that will happen: San Diego St. over Tennessee Bruce Pearl's squads have the tendency to disappoint and I expect the same again. Despite being the only team in the country with wins over Kansas and Kentucky, the Vols are a #6 seed for a reason. This San Diego St. team is no joke with two wins over New Mexico and UNLV this season. In a close game (neither team shoots well, but they both play defense) the edge should come down to coaching. Bruce Pearl isn't a great in-game coach and doesn't have a trustworthy point guard on this roster. The Aztecs, on the other hand, have Steve Fischer. You know him as the man who led the “Fab Five” to two Final Fours.
First round upset that won't happen: Houston over Maryland People know Tom Penders as “Turnaround Tom” because of his ability to make something of nothing. His ass was about to be handed his walking papers until he pulled a rabbit out of his hat and won the Conference USA tournament. Gary Williams and Vasquez will hand them to him personally a week later than expected because Maryland is efficient on both ends of the floor and the Cougars are just happy to be here.
Best Vegas Bets:
- Georgetown (-10) over Ohio: Ohio was 9th in the MAC for a reason.
- San Diego St. (+3) over Tennessee: Explained above.
- Georgetown (+600) to make the Final Four: We know they have the ability to beat anyone.
- Tennessee (+2500) to make the Final Four: I still don't like the Vols, but if they survive Round 1, they did beat both UK & KY.