West and East Regions

March 16, 2010
By K. Becks

Yesterday I covered possibly the most stacked region in the bracket. Today’s regions are filled with a lot of talent as well. These two may actually be the more difficult regions to predict, due to various things such as injuries and past performances’ of certain teams.

West Region

First Round Games to Watch

#5 Butler vs. #12 UTEP (Thurs, 4:45 pm)

Both of these teams feature players that will be exciting to watch. For Butler, guard Gordon Hayward and forward Matt Howard will try to counter the guard-forward attack of Randy Culpepper and Derrick Caracter. Both teams play pretty good defense, so Butler will need to hold on to the ball (they’ve had problems with turnovers this season) if they don’t want to be one and done.

#6 Xavier vs. #11 Minnesota (Fri, 12:25 pm)

After Minnesota held Purdue to 11 first half points on their way to a 27 point drubbing of the Boilermakers, a lot of people jumped on the Gopher bandwagon (or, maybe just jumped off of the Purdue one). There is good reason for this, as Minnesota shoots the ball well and has capable big men in Damian Johnson and Ralph Sampson III. However, the Musketeers have their own playmaker in guard Jordan Crawford, who can single handedly change the outcome of a game. This game could come down to the last shot.

Team That Could Make a Run

BYU

This team has a very difficult path. If they manage to beat Florida in the first round, they would likely face Kansas State in the second round. It doesn’t get any easier after that, either. However, BYU has an explosive offense headed by Jimmer Fredette who is a do-it-all talent (he has two 45+ scoring outputs this season). If they can continue to score at will and play decent defense, both things that they are capable of doing, they have a chance to ruin a lot of brackets after the first weekend.

My Picks

1st Round

#1 Syracuse over #16 Vermont
#8 Gonzaga over #9 Florida State
#5 Butler over #12 UTEP
#13 Murray State over #4 Vanderbilt (upset alert)
#6 Xavier over #11 Minnesota
#3 Pittsburgh over #14 Oakland
#7 BYU over #10 Florida
#2 Kansas State over #15 North Texas

2nd Round

#1 Syracuse over #8 Gonzaga
#5 Butler over #13 Murray State
#3 Pittsburgh over #6 Xavier
#2 Kansas State over #7 BYU

Sweet 16

#1 Syracuse over #5 Butler
#2 Kansas State over #3 Pittsburgh

Elite 8

#2 Kansas State over #1 Syracuse

East Region

First Round Games to Watch

#5 Temple vs. #12 Cornell (Fri, 12:30 pm)

This game should definitely be one of the more interesting games to watch on Friday. Cornell has been a popular pick to upset Temple, but Temple has been flying under the radar all season, and is pretty good in its own right. The Owls have wins over Villanova and Xavier, and Cornell played heads up all game long against Kansas earlier this season at the always tough venue Fog Allen Fieldhouse. The question will be, can Cornell shoot the three point ball well, or will Temple’s extremely good perimeter pressure force Cornell into a bad shooting day?

#6 Marquette vs. #11 Washington (Thurs, 7:20 pm)

This game is on the “Games to Watch” list primarily because Washington has been playing well as of late and because Marquette has the talent to be a Final Four dark horse if they play to their potential. Washington loves to crank up the tempo on offense, and since Marquette doesn’t exactly feature a lockdown defense, this game should produce a lot of points. It is also a real possibility that this game will come down to the final minutes, as Marquette leads the nation in playing in games decided by five or fewer points (with 16).

Team(s) That Could Make a Run

Marquette

As I mentioned above, Marquette has the talent to be a Final Four participant. Lazar Hayward is a stud, and Jimmy Butler helps carry the scoring load as well. The Golden Eagles do not have a very deep bench, but as long as they can stay out of foul trouble, that shouldn’t affect them too much. Also, close games are bound to happen in the later rounds, and Marquette is battle tested in those type of games (refer to my statistic I included in the “Games to Watch” section).

New Mexico

A lot of people on the Eastern half of the country have not seen too much of the Lobos, which is why it is understandable that some people may think New Mexico is over-seeded. However, this team is the real deal. They have beaten six NCAA Tournament teams, and boast one of the most talented players in the tournament with guard Darington Hobson. It is unusual to think of a three seed making the Elite 8 as overly surprising, but if the Lobos do it, expect to see some eyebrows raised.

My Picks

1st Round

#1 Kentucky over #16 East Tennessee State
#8 Texas over #9 Wake Forest
#12 Cornell over #5 Temple (upset alert)
#4 Wisconsin over #13 Wofford
#6 Marquette over #11 Washington
#3 New Mexico over #14 Montana
#10 Missouri over #7 Clemson
#2 West Virginia over #15 Morgan State

2nd Round

#1 Kentucky over #8 Texas
#12 Cornell over #4 Wisconsin (upset alert)
#3 New Mexico over #6 Marquette
#2 West Virginia over #10 Missouri

Sweet 16

#1 Kentucky over #12 Cornell
#2 West Virginia over #3 New Mexico

Elite 8

#2 West Virginia over #1 Kentucky

Tomorrow I will break down the final region, the South Region. In related news, congratulations to Arkansas-Pine Bluff, who defeated Winthrop earlier tonight in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament and won the right to play Duke in the First Round. Quite a prize, don’t you think? Actually, I’m sure they’re ecstatic to have extended their season.

- K. Becks

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