2012 NCAA Tournament Predictions: East Region

March 15, 2012

With the news that Fab Melo is ineligible for Syracuse, this region is now pretty wide open. Fans that are looking for a side of the bracket that could become messy should look towards this one. Here is my breakdown of the East Region.

Second Round Games to Watch

#5 Vanderbilt vs. #12 Harvard (Thurs, following Wisconsin vs. Montana)

The NCAA Tournament hasn’t been kind to the Commodores as of late, but Harvard hasn’t even seen NCAA tournament action since 1946. In other words, something has got to give. The Crimson are not the prototype Ivy League squad (slow, big bodied spot shooters), but a collection of pretty athletic forwards and a solid backcourt that doesn’t make too many mistakes. This makes them a prime candidate to give an athletic Vanderbilt team, led by seniors Festus Ezeli and Jeffery Taylor, a run for its money.

While Ezeli is an NBA-caliber center with size that Harvard does not normally see in league play, the Crimson have handled size like his before. The Ivy League champs went on the road to Tallahassee and shut down a Florida State squad that plays with similar physicality. Although the Seminoles were still figuring out their identity at that point, it is clear that Harvard will not be intimidated by Vanderbilt’s SEC size. Couple that with the Commodores’ history of bowing out in the early rounds of the tournament, and this should be a very entertaining game.

#7 Gonzaga vs. #10 West Virginia (Thurs, 7:20 PM)

Gonzaga hasn’t quite found the success that it had a little over a decade ago in the NCAA Tournament, but has a chance to make some noise in this year’s tournament…if it wants to do so. Center Robert Sacre is a senior now, and he needs to step up and play well inside, which he has only done on occasion this year. Gary Bell, Jr. leads the West Coast Conference in three point shooting percentage, but only attempted one shot from behind the arc in the WCC championship game. Gonzaga has the talent, and will be going up against a scrappy West Virginia team that always seems to play its best basketball in March under Bob Huggins.

This is a classic matchup between a team that will want to win with defense (West Virginia) and a team that will want to win with offensive finesse (Gonzaga). Also, West Virginia forward Kevin Jones is one of the better players in the country, and has the ability to put the team on his back. It is fitting that this game, which will have its share of bumps and bruises, will take place in the hard nosed city of Pittsburgh.

Team That Could Make a Run


The Badgers were not expected to make a lot of noise this year, and it looked like that prediction was coming true when Wisconsin started out league play going 1-3. Then things turned around thanks in large part to senior point guard Jordan Taylor. Taylor is an exceptional game manager, making good decisions and taking care of the ball (1.5 turnovers per game). He is the reason that Wisconsin is so tough to beat, as his patience allows the Badgers to take good shots even if it means holding onto the ball until the shot clock’s final seconds.

Bo Ryan’s team faces a deceptively difficult opponent in Montana, but if the Badgers can make it past that game, they have a real shot to make it to the Sweet 16 and take down a short-handed Syracuse team. Big Ten fans are well aware of the excruciating pace that Wisconsin likes to play, and a few more teams might find out just how difficult it is to derail the Badgers in the next week or so.

My Picks

Second Round

#1 Syracuse over #16 UNC Asheville

#8 Kansas State over #9 Southern Mississippi

#5 Vanderbilt over #12 Harvard

#4 Wisconsin over #13 Montana

#6 Cincinnati over #11 Texas

#3 Florida State over #14 St. Bonaventure

#10 West Virginia over #7 Gonzaga

#2 Ohio State over #15 Loyola Maryland

Third Round

#1 Syracuse over #8 Kansas State

#4 Wisconsin over #5 Vanderbilt

#3 Florida State over #6 Cincinnati

#2 Ohio State over #10 West Virginia

Sweet 16

#4 Wisconsin over #1 Syracuse (upset alert)

#2 Ohio State over #3 Florida State

Elite 8

#2 Ohio State over #4 Wisconsin

– K. Becks

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