Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Southeast Regional: An Insider's Guide

If Brad Stevens is to lead Butler back to national championship game, it will have to be from No. 8 seed in Southeast. (Photo courtesy of New York Post)

Yesterday, we took you through the East in the first profile of the four regionals that make up the NCAA Tournament. This time, it's the Southeast that gets an in-depth look. Any one of about eleven teams could realistically win the most open of the four parts of the bracket. The weakest draw meets some of the strongest teams as we take you through the principles involved.

#1 Seed Pittsburgh vs. #16 Seed UNC-Asheville or Arkansas-Little Rock - The Panthers won't know who they face until the "First Four" play-in is in the books, but Pitt should be the better team as long as they don't have flashbacks to 2009. For those who don't remember, that was the year in which the Panthers were the top seed in the East; but couldn't put No. 16 East Tennessee State away until the final minutes, and the Panthers will also be looking to finally close the deal and get past the Elite Eight.

#8 Seed Butler vs. #9 Seed Old Dominion - Two of the many teams that were wrongfully seeded meet in the nation's capital to give us one of the better matchups of the second round. (Again, we have to get technical) Kent Bazemore will be the X-factor for the Monarchs, especially if he can get Butler's Matt Howard into foul trouble.

#5 Seed Kansas State vs. #12 Seed Utah State - The Wildcats are getting hot at the right time, and have five proven scorers to back them up in case leader Jacob Pullen has an off night. For all Utah State has accomplished in the regular season, this could be the time of the year where a soft schedule could hurt them. The Aggies are a solid team; but outside of their win against a St. Mary's team that was left off the bubble, they really haven't set the world on fire.

#4 Seed Wisconsin vs. #13 Seed Belmont - Belmont is the trendy upset pick after their 30-win season and Wisconsin's 33-point effort against Penn State in the Big Ten tournament quarterfinals. However, the Badgers are not the team you want to get into a track meet with. Despite their lack of productivity against Penn State, (which can be credited to the Nittany Lions controlling the tempo throughout the matchup) Bo Ryan's squad has two proven leaders in Jordan Taylor and Jon Leuer; not to mention underrated big man Keaton Nankivil.

#6 Seed St. John's vs. #11 Seed Gonzaga - The Red Storm and Steve Lavin make their long-awaited return to the "Big Dance" for the first time since 2002, and will attempt to "Do It For D.J." after senior guard/forward D.J. Kennedy tore his ACL in the Johnnies' Big East tournament quarterfinal loss to Syracuse. Kennedy's absence will prove critical on the boards, as Justin Brownlee, Justin Burrell and Sean Evans will have a hard time matching up with the Zags' bruising frontcourt duo of Elias Harris and Robert Sacre. If St. John's is to win, it will come on the glass. However, the matchup of shooters Dwight Hardy and Steven Gray should be fun to watch.

#3 Seed Brigham Young vs. #14 Seed Wofford - Wofford brings back almost everyone from a team that nearly upset Wisconsin in the first round last year. Senior Noah Dahlman (whose older brother Isaiah played for a national championship as a walk-on at Michigan State) will attempt to do what many teams have tried and failed to: Stop The Jimmer. If Jimmer Fredette does have an off night, the pressure will fall to Jackson Emery and Noah Hartsock to bail the Cougars out.

#7 Seed UCLA vs. #10 Seed Michigan State - A matchup of two former national champions could be among the best of the first weekend. The trio of Reeves Nelson, Malcolm Lee and Tyler Honeycutt goes up against Sparty's own triumvirate of Kalin Lucas, Draymond Green and Durrell Summers. UCLA big man Joshua Smith will likely be the most important man on the court. If he is effective, the Bruins could be on their way to the round of 32.

#2 Seed Florida vs. #15 Seed Cal-Santa Barbara - UCSB surprised many by winning the Big West, but their luck will likely run out against a Gator team making their return to the "Big Dance" after losing a thriller in overtime to The Jimmer and BYU last year. Local product Erving Walker leads a team that includes glue guy Vernon Macklin (the former Georgetown transfer) and proven shooters Kenny Boynton and Chandler Parsons that will look to send Billy Donovan to his third Final Four in six years.

The Way I See It: Predictions
First Four play-in game:
Arkansas-Little Rock defeats UNC-Asheville

Second round:
Pittsburgh defeats Arkansas-Little Rock
Old Dominion defeats Butler
Kansas State defeats Utah State
Wisconsin defeats Belmont
Gonzaga defeats St. John's
Brigham Young defeats Wofford
Michigan State defeats UCLA
Florida defeats Cal-Santa Barbara

Third round:
Pitt defeats Old Dominion
Kansas State defeats Wisconsin
BYU defeats Gonzaga
Michigan State defeats Florida

Sweet 16: (Regional semifinals)
Kansas State defeats Pitt
BYU defeats Michigan State

Elite 8: (Regional final)
Kansas State defeats BYU

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