Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Bracket Breakdown - Midwest & West

Reminder – sign up for the 2010 Sports Addict Bracket Challenge. It’s free and you have a chance to win stuff – what more could you ask for? See details on the right side of the page.

Yesterday we set up the bracket challenge and gave some quick thoughts after looking at the bracket. Now it’s time to break it down and figure out how to fill out the best bracket you can. There are tons of stats and number crunching out there, and some are relevant and some are not. Stats are about as reliable as John Edwards’ mistress Reille Hunter, and can be manipulated to tell whatever story you want to shed light on your hunches. The #12 over the #5 is the most overhyped upset pick, yet it has happened 4 times in the past two years. The #12 is 10-18 in the first round the past 7 years, so it’s not a lock, but there are definite potential upsets. Other random stats that people will rely on include stats that teams seeded below #12 are only 6-394 after the first round. So if you pick that #13 seed over a #4, you might want to hesitate before sending them to the sweet 16.

Aside from those generic stats, here is a breakdown of each bracket. My official picks will not be made until Thursday morning, but you will definitely see which way I am leaning after spending Monday tearing through the USA Today, NY Times, NY Post and most of the internet.

THE MIDWEST BRACKET

Theme Song: “Hungry Like The Wolf” by Duran Duran
The song seems fitting for a bracket filled with the deepest line-up of talent, from individual players (Sherron Collins, Evan Turner, Greveis Vasquez, James Anderson, etc), to coaches (Bill Self, Tom Izzo, Gary “Shooter” Williams, Thad Motta, etc), and to teams (Northern Iowa). The team left standing from this bracket might feel relieved to “only” have to play Syracuse, Kansas State, Pittsburgh or another team out of the West bracket.

Keeley Hazel (talent to bust out): Tennessee (#6 Seed)
Everyone knows that Tennessee is the only team to beat both Kansas and Kentucky during the regular season, and it’s their defense that drives their success. They have held teams to below 40% shooting from the field, and had the 8th stingiest defense according to Ken Pomeroy’s adjusted defensive efficiency. When their get hot, they are capable of beating anyone. The biggest concern about them is whether they were disappointed with the low seeding in a tough bracket and whether they will be able to use that for motivation or come out flat.

Rosie Jones (best stats): Kansas (#1 seed)
They have the 5th ranked defense according to Ken Pomeroy (despite me believing they lacked the ability to lock teams down), they are 2nd in the tournament field in point differential, and 5th in the field in 3-point shooting percentage. Much like the British model, Rosie Jones, they have all the relevant stats dominate the bracket. That being said, caution should be used when putting some sweet action on the individual Kansas games as the Jayhawks are only 14-16-1 against the spread this year.

Carey Mulligan (unknown with potential): Northern Iowa (#9 seed)
I’m not sure that the boy haircut that Mulligan sports is very attractive, but there is no doubt that she is talented on the big screen or just walking down the street. Northern Iowa comes in with a gritty reputation for stingy defense and not being afraid of the big moment. They have lost by 5 points in each of their past 4 tournament appearances. The #9 seed should be able to knock off UNLV before running int o the buzzsaw at the top of the bracket.

David Beckham & Posh Spice (best matchup): #7 Oklahoma State vs. #10 Georgia Tech
Georgia Tech has as much upside talent as any team south of Kansas, including likely lottery pick Derrick Favors, yet they have been maddeningly inconsistent all season going 8-8 their last 16 games. Oklahoma State has been riding on the shoulders of their All-American candidate James Anderson, which means the Cowboys are capable of making this a high-scoring close battle. Unfortunately for whichever team wins this first rounder, Evan Turner and Ohio State will be waiting to treat them like like Beckham’s achilles tendon.

WEST BRACKET

Theme Song: “Mama Said Knock You Out” by LL Cool J
Maybe the stong is still stuck in my head after the ESPN 30 for 30 special on Reggie Miller, but the song fits for the West bracket. And after I somehow ended up with a British tilt on the Midwest bracket, I needed to bring the West back to the States. The West bracket is wide open with any number of teams capable of knocking one another out.

January Jones (talent to bust out): UTEP (#12 seed)
UTEP cruised to the Conference USA regular season title before wetting themselves in the tournament championship. They have the conference player of the year in Randy Culpepper leading their uptempo attack. Culpepper combined with Louisville transfer Derrick Caracter has the Miners primed to be the best bet for the standard #12 over #5 upset. UTEP is also coached by former John Calipari discipline, so if Tony Barbee does things like his mentor, the Miners need to be successful before the impending NCAA sanctions.

Eva Mendes (best stats): BYU (#7 seed)
BYU has the highest scoring average of the 65 tournament teams, the highest per game point differential (outscoring its opponents by 18.5 points per game), is 3rd in 3-point percentage and the best free throw shooting team. With point guard Jimmer Fredette lighting up scoreboards all season, the Cougars have the ability to score with anyone. However they have not won a tournament game since 1993 and have a first round matchup against a Florida team that is fired up to be back in the tournament for the first time since winning back-to-back titles in 2006 & 2007.

Amanda Seyfried (unknown with potential): Murray State (#13 seed)
There is a rumor that Seyfried has a scene in her next movie where all of her ample talents are put on display. In a related note, Murray State has a chance to get their second all-time NCAA tournament victory when they go up against an overrated Vanderbilt team. The Racers have outscored their opponents by 17 points per game, and are among the nations leaders in rebound margin. They also bring a very balanced attack with 6 players averaging between 10.6 and 9.5 ppg and play tough enough defense to fluster a veteran Commodores squad.

Jake Pavelka & Vienna Girardi (best matchup): #8 Gonzaga vs. #9 Florida State
Since this bracket doesn’t have a matchup that looks good on paper, I’m assigning The Bachelor couple that no one liked to the Gonzaga-Florida State game. While I might like the chances of the #12 and #13 seeds in the bracket to advance, it is more a sign of a lack of respect for the #4 and #5 teams than it is a sign of a great matchup. This will be a matchup of the stingy defense of Florida State against the high scoring and shooting Bulldog team – so maybe the couple should be Tenley’s defense against Jake’s advances. We all know Vienna wasn’t playing any defense. Anyway, Florida State has not beaten anyone of consequence outside of the ACC and likely will not be able to score enough to beat Gonzaga.

Check back tomorrow for breakdowns of the East and South brackets……….

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