This region is top-heavy with Syracuse and Ohio State leading the way. The rest of the field is loaded with teams who come in hot off of impressive showings in their respective conference tournaments. Harvard would be a very lofty pick, can they out-think their opponents?Can a team like Vanderbilt or Florida State get into the Final Four? It will take some perfect games to notch an upset in this region’s bracket.
#1 Syracuse (31-2) vs. #16 UNC-Asheville (24-9) – The Syracuse Orange are one of the deepest teams in the entire NCAA Tournament field. One of their losses came when Fab Melo was suspended and that was a very close game against Notre Dame. They will coast by UNC Asheville, but possibly run into a difficult game against either Kansas State or Southern Miss. I really like the Orange in this tournament.
Predicted Winner: #1 Syracuse Orange
#8 Kansas State (21-10) vs. #9 Southern Miss (25-8) – The seeds in this contest could have easily been the other way around. Kansas State has some impressive wins, but losing to Oklahoma twice is a huge red flag. Southern Miss has its flaws too. The Golden Eagles lost to Marshall twice, but they are a very balanced team. I like Southern Miss in this very close contest. Neil watson, LaShay Page, and Darnell Dodson will be hard for Kansas State to guard.
Predicted Winner: #9 Southern Miss Golden Eagles
#5 Vanderbilt (24-10) vs. #12 Harvard (26-4) – Vandy is coming into the NCAA Tournament at warp speed. They beat Kentucky in the SEC Tournament final and all of their losses have been close. Harvard is a sexy underdog pick, but Jeremy Lin isn’t on the team anymore. They do have an inside/outside threat with the duo of Kyle Casey and Keith Wright, but the talent isn’t at Vanderbilt’s level. The Commodores have John Jenkins and Jeffrey Taylor, who I would put against many of this region’s top two players. Vanderbilt will be a tough out in the later rounds.
Predicted Winner – #5 Vanderbilt Commodores
#4 Wisconsin (24-9) vs. #13 Montana (25-6) – Wisconsin has a history of getting beaten early in the Big Dance, but they shouldn’t worry about Montana in the first-round. Montana does have some size in the paint, but Wisconsin’s Jordan Taylor and Ryan Evans are used to playing against size. I love the Badgers in this game, but think that Vanderbilt will beat them in the second-round.
Predicted Winner – #4 Wisconsin Badgers
#6 Cincinnati (24-10) vs. #11 Texas (20-13) – At the beginning of the season, I wouldn’t have picked either of these teams to make the NCAA Tournament. Cincinnati got hot during the Big East tournament, but have losses to teams like Presbytarian on their resumé. Texas have gotten the most out of their talent this year. They lack any bad losses and have played top-notch teams all season. They were a little beat up by the giants in the Big 12, but they are a stronger team now. I really like Texas’ J’Covan Brown to lead the Longhorns over Cincinnati.
Predicted Winner: #11 Texas Longhorns
#3 Florida State (24-9) vs. #14 St. Bonaventure (20-11) – I watched a few Florida State games this year and I was impressed after each one. They have guys like Michael Snaer and Bernard James who are solid, but have guys like Deividas Dulkys come off the bench and light it up. You never know who is going to be a surprise, which is an element I love in the NCAA Tournament. St. Bonaventure won their conference tournament, but the talent level isn’t there to hang with Florida State. I like the Seminoles to win a few games in the tournament this year.
Predicted Winner: #3 Florida State Seminoles
#7 Gonzaga (25-6) vs. #10 West Virginia (19-13) – Gonzaga has been a sexy underdog pick for a decade. Even in the years when they are favorites, theys till feel like underdogs. If the Bulldogs win against West Virginia, it still feels like an upset, but it shouldn’t. The Mountaineers have played up to their competition and had close games against top teams. WVU’s Kevin Jones is an NBA-level player, but Gonzaga has a very balanced team. Gonzaga lack the star power, but they have a team full of “glue guys.” I like the Bulldogs in a close game.
Predicted Winner: #7 Gonzaga
#2 Ohio State (27-7) vs. #15 Loyola (MD) (24-8) – Did Ohio State underachieve this year or was the Big Ten at an elite level? The NCAA Tournament is a litmus test for the power of one’s conference. Ohio State will win this game against Loyola (MD), but for them to get passed Gonzaga or Florida State in the later rounds, they’ll need big games from Jared Sullinger and William Buford. The Buckeyes will have to play big minutes, since Thad Matta tightens up the rotation during the tournament.
Predicted Winner: #2 Ohio State Buckeyes
White Boy’s 2012 NCAA Tournament Coverage
2012 NCAA Tournament: West Region Picks
2012 NCAA Tournament: South Region Picks
2012 NCAA Tournament: Midwest Region Picks
2012 NCAA Tournament: 13 Possible Upsets
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