All the experts picked Kansas to win it all. It seems like they come into every tournament with more chips than everyone else, but rarely seem to cash in on it like you’d think they would. With a chip on their shoulder, will they be able to get out of their heads and play a relaxing game of basketball?
The rest of this division is pretty entertaining. The division itself has the best name, so that’s something special. There will be many three’s taken in this batch of games, as well as a new tournament “Cinderella” reborn. Who knew Cinderella spanned generations? Or did the committee just simply overlook a sleeping powerhouse?
Kansas over Boston U.
Kansas coach Bill Self has proven he can win or lose ANY game. More on that later, but not even their worst effort will be enough to lose to BU.
UNLV over Illinois
UNLV is a pound the floor, square up defensively and get in your face ball club.
Illinois relies on the firepower of their stalwart senior point guard Demetri McCamey, who can absolutely get nasty from the outside. Think NBA Jam when you’re on fire. There’s really nothing you can do if he heats up.
McCamey also has some good pieces in 7’1” Mike Tisdale and ultra dependable Mike Davis who are both seniors that have been with McCamey since the beginning. They’ve had high hopes at Illinois with this class, but it just has never come together like anyone thought it would.
The Rebels will grind opponents into sawdust and sweep them around the floor for 40 minutes if they’re not careful with the basketball.
This team would fit perfectly in the Big 10 and would thrive in games like the Penn State-Wisconsin game that featured a 36 point winning team.
This kind of play should frustrate Illinois and lead to a chance to annoy Kansas. That is, unless McCamey catches fire. I’m betting Illinois dies with him trying, which would be an appropriate, yet depressing flame out end to his Illinois career.
Richmond over Vanderbuilt
I’m not going to lie; I have a crush on NCAA teams that gun three’s.
I loved every minute of Cornell last year as “Big Red” made Andy Bernard change out of a bright blue sweater vest and put on a Cornell t-shirt.
Richmond hit almost 250 three’s this year and with four of five starters shooting over 40 percent, they can shoot their way out of a hole, quick.
That’s also the storybook scenario in a close game for a classic “onions” (hitting a three so clutch it makes you want to cry) call.
They have a “little-big” outside-out (like that?) combination with senior guard Kevin Anderson and senior power forward Justin Harper. One or both could find themselves in the Association after all this tournament madness is over, which won’t be in the first weekend for the Richmond Spiders.
If this projection holds true, it will be a surefire sign that Vanderbuilt was great as an underdog, but cripples under the pressure as a favorite. It’s a tough jump to make. Others have struggled in the past. Gonzaga is a good example. Butler, before last year.
Teams that were great picks as a double-digit seed, but when given the respect and dignity of a upper echelon seed, piss it away to make you question the selection committee’s intellect.
Vandy’s only chance is to pound the inside with their big man with an almost Seinfeldian name, Festus Ezeli. Festivus for the rest of us! They will need his feats of strength just to advance even ONE game.
It seems to me like Richmond is the favorite here.
Louisville over Morehead St.
I love Pitino basketball. The full court press is an entirely under utilized entity. I just love the theory of not giving an opponent and inch to breathe.
With that said, this team has been plagued by injuries throughout the year and finds themselves extremely weak in the frountcourt.
Depth and athletic big men really drive a Pitino defense. Luckily, Morehead State doesn’t have a great deal of size either.
They do have a lock and key point guard who will not give up the basketball and a star by the name of Kenneth Faried who is often described as a college version of Dennis Rodman—Pistons era Defensive Player of the Year (not as crazy) Rodman of course.
Faried averaged 14.5 rebounds a game while leading his team in scoring and competing in the national leaders in steals.
Louisville IS going to miss a lot of shots, but I’m just not quite sure Morehead St. is going to fare any better. This game should be an ugly escape for Pitino and Co.
Georgetown over USC/VCU
Georgetown lost the heart and soul of their team when Chris Wright broke his non-shooting hand. He may be able to play, but it’s not the same.
Michigan State Spartan legend Morris Petersen was relatively effective his sophomore year with a similar injury, but that kind of thing doesn’t cut it in the Big Dance.
However, they draw one of two teams that in no, way, shape or form should be in the tournament.
Georgetown was upset in the tournament last year. They will be pissed enough to not let that happen again.
It just makes me sad to think at what this Hoyas team was before Wright got hurt.
Purdue over St. Peter’s
I made my projections before hearing about Kelsey Barlow being dismissed from the team for “conduct detrimental to the team”, which is an annoying PR rubber stamp.
Although it’s genuinely none of my business, it does makes me wonder if this team has fallen apart after losing to Iowa at home and being absolutely destroyed by Michigan State in the Big 10 Tournament.
Either way, guard E’Twaun Moore (18 pts, 5 reb) and center JuJuan Johnson (21 pts, 8 reb, 2.5 blks) are senior studs on what would be a Final Four favorite had they not lost the other piece to this program puzzle, Robbie Hummel.
Oh well, it happened last year and they got to the Elite Eight. This game should give them time to work out whatever is happening internally and focus on another run.
Purdue coach Matt Painter has built quite a program here. This is the squad that can get him on the map and over another hurdle.
Tx A&M over Florida State
Yawn. I flipped a coin. This game was kind of boring to me.
Notre Dame over Akron
Oh, Notre Dame, how I love you so. They lose Big East Player of the Year Luke Harangody and become better in the process.
I think this is what Bill Simmons has always described in what he calls “Ewing Theory.” If you don’t know what I’m talking about Google it.
And we’ll see ND in the second round.
Kansas over UNLV
This Kansas team has a bit of a chip on its shoulder from losing in the second round to Northern Iowa last year.
Their offense relies on the Morris brothers (Marcus and Markieff), two stallions that eat up the glass and are quick bucket creators in the post.
Both are dynamic in very similar ways, which is great, because if one has an off night, the other brother is right there pick up the slack. Also, talk about chemistry advantages…
I only mention this because UNLV really doesn’t have the size or athleticism to contain either of them.
They will be able to slow down the talented guards of Kansas, which is no easy trick, but the Morris bros should play much like the Mario Brothers in those free coin worlds. Just collecting points. I can hear the eight-bit “ding” sound now…
Richmond over Louisville
It’s quite apparent to me that Louisville is limping right now. Playing in the Big East is no joke.
I just can’t help but think one of the best ways to beat a press if have 17 guys on the floor that hit three’s like they’re throwing rocks at the side of a barn.
Louisville star player senior Preston Knowles (no relation to Beyonce) will have to be buried alive on the court.
He’s not going to quit, but again, I can’t help but envision sharp passes and open looks for the Richmond Spiders—who quickly become the 2011 tournament darlings.
Purdue over Georgetown
A healthy Chris Wright for Georgetown and with the suspension of Purdue defensive juggernaut Kelsey Barlow, I would change my pick here. Especially with the way the Hoyas were killing it prior to their star guard having to turn his paw into a club.
A state of disarray has set in as they have lost five of six (not including the win over VCU/USC that I’ve projected) and they had their work cut out for them anyway.
I like Purdue without even having to make a case FOR Purdue. It should be a pretty graceful first weekend for the Boilermakers who are also currently seeking steadier footing.
Notre Dame over Texas A&M
Notre Dame Head Coach Mike Brey certainly has built a unique program in South Bend.
He’s been able to bring in a platoon of sharp shooting wings and point guards who can get them the rock or create shots for themselves.
They’ve always been able to put points up in transition when a sniper finds an opening or wear you down with patient ball movement uncovering pockets in the defense. It’s a fun team to watch.
The difference this year was their ability to play some defense.
In the past it was as if they grabbed a bag of popcorn at half court and the Irish looked forward to seeing what the opponent would do. They had the best seats in the house.
Unfortunately, it was really tough to watch as a basketball purist, because they gave up dunk after dunk, finding new ways to improve their opponents already skyrocketing field goal percentage. It was kind of embarrassing.
Needless to say, this increase on defense is enough to not really sweat too much against Texas A&M or Florida State depending on the flip of the coin.
Kansas over Richmond
The Spiders web can’t spin a web of deceit forever! Someone will be prepared.
It seems fitting that it would end against the most talented team in the field.
Bill Self is quite possibly the best recruiter in the game right now. He did it at Illinois (Deron Williams, Luther Head, Dee Brown) and he continues to stockpile talent in the right places at Kansas.
He really does know how to piece together a team. This team is constructed near perfect. And it’s the kind of team that will be able to weather the Richmond storm.
The athletes on the blocks, running out on transition, up, down and all around the court will be unlike anything Richmond has seen. It was fun Spiders, and thanks for the memories.
Purdue over ND
There are two main ways opponents lose: they lose to an opponent or they beat themselves.
ND is fully capable of shooting themselves right out of a game.
Ben Hansbrough and Tim Abromaitis lead an all-senior starting lineup for the Irish who have yet to make much noise in the dance under Mike Brey.
I see that trend continuing with a stunting defensive effort by Purdue, even without their top defensive guard.
The Irish don’t really create a matchup problem for Purdue—who also likes to play four guards that all shoot three’s—as their entire team plays stupendous man-to-man defense.
Notre Dame will have contested looks all day, which if you’ve ever watched these guys play, does NOT stop them from shooting.
I like a hand in the face or two to create many rebounds for JuJuan Johnson, who will be a rebounding machine all-day without having to expend energy to guard anyone on the inside.
I fully expect him to walk away with every rebound, even when he’s on the bench (three’s do tend to miss long).
Road to the Final Four
Purdue over Kansas
This promises to be an epic battle inside and out. Both teams match up extremely well.
The Morris brothers will have trouble with the defensive prowess of JuJuan Johnson, whom is capable of defending both guys (at the same time) from the interior blocks.
I say that facetiously, but Johnson really does know his way around the “where did that guy come from”, block. Like when Chris Tucker didn’t know who kicked him in the elevator in Rush Hour 2.
Kansas really goes deep on their bench with an assembly line of top notch guards/wings.
This depth and unrivaled talent is why most of the experts are picking Kansas to win it all, except Dick Vitale, which tells me again, I could be greatly mistaken in this pick.
My theory on Bill Self is, he only wins ONLY when he has vastly superior talent. Sure, he has that title, but that team was just stacked from top to bottom.
He has a talent advantage coming into every game in this tournament, but I don’t think it’s enough.
You see, Bill Self is a fantastic recruiter, puzzle builder and I’m sure he knows his way around X’s and O’s or he wouldn’t have the record he has.
He’s like the guy in No Limit Hold ‘Em that called someone going all in on the first hand with nothing, so he has twice as many chips as you. All he has to do is lean. But, that isn’t always enough to beat someone who is skilled, having an “on” day.
I think Purdue IS that skilled and well coached.
JuJuan Johnson is an absolute FREAK. How many guys can get 6-10 blocks in a game, but also step back and knock down three’s in transition?
It’s like Kevin Durant had a child with Marcus Camby. This is his coming out party. He is going to make himself some money in the upcoming NBA draft with an all-world NCAA tournament.
Purdue’s weapons make geometrical spacing on the court extremely simplistic. An inspired effort punches their ticket to Houston. I wouldn’t be happier for any other non-Michigan State team.
The entire 2011 NCAA Tournament bracket breakdown can be found on my blog appropriately titled Ryan C. Zerfas. Report here for more top-notch bracket analysis: http://ryanczerfas.blogspot.com/2011/03/2011-ncaa-bracket-projections.html