March Madness Bracket Predictions: Southwest Region
by Robert Ferringo - 3/16/2011
I like to think of the Southwest Region as the Island of Misfit Toys.
Perhaps no other region in the NCAA Tournament has as many talented-yet-obviously-flawed teams vying for its slot in the Final Four. There are no less than seven teams that I could see coming out of this region and not be completely surprised. But then again, I won’t be stunned if five of those seven teams aren’t even playing next weekend. And as a result I get the sense that this is going to be the most chaotic region in the entire bracket and the place where next Monday morning people are pointing to and saying, “Who saw that coming?”
Here are Doc’s Sports March Madness bracket predictions for the Southwest Region:
No. 1 Seed: Kansas (32-2 straight-up, 16-15-1 ATS)
The Jayhawks were the top seed in last year’s NCAA Tournament and enter this year as the “No. 2” one seed. The core of this team is in the twins: Marcus and Markief Morris. That duo dominates near the basket, and if you don’t at least have three big men that you can rotate around to defend them then you are going to have a tough time competing. Brady Morningstar and Tyrel Reed are two little shooters that run around bombing threes when teams double-down against either Morris and there is a group of complimentary pieces around that core of four that make this a well-rounded group. The weakness, though, is Bill Self’s penchant for implosion and the guards if they run up against an athletic counterpart.
Kansas March Madness Prediction: I think that there are only three teams – Vanderbilt, Louisville or Purdue – that can keep Kansas from the Final Four. And once they are there this team will be tough to knock out.
No. 2 Seed: Notre Dame (26-6 SU, 16-11 ATS)
These guys play like Mormons. I mean that as a compliment, since Notre Dame is fielding a team of 23-year-old players that are fundamentally sound, that shoot the lights out, and that don’t beat themselves. Their chemistry and shooting really sets them apart. However, this team only plays about 6.5 guys in its rotation and depth could be a serious issues. The Irish have also have big problems with large, athletic teams this year, losing to Kentucky, Syracuse, Marquette, St. John’s and West Virginia by double-digits. The Irish aren’t really the same team outside of their home gym and they are vulnerable. But these guys are tough to bet against because they do so many things right.
Notre Dame March Madness Prediction: I don’t see more than three games out of this team. Once they run up against a team that has elite athletes that are also skilled they will get torn up.
No. 3 Seed: Purdue (25-7, 18-11 ATS)
Even without Robbie Hummel, the team’s leader and best player who was injured in the preseason, the Boilermakers have a shot at making a Final Four. This team spent most of the second half of the season in Top 10 in the country and they have one of the best inside-out combos in the country in E’Twaun Moore and JaJuan Johnson. This is Purdue’s third straight year with a higher seed in the Big Dance and last year this squad was a Sweet 16 participant. The key for this team is making sure that its complimentary pieces – guys like shooter Ryne Smith and point guard Lewis Jackson – don’t freak out. Those guys didn’t play key roles in past tournament teams so they are still a little raw. But Purdue is well coached, has a pair of NBA talents leading the way, and can defend when their shots aren’t falling. They will be a tough out.
Purdue March Madness Prediction: I really like this Purdue team and I wish that I could say that they had a Final Four run in them. But I didn’t see enough in the nonconference schedule and enough from them on the road to think that they are an elite team. Another Sweet 16 would be nice but that would kind of be the ceiling.
No. 4 Seed: Louisville (25-9 SU, 19-11-1 ATS)
This team is a perfect example of addition by subtraction. Last year they were plagued by bad attitudes from talented players as well as the fallout from Rick Pitino banging one of his assistant coach’s wives. This year all that negative karma is gone and this team is playing with plenty of positive flow. They key for this team is guard play, with five perimeter players in their top seven scorers. That group is not only able to shoot but also put on a ton of pressure on defensively. If this club gets anything from its interior players, outside of defense and rebounding, then they are a legit dark horse team.
Louisville March Madness Prediction: This team could flame out in the first round. But I don’t think it will. I think they will make a surprising run through this bracket and continue their good mojo through this final month.
No. 5 Seed: Vanderbilt (23-10 SU, 15-12-2 ATS)
The Commodores are really one of the most dangerous teams in the field - dangerous to bettors and opponents alike. This club has one of the most effective and efficient offensive teams in the country and they can score on anyone. Josh Jenkins is one of the best shooters in the country and is someone that opposing defenses has to account for at all times. Jeff Taylor is an ultra-athletic wing that loves the spin move and Festus Ezeli gives this team the intimidating, physical post presence that departed center A.J. Ogilvy never had in him. The problem is that this team is soft defensively and they have a tendency to fall asleep for long stretches. They have engineered some great comebacks this season. But they might not have needed them if they played hard for a full 40 minutes.
Vanderbilt March Madness Prediction: This team has beaten or played close games against UNC, WVU, Missouri, Kentucky, Florida and Marquette. So they can man-up if they make it to the second round. But I think this team may have another first round flame out ahead of them.
No. 6 Seed: Georgetown (21-10 SU, 15-15 ATS)
This team is as much of a wild card as any in the country. The Hoyas boast the best backcourt in the country. But point guard Chris Wright broke his hand last month and this group went into a tailspin. Apparently Wright is back and ready to go this week and that will have incredible implications in this region if he is healthy. Austin Freeman is an NBA player and one of the best in the nation and Jason Clark is a deadeye shooter. But Wright, a senior point guard and three-year starter, is the straw that stirs the drink. If he is back healthy I think he will give this team, which was 0-4 without him, a huge lift not just in execution but also in attitude. So while the rest of the country wastes time talking about Kyrie Irving the most important point guard coming back from injury in the bracket is wearing grey.
Georgetown March Madness Prediction: It is impossible to make any accurate prediction without knowing how Wright will play. If he is close to 100 percent then this team is going have an impact in the second weekend and will probably go to the Final Four. If he isn’t then they might only hang around for 40 minutes.
Best first-round match up: No. 5 Vanderbilt vs. No. 12 Richmond
This one was easy. Either one of these teams is capable of making a Sweet 16 run and the pair make up two of the most efficient, effective offensive teams in the country. Also, Jenkins and Kevin Anderson are two of the best scoring guards in the nation and they should have one hell of a duel. But each shooter is also complimented by an outstanding, NBA-level wing (Taylor for Vandy vs. Justin Harper for Richmond) and a difference-making post player (Ezeli for Vandy vs. Dan Geriot for Richmond). I don’t think this is just the best first round matchup of this region, but it’s the best first round game of the tournament.
Best potential second-round match up: No. 3 Purdue vs. No. 6 Georgetown
A month ago if someone were talking about Purdue against Georgetown I would have thought they were talking about a Final Four matchup. These are two of the best teams of the country and it is a shame that one of them will be bounced this early. Moore and Wright are two of the five best point guards in the nation and it will be interesting to see Johnson go up against a tough, but not deep, Hoyas frontcourt. I think that Freeman is the difference maker in this matchup and I believe Georgetown will be able to overwhelm the Boilers on the perimeter. Regardless, there is going to be an extremely high level of basketball played in this game and it should be a must-see.
Upset Alert (first round): No. 5 Vanderbilt vs. No. 12 Richmond
I touched on this before. Vanderbilt has been upset in the first round in two of the past three years, losing to upstarts Siena and Murray State. The Commodores have a tendency to “play soft” and this year’s club fits the same mold. In the last two years Richmond has beaten Purdue, Florida and Missouri and has really tested some other top-notch BCS teams. Oh, and don’t forget the fact that this is the vaunted 5-12 matchup that always seems to end in disaster for the high seed.
Upset Alert (second round): No. 2 Notre Dame vs. No. 7 Texas A&M/No. 10 Florida State
Both Texas A&M and Florida State are the type of team that can give the Irish big problems. Those two teams are both large, athletic clubs that really get after teams defensively. Notre Dame is decidedly unathletic and can be pushed around. That is exactly what happened last year when they lost in the first round to Old Dominion and I could see a repeat.
Dark Horse team: No. 4 Louisville
It is tough to put a finger on, but this team really just has a good vibe about it. And I think they match up pretty well with either Vanderbilt or Richmond in Round 2. After that they would likely face Kansas and I think that Louisville’s perimeter pressure on defense is exactly the Kryptonite that will beat the Jayhawks. That would leave the Cardinals against whoever survives the carnage of the bottom of the region. There are a lot of “ifs” involved in a deep run by Louisville. But March is all about guard play and I think with Preston Knowles, Peyton Siva, Mike Marra and Kyle Kuric the Cards have as athletic and multidimensional of a group as anyone in the nation.
Team That Makes Me Nervous: No. 6 Georgetown
It is really tough to make any long-term commitments in this region without knowing the status – the REAL status – of Wright. I know he’s going to play. But is he going to be the shell of his former self? Is his shooting (he broke his off hand) going to be impacted? How many minutes will he be able to go? If Chris Wright is able to play at about 90 percent or more of capacity then I think this is a dark horse Final Four contender that will make a serious run. But if he is hobbled out there then they won’t get past Purdue and/or Notre Dame. Also, this team could have to play a tough, tough USC team in the opener, giving them one of the most difficult paths to the Final Four in the country. Are they up for it? We will find out.
Robert Ferringo is a professional handicapper and he has gained around +190 Units in the last 12-plus months in college basketball. He’s posted four of five winning Marches over the last five years and you can purchase his college basketball picks here.
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