NCAA Tournament Bracket Predictions: Southeast Region
by Robert Ferringo - 3/15/2011
If this were the World Cup then the Southeast Region would be considered the Group of Death.
The 2010 runner-up is the No. 8 seed (Butler). The best scorer in the country is with the No. 3 seed (BYU). Two programs with a combined nine Final Four appearances in the last 12 years are playing one another (Michigan State vs. UCLA) as the No. 7 and No. 10 seeds. There is a 30-win team as the No. 12 seed (Utah State). And, oh by the way, there is also the top-tier programs – Pittsburgh, Florida, Wisconsin and Kansas State – listed as the highest seeds and ready to claw at one another for the right to get to Houston.
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Here are Doc’s Sports NCAA Tournament bracket predictions for the Southeast (New Orleans) Region:
No. 1 Seed: Pittsburgh (27-5 straight-up, 14-13 ATS)
Is this the year? Is this finally the year that Pittsburgh breaks through and makes it to the Final Four? The Panthers are the winningest major conference program over the last decade to never reach the Final Four. And in my opinion they have had better teams than this one come up short so I am still very wary of getting behind them this year. They do have a very favorable road to the Sweet 16 (UNLV could be a threat in the second round). But you can’t take anything for granted with this group. They are physical, athletic and tough as nails. The frontcourt comes in waves and I feel that the key is Ashton Gibbs. He is a perimeter scorer unlike anyone they have had the last 10 years and I think if he and Brad Wanamaker are knocking down shots this team could finally, finally get over the hump.
Pittsburgh NCAA Tournament Prediction: Missed by that much. This bracket is brutal. Pittsburgh is an excellent team but I don’t think this is the year they finally get to the Final Four.
No. 2 Seed: Florida (26-7 SU, 14-14-1 ATS)
The Gators are the most overseeded team in the tournament, earning a No. 2 seed out of nowhere despite the fact that they were blasted in their conference tournament. But seeds are seeds and don’t really impact what goes down on the court. Florida has one of the best, most experienced frontcourts in the country and a pair of potentially explosive guards. Their problem is that they can go long stretches without scoring and that their guards can be ridiculously streaky. Also, random losses to Jacksonville, South Carolina and Mississippi State are red flags that this team could be upset. But outside of that the only team to beat this bunch in the last month-plus is Kentucky.
Florida NCAA Tournament Prediction: This team may stick around a bit longer than it otherwise would have as a No. 4 seed. But the odds are long that they’ll make the second weekend, and even after that I don’t see them being a long-term threat because in at least one of the games the guards will shoot blanks.
No. 3 Seed: BYU (30-4 SU, 13-18 ATS)
Here is all you need to know about these wacky Mormons: they love Jimmer and they hate sex. Jimmer Fredette is one of the most explosive scorers in the country and is a one-man gang. However, after suspending leading rebounder Brandon Davies two weeks ago this club is woefully short on talent and athleticism on the interior. They can shoot for days and have a great system. But without the ability to defend the post they are susceptible to the same type of beating they took in the Mountain West title game from San Diego State.
BYU NCAA Tournament Prediction: BYU has been a flop in the tournament in recent years with better teams than this one. They have a good draw the opening weekend but I really don’t take them seriously against the Big Boy teams later in the bracket.
No. 4 Seed: Wisconsin (23-8 SU, 15-12 ATS)
When we last saw Wisconsin the Badgers were playing one of the worst offensive games I’ve ever seen in my life. They mustered just 33 points (or nearly 20 less than Jimmer Fredette scored against New Mexico) in 40 minutes against Penn State in the Big Ten and this team is wobbly. The Badgers do have one of the best inside-out duos in the nation with Jordan Taylor and Jon Leuer. Bo Ryan is a master and has a great system. But their regional success really hasn’t translated nationally over the last few years. No. 5 scorer Mike Bruesewitz is out this week. And if that piss-poor performance against Penn State was an indication this club needs all the scoring help it can get.
Wisconsin NCAA Tournament Prediction: Cornell, Xavier and Davidson have bounced The Badgers in the last three NCAA Tournaments. That’s not impressive for a team that we are led to believe is one of the top 20 or 30 in the country. I see a similar effort and them limping out way too early.
No. 5 Seed: Kansas State (22-10 SU, 11-15 ATS)
Good luck trying to figure this team out. I was one of the few college basketball handicappers in the country that didn’t buy into the hype with this group. And I was right. But while they still aren’t a national title contender this team can still do some damage. They are 9-3 in their last 12 games and their only losses have come against Colorado and Kansas. No shame there. Jacob Pullen is one of the best guards in the country and won’t let this team go quietly. They also have one of the most athletic and physical frontcourts in the country, which means they matchup well with the top teams in this region (Pitt, Florida, Wisconsin). Two keys for this team: they need Rodney McGruder to play really well and they need to make their free throws. They do that and they’ll be in business.
Kansas State NCAA Tournament Prediction: I think that if they can get out of the opening weekend then they actually do have a great chance at making the Final Four.
No. 6 Seed: St. John’s (21-11 SU, 15-16 ATS)
Welcome back. St. John’s hasn’t been in the NCAA Tournament since 2002 and they have come storming back onto the national landscape. Seven seniors lead the Red Storm and they have developed a solid inside-out go-to combination with Dwight Hardy and Justin Brownlee. This team is going to be stoked to be dancing and should play with a lot of energy. There are issues though. D.J. Kennedy was a key piece for this team and he is done for the year. This team also did most of its damage on its home court. It will be tough for this team to find that same level of play without the benefit of a raucous New York City crowd behind them.
St. John’s NCAA Tournament Prediction: St. John’s has been a great story. But I think their stay in the dance will be short and sweet. These seniors are in uncharted territory and the same scoring droughts that plagued them on the road this year will lead to their undoing.
Best first-round matchup: No. 7 UCLA vs. No. 10 Michigan State
I actually still don’t think that the Spartans should be in the field. But they are, so the odds are pretty good that they are going to make a run at the Final Four. All Tom Izzo does is win in March and Kalin Lucas and Draymond Green give him an excellent inside-out duo. UCLA is another highly successful program and Ben Howland’s defensive approach nearly mirrors that of Izzo. These teams match up really well and both teams feature very talented but very inconsistent rosters. The winner has a great shot at knocking off Florida. And even though this Bruins-Spartans game may be ugly to watch it will be a battle.
Best potential second-round matchup: No. 4 Wisconsin vs. No. 5 Kansas State
There is a bevy of intriguing potential matchups in the second round in this bracket. But the pod I have my eyes on is the one with the Badgers and Wildcats in the middle of it. This game would feature two big, defensive-minded frontcourts and would result in a very high level of basketball being played. Two of the best guard-forward combos in the nation (Pullen-Kelly vs. Taylor-Leuer) will be at the center of this matchup and the winner would have a ton of momentum heading into the second weekend.
Upset Alert (first round): No. 6 St. John’s vs. No. 11 Gonzaga
It has definitely become way too chic to say that Belmont is going to upset Wisconsin. That is Everyone’s go-to upset so I’ll go another way. St. John’s is thrilled to be dancing, but they still may be in a little bit of a letdown spot after a wild week in New York City. Gonzaga is back in its best role as an underdog, and while they are a younger team this program has a lot more experience in these big games. Gonzaga is playing closer to home and something like the elevation could really bother the boys from New York. I’m not saying that the Red Storm will lose. But they need to be on alert.
Upset Alert (second round): No. 1 Pittsburgh vs. No. 8 Butler/No. 9 Old Dominion
The real upset alert for the second round is Florida against UCLA or Michigan State. But I feel like I’ve touched on that. Instead, we’ll look at the top of the bracket. Butler doesn’t need any introduction and they have built one of the top mid-major programs in the country by scoring these types of upsets. Old Dominion is experienced, athletic, physical and has marquee wins this year over tourney teams St. Peter’s, Clemson, Xavier and Richmond. They also beat Notre Dame in last year’s first round.
Dark Horse team: No. 7 Michigan State
As I said: all the Spartans do is win in March. They have made six Final Fours in 12 years and they have made runs with worse teams than this. Lucas and Green are proven go-to guys and can get those clutch buckets in the last four minutes. And there are enough seasoned role players here that this team can make some noise. The Spartans match up well with the other physical, defensive-minded teams in this region. And looking at the brackets I think they have a great path to the Elite Eight. Like I said: we’ve seen it from this group before.
Team That Makes Me Nervous: No. 13 Belmont
I almost put BYU here, but I think that team’s path is pretty clear. But Belmont could really be a fly in the ointment. Everyone and their sister is going ga-ga about this team and pegging them as Cinderella. But I don’t see what the big deal is. So they almost beat Tennessee. So what? They haven’t beaten anyone this year and they played the No. 290 schedule in the country. So they won their conference title game by 40 points. So what? They beat North Florida. All of the stats and metrics suggest that this is one of the best 20 or 25 teams in the nation. But having not seen them much I can’t gauge where they really fit in. If I buy in to The Public’s view it could be a boom or a bust.
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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