NCAA Tournament Brackets Strategy: Potential Trap Games
by Trevor Whenham - 3/15/2011
Every year in the tournament there are the teams that the public really likes -- the high profile, usually highly seeded teams full of future NBA stars that the media has been talking about as a potential champion. When the public locks on to one of those teams they are usually very enthusiastic in their support. They don’t bother to look too deeply at what challenges face them in the bracket on the way to the Promised Land. They just blindly and loyally back them.
This year, as in every year, most of the top seeds the public is in love with face some spots that could be extremely tough for them. These are spots that are much harder than the public would imagine -- spots that could derail the dreams of the team if they are not prepared for them. Here I will offer my NCAA Tournament brackets advice for five high-profile, popular squads this year that are facing some big bracket traps in their path. If they aren’t careful they could easily fall in:
Kansas - There has been a big rush of people onto the Kansas bandwagon in the last couple of days -- more and more media members pick them to win with every passing hour. I’m not convinced they are the best team in the tournament -- I give that edge to Ohio State.
I also think they have one enormous hurdle ahead of them -- hitting Louisville in the Sweet Sixteen. The Cardinals are a very good team -- better than they get credit for. They are well coached by a guy who is a master at tournament preparation. They match up very well against the Jayhawks and are going to be able to push hard at Kansas’ weaknesses.
A lot of people seem to be looking right past this game for Kansas, but I know this one could be brutal for the Jayhawks if they aren’t completely and totally ready for it.
North Carolina - There was a lot of talk before they got smoked by Duke in the ACC Championship game that the Tar Heels could be a No. 1 seed with a win in that game. I don’t believe that would have happened, and I really don’t believe they were worthy of one.
UNC is always a public team because of their tradition and the excellence of Roy Williams. I just don’t think this is a typical Roy Williams team, though. They aren’t consistent, and that brutal ACC Championship Game showing raised real questions about their toughness and their heart.
The Selection Committee gave the Tar Heels an absolute gift by letting them play their first two games in their home state. They weren’t nearly as kind with potential opponents, though. Long Island is a very tough No. 15 -- third in the whole country in rebounds and fourth in scoring. Washington is a dangerous, seasoned tournament squad. Syracuse is ridiculously long and athletic. Xavier is a team that loves to shine in March, and they have one heck of a player leading the way this year in Tu Holloway.
Every step in the first three rounds for the Tar Heels could be onto a landmine if they aren’t careful.
Duke - Duke could be tested by Michigan or Tennessee in the second round. They have a giant challenge looming in the third round, though -- a four seed in Texas that plays a lot like a No. 2 seed does.
Texas is very efficient, and they are improving rapidly as their young players get more experienced. You could easily argue that Texas is at least an Elite Eight team, so they are a giant trap for a very public Duke team to fall into in their pursuit of a second straight title.
San Diego State - I really like San Diego State, and I think they have a chance to make some real noise. They have a path to the Elite Eight that they are very capable of handling. The problem, though, is the location of their third and fourth games -- Anaheim. That’s just a little ways up the road from home for them, and playing there would provide a huge boost for the team.
There are a couple of problems, though. First, they could easily be caught looking forward to the prospect of playing there and take their first two games too lightly. If they make it home then they could crumble under the incredible pressure that they will face. For the Aztecs it is a place and not a team that could be a trap.
Pitt - I respect Pitt less than the other three No. 1 seeds -- I just don’t believe that their heart matches their immense talent. They have a brutal couple of rounds ahead of them after getting through their first round match, too. They will play either Butler or Old Dominion in the second round. Both are talented squads with a chip on their shoulder.
If they survive that then they play the winner of a very tough pod. Any one of Wisconsin, Kansas State, Utah State and Belmont are capable of winning the two games needed to survive the first weekend, and then knocking off a No. 1 to kick off the next weekend. If Pitt is at all complacent -- like they clearly were in the Big East tournament -- then this will be a very short tournament for them.
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