2012 March Madness Bracket Predictions: Midwest Region
by Robert Ferringo - 3/13/2012
If you want proof of the mid-major invasion into this year’s NCAA Tournament you just have to look at the Midwest (St. Louis) Region.
Teams from the six BCS conferences fill only seven of the 16 slots in this region. That is the second-fewest only to the West Region, which has just six slots filled by teams from the power conferences.
Although the Midwest Region is loaded with mid-major contenders the odds-on favorites are still from the BCS leagues. North Carolina (+125) and Kansas (+175) are the two clear-cut favorites to head to New Orleans. In fact, the Midwest is the only region on the bracket with less than five teams posted at +1100 or less win it, making it the most top-heavy in the field.
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Here are Doc’s Sports March Madness bracket predictions for the Midwest (St. Louis) Region:
No. 1 Seed: North Carolina (29-5 Straight-Up, 18-15 ATS)
It looks like things are coming full circle for the Tar Heels. They began the season as the favorites to cut down the nets in New Orleans. They now enter the tournament as one of the two teams the oddsmakers have deemed most likely to win it all. They are the No. 2 scoring offense in the country and they can simply blitz opponents with their quick-strike attack. Their strength is in their frontcourt, where Harrison Barnes, Tyler Zeller and John Henson can overwhelm smaller foes. Henson, the ACC Defensive Player of the Year, is still questionable because of a wrist injury. But I suspect we’ll see plenty of him if the Heels make it out of the opening weekend.
North Carolina March Madness Prediction: For as good as UNC is, I don’t trust them. They don’t seem committed on defense and they don’t have much along the lines of outside shooting. If Henson isn’t 100 percent that is a total game changer. They will survive deep into the dance but, like Kentucky, I just don’t see them cutting down the nets.
No. 2 Seed: Kansas (27-6 SU, 16-15-1 ATS)
I don’t think there has been a bigger surprise in the country than this Kansas team. They lost a load of talent from last year’s squad but have had several players step up to fill the void. That includes the best one-two punch in the nation: Thomas Robinson and Tyshawn Taylor. Glue guy Travis Releford is tough and one of my favorite players on the squad is center Jeff Withey. This team is not particularly deep and they have overachieved. But they are No. 12 in the country in shooting and No. 6 in shooting defense, and they have played at a consistently high level through a tough Big 12 schedule. They have already tussled with Kentucky, Duke, Ohio State and Missouri – four of the top eight seeds in the tournament – this year and they won’t shy away from the big moments in this tournament.
Kansas March Madness Prediction: Mid-major teams have bounced the Jayhawks in each of the last two years. If they can avoid a similar fate against St. Mary’s in the second round I think they have a pretty clear path to the Elite Eight. I also think that they matchup well with North Carolina and that this team should find its way into the Final Four.
No. 3 Seed: Georgetown (23-8 SU, 15-11 ATS)
The Hoyas are another group of overachievers that survived the loss of several key pieces from last year’s squad. This team is methodical and exacting on offense and tenacious on defense. They have a high-end player in center Henry Sims and a slick scoring go-to guy in Jason Clark. But what worries me about this Georgetown team is that they are another team that benefitted from the unbalanced Big East schedule. They haven’t been good on the road and I don’t see many good wins – I’m talking wins against the top-tier, best-in-the-country teams – on their resume.
GeorgetownMarch Madness Prediction: I think that the Hoyas will be one of the first higher seeds to fall to a mid-major. If they do beat Belmont then SDSU could take them out. If not then they will give Kansas all they can handle.
No. 4 Seed: Michigan (24-9 SU, 17-12 ATS)
Quick: who won the Big Ten this year? If you said Michigan State and Ohio State you would only be two-thirds correct. Michigan earned a share of the regular-season title and in nearly two months the only teams to have beaten them are their co-champs and Purdue. The Wolverines have mastered John Beilein’s quirky style. They love to bomb away from deep and their top four scorers, including go-to guys Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway, are guards. But this team isn’t soft. They will mix it up down low and were tough enough to beat both Michigan State and Ohio State this year. Their best role is as an underdog. And if they can survive a very challenging opening weekend they will be the perfect spoiler against UNC or Kansas in St. Louis.
Michigan March Madness Prediction: It will not be easy for the Wolverines to shrug off Ohio and Temple (or maybe Cal). If they do then I think they will go to the Final Four because I think their style can get them past the two flawed heavyweights in this region.
No. 5 Seed: Temple (24-7 SU, 17-14 ATS)
I feel like the Owls are clearly one of the best mid-major teams in the country. This team can score at will and play at a very high level. They have toughness, especially on defense, and they played most of this year without one of their best players, center Michael Eric. The main weapons on this team are wing players Ramone Moore (17.6 ppg) and Khalif Wyatt (17.1). And the X-factor is creative point guard Juan Fernandez. That kid can ball. But he can be exploited on defense. Temple beat Duke earlier this year and they played two games in last year’s Big Dance. This is an upperclassmen-laden team, with three seniors and two juniors starting, and I think they can do some real damage in this bracket.
Temple March Madness Prediction: It really is a toss-up between Michigan and Temple in Round 2. But I definitely think that the winner of that game can make a surprise run to New Orleans. That is as long as the Owls can hold back an extraordinarily underrated Cal team in Round 1.
No. 6 Seed: San Diego State (26-7 SU, 16-14 ATS)
I like this San Diego State team. But I don’t like their trajectory. I feel like this group was playing at a higher level earlier in the season and they have had some big-time road struggles over the last month. SDSU may be the best perimeter defense I saw this year and it all starts at that end for them. They have a lot of versatility in their rotations and two guys that they can turn to for big buckets in Jamaal Franklin and Chase Tapley. The Aztecs don’t have the top-end talent that they have had in the past. But they are scrappy and fearless. If this team is hitting its three-point shots then they are a very tough out. But if they are not then I don’t think that their aggressive defense will be enough.
San Diego State March Madness Prediction: I think that the Aztecs will have a short but sweet stay in The Big Dance. After losing four starters from a very good team last year it’s a miracle they have made it this far.
Best first-round matchup: No. 7 St. Mary’s vs. No. 10 Purdue
This really should be an excellent game between two teams that are able to play at a very high level offensively. St. Mary’s has one of the best point guards in the country in Matt Dellavedova and an underrated senior leader in Rob Jones. This is another team that will chuck-and-duck from behind the arc. And if they are hitting their shots they can be unbeatable. Purdue was outmuscled in the Big Ten this year. They had to navigate a brutal schedule and lost a ton of close games. But this is it for a trio of accomplished seniors, especially forward Robbie Hummel and point guard Lewis Jackson. You will have to drive a stake through their heart to end their careers and this should be a high-scoring, end-to-end affair that comes down to the last two minutes.
Best potential second-round matchup: No. 4 Michigan vs. No. 5 Temple
I think that these are two of the most efficient offenses in college basketball and two teams that could make surprise runs to the Final Four. The Wolverines have Burke and Hardaway and Temple have Moore and Wyatt and that would be a hell of a two-on-two matchup. Temple has the edge in experience and athleticism near the basket. But Michigan is the more proven commodity. This one would be entertaining for all the right reasons.
Upset Alert (first round): No. 3 Georgetown vs. No. 14 Belmont
This is the same Belmont team that took it to Duke at Cameron Indoor in their season opener. If they can lose by just one point in that spot they can beat Georgetown on a neutral court. In some ways this is a bad matchup for Belmont because Georgetown plays a similar, methodical style and do so with better athletes. But on the other hand this one should devolve into a slowly-paced, half-court, possession game. That should keep Belmont in the game late. The Bruins have some size and they shoot exceptionally well. They have won 14 straight games and they gained valuable experience while losing to Wisconsin in last year’s tournament. Finally, the spread on this game is only 4.0. The fact that it is that low is a red flag.
Upset Alert (second round): No. 1 North Carolina vs. No. 8 Creighton
If the Tar Heels have to play without John Henson this weekend then they will be vulnerable. Creighton can score – a lot – and would love to get into an up-and-down game. The Bluejays may also have the best player on the court in Doug McDermott. Creighton also has plenty of shooters to flood the perimeter with and they are a much better shooting team than the Heels. In the end, North Carolina should be able to wear them down. But stranger things have happened to top seeds in recent years and Creighton won’t have any fear going into that game.
Dark Horse Team: No. 4 Michigan
Beilein has worked some March magic with teams before. Michigan has a unique style that is very difficult to prepare for on short notice. As I pointed out. They have beaten Michigan State and Ohio State, and they played Duke to the bone on the road. So they can beat the best teams in the land. Their weakness is that they are over reliant on the three-point shot. But it is only a weakness if they are missing.
Team That Makes Me Nervous: No. 3 Georgetown
The Big East is overrated and Georgetown may be as well. But then again, maybe not. As I mentioned, this team really doesn’t have any wins that jump off the page at me. They were pretty awful on the road and they really padded their resume by knocking around the bottom-tier teams in the Big East this year. The Hoyas have athletes. They have a great system and John Thompson has gone to the Final Four before. If they lost to Belmont I wouldn’t be stunned. And if they made a push to the Elite Eight I don’t think that would surprise me either. But I don’t know exactly which I should expect and predict.
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