Monday, March 12, 2012

2012 March Madness- 6 Things You Need to Know Before Making your Bracket

by John Huffstetler

1) The Mid-Majors are as strong as ever- There is more mid-major depth and strength in this field than ever before. This doesn't necessarily mean two mid-majors will make the final four again this year, but it does mean there will be several upsets in the early rounds. There were only a few strong mid-major teams (MTSU, Drexel, George Mason, and Nevada) that didn't make the tournament as automatic qualifiers or at-large recipients, which means many mid-majors have a chance to go deep in the field.

2) Which Mid-Majors have the best chance to make a deep tourney run- 6 Murray St.- The Racers have a section of the draw that could open up for them to make a deep run. 11 Colorado St. is a favorable first round match-up that they should win. If 3 Marquette does advance past 14 BYU, the Racers match-up relatively well against them and 2 Missouri. Neither team has the ability to overpower 6 Murray St. from a size perspective, which is the major roadblock that many promising mid-major teams encounter.

14 Belmont- Has there ever been this even of a 3 vs 14 match-up in the first round? Probably not. From the perspective of Vegas (line of GTown by 3.5) and Ken Pom (GTown by 2), this game is virtually a coin flip. This is by no means an indictment of 3 GTown but more an indication of the strength of 14 Belmont. Should they get past the Hoyas, they would be a favorite over either 6 SD St. or 11 NC St. After that, they would most likely face a 2 Kansas team that is known for their inability to live up to their usually lofty seeding. It would be an intelligent upset pick to take 14 Belmont to the Sweet 16.

3) Which teams are overseeded- 1 Syracuse- The Orange are only listed here because of the recent news that C Fab Melo will be ineligible for the entirety of the tournament. Suddenly, Syracuse is an undersized team significantly worse at rebounding the basketball and playing defense. The vaunted Cuse match-up zone depends on the length of their players, and they are losing their longest, most disruptive player. Syracuse still has a chance to make a final four run, but suddenly that bracket is soft and wide open for teams like 5 Vandy, 4 Wisconsin, 12 Harvard, and 8 Kansas St.

3 Florida St.- They beat 1 UNC and 2 Duke each twice. That's a great accomplishment. No one has done that since 1996; however, if you examine the rest of their season, they secured few impressive victories. They won a close home game over 10 UVA (by 3) and went on the road to beat 11 NC St. by 14 for their victories against other quality tourney teams. In addition, they lost 4 games to tourney teams, losing by double digits on the road to 7 Florida and 1 Michigan St. and in tight neutral games to 9 UConn and 12 Harvard. How good is this team? They are certainly not worthy of a 3 seed, but they are still a solid team that plays high quality defense.

6 SD St.- Of the 3 Mountain West teams that earned high seeds in this years tourney, 6 SD St is by far the worst. They're an average shooting team with a 50.3 effective fg % (123rd in the nation), they have a mediocre turnover margin, and they don't rebound particularly well. They played several solid tourney teams in their non-conference schedule with mixed results, beating 12 LB St. by 4 and 12 Cal by 1, while losing to 8 Creighton by 2 and 3 Baylor by 10. They are the quality of around a 9/10 seed, and 11 NC St. has a great chance at an upset.

4) Which teams are underseeded- 9 UConn- This team is obviously not the same squad that won the title last season, however, they still have the talent of a 4/5 seed. They won several games against high quality squads, but faced turmoil this year with the health issues of head coach Jim Calhoun and the frequent ineligibility of Ryan Boatright. If UConn comes out focused and playing their best ball, they have the talent to make a deep run. Unfortunately for them, they have to face 1 Kentucky in the second round if they beat 8 Iowa St.

10 Xavier- Before their crippling suspensions following the 6 Cincy brawl on December 10th, 10 Xavier was ranked in the top 10 with 3 wins secured over tourney teams in 5 Vandy, 10 Purdue, and the aforementioned Bearcats. Following the suspensions, they lost 5 of 6 games, dropping them outside of the top 25 for the remainder of the season. Certainly, 10 Xavier showed early in the year that they have the ability and tourney experience to make a run this year. With first and second round match-ups against teams with obvious flaws in 7 Notre Dame and 2 Duke, 10 Xavier could make it to the second weekend.

7 Florida- 7 Florida impresses mainly from a statistical standpoint. Ken Pom ranks 7 Florida as the 19th best team in the country (comparable to a 4 or 5 seed), mainly because they are an incredibly efficient offensive squad. They rank as the 3rd most efficient offense behind 2 Missouri and 1 Kentucky with a 54.8 effective fg% and a terrific turnover margin. They also have a track record of performing well in the tourney under Head Coach Billy Donovan. 10 Virginia will still pose a stiff threat in the first round, and then 7 Florida would need to face one of the only teams better offensively in the country in 2 Missouri.

5) The best potential first round upsets- 14 Belmont over 3 Georgetown- See explanation above. The statistical odds make this play too logical to ignore.

11 NC St. over 6 SD St.- 11 NC St. and 11 Texas are the two most "unlucky teams" in the field this year because they both lost an inordinate number of close games to quality teams. NC St. held 2nd half leads over 5 Vandy, 4 Indiana, 1 Syracuse, 10 Virginia, 1 UNC, and 2 Duke only to lose in tight affairs in the end. As shown above, 6 SD St. has some major weaknesses and the Wolfpack should be able to pull off the seeding (Vegas favorites) upset here.

12 Harvard over 5 Vanderbilt- The general public is currently enamored with 5 Vandy after upset win over 1 Kentucky. My bracket even has 5 Vandy to the elite eight, however, they have consistently struggled over the last few years as high seeds. Based on the performance of previous seasons, 12 Harvard has a strong chance to continue the line of early round upsets at the hands of 5 Vandy.

12 Long Beach St. over 5 New Mexico- 5 New Mexico is not a weak team, but they played a weak non-conference schedule compared to 12 LB St.'s non-conference slate. 12 LB St. managed to lose in close games to impressive teams on the road, losing by 8 at 2 Kansas, 6 at 1 UNC, and 4 at 6 SD St. They have shown clearly that they can win a few rounds in the tourney and this upset would be a great way to start.

6) Don't overthink the champion: just take Kentucky
- Say what you want about Calipari and the endless string of one-and-done players entering the program, but 1 Kentucky is by far the best team in the country. Anthony Davis is the nation's best player, thriving both offensively and defensively at an elite level. They are 1 of only 3 teams in the country (2 Kansas and 2 Ohio St. being the other two) to rank in the top 10 offensively and defensively in efficiency. The draw is difficult with potential match-ups against 9 UConn and 4 Indiana early, but this team should weather the strong competition to make a deep run. Several other teams could win, but the logical choice is 1 Kentucky.

Please follow us on Twitter @11on11sports

Feel free to email us at

No comments:

Post a Comment