Wednesday, March 14, 2012

2012 March Madness- West Region First Round Breakdown

by John Huffstetler

1 Michigan St. vs. 16 Long Island- With the new expanded field, teams like LIU with the talent of a 14/15 seed are now being placed on the 16 line. This squad can certainly play, but Michigan St. is still dramatically out of their class. 1 Michigan St. advances

8 Memphis vs. 9 St. Louis- This is probably the best match-up of the first round from both a level of play and potential tight game perspective. Both teams shoot at great percentages and play spectacular defense. Slight edge here to St. Louis because they have the ability to win the turnover and rebounding margin in this otherwise even affair. 9 St. Louis advances

5 New Mexico vs. 12 Long Beach St.- Another match-up here between two strong squads who impress from a statistical perspective. Long Beach St. shoots poorly from the free throw line (241st in the nation), which is usually and indicator of a team that fails come tourney time; however, they have 5 upperclassmen starters and showed the ability all year to hang with upper-echelon squads. New Mexico rates strongly (especially on defense) from a statistical perspective and had few poor outings this year. Another difficult game to call so lean toward the upset here. 12 LB St. advances

4 Louisville vs. 13 Davidson- The perception of Louisville right now is that they have found their rhythm and they are a serious contender for the final four coming off of their Big East tourney win. They play terrific defense (2nd in the nation) but rank below average offensively in effective fg% (226th) and turnover % (249th). Davidson proved early in the year that they can hang with elite teams by beating Kansas in Kansas City and losing tight contests to Duke and Vandy. The key to the game will be Davidson's strong offense matching up against the elite L-Ville defense. Another tough game to call, so Davidson is the play as the lower seed. 13 Davidson advances

6 Murray St. vs. 11 Colorado St.- Colorado St. should be in the NIT right now. For some reason, their RPI was high and they managed to steal an at-large bid. Don't be fooled by this fraudulent team. They rank just 76th on Ken Pom, a much better indicator of how good a team is, and they earned exactly zero impressive non-conference wins. Murray St. played at a high level all season and won impressively over Memphis, Southern Miss, and St. Mary's in their only opportunities to step up in class. They have tourney experience and a great draw to possibly make a deep run. 6 Murray St. advances

3 Marquette vs. 14 BYU- BYU completely shifted the outcome of their season with a dramatic second half comeback over Iona. They made their charge because of stellar defensive play after they shifted to an agressive wide zone. Employing the same strategy against a similar Marquette squad would be a logical way to approach this game. Marquette, however, is a smarter team that limits their turnovers and has a better in-game coach than Iona. BYU could give Marquette a fight but in the end, Marquette should advance. 3 Marquette advances

7 Florida vs. 10 Virginia- In another match-up between underseeded teams in this region (the strongest region in terms of depth in the tourney), Florida's 2nd most efficient offense takes on UVA's 5th rated defense. Both teams had similar seasons with strong non-conference results and late struggles in conference play. Another tough game to call, but Florida gets the edge based on their tourney experience and the strength of Billy Donovan as a coach. 7 Florida advances

2 Missouri vs. 15 Norfolk St.- Missouri has a favorable match-up here against a team that should probably be a 16 seed. This has the potential to be the biggest blow out of the first round if Mizzou doesn't rest their starters late. 2 Missouri advances

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