Before games start on Thursday, I'll be posting my breakdowns and picks for each region of the NCAA tournament. Today, I'll start with the East Region:
(6) Georgetown at (3) Baylor- Georgetown plays its first round game of the NIT on Wednesday at 9 on ESPN2. Go Hoyas! And now on to the real bracket.
(1) Pittsburgh over (16) East Tennessee State
Does this really need explaining?
(9) Tennessee over (8) Oklahoma
You would be hard pressed to find two more statistically similar teams matched up in this tournament. The teams are ranked back-to-back in Ken Pomeroy's ratings (32nd and 33rd) and in adjusted offensive efficiency (16th and 17th), and are just one apart in adjusted defensive efficiency (71st and 73rd). I haven't seen Oklahoma State play at all this season, and have only seen Tennessee once, in their win against Georgetown back in November. In an especially take 8-9 matchup, I'll take the Volunteers.
(12) Wisconsin over (5) Florida State
Wisconsin snuck into the tournament despite a six game losing streak in January and once again brings its typical plodding pace to the tournament. The Badgers rank in the top 10 nationally in not turning the ball over, which is the opposite of the turnover-prone Seminoles. Florida State's size and top 15 defense should bother the Badgers' efficient offense, but I think Florida State is getting the typical ACC bump both in its hype and seeding, and I'm making Wisconsin my upset pick in the East region.
(4) Xavier over (13) Portland State
Xavier had a couple of surprising losses (Charlotte, Richmond) near the end of the season, but this team should still have no problem with the Big Sky champions.
(6) UCLA over (11) Virginia Commonwealth
Coming off its upset of Duke a couple years ago, VCU is a very popular upset pick this year. However, UCLA brings one of the top offenses in the country that ranks 6th in effective FG% in the country. And, a look at VCU's schedule shows a team that has played absolutely nobody. They beat only one top 70 opponent (New Mexico back in November), and lost to 5 teams ranked outside the top 100, including three outside the top 200.
(3) Villanova over (14) American
Villanova is a very solid and balanced team that rates well in every major offensive and defensive category. On the year, they beat every team they were supposed to, with the worst of their seven losses coming at home to 26th ranked Georgetown, while also picking up good wins against Pittsburgh, Syracuse twice, and Marquette twice. If that's not enough, Nova will actually be playing on one of its homecourts in Philadelphia, so, despite the Eagles' experience, the Wildcats will win this one.
(7) Texas over (10) Minnesota
Minnesota is a team that struggles on offense and tries to make up for it on defense, as it ranks 20th overall and first in block percentage. On offense, the Gophers have a poor effective field goal % for a tournament team, and commit a huge amount of turnovers. They shoot three pointers especially poorly and do not get to the foul line often. However, Texas has many of the same offensive problems and actually shoots the ball even worse. They do have six wins against tournament teams, though, including UCLA and Villanova, and I give them the edge.
(2) Duke over (15) Binghamton
After just missing out on my Belmont pick over Duke last year, I really want to take Binghamton this year. However, this Duke team is more deserving of its seed than teams in years past both based on statistics and the times I've watched them, so I'm going to use common sense and take the Blue Devils in round one. Duke has a top 20 offense and defense this year, and a team like that just should not lose to Binghamton, which is ranked 162nd and has played two games against teams inside the top 100 this year.
(1) Pittsburgh over (9) Tennessee
I love Pittsburgh as a team, but eventually in the tournament they will run into a referee who calls the game too closely for their style, and they'll be lost without DeJuan Blair. However, this will not be that game; the top offensive rebounding team in the country will dominate on the inside and move on to the Sweet 16.
(4) Xavier over (12) Wisconsin
Xavier is another team with the size and good defense to bother Wisconsin, and this time the Badgers won't be able to handle Xavier, which rebounds the ball much better than Florida State.
(6) UCLA over (3) Villanova
UCLA is an underrated team, and the matchup against Villanova is a good one for them. Their main weaknesses are a lack of height and a failure to guard the three-point line, but Villanova with its three guard set and 33.9% three point shooting will not bother UCLA in those aspects. Also, Darren Collison is a great defender, and if matched up against Scottie Reynolds, I would not be surprised to see him shoot the Wildcats out of the game.
(2) Duke over (7) Texas
I wish I could pick against Duke, but going with my head, they are the logical pick here. Texas is not that good of a team, and for once, as I mentioned before, Duke is actually deserving of its high ranking.
(1) Pittsburgh over (4) Xavier
Pittsburgh just might be the best team in the country when Blair is on the court. And I don't see him getting into foul trouble yet.
(6) UCLA over (2) Duke
I've picked Duke too many times already. And this one is close enough for me to finally knock them out.
(6) UCLA over (1) Pittsburgh
This pick doesn't exactly inspire confidence in me, but I'm picking the Bruins to continue their Final Four run. The experienced Bruins will go after Blair and get him in foul trouble. If that doesn't happen, it will be tough for the Bruins to control the Panthers' offensive rebounding, but I'm still going to pick UCLA.