The South is filled with teams that have plenty of talent but have severely underperformed. If Florida and Michigan can put it all together then they can reach the Final Four. If they can’t, then upsets can rule the bracket.
- Kansas– The Jayhawks received the 2nd overall seed by winning the Big 12 Championship, but that is no longer the feat that it once was. Still, they are a lock for the Sweet 16 because of their size in the post. North Carolina has no one that can match up with 7-foot Jeff Withey. In fact there really isn’t a single team in the bracket that has a big guy who can go up against Withey. Bill Self also gets the most out of his team. The Jayhawks don’t have the talent that other 1-seeds do, but they will play like it.
- Georgetown– This is the most dangerous team in the region. The Hoyas play both exceptional man and zone defense. They are also connoisseurs in shutting down a team’s leading scorer. This will be useful if they come across Ben McLemore of the Kansas Jayhawks. They do lack size and will probably play a lot of 2-3 zone to make up for their deficiencies in height.
- Florida– The Gators take a place as a frontrunner on talent alone. They have too many quick guards and one of the most athletic post players in Patric Young. Erik Murphy can shoot and helps the Gators stretch the floor, making room for their guards to penetrate. However, they don’t show up in the second half. The way they imploded against Kentucky by not scoring in the final eight minutes was particularly bad. The Gators were also up 12 in the SEC championship, but had another awful second half to lose to Ole Miss. They have to prove that they play two consecutive halves of consistent ball.
- VCU– Yes, I picked VCU as a frontrunner over Michigan. It’s because the Rams have a factor that Michigan lacked in many games, intensity. VCU’s head coach Shaka Smart gets the Rams fired up for every game. The way they play in your face on ball defense could rattle Michigan’s playmakers. There is a reason their defense is coined as “Havoc.”
The Starting Five
- G: Trey Burke (Michigan)- 19.2 PPG, 6.7 APG
The entire Michigan offense revolves around Trey Burke. The fact that he averages almost 7 assists per game to go along with 19 points per game isn’t seen much in the college basketball game. He has to come out and lead this team through their dry spells.
- G: Nate Wolters (South Dakota State)- 22.7 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 5.8 APG
People have come to learn that Nate Wolters is a lights out scorer after he dropped 53 in a game. What people didn’t realize his how versatile his game is. He’s a great rebounder for a guard and can dish the ball. Michigan will have a tough time deciding how to defend him.
- F: Shabazz Muhammad (UCLA)- 17.8 PPG, 5.3 RPG
Another one of the best freshman in the tournament, the load that Muhammad will have to carry for UCLA has become heavier because of the injury to Jordan Adams. The only way the Bruins can get past Minnesota is if he has his best game.
- F: Otto Porter Jr. (Georgetown)- 16.3 PPG, 7.4 RPG
Porter is deemed by many as the best player in the country and that definitely could be the case. He’s strong driving to the basket and can hit from outside, not to mention he plays terrific defense. He will be a ridiculously tough matchup for anyone the Hoyas face.
- C: Jeff Withey (Kansas)- 13.6 PPG, 8.4 RPG, 3.8 BPG
Withey isn’t even the best player on this Jayhawks team. That honor belongs to Ben McLemore. However, Withey will be more crucial to Kansas’ success. No team has the size that Withey possess and if he can be a dominant presence in the middle of the paint, then the Jayhawks will be strong candidates for the Final Four.
- Minnesota– The Golden Gophers have a pretty easy road to the Sweet 16. Their first round contest is against a UCLA team that will be without their second best player. If they can get past the Bruins, they will most likely face an up-and-down Florida. The inside-out threat of Trevor Mbakwe and Andre Hollins has led them all season. Mbakwe was able to shut down Cody Zeller and could easily contain the drive of Florida’s guards. A Sweet 16 appearance for the Golden Gophers is very possible.
- South Dakota State– I have the Jackrabbits upsetting Michigan in my day away from being a poor excuse of a bracket. Seriously, I don’t think Trey Burke is that significantly better than Nate Wolters and if Michigan’s supporting cast don’t have great games then the Wolverines could be in trouble. Michigan always makes the mistake of playing down to their competition. If the Jackrabbits can hit big threes and Nate Wolters has a huge game then they can walk away with a victory.
My Final Four Pick: Georgetown
The Hoyas are the best all-around team. They’ll be able to matchup with man or zone depending on their opponent. Otto Porter’s athleticism, strength, and shooting can’t be defended by any of forwards in this bracket. If they have an Elite Eight matchup against Kansas, they’ll use their suffocating zone to counteract Witney’s size.