Posted by: mdegeorge | March 15, 2011

NCAA Tournament Diagnosis: Southeast Region

The Madness is finally upon us. With the greatest three weeks in all of sports about to tip off, I’ll be going region by region with my picks and analysis on what is sure to be a (not) winning bracket.

Finally, a region with some upsets. I am enamored with the double-digit seeds in this bracket (perhaps to my eventual ruin). Given the run of double-digit upsets in recent years, I have to have some eventually. I always have my disaster bracket where all the upsets happen and I don’t have them. Why can’t I pick the upset bracket right for a change? I’m hardly upset averse, and I’m due.

Anyway, the bracket still belongs to Pitt, perhaps even more so when all the upsets come down the pike. They’ll play a tired Arkansas-Little Rock in the Round of 64 that shouldn’t put up much of a fight. The 8-9 game should be intriguing, pitting (pun intended) two teams riding long winning streaks that have postseason experience. Butler had a decent tourney run last year, and ODU pulled off an upset of Notre Dame in the first round as an 11 in 2010. I like ODU in the game, but who ever pulls it out falls to Pitt.

The Tucson sub-regional will be the upset capital of the first round. It’s an abomination that Utah Stat and Belmont, two 30-win teams with some quality wins, are 12 and 13 seeds, respectively. At least they get favorable draws. Wisconsin sputtered out of the Big Ten tournament with a 33-point effort against Penn State. It’ll be a daunting task against Bo Ryan, who always seems to get the best out of his Badgers this time of year, but I like the Bruins. The Aggies have an easier run with the inconsistent Kansas State team. Jacob Pullen will be hard to contain, but I just don’t see Kansas State having enough. I think Utah State then advances over Baylor, my third and final double-digit seed in the Sweet 16.

In the bottom half of the Southeast, things should pretty much go to plan. Florida should emerge from the Tampa regional, beating UCLA along the way (since we know the Bruins can’t beat the Gators for anything). The UCLA-Michigan State game should be fascinating as they are very similar teams with great coaches, but the Bruins’ low post strength will end up being too much.

In Denver, BYU, even minus Brandon Davies, should emerge from that bracket. I do like Wofford and would have considered them over other fours like Louisville or Kentucky, but they can’t stop Jimmer Fredette. I like St. John’s, sans D.J. Kennedy, to fall in the first round to Gonzaga. I could also see St. John’s making the Elite 8 (you really can’t tell with them most of the time), but ultimately Steve Lavin will be made to wait another year for his first postseason victory.

That sets up a Pitt-Florida meeting that I think goes the way of the Panthers. But this is a bracket that can easily be thrown into complete and total chaos by a bunch of high seeds.

Round of 64 winners: Pittsburgh, Old Dominion, Utah State, Belmont, Gonzaga, BYU, UCLA, Florida

Round of 32 winners: Pitt, Utah State, BYU, Florida

Sweet 16 winners: Pittsburgh and Florida

Elite 8 result: Pittsburgh over Florida

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