Posted by: mdegeorge | March 15, 2011

NCAA Tournament Diagnosis: Southwest 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.

The Southwest seems built to display the strengths of the Big East with a possibility that three of the four Sweet 16 spots could be occupied by Big East teams.

Kansas could receive a few tests in a pretty deep bracket. But this is their bracket to lose. The first notable challenge will be a high-scoring UNLV team in the second round, which should have enough to outgun Illinois in the first round.

Out in the Denver sub-regional, I’m getting on the Richmond Spiders bandwagon (something I know could be disastrous, especially since I made the same mistake last season before they fell to St. Mary’s in the first round). They are hot and just beginning to realize their potential, winners of their last seven and 11 of 12, and have a guy in Justin Harper who is a matchup problem for just about anyone. I think they can beat Vanderbilt in a halfcourt game, and I’m just not sold on Louisville, who doesn’t have an answer for Harper.

Purdue should emerge from Chicago. Even with Chris Wright, Georgetown is in a down swing. They’ve been all over the place this season, losing four of five to start the Big East slate before winning eight straight and then losing five of six, including the last four. They’ll have enough to deal with a road weary Virginia Commonwealth, who shakes the stigma of being undeserving to knock out USC in the play-in (don’t call it first) round. But Purdue has too much strength in the low post to and advances for an in-state battle in the Sweet 16.

That opponent will be Notre Dame, a team I would have in the final four were they the two in either the Southeast or the West. They’ll have no problem with Akron. The defensive length of either Texas A&M or Florida State (I think it’ll be Texas A&M) could make them uncomfortable. But they should be able to navigate their way into the Elite 8 via an extremely entertaining game with Purdue.

That sets up a 1-2 regional final between Kansas and Notre Dame. If there’s one weakness Kansas has, it’s the consistency of their guard play. They’re not an outstanding defensive team, per se, but make up for it with their low-post ability. I think the Jayhawks can get the better of them, but the Irish are going to put up a heck of a fight along the way, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they end up in the Final Four.

Round of 64 winners: (VCU in opening round), Kansas, UNLV, Richmond, Louisville, Georgetown, Purdue, Texas A&M, Notre Dame

Round of 32 winners: Kansas, Richmond, Purdue, Notre Dame

Sweet 16 winners: Kansas and Notre Dame

Elite 8 result: Kansas over Notre Dame (it’ll be close and entertaining)

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