Sick of hard-hitting analysis of the 2012 NCAA Tournament? Up to your eyeballs in expert picks chock-full of astute takes on players to watch and budding upsets? Fear not, friends: your pals at Anonymous Eagle are here to inject some half-baked, homespun "insight" into the proceedings, with our annual region-by-region tour, as we go Anonymously Through the Brackets.
For each region, we'll give you our patented Anonymous Eagle Half-Arsed Analysis with: a gutless pick to win the region; a sleeper regional champ; a CRUSH YOUR MAN upset special; a player we'd pay to watch; and a team that you couldn't pay us enough to watch. Let's get things started after the jump with Soft Pretzel With Cheese on the ninth tee, previewing the West region featuring YOUR Marquette Golden Eagles:
SPWC’S HOMER-RIFIC WEST:
GUTLESS WONDER Pick to Win the Region
Michigan State. The region’s number one seed is coming off a tie for first place in the Big Ten, statically the toughest conference in the nation, and an equally impressive Big Ten Tournament championship over Ohio State. Coach Tom Izzo’s squad is poised for another Final Four run, which would be his 7th appearance in his 17 years at the helm.
Chex Bold Party Mix BOLD PICK to Win The Region
Louisville. They have all the makings of UConn, Part Deux. Led by Hall of Fame Coach
Jim Calhoun Rick Pitino, the Huskies Cardinals struggle down the stretch in the Big East only to find their mojo in New York and rattle off 5 4 wins in consecutive nights to win the Big East Tournament. The offense runs through Big East Tournament MVP Kemba Walker Peyton Siva and as long as he stays hot the Huskies Cardinals have enough role players around him to make the Final Four.
CRUSH YOUR MAN Upset Special
I don’t see too many upsets in this region so I guess I’ll go with Murray State. The Racers spent much of the year ranked in the top 25, avenged their only loss to Tennessee State by defeating them in the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament championship game, and ended the season with a better record than top seeded Kentucky and Syracuse. Despite their record and ranking, the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee gave the Racers a 6 seed. Although it’s hard to argue that they deserved better, given their lack of quality opponents and KenPom ranking of 45, this team knows how to win and could prove to be this year’s Cinderella team and make a Final Four run.
Player I’d Pay to Watch
Draymond Green. As much as I’d like to go with the MANIMAL Jae Crowder, I’ve got to go with the Michigan State senior forward. The Big Ten Player of the Year and National Player of the Year candidate does a little of everything for the Spartans and is poised to lead his team to a national championship.
Hide Your Eyes When…
Watching this region if you are a fan of the Wisconsin, Notre Dame, South Florida, or any Dick Bennett coached team. There may not be a need for a shot clock in this region. With the likes of Missouri, Marquette, Louisville, Murray State, Iona, Memphis, and Long Beach State, the preferred pace of play will include an up-tempo, attacking, fast breaking, physically aggressive style of play that can be highly entertaining to watch. Half court sets may be few and far between in some of these games and leads could change hands quickly as teams go on quick scoring binges, which make for wild rides for fans of teams. Perhaps it’s in Dick Bennett’s best interests if his son’s Virginia Cavaliers get bounced early from this region.
MR. KENSINGTON TAKES UP RESIDENCE IN THE DIRTY SOUTH:
GUTLESS WONDER Pick to Win The Region
Hmmm, well let's see here. Kentucky has been ranked #1 in the land for the last 8 weeks. They're the number one overall seed in the NCAA Tournament. They have talent on top of talent at pretty much every position. Anthony Davis is looking like he'll be the number one pick in the NBA draft and Terrence Jones came alive in the SEC Tournament. Sure, they stumbled against Vanderbilt in the SEC final, but that might actually have been a good thing, as the Wildcats got their wake-up call before the Big Dance. UK truly is the cream of the crop this year. So one doesn't have to go out on a limb, or even climb up the tree, to pick Big Blue to roll through the South Region.
Chex Bold Party Mix BOLD PICK to Win the Region
I think picking anyone besides Kentucky to win this region will qualify as BOLD, but I think the powers that be are looking for me to actually pick one team. So I guess I'll go with Baylor. The Bears might be the one team in the region that can match the Cats' firepower. They've got their own crew of super talented youngsters, with Perry Jones III and Quincy Miller leading the way. Quincy Acy would not be afraid of mixing it up with Davis inside. And sharp-shooting Canuck, Brady Heslip, is knocking down triples at a 43% clip. If they can keep from shooting themselves in the foot, the Bears might be able to give UK a run for their money.
CRUSH YOUR MAN Upset Special
Smarmy Tom Crean has the folks down in Bloomington believing again. They should be able to get by New Mexico State (though I think they'll have their hands full). I hope Hoosier fans enjoy the victory because the flavor won't last that long. I see Shaka Smart and the VCU Rams wreaking HAVOC on Indiana's dreams of a trip to Atlanta, and putting the B1G on notice for what's in store when Shaka takes over as coach of the Fightin' Illini next year.
Player I'd Pay to Watch
I'm going to say players to watch here. The South Region is home to the nation's top 2 freshmen. The aforementioned Anthony Davis has been an absolute monster for the Cats. He's averaging a double-double (14 points, 10 boards) and a ridiculous 4.6 blocks per game. He dominates the game on the defensive end, and his offense is catching up every game. At the bottom of the bracket, Austin Rivers leads the #2 seed Duke (c'mon, you didn't think I'd get all the way through this bracket without mentioning the DUKIES, now did you?). The young man leads the Blue Devils in scoring and has already shown he has a flair for the dramatic. There's no doubt that this kid has a sense of the moment, and wants the ball in big spots. I think he could author a March Madness memory, or two, in this tournament. And since both of these kids will be playing in half-full NBA arenas next year, we had all better take the chance to enjoy them in this atmosphere.
Hide Your Eyes When...
Notre Dame hits the court. If you like scoring, there's a good chance you're not going to like any match-up involving the Irish. We all know what Notre Dame wants to do offensively. The Irish rank 327th in adjusted tempo on Kenpom. They score just over 66 points per game - 203rd best in the nation - and have failed to crack 60 points in 4 of their last 5 games. They're also highly reliant upon three-point shooting, as Marquette fans well know. That's great when they're hitting them. But when they aren't... look out for a clunker.
WARRIOR BRAD GOES EAST:
GUTLESS WONDER Pick To Win The Region
It’s hard for me to pick the Orange after watching them in NYC this past week and with the suspension of Fab Melo. Even with Melo, Kris Joseph and Scoop Jardine were non-existent and their defensive rebounding was terrible (as it’s been all year). Considering Syracuse's frequent March troubles, I’m going with the Ohio State Buckeyes. tOSU’s lack of a deep threat has me worried, but a strong inside presence in Jared Sullinger and a steady point guard in Aaron Craft will get the job done.
Chex Bold Party Mix BOLD PICK To Win The Region
Vanderbilt has the pieces to make a special run in the tournament. John Jenkins can shoot the lights out, Jeffery Taylor is a do-everything swingman and Festus Ezili takes up a lot of space in the middle. They seem to be the trendy pick, but that’s for a reason – these guys can play. Wisconsin doesn’t have enough firepower to make a run, though they could give Syracuse all sorts of fits if they make it that far. Florida State is far too inconsistent on offense to make a run through this bracket.
CRUSH YOUR MAN Upset Special
West Virginia over Gonzaga doesn’t count because 1) Gonzaga is soft soft soft soft and 2) the game is in Pittsburgh. This bracket doesn’t look especially upset prone, but I’ll go with Montana over Wisconsin out of spite. UW is also too prone to long scoring droughts and the Grizz are hot right now.
Player I'd Pay To Watch
Hell, I’ve paid to see a lot of these guys this year: Syracuse, Vanderbilt, Wisconsin, Cincinnati and West Virginia, and I saw Kansas State and Gonzaga last year. My pick is Jared Sullinger. He gets it done down low, averaging 17 & 9 while shooting 54% from the field. Yeah, I’d pay to watch that. I would also pay again to watch Truck Bryant be Truck Bryant. It was magnificent to behold.
Hide Your Eyes When ...
Oh my, so many rich possibilities, so I’ll list a few:
- When a Kansas State Wildcat screws up and incurs the wrath of Drago, er, Frank Martin. That poor Wildcat will end up in the Gulag.
- When Texas head coach Rick Barnes needs to draw up a play. You’ve all seen the bewildered Rick Barnes face.
- When Gonzaga spits up another first round loss and Mr. Kensington weeps over losing an Elite 8 pick on Day One.
- When Wisconsin and Montana are locked in an 18-16 duel at halftime.
BREWTOWN ANDY STAYS AT HOME IN THE MIDWEST:
GUTLESS WONDER Pick To Win The Region:
I could pick North Carolina, but John Henson's status for Friday is still up in the air. I could pick Kansas, but they already lost a not quite home game this season to Davidson in Kansas City. I could pick Georgetown, but picking the 3 seed is starting to border on making a gutsy pick. Screw it. It's not like Purdue and St. Mary's are better than Florida State. I pick the North Carolina Tar Heels.
Chex Bold Party Mix BOLD PICK To Win The Region:
It was a BOLD PICK 9 years ago to pick a Midwestern university that sometimes wears gold uniforms with a shooter named Novak to go to the Final Four, so who am I to go against that concept? I'll take Zack Novak and the Michigan Wolverines.
CRUSH YOUR MAN Upset Special:
I'm a believer in the VCU Special, with a team riding a wave of momentum from the play-in game into a win in their next game two days later. OBVIOUSLY the BYU-Iona winner is Clemson in this equation, so that leaves me with the opportunity to pick South Florida to beat Cal and then come back on Friday and beat Temple. I have zero faith in anybody in the Pac-12 and Temple has only had 3 games slower than 65 possessions all year according to KenPom.com, while South Florida has PEAKED at 65 possessions and usually goes WAY WAY under.
Player I'd Pay To Watch:
Creighton's Doug McDermott. He's a freakishly talented shooter (61% from the floor, 49.5% from behind the arc), and he can use his 6'7", 220 pound frame to grab rebounds at an excellent rate as well, averaging 8.2 per game. If anyone can explain how a shooter can grab 2.4 offensive rebounds a game other than "he's really friggin' great," I'd love to hear it.
Hide Your Eyes When...
St. Mary's and Purdue play. Between Matthew Dellevadova's haircut and Robbie Hummel blowing his knee out the last time he played in the NCAA tournament, there's way too much of a chance to see something completely horrifying in this game. Best to just pass it up.
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