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Anonymously Through the NCAA Brackets: Your Region-By-Region Guide

Ever wish that more things worked like college brackets? That you could seed everything that way? Top 64 pre-game foods. Top 64 college players. Well, now you can do just that with your friends, with the Allstate BFF Brackets, which takes your 64 top Facebook friends (an algorithm seeds them based on interaction) and seeds them in four regions, exactly like the real tourney. Once the tourney starts, your friends advance with the corresponding seeds – till one is left standing. Check out the BFF Brackets here.

Sick of hard-hitting analysis of the 2011 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 (read: first time we've done it) 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 with Soft Pretzel With Cheese on the ninth tee, previewing the East region:


GUTLESS WONDER Pick To Win The Region
The East region should be renamed the Beast: the field not only boasts four Big East teams, including YOUR Marquette Golden Eagles, but UNC is the 2 seed, Syracuse is the 3 seed, and Kentucky, fresh off a SEC tournament title, is the 4. Despite arguably the toughest draw, I'm really going out on a limb here by picking The Ohio State University. They've been very good all season and have the tools you need to make a deep run in the tournament and win a national championship: solid PG play, a legit star player, and a nice supporting cast of role players. They kneecapped Wisconsin in their conference finale to atone for one of their two losses and, aside from an early scare from Northwestern in the Big 10/11/12 tournament, seemed to coast their way to a Big Ten Conference Tournament Championship. Jared Sullinger might be the Carmelo Anthony of this tournament, which would be good news for the Buckeyes as they are my pick to win the East Region

Chex Bold Party Mix BOLD PICK To Win The Region
Kentucky has the potential to ruin a lot of people's brackets if they meet up with Ohio State in the Sweet 16. Although Coach Cal's team is young and struggled away from home this year in the SEC, they are loaded with enough talent to beat almost anyone.

CRUSH YOUR MAN Upset Special
I'd pick Marquette here, but I don't think that would be a huge upset.  My East region upset special is UAB over West Virginia. The inclusion of UAB and VCU by the Selection Committee caused much discussion and debate and, if anything, may put a chip on the shoulders of the UAB Blazers. Sure, they have to beat Clemson (another bubble-rific team) first on Wednesday but as Marquette showed in the Big East tourney: WVU can be beaten.

Player I'd pay I've Paid To Watch
Jimmy F'n Butler
. The do-all Marquette forward may need to take the team on his back to get Marquette out of the first weekend of the NCAA for the first time since 2003. Marquette has had more talented teams with a better chance of making the Sweet Sixteen in years past, but those lofty expectations gave way to heartbreaking losses. And given the ups and downs in the Marquette season this year, it wouldn't completely surprise me if this Marquette team ended up winning its first two games. I'll be curious to see if Jimmy Butler ends up guarding Xavier's best player, Tu Holloway.

Hide Your Eyes When...
UT-San Antonio and Alabama State face off in one of the First Four games in Dayton on Wednesday for the right to get destroyed by Ohio State. I'm not sure I understand the rationale for these First Four games because I doubt UT-San Antonio and Alabama State will draw a lot of eyes to TruTV Wednesday night. Plus, both of these teams won their respective conference tournaments and, in my opinion (and the opinion of Jay Bilas, who's a lawyer and knows things), they've already earned the right to face Ohio State.

We tour the rest of the bracket, after the jump.


GUTLESS WONDER Pick To Win The Region
Duke. (Dickie V told me to do it.) Duke skated through a historically weak ACC this year but some landmines await in the tournament. A second round matchup with Tennessee could be tricky as well as a potential Sweet 16 game against Texas. They could face local(ish) favorite San Diego State in Anaheim in the regional final. That being said, they have a balanced lineup with Plumlee size, versatility (and something to prove) from Singler and an All-American in Nolan Smith. I expect this bracket to be ravaged by upsets, so Duke will once again slide into the Final Four.

Chex Bold Party Mix BOLD PICK To Win The Region
Texas has the athleticism, depth and defense to play with anyone. Their late season swoon will probably scare everyone off, but this team has "great upside potential." The weakest link is Rick Barnes. They may make some noise if they can get past Oakland.

CRUSH YOUR MAN Upset Special
This regional is full of potential delicious upsets. I wouldn't be terribly surprised to see Tennessee beat Duke in the second round, Oakland upset Texas, Missouri beat Cincinnati (is that even an upset?) or Bucknell topple UConn. Let's go with the ultimate shocker and take Bucknell. UConn will still have a Big East tournament hangover and MU fans know how dangerous the Bison are this year.

Player I'd Pay To Watch
The obvious pick is Kemba, so I'm going with Nolan Smith. He was far and away the best player on the floor at the CBE in Kansas City and that high level of play has continued all year. As much as I hate Dook, I have to admit that the dude can ball.

Hide Your Eyes When ...
Penn State
plays. This is the easiest pick. They are 341st in the nation in adjusted pace ahead of just four teams. Need I mention their epic 36-33 win over UW? Expect to see a lot of Talor Battle fade away threes with the shot clock running down.



GUTLESS WONDER Pick To Win The Region
Purdue. Senior leadership from JaJuan Johnson and E'Twaun Moore and they took the Robbie Hummel injury in stride and went right out and did what was expected of them anyway every single night. Plus, it's easy to pick against Bill Self and Kansas when they tank out of the tournament after winning the Big 12 every year more often than not, and there's no friggin' chance I'm picking Notre Dame. Hell, I'm tempted to pick Akron to beat the Irish.

Chex Bold Party Mix BOLD PICK to win the region
Georgetown. Like the Lonely Island song 'Dream Girl' says: "Chex Mix number one food snack in the land/it's the cereal taste that you eat with your hand." Well, if Chris Wright can do anything with his recently broken hand and actually plays, then the Hoyas are a VERY scary 6 seed.

CRUSH YOUR MAN Upset Special
#12 Richmond over #5 Vanderbilt. From following the bubble leading up to Selection Sunday, I was stunned to see Richmond land at a 12 after winning the Atlantic 10 title, meaning that the Committee thought they wouldn't have gotten in without winning the A-10 title. They're better than this 12 seed, and if the Commodores' John Jenkins goes "I'm playing against Marquette" cold again, this game shapes up nicely for entry in the annual NCAA Tournament 12-5 Upset.

Player You'd Pay To Watch
Morehead State C Kenneth Faried. Yeah, that's right, I picked a guy on the 13 seed team. When you're the NCAA ALL TIME LEADING REBOUNDER, you get that honor. This guy is going to be a top 15 NBA Draft pick in June, so get to know him now.

Hide Your Eyes When ...
Illinois takes the floor. Middling team from the B1G Ten = visual atrocity. This will be made even worse if Bruce Weber wears his orange suit coat.


GUTLESS WONDER Pick To Win The Region
Can picking a team that's made a habit of Tourney flame-outs really be considered a chalk pick?  I've been looking at this region for 15 minutes, and I go through the matchups saying: "well, they won't win that, but that team's not winning that next one, and HOLY HELL how did that team snag that seed?" and after my eyeballs stop gushing blood, I'm left with four letters: PITT.  It is said with zero confidence after what UConn did to them last week, but when the Panthers are right, and Ashton Gibbs is on and Brad Wanamaker is rolling and Gary McGhee is guarding the paint ... I haven't seen many better outfits this year.  So with a big gulp: it's the Panthers.

Chex Bold Party Mix BOLD PICK To Win The Region
As tempting as it is to pick Michigan State, especially because they're a cinch for the Sweet 16 with a second (third, whatever) matchup with a grossly-overseeded Florida team that got curbstomped by Kentucky in the SEC Championship, I'm going with ... aw, crap.  Wait a minute.  Butler? Nope. Kansas State? Nuh-uh.  Wisconsin? Not unless they're moving the regional final to the Kohl Hole.  I guess the sleeper pick IS Michigan State.  I'm not happy about that.

CRUSH YOUR MAN Upset Special
You want me to say Belmont over Wisconsin. I want me to say Belmont over Wisconsin. All the people who said "OHHHHHHHHHHH!" when the matchup came up on CBS want me to pick Belmont over Wisconsin. 

I'm not picking Belmont over Wisconsin.  [For more, see infra, "Hide Your Eyes When ..."]. 

With the Tournament upon us, we're back into CONFERENCE SOLIDARITY mode ... and yet I have to pick against St. John's in the opening round and go with our Jezzie friends at Gonzaga.  I was drinking the St. John's Kool-Aid heavily going into the BET, but I've gone cold turkey for three reasons: (1) D.J. Kennedy's injury (slogans like "Do It For DJ" are nice; healthy players are better); (2) while St. John's is laden with seniors, this is the first time they've played meaningful games this late in a season, and you saw how that worked out in the BET; and (3) I think they peaked two weeks ago.  Sorry, Johnnies.

Player I'd Pay To Watch
JIMMER.  Duh.  I'd pay to watch Jimmer practice shooting.

Hide Your Eyes When ...
Wisconsin drags Belmont into the mud.  All those beautiful Belmontians want to do is run and trap and jump and go full throttle, like a FIB driving his Audi to Door County in June.  And all Bo Ryan will do is turn the damn game into a Greco-Roman wrestling match, and before you know it, it'll be 50-45 Wisconsin with 8 seconds left and Jordan Taylor at the line and you'll be saying: "Aw, hell, how did this happen?"  You've been forewarned.