Sick of hard-hitting analysis of the 2017 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 something you're not going to want to see.
Without further ado.....
GUTLESS WONDER PICK TO WIN THE REGION
Go ahead and take #2 seeded Arizona if you want to be safe about these kinds of things. They have a top 20 offense and top 30 defense, according to KenPom. They’ve won 24 of their last 26 games, with the only losses coming against Oregon and UCLA, both very good teams, and they avenged both losses in the Pac-12 tournament. Getting Allonzo Trier clear from his suspension tomfoolery has only widened their ability to dismantle teams, and Lauri Markkanen might actually be the player that everyone was trying to tell us that Henry Ellenson was before last season: a mobile big man who can shoot it with confidence from anywhere on the floor.
There is one flaw in picking the Wildcats, though......
CHEX BOLD PARTY MIX BOLD PICK TO WIN THE REGION
....... and that’s the fact that they lost to Gonzaga, the #1 seed in this region, and yes, that’s my BOLD PICK to win the region. Why? Because way too many people are going to be whiny dingbats about the Zags. “THEIR CONFERENCE IS BAD AND THEY DIDN’T PLAY ANYBODY, PAWWWWWWWWL.” “THE MEDIA ALWAYS OVER HYPES GONZAGA AND THEN THEY FLAME OUT.”
These people are idiots. Gonzaga beat the following teams on a neutral floor already this season: Florida (#4 seed in the tournament), Iowa State (#5 seed), and Arizona (#2 seed). They have a neutral site win over a halfway decent Tennessee team that was good enough to beat Kentucky in January. They beat Akron, the team that won the MAC regular season title. On top of all of that, they beat Saint Mary’s, a top 15 KenPom team and a #7 seed in the tournament, on three different occasions this season, all by no fewer than 10 points. They have the #10 offense in the country and the #2 defense according to KenPom, and remember: those are adjusted for competition numbers. Yes, most of the WCC is not great. The Bulldogs throttled those teams on a night in and night out basis to get those shiny rankings.
And as far as flame outs go, take a look back at where Gonzaga was seeded each year, and look where that seed was expected to advance. Much more often than not, Mark Few gets his team at least as far as they were expected to go in the tournament. People are going to be jerks about Gonzaga this year. Be bold and don’t be a jerk. Pick the Zags.
CRUSH YOUR MAN UPSET SPECIAL
I’m not saying that this is a nice way to go about things, and technically, it’s barely an upset on the seed lines. According to KenPom, it’s not even really an upset at all.
Take Vanderbilt over Northwestern, because it is going to be hilariously funny to watch the Commodores smoke the Wildcats in Northwestern’s first ever NCAA tournament game. You can’t get odds on this kind of thing, but doesn’t it feel like a thing that’s going to happen? Everyone’s all laughing and clapping about NU finally making it into the Big Dance even though they should have accidentally tripped and fallen their way into a bid out of the Big Ten years ago.... and then Riley LaChance comes in and buries half a dozen threes to blast them out of the water.
PLAYER I’D PAY TO SEE
I kind of feel bad for Xavier, our Big East friend, because Melo Trimble is going to personally assassinate the Musketeers’ hopes to advance in the tournament. After all that dude has gone through at Maryland Terrapins, there is no chance that he’s going out quietly. Trimble has dragged a Terrapins team that was not anywhere near as well regarded as last year’s squad to a 24-8 record and a #6 seed in the region. Maybe he’s not blowing anyone out of the water with his 17/4/4 averages or his 44/33/80 shooting splits. He’s definitely going to give you everything he’s got, though, and sometimes that’s more fun to watch.
DO NOT WANT ALERT
I don’t know if you guys realized this or not, but Notre Dame is sitting on back-to-back Elite Eights. They had a 52-51 lead on North Carolina last year before losing by 14, and they were 150 seconds away from the Final Four in 2015, but Jerian Grant missed three straight shots while Kentucky swiped the lead from them.
Notre Dame has been to just one Final Four in program history, back before I was born, and I don’t want to see the Fighting Irish make it to Glendale. It sure seems like Mike Brey is building up a head of steam towards getting to a Final Four, and as the #5 seed in this region, and it’s not 100% crazy to think that they could pull it off. I would really prefer that the Domers don’t get to put that feather in their cap.