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
Bill Self can say that Josh Jackson is going to play for the Kansas Jayhawks in the NCAA tournament all he wants, it doesn’t mean that I have to actually believe that dude is going to keep himself out of another scrape in between now and the end of the month. Ergo, the coward’s way out here is to pick the Louisville Cardinals to win the region, essentially by default.
Oh, alright, I’ll actually show my work. How about this: The Cardinals have a top 25 offense and the sixth best defense in the country, both according to KenPom. The Jayhawks are a fantastic offensive team (shoutout to Frank Mason), but lackluster on defense. When in doubt, trust the defensive team.
CHEX BOLD PARTY MIX BOLD PICK TO WIN THE REGION
Well, this should have been the spot where we lavish praise on the Oregon Ducks, but with Chris Boucher’s ACL going bye-bye, it seems like that might not be a great plan. Onwards to Option B, which in this case, is the Purdue Boilermakers.
They were the regular season champions in an admittedly down Big Ten, which is saying something since that conference is trash in the first place. In any case, Purdue will go as far as Caleb Swanigan can carry them. He’s averaging a double-double in points and rebounds and finds time to dish three assists a game as well. Here’s a total shocker that I didn’t realize until just now: Did you know that Swanigan is shooting 43% on threes this season, and he averages more than two attempts per game? For a reference point for Big East fans: Imagine if Angel Delgado had a jumper! That’s nuts! We might slam the Big Ten a lot around here, and for good reason, but watching Swanigan destroy fools on the way to the Final Four sounds like a lot of fun.
CRUSH YOUR MAN UPSET SPECIAL
Speaking of Oregon, they drew the Iona Gaels in the first round, and hoooooboy, that might spell trouble for them. Tim Cluess has Iona in the tourney for the second straight season and the fourth time in the last six seasons, including as an at-large team that went to the First Four back in 2012. He’s yet to win a game in the NCAA tournament, but he’s been around the block and knows what’s what. The Gaels get to go up against a Ducks team that lost to Arizona in their only game after Boucher’s injury, and I like Iona’s chances at catching Oregon off balance.
I also like Vermont’s chances to upset Purdue in the first round but they’re already my Bold Pick To Win, soooooooooo coin toss there.
PLAYER I’D PAY TO WATCH
I already mentioned him briefly above, but this honor goes to Kansas’ Frank Mason III. He’s #9 on the KenPom Player of the Year chart, and he just has a certain kind of magnetism to him when you watch the Jayhawks. He averages 21/4/5 for Bill Self, and he’s canning 49% of his long range attempts. For someone who takes as many of his team’s shot as Mason does, he’s an incredible distributor as well, ranking in the top 200 in the country in assist rate. On top of all of that, Frank Mason being awesome allows us to use the hashtag #BIFM on Twitter, and if you don’t understand what that means, well, I’m sorry for your loss.
DO NOT WANT ALERT
I don’t think there’s anything in this bracket that’s particularly offensive to anyone’s sensibilities. Sure, as Marquette fans, we have long standing grudges against Louisville and Iowa State, both of whom are in this region. But I picked Louisville to go to the Final Four because they’re good, and I’d like to see Deonte Burton get a good long run in with the Cyclones to wrap up his collegiate career.
So, instead of something you or I don’t want to see, let’s point out something that one of the teams in this region is dreading. There is a very high chance that Michigan’s game against Oklahoma State is going to be a total nightmare for the Cowboys. Yes, KenPom only gives the Wolverines a 51% chance of victory. However, combine Michigan maybe still riding high after avoiding death in a plane mishap last week along with the Wolverines pointing KenPom’s #5 offense directly into the faces of OSU’s #133 defense and whew, this one could get ugly fast.