Sick of hard-hitting analysis of the 2022 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 (mostly) 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/team we’d pay to watch; a player most likely to carry his team singlehandedly to the Sweet 16; and the best player in the region that you’ve never heard of before.
Let’s see what Bracketville has in store for us in the Midwest Region.....
GUTLESS WONDER Pick to Win The Region
Take top seed Kansas and call it a day, my friends. The #2 seed here is Auburn, and they are a laughable 2-4 away from the state of Alabama since the calendar flipped over to February. BREAKING NEWS: No NCAA tournament games are being played in Alabama this year. Heck, even though it’s not a gutless pick, the #3 here is Wisconsin, and you’re depending on Johnny Davis to be healthy. #4? Providence, and do you really think they can flip heads on a quarter for a 15th time in a row? Not likely.
I don’t even particularly like Kansas this season, but the cast of characters below them on the seed lines are not inspiring relative to challenging them.
CHEX BOLD PARTY MIX Bold Pick To Win The Region
Go ahead, you tell Keegan Murray that Iowa can’t win this region. I dare you. the 6’8” sophomore from Cedar Rapids has been killing it all year long, and Fran McCaffery’s got a respectable group of dudes around Murray to help things along. Iowa is 12-2 since February started and they’re coming off a Big Ten tournament championship, so they’re definitely feeling good about their style of play. They’re the #5 seed here running along behind a 2, 3, and 4 seed that are somewhat unremarkable for their status in the world and a perfectly fine but not terror-inducing Kansas team. Run with the Hawkeyes and see how far they take you.
CRUSH YOUR MAN Upset Special
I am begging you to pick #11 Iowa State to beat #6 LSU. #1) LSU just fired head coach Will Wade on Saturday, literally the day before they announced the tournament field. #2) This game is being played at Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee, which is much closer to Ames, Iowa, than it is to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, so there will probably be a bit of an ISU tint to the crowd anyway. #3) Iowa State head coach T.J. Otzelberger was born in Milwaukee, went to St. Thomas More High School in Milwaukee, attended UW-Whitewater, and got his first ever head coaching job as a boys basketball coach at a small private school in southeastern Wisconsin. There’s probably going to be ton of pro-TJO peeps in the crowd there, and those Wisconsin ties might even be enough to tip the Badger fans filing in for the next game to cheer for the Cyclones. A pro-Iowa State crowd cheering on a team facing a squad that literally lost their head coach less than a week earlier? Do it. Make the pick and don’t even look back.
Player I’d Pay To Watch
Feels like the obvious pick here is Jabari Smith, the standout freshman for Auburn. He’s like the Evolutionary Steve Novak. He rains threes like there’s no tomorrow (43% on the year) and doesn’t make mistakes, which gives you the Novak part along with his 6’10” height. Smith is also a stellar rebounder, pretty decent at hitting the open teammate, gets to the line a ton, and is otherwise a hoot and a half to watch play basketball.
The Chiropractor Special aka: Who Can Put The Team On His Back?
If we’re just looking at usage rates, the answer to this question might just be San Diego State’s Matt Bradley. The 6’4” senior transfer from Cal has, to a certain extent (he’s taken literally 24% of their shots this season), already dragged the Aztecs this far into the tournament. What’s another game or two or three? He’s a 42% three-point shooter on just over four tries per game, and even with his sky high shooting totals, he’s still a pretty good passer as well.
Best Guy You’ve Never Heard Of
I could go try to convince you that we need to talk about Jacksonville State’s Darian Adams, or maybe Tucker Richardson from Colgate, or even Tyler Burton from Richmond. Probably all worthwhile candidates here. But instead, I’m going to point the spotlight at a guy that I know for a fact is not getting enough credit for his team’s success, even though Marquette fans (this is a Marquette blog after all, and you are my most likely audience here) might know him: Providence guard Jared Bynum.
I know, it’s weird to talk about a guy who has started just three times since Christmas as the best anything amongst a 17 team quadrant of the bracket. However, Providence head coach Ed Cooley has been at his best when he has had a highly effective point guard running his show. He’s been missing that the past couple of seasons, and it’s shown up in their win/loss record. But Bynum’s here, and more importantly healthy like he wasn’t for a long stretch of last season, and he is currently ranked #28 in the country in assist rate. Quite literally the definition of that straw that stirs the drink kind of guy that Cooley loves to have. Bynum isn’t going to be the guy that PC relies on when they need a bucket, that’s probably going to be Al Durham or Nate Watson. He might not even be in the starting five for a single game that Providence plays in this tournament. But the Friars are not 25-5 this season and sitting on a #3 seed without what Bynum gives this team, so for me: Best guy you’ve probably never thought about that way at the very least, and if you’re not a Big East fan? Best guy in this region that you’ve never heard of before now.