The Staff’s 2012 NCAA Tournament Picks: Sweet Sixteen

The 2012 NCAA Tournament made history in the first two rounds—will the trend continue?

The 2012 NCAA Tournament made history in the first two rounds—will the trend continue?

Matt Brownsword

The 2012 NCAA Tournament made history in the first two rounds—will the trend continue?

 

BIGGEST SURPRISES OF THE FIRST AND SECOND ROUND:

SOUTH

Pete: XAVIER (10)

Coming off two strong wins against (7) Notre Dame and (15) Lehigh, the 10th ranked Musketeers find themselves in the Sweet Sixteen facing off with heavly-favored Baylor. Senior center Kenny Prease leads Xavier into Atlanta after providing a second-half lift that seemingly won them the game. While Senior guard Tu Holloway has provided Xaview with clutch outside shots, (six three-pointers combined in Xavier’s first two games) averaging 23 points per game thus far in the NCAA Tournament. The Musketeers have peaked at the right time and seem to have a great oppurtunity of advancing on toward the Elite Eight.

Bobby: LEHIGH (15) OVER DUKE (2)

How often do you see a two seed, especially with all the tournament success that Duke has had over the past two decades, lose to a team that you have never heard of?  Not often enough, because it usually is a lock to put your top two seeds in the sweet sixteen.  If you look at Lehigh’s season so far, it is hard to see how they could of lost.  They only lost by 9 at Mich. St. and at Iowa St., two teams who were able to get At-Large bids into the field of 68. With the leadership of  Cj McCollum, they were able to easily be beat Duke 75-70.

Bailey/Abbey: LEHIGH (15) OVER DUKE (2)

Lehigh became the sixth 15-seed to upset a 2-seed, beating Duke in the first round.

Lehigh became the sixth 15-seed to upset a 2-seed, beating Duke in the first round. C.J. McCollum led the Mountain Hawks with 30 points, 6 rebounds, and 6 assists to become the second 15 seed in the tournament to upset a 2 seed—causing Duke to drop only its second first-round tournament game over the course of the past 16 years. Duke was within reach even in the last 30 seconds of the game as they were only down by three points. With only 1.2 seconds remaining, Quinn Cook hit a 3-pointer for the Blue Devils, but ultimately McCollum was able to seal the game with two foul shots after being fouled on the inbound pass. The Mountain Hawks continued on into the round of 32, but saw their short-lived run come to an end as they fell to Xavier, 70-58.

WEST

Dan: NORFOLK STATE (15) OVER MISSOURI (2)

The biggest surprise in the west region so far was definetly when the 15 seed Norfolk St. led by Kyle O’Quinn beat the 2 seed Missouri. I don’t think any person really could have seen this one coming and it ruined many people’s brackets including my own. O’Quinn scored 26 points, and dominated the tigers upfront. Although Norfolk St. was not able to defeat Florida and continue their magical run, their win over Missouri was and most likely will be the biggest surprise of the entire tournament.

Caroline: NORFOLK STATE (15) OVER MISSOURI (2)

The obvious surprise in the West was when Norfolk State upset Missouri.  Forward Kyle O’ Quinn had an outstanding game for the Spartans, with 26 points and 14 rebounds.  The Spartans turned the ball over a mere 11 times to the Tigers’ tough defense, which helped them to pull off their bracket-ruining victory.

EAST

Mike Greulich: UNC ASHEVILLE (16)

The game wasn’t the biggest upset so much as it was what could have been the biggest upset ever.  As number one ranked Syracuse and number sixteen ranked UNC Asheville took the floor, no one gave UNCA a chance to win.  Granted, the men in orange were missing their seven foot tall star center Fab Melo, who was declared ineligible to participate for academic reasons, but their performance was embarrassing.  Never in history has a 1 seed fallen to a 16 seed, but Syracuse came extremely close to holding the one record that you do not want to have. UNCA was winning 34 – 30 at the half, but, in  the words of Syracuse star Scoop Jardine, “there are two halves in a game”.  Despite Syracuse seeming to not even try as they threw up desperate 3’s, Syracuse came out on top following two debatable calls that many argue cost UNC Asheville the game.  Despite the fact that they are in the sweet sixteen, Syracuse still seem to be struggling without Fab Melo out on the court.

Jack: CINCINNATI (6)

Between the first two rounds, the East region had only one upset, 6 seeded Cincinnati over the 3 seed Florida State. The Seminoles were a hot pick coming into the tournament after beating Duke and UNC consecutively to win the ACC Tournament, but the tough defense of Cincy was enough to reach the Sweet Sixteen. 6’4″ guard Sean Kilpatrick led all scorers with 18 points, and Dion Dixon sealed the game with a late steal and dunk with a minute left. The Bearcats “upset” was nothing compared to the likes of Norfolk State, Lehigh, and Ohio, but it could possibly be the most important if it gives them the momentum and confidence to knock off #2 Ohio State.

MIDWEST

Mike Fortin: OHIO (13)

There is no doubt that Ohio is the surprise of this tournament.  After upsetting Michigan and passing South Florida, they find themselves in the sweet 16 and possibly becoming this years VCU. Led by do-it-all point guard DJ Cooper who can open the floor with his passing abilities and can also score anywhere on the court, Ohio will be a tough out. With all the momentum and nothing to lose, Ohio could make a run deep into this tournament.

Matt: PURDUE (10)

Purdue was labelled as a ten-seed heading into the tournament, and a matchup with West Coast Conference champion Saint Mary’s looked to be a doomsday game for Purdue. Saint Mary’s, with star guard Matthew Dellavedova, had beaten a Gonzaga team that destroyed West Virginia earlier—creating the WCC Cinderella talks. However, the senior leadership of Robbie Hummel led a Boilermaker team with no real marquee wins during the regular season over Saint Mary’s. The big surprise came in the game against Kansas, in which Purdue led by as many as ten in the second half before falling by three to the second seed.

SWEET SIXTEEN GAME PREVIEWS:

SOUTH

Pete: KENTUCKY(1) AGAINST INDIANA(4) on FRIDAY at 9:45 on CBS

Indiana handed Kentucky its first loss of the season—can lightning strike twice?

Selection Sunday revealed a potentially legendary Sweet Sixteen rematch between traditional heavyweights, No. 1 overall seed Kentucky and No. 4 Indiana. The pesky VCU Rams forced us to focus back on reality before Indiana outlasted them in a thriller, but now the stage is set for a sequel of epic proportions. It will be the duel between the soon-to-be number one overall pick,  freshman forward Anthony Davis squaring off against Indiana’s top scorer and X-factor, freshman forward Cody Zeller. Zeller had limited success last game (11 pts, 7 reb), but since then, Davis has pollished up his game on both sides of the ball, and virtually cannot be stopped. Thus, Zeller could see further troubles in this matchup. When it comes down to it, Kentucky matches up great defensively on each of Indiana’s scoring threats. Unless Hoosier Nation can pack the Georgia Dome with a packed house of fans, this one won’t be close. Kentucky 78, Indiana 64.

Bob: XAVIER (10) AGAINST BAYLOR (3) on FRIDAY at 7:15 on CBS

This unlikely matchup features two teams who have sustained themselves to be legit contenders in this year’s tournament.  Xavier was lucky to even get in, but they have made most of their opportunity, which includes upsetting Notre Dame, and beating Lehigh, who was coming off an emotional win over Duke.  In Baylor’s case, they have cruised over South Dakota St. and Colorado. With the sharp shooting of Brady Heslip, it is hard to see Baylor losing to anyone if he is on his game.  This should a close one, but Baylor pulls it out 78-70.

WEST

Caroline: MICHIGAN STATE (1) AGAINST LOUISVILLE (4) on THURSDAY at 7:47 on TBS

Both of these teams a loaded with talent, but ultimately Michigan State will move on in their hopes of an NCAA championship.  Keith Appling and Draymond Green have been playing very well for the Spartans, both on the offensive and defensive end.  Both the Spartans and the Cardinals are coming off extremely close wins, so it should be a very tough, hard fought game.

Dan: MARQUETTE(3) AGAINST FLORIDA(7) on THURSDAYat 10:17 on TBS

Now that there are sixteen teams the matchups become harder as it is now the best of the best facing off against each other looking to make that next step to punching their ticket for New Orleans and the championship game. There is not a better example of this then Florida vs. Marquette, as both teams are offensive powerhouses, blowing out their competition in their first matchups with Florida beating Virginia 71-45 and Marquette beating BYU 88-68. The Gators continued their success when they once again demolished their competition beating Norfolk St. 84-50. While Marquette on the other hand had a tougher opponent in Murray State, beating them 62-53. This matchup will include a ton of 3’s and will come down to if Florida shooters can stay hot, because if they shoot the 3-ball like they did against Virginia, 4-for-23 from behind the arc, they have no shot. This looks to be a great matchup against two offensive powerhouses and I feel that Marquette will pull out the win in a close one.

EAST

Mike Greulich: CINCINNATI vs. OHIO STATE on FRIDAY at 9:45 P.M. on CBS

As the sweet 16 for the Eastern region roles into Boston, Ohio State looks poised to stake their claim in the elite eight.  Often overlooked, forward Deshaun Thomas has been Ohio State’s best player in recent weeks, averaging 24.5 points in the tournament thus far. With one of the nation’s top point guards in Aaron Craft running the show and Jared Sullinger crashing the boards down low, the Buckeyes’ may even clench the division.  Granted, the Bearcats have shown that they have the skills to contest a highly ranked team after defeating Florida State by holding them to 38 percent shooting, but there chances of defeating Ohio State look slim.

Jack: SYRACUSE (1) AGAINST WISCONSIN (4) on THURSDAY at 7:15 on CBS

Scoop Jardine and the Orange will try to best the Badgers in the Sweet Sixteen.

 

Not much to see here in the East region. Don’t be fooled by the loss of Fab Melo for Syracuse: Dion Waiters, Kris Joseph, Brandon Triche and Scoop Jardine are all equally talented, if not better. They are smarter too, smart enough to actually go to class and not get deemed academically ineligible for the most important part of the season. Anyways, I expect the Orange to roll over Wisconsin, who I haven’t liked since the beginning of the tournament. Jordan Taylor is the only true play-maker for the Badgers, and he will need to have a career game to get the win.  Anything is possible during March Madness, but I don’t see Jim Boeheim and Syracuse losing this one.

MIDWEST

Matt Brownsword: NORTH CAROLINA STATE (11) AGAINST KANSAS (2) on FRIDAY at 10:17 on TBS

The 11 seed North Carolina State staged two upsets on its way to the Sweet Sixteen—over San Diego State and then Georgetown. The Wolfpack have all the momentum: Since the beginning of the ACC tournament, they have lost only once—a two-point loss to powerhouse North Carolina. Kansas, on the other hand, is lucky to be here—an early exit from the Big 12 tournament had no effect on their seeding, while a strong performance by Robbie Hummel and Purdue almost gave them another early exit. Thomas Robinson from the Jayhawks can light it up at will, but CJ Leslie for the Wolfpack is a strong defender as well as a potent post man. I picked NC State originally, and I am sticking with it. Expect NC State to march on to the Elite Eight.

Mike Fortin: OHIO (13) AGAINST NORTH CAROLINA (1) on FRIDAY at 7:47 on TBS

With Ohio playing the Cinderalla roll, they will need everything to get past this UNC squad.  Point Guard DJ Cooper will need to be on his A game to help the Bobcats overcome this veteran UNC squad.  UNC, led by seven-foot senior forward Tyler Zeller, will be tough to defend because of their ability to score through numerous players.   If Ohio wants to stay in this tournament DJ Cooper will have to be  brilliant on the court or else the clock might strike 12 for this Cinderalla story.

PROJECTED REGIONAL WINNER:

SOUTH

Pete: KENTUCKY (1)

Anything short of a national title for Kentucky will equal failure. For the current team, for the program and for John Calipari. No blue ribbons, Final Four banners or “One Shining Moment” appearances for Coach Cal’s team will not suffice. This has to be the year.

Bobby: BAYLOR (3)

This team, with their athleticism, will be unstoppable even with a foe of Kentucky’s caliber.  It most likely will come down to Baylor against Kentucky, with Baylor winning.  Baylor will be shooting three’s like there is no tomorrow, and has the skill to cover all of Kentucky’s players including Anthony Davis. Kentucky’s problem lies on the offensive end with their poor three point shooting.  Baylor wins this if they show up on both ends of the court, and hits most of their three point shots.

For Kentucky coach John Calipari, nothing short of a championship is a success.

Bailey/Abbey: KENTUCKY (1)

With Xavier, Baylor, Kentucky, and Indiana remaining in the Southern region, the projected winner is Kentucky. Although Indiana was one of their only two regular season losses, the game came early on in the season, with freshman making up almost half of Kentucky’s roster and only two seniors. The team was still learning how to play well together and has never stopped improving. Boasting an impressive 32-2 record, the young Wildcats have proven themseves to be one of the top teams in the country and earned a number one seed along the way. With players like freshmen Anthony Davis—recently named winner of the Oscar Robertson College Player of the Year— and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist mixed in with senior Darius Miller, named Sixth Man of the Year, and led by SEC Coach of the Year, John Calipari, this team has been and will continue to be one that is tough to beat.

WEST

Caroline: MARQUETTE (3)

The regional winner for the west is going to be Marquette.  The Golden Eagles have been playing very well in the tournament — especially senior guard Darius Johnson-Odom, who has put up 20 and 17 points versus BYU and Murray State respectively.

Dan: MARQUETTE (3)

I believe Marquette is now going to be the team to come out of the West region. The Golden Eagles have immense talent and a deep bench. Jae Crowder and Darius Johnson-Odom have been phenominal so far and I don’t believe Florida or Louisville/Michigan St. will be able to stop the Golden Eagles potent offense as they march toward the final four.

EAST

Mike Greulich: OHIO STATE (2)

Out of the four teams remaining in the East, Ohio State seems to have the best chance of making it to the final four.  Lead by center Jared Sullinger and guard Aron Craft, the Buckeyes have looked like a championship worthy team in both of their games so far.  Ohio looks poised to defeat Cincinnati this coming thursday and after that just have to defeat the winner of Syracuse vs. Wisconsin to claim the regional title.

Jack: OHIO STATE (2)

Originally, I was skeptical of the Buckeyes potential, but not anymore. Jared Sullinger is one of the best players in all of college basketball, and could easily be starting in the NBA right now. He didn’t stay in college one more year just for the heck of it, he wants a national championship. Joined by fellow sophomores Deshauan Thomas and Aaron Craft, Sullinger will lead the Buckeyes to the Final Four. Syracuse has enough talent to get by Wisconsin, but the loss of Fab Melo ultimately hurts them against Ohio State in the Elite Eight. No Cinderella here in the East region, just a Ohio State team headed to New Orleans.

MIDWEST

Matt: NORTH CAROLINA (1)

The Tar Heels have played insanely good basketball in the first two games of the tournament—a solid win against Vermont without two-time ACC defensive player of the year, John Henson, as well as a double-digit victory over an underrated Creighton team should give the Heels some momentum. However, in the Creighton game, point guard and orchestrator of the fast-paced Carolina offense, Kendall Marshall, fractured his wrist. Although he underwent surgery Monday, he is questionable for the game against Ohio. Stillman White, a freshman point guard, has turned the ball over only twice in seventy minutes of gameplay, so he and the rest of the Heels should be able to handle Ohio. The toughest test, providing they escape Ohio, would be the Elite Eight matchup with either Kansas or North Carolina State. Without Marshall, the Heels can probably hope to make the final four. With Marshall, the Tar Heels look like one of the strongest contenders to win the NCAA Tournament.

Kendall Marshall's wrist could be the key to this year's tournament.

Mike Fortin: NORTH CAROLINA (1)

With the most talented group and veteran leadership from Tyler Zeller, UNC is the clear favorite to win the Midwest Region.  With one of the most scariest offenses in the tournament, they can beat you in many ways.  UNC can beat you with their shooters but can also beat you on the boards with the best rebounding team in the nation.

 

Updated Bracket Standings

Round of 64 Round of 32 Sweet 16 Elite Eight Final Four Champion Total Points Remaining
Mike Fortin 230 220 450 400
Matt 220 220 440 1120
Bob 230 200 430 1240
Abbey 230 200 430 1120
Bailey 220 180 400 1240
Jack 220 180 400 1000
Mike Greulich 230 160 390 1200
Dan 230 160 390 600
Pete 200 180 380 1080
Caroline 190 160 350 960