The Rebellion’s Guide on the NCAA Tournament (Round of 64 and Round of 32)

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This is the second year of the Rebellion’s Tournament Challenge.

Matt Brownsword

 

The rebellion tourny challenge

South Region

Game to Watch: 5 VCU v.  12 Stephen F. Austin on FRIDAY 3/21 @ 7:27 on truTV

The Southland regular season and conference tournament champion Lumberjacks have not lost a game since falling to Eastern Tennessee on November 23, earning them a 12 seed in the NCAA Tournament and a chance to face off against Shaka Smart and VCU. The “Havoc” pressure defense will give a balanced scoring Stephen F. Austin team fits, but the Lumberjacks will take advantage of an inefficient VCU offense and look to force a lot of turnovers like they have all year (16.4 tpg). However, the Rams have been here before and should pull through in the classic 5-12 upset watch matchup.

The status of Joel Embiid's back will shape the South Region.
The status of Joel Embiid’s back will shape the South Region.

Player to Watch: Joel Embiid, C, Kansas

The player to keep an eye on in the South Region might be the one that won’t play: Embiid — and specifically, his back — is questionable for all of Kansas’ games. Embiid is a dominating presence down low, heavily contributing to Kansas’ 17th overall ranking in blocks per game and 24th overall ranking in rebounds per game. A surefire NBA lottery pick — along with his teammate, Andrew Wiggins — Embiid’s draft status could factor in his decision to play in the tournament.

Upset Special: 11 Dayton

Dayton faces off against a 6 Ohio State team that lost to Michigan in the Big Ten tournament and only has two double digit point scorers, while the Flyers have a 10-man rotation that shoots very well from the floor (47% FG and 38% 3-pt FG). Getting past tenacious defender and assist man Aaron Craft will be a challenge, but the Flyers will be up to the task. Then, next up could be a Syracuse team that has gone 2-5 after winning 25 straight to start the season, including a home loss to lowly Boston College. The Orange are ripe for an upset, and if they survive Western Michigan, they could meet their Cinderella foe in Dayton in the second round.

Sweet Sixteen Picks/Pick to Win: Florida, VCU, Dayton, and Kansas — Kansas

Both Florida and Kansas have two of the easiest roads to the Sweet Sixteen, although the ACC battle-tested Pittsburgh Panthers could pose a scare for the Gators in the second round. VCU has a much harder road, with Stephen F. Austin and PAC-12 champion UCLA in the way. Dayton will have to upset to big conference teams to get to a Sweet Sixteen berth, but both Ohio State and Syracuse are sliding. Kansas, with Embiid back, should have enough talent and experience in close games to come out of the South bracket.

West Region

Game To Watch: 6 Baylor v. 11 Nebraska on Friday March 21 @ 12:40 on truTV

Featuring two of the hottest teams entering the tournament, look for this game to end up in a bloodbath.  In a Big 12 vs Big Ten matchup, look for Baylor to exploit Nebraska’s lack of offense in attempt to shutdown star guard Terran Petteway.  This will be no easy task, as Petteway averages 18.1 points per game including six 20 plus showings in Nebraska’s last 13 games.  Baylor will be looking for a fast paced game to compliment their high scoring offense, lead by Cory Jefferson.  In a game that will come down to the wire, look for Baylor to pull away with the win in a potential thriller.

Upset Alert: 13 New Mexico State v. 4 San Diego State on Thursday March 20 @ 9:57 on truTV

New Mexico State center Sim Bhullar looks to stage an upset over the Aztecs.
New Mexico State center Sim Bhullar looks to stage an upset over the Aztecs.

After failing to win the Mountain West title, San Diego State will have their hands filled with another New Mexican team.  Leading the high paced New Mexico State squad will be Daniel Mullings, who averages just under 17 points per game and will be a big concern for the Aztecs.  To compliment Mulling, look for the Aggies to get the ball down low to massive center 7-foot-5 Sim Bhullar.  San Diego State’s recent scoring slump is coming at the wrong time and against the wrong team ass they have less the 60 points per game while the Aggies have held teams to under 60 during their win streak.

Player To Watch: Doug McDermott, Creighton

The Wooden Award winner Doug McDermott is easily the most valuable player to his team in the tournament.  The Bluejays live and die with McDermott, hoping that he saves his best performance for last after an outstanding career.  In his senior year, McDermott has played his best basketball averaging 26.9 per game while hauling in 7.0 rebounds a game.  McDermott looks to take the Bluejays on a Final Four run before his Creighton career comes to an end.

Sweet 16 Picks (winner in bold):

1 Arizona: Holding opponents to just 58.1 ppg this season, the Wildcats are easily the most talented team in the West.  However, a mid-season injury to SF Brandon Ashley could come back to haunt the Wildcats as they have only been 9-4 since his injury after a 21-0 start.

5 Oklahoma: The Sooners live and die with the three ball thanks to 38% from behind the arc which credits their 82.2 points per game in the regular season.  The Sooners lack of defense could end up hurting Oklahoma chances of making the Final 4.

3 Creighton: The Bluejays look towards star play senior Doug McDermott in hopes of continuing one of their best seasons in recent memory.    Just like the Sooners, Creighton’s defense is just not Final 4 caliber as this will limit their chance of making a deep run into the tourny.

2 Wisconsin:  The Badgers look to make it over the hump this year and finally make a Final 4 run.  In a more offensive minded team then in years passed, look for Wisconsin to take advantage of this weak section; they are my favorite to win the West.

East Region

The Ivy League Champions will look to give Cincinatti a tough test in the opening round.
The Ivy League Champions will look to give Cincinatti a tough test in the opening round.

Game to watch: Harvard vs. Cincinnati – Thursday, March 20 @ 2:10 on TNT

Harvard has dominated the Ivy League for the past few years and last year caused serious damage to everyones bracket when they upset the 3 seed, New Mexico. Lead by Ivy League player of the year Wesley Saunders, who finished in the top 10 in the league in scoring, assists, steals and field goal percentage, the Crimson are poised to at least give the Bearcats a challenge if not completely upset them. Definitely a game worth watching after school on Thursday.

Upset Alert: St. Joe’s vs. UConn – Thursday, March 20 @ 6:55 on TBS

Not too long ago UConn was the best team in college basketball. This year however they might not even make it past the first round. The very underrated St. Joseph’s Hawks could easily upset not only UConn, but even proceed to take down Villanova in the second round. Every year some low seeded team makes it all the way to the sweet sixteen, and the Hawks certainly have the skill to be that team. The Hawk never dies.

Player to watch: DeAndre Kane, Iowa State

Averaging 17 points, 6.7 rebounds, and 5.8 assists per game, senior DeAndre Kane was a huge addition to the Iowa State squad following his transfer from Marshall. Not only one of the leading scorers on the team but also an emotional leader, Iowa State’s chances in the tournament love and die with DeAndre Kane. Definitly a player to keep your eye on throughout the tournament.

Sweet Sixteen (winner in bold): 

1 VIRGINIA: A stingy defensive team, the Cavaliers should reach the sweet sixteen easily.

4 MICHIGAN ST: Tom Izzo and Michigan State will have to escape a potential second round matchup with Cincinatti or upset-minded Harvard, but should survive and advance all the way out of the East bracket. 

3 IOWA ST: Iowa State is coming into the tournament on a hot streak, and will look to escape North Carolina’s quick transition offense in a potential second round matchup to reach the Sweet Sixteen.

10 ST. JOE’S: Look for St. Joe’s to shake up the East Region: Coming off an A10 championship, the Hawks will upset the Huskies and one of the weaker two seeds in the whole tournament (Villanova) to get a 10 seed into the Sweet Sixteen.

Midwest Region

Game to Watch: 9 Kansas St  v. 8 Kentucky  on  FRIDAY March 21st @ 9:40 PM on CBS

Will John Calipari lead his young Kentucky team past Kansas State?
Will John Calipari lead his young Kentucky team past Kansas State?

A game between two hard nose, out-work-your-opponent teams might not be the prettiest of events during March Madness, but one thing is for sure: it will be a good game to watch.  Kentucky has picked up their play lately and almost defeated number one overall seed Florida in the SEC Championship game.  Kansas St., on the other hand, is a poor shooting team that has two main players, Marcus Foster and Thomas Gipson.  Foster and Gipson both can shoot the three, but the real x-factor will be if both of them can heat up at the right time to get past a tough Kentucky team.  If you are having trouble picking between the two, go with Kentucky, since their play of late has been better.

Upset: 11 Iowa/Tennessee  v. 6 UMASS on March 21, @ 2:15 on CBS

Chaz Williams may be small, but what he does not have in height he makes up for with his play on the court.  Williams is nothing short of a beast on the court with help from center Cady Lalanne.  Umass plays in the A 10 which includes the likes of VCU and St. Louis, but still does not impress with their play down the stretch of the regular season.  Whoever wins the play in game between Iowa and Tennessee will defeat UMASS handily, due to the fact they play tough opponents throughout the year.  The game will be close all the way down the stretch, with UMASS losing a nail-biter on a last second shot.

Player to Watch: Ron Baker

On a small conference team like Wichita State, your name usually is not mentioned as one of the top players in a region.  After a 34-0 season, Ron Baker has been a name mentioned over and over again for his fierce and gritty play.  Baker may not be the quickest of best player out there, but he is one of the smartest.  He has led Wichita State to a perfect season and aims to continue their regular season success against far superior opponents than he played in the Mississippi Valley Conference.  Baker’s experience on last years final four team should help him get over the hump and carry Wichita State to the final four.

Sweet Sixteen Picks (winner in bold): 

Wichita State (1): This could be the most well rounded team in the field of 68.  Relentlessness from both the guard and forward position, this team does not have a so called star, but a more well balanced attack.

Louisville (4): Other than blowing out the competition in the American Athletic Conference Championship, Louisville might be the best four seed ever to compete in march madness.  Led by Russ Smith, the Cardinals will be the team to watch throughout the tournament.  Expect nothing less than a repeat if they manage to get by Wichita State.

Duke (3): Nothing too flashy, but any team that is coached by a legend like Coach K will beat weaker opponents.

Michigan (2): Nick Stauskas may not look like the prototypical basketball player, but he also is one of the leaders on Michigan who will be relied on to carry the team to victories; often given the ball late in the game, Stauskas is one of the more clutch players entering this years tournament.