Monday, March 17, 2008

East Regional Preview and Analysis

The first of four regions this blog will break down is the East. North Carolina is the top seed here, as well as in the whole tournament. The regional final will be played down the road in Charlotte. The Tar Heels are favored to win this regional, but it will not be easy for them.

The Heels get to play the winner of the opening-round game in the first round, then will play the winner of the Arkansas-Indiana game. Arky won three in a row at last week’s SEC tournament before running into the Georgia juggernaut. Indiana is reeling in a bad way since the midseason dismissal of coach Kelvin Sampson for repeated recruiting violations. You have to go with the team on the upswing here, and that is the Hogs. The Hogs will put up a gallant effort against the Tar Heels, but Carolina is too much.

Elsewhere in this bracket, the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame take on the Patriots of George Mason in the dreaded 5-12 matchup. Every year, a 5th seed is upset by a 12th seed. History suggests that it will happen here. Notre Dame was upset in the first round last year by Winthrop. G-Mase made an unlikely march to the Final Four in 2006. I predict Mason to knock off the Leprechauns. Speaking of Winthrop, they could play the winner of this game by upsetting Washington State. The Eagles have played themselves into their 8th NCAA tournament in 10 years. Wazzu is a solid team, though, and will beat Winthrop in a close one. Wazzu then knocks off G-Mase to go to the Sweet 16.

In the bottom half of the bracket, my Oklahoma Sooners are an unexpected 6th seed and go to Birmingham, Alabama to take the St. Joseph’s Hawks. OU is a feast or famine team. If the guards are on, the Sooners win. If they’re not, they lose. I’d love to see OU get on a roll in this tournament. My gut doesn’t see it happening. I’m picking St. Joe’s. The Hawks would take on the winner of the game between Louisville and Boise State. The Ville is primed for a deep run in this tournament. They take on the Broncos, survivors of a triple overtime win in the WAC tournament final and a four-team battle royal in the WAC. Boise can play a little, and this will be an interesting game. I’m going with the safe pick and Louisville. The Ville then handles St. Joe’s in the 2nd round.

In the fourth pod of this bracket, the Butler Bulldogs lurk with a chip on their shoulder. Ranked 10th in the polls at the end of the season, the committee stuck them with a 7th seed and a dangerous matchup with South Alabama. Are you as suspicious as I am about the committee’s pairing of two tough mid-majors in the first round? Butler survives and advances. Awaiting Butler is Tennessee, who will have their way with American University. The boys from Rocky Top then will be too much for Butler.

In the Sweet 16, we have Wazzu taking on North Carolina. UNC is a killing machine, and will take care of Washington State. The other matchup is a barnburner between Louisville and Tennessee, causing great angst in Lexington and Big Blue Nation. I like Tennessee’s team a lot, but I look for the Ville to handle them here. Which leads us to the Elite Eight, where Rick Pitino’s Louisville Cardinals meet up with Roy Williams’ North Carolina Tar Heels. It’s the year of the Tar Heel. The planets are lining up for them. Color this regional Carolina blue.

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