Over the next two days, your favorite miscreants here at tBBC will be taking a deeper look at the path that leads to Atlanta, because people from Ohio know all about getting to Atlanta.
Hopefully, this will help you as you fill out your brackets in this year’s Tournament Challenge- the game locks on Thursday, so sign up now!
Regional Favorite- I’m not really going out on a limb here by saying that Louisville is the team to beat in this region. They’re the overall #1 seed, they’ll be playing in front of home fans that choose to make the trip up I-65, and are firing on all cylinders at this point in the season, as is typical of Pitino teams. Their athleticism, full court press, and having a coach that’s been there before makes them huge favorites not only to come out of Indy, but to win the whole thing. In addition, I’m not sold on Duke or Michigan State being able to make deep runs this year, particularly after what we saw in the ACC/B1G tournaments. St. Louis looks threatening, but I believe that this one is the Cardinals’ to lose.
Which they can do if they find themselves not mentally in the game. As unlikely as that is, Louisville has seen it’s share of moments where it seems to be taking it’s time figuring out what its game plan is. While the story of the Big East final was certainly the enormous run that they went on to blow the doors off of Syracuse, the fact that they found themselves in a hole to begin with can’t be overlooked. The problem, as I see it, is that they won’t face teams able to take advantage of that until they’re already in Indianapolis for the Sweet 16.
Cinderella- For the purposes of this exercise, we’re picking an eight seed or lower that will make a deep run in the tournament. In the Midwest, that’s got to be the Oregon Ducks.
This would usually be the part of the program where all of my West Coast friends who pay attention to basketball would start crying about an “East Coast Bias”… and, to be honest, I think they’ve got a point. Oregon went undefeated against Arizona and UCLA, just won the Pac-12 tournament, and ended up as a 12 seed? That’s after being 19th in the country before the tournament… now they’re supposed to be the 45th best team in the nation? Yeah, I’m not seeing it.
I’m not guaranteeing a win in the “Programs That Owe Their Existence To Very Generous Boosters Showdown”, but if they get by TBPU and managed to find St. Louis when they are having an off night, the Ducks could be quacking for at least a second weekend. Plus, if they make it to Indy, they can save money on travel expenses and just hold the Athletic Department’s hearing with the COI at the same time.
Most Likely Upset- Well, other than the aforementioned Ducks knocking off the Cowboys, I think another team to keep an eye on would be the Duke Blue Devils. They’ve got pretty favorable matchups throughout their half of the region, but faltered against Maryland (twice) and Virginia over the past month- could it be a sign of some focus issues? I’m sure Coach K will have them ready for it, though.
Secret Star- Who’s the player that will become a household name out of this bracket? Well, I’ve got to give some love to Creighton’s Doug McDermott, a 6’7″ forward that’s averaging over 23 points a game. He’s got all the “intangibles” to become a media darling- coach’s son, gym rat, leading scorer for a team in a favorable matchup against a better “name” opponent. What’s not to like? Oh, and he’s got a future on a great game show if the NBA doesn’t work out.
Elite Eight Teams- I’d be an idiot to pick against Louisville here, particularly given their favorable regional location. I think that the Cardinals will face off against the Spartans of Michigan State for the chance to go to Atlanta and cut down the nets. There’s no one that stands out to me in the lower half of the Midwest Region, though, so upsets are certainly possible. After all, that’s why we watch them play the games!