Now it begins, we’ve made it to the “Sweet 16” level of the 2014 NCAA Tournament. Today, I’ll look at the Midwest Region. The Midwest will play the first of its two games on Friday evening when the #2 seed University of Michigan (27-8, Big Ten) plays the #11 seed University of Tennessee (24-12, SEC). Michigan defeated Wofford and Texas to get to the Sweet Sixteen. Tennessee defeated Iowa, UMass and Mercer to reach this point.
Location: Indianapolis, Indiana
Arena: Lucas Oil Stadium (Home of the Indianapolis Colts)
TV Affiliation: CBS
Game 1: Friday, 7:15 PM #11 Tennessee vs. #2 Michigan:
The Matchup: Michigan and Tennessee bring similar games to this contest. Both teams average 64 possessions per game and are offensively quite efficient. They both shoot well and take care of the ball, with both teams averaging around 10 turnovers per game. Michigan has a slightly better effective FG%, since they take more 3-pointers per game (21 to 17) and are more accurate with them (40% to 33%). The advantage that does go to Tennessee is their rebounding. The Vols average 7 more rebounds per game than the Wolverines (39 to 32) and 5 more offensive rebounds (14 to 9).
Michigan’s offense is powered by Nik Stauskas (17.4 ppg), Caris LeVert (13.1 ppg) and Glen Robinson III (13.0 ppg). Although not prolific scorers, forwards Jordan Morgan and Jon Horford will have to play at a high level with their rebounding. Tennessee is led Jordan McRae (18.6 ppg), Jarnell Stokes (15.2 ppg) and Josh Richardson (10.0 ppg). Stokes also leads the team in rebounding, with 10.7 per game.
Size will be pretty equal since both teams use a 3G/2F lineup. Each squad starts a 6’1”-2” G, with the other four players ranging from 6’6” – 6’8”.
Coaching Corner: This matches up a seasoned, and very successful coach in Michigan’s John Beilein, who at 61 years old, has over 32 years coaching experience and a career winning percentage of 63% (700-411). Beilein’s approach is to utilize a motion offense utilizing screens to free up shooters. This provides a flexibility of scoring from the perimeter as well as finding gaps in the defense to attack with short-to-mid range jump shots. On defense, Beilein often favors the man-to-man defense, but changes it up with variations (2-3, 1-3-1) of a zone defense.
In contrast, this is the 42 year old Cuonzo Martin’s sixth season, third with the Volunteers. His coaching career got off to a delayed start because he had a brief two year professional career, cut short by a diagnosis of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. In terms of his coaching style, you may recognize shades of him being ‘Purdue’ish” since he played there in the early 1990′s for Gene Keady. One item of note is that one of Martin’s Purdue team mates was Glenn Robinson, whose son Glenn Robinson III will be taking the floor for Michigan on Friday.
Players to Watch: Nik Stauskas for Michigan is the Wolverine to watch. He is tall (6’6″), is very active without the ball, and as we’ve seen, a deadly shooter. He needs to get open off screens and hit his shots for Michigan to win this game.
For Tennessee, the player is 6’8″, 260 pound forward Jarnell Stokes. Jarnell averages double-double (15.2 pts, 10.7 rbs) per game and is an accurate shooter (53%). In his three year career at Tennessee. he has never attempted a 3-point shot so he does not extend the defense, but with his size and shooting, he batters it. He’ll be a handful for Michigan.
Prediction: This is actually a pretty good matchup for both teams. Michigan is a 2-point favorite, and I think that sounds about right. It will be a close game, but Michigan’s Morgan/Horford offset Tennessee’s rebounding superiority while Stauskas’ outside shooting opens up the interior for LaVert and Robinson to get good mid-range looks. The Wolverines move on to the Elite Eight.
Game 2: Friday, 9:45 PM #8 Kentucky vs. #4 Louisville:
The Matchup: Louisville and Kentucky bring similar approaches to this game. So much so, that Louisville enters the game as a 5 point favorite. Based on the teams’ offensive efficiency (below), that’s not many possessions.Both teams have a good offensive pace (Louisville 69 PPG, Kentucky 67 PPG) and are offensively efficient with Louisville averaging 1.18 points per possession and Kentucky 1.12. They both shoot well and take care of the ball, with both teams averaging around 11 turnovers per game. Louisville has a slightly better effective FG% because they are better mid-range shooters and they take more 3-pointers per game (21 to 16) and are more accurate with them (37% to 33%). Not a big advantage, but over the course of a close game, it could be a decisive one. Kentucky does have a slight rebounding edge, 3 per game, and an advantage at the free throw line.
Louisville’s offense is powered by four double-digit scorers; Russ Smith (18.1 ppg), Montrezl Harrell (14.0 ppg), Luke Hancock (12.1 ppg) and Chris Jones (10.4 ppg). Harrell also leads the team in rebounding with 8.4 per game, and Stephan Van Treese contributes 5.6 rebounds. Kentucky also has four double-digit scorers; Julius Randle (15.1 ppg), James Young (14.3 ppg), Aaron Harrison (14.1 ppg) and his twin, Andrew Harrison (10.9 ppg). All these gentlemen are freshmen. Yes, that’s right. The sophomore “veteran” Willie Cauley-Stein Stokes contributes 7 points and 6.2 rebounds per game, but the Wildcats’ leading rebounder is Julius Randle with 10.6 rebounds per game.
Size definitely favors Kentucky as their starters range in height from 6’6″ to 7’0″. Louisville’s starters range in height from 5’10″ to 6’8″.
Coaching Corner: Rick Pitino vs John Calipari. Quite a coaching matchup, no? These are two high profile (for events on and off the court) coaches who have been very successful (Pitino 74%, Calipari 76%) at winning basketball games. Interestingly, there are a couple of non-related threads that connect these men. Pitino played at UMass in the early 70′s, Calipari coached UMass in the early-mid 90′s. Pitino, in his 13th year at Louisville, previously coached at Kentucky. Calipari is in his 5th season at Kentucky.
This will be an entertaining game, if for no other reason you watch the coach’s sideline reactions. Of course, the real action will be on the court, but Rick Pitino and John Calipari will do their part to get their teams attention.
Players to Watch: Although Luke Hancock rightfully gets attention, I think the player to watch is 6’8″ forward Montrezl Harrell. He has a solid all around game and is an efficient shooter at 60%. For Kentucky, the player to watch is 6’9″ forward Julius Randle. He leads the Wildcats in scoring and rebounding. If Harrell and Randle are matched up against one another, settle in for some interesting basketball.
Prediction: This is actually a pretty good matchup of two very talented teams. As talented as Kentucky is, they are very young, starting four freshmen and a sophomore. I think that the Louisville “seniority” of three seniors, one junior and one sophomore will carry the day. Louisville moves on to the Elite Eight.
The first weekend of March Madness is in the books. Just like every single four day weekend, basketball fans at tBBC saw their ups and downs. Things started off horribly when Vee Sanford banked home the winning layup against the Buckeyes on Thursday. It was that same Dayton team that upset Syracuse later in the weekend, in Buffalo. The Flyers were one of the many upset artists on the weekend, including Stanford — the team they will play this upcoming weekend. We saw the only undefeated team say goodbye to the rest of the season, and a bunch of one and done studs mold into a team.
And the two top freshman in the country failed to taste the sweetness of being one of the final sixteen teams standing.
Now that your bracket it ripped up and you could care less about winning one dollar let alone a billion, we begin getting you ready for the weekend with our regional previews of the Sweet Sixteen.
Location: Memphis, Tennessee
Arena: FedEx Forum (Home of the Memphis Grizzlies)
TV Affiliation: CBS
Well, the past four days certainly lived up to the “Madness” legacy, didn’t they?
Indianapolis hosts Tennessee, Kentucky, Michigan, and Louisville… That’s got to be a scalper’s dream scenario, right?
Huge upsets, surprise teams moving on to the next round, and favorites being pushed to the wire across all of the regions.
And yet, there’s still that one guy who will have his final four all still alive that will want to talk about it for the next four days… man, I hate that guy. <is actually that guy>
Let’s take a quick look at our Yahoo! contest to see how
awfully amazingly each of our participants are doing thus far. Also, this will hopefully make Kevin stop emailing me to rub it in.
Yup, our graphic whiz Kevin Dearth was in first place until Sunday’s games… but today, Grant stands atop the leader board (I’m not giving you lots of money, but will buy you dinner when you’re out here next). As an interesting note- the 8 year old that won our Bowl Picks contest is only sitting four points behind the leader. So… yeah.
Charles had an amazing first round and early second round for tBBC Staff Bragging Rights, and still is on top of our insider’s bracket, even if he’s fallen behind his initial glory. Jason’s the only reason that your humble correspondent isn’t dead last… thanks, bro!
Even though the Buckeyes aren’t moving on this coming weekend, we’ll be still watching closely to see what happens next. Stay tuned to tBBC for weekend livechats and all your Scarlet and Gray updates.
Our Bracket Breakdown gets a little close to home…
The South Region is of some interest to us since that is Ohio State’s “Region”. It also has a few other top-rated teams such as Florida, Kansas, UCLA and Syracuse. Whoever emerges from this Region has a legitimate chance to be in the Finals and possibly win it all.
Rather than go through game-by-game in the Region, I’ll focus on five (5) topics; 1) the team likely to win region, 2) the region’s Cinderella team, 3) team most likely to be upset, 4) who is region’s unheralded player and 5) my Elite 8 picks. Envelopes, please…
Regional Favorite: Florida is my choice to win this Region. The Gators haven’t lost a game since December 2nd, and it’s unlikely they lose this week, until possibly the Finals. They are a well-balanced team, play decently on offense, but are a top notch defensive team. In their last 14 games, dating back to February 1st, they have allowed less than 60 points in 7 of them. A capable offense and a tough defense will carry this team to the Final Four.
Cinderella: The Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks could be wearing the Glass Slipper, at least until midnight. They aren’t rated well (RPI 55, SOS 315) but they come in as the #12 seed against VCU and the Rams are only a 6 point favorite. They have a decent defense and are efficient of on offense (1.16 PPP). And, a #11/#12 seed moving on is not unheard of; just ask VCU. Read More
Before you do, read this. I make no guarantees, but this will help you not finish last. Ethel the mail lady won’t read this. Let her finish last.
Like one of my favorite one-hit wonders we will Head East and preview the region nobody is really talking about.
That happens when the Midwest Region has all the best teams and somehow, the 1996 Bulls as well.
East games are in Raleigh, Spokane, San Antonio and Buffalo and finish at Madison Square Garden in The Big Apple.
Favorite: Virginia is the No. 1 seed on the strength of a regular-season and ACC tournament championship. The politicking (reads: whining) about how good the ACC is by Coach K didn’t hurt either.
That’s how the conference ended up with a team in the First Four. Not a great team in my opinion but good enough to make it to New York because of the draw.
Michigan State is the sexy pick here. The Spartans did struggle at times in the regular season due to injuries, but they are healthy now and on a roll after winning the Big 10/11/12 Tournament.
Adreian Payne is a beast inside and Gary Harris makes the Spartans go at both ends. Tom Izzo knows how to coach in the NCAA Tournament as well.
In fact, this senior class is the only one that hasn’t been to a Final Four under Izzo. Don’t think for a second he hasn’t reminded them of that.
But I’m not convinced they are title bound as you will soon see.
Cinderella: Harvard upset New Mexico last year and there is almost always a 12-5 upset. Cincinnati was one of the best teams in the country for a stretch in the middle of the season, but they weren’t as good at the end.
Providence was uncomfortably on the bubble until the Friars won the Big East Tournament, likely knocking Xavier into the First Four. The No. 11 Friars are hot and could knock off No. 6 North Carolina, which is as hard to figure out as one of Dr. Sheldon Cooper’s string theories.
Either of those teams could win a couple games or more.
Most Likely to be an upset: In addition to the aforementioned Providence-UNC matchup, and perhaps Harvard, I would put my money on St. Joseph’s to knock off UConn. Granted it’s only a 7-10 game, and either team is a procedural bump away from being an 8 or 9 so it’s not much of an upset. But it is the Atlantic 10 beating the American Athletic Conference and let’s face it. We were talking about St. Joseph’s as a bubble team and potential First Four participant. The Hawks were seeded 38th overall, UConn 26th.
Unheralded Player: James Bell makes No. 2 Villanova go. He can jump out of any gym and is fun to watch in transition. He has good size at 6-foot-6 and can play a wing or mix it up inside. Bell has solid range from 3-point land as well. Scoring nearly 15 points a game and grabbing 6 rebounds he will have the ball in his hands a lot, especially late in a close game as he is an 81% free throw shooter.
Elite Eight Teams: As I mentioned, I’m not drinking the Green and White Kool-Aid. Someone will beat Sparty before they get to the regional final. I just have that feeling. That said, I like Virginia to make it, even though I think they are not one of the four best teams in the country. The other Elite Eighter is a team I have yet to mention: Iowa State.
Kind of like the San Antonio Spurs, the Cyclones quietly go about their business without much fanfare, although winning the Big 12 title in Kansas’ backyard was impressive and certainly made other teams take notice. Conference player of the year Melvin Ejim scores a ton and he will need to because Iowa State is horrible at defense, like 272nd nationally horrible. Despite that, I like them to play the Cavaliers in the Garden.
Should be an interesting regional final.
The decisions have been made.
The picks are in.
It’s anybody’s NCAA Tournament.
Ohio State has a tough, but winnable draw.
OSU is the No. 6 seed in the South and will play the Dayton Flyers, who many thought would be in the First Four, in Buffalo.
The Flyers made it without having to play in the extra game.
The winner gets a very beatable Syracuse in its own backyard.
The Big Ten got interesting draws. In addition to OSU having to play a hungry Dayton team, Wisconsin could get Oregon, with five scorers, in the third round.
Nebraska gets Baylor in the second round and then Creighton in the third round. Brutal. A CBS guy was already talking about Baylor-Creighton in third round.
Michigan got a No. 2 seed in the Midwest when many had TTUN as a No. 1. The Wolverines get two easy games, Wofford and then the winner of Texas-Arizona State.
Iowa got stuck in a First Four game against Tennessee and will play No. 6 UMass with a win. Most projections had Iowa in cleanly, meaning no First Four.
Michigan State gets a No. 4 seed and plays Delaware in Spokane and then either Cincinnati or Harvard in the third round.
The Midwest is loaded. Louisville, Wichita State, Kentucky, Michigan, Duke. Three of last year’s Final Four Teams. Holy stacked bracket, Batman.
Basketball season is officially over. Depending on your perspective on how you look at the season’s overall content, this year was either a huge overachieving success or a flaming disaster. It’s Wednesday night, let’s rumble!
There really is no better word for the majority of Buckeye Nation’s overriding feeling on Saturday night after the final horn sounded. They were shocked, me included.
How could Wichita State seemingly blow the doors off of our beloved Buckeyes for the better part of 30 minutes and hang on to eliminate the West region’s number 2 seed? How could a Buckeye team that only two weeks ago in Chicago appeared to be finally hitting its stride look so terrible in a regional final with a trip to the Final Four on the line?