Part of the thrill of March Madness is the poring over of the games that have very little bearing on your favorite. Actually, for Dayton fans, that's the only thrill of March Madness. While Xavier landed in the South (which will painstakingly analyzed tomorrow), there are still three other brackets to analyze, scrutinize, and pick. This is predominantly a Xavier blog, but our interests obviously expand to the entire tournament. To that end, here is our guide to the tournament.
The West Region is home to the lowest of the #1 seeds, Michigan State. The Spartans knocked off Thad Matta and Ohio State on Sunday to grab the only high seed that the committee hadn't assigned on Saturday. Waiting for MSU are the Missouri Tigers, Louisville Cardinals, and Marquette Golden Eagles. While this projection of #1 seeds all seems a bit absurd to me, there is no question it has dealt the Spartans a tough row to hoe.
Easy Chalk: Don't even be tempted to pick that 16/1 or 15/2 upset here. (Don't be tempted to do it anywhere). Neither Long Island or Norfolk St should put up much of a fight before succumbing. It takes an incredible matchup for one of these upsets to happen, and there just isn't one present here.
Best first round game: #5 New Mexico vs. #12 LBSU. New Mexico is big (51st in adjusted height), doesn't run much, and plays very good defense. Long Beach is not big, plays faster, is very experienced (ninth) and scores from inside the arc. One of these styles will have to give a bit. If Long Beach knocks down outside shots and makes New Mexico come out, this could become very interesting. The defense that both teams play keeps either from being an easy out. Watch for Casper Ware of LBSU to try to take this one over.
Sleeper: #8 Memphis was woefully underseeded (9th in Kenpom) and is more than a match for Michigan State. Josh Pastner has been accused of being a great recruiter and a mediocre coach, but his aggressive scheduling should pay off. The Tigers beat media darling Belmont by 16 and NCAA snub Miami by 17. This is a very good team. Memphis will run, deny anything resembling a good shot, and attack the rim. They are a nightmare as an eight.
Weakest high seed: #6 Murray St. The Racers played no one (three D-II teams) beat next to no one (only Memphis and St. Mary's) and feasted on a weak conference (169th in Kenpom Tennessee St was their best win). Colorado St may not be an issue, but Marquette certainly will be.
Team to hate: #10 Virginia. Slow, ponderous, and without Assane Sene and Malcom Brogdon, the Cavaliers aren't much to watch. Virginia will do nothing more than try to choke the life out of every game. Unlike other slow teams like Wisconsin, they aren't much fun to watch do it.
Team to love: #2 Missouri. The Tigers are possessed of the best offensive efficiency rating in the nation, an above average defense, and they will run. Add to that unerring and frequent three point shooting, the entertaining Kim English (@EnglishScope24), and a constant desire to just keep scoring (the Tigers scored over 80 points 21 times this year) and you have a great team to watch.
Best potential game: #2 Missouri vs #3 Marquette in the Elite Eight would be a matchup of running, gunning, athletic teams. If that happens, watch for a point total approaching 170.