Our regional previews are designed to get you the information you need to help with filling out a bracket (of course) but also to highlight a few specific things in each region. We'll have a look at the teams in the wrong seeds, who to watch, who to like, who to hate, a dangerous team, the best matchup, and a player to keep an eye on. If you disagree, feel free to tell us here or on Twitter @BannersParkway. Grab a bracket here, and also take the opportunity to join our first ever $10 gift card bracket challenge.
Middle Tennessee State. Yes, I am picking on the little guy here and no, I don't have a soul. KenPom likes MTSU, but I don't, and that's for the simple fact that they didn't beat anyone. They have 28 wins and a superficially impressive road/neutral record, but their best victory is unquestionably a three-point win over Mississippi on December 8th in which Marshall Henderson went 3-12 from beyond the arc. They managed only 45 points in 58 possessions against Florida, lost to Akron and Belmont, and played the 202nd best schedule in the nation. In their conference tournament, they lost to Florida International, who lost the auto bid to Western Kentucky the next day. Not exactly a jewel of a resume.
Creighton. Creighton's schedule wasn't exceptionally tough, I know, but it wasn't that soft. KenPom puts it 13 slots harder than Gonzaga's, and the Zags got a one seed. The Blue Jays put up an eye-catching win against Wisconsin early in the season, not only in that they beat the Badgers, but that they put 84 on them in a regulation game at a neutral site. The next highest tally given up by Wisconsin is the 74 Florida posted at Florida. Creighton can score in bunches, hasn't had a bad loss in six weeks, and beat at-large nine-seed Wichita State twice in eight days to take the MVC automatic bid.
Fun to watch:
Memphis. These guys play good defense, turn the other team over a bunch, block shots, and love to run. On top of that, their frenetic pace leads to an offense that is in the top 40 in OReb%, 2P%, and 3P%. They're also miserable from the free throw line, turn the ball over like it's covered in hot lard, and coming off a questionable schedule. If your definition of exciting to watch is a game in which almost anything can happen, Memphis is appointment viewing. If you aren't buying after all of that, they have DJ Stephens, who might just be the best dunker in the nation.
Easy to hate:
Cincinnati. Does it get any easier than this? Aside from all the obvious reasons to hate the Bearcats, they have been getting some improbable love from the media. One of the talking heads breaking down the bracket on ESPN today said that they just need to find their rhythm from when "they were playing really well at the start of the season." Never mind that it took UC until New Year's Eve to play a road game, or that they started the year 12-0 and finished on a 10-11 stretch. They can't score the basketball, so they try to ugly up the game as much as possible. I hope Creighton beats them by a thousand.
Saint Louis. If you defend, you have a chance, and Saint Louis defends the half court like nobody's business. By virtue of not committing hard to the offensive glass, they keep teams from running on them. In the half court, they force turnovers and prevent three-point attempts at a top 25 rate and choke off the paint and the glass. On offense, they rarely turn the ball over and shoot well enough to take advantage of their possessions. Their slow pace, careful offense, and smothering defense make them a nightmare to try to come back on. Advancing is about matchups, and nobody wants to try to matchup with Saint Lou.
Colorado St. v. Missouri. Before you start, let me save you the trouble: yes, that is an 8/9 matchup and yes, I am a chump for picking it. These are two teams whose strengths are both rebounding. Colorado St. is small - aside from 6'10" senior Colton Iverson, their tallest regular is 6'6" - but they gang rebound and are emphatic about controlling the basketball. Missouri is bigger, but they are led by point guard Phil Pressey, whose ORtg has dropped 13 points from last year as his shooting an ball control have fallen in concert with a higher usage rate. Both teams are in the top 25 of the KenPom ratings, and there's not much to separate them on the floor. This one should be a battle down to final horn.
Player to watch:
Doug McDermott, Creighton. A 6'8", 225 pound forward, McDermott can score from anywhere on the court. He is 199-338 (58.9%) from inside the arc and a staggering 74-149 (49.7%) from beyond it. He's also a very good defensive rebounder and, despite using 31.3% of his team's possessions, very stingy with his turnovers. It's hard to gobble up that many possessions and have so few of them come back empty, but McDermott does it. Not since perhaps Wally Szczerbiak has a player outside of the BCS done quite so much for his team and be so potentially capable of carrying them into the Sweet 16 and maybe beyond.
Stick around for the rest of the day: Brad previews the West Region at noon and the East at 3:00pm, and I'll be back for the breakdown of the South Region at 5:00pm.