As the greatest sporting event of they year (suck it, Super Bowl) kicks off, we at Banners HQ will be breaking down, pouring over, and dissecting every region and matchup in the field to give you, our faithful readers, the best source for information in this year's bracket. We also do it because we have too much time to think about basketball, apparently.
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.
Iowa St. Cylcones. A great deal of national press has gone to a red hot Cyclone team. A Big 12 championship doesn't disguise well the fact that Iowa St. didn't, for a trendy Final Four pick, beat a great many good teams. One of the wins over Oklahoma St is sullied by the fact that the Cowboys were losing to everyone at that point in time. A win over my Akron Zips wasn't impressive this year, but a win over Michigan was. Still, the resume for a three seed really isn't there. Somewhere on the five line would probably be a more comfortable fit.
Harvard. If KenPom had his way, the Crimson would be an eight seed. Instead, they languish down at a #12 and get the pleasure of playing UC, who will be their toughest competition of the year. No, Harvard didn't beat anyone, but they gave Colorado and UConn all they could handle and did beat Green Bay. The Crimson also aren't bad at anything, and they finished in the top 60 in both offensive and defensive efficiency. Not a great team, but one of the many that the committee simply didn't know how to handle. They will not be an easy out.
Easy to like/Fun to watch:
Villanova. Maybe the conference rivalries just haven't crystallized for me yet, or maybe Jay Wright's flashy suits just have me dazzled, but I can't find it in me to dislike anything about the Wildcats. They play relatively quickly, they attack relentlessly on the defensive end, and the absolutely lift from deep. 44.6% (good for seventh in the nation) of Villanova's field goal attempts come from behind the arc. Add to that a defense that allows a lot of threes, and these guys could very well feature in one of those games (like Arizona v. Gonzaga) that people remember for years. It's kind of a cop out to lump both of these categories together, but I just can't find any reason not to enjoy a Villanova game.
Easy to hate:
UC. I don't feel like this one comes as surprise to many people. First, it's Cincinnati, so hatred should come pretty naturally. Secondly, you'll spend most of the tournament hearing about the AAC from a bunch of announcers who conveniently forget that Rutgers plays in that conference. Most people don't even know that Rutgers has a basketball team. Thirdly, St. Mick Cronin. St. Mick is the patron saint of misplaced pomposity and overblown rhetoric with no follow through. Mick Cronin is every guy you've ever seen at a pickup game who calls moving screens, can't dribble with his left hand, and insists on trying to set up a trapping 1-3-1. Insufferable.
Providence. The Friars beat Xavier, beat Creighton twice, beat St. John's, beat Georgetown, and took Villanova to double overtime. These guys can play with anyone. No one in the country plays more than Bryce Cotton, and very few are as effective in the time they do play as he is. First round matchup UNC sits a whopping 14 KenPom spots higher than Providence and shoot the ball, especially from the line, woefully. A win there and Providence is looking at the overseeded team in this bracket, Iowa St, or a 14 seed. I'm not saying it will happen, but it very well could.
UC v. Harvard. The teams are separated by just nine spots according to Ken Pomeroy. UC doesn't shoot well, and Harvard attacks shooters. Harvard shoots well from deep, where UC plays their best defense. Both teams played soft schedules both in and out of conference, neither team has beaten a comparable opponent since January, and both teams want to keep the pace very slow. It may not make for riveting watching, but these teams should match up very well against each other.
Player to watch:
Bryce Cotton. He's a senior, and Big East fans know him well, but it's a safe bet that the rest of the country doesn't. Cotton makes the Friars tick. When he goes well, they win. His offensive rating of 118.3 leads to 21.4/3.5/5.8 on .416/.368/.849 shooting. He's going to be in attack mode from the off to try to carry his team as far as it will go. When he does that, he's fun to watch.
Don't forget to put this new knowledge to good use by signing up for our bracket challenge.