They’re just two big college basketball fans who, over the past few nights, exchanged emails with their thoughts about their favorite team (UNC), to the bracket, and then their predictions on who will cut down the nets in Atlanta. And yes, some of this information is actually useful.
Shaun Howard: Aight man, Let’s talk about this bracket. First off, since we’re both Carolina fans, how do you feel about their seeding?
Jared Kraus: I’m objective when it comes to my favorite teams — God forbid — and I think it’s pretty much spot on. Would I have complained if they were given a 7? Not at all. But fact is, they beat two tourney teams all season, and two average tourney teams at that. And you can say “well, their RPI is top 16…blah blah blah.” Guess what? Belmont’s RPI was 19 and they’re an 11 seed. End of argument.
Shaun: See my thing is this, I’m not mad about the 8 seed. I get that. But at the same time…it bothers me that Carolina and Kansas always match up in the tournament or they are in the same region all the time. It’s very frustrating to me, if that makes sense. I thought they’d at least get a 7 seed, not 8. But it’s fine.
Jared: It’s a cop-out by the committee, but I understand it. The tourney has become all about the money, and nothing will sell out the Sprint Center quite like a UNC/KU match-up…the question is, do they even get past Nova? I’m not quite sure about that one.
Shaun: I think they do get by Nova, but it’ll be tough. With the 4 guard lineup, it hurts rebounding and Villanova is a big, and physical team, but I think Bullock, Hairston, and McAdoo do enough to carry them.
Jared: Okay, let’s break this down by region, starting with the Midwest. What were your initial thoughts when you saw it?
Shaun: The Midwest seems like the best region. Louisville is the best team in the country right now. Duke only has one loss with the White R.Kelly (Ryan Kelly, the white Arrah!!) back in the lineup. Michigan State is sitting pretty looking at this and possibly playing some home games. Oregon is a curious team to me. Underseeded at 12. Could attempt to make a statement by playing in San Jose.
Jared: I’ll make this short and sweet regarding Oregon: they were absolutely robbed. Beat UCLA (x2), Zona and UNLV in Vegas and are rewarded with a 12? Get that out of here. Anyway, this region is absolutely stacked, which kind of perplexes me. The #1 overall seed somehow gets Duke instead of OSU, MSU instead of FLA and SLU instead of KST? Nah, man, that isn’t cool with me. But, when it’s all said and done, I think Louisville walks away with the Midwest. Too much defense for a lot of offensively challenged teams.
Shaun: Usually, the number 1 overall seed gets a tough bracket. I would have thought Louisville would have been in an easier bracket, but for some reason, I feel as this is tailor-made for Michigan State to get to Atlanta. Yes, Louisville is the best team in the country as of right now. But sometimes, the best team in the land doesn’t always win. I think Izzo will get Keith Appling in line, even though he’s shaky at best. This same thing happened to Michigan State back in ’09 when they were paired with Louisville. I think they’ll beat Duke, and then beat Louisville en route to the final four.
Jared: Normally, I’d never bet against Izzo…but, I actually like Memphis to upset them in the round of 32. I can’t get the images of Louisville destroying them in last year’s sweet 16 out of my mind, and Memphis is far more athletic than that Louisville team was. So, even if they were to get to the elite 8 and face Louisville, I just don’t think they have the athletes to keep up. Plus, Gary Harris is hobbled with that bad shoulder, and he’s arguably their best player. Let’s get to player to watch, sleeper team and first round upsets. Who ya got?
Shaun: Player to watch: Doug McDermott. I know he’s already a household name, but he’s the one player in this region who can do something special. Sleeper team: Saint Louis. Nobody talks about them. Great defensive team, easily could make noise and lock down Siva/Smith. First round upsets: I guess Oregon over Oklahoma State is the only one. Sucks for OK St. that they have to play Oregon, who’s better than their seed + it’s out on the west coast. Incredible how that happened for them. What about you?
Jared: I agree with McDermott — probably the best player in this region — but, I’m going with Dominic Artis. People forget just how good Oregon was before he got injured. SLU is the obvious choice for a sleeper team — they seem to be playing for more than just a title a la the Ravens in the playoffs. I really like Memphis; their athleticism is off the charts, and they have guys who can catch fire in an instant. Upsets? Cincy over Creighton and Oregon over OK St. Any other team and I have OK St. in the sweet 16, but you can’t really expect them to beat a team that’s woefully underseeded and playing on the west coast.
Shaun: If Artis didn’t get hurt, Oregon is a top 4 seed in the west. Easily. I like Memphis and their talent, just don’t know if their coach can get over that hump of winning. Gimme your sweet 16, elite 8, and regional champ.
Jared: Pastner is bound to get a major W at some point…right? RIGHT? I’ve got ‘Ville over SLU, Duke over Memphis; ‘Ville over Duke and to the final four.
Shaun: I don’t know if Pastner is gonna out-coach Izzo, though. That’d be interesting, and I’d be impressed if he did. I have ‘Ville over SLU as well, Sparty over Duke, and Sparty over ‘Ville in a close regional final game.
Jared: Moving on….the West Region! When these 16 teams popped up, I literally laughed and out loud said “what the hell?” You know what it reminds me of? Duke’s 2010 bracket. They had a bunch of easy teams, but you wouldn’t be surprised if 6-7 teams won the region, and that’s how I feel here.
Shaun: The West Region is a joke, lol. It really is. Just looking at this bracket……. I laugh because I don’t know who could win this. I know your feelings about Gonzaga and their one seed, and that our opinions are different over it. From seedings 1-7, these teams could easily win this region, and it’s hilarious to me. The thing is, who’s favored to win it? Gonzaga? Ohio State? New Mexico? Very curious to see how this region plays out.
Jared: Yeah, don’t get me started again on Gonzaga’s resume. If anything, I thought Miami would end up as their #2 but of course not. If I had to rank the favorites, I’d go New Mexico (1), OSU (2), Gonzaga (3), but wouldn’t be at all surprised if Wisconsin or Pitt or even Zona won it. Zona really did luck out getting this region because, although they aren’t playing well, they could be playing in LA which is a huge bonus. This region has absolute chaos written all over it.
Shaun: See, I thought Miami would be the 1 in the west after they won today, and Gonzaga would be the 2. I agree about Arizona lucking out. When I was watching the selection show live with my grandma, I said, “Arizona is the luckiest team ever to get to play out west after struggling as of late.” I don’t know if Gonzaga will be able to hang on in this region. I’m not the biggest Gonzaga fan out there, but I respect them. I just don’t see them getting through this. Who’s your player to watch? Sleepers? First round upsets?
Jared: I’ve seen enough of Gonzaga to know that they’re talented and deep…but they’re also kinda soft. And who would they draw in the 2nd round? Two teams that can crash the glass. I’m not saying Pitt/Wich St. are going to upset them, but it damn sure wouldn’t surprise me. After all, they did get stomped out at home by mediocre Illinois. I wanted to take Momo Jones as my player to watch — because I love me some Momo — but he draws Aaron Craft in the first round and that’s very unfortunate for him. I’ll go Tony Snell. If New Mexico is going to make a run to the final 4 like I think they can, then it’ll be him who takes them there. Sleeper? I’ll go Wisconsin. I refuse to doubt Bo Ryan, and they play a style that gives unfamiliar teams fits. As for first round upset…Belmont. I know we just got done talking up Zona, but Belmont loves to shoot the 3, and what doesn’t Zona like to do? Guard the 3.
Shaun: For me, the player to watch will be Mark Lyons. It’s simple with Lyons. When you have good Lyons, Arizona is a tough team to beat. When you have bad Lyons or as I call him on twitter #HeroBallLyons, Arizona struggles. He’s not a true point guard, but at the same time, he’s their point guard. He’s one player that can have Arizona lose in the first round, or have Arizona win the West Region. You stole my sleeper in Wisconsin, so I’ll go with Iowa State. Yes, I know Iowa State is inconsistent at times, but they can score. Korie Lucious has been in this position when he was at Michigan State, and I think he can possibly lead his team to win a couple of games. First round upset: 7/10 aren’t upsets, and in this region I have none. However, I have a second round upset with Pittsburgh beating Gonzaga.
Jared: Iowa St. has loads of talent so that really wouldn’t surprise me. I have Wisconsin over Gonzaga, and after much thought, I just can’t pick against OSU with the way that they defend, so OSU over New Mexico; OSU over Wisconsin and to the final four. Who ya got?
Shaun: I have Wisconsin over Pittsburgh, Ohio State over Arizona, and then Ohio State over Wisconsin in the regional final.
Jared: Let’s move on to the South Region, which is probably the 2nd toughest region after the Midwest. I like a lot of the teams in this region…but I don’t love any. You could make a case for any of the top 4 seeds to march into the final 4 (yes, even Florida), but I think that this region sets up extremely nice for VCU.
Shaun: I think seeds 1, 2, 4, and 5 have a legit shot at the final four. I’m counting out Florida. Not because they aren’t talented. They are. But Florida is 0-7 in single digit games this year. I haven’t been sold on them all season long, and I won’t be still. VCU got a lot of love for being a 5 seed. Perks of being in the A-10, eh?
Jared: You go ahead and keep counting out Florida, while I’ll sit here and remember that they’re the only team in the country who rank in the top 5 in both offensive and defensive efficiency. That has to count for something, right? As for the others, KU isn’t losing in KC so just go ahead and move them to the sweet 16, and G’Town has the best all-around player in the country…but we’ve seen this story with them before, so I don’t think I’m letting myself get sucked in by them once more. I’ve been high on VCU all year, and my initial reaction when they and Michigan popped up on the same line was “Burke vs. HAVOC!!!!” Not saying Michigan can’t or won’t win; just saying that VCU’s style of play is so damn hard to prepare for in one day’s time. Can you tell which team I’m leaning toward to win this region?
Shaun: 0-7 in close games. They can be in the top 5 in offensive and defense efficiency, but that doesn’t mean anything when the game gets tight and they obviously choke. KU has a pass until the sweet 16, and then games will get tough. G’Town has one of the best players in America in Otto Porter (between him, Burke and Oladipo), but like you said, JT III is not a coach you can trust. Personally, Michigan is one of the most confusing teams in the country. You’ve been saying all year how you wanted Burke to face VCU’s press, but to be honest, I don’t know if Michigan even gets past the first round.
Jared: Question: what’s KU’s biggest problem? Answer: the lack of a great ball handler. If VCU is their sweet 16 opponent then I’m not sure they’ll be able to handle HAVOC. I’m glad you brought up the possibility of Mich losing in the first round because South Dakota St. has my player to watch in Nate Wolters. I want to believe in Wolters — I really do — but they have nobody else to pick up the slack if he’s struggling so I think Michigan destroys them. This may be the region with the fewest upsets, and the one I’m picking (Minn over UCLA) can’t really be considered one since UCLA caught a bad break with the Adams injury. As for a sleeper team…none. I don’t see any team outside of the top 4-5 seed being able to win this region — not even UNC. Give me VCU over KU; FLA over G’Town; VCU over FLA and to the final 4.
Shaun: My big upset in this region is South Dakota St. over Michigan. It’s not like I don’t like Michigan. But they aren’t playing well right now. I also have Minnesota over UCLA because losing Jordan Adams was huge. Put it like this: In the pac-12 semis, Adams scored 11 straight points when UCLA was down against Arizona and won them the game. I think my player to watch in this region would be Andre Hollins. Minnesota has a pretty good draw here facing a UCLA team who doesn’t have their 2nd leading scorer, and then a Florida team who everyone seems to love more than others. Minnesota is also my sleeper team as I have them in the sweet 16. I know I’ll take heat for saying this, but Carolina got a bad break, and it’s unfortunate that they have to potentially play at Phog East. Anyway, I have Kansas over VCU, G’Town over Minnesota, and I’ve been wavering on this, but give me Kansas over G’Town in the best regional final game of the tournament.
Jared: And finally, the East region. I’m willing to bet that when IU saw the other 15 teams that wound up here, they smiled and quietly thanked the committee for not giving them the #1 overall seed. NC St. has the talent to make a run, but they haven’t yet discovered the concept known as ‘defense’; Butler is the most overrated team — seed wise — in the whole tournament; Cuse…I have absolutely no idea which version of that team will show up; Marquette has overachieved by about 4-6 Ws. Basically, if anyone but IU or Miami win this region, I’ll be more stunned than I was when George Mason made their run in ’06.
Shaun: Tom Crean’s begging finally paid off, eh? Got a one seed with really no challenges unless they don’t show up. NC State was supposed to be at least a 2 seed at the beginning of the season. A lot of talent, but nobody knows which team will show up. My thing about Butler is this: we know Brad Stevens is God, but they’ve struggled after beating Gonzaga. Marquette isn’t that good, period. To me, I feel as the committee made the East and West regions so full of “YOLO,” that it’ll confuse us all. I’m still not even sold on Indiana to be honest with you.
Jared: I love IU, and it’s not just because I love shouting ‘OLADIPOOOOOOO’ at my TV screen. Of the #1 seeds, they clearly have the easiest path to the final four; they’re the deepest, and arguably the most talented team in the country; they have two of the eight best players in the country; AND they’re finally out of college basketball’s version of hell a.k.a the B1G. Sets up perfectly for them to reach Atlanta.
Shaun: I love watching Oladipo, and love watching Hulls shoot. I know they’re good, but….I just don’t know if they have that mental toughness. I know the B1G is bully ball, but they were bullied by Butler, too. But, I do agree that it sets up for them to reach Atlanta. I’m just not convinced in them. Who’s your player to watch in this region?
Jared: Is there really a team in this region that can bully them? I don’t see it. I have two players to watch in this region…well…because I can: Anthony Bennett of UNLV and Mike Muscala of Bucknell. Watch Bennett while you can, because he’s gone in about two weeks. I love Muscala’s game, and he’s the main reason why I think that Bucknell can — and will — upset Butler in the first round. Speaking of upsets…Colorado over Illinois just seems too easy.
Shaun: See, my player to watch is Allen Crabbe of Cal. He can score the basketball with anyone, and I think he can be a household name if he leads Cal to a couple of wins. I have a lot of upsets. To me, Colorado isn’t an upset over Illinois. I think Davidson is gonna beat Marquette, Cal over UNLV, and Montana over Syracuse. It’s not because I don’t think Syracuse is bad. It’s coming across the country to play a game and nobody knows which Syracuse team will show up. What’s your predictions on this region?
Jared: Like Bo Ryan, I refuse to doubt Buzz Williams — he’s probably the most underrated coach in the country — so as much as I’d like to pick Davidson, I just can’t…though it wouldn’t shock me if it happened. Am I crazy to think that Cuse is going straight to the sweet 16? Montana is without their best player, and Cal, nor UNLV for that matter, are a bad match-up for them. I’m actually praying that UNLV/IU match-up in the sweet 16 — Zeller and Bennett would be incredible to watch — but I don’t see it happening. We’ve hardly mentioned Miami in these last six paragraphs: am I impressed by them? Yes. Shane Larkin is a top 5 player in college basketball. But am I completely sold on them? No. The ACC was average at best this year — plain and simple…okay, I have IU over Cuse; Miami over Marquette; IU over Miami and to the final four.
Shaun: I agree with you that the ACC was average this year. But Miami is damn good. I love watching Larkin and Durand Scott play. If Reggie Johnson can find himself — and I think he will — look out. I have IU over Cal. Miami over Butler, and Miami over IU for them to reach the final four. I think Johnson/Gamble will end up bullying Zeller, and I feel as Larranaga is a better coach than Crean.
Jared: I could see that happening, but I’m just not sure that Reggie can run up and down the court with IU…and I firmly believe that Miami going to a smaller lineup wouldn’t be wise against a team that has the offensive prowess of IU.
National Champion Prediction
Jared: Our final fours are set: I have Louisville, OSU, VCU and IU. You have MSU, Zona, KU and Miami. Who’s your national champ and why?
Shaun: This goes against everything I believe in…but I feel like Michigan State will cut the nets down in Atlanta. I know Keith Appling is one of the #AllYOLO players in college basketball, but Izzo can get him in line quickly. Payne and Nix provide a deadly combo in the paint, and I know Gary Harris is banged up, but if he’s able to hit shots, they’ll be tough to beat. If they get past Louisville in the regional final, I can’t see how they don’t win the national title. I have Michigan State over Miami in the title game. How about you?
Jared: A rematch of Miami’s W over MSU in the ACC/B1G challenge, eh? I like that. I’ve said for the past 2 months that I’d take the B1G against the field and I bet I’d win…but that was before Louisville turned up their level of play to a notch that I don’t think any other team in the country can match. As long as Russ Smith and Peyton Siva don’t try to reenact Dumb and Dumber, I think they cut down the nets in Atlanta. So — and I’m going out on the thinnest of limbs here — give me Louisville over IU. The two best teams at the beginning of the year are the two teams left standing on April 8th. One thing I know for sure: most of our predictions will be rendered moot by the end of Sunday night. This tournament is going to be wild, and I. Can’t. Wait.
Shaun: This tournament will be incredible to watch, and I’m happy this year that I get to stay at home to watch the first couple of rounds. I’m excited to see how this will play out in a ridiculous, but fun college basketball season. No matter who wins, they would have had to earn their title, and that’s the beauty of it.
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