2010 NCAA Tournament Preview
Kansas is the clear favorite, as they were the pre-season number one, and held the top spot for most of the season, entering the tournament as the number one overall. In the first two rounds Gonzaga could be a little pesky, but they likely won’t be able to throw much of a scare into the Jayhawks when the meet in the second round. Michigan State made a nice run to the title game last year, but has underachieved most of the season still they are a dangerous #5 seed. Maryland also is a solid team helping to make the Midwest Region perhaps the deepest in terms of talent, as their second round match up against Michigan State could be one of the most thrilling games of the entire Tournament. Tennessee is also a dangerous team holding the sixth seed, as they beat both Kansas and Kentucky, but they may not have enough weapons to make a deep run. The #3 seed Georgetown appears to be just hitting their stride and they have the look of a team that could make a long run. The second seed Ohio State could have easily been a top seed in another region, as they look good to reach the Sweet 16 after dispatching UCSB and Oklahoma State.
Regionals @ St. Louis, MO
Kansas, Ohio State, Georgetown, Maryland
Kansas will be the favorite in the regionals and will be in for a fight, as this is the best of the four regions, meaning if the Jayhawks do advance they will have certainly earned it. Georgetown who played in the brutal Big East are a good bet to reach the Elite Eight as they are slightly stronger than the Buckeyes. However, in the end Kansas is the favorite for a reason, they have the deepest most talented team led by Sherron Collins and Cole Aldrich who both have championship experience.
Syracuse earned their first top seed in 30 years, but they will have to travel a long road to get to Indianapolis in the West Regional. While the early rounds are in Buffalo and should provide a good homecourt for the Orange, to get to the Final Four they will need to go through Salt Lake City. After dipatching Vermont the Orange could have a tough time in the second round against Gonzaga, but in the end it would be an unlikely upset for the Zags. Butler of the Horizon League has always been a pesky mid major underdog, and now with a #5 seed they have become the favorites, in the first round at least. The Bulldogs do have the longest current winning streak at 20 games and could be threat to reach the Elite Eight, of course they will have to survive a tough second round showdown against a solid team from Vanderbilt. Pittsburgh is another strong Big East team that could make a long run, as their pod sets up in their favor. Look for Minnesota to stun to Xaiver, as the Gophers are a much more balnced team. Meanwhile Kansas State could emerge as the team to beat in the West, with one of the best backcourts in the Nation, as they should waltz past North Texas and BYU, who will beat Florida in their opener.
Regionals @ Salt Lake City, UT
Syracuse, Kansas State, Pittsburgh, Butler
Who will knock out Syracuse? Like an old Black and White mystery the Butler will do it. The Bulldogs have strong inside presence and should be able to match up will with the Orange, and create the same headaches Georgetown gave them in the Big East opener. However, the dreams of Butler reaching the Final Four will fall just one round short as Kansas State’s backcourt will be the key as the Wildcats reach the Final Four for another showdown with hated rival Kansas.
Kentucky could be the most talented team in the entire field. However, with Freshmen John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins and Eric Bledsoe leading the way the Wildcats could be one of those favorites that end up falling when they face a strong more experienced team. That should not happen in the first two rounds, even though Texas could be a dangerous opponent in the second round. Temple and Cornell were both ripped off, the Owls deserved at least a #4 seed and Cornell should have been at least a #10. Face to face Temple will emerge and will find themselves in a second round thriller against Wisconsin. However, in the end the Badgers will emerge victorious as they have the team that commits the fewest turnovers in the NCAA. Look for a mild upset in the Washington versus Marquette game, as the Huskies come in with a head of steam, winning the Pac-10 tournament. However, the Washington run will end in the second round as New Mexico will leap past Montana, and into the Sweet 16. issouri is another solid Big XII team that should win a game in the tournament, beating Clemson in the opener, but the team to beat is West Virginia, who won the Big East Tournament led by big shot Da’Sean Butler, who will lead the Mountaineers deep into the Big Tournament.
Regionals @ Syracuse, NY
Kentucky, West Virginia, New Mexico, Wisconsin
Kentucky is strong enough to win the entire tournament, but with three freshmen they could be a team that suddenly loses, due to the lack of experience. Enter Wisconsin a team that is well coached and makes few mistakes. If that is not the perfect formula to end the Wildcats dream I don’t know what is. Meanwhile West Virginia will continue its climb to the promise land as they dispatch New Mexico and edge Wisconsin to reach the Final Four since Jerry West led the Mountaineers to the title game in 1959.
Someone on the NCAA Selection committee really wants to see Duke in the Final Four, as they placed the Blue Devils in what is unquestionably the weakest region. It could be the weakest overall region since the NCAA Tournament went to 64 teams. The #2 seed Villanova struggled at the end of the year, Baylor the #3 seed was picked to be at the bottom of the Big XII in the preseason, and though the Bears had a great season and deserved to get a #3 they are not a legitimate Final Four threat. Purdue the #4 seed could be a Final Four team, if Robbie Hummel was healthy, but Hummel blew out his knee and the Boilermakers have not been the same since. In fact look for Sienna who has scored upsets in each of the last two tournaments to beat Purdue and reach the Sweet 16 as the South will be the home of the underdog, as Utah State will stun Texas A&M in the first round. Duke may face its toughest challenge in the second round against Louisville, who should slip past California in the opener. However, in the end Duke will edge Louisville to reach the Sweet 16. Notre Dame could also make a big run, as they looked to be NIT bound early in the season only to turn up the gas and close the season as one of the hottest teams in the Big East, as they reach the Sweet 16 by beating Baylor. However, the true Cinderella will be the Gaels of St. Mary’s who have a strong International roster full of three point shooters who will run amok over Richmond and stun struggling Villanova in the second round.
Regionals @ Houston, TX
Duke, Notre Dame, St. Mary’s, Sienna
Just call it the Catholic Bracket as Duke will find themselves as the overwhelming favorite in a regional with three surprise teams with “god on their side”. However, someone in the NCAA selection committee really loves Duke, who has choked in the last few tournaments and has not reached an Elite Eight in six years, despite being one of the top seeds several times. The Blue Devils won a mediocre ACC this season and get the luxury of a mediocre region and with three underdogs, it’s impossible not to pick them to reach the Final Four, though as they have in the last few years it won’t be a shock to see them slip up somewhere, and perhaps we could see Sienna or St. Mary’s emerge as this year’s George Mason. However, look for the Gaels of St. Mary’s to be the Bell of the Ball as they reach the Elite Eight.
Final Four-Indianapolis, IN
Kansas, Kansas State, West Virginia, Duke
With their backcourt Kansas State can beat just about anybody, except Kansas, who has handed the Wildcats three of their seven losses. In each game K-State has played well, but the Jayhawks have been just too strong. In the semifinal, which could be the best match up of the Final Four it will be more of the same, as they have not been able to solve Sherron Collins and Cole Aldrich all season. The other semifinal between West Virginia and Duke is a coin toss; in the end the Mountaineers who faced a tougher test in the Big East will emerge victorious as Duke’s flaws will be exposed. The Final may end up being anti-climatic as Kansas the favorite all season will have a tougher challenge against their rivals from Manhattan whom they will need to beat for a fourth time to assure that will cut the nets down. However, one thing to remember about Kansas them more than anyone has the pressure of Championship of bust, but it’s a burden they have earned because they are the best and deepest team in the entire field, and they have been the best team all season, and it is why Kansas will bring home their second title in three years.