Frank shares his Tournament picks

Frank shares his Tournament picks

Greg Frank ('13), Eastside Sports Editor

With the field of 68 announced Sunday night here is my breakdown by region and eventual national champion.

Midwest Region:

No. 1 Seed- Louisville: In a season in which it’s been hard to gauge at all who the nation’s top team is, the Cardinals are your best bet right now as they enter as the tournament’s number one overall seed and coming off of three wins at Madison Square Garden in the Big East Tournament, the third of which came against Syracuse in the championship game.  They made it all the way to the Final Four last year, and perhaps will do it again this year.  They’ll go as far as senior point guard Peyton Siva can carry them.

 

Team to Watch- Michigan State:  It’s March again and Tom Izzo’s team is in with a chance to reach the final four yet again.  Izzo has sent the Spartans to six final fours since 1999 and Michigan State was a number one seed in last year’s tournament only to fall victim of an upset in the Sweet 16 at the hands of Louisville.  Perhaps they can extract some revenge and knock off Louisville in what could end up being the Midwest regional final.

 

Player to Watch- Doug McDermott (Creighton): This 6’8’’ forward is one of the more prolific scorers in the nation averaging over 23 points per game and shooting almost 50 percent from the three point line this season.  He’s also a very good rebounder averaging almost eight boards a game.  Often times the mid major programs that make runs in the NCAA tournament have players like McDermott that can carry the load much like Steph Curry did back when he got Davidson to the regional final.  McDermott will have to do the same for Creighton if they are to go deep in this region, especially if they get past Cincinnati and in all likelihood would see Duke in the next round.

 

Regional Champion- Louisville: As much as I like Michigan State, and I did pick them to beat Duke in the regional semifinal, Louisville is at the top of their game at the perfect time.  They haven’t lost in about six weeks since they lost in five overtimes at Notre Dame on February 9th.  But they’ve since beat Notre Dame twice, and Villanova and Syracuse were two teams they lost to in the regular season that they beat in the Big East Tournament leaving no doubts about their Big East supremacy.  I haven’t said much about Duke here and they’re definitely in the mix in this region with Michigan State and Louisville, but Duke has a hit or miss tournament almost every year.  In six of the previous seven NCAA tournaments, Duke has failed to make it past the Sweet 16 and last year was probably the most embarrassing exit of all as they lost to 15th seeded Lehigh.  Factor that in with my strong belief in Louisville and Michigan State and I don’t think Duke can come out of this region.  In a nail-biting regional final, Louisville edges out Michigan State.

 

West Region:

 

No. 1 Seed- Gonzaga: There’s much to be talked about when you see a team from the WCC as a number one seed.  Gonzaga did play a tough nonconference schedule this season and beat tournament teams Oklahoma, Davidson, Kansas State, and Oklahoma State and there’s no doubt their seed is justified as they’ve only been on the short end of the stick twice this year.  Both their losses also came in the nonconference schedule and both teams that beat them are now in the field (Illinois and Butler).  There’s a possibility Gonzaga sees one of the teams they played in the nonconference as early as the sweet 16 as Kansas State is the four seed in this region.  The only other tournament team from the WCC is St. Mary’s who Gonzaga beat twice this season so they’re legitimacy as a number one seed is justified but of late they’ve been playing lots of WCC teams and adjusting back to the level of competition they played in the nonconference may be tough.

 

Team to Watch: Pittsburgh- Jamie Dixon has always maximized the potential of his teams in his tenure at Pitt, a school at which he’s been coaching at since 2003.  Dixon won 188 games in his first seven seasons at Pitt which tied the NCAA Men’s Division I record for most wins in the first seven seasons of a head coaching career.  I think they’re under seeded and should be higher than an eight but losing their first game in the Big East Tournament to Syracuse maybe explains why they aren’t.  That being said, they have some nice wins in the Big East this year, highlighted with a win against Georgetown in Washington D.C. on January 19th.  The battle-tested Panthers having played a high level of competition in the Big East, which is always the case, are a team I’m keeping my eyes on and I expect them to make a run all the way to the regional final.

 

Player to Watch: Solomon Hill (Arizona)- Senior leadership is always important in the tournament and Hill is a seasoned veteran for the Wildcats and in a region that’s wide open on a team that was in a regional final just two years ago, Hill and company have a shot to get back to the elite eight and potentially even further.  Hill well rounded player that can step outside but also has the ability to score down low and hit the glass when necessary. Arizona will need him leading the way if they are to make deep run.

 

Regional Champion: Ohio State- The Buckeyes are one of the hottest teams in the nation having won the Big 10 tournament which worked wonders for their seed as they now are a two in the softest of the four regions.  They fought through a tough Big 10 regular season and much like what I said about Pitt being tested in the regular season in the Big East, the same applies to Ohio State as I expect them to reach their second straight final four.

 

South Region:

 

No. 1 Seed: Kansas- Maybe Bill Self was trying to motivate his Jayhawks after a bad conference loss this season against TCU calling them the worst team he’s coached in his tenure at Kansas.  Since that loss in early February, Kansas has only lost twice and is back as one of the top seeds in 2013, a year after reaching the national championship as a two seed last year.

 

Team to Watch: Michigan- In the NCAA tournament it always helps to have good efficient scoring guards to look to for points especially in late game situations.  Michigan has a great backcourt featuring Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr.  Both Michigan and Kansas were highly ranked teams in the preseason and I expect them to see each other in the Sweet 16.  Michigan fought through the best conference in the country to get to the tournament and in a region with only one other Big 10 team, maybe they can make some noise.

 

Player to Watch: James Michael McAdoo (North Carolina)- While only a sophomore, McAdoo played big in key spots for the Tar Heels this season putting up very respectable averages of 14 points and seven rebounds.  This UNC team has underachieved thus far but could salvage things with a couple wins in the tournament especially if they knock off Kansas avenging a loss last year which cost the Tar Heels a trip to the Final Four.  McAdoo will have to continue to step up as an underclassmen in order for that to happen.

 

Regional Champion: Georgetown- Otto Porter is one of the nation’s best players and quite frankly I can’t see many teams giving Georgetown a run for their money in this bracket with the exception of Kansas, whom I think they’ll edge out in the regional final.

 

East Region:

 

No. 1 Seed: Indiana- The preseason number one in all the polls has had some ups and downs but have found their way into the top seed in this bracket.  Victor Oladipo and Cody Zeller have given Indiana a nice inside-outside combination and maximize their options in half court sets.  They should be able to make it to the regional final barring any surprises as the top half of this bracket isn’t too strong, and once they get there they may not slow down.

 

Team to Watch: Miami- I really like this team.  They won the ACC tournament, crushed Duke by 25 points, and have a coach in Jim Larranga that took George Mason to the Final Four previously in his coaching career.  Shane Larkin does a good job operating the controls and if all goes well for Larkin and company maybe they wind up in the Final Four.

 

Player to Watch: Rotnei Clarke (Butler)- Clarke was hurt for a short stint this year and was surely missed in a loss to La Salle and Butler struggled to get passed Richmond without him.  He’s averaging almost 17 a game and shooting the three better than 40 percent.  Brad Stevens may need another Shelvin Mack or Gordon Hayward kind of player to heat it up from the outside in order to make another deep run.  Clarke’s his best bet.

 

Regional Champion: Indiana- I’m predicting an Indiana-Miami South Regional Final in what could be the best game of the entire tournament.  This bracket isn’t extremely deep with Marquette in as the three off a loss in their first game at the Garden, Syracuse in as the four a team I have no faith in at all, UNLV is fifth and Butler sixth.  I think Butler’s in with an outside shot to do some bracketbusting but I’ll stick with chalk here and take Indiana over Miami in a back and forth regional final.

 

Final Four and National Championship: When all is said and done I’m rolling with Louisville over Ohio State in one of the national semifinals, Indiana taking down Georgetown in the other, and then I’ll take Indiana to cut down the nets after defeating Louisville in the national championship.  Buckle up.  The madness is here.