A Preview of the Southeast Region: Upset City?

For the first time in quite a while, college basketball has been plagued blessed with what many might call an overabundance of mediocrity. While this rampant evenness in the sport put a lot of pressure on the committee, and as a result led to some controversial seedings, additions, and omissions, it also sets up what many hope (myself included) will be an absolutely crazy tournament. Why? Because mediocrity leads to parity; people may say it's only the former, but it is not common for there to be an abundance of very good teams in the tournament.

The tourney from two years ago (in which all of the 1, 2, and 3 seeds got to the Sweet Sixteen) was particularly boring outside of personal teams, but the next tourney was filled with plenty more buzzer-beaters and upsets. Two 5-seeds faced off in the Final Four, and one of them was mere feet away from beating Duke in the National Championship on a half-court heave. Now what was that you were saying about mediocrity being a bad thing?

Anyways, the Southeast Region of this tournament has what it takes to be the most exciting, or at least surprising, region in the tournament. Thanks to a vastly overrated 2-seed, a depleted 3-seed, and a good amount of parity throughout the rest of the field, the Southeast might just be your main area of focus outside of whichever team you might be rooting for elsewhere. Follow me after the jump to get some insight on what should a crazy quarter section of an already crazy bracket!


Big Ten teams in region: Wisconsin is the 4-seed and Michigan State is the 10-seed in the Southeast Region. Both will have tough tests right from the start. They both have the talent and experience to get to the Sweet Sixteen and farther, but also have intriguing first round opponents that could send them home early.  

Which Big Ten team is likely to go the farthest in the region: Oh my God is this a tough choice. Wisconsin has a tandem of Leuer and Taylor that could lead Wisconsin to the Final Four if they both stayed hot, but they also have a first and second round pod of death; they have to face the upset-minded Belmont Bruins in the first round, and after that will either face a hot K-State team or a sneaky but currently unproven Utah State team. 

Michigan State also plays some Bruins in the first round, the UCLA Bruins from the Pacific 10. MSU has been very up-and-down, but it has normally been a bracket killer to put the Spartans in anything less than the Elite Eight for the past decade or so. Can Izzo take this team to the second weekend? Heck yes he can, I don't doubt him against UCLA or an over-seeded Florida team. That said, I also would not be surprised if they were bounced on Day 1, and that's exactly how I like my tournament: unpredictable.

I'll take Wiscy over Sparty, simply because they've been more consistent all season. That said, they might want to try and score more than 40 points this go-round. 

Most likely upset: There are a ton of match-ups to choose from, but I'll go with Gonzaga over St. John's in the first round or Michigan State/ UCLA over Florida in the second round. D.J. Kennedy's season-ending ACL tear really hurts St. John's chances against a Gonzaga team with talented bigs like Robert Sacre and Elias Harris. As for Florida, I just happen to think that they're over-seeded and ripe for upset in the second round, especially if their opponent is Michigan State. That said, I've probably just guaranteed another Championship for the Gators, so here's a "You're welcome!" in advance.

Most intriguing first round match-up: Another tough decision. Honestly, every game (that's not Pitt versus whatever 16-seed they get) could be closer than expected (especially if BYU and Florida shoot poorly out of the gate) in the first round. Due to my inability to make decisions, I'm going with all games from the 4/12 to the 8/9, so essentially every game besides those with seeds 1, 2, and 3. ODU and Butler should be ugly but interesting, K-State and Utah State should be ugly and interesting, Wisconsin and Belmont should be ugly and interesting, and yes, the other games should be ugly and interesting as well (with the possible exception of St. John's versus Gonzaga). Essentially, if you like teams with talented players and mostly Big Ten mentality slugging it out, the Southeast is definitely for you! (PS: the word of the region is rebounding)

Most intriguing possible later round matchup: I assume this means second weekend games, and while I think K-State/ Wisconsin could be very interesting, I guess I will go with Pitt versus K-State in the theoretical future Sweet Sixteen. These teams had the possibility of meeting in the Sweet Sixteen last year, but Xavier put a stop to that and set up an epic double-overtime game called by none other than Gus Johnson. Maybe if the two meet up this time, we'll get the exciting game that could have been. 

Best potential storyline: Another plethora of choices, so I'll go with a few (I'm such a wuss with this "no clear cut answer" thing, right?)

1. K-State gets to the Elite Eight/ Final Four to officially overcome mid-season slump: Technically they overcame the mid-season slump at the end of the regular season, but getting to the Elite Eight or Final Four would really be a nice feather for Frank Martin's good looking (and incredibly psychotic) hat. After losing to Oklahoma State and Colorado to start Big 12 play, people were already calling for Martin to be fired. Since then, he has rallied the troops (not without letting some of the troops go, though, in Freddy Asprilla and Wally Judge), beaten some good-to-great teams, and got the Wildcats to a slightly over-the-top 5-seed. KSU has a chance to actually make they're pre-season #2 ranking valid.

2. BYU gets to the Elite Eight/ Final Four despite the loss of Brandon Davies: I give huge props to BYU for upholding their honor code in a tough spot with Davies, a Provo native who was more than likely devastated by his dismissal from the basketball team, but it did no favors for the Cougars. They went on to lose their next game to New Mexico at home, and then lose in the MWC Tournament Championship Game against San Diego State. They are now are being looked at as a team that shouldn't get past the second round or Sweet Sixteen. It'll take some big (and consistent) performances from the non-Jimmers, but BYU still has the cogs and bracket parity needed to make a deep run. Oh yeah, and they still have Jimmer Fredette. Don't count out the Cougars.

Honorable mention: Michigan State makes it to the Final Four again, but I honestly would rather not see that happen.  

Most likely to win region: Pittsburgh. The Panthers will have to get over their 'Jamie Dixon can't win the big one' bugaboos, but this is the team in the Southeast with all of the cogs necessary in a possible National Championship run. It'll be tough, but they should (and do) have the best chance to get there.

 

Team in the region that got a raw deal: Florida. They're so vastly over-seeded in my eyes that I could see them suffering a horrid loss to UCSB. And if they get past that hurdle, they then possibly get Michigan State and their magic touch in the tourney. Again, this is all assuring that Florida wins it all, so you Gator fans can thank me later!

Ok, ok, my real team to get a raw deal is Utah State. They have to be fuming with that 12-seed after they ended up as #17 in the final national polls (which would assume a 4-6 seed normally). The committee clearly cared about RPI Top 50 wins, and Utah State just did not have the resume necessary for a 6-seed or higher. That said, a 12-seed for the so-called #17 team in the country is pretty ridiculous. 

Best team mascot: The UC-Santa Barbara Guachos. Because Guachos is a fun word to say, dammit!

Feel-good story of region: St. John's, for rallying around Steve Lavin and getting back to the tourney with style. The DJ Kennedy injury might call for a first-round exit, but with the way this team's year has gone I wouldn't be that surprised if they ended up in the Elite Eight.

Intriguing personality of region: Frank Martin, duh.

Best Beard in the region: Jacob Pullen, duh.

Best name in the region: Utah State guard Pooh Williams. Sources tell me that he loves himself some honey.

My bracket picks (or at least this is one of my brackets):

1st Round:

Pitt over their 16 seed

Butler over Old Dominion

K-State over Utah State

Wisconsin over Belmont

Gonzaga over St. John's

BYU over Wofford

Michigan State over UCLA

Florida over UCSB

2nd Round:

Pitt over Butler

K-State over Wisconsin

BYU over Gonzaga

Michigan State over Florida

Schweet Sixteen:

Pitt over K-State

BYU over Michigan State

Elite Eight:

Pitt over BYU

So there you have it. I feel that my picks are too chalky, but I'm known to get killed by playing it safe. I also said that Wisconsin had the best chance to get farther and then had MSU in the Elite Eight, but you know what they say: Do as I say, not as I do. Anyways, be sure to pay super close attention to the Southeast Region. It's gonna be insanity.

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