|2007 NCAA TOURNAMENT PREVIEW - MIDWEST REGION
March 14, 2007
Jeff, SCS.com Staff Writer
The St. Louis region might be the least exciting region in this year's Tournament. There simply wonít be much variety in terms of teams with Final Four potential coming out of St. Louis. Florida is the tournament's overall #1 seed, although Iím not sure the Gators had the nationís best resume. However, UF is the defending national champion and has tons of talent. The Midwest also has several capable mid-major teams, and several athletic squads that like to get out and score. It will be a fun bracket to watch.
Florida - The committee clearly rewarded the Gators for having the top overall seed. This team has an easy road to Atlanta, and might be the favorite to repeat. They have a terrific inside duo in Al Horford and Joakim Noah, as well as a very good backcourt in Taurean Green and Lee Humphrey. Corey Brewer is a great two-way player.
Wisconsin - The Badgers arenít as imposing as they were a few weeks ago. Since then, starting center Brian Butch went down with an injury, and their offense has lacked consistency. However, Alando Tucker might be the best scorer in nation not named Durant, and Kammron Taylor is very solid at the point.
Oregon - The Ducks could be this yearís Florida. They started out very hot, struggled late in the year, then ran through the Pac-10 Tournament with ease. Oregon has plenty of perimeter shooters, led by Aaron Brooks. Maarty Leunen is a versatile big man. Will the Ducks lack of size hurt them?
Maryland - The Terrapins come into the Tournament as one of the hottest teams in the country ó not including their ACC Tourney loss to Miami. They are experienced and have plenty of athletes to throw at opponents. D.J. Strawberry has developed into the teamís leader, and Gary Williams know how to win.
Notre Dame - I think the Irish are getting overlooked as a sleeper in this region, mainly because of their first-round game against Winthrop. They have big-time scorers on the wings in Colin Falls and Russell Carter, and a developing guard in Tory Jackson. They also have solid big guys.
Winthrop - Hereís the ďsexyĒ pick of the Tournament. However, I think the Eagles have a tough matchup in Notre Dame, who loves to push the ball and score. Despite that, though, Winthrop has the guns to pull it off. Torrell Martin and Mike Jenkins can really shoot the ball, and Craig Bradshaw is solid.
Georgia Tech - The Yellow Jackets could be this yearís double-digit seed to make a run. They have tons of talent, including a great freshmen duo in guard Javaris Crittenton and forward Thaddeus Young. If Georgia Tech focuses on the defensive end, this is not a team Iíd want to play this week.
Most Over-Seeded Team - Butler: Yes, the Bulldogs had a great non-conference season, but they struggled down the stretch and didnít win the regular-season or conference tourney title.
Runner-Up: Purdue: What did the Boilermakers do to deserve a 9 seed? Their resume wasnít nearly good enough.
Most Under-Seeded Team - UNLV: The Rebels should have been a 4 or a 5, but they can be a real sleeper. They are quick defensively, and have a trio of very good scorers.
Runner-Up: Notre Dame: The Irish had a resume to be a slot or two higher.
Team On a Roll - Winthrop: The Eagles are one of the hottest teams in the country. They went undefeated in conference play, and have won 18 in arrow heading into the Dance.
Runner-Up: Davidson: The Wildcats have won 24 of their last 25 games, and are hot.
Team In a Slump - Butler: The Bulldogs started 22-2 before dropping four of their last seven D-1 games. They need to right the ship and start hitting shots.
Runner-Up: Wisconsin: The Badgers have lost three of six, and lost center Brian Butch to injury.
Best First Round Matchup - UNLV vs. Georgia Tech: Both teams like to push the ball offensively and pressure the rock defensively. Expect a high-scoring, up-tempo game.
Runner-Up: Notre Dame vs. Winthrop: This is the popular upset pick of the tourney, and will be a terrific game.
Best Potential Second Matchup - Florida vs. Arizona: Can you imagine all the future pros and terrific athletes in this game? Hopefully the Wildcats focus defensively and make it a game.
Runner-Up: Notre Dame vs. Oregon: Both teams love to shoot the three and score points.
Best First Round Coaching Matchup - Gary Williams vs. Bob McKillop: Williams hasnít been the Tournament in a few years, but is a good NCAA coach. McKillop is one of the most underrated but consistent coaches in the country.
Runner-Up: Mike Brey vs. Gregg Marshall: Brey did a terrific job this year, while Marshall is a hot name.
Best Bet for a First Round Upset - Old Dominion over Butler: Butler is going the wrong way heading into the Tournament, and ODU has the experience and inside-outside balance to pull off the classic 12-5 upset win.
Runner-Up: Davidson over Maryland: The Wildcats have a great backcourt that takes care of the ball. Note: Iím not counting Winthrop over Notre Dame since everyone knows about that one.
Best Player You Know All About - Alando Tucker: Tucker is the nationís best senior, and might be the best scorer in the country besides Kevin Durant. He has terrific body control.
Runner-Up: Joakim Noah: Last yearís Tournament hero is back for another go-round in March.
Best Player You've Never Heard Of - Trey Johnson, Jackson State: If you want to watch a terrific scorer, tune into the 1-16 matchup. Johnson can really fill it up, and will show it on a national stage against the Gators.
Runner-Up: Stephen Curry, Davidson: Curry has unlimited range and is the son of former pro Dell Curry.
Best Name - Trey Johnson, Jackson State: His name fits his game very well. He loves to shoot the ball from deep, and is also effective when driving to the basket.
Runner-Up: Colin Falls, Notre Dame: Watch him ó and his shot ó through the course of the game. Youíll understand why.
Best Reason to Watch this Region - Will Florida succeed in their quest to repeat? The Gators are the favorite to return to the Final Four, and have a shot at being the first repeat champion since Duke.
Runner-Up: How many double-digit seeds will advance? There are several lower-seeded teams with a shot to win their first-round game.
G: Aaron Brooks, Oregon
F: Marcus Willams, Arizona
F: Alando Tucker, Wisconsin
F: Carl Landry, Purdue
C: Al Horford, Florida
This region is loaded with talent, from all positions. There are plenty of future pros, especially with top-seeded Florida. I didnít even include players like Joakim Noah, Ivan Radenovic, Russell Carter, Stephen Curry, and others. The battles all over the court are going to be outstanding to watch.
This region might be the least enticing in the Tournament, in terms of who is going to make the Final Four. Florida is clearly the best team in the region, and will get to Atlanta. However, there are several potential Cinderellas in this region, and there are going to be several lower-seeded teams pulling upsets during the first weekend. Iím interested in nearly every matchup. You should be too.