Commentary

DeCock: NCAA bracket winners and losers

March 18, 2013 

Just like the games they play, there are winners and losers when the NCAA builds the bracket.

No one lost more than Duke, which not only didn’t get a No. 1 seed but was thrown into a region with Louisville, Saint Louis and Oklahoma State, not to mention a potential second-weekend matchup with Michigan State. The Midwest Region is absolutely loaded.

No one is a bigger winner than Middle Tennessee State, which was very much on the bubble after failing to win the Sun Belt and played a difficult nonconference schedule, albeit without winning many of those games. But 28-5 is 28-5. The Blue Raiders have to play St. Mary’s in the First Four, but that’s better than being left out entirely.

As for the rest of the bracket…

DARK HORSES:

1. Pittsburgh (West 8) The Panthers may be that good, solid team from a strong conference that somehow gets overlooked and winds up in the Final Four as everyone says, “Oh yeah, they’re good, I should have picked them.” Louisville last year was one example. Michigan State in 2010 is another.

2. Saint Louis (Midwest 4) Butler coach Brad Stevens has been touting the virtues of the Billikens. They won’t lack for motivation, with Jim Crews taking over after the late, great Rick Majerus died before the season.

3. San Diego State (South 7) There’s going to be one team from the Mountain West that makes a run and it might as well be the Aztecs, who have tournament experience and a couple legitimate stars in Jamaal Franklin and Chase Tapley.

OVERRATED:

1. Michigan (South 4) The Wolverines will be playing home games in Auburn Hills, Mich., so pencil them in for the Sweet 16. But beyond that, they may be in trouble. They have perhaps the national player of the year in Trey Burke, but they were the worst defensive team among the Big Ten elite.

2. Georgetown (South 2) Last year’s loss to N.C. State extended the Hoyas’ streak of failing to make it to the second weekend. They haven’t made it out of a subregional since 2007, going 2-4 in the tournament since. Maybe star forward Otto Porter is good enough to change that. Maybe Florida Gulf Coast could extend Georgetown’s streak.

3. Marquette (East 3) 3-point shooting is the great equalizer in the NCAA tournament. The Golden Eagles are horrible at it – one of the worst teams in the country. That inability to score makes Marquette vulnerable to falling behind to a hot-shooting team – and Davidson could fit the bill.

NO FAVORS:

1. Louisville (Midwest 1), Duke (Midwest 2), Michigan State (Midwest 3) Two potential No. 1s and a would-be No. 2 seed packed into the same bracket. The Midwest may feel like a Final Four, not least because both Duke and Michigan State have won titles in Indianapolis.

2. UNLV (East 5) Not only did the Rebels play California during the regular season, the rematch will be played in San Jose, only 40 miles from Berkeley.

3. As has become the case in recent years, the committee had to ship a few quality eastern teams to western sites by default, and that never ends well. This year’s losers: Saint Louis (Midwest 4) and Syracuse (East 4) in San Jose, and Pittsburgh (West 8) in Salt Lake City.

TOUGHEST REGIONAL:

1. Midwest There’s no arguing this, with the No. 1 overall seed in Louisville along with Duke, Michigan State, Saint Louis, Oklahoma State, Memphis, Creighton and Cincinnati. That’s a lot of firepower.

2. West Some sneaky good teams here, including Ohio State, Pittsburgh and Wisconsin, although they’ll have to battle both geography and Gonzaga. New Mexico, which will be playing close to home, is also a threat.

3. South Top seeds in this bracket get some home cooking, with Kansas in Kansas City, Michigan outside of Detroit, and Georgetown in Philadelphia. But it also may generate upsets, with teams like San Diego State, South Dakota State and Florida Gulf Coast lurking.

4. East Indiana is the only top-10 team in the Ken Pomeroy efficiency ratings in the entire bracket, and there are only three in the top 20.

DeCock: ldecock@newsobserver.com, @LukeDeCock, 919-829-8947

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