Let the madness begin!
South Region Preview
I don’t think there’s a more dangerous #4 seed in the tournament than Michigan. This is a team that was ranked No. 1 in the country earlier in the season and they are led by Trey Burke, a National Player of the Year candidate. In fact, the Wolverines were only a couple bounces away from winning the Big Ten regular season championship. When their offense is clicking, John Beilein’s team is one of the most explosive squads in college basketball.
The bracket sets up nicely for Michigan. If they win their first game against South Dakota State, the Wolverines will likely take on VCU, a team that relies on intense defensive pressure. A player like Trey Burke can open up huge gaps in the defense if he can effectively handle the VCU press. Should Michigan get to the Sweet 16, I like the potential matchups they might get to advance out of the South region.
Player to Watch: P.J. Hairston, UNC
If you didn’t watch the ACC Championship game this past Sunday, you missed an incredible performance from North Carolina’s P.J. Hairston. The sophomore guard scored 28 points on 9-of-17 shooting and kept the Tar Heels close with some unbelievable three-point shots. James Michael McAdoo and Reggie Bullock receive most of the attention for UNC, but Hairston has been the team’s best player over the past month.
When Hairston plays well, North Carolina is capable of playing with anyone in America. His size and strength makes him very effective in the post but he also has NBA range from the perimeter. Hairston is also the type of player who can get hot from outside and completely take over a game. He’s disappeared at times this season, but when he’s on, he elevates UNC to another level.
Upset Alert: Florida
I hate making this call because Florida was one of my preseason picks to reach the Final Four. But when we get to March, I become very weary of teams who struggle in close games.
So far this season, the Gators are 0-6 in games decided by single digits. Yikes!
Florida has tremendous physical talent, but they haven’t had anyone step up and make plays down the stretch in close games. The latest example was against Ole Miss in the SEC Championship game. After struggling with it all year, it’s hard to see how Billy Donovan gets this sorted out by the time the NCAA Tournament starts.
I don’t know if Florida will get upset in its first game against Northwestern State, but the Gators could certainly be in trouble when taking on the winner of the UCLA-Minnesota game.
| || || |