Need a quick rundown of each region before you fill out your tournament bracket? Not to worry! Our resident expert Nolan Shulman fills you in on his upset alerts, key players, bracket champions, and much more…
On paper UNC Ashville is the highest scoring offense in the East region. The Bulldogs averaged 81.2 points per game. That said, they put up those numbers against the Big South Conference and as a result, we’re giving the nod to the #1 ranked Orange. They averaged 74.7 ppg, yet their leading scorer (Kris Joseph) averages just 14.1 per. No team in the country is better in transition and no team in the country has a deeper and more reliable bench. While it may be lop-sided, expect that first round tilt to be a high scoring affair.
The #4 scoring defense in the country has held opponents to just 54.8 points per game. While many will point out they play in a cupcake conference, (Ivy League) it isn’t as black and white when you break it down. In their non-conference schedule they held Florida State to just 47 points, Boston College to 46, Utah to 47, and Central Florida to 49. Regardless of the opponent, these guys can lock up !!
At first glance you are probably looking at this and saying “are you nuts!”. Yes, FSU has beaten Duke and North Carolina twice and is playing their best basketball of the season. However, they’re also susceptible to losing games they are supposed to win. They may be ACC Champs and a #3 seed, but they’ve also suffered losses to Princeton, Clemson, Boston College, and Miami; all non-tournament teams. FSU could get hot and win the whole darn thing, but they’re also very capable of coming out flat and getting sent home early. Meanwhile, the Bonnies are hot at the right time (A-10 Tourney Champs) and Andrew Nicholson has been balling out of late.
When Jared Sullinger announced he wasn’t planning on declaring for the 2011 NBA entry draft, he did so with the understanding that he was passing up an opportunity to be a top 5 pick in order to finish what he started and lead the Buckeyes to a National Championship. He dropped weight, piled up 13 more double-doubles, and once again has Ohio State in a position to make a run at cutting down the nets in the first week of April.
John Jenkins, Vanderbilt (6-7, SF, Junior)
Jenkins is the definition of a one man zone buster and the leading scorer for the SEC Champs (19.9ppg). He’s the best three point shooter in the 68 team field and he’s not afraid to put them up in bulk. Jenkins hoisted 10+ bombs 10 times this season, and leads the nation in three-point field goals per game. A potential Sweet 16 matchup with the Orange and their famous 2-3 zone would likely hinge on whether or not Jenkins can fill it up from downtown.
Andrew Nicholson, St. Bonaventure (6-9, C, Senior)
Nicholson was one of the best kept secrets in the country until leading the Bonnies to a surprising A-10 tournament Championship. His 26 point, 14 rebound performance punched their ticket to the dance where the Canadian senior hopes to continue to open the eyes of NBA General Managers and cement his first round draft stock.
Anyone who watched Syracuse in the Big East Tournament immediately came to the conclusion that Dion is no bench player. He scored 46 points in two games at Madison Square Gardens and would start for 99% of teams in America. In fact, many would argue Dion is Syracuse’s best overall player. He brings instant offense off the Orange bench and is the one guy Syracuse has who can beat his man off the dribble anytime he wants. If the Cuse are going to advance to New Orleans and play in the final four, Dion will not only need to play like a starter but he’ll need to play like a star.
He wasn’t a Top 100 player coming out of high school and there were some whispers prior to the season about Pangos being a product of the Canadian hype machine and not worthy of the notoriety he received north of the border. 30+ games later, Kevin has proven he’s not only worthy, but he’s among the best freshman point guards in the land. Pangos leads the Zags in points, assists, and steals and is the current engine of the original cinderella.
Few took over the Zags in 1999 and led them to the Sweet 16 in his first two seasons. While many were calling it a Cinderella run, Few has proven since that it was anything but. He won the WCC coach of the year 6 straight seasons and has won 23 games or more in every year since he took over. He’s turned down tons of high profile jobs to stay with Gonzaga and has successfully recruited countless high major players to the West Coast Conference. Simply put, if the Zags go deep again this year they won’t be dubbed Cinderella.
A Wisconsin/Syracuse showdown will be a clash of two different styles. The Cuse will want to get out and run, while the Badgers will try to slow the tempo down and out excecute the Orange in a slug it out half court affair.
On the other side of the bracket, Cincy will build on the momentum they picked up in New York City and escape the first weekend. They’ll run into a talented Ohio State team that has balance, star power, and a chip on their shoulder following a Big Ten Championship game collapse down the stretch.
Syracuse has struggled to score in the half court vs. teams that apply good ball pressure and Ohio State’s Aaron Craft is the best on ball defender in the country. Sullinger will be the best player on the court, has a history of winning big games (owns a State Championship and AAU National Championship) and came back for one reason and one reason only; to win a National Championship.
Nolan Shulman is the Community Manager and Senior Basketball Analyst at FantasyFeud.com. His work has been appeared on various news outlets including SLAM Magazine, FUEL Magazine, The FAN590, Rivals.com, and the NBE Basketball Report. He was formerly the National Recruiting Analyst for FlagrantFouls.com, Editor and Chief of The Ultimate Recruiting Handbook, and operated a scouting service for college coaches.