March Madness Betting: Midwest Region Preview
By Robert Ferringo of Doc's Sports Predictions
Since this is the beginning of my 2007 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament predictions and the first of my four NCAA Tournament regional previews I would like to say that my beloved Syracuse Orange got royally screwed this year. I mean, I was speechless. Dumbfounded. Perplexed. Enraged. Convolfulgeoned. That last one isn't even a word, but that's how I felt.
It's simply amazing that total garbage teams like Arkansas, Old Dominion, Georgia Tech and any team not named Ohio State or Wisconsin from that horror of a conference known as the Big Ten made the field over the Orange. I suppose I don't mind Michigan State or Indiana, but Purdue and Illinois are both disgusting, atrocious teams.
The Big 10 earned six bids to the dance last season and zero made it to the Sweet 16. Over the past three seasons only four of the past 14 schools to earn an invite made it out of the first weekend. Yet, over the past four years 13 of 24 Big East schools invited to the dance made the Sweet 16. In the past 12 tournaments the Big 10 has had a losing record three times while the Big East has finished .500 or better every season. Oh, and the Beast has three national titles in the last eight years while the 11 teams in the Big 10 have to go back 20 years to match that trifecta.
Basically, the Big 10 is an inferior basketball conference and is overrated every year. Illinois and Purdue are both pathetic and should not be in the NCAA Tournament over the Orange. My new mission for the Final Four, which is being held in my adopted backyard here in Atlanta, is to hunt down Doug Gottlieb and as many of the members of the NCAA selection committee and go all Beatrix Kiddo on them. It's going to be ugly.
Now that I've gotten that out of my system we can get to my NCAA Tournament predictions and previews. We'll start in the Midwest Region, which will be decided in St. Louis. The first round sites include New Orleans, Buffalo, Spokane and Chicago and the bracket features the defending champions and 10 total schools that either won or were runners-up in their respective conference tournaments.
Here's one man's look at the Midwest (St. Louis) Region:
No. 1 Seed: Florida (29-5 overall, 13-13-1 against the spread)
There's not much you can say about the defending national champions that hasn't already been said. Other than Joakim Noah is a whore and that his celebration dance after winning the SEC Tournament was horrifying on several levels. The Gators rolled through that tourney and have won their last four by an average of 18 points. It will take an incredible effort to beat the Gators, and I really think there are only two teams in this region that can accomplish the feat - Maryland and Oregon.
No. 2 Seed: Wisconsin (29-5 overall, 16-12-1 ATS)
Who would have thought that the loss of a classic, corn-fed, white-bred overachiever would have been so important to a team? Brian Butch's injury has crippled Wisconsin's chances at a national title because of his versatility on offense. The Badgers have scored 56 or more points just once in their last six games and I think they're ripe for an upset.
The Badgers are just 6-6 ATS in their last five NCAA Tournaments, but will have the advantage of playing their opening games relatively close to home in Chicago. Even though Ryan is a master teacher I think UW will limp out of this tourney in the first weekend.
No. 3 Seed: Oregon (26-7 overall, 16-15 ATS)
As long as Aaron Brooks keeps his elbows out of opponent's faces and tucked in on his jumper, the Ducks are dangerous. Brooks is one of the best go-to guys in the nation and leads one of the best backcourts, from top to bottom, in college hoops. The Ducks were just 3-8 ATS on the road but did score an impressive November win at Georgetown. Also, if Oregon advances deep in The Dance look for them getting points. Four of their seven losses came by three points or less.
No. 4 Seed: Maryland (24-8 overall, 17-9 ATS)
If you ignore that baffling loss to Miami (FL) in the first round of the ACC Tournament then the Terps have been one of the hottest teams in the country over the past month. They have five players averaging 10 points or more and are one of the most athletic teams in the entire bracket. Also, this club has veterans at every position except point guard. As a result they struggled against guard-oriented teams like Virginia, Va. Tech and Notre Dame. Gary Williams has already sweated through two shirts thinking about how he'll defend Davidson's star guard, freshman Stephen Curry.
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No. 5 Seed: Butler (27-6 overall, 19-10 ATS)
If you don't already know about A.J. Graves you will soon enough. Though he looks like Timmy from "The Secret of Nimh" he is truly one of the best guards in the country. The Butler did it in the Preseason NIT and proved that their game is transferable to neutral sites while beating Notre Dame, Indiana, Tennessee and Gonzaga. In fact, the Bulldogs went 5-0 in nonconference games against teams in the NCAA Tournament field.
Best first-round match-up: No. 6 Notre Dame vs. No. 11 Winthrop
Since every bobblehead in the country has Winthrop as their sleeper team I guess that means they're no longer a "sleeper". That sucks because the Eagles have been a money team for me for 2+ seasons. Now the bandwagon is a bit crowded, so I think I'll respectfully give up my seat. This is going to be a great game and won't really be an upset regardless of who wins.
Best potential second-round match-up: No. 1 Florida vs. No. 8 Arizona
The Wildcats have been overrated all season, but if they survive against Purdue they have enough talent to play with the Gators for 35 minutes. I think lack of depth for 'Zona will prevent the upset but I could see a first-half scare. Arizona came out of a much stronger conference and is 5-2 against nonconference schools that are in the tournament field. This should be high scoring and highly entertaining.
Upset Alert (first round): No. 14 Miami (OH) vs. No. 3 Oregon
Oregon doesn't have any red-flag losses on their resume to make me think they're prone to an upset. But here's the thing - they looked like they were playing pop-a-shot in the Pac-10 Tournament, shooting 52.3 percent from 3-point land in their three games en-route to the title. You have to expect a big letdown from that hot shooting and a little championship hangover. Miami (OH) is a slow-down, grind-it-out team that owns the No. 10 scoring defense in the country. If they can force a sluggish pace then I think they can frustrate the Ducks.
Upset Alert (second round): No. 10 Georgia Tech vs. No. 2 Wisconsin
I think that any one of the three other clubs in the Chicago pod - Texas A&M CC, Georgia Tech or UNLV - could knock off the Badgers. Tech is a pathetic road team and could easily get rocked by the Runnin' Rebels. But if they move on to face the Badgers I think they match up well underneath and could run UW off the court. That is if TCC doesn't beat them to it.
Dark Horse team: No. 3 Oregon
I know, I know: how can I have the Ducks on upset alert and have them as my dark horse team? The reason is that if they continue their hot shooting - and they have five players who shoot over 40 percent from deep - then they will be an extremely tough out. Guard play wins in March, and they have some of the best in the country. Also, they are 25th in the country in 3-point defense, which would bode well for a potential second round match-up with Notre Dame.
Team That Makes Me Nervous: No. 4 Maryland
I have been a proponent of the Terps all season. I also think that they have the size and strength to really challenge the Gators if they meet up in the Sweet 16. But they lost to Miami (FL) for the second time this season in the ACC Tournament and that is a huge Red Flag Loss. They are good enough to beat North Carolina, but were just 5-5 SU against tournament teams before their late season run. Still, they are 10-3 SU and ATS over the past seven weeks and could either lose in the first round to a very talented Davidson squad or hang around long enough to knock off the defending champs.
Questions or comments for Robert? E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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