We continue our tournament coverage with a look at the Midwest Region, a bracket full of teams who've struggled to put it all together for the full season, but are at their best teams you want no part of.
The breakdown begins with a look at the bracket's top teams from top to bottom in terms of offensive and defensive efficiency (as rated by Ken Pomeroy), followed by analysis of the region's statistical make up. The regional preview concludes with a session of Tourney Talk between AW and PB.
All data from Ken Pomeroy. Teams listed in order of best to worst within each category. Each team's national rank is listed in parentheses.
|Bracket Rank||Offensive Efficiency||Defensive Efficiency|
|1||Kansas (1)||Wisconsin (1)|
|2||Georgetown (16)||Kansas (3)|
|3||Kansas State (22)||Georgetown (8)|
|4||Wisconsin (23)||Southern Cal (11)|
|5||Clemson (24)||Clemson (14)|
|6||Vanderbilt (33)||Kansas State (19)|
|8||Davidson (44)||Villanova (43)|
|9||Southern Cal (47)||Davidson (38)|
|10||UNLV (59)||Kent State (46)|
|11||UM-Baltimore County (60)||UNLV (58)|
|12||CS-Fullerton (71)||Vanderbilt (77)|
|13||Villanova (74)||Siena (112)|
|14||Kent State (96)||Portland State (164)|
|15||Portland State (106)||CS-Fullerton (171)|
|16||Siena (111)||UM-Baltimore County (276)|
Full bracket analysis, including Tourney Talk, after the jump.
My impression is that I stand in awe of this bracket far more than most, and though I agree with many of the concerns raised about the teams in this region, I stand firmly by my belief that this is the bracket most stocked with teams I want nothing to do with.
Setting aside my subjective opinions for a moment, the numbers themselves speak to the region's strength. For starters, the nation's most efficient offense (Kansas) and defense (Wisconsin) are slotted here. Nipping at the Badgers' heels in terms of defensive efficiency are Kansas (3rd), Georgetown (8), Southern Cal (11), Clemson (14), and Kansas State (19).
Now add the subjective element: each of the aforementioned teams, Wisconsin excepted, is positively erupting with athletic talent:
- Georgetown is equal parts deep, athletic, and freaky (see: roaming 7-foot pigeon in the paint).
- Kansas is loaded with talent and a dizzying system that pressures ballhandlers better than anyone in the country.
- In terms of pure athletic prowess, there may be no team outside Memphis who can offer what the Trojans can.
- Anyone who watched the ACC Tournament now knows well that a healthy, hungry Clemson team is the closest thing to 40 Minutes of Hell that college basketball has.
- Kansas State's an incomplete, puzzling team more often than not, but when everything clicks, they're a terrifying team. (Witness their utter destruction of quality teams at Bramlage in January and early February.)
Add it all up, and this is an absurdly athletic region, filled with teams who on their best day can take down anyone in the country. And beyond that, the lower seeded teams in the Midwest are among the strongest in the field. Davidson and Villanova each have very healthy profiles, and the team's three lowest seeded teams are all above average offensive clubs. 15-seed UMBC boasts the nation's 60th best offensive efficiency rating, with 14-seed CS Fullerton (71) and 16-seed Portland State (106) not far behind. (PB)
PB: I know you love Kansas to emerge from this region, but the depth of scary teams here makes this a very interesting one to me. Who do you like outside the Jayhawks?
AW: I like Kansas because they are in the top half of this region. Your bottom half is way more stacked, like the top half of the South region. USC-Kansas State is maybe the most compelling first round game of them all. OJ Mayo, Michael Beasely, and Bill Walker. Yes, please.
But to answer you're question, I like Georgetown but am not in love with the Hoyas. I like Wisconsin because they are efficient on both ends, but I'm gonna take a flyer and predict the Trojans get it all together and make the Elite Eight.
Are you sticking with the Jayhawks?
PB: Believe it or not, I haven't filled out a single bracket yet. I consider my mind still open as I continue to poke and prod for new information on teams. And this region, along with the East, seems impossible to sort through.
AW: You briefly touched on the team with the longest winning streak in the country, Davidson. What do you make of them and do they have a shot to win two in their home state?
PB: I love them to beat Gonzaga, who looked mediocre to me when I watched them play live. But I struggle to pick them past the Hoyas, who you know I like. As far as 10-seeds go, though, they’re a terrific team.
AW: I agree. It's tough to see them getting two. Let me ask you about another team that is dear to your heart, Vandy. The Dores are athletic and tournament-tested but have had some trouble winning outside of Nashville this season. Are they capable of getting to the Sweet 16 or are they an unlikely 4-13 upset waiting to happen?
PB: I'm not a big Vandy believer, and think Clemson is the more dangerous team right now. As they've gotten healthy, they've rounded into form, becoming a team that can absolutely wreck you with pressure and athleticism. Though I think Villanova has the guards to deal with Clemson (upset alert?), my dream Sweet 16 in this region features Kansas-Clemson and Georgetown-USC. The regional semis might just outshine whatever regional final follows it.
AW: I'm with you on doubting Vandy but the girlfriend is an alum, so I'll have them win at least one game. Last question for the Midwest expert: what makes the Hoyas so good? They made the Final Four last season and even without Jeff Green appear poised for another deep run. Is it the offense, defense, JT3, the influence of AI - what?? And does KU have what it takes to eliminate the Hoyas?
PB: [pause] CatLab has just sent me his Texas March Madness hype video I begged him to make.
AW: Wow, I imagine that is what a shroom trip looks/feels like.
PB: I love CatLab.
Ok, I'm back and ready to roll.
On the Hoyas: I've got a piece running tomorrow at Basketball Prospectus that charts data from each of the past three NCAA Tournaments to look for traits that Sweet 16 (and Final Four) teams share in common. One of the strongest indicators for success is two-point field goal percentage - offense and defense. The Hoyas? 5th nationally on two-point offense, 3rd in two-point percentage allowed. If they can cut their turnovers down by 10-20%, they'll be as tough an out as anyone in the country.
AW: So, who you going with Kansas or Georgetown?
PB: I can't make up my mind yet. I'm not sure Kansas' road is as clear as some believe, but neither is Georgetown's. As noted in my commentary above, this is the bracket which gives me the most trouble. You'll know when I know, which will probably be when you and I reveal our picks Thursday morning on the site.
AW: Fair enough. Anything else stand out to you in this bracket? Team seeded too high or too low? Interesting potential second or third round game? Or lowest seed likely to make some noise?
PB: I think this is the most compelling bracket, from start to finish. The first round games are interesting, the upset potentials are everywhere, the low seeded teams are scary as hell, and there are potential blockbuster regional finals. There's tons to love here. What about you? Who you got?
AW: I'm taking Kansas over either Wisconsin or USC in the Elite Eight. I'm more of an old school, Iverson G'town fan than a present day one. They are certainly efficient but I think without Jeff Green this year's team falls a little short of the prize.
Hey, Mt. Saint Mary's just won! The NCAA Tournament has begun! Sort of.
PB: And we're underway....
AW: Is there anything less necessary than the play-in game? We can't just take one less team? That is too difficult? I don't get it.
PB: My take is generally that it's a no harm, no foul situation. Two teams play on national TV that never would otherwise. One team gets a tourney win. I'm okay with it, even though I see your point.
AW: It has to be about money, right? When things in collegiate athletics don't make sense, then it is usually about dollar bills. But how much money can the NCAA possibly make with one Tuesday night game in Dayton between two teams that certainly don't have many traveling fans?
PB: Well, with the play-in game, that's one more at-large team that makes it. The money comes in on the weekend, as well.
AW: You would still have 64 teams that start on Thursday. You would just be getting rid of the 65th team on Selection Sunday instead of waiting until Tuesday to deem them unworthy.
PB: Didn’t we add an auto-bid conference, though? Or add an at-large berth? I guess I'm not clear on that.
AW: Yes, they added an automatic big a few years ago and instead of eliminating one at-large berth, they just decided to go with 65 teams and have a play-in game on Tuesday.
PB: There you have it. Keep the at-large, create this weird play-in thing. Superfluous though it may be, more basketball isn’t something I resent. Can Thursday get here soon enough?