Our tour of the bracket begins with Texas' regional in the East.
After the jump, full analysis of why this draw is a relatively friendly one for the 'Horns, but to get there, we'll need the efficiency numbers from the charts below.
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||Pittsburgh (2)||Florida St (12)|
|2||UCLA (3)||Duke (17)|
|3||Duke (4)||Xavier (18)|
|4||Oklahoma St (16)||Minnesota (20)|
|5||Tennessee (17)||Villanova (24)|
|6||Wisconsin (24)||Texas (26)|
|7||Villanova (25)||Pittsburgh (34)|
|8||Xavier (44)||UCLA (37)|
|9||Texas (45)||VCU (48)|
|10||VCU (75)||Wisconsin (60)|
|11||Portland St (79)||Tennessee (71)|
|12||Minnesota (88)||Oklahoma St (73)|
|13||Florida St (95)||American (124)|
|14||East TN St (106)||East TN St (149)|
|15||American (117)||Binghamton (159)|
|16||Binghamton (178)||Portland St (200)|
EAST REGIONAL BREAKDOWN
Best First Round Match Up: (8) Oklahoma State vs (9) Tennessee Your prop bet of the regional: Will there be more total seconds used or left remaining on the teams' shot clocks after 40 minutes? Both teams want to push and pop, and both have the athletes to do it. If it stays close throughout, this game could feature two dozen lead changes.
Sexiest Cinderella Pick: (11) Virginia Commonwealth Did you know VCU beat Duke two years ago? And that they feature two future NBA players?? By now, everyone's heard those tidbits ad nauseum, and though I do think Maynor v. Collison is a really exciting match up, the Rams' poor rebounding makes them a poor fit to exploit the Bruins' weaknesses (ditto Villanova, for that matter). Larry Sanders will need some help in the paint for VCU to pull their second shocker in three years.
Tantalizing Underdog With Little Chance To Win: (16) East Tennessee State I checked the Vegas lines for this one, hoping the Bucaneers might get the usual 25-30 points gifted a 16-seed. Alas, no luck as the top-seeded Panthers are "mere" 20-point favorites. This one could stay interesting for a half if Pitt starts off cold shooting and Hamlin/Brown can do a decent job keeping Blair from going bonkers on the boards. The Buccaneers love to get out and push the pace; Pitt may take a while to adjust. Maybe.
Stone Cold Lock: (2) Duke -23 over Binghamton The Devils have been underwhelming in the tournament the last few years, but they're going to have no trouble whatsoever blowing Binghamton out of the building. I expect a 23-point lead by halftime.
Home Court Advantage: (3) Villanova They're the best team in their pod. And they're playing in Philadelphia. Neither American nor the UCLA/VCU winner look like good bets to get past the Wildcats in their home city.
The Draw For Texas: I'm Not Complaining I'm as aware as anyone that Texas is perfectly capable of crapping out against the Gophers. Minnesota is functionally identical to Kansas State, and it's not at all difficult to imagine Texas either (1) losing in similar fashion to the Austin debacle (a Gopher guard has a hot night and shoots way above his average) or (2) limping past Minnesota much as the 'Horns just did KSU in Oklahoma City. On the bright side, the season has mentally prepared us for just about anything. Would you really be shocked if Texas gave up 20 each of offensive boards and turnovers? I thought not.
The flipside, of course, is that this Texas team has played well enough at times to beat high quality competition. Like... higher-seeded bracket-mates UCLA and Villanova. So there's hope. And if the "Good Texas" team shows up and puts it all together in Greensboro, there's a perfectly good chance they'll knock out Minnesota and Duke in succession, with a team they've already defeated waiting in the Sweet 16.
This is a Duke team that will give up offensive rebounds in bunches and defends the perimeter much better than the paint. Playing Texas straight up, they don't have a great answer for Dexter Pittman, who at his best is capable of outright taking over a game. Even in his much rawer sophomore form, he was a decisive menace against Stanford in the Regional semis. He's perfectly capable of taking Coach K out of his defensive game plan and keying a strong Texas offensive attack.
And if you really want to look ahead, there's not much that needs saying about Nova and UCLA -- Texas can beat them. And Pitt? I keep seeing Texas fans lamenting the Panthers as the toughest 1-seed draw in the field, but.... I'm not inclined to agree. The nightmare for Texas is suffocating length and outrageous defense. Pitt presents a world of challenges for Texas, but not super-elite defense which scares me most. But we'll cross that bridge if we get there.... This Texas team hasn't defeated three-straight tournament teams all season long.