Time to turn our attention to the defending national champion Florida Gators, who enter this year's tournament the #1 overall seed (unfairly, if you ask me). They're the team to beat, so let's look at who will be giving them their best shot on the road to Atlanta.
All data from Ken Pomeroy. Teams listed in order of best to worst within each category. National rank for each category in parentheses.
|1||Florida (3)||Wisconsin (5)|
|2||Notre Dame (6)||Maryland (6)|
|3||Arizona (7)||Florida (11)|
|4||Oregon (12)||Purdue (15)|
|5||Georgia Tech (13)||Georgia Tech (32)|
|6||Butler (17)||UNLV (48)|
|7||Wisconsin (20)||Oregon (49)|
|8||Maryland (29)||Notre Dame (50)|
|9||UNLV (55)||Old Dominion (51)|
|10||Purdue (67)||Butler (56)|
|11||Texas A&M-CC (69)||Miami (OH) (66)|
|12||Davidson (72)||Arizona (76)|
|13||Winthrop (73)||Winthrop (78)|
|14||Old Dominion (93)||Davidson (84)|
|15||Miami (OH) (133)||Texas A&M-CC (211)|
|16||Jackson State (253)||Jackson State (307)|
This is our best shot at a #15 over #2 upset. It's definitely not likely, but the Southland Conference champs have a decent enough offense - good enough that, if Wisconsin really struggles with a bad shooting night, we could see a stunner. The Badgers need to pound the ball inside to Tucker and not let the game get into a track meet. If they make the game a half court battle, they'll be fine.
Georgia Tech is grossly underseeded. At least on paper, Georgia Tech's a heck of a lot better than their 10 seed would indicate. Their double-overtime loss in the ACC tournament to a subpar Wake Forest team seems to have scarred them in the committee's eyes, but they seem plenty capable of getting to the Sweet 16 and causing some trouble. This is certainly the 10 seed with the most quality wins (Duke twice, UNC, Purdue, Memphis, Boston College).
Anyone in this bracket can challenge Florida. The road to Atlanta seems gift wrapped for the Gators, unless you're a bigger fan of Wisconsin than I am. Maryland is a dangerous team, but it's hard to imagine them scoring enough to take down a team as deep and balanced as Florida. It's going to be difficult to pick against the Gators in any of their matchups.
Notre Dame can make a deep run. Some Irish fans are lamenting their draw, but if they do get past Winthrop (and they should), the bottom half of the Midwest is up for grabs. The Irish can score in bunches, so much so that if they're hitting their three point shots, I actually think they're the favorites to reach the Elite Eight. The Notre Dame team that nearly beat Georgetown in the Big East semifinals is a scary one. We'll see if that's the group that shows up to play this weekend.
Best First Round Game: (7) UNLV vs (10) Georgia Tech Both teams might be underseeded and the winner is going to have a solid chance at advancing to the Sweet 16. The concern for UNLV is playing away from their home floor, where they were a decidedly better team.
Lowest Seed Most Likely To Make Noise: Georgia Tech As noted several times now, the Yellow Jackets are the best 10 seed we've seen in some time. There's no reason they can't get to the Regional Final if they're playing their best basketball. That's a big if with such a young team, but don't overlook this group.
Scariest Team In The Region: Notre Dame Any time you get a club with an offense that can score in bunches, you've got a chance to make a deep run in the NCAAs. If the Irish struggle from the outside, they're in trouble, but if they shoot like they did throughout most of the Big East season, they're capable of beating anyone. Watch closely to see how the Irish start from the perimeter - if they're feeling it, duck.
Final Four Favorite: Florida There are some interesting lower-seeded teams in this region, but let's face it, this bracket is Florida's to lose. The Gators have the size, the balanced scoring, and the defense to roll through this Midwest bracket without so much as a hiccup. Gator fans may want to look into Atlanta travel plans now.