Mar 17, 2014, 8:59 AM EDT
No surprise here as Florida got the No. 1 overall seed and took the top line in the South Region, setting them up for a path through Orlando and Memphis on the way to North Texas.
Here’s the other thing: the way the bracket breaks down is as favorable for Florida as it is for any No. 1 seed in the bracket. The shouldn’t be pushed by Spencer Dinwiddie-less Colorado or a Pitt team that has beaten exactly one quality team this season, they matchup as will with UCLA as they do any team in the country, Syracuse hasn’t played well in a month and a half and Kansas may not make it out of the first weekend without Joel Embiid in the lineup.
It’s not a cakewalk — it never is at this time of year — but when you combine the fact that Florida is the best team in the country with being coached by a guy that’s what two titles and took a team led by Kenny Boynton to the Elite 8 the past three seasons, and what you get is a Final Four favorite and a serious National Title contender.
Three story lines to watch
- 1. Joel Embiid’s back: Kansas’ star center and a future top three draft pick, Embiid missed the last two games of the regular season and the Big 12 tournament with a stress fracture in his spine. He’s not expected to play in the first weekend of the tournament, either. Are the Jayhawks a contender without him?
- 2. Will Syracuse ever be back?: The Orange won their first 25 games of the season. Since then, they’ve lost five of their last seven and while their offense has completely stalled. Is this as simple as the Orange being in a slump — they’re playing like their confidence is completely shot — or is their identity that of a horrid offensive basketball team?
- 3. Will UCLA’s defense be enough to make a run?: This Bruin team is as talented and entertaining as any in Westwood since Steve Lavin was still slicking his hair back. Kyle Anderson, the 6-foot-9 point guard nicknamed Slo-mo, is the engine that makes their uptempo offense run. But in order for the Bruins to make a run, they need their defense to play the way it did during the Pac-12 tournament.
The Elite 8 matchup is…?: No. 1 Florida vs. No. 2 Kansas
There are going to be a lot of people picking No. 7 seed New Mexico to upset Kansas in the Round of 32, and I’ll be honest, I might end up doing the same once I officially fill out my bracket. New Mexico is playing as well as they have all season long, their offense is built around a pair of talented, physical veteran post players in Cameron Bairstow and Alex Kirk, and Kansas, who hasn’t played defense in a couple of weeks, will likely be without Joel Embiid. But it’s worth noting that Stanford actually matches up very will with the Lobos in the Round of 64, and Kansas is still coached by Bill Self and will still feature a trio of first round picks, including potential No. 1 pick Andrew Wiggins.
Final Four sleeper: New Mexico
Back to the Lobos, there are three names that you really need to know with this group: Cameron Bairstow, Alex Kirk and Kendall Williams. Bairstow is the best post-scorer in the country, a behemoth on the block that is the nation’s single-most improved player. Kirk is a pick-and-pop seven-footer with some size and the ability to block shots. Williams is the reigning MWC Player of the Year and is having a better season this year despite barely being in contention for the award. He takes, and makes, a lot of big shots.
Best opening round matchups
- No. 12 Stephen F. Austin vs. No. 5 VCU: Talk about an intriguing clash of styles. VCU runs their ‘Havoc’ pressure defense, hounding their opponents for 94 feet for 40 minutes. SFA? They played more of a half-court style, but they pressure on the wings and jump passing lanes. Both rank top three nationally in defensive turnover percentage.
- No. 11 Dayton vs. No. 6 Ohio State: A little in-state rivalry? Dayton’s Jordan Sibert vs. the team he transferred away from. Thad Matta can’t duck Archie Miller now.
Matchups to root for
- No. 1 Florida vs. No. 2 Kansas: Arguably the two best coaches in college basketball. The best team, a senior laden group without much NBA potential, vs. a team with possibly the top two picks in the NBA Draft. Just hope Embiid is healthy for it.
The studs you know about
- Andrew Wiggins, Kansas: He’s been overanalyzed, but remember: he’s the leading scorer, third-leading rebounder and best perimeter defender on a top five team.
- Jordan Adams, UCLA: Anderson gets all the publicity for the Bruins, but Jordan Adams was the team’s leading scorer this season.
- Scottie Wilbekin, Florida: He’s terrific in the pick-and-roll and a killer in crunch-time. He’s the go-to guy for Florida at the end of games.
The studs the nation will find out about
- Cameron Bairstow, New Mexico: I’m telling you, he’s a beast now. You’ll see.
- David Brown, Western Michigan: Brown is the leading scorer for WMU and a guy good enough to carry WMU to a Round of 64 win.
Upsets that ARE happening
- No. 7 New Mexico over No. 2 Kansas: Here’s the thinking: without Embiid, the Jayhawks can’t stop Bairstow and Kirk inside, and Deshawn Delaney is athletic enough to keep Wiggins in check. Crazier things have happens.
Upsets that AREN’T happening
- Anyone over No. 1 Florida: They are the best team in the country and they don’t have an exploitable flaw. You have to go out and outplay them on both ends, and that’s not happening in this region.
Feeling like gambling?
- No. 14 Western Michigan over No. 3 Syracuse: The Broncos are a tough matchup, they have a star guard and they can get to the free throw line, but to beat the Orange they’ll have to protect the ball and score in the lane. That will be tough, but hey, the Orange are sputtering enough offensively that you never know what will happen.
CBT Predictions: No. 1 Florida rolls
Apr 1, 2015, 7:31 PM EDT
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson is projected to be a first round pick, but he stated that he still needs to talk with his mother and Arizona head coach Sean Miller before making a decision.
Apr 1, 2015, 6:45 PM EDT
“Forget that I’m a coach, as a spectator, watching it, it’s a joke.”
Apr 1, 2015, 6:05 PM EDT
Booker played just 14.3 minutes per game this season, with the Sooners relying on the triumvirate of Buddy Hield, Isaiah Cousins and Jordan Woodard on the perimeter.
Kentucky’s John Calipari on short list of coaches with four Final Four appearances over five seasons
Apr 1, 2015, 5:45 PM EDT
Also on that short list: John Wooden and Mike Krzyzewski.
Apr 1, 2015, 5:15 PM EDT
Hurley led the Rams to a 23-10 record this season, and with the amount of talent they’ll return Rhody should be an NCAA tournament team and a contender in the A-10.
Apr 1, 2015, 4:45 PM EDT
Harvey averaged 23.1 points, 3.6 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game for the Big Sky champion Eagles.
Apr 1, 2015, 4:15 PM EDT
With eight uncommitted McDonald’s All-Americans playing in Wednesday night’s game, there are still plenty of decisions to be made going forward.
Apr 1, 2015, 3:55 PM EDT
Trimble’s decision to return is a big boost, and it ensures that Maryland will be a Big Ten contender next season.
Apr 1, 2015, 3:15 PM EDT
Liberty re-hired former head coach Ritchie McKay after McKay spent a stint at Virginia as associate head coach.
Apr 1, 2015, 2:15 PM EDT
What kinds of changes has Duke made to improve defensively during a strong NCAA tournament run?
Apr 1, 2015, 1:00 PM EDT
Kelly Oubre Jr. will leave Kansas for the NBA Draft.
Apr 1, 2015, 12:15 PM EDT
Nebraska is losing another player from the roster.
Apr 1, 2015, 11:10 AM EDT
Ohio State landed an impact forward in the 2016 class on Wednesday.
Wisconsin stops selling Nigel Hayes-inspired shirt in campus bookstore over potential NCAA violation
Apr 1, 2015, 10:10 AM EDT
Wisconsin stopped selling Nigel Hayes-inspired shirts at a campus bookstore.
Apr 1, 2015, 9:10 AM EDT
Kevin Ollie and UConn will stay away from the Final Four in Indianapolis as the state of Connecticut has banned state-funded travel to the state.
Mar 31, 2015, 11:00 PM EDT
San Diego turned to a former player to lead the basketball program.
Mar 31, 2015, 10:00 PM EDT
Head coach Ernie Kent is losing three first-year players after his first season at the helm.
Mar 31, 2015, 8:45 PM EDT
It appears Travis Ford will stay at Oklahoma State for now.
Mar 31, 2015, 7:50 PM EDT
Could Murray State guard Cameron Payne enter the NBA Draft?
Mar 31, 2015, 6:40 PM EDT
UNLV officially loses Rashad Vaughn to the NBA Draft.
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- Frank Kaminsky, Jahlil Okafor highlight five Wooden Award finalists 3
- 2015 NCAA Tournament All-Second Weekend Team 2
- While a major question remains unanswered, No. 4 North Carolina can be special in 2015-16 3
- Tournament darling R.J. Hunter is heading to the NBA 3
- Texas freshman Myles Turner declares for the NBA Draft 6
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