Wahoo Wire Bracketology: East
John Jenkins, G, Vanderbilt: The junior marksman is one of the deadliest shooters in the land. Jenkins has made the most three-pointers in Division I this season (118) and shot the sixth-best percentage (46.1% from deep). With a possible Sweet 16 matchup with Syracuse’s dreaded 2-3 zone on tap, Jenkins will have to be lights-out if the Commodores want to avoid another early exit.
Michael Snaer, G, Florida State: The junior is one of the top perimeter defenders in the country, trailing only North Carolina’s John Henson in the voting for ACC Defensive Player of the Year. The only non-senior in the Seminoles’ starting five, Snaer possesses the ability to hit tough shots in the lane to go with a knack for draining clutch three-pointers, skills that will come in handy if Florida State is to make a deep tournament run.
Andrew Nicholson, F, St. Bonaventure: The senior has been an extremely similar figure to Virginia’s Mike Scott this season, posting averages of 18.2 points and 8.3 rebounds a game, also contributing nearly 2 blocks a contest as well. The A-10 champions face a tall test opening the tournament against Florida State, but Nicholson’s outstanding play this year will have the Bonnies dreaming of pulling off a massive upset.
Kevin Jones, F, West Virginia: Jones has been, without question, the man for the Mountaineers this season. The senior averages 20.1 points and 11.1 rebounds per game, and he will have to be at the top of his game if West Virginia has any hope of making it through the tournament’s first weekend.
William Buford, G, Ohio State: All the attention is on Buckeye big man Jared Sullinger, but it will be up to Buford, an athletic slasher, to take up the scoring load when defenses gameplan to stop Sullinger. The senior swingman will have to assert himself with more than the 11 points he scored in Ohio State’s Big Ten title game loss to Michigan State if he wants to close his college career on a high note.
Round of 64
1 Syracuse over 16 UNC-Asheville: It’s never happened. Syracuse has some weaknesses, but come on. It’s not going to start in this bracket.
8 Kansas State over 9 Southern Miss: Southern Miss’s strength of schedule has been decent but not spectacular, with early-season contests against tournament teams Colorado State, New Mexico State, Murray State, and South Florida. But their last game against a tournament-bound team was Feb. 1 against Memphis, and they closed the regular season losing three of five. K-State has taken down high seeds Baylor and Missouri, and played Kansas to six points a month ago. Advantage, Wildcats.
5 Vanderbilt over 12 Harvard: Vandy’s last three appearances in the Big Dance have been cut short by opening-weekend losses to double-digit seeds. This time around, Kevin Stallings’s experienced group avoids an early exit at the hands of a hungry Crimson squad looking to make a name for itself.
13 Montana over 4 Wisconsin: The lone true first-round upset in this bracket. Wisconsin is a team designed for low-scoring contests, but the Grizzlies shoot an outstanding percentage as a team (46.5%, good for 47th in Division I), the recipe for not getting flustered against such a team. Bo Ryan’s Badgers are a below-average shooting team, and if point guard Jordan Taylor struggles from the field, Wisconsin will be headed for an early exit.
6 Cincinnati over 11 Texas: J’Covan Brown of Texas is an explosive perimeter scorer (20.1 ppg), but he uses a high volume of shots to get to that number (just 41.7% from the field). The physicality of Yancy Gates and the speed of Cashmere Wright carry the Bearcats through to Round “Three.”
3 Florida State over 14 St. Bonaventure: Bonnies forward Andrew Nicholson is, quite frankly, a beast. However, Bernard James is a defensive specialist in the post, and Florida State has too much on the outside with the combination of Snaer, Deividas Dulkys, and Luke Loucks. The Seminoles march on.
10 West Virginia over 7 Gonzaga: Kevin Pangos has come on this year, and the freshman point has an experienced frontcourt tandem in Elias Harris and the mammoth Robert Sacre. But Kevin Jones has had no problem being a one-man show so far. The Zags live up to their reputation as a tough tournament out, but West Virginia is a tough team.
2 Ohio State over 15 Loyola (MD): Apart from one loss to Illinois, all of the Buckeyes’ losses have been to ranked teams – Kansas, Indiana, Michigan State, Michigan, Wisconsin, all 4-seeds or higher in the tournament. They’ve beaten everyone else they were supposed to beat. They’re supposed to beat Loyola.
Round of 32
1 Syracuse over 8 Kansas State: The Orange have too much juice (bada-bing!) not to make it to the Sweet 16. Any time you bring a guard like Dion Waiters off the bench, you have an embarrassment of riches. Outside of the Big East tournament, where we’ve seen that anything can happen, this team lost once the whole season. There’s a reason.
5 Vanderbilt over 13 Montana: And the Cinderella run ends for the Grizzlies. The athleticism of Jeffery Taylor on the wing and the size of Festus Ezeli inside ensure that Vanderbilt sees the tournament’s second weekend for the first time since 2007.
3 Florida State over 6 Cincinnati: The Bearcats’ Big East tournament opponents were Georgetown, Syracuse, and Louisville, all teams that leave something to be desired in the physicality department. Gates will run into a tough post duo in James and Xavier Gibson, and Snaer is the kind of defensive ace to shut down a top scorer like Cincy’s Sean Kilpatrick.
2 Ohio State over 10 West Virginia: In a battle between two star power forwards, Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger outduels Kevin Jones, and Buckeyes point guard Aaron Craft, just a sophomore, has the defensive ability to lock down Mountaineers second fiddle Truck Bryant. The Buckeyes punch their ticket to the Sweet 16.
5 Vanderbilt over 1 Syracuse: Ah, two teams with a rich history of underperforming in the NCAA Tournament. It’s certainly within the realm of possibility for one or both of these teams to head home early, but if they both progress this far, look out. Vanderbilt may be the team in this bracket besides Florida State that Syracuse least wants to face. John Jenkins has the ability to shoot that can give zone guru Jim Boeheim’s 2-3 fits. The Commodores finally live up to their own lofty expectations and make it to a regional final, while the Orange head home disappointed yet again despite entering the tournament as one of the favorites.
3 Florida State over 2 Ohio State: I know I’ve said it every time I’ve mentioned the Seminoles so far, but James and Gibson are the horses to be able to stop a post threat like Sullinger, and Snaer has more than enough defensive skill to keep Buford from taking over the game. On the offensive end, Florida State guard Ian Miller has the ability to drill shots from deep, and without a similar shooter, Ohio State falls victim to perhaps the hottest team in the land right now.
3 Florida State over 5 Vanderbilt: Can you call it a Cinderella story for a 3-seed ranked in the top 25 at the start of the season? The length of Loucks, Snaer, and Dulkys can disrupt Jenkins, and without him firing on all cylinders, Vanderbilt doesn’t have much of a chance. Seminoles coach Leonard Hamilton garners some recognition for national coach of the year, and Florida State punches its ticket to New Orleans for the Final Four.
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