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March 18, 2012
One Expert's Bracket
Sunday's Picks

by Drew Cannon

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After doing pretty well for a few days, I got beat up pretty good on Friday, even if we ignore the 2-15 games. Here's to hoping that watching those games helped me figure these teams out.

(11) NC State vs. (3) Georgetown (Sunday: Columbus, 12:15 on CBS)
First instinct: Georgetown
The numbers like: Georgetown (KP - 72%, Silver - 64%, BPI - Georgetown 18, NC State 45)
Thought process: Not only has a lot of Georgetown's success defensively come from an unsustainably low opponent three-point percentage (No. 1 nationally at 27 percent), but NC State ranks near the bottom nationally in proportion of offense coming from three pointers. In other words, Georgetown's probably a little overrated because of their good three-point luck -- and even if they're not, theirs is a strength that's largely wasted on the Wolfpack. That said, the Hoyas are a little bit too big for NC State. The Wolfpack will have a tough time defending Henry Sims, Hollis Thompson, and Otto Porter with their typical lineup. I'm going back and forth on this. I think Georgetown's a bit overrated and NC State is the type of team that can give their excellent defense trouble. I'm also starting to believe that we can drop the fear of implosion with this NC State team. On the other hand, the Wolfpack drew a No. 11 seed for a reason and they will be just asking for Otto Porter to go off.
Final pick: NC State

(9) Saint Louis vs. (1) Michigan State (Sunday: Columbus, 2:45 on CBS)
First instinct: Michigan State
The numbers like: Michigan State (KP - 71%, Silver - 72%, BPI - Michigan State 4, Saint Louis 15)
Thought process: I liked this matchup a lot better for Memphis than Saint Louis. The Spartans were going to have a lot of trouble sticking to Joe Jackson, and, while Kwamain Mitchell is certainly a very good player, he doesn't have the truly blinding speed of Jackson. The Billikens' most consistent scoring option is Brian Conklin, and, while I'd tend to be concerned about his lack of size going up against Draymond Green, Adreian Payne and Derrick Nix, it hasn't seemed to bother him so far. Michigan State could have a pretty tough time scoring against SLU, and Rick Majerus should have received much more National Coach of the Year attention. But I'm just having too much trouble coming up with a reason the Billikens will win.
Final pick: Michigan State

(8) Creighton vs. (1) North Carolina (Sunday: Greensboro, 5:15 on CBS)
First instinct: North Carolina
The numbers like: North Carolina (KP - 67%, Silver - 79%, BPI - North Carolina 5, Creighton 22)
Thought process: Dougie Fresh vs. Harrison Barnes for the pride of Ames, Iowa! North Carolina tends to smother less athletic teams, but John Henson's usually a huge part of that smothering. He'd be a gigantic help against Doug McDermott, who has a legitimate claim to the title of most diverse post game outside Chapel Hill. With Henson, I'd find a Creighton win extremely surprising and, based on the reports I've read, I'm leaning toward him playing. If Henson doesn't play, this upset becomes much more possible. By picking North Carolina here, I'm picking against both of those (weighted) coin flips coming up heads.
Final pick: North Carolina

(15) Norfolk State vs. (7) Florida (Sunday: Omaha, 6:10 on TNT)
First instinct: Florida
The numbers like: Florida (KP - 93%, Silver - 92%, BPI - Florida 16, Norfolk State 180)
Thought process: Kyle O'Quinn is a really good basketball player, but Patric Young makes Ricardo Ratliffe look like a weakling. Norfolk State's big three may put up a few points, but Chris McEachin and Pendarvis Williams would both have to have phenomenal games to make this a real possibility. Lehigh's got a real shot at another win; Norfolk State would have to pull off another big-time upset.
Final pick: Florida

(13) Ohio vs. (12) South Florida (Sunday: Nashville, 7:10 on CBS)
First instinct: South Florida
The numbers like: South Florida (KP - 57%, Silver - 57%, BPI - South Florida 64, Ohio 74)
Thought process: I've consistently cast doubt on both of these teams all season long, and they've consistently made me look stupid. Anthony Collins vs. D.J. Cooper is one of the most fun match ups we'll see in this tournament. Collins has some serious turnover issues, though, and only VCU creates more turnovers than the Bobcats. And it's not just Collins -- five of the Bulls' top nine have turnover percentages above 20. I may not fully understand how either of these teams keep winning, but I understand South Florida less.
Final pick: Ohio

(15) Lehigh vs. (10) Xavier (Sunday: Greensboro, 7:45 on truth)
First instinct: Lehigh
The numbers like: Xavier (KP - 56%, Silver - 65%, BPI - Xavier 53, Lehigh 99)
Thought process: C.J. McCollum may have a tougher time of it with Tu Holloway guarding him than when that job fell to Duke's guards. It's also worth noting that it did take him 24 shots to get his 30 points against the Blue Devils. In the history of the NCAA tournament, three of the four 15-seeds to advance to the Round of 32 were beaten by double digits. The last one, Coppin State in 1997, had a chance to win in the final seconds. Lehigh is currently ranked No. 73 in the Pomeroy ratings, which is comfortably the highest of any 15-seed in the KenPom era. I'm not positive the Mountain Hawks will win, but I'm not sure exactly who can stay with Gabe Knutson, and I'm not sure anyone can stay with McCollum. I'd be surprised if Lehigh doesn't at least keep this game in doubt for a long time. I chickened out on taking the 15-seed in the first round. I'm not chickening out again.
Final pick: Lehigh

(10) Purdue vs. (2) Kansas (Sunday: Omaha, 8:40 on TNT)
First instinct: Kansas
The numbers like: Kansas (KP - 71%, Silver - 76%, BPI - Kansas 6, Purdue 43)
Thought process: What, you think someone on Purdue's roster is stopping Thomas Robinson? For the Boilermakers to win this game, someone unusual will have to go off. Their best chance is the fact that Robinson or Jeff Withey will have to guard D.J. Byrd, and neither of them wants to chase him around the three-point line.
Final pick: Kansas

(6) Cincinnati vs. (3) Florida State
First instinct: Florida State
The numbers like: Florida State (KP - 54%, Silver - 49%, BPI - Florida State 26, Cincinnati 36)
Thought process: Both of these teams looked like they just might crack down the stretch in their first NCAA tournament games, but each staved off upsets, something that has to be termed unusual for a wild Friday. In all likelihood this will be an ugly game, but if nothing else Cincinnati and Florida State know how to win ugly. Bernard James and Michael Snaer are both excellent defenders, but I have a feeling Yancy Gates and Sean Kilpatrick will present them with a lot of problems. Gates is finally putting it all together.
Final pick: Cincinnati

Drew Cannon is a college student and a regular contributor to Basketball Prospectus. Click here to see Drew's other articles. Follow him on Twitter at @DrewCannon1.

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Drew Cannon is an author of Basketball Prospectus. You can contact Drew by clicking here or click here to see Drew's other articles.

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Day Three (03/18)

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