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March 22, 2012
One Expert's Bracket
East and West Regions

by Drew Cannon


I foresaw some (too much, even) craziness in the round of 32 this year, but upsets there and in the round of 64 didn't take out enough of the right teams and left a lot of seed-lopsided matchups for the Sweet 16. I'm sure it won't be as calm as I'm predicting, but I'd be awfully surprised if there were a storm.

East Regional
All games played at the TD Center in Boston

(4) Wisconsin vs. (1) Syracuse (Thursday, 7:15 on CBS)
First instinct: Wisconsin
The numbers like: Syracuse (KP - 48%, Silver - 54%, BPI - Syracuse 2, Wisconsin 13
Thought process: So Syracuse is weakened, we all know that. They're not particularly weakened on offense: Fab Melo's absence has increased minutes for a platoon of Rakeem Christmas and James Southerland, and while Christmas is a downgrade offensively, Southerland is probably an upgrade. Of course, Melo was the Big East Defensive Player of the Year. But in the Syracuse zone he's obviously most missed when the offense takes it right at the basket, and Wisconsin scores extraordinarily few points on two-pointers. So while the Orange are negatively impacted, they aren't in nearly the trouble they could've experienced against a more inside-oriented opponent. On the other hand, Syracuse does allow a lot of threes, anyway, and the Badgers are more than capable of hitting them. The Orange force bunches of turnovers, but Wisconsin never commits them. Syracuse's biggest weakness defensively is rebounding, and the Badgers don't crash the offensive boards that hard. I can't get a great feel for this game. I'm picking Wisconsin under the assumption that I'm currently underrating Melo's hypothetical defensive impact on this particular team.
Final pick: Wisconsin

(6) Cincinnati vs. (2) Ohio State (Thursday, 9:45 on CBS)
First instinct: Ohio State
The numbers like: Ohio State (KP - 81%, Silver - 79%, BPI - Ohio State 3, Cincinnati 36)
Thought process: Cincinnati will bring their physical, junkyard style to Boston for this matchup, but I have no doubt that the Buckeyes can take it. Ohio State's fabulous defensive rebounding means that Yancy Gates won't be picking up some of the putbacks the Bearcats rely on, and Cashmere Wright, the only turnover-prone figure in Cincinnati's low-turnover offense, will be guarded by lauded turnover creator Aaron Craft. This isn't a terrible matchup for Cincinnati, outside of who will guard Deshaun Thomas (though that one goes both ways), but I think the Buckeyes are just a little too good to fall here.
Final pick: Ohio State

West Regional
All games played at the US Airways Center in Phoenix

(4) Louisville vs. (1) Michigan State (Thursday, 7:47 on TBS)
First instinct: Michigan State
The numbers like: Michigan State (KP - 75%, Silver - 61%, BPI - Michigan State 4, Louisville 11)
Thought process: Draymond Green is a tough guy to guard no matter who you are, but Louisville is really not built to defend him. Otherwise, the Cardinals match up pretty well, but at this point Green's pretty comfortable carrying the Spartans for long stretches. On the other side, I just don't see Louisville scoring very easily. We'll see the epic battle of Louisville's D vs. Michigan State's offense on one end, and the struggle of Louisville's mediocre offense against Michigan State's excellent defense on the other. Tough to talk myself out of the Spartans here.
Final pick: Michigan State

(7) Florida vs. (3) Marquette (Thursday, 10:17 on TBS)
First instinct: Marquette
The numbers like: Florida (KP - 53%, Silver - 53%, BPI - Florida 16, Marquette 17)
Thought process: This half of the West region was just loaded with good, undersized teams. Jae Crowder, Marquette's 6-6 star at the 4, should have an absolute field day against a lackluster Florida defense that has nobody to guard him. And, on the other end, the underrated Kenny Boynton will have to deal with Darius Johnson-Odom. If the Gators get hot from behind the arc, as they often do, watch out. They just aren't quite consistent enough, or strong enough defensively, to pick over the Eagles.
Final pick: Marquette

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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