1)Syracuse—The frontcourt is as good as any, with Wesley Johnson is the prime scorer and rebounder and Arinze Onaku in the post. There’s also depth, as Kris Joseph would start virtually anywhere else in the country, so the Orange are immune to foul trouble. The guards have to concern Jim Boeheim. When Andy Rautins plays well, his team becomes almost unstoppable. But Rautins is far from a sure thing .There’s concern with production from the two-guard spot.
Perhaps the biggest red flags are intangible though. There’s no clear go-to guy. Johnson is more first among equals as opposed to being the man, and tournaments are often won by teams who have a one guy that everyone knows will get the ball in the clutch. The first-round loss in the Big East tournament is a concern. It’s been noted by pundits that no team has ever gone the distance after such a loss. But it also has to be noted that Georgetown’s not a typical team for a #1 seed to play in the first game of a conference tourney. Finally, Onaku had to leave that game with a leg injury. He’s back practicing and will play this weekend, but let’s keep a close eye on how well he moves.
2)Kansas State—great backcourt with Denis Clemente and Jacob Pullen. The X factor remains forward Dominique Sutton. We have to give a big hat tip to Coach Bill Martin who put together a fantastic season without elite talent or depth.
3)Pitt—What a turnaround they made from their loss to Indiana in December. Last year’s Panthers were highly touted with a big and tough frontcourt, but they struggled through three wins before finally falling short of the Final Four against Villanova. This year the hype isn’t as strong and it’s the backcourt, led by Brad Wanamaker that ignites them.
4)Vanderbilt—They are reeling as they come into the bracket, having lost their final home game to South Carolina and lost in a conference tournament semi-final, also on their home floor to Mississippi State. Two-guard Brad Tinsley has fallen off the map and was out of the starting lineup in the SEC tourney. More alarming, A.J. Ogilvy, a quality post man, has also been in a funk. When point guard Jermaine Beal, Tinsley and Ogilvy are functioning, the Commodores are a good—albeit not great team. Only one of those cogs has functioned the last couple weeks.
5)Butler—Can’t tell you much about the Bulldogs. As regular readers know, this is a power conference blog. It’s something I’m aiming to gradually change in the seasons ahead, but right now I just don’t have real knowledge of Butler and I hate sportswriters who try to cover that up and say stupid things in its stead.
6)Xavier-Minnesota: What a job by Tubby Smith to get the Gophers turned around. This isn’t a team with really great personnel. Lawrence Westbrook has been disappointing at two-guard. The Gophs rely on Blake Hoffarber outside and Damian Johnson inside.
7)BYU-Florida: I don’t know a ton about BYU, but I do know Jimmer Fredette leads a potent three-guard combo on offense. I like the Gators a lot, with Ervin Walker and Kenny Boynton in the backcourt, combined with Chandler Parsons and Alex Tyus up front, they have all the pieces. They have a championship coach in Billy Donovan. But those pieces haven’t translated into consistently successful basketball. So the question is do you accept Florida for what they are or what they could be? And if it’s the former, is that still enough to beat BYU.
8)Gonzaga-Florida State: This is the bracket of the midmajors, with seeds 5-8 coming from outside the power conferences. I’m not real impressed with Florida State. They deserved to be in the field, but didn’t do anything all year that suggested they can do much in March.
That wraps up the general overviews of each regional. Tomorrow I’ll take my stand and make my picks. Spring training baseball talk still going daily over at The Baseball Notebook.