Tuesday, September 23, 2014
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Picking the Midwest Region

Hopefully you'll see this in time to to finish your brackets before the play-in game tips off tonight.

Picking the Midwest Region

I should have done this region first because the play-in game is tonight, and some pools (though not ours) let you pick that game in addition to the regular field. Hopefully you'll see this in time to to finish your brackets before tonight's tip-off.

If not, feel free to blame me, but I have to do my real job too and that took up most of my afternoon today.

By the way, I fixed all the errors in the East Region picks, and thanks to all of you for pointing them out.

This includes the fact that I did mean to pick Oklahoma State over Tennessee. The explanation of the prediction said that, and I seriously changed my mind while writing it and forgot to fix the bolded part.

Please keep pointing out my mistakes, as I've been writing this stuff with far less time than I'd like to have.

And remember that I am making the same picks here as I made in the full-bracket contest in our reader group for Philly.com's Hoops Hysteria contest. I have made a bunch of different picks in the round-by-round contest, just for the heck of it. We'll see which bracket does better.

Play-in Game in Dayton, Ohio

16b. Morehead State over 16a. Alabama State


An upset by the letter, in that M comes after A in the alphabet. Morehead is ranked 167th in Pomeroy, Alabama State 195th. Furthermore, the Eagles knocked Lester Hudson and Tennessee-Martin out of the Ohio Valley Conference tournament, while the Hornets' best win by Pomeroy is No. 254 Jackson State.

First Round

1. Louisville over 16. Morehead State in Dayton, Ohio

Okay, that was fun while it lasted.

9. Siena over 8. Ohio State in Dayton, Ohio

This game will not be easy, and it's patently unfair to both Siena and Louisville to have to play the Buckeyes in their home state. But the Saints have a great coach in Fran McCaffery (quiet down, Penn fans, he wouldn't trade that job for yours), and serious talent in Kenny Hasbrouck.

Ohio State forward Evan Turner averages 17.1 points per game, but the Buckeyes rank 281st in offensive rebounding percentage and 227th in three-point defense. The Saints' 254th-place rank in free-throw shooting is troubling, but I think they win this game.

12. Arizona over 5. Utah in Miami, Fla.


This might be my stupidest pick, but I'm going with it. I know Arizona has very little business being in the field, and I'd have rather seen St. Mary's or San Diego State in their place. And I certainly know the Wildcats haven't won an NCAA Tournament game in three years.

But the Utes don't impress me much, especially their 314th-place rank in offensive rebounding. Arizona is 15th in 3-point percentage and seventh in offensive efficiency. Both teams have to travel a long way, so that factor's neutralized. I could definitely be wrong about this one, but I'm going with a 12-over-5. It happens sometimes, you know?

4. Wake Forest over 13. Cleveland State in Miami, Fla.


It took me a while to think about this one, because the Vikings won at Syracuse and beat Butler for the Horizon League title at Hinkle Fieldhouse. Cleveland State also has one of the tournament's coolest names in J'Nathan Bullock. The Vikings' defense ranks 29th in defensive efficiency, but their offense is only 306th in there-poitn percentage and 203rd in two-point percentage. Wake is 40th in offensive efficency and 14th in defensive efficency.

I wouldn't rule out an upset here, but I also wouldn't rule out Jeff Teague leading the Demon Deacons to the second round. Wake freshman Al-Farouq Aminu could also have a breakout game - there's been a lot of buzz about aminu and this will give him a national stage.

6. West Virginia over 11. Dayton in Minneapolis, Minn.

The Flyers are capable of knocking off a lot of teams in this field, but the Mountaineers could be on the verge of another March explosion. Sixth in offensive rebounding percentage, 15th in offensive efficency and seventh in defensive efficiency, West Virginia's worst loss by Pomeroy this season was at No. 84 Cincinnati - and that was Bob Huggins' return to the Bearcats' den.

I suspect you will be hearing musket fire a number of times this month as West Virginia advances deep.

14. North Dakota State over 3. Kansas in Minneapolis, Minn.

You know you want to. You know the karma is with Ben Woodside, who averaged 22.8 points per game this season and famously dropped 60 on Stephen F. Austin in December. You might also know that the Bison have made made the Big Dance in its first year as a full-fledged Division I program.

But what you might not know is that NDSU has a big alumni base in Minneapolis, and you can be sure they'll turn out in force. Kansas gets ambushed by a green-and-gold wave, and the nation catches a serious case of Bison Fever.

Kansas is young and talented, but the Jayhawks will fall to the Bison. Which sounds oddly familiar, doesn't it?

10. Southern California over 7. Boston College in Minneapolis, Minn.

I have not trusted BC for much of this season and I still don't. I don't think too highly of USC either, but they're ranked 32 spots above the Eagles in Pomeroy. The Trojans lost six of their last nine regular season games, but five were on the road. BC went 5-5 to end the regular season, including the conference tournament, but two of the wins were over Virginia and the other three were all at home. SC takes it.

2. Michigan State over 15. Robert Morris in Minneapolis, Minn.

With all due respect to Phil Martelli, whose former assistant is the Colonials' head coach and whose son is an assistant, the upset won't happen here. Thirteen of the Spartans' 26 wins came against teams ranked in the Pomeroy Top 50. The men from Moon Township could face their big challenge on the glass, as Michigan State ranks fifth in offensive rebounding percentage and sixth in offensive rebounding percentage

Second Round

1. Louisville over 9. Siena in Dayton, Ohio

It would be fantastic if the Saints win this game, but we're in this to pick the bracket right. The game might be closer for longer than some expect, but Rick Pitino's crew will roll on to Indianapolis in good shape.

4. Wake Forest over 12. Arizona in Dayton, Ohio

Another entry in the "fun while it lasted" category. Wake is just better, and will handle the Wildcats' middling defense.

6. West Virginia over 14. North Daokota State in Minneapolis, Minn.

I mentioned Bucknell's 2005 upset of Kansas above, and the only game I can think of that matches that one karmically is Vermont's upset of Syracuse in the same season. But on both occasions, Cinderella's coach turned back into a pumpkin in the second round.

The Mountaineers will just be too much for Ben Woodside and company to handle in this game, and will move on to Indianapolis. Unless the Bison have Davidson's karma too, since the Wildcats beat West Virginia earlier this season. I doubt that's the case.

2. Michigan State over 10. Southern California in Minneapolis, Minn.

Hey, a Big Ten team finally beats USC in the postseason. Except it's not football. In basketball, the Spartans are better than the Trojans, and better coached too. You really want to pick Tim Floyd over Tom Izzo. I didn't think so.

Regional Semifinals in Indianapolis, Ind.

1. Louisville over 4. Wake Forest

It is entirely possible that Louisville could go off the rails in a game during the tournament, and if it happens here Wake Forest is talented enough to win. But if it doesn't happen, the Cardinals will prevail. Like Dayton, Indianapolis is a bus trip from Freedom Hall, and Louisville should be rested and ready to knock the Demon Deacons out.

6. West Virginia over 2. Michigan State

Big Ten, say hello to the Big East. This will be a slugfest between two Top 10 teams in defensive efficiency. Devin Ebanks and Alex Ruoff will get to know Goran Suton and Raymar Morgan pretty well, and I'll take the Mountaineers in a close one to set up an all-Big East regional final.

Regional Final in Indianapolis, Ind.

1. Louisville over 6. West Virginia

I've filled out a number of brackets this week, as you can imagine. In some of the early ones, I had the Mountaineers beating the Cardinals to advance to the Final Four. But the more I think about it, the more I focus on the Cardinals' depth in size and the fact that they won in Morgantown 10 days ago.

I still think West Virginia has a shot, and I'm sure Rick Pitino wants no part of the Mountaineers. But for as much as I would like to be contrarian about something, I'm putting Louisville in the Final Four.

I'll be back tomorrow with my predictions for the South and West regions.

Jonathan Tannenwald Philly.com
About this blog
Soft Pretzel Logic is Philly.com's college sports blog, with a primary focus on the University of Pennsylvania. You'll also see coverage of the Big 5, other major college sports events in the region, and the annual Penn Relays track and field meet.

Reach Jonathan at jtannenwald@phillynews.com or 215-854-2330.

Jonathan Tannenwald Philly.com
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