Picking the NCAA tournament is always a fun exercise until you see your picks go down the drain. Thanks to Ken Pomeroy's website, along with dozens of random games, highlights and players lodged into my head, here are my picks for the Midwest Region.
Play-In Game on Wednesday, March 16, 2012 - 5:30 pm PT: Lamar Cardinals vs. Vermont Catamounts
Pat Knight's Lamar Cardinals are in the tournament for the first time since 2000 and I think they'll extend their six-game winning streak against Vermont. Keep your eyes on Lamar senior guard Devon Lamb, though he only measures in at 6'2" he is pulling down a team-leading 7.9 rebounds per game.
Play-In Game on Wednesday, March 16, 2012 - 6:00 pm PT: California Golden Bears vs. South Florida Bulls
Cal is not coming into this game on fire, losing three out of their last four games, but the Bears will put together an ugly victory over USF. Led by Jorge Gutierrez, the Pac-12 defensive player of the year, Cal's defense will be too much for a USF team offense that does not have one player who average double-digit points.
No. 1 North Carolina Tar Heels beats No. 16 Lamar Cardinals
Let's not waste anytime here, a No. 1 seed has never lost to a No. 16 seed. North Carolina rolls in a blowout.
No. 9 Alabama Crimson Tide beats No. 8 Creighton Jays
Though Creighton comes into the tournament hot after winning the Missouri Valley conference tournament, I like Alabama's experience playing in the SEC. The Tide have the No. 9 best defense according to Ken Pomeroy's defensive rankings.
No. 12 California Golden Bears beats No. 5 Temple Owls
This is my 12-seed over 5-seed upset of the tournament. Gutierrez and company will be able to limit the offensive production of Temple's senior guards, Ramone Moore and Khalif Wyatt.
No. 4 Michigan Wolverines beats No. 13 Ohio Bobcats
Ohio has not seen a quality opponent for a long time, and I like Michigan's experience against high-level teams like Ohio State and Michigan State in the Big 10. Michigan's potent backcourt of Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. will be too much for the Bobcats to handle.
No. 11 North Carolina State Wolfpack beats No. 6 San Diego State Aztecs
The Aztecs will have their hands full trying to contain the five different players averaging double-digit scoring for the Wolfpack. Though they were unable to beat Duke, Florida State and North Carolina in the ACC regular season, NC State was never blown out — they almost upset North Carolina, losing 69-67 in the ACC Tournament.
No. 3 Georgetown Hoyas beats No. 14 Belmont Bruins
I have this game on upset alert, but I expect Georgetown to squeak by in this game due to its talent. Belmont runs one of the most efficient offenses in the country, ranking No. 12 in the nation in Ken Pomeroy's overall offensive efficiency and No. 5 in effective field goal percentage. Additionally, unlike most mid-majors, Belmont has the size to matchup with a powerhouse like Georgetown.
No. 10 Purdue Boilermakers beats No. 7 Saint Mary's Gaels
Saint Mary's deserves a higher seed than Purdue, but the Boilermakers are coming into this tournament with game experience against teams like Michigan, Michigan St. and Ohio State. Purdue has a 13.5 percent turnover rate, the lowest in all of college basketball. I don't see them having trouble executing their offense against Saint Mary's.
No. 2 Kansas Jayhawks beats No. 15 Detroit Titans
This game will over by the end of the first half. The Jayhawks have too much talent to lose this game.
No. 1 North Carolina Tar Heels beats No. 9 Alabama Crimson Tide
I don't think UNC will have too much trouble beating Alabama. The Tar Heels have four players on their roster that could be lottery picks come June. And Alabama's NBA prospects? Maybe junior Tony Mitchell in 2013.
No. 12 California Golden Bears beats No. 4 Michigan Wolverines
This game is going to be a good one if it happens. Again, Cal will need its senior leader Gutierrez to step up and defend either Trey Burke or Tim Hardaway. Cal wins a close one here.
No. 3 Georgetown Hoyas beats No. 11 North Carolina State Wolfpack
Georgetown's defense will be the difference in this game. The Hoyas have the No. 5 most efficient defense in the country according to KenPom's rankings. CJ Leslie will have to have one of his best games of the season if he wants his team to pull off this upset.
No. 2 Kansas Jayhawks beats No. 10 Purdue Boilermakers
Purdue's run will end here against Kansas. I like the talent in the frontcourt in this game with Robbie Hummel starring for Purdue and Thomas Robinson starring for Kansas. Bill Self's squad is too balance and too well-polished to be bounced in the second round.
No. 1 North Carolina Tar Heels beats No. 12 California Golden Bears
Again, UNC will have too much talent for the opposing team to handle. The Tar Heels' three-headed frontcourt monster made up of Tyler Zeller, Harrison Barnes and John Henson might make this game a blowout. The Bears do not have enough talent to match up in the post.
No. 2 Kansas Jayhawks beats No. 3 Georgetown Hoyas
At this point of the tournament, it's all about teams with players that can make game-changing plays. I'm banking on Thomas Robinson outplaying Georgetown's Henry Sims in this game.
No. 1 North Carolina Tar Heels beats No. 2 Kansas Jayhawks
Thomas Robinson meets his match against Barnes, Henson and Zeller. I haven't even mentioned one of the nation's top point guards in Kendall Marshall yet.
North Carolina's NBA-prospect filled team will move on to the Final Four.
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