Untangling 2012 March Madness

| March 14, 2012 | 1 Comments

The 2012 NCAA Championshiop Tournament, aka March Madness, will be hard pressed to keep up with last season’s upset filled event.  What we learned last year is that aggressive defenses ae difficult to overcome.  Teams with great defense are Virginia, Florida State, USF, Ohio State, Missouri and Michigan State.  This year there are plenty of run and gun offenses and some powerhouse offenses.  We will update every day during the tournament so stay tuned.  Meanwhile, sit back and relish the greatest sporting event of the year.

First Round

South Bracket

OHIO STATE LOYOLA MD

OHIO STATE LOYOLA MD

Kentucky vs. Western Kentucky – Kentucky features Player of The Year Anthony Davis and a young but talented supporting cast.  The tournament’s top seed may start slowly but they will finish with flare. Calipari not afraid to let the dogs out.

Iowa State vs. Uconn– Uconn playing with renewe enthusiasm and relying on talented guards Napier and Lamb to get the job done. Nothing flashy about Iowa State but watch 6’8, 279 lb point guard Royce White take charge and draw fouls.  Iowa State sends Huskies packing.

Wichita State vs. VCU – VCU will be hard pressed to equal last season’s run. The challenge will begin on day one. Witchita State’s Joe Ragland leads the up-tempo offense and he is good for 1 or 2 show stoppers per game. VCU cannot slow Wichita State’s frenetic style.

Indiana vs. New Mexico State – Indiana lost senior star Verdell Jones with torn ACL in first game of Big 10 tourney. Indiana will now pick up the tempo and put the ball in the very capble hands of Cody Zeller. Indiana barely outruns NMS.

UNLV vs. Colorado – UCLA transfers Moser and Stanback hit the court running and they do not stop. The Runnnin’s Rebel outraced UNC earlier in the season and have the talent to go deep in the tournament.  Bad matchup for the more deliberate Buffalos.

Baylor vs. South Dakota St – Moody Baylor is tough to read.  Big and physical Baylor moves down in class. South Dakota is small but compensates with great three-point shooters. Baylor has the talent but is the will to win there? My guess is yes. Baylor has a lot to prove. If they stay motivated, they can play with anyone. SDS heads home.

Xavier vs. Notre Dame – This is a choice first round pairing.  Both teams see a real opportunity in the bracket. Xavier’s aggressive guard, Tu Holloway, would be an asset to any team. Alongside Mark Lyons, Xavier’s dynamic backcourt tandem is too much for the Irish. Upset winner Xavier advances.

Duke vs. Lehigh – Duke too much everything for Lehigh.

West Bracket

Michigan State vs. LIU Brooklyn – Michigan State is a slam dunk pick.  Izzo has ths team right where he wants them.  Plenty of confidence, plenty of momentum.

Memphis vs. Saint Louis – Look for Memphis Tigers to pull away late in a physical, hard-fought battle that will prepare the winner well for what lies ahead.

New Mexico vs. Long Beach State – Future NBA players on the court in this matchup. This boils down to the effectiveness of  LBS guard Ware against Long Beach’s trio of guards. Head Coach Steve Alford’s team plays to get touches for UCLA transfer and future pro power forward, Drew Gordon. Ware gets the edge and LBS moves on.

Louisville vs. Davidson – Lousiville riding high after Big East tournament. Pitino has something to prove.  Louisville cruises.

Murray State vs. Colorado State – Murray State has best record in the draw.  Isiah Canaan is the reason why. If Canaan stays away from senseless fouls, Murray State moves ahead. Colorado State had a better than expected year but it ends here.

Marquette vs. BYU – Great comeback by BYU gets them into the main draw. Marquette is talented and well coached.  The Golden Eagles take care of business.

Florida vs. Virginia – Great athletes on the floor. Virgina’s all ACC guard Scott continues a great traditio of Cavalier guards. The Gators will be hard pressed by a stifling defense but guards Kenny Boynton, Bradley Beal and Mike Rosario expect to move on.  This wiil be a fight but Florda advances.

Missouri vs. Norfolk State – Missouri propbably deserved a top seed. Big, big, big and explosive guard play. This team figures to be in for the long haul. Norfolk State is scrappy but there is a big talent differential here. Tigers blast into next round.   

East Bracket

Syracuse vs. UNC Ashville – Big loss of Melo for ‘Cuse. Syracuse won without their big guy this season but they are not a one seed wihout him. UNC-Ashville will try to outrun the Orange. Not gonna happen.  Syracuse zone ties UNC in knots. Orange win going away.

Kansas State vs. Southern Miss – Should be exciting pairing. Southern Miss trending down, KS trending up. Take the positive trend. KS wins.

Vanderbilt vs. Harvard – No pushover here. Vandy sky high after winning SEC tourney and downing mighty Kentucky.  May be just what the doctor ordered for both teams. Vandy deep and talented. Harvard weak off bench. Vandy wins but is in for a tussle.

Wisconsin vs. Montana – Wisconsin has big-time firepower and stingy defense.  Too much for Monatana.

Texas vs. Cincinnati – Is Cincy ripe for upset? Longhorns are young with talent. Coach Barnes will try to work his inspirational message. Battle of tape favors Texas. Look for upset. Texas moves on.

Florida State vs. St. Bonaventure – Bonnies fired up after tournament run. Florida State wll need their pressure defense throughut tourney.  This is the type defensive pressure that led to big usets last year.  FSU has muscle inside. ACC tourney champs advance.

West Virginia vs. Gonzaga – WVU’s experienced tandem of Jones and Bryant present matchup problems for Zags. Mountaineers swarm the perimeter and take Gonzanga out of comfort zone. WVU pulls upset.

Ohio State vs.Loyola – Buckeye reserves log some court time. OSU is meant for a bigger stage

Midwest Bracket

UNC vs. Lamar/Vermont – North Carolina wins big with or without Henson and regardless of who they play. Coach may limit or bench Henson in this pairing. UNC too muc might.

Creighton vs. Alabama – Creigthon will surprsie Bama.  Loads of shooters and disciplned defense.  Blue Jays triumph.

Temple vs. USF/ Califonia Winner – USF deserved better.  Cal and USF have same style, physical defense and deliberate offense.  Neither team shoots very well, but they  both pose challenges for Temple.  The Owls will rely on trusted guards.  Against Cal, Owls breeze.  Against USF they had better be ready for hard hitting. Temple pulls out win in low scoring backyard tussle with USF.

Michigan vs. Ohio U – Michigan’s Burke and Hardaway have a districnt edge. The Wolverines roll.

NC State vs. San Diego State – San Diego State has too much game for the erratic Wolfpack. Jamaal Franklin stars for winning SDS.

Belmont vs. Georgetown – No sure thing here.  Geogetown has a habit of losing games they should win and Belmont has some good history after losing to Duke by one point last year. If Belmont scores 65 or more, they win aganst deliberat Gtown. Belmont fell short last year but not this time. Belmont scores first round upset.

Purdue vs. St. Mary’s – Purdue’s Robbie Hunmel seems detined to win but Saint Mary’s is likely to run the Boilermakers off the floor. Purdue lacks bench depth to stay with fleet-footed Gaels.  Take Saint Mary’s.

Kansas vs. Detroit – Kansas big.

Round 2

South

Kentucky vs. Iowa State – Kentucky Wins

Witchita State vs. Indiana – Witchita State Prevails

UNLV vs. Baylor – UNLV moves ahead

Xavier vs. Duke – Xavier upsets Ble Devils

West

Michigan State vs. Memphis – Spartans in a battle

Long Beach State vs. Louisville – Louisville ok

Murray State vs. Marguette – Murray State wins

Florida vs. Missouri – Missouri rules

East

Syracuse vs. Kansas State – K State upsets ‘Cuse

Vanderbilt vs. Wisconsin – Vandy too good

Texas vs. Florida State – Texas keeps firing

West Virgina vs. Ohio State – Ohio State by a whisker

Midwest

UNC vs. Creighton – UNC

Temple vs. Michigan – Temple prevails

San Diego State vs. Belmont – San Diego State in close one

Kansas vs. Saint.Marys – Kansas but not easily

Sweet 16

South

Kentucky vs.Witchita State – Kentucky plays on

UNLV vs. Xavier – Xavier

West

Michigan State vs. Louisville – Michigan State

Murray State vs. Missouri – Missouri

East

Kansas State vs. Vanderbilt –Vanderbilt

Texas vs Ohio State – Ohio State

Midwest

UNC vs. Temple – UNC

San Diego State vs. Kansas – Kansas

Elite 8

South

Kentucky vs. Xavier – Kentucky

West

Michigan State vs. Missouri – Michigan State

East

Vanderbilt vs. Ohio State – Vanderbilt

Midwest

UNC- Kansas – UNC

Final Four

Kentucky vs. Michigan State – Michigan State

Vaderbilt vs. UNC – UNC

Finals

Michgan State vs. UNC – UNC

 

 

 

 

No. 3 Georgetown vs. No 14. Belmont

After narrowly missing an upset in 2011, the Belmont Bruins will finally break through and pull a major upset in the first round against Georgetown.
Harry How/Getty Images

What a year to be a No. 3-seed!

The Belmont Bruins (27-7) are one very good basketball team. After narrowly dropping their tournament game last season, when many picked them to pull a monster upset, they began this season with a one-point loss at Duke. After getting whipped in their second game, a loss to Memphis, Belmont has been beaten by more than five points only once.

The Bruins can shoot. They distribute the ball well among themselves, always making the extra pass that buys the shooter the extra split second he needs to be sure his aim is true. They don’t defend or rebound particularly well, but they can cause enough of a nuisance that their offense can keep them hanging around just long enough to pull an upset.

The Georgetown Hoyas (23-8) play a very contrasting style to that of Belmont. Where Belmont shoots early in the shot clock, the Hoyas grind out the clock. Where Belmont can score a lot of points very quickly, Georgetown can find themselves in trouble if the score gets above 65.

Georgetown simply does not have the offensive firepower to keep up with their opponents.

In another huge upset, look for Belmont to pull out the victory over Georgetown. The Hoyas simply will not be able to slow the game down enough to keep themselves in it. Belmont will shoot furiously from all over the floor, and force upon Georgetown a tempo it cannot sustain.

No. 7 Saint Mary’s vs. No. 10 Purdue

Matthew Dellavedova looks to lead Saint Mary’s past Purdue.
Ethan Miller/Getty Images

This game will be very fast-paced, high-scoring, and exciting.

Robbie Hummel takes his final shot at NCAA tournament glory, while Matthew Dellavedova tries to steal the spotlight.

Purdue (21-12) may not be able to keep up with Saint Mary’s if the Gaels are shooting well from the get-go and, unfortunately for Purdue, their best chance to win is to keep the tempo moving, and avoid getting into a free-throw shooting contest.

Saint Mary’s (27-5) could find themselves in trouble if their big men get into foul trouble quickly, but otherwise, the Gaels should have no problem outscoring the Boilermakers.

No. 2 Kansas vs. No. 15 Detroit

Thomas Robinson looks to lead the Jayhawks over Detroit in their first-round matchup.
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

In this matchup, the most interesting subplot will be to see how many rebounds Thomas Robinson can gather in 20 minutes, because the Jayhawks (27-6) won’t be needing much out of him in the second half to beat the Horizon League champions, Detroit (22-13).

Detroit pulled off an improbable upset going away against Valparaiso in their conference tournament championship game to punch their ticket to the Big Dance. However, unlike Horizon League rival Butler, don’t expect the Titans to pull off any shockers.

The fact that they’ve made it this far is shocking enough.

Kansas will win big.

For your printable bracket for the 2012 NCAA tournament, click here

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No. 6 San Diego State vs. No. 11 North Carolina State

Jamaal Franklin looks to lead his Aztecs into the second round.
Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Before their ACC tournament run, few even expected NC State to be here. The Wolfpack (22-12) were able to string together some late-season victories and played North Carolina extremely close in their ACC semi-final matchup to find themselves with a comfortable No. 11-seed in the NCAA tournament.

Hopefully, they aren’t getting too comfortable.

NC State is the definition of a mediocre team in 2011-2012. They lost to the teams they were supposed to lose to, often by wide margins, and beat most of the teams they were supposed to beat.

Facing a talented, long, and athletic San Diego State team in the NCAA tournament first round, expect that trend to continue.

San Diego State (26-7) has the length and athleticism to defend NC State from end-to-end, force them into turnovers and create easy transition baskets for themselves. NC State doesn’t have the ability to flip that statement around.

Look for Jamaal Franklin and the rest of the Aztecs to regain their form of late, before their conference tournament loss to New Mexico, and fight their way through to round two.

No. 3 Georgetown vs. No 14. Belmont

After narrowly missing an upset in 2011, the Belmont Bruins will finally break through and pull a major upset in the first round against Georgetown.
Harry How/Getty Images

What a year to be a No. 3-seed!

The Belmont Bruins (27-7) are one very good basketball team. After narrowly dropping their tournament game last season, when many picked them to pull a monster upset, they began this season with a one-point loss at Duke. After getting whipped in their second game, a loss to Memphis, Belmont has been beaten by more than five points only once.

The Bruins can shoot. They distribute the ball well among themselves, always making the extra pass that buys the shooter the extra split second he needs to be sure his aim is true. They don’t defend or rebound particularly well, but they can cause enough of a nuisance that their offense can keep them hanging around just long enough to pull an upset.

The Georgetown Hoyas (23-8) play a very contrasting style to that of Belmont. Where Belmont shoots early in the shot clock, the Hoyas grind out the clock. Where Belmont can score a lot of points very quickly, Georgetown can find themselves in trouble if the score gets above 65.

Georgetown simply does not have the offensive firepower to keep up with their opponents.

In another huge upset, look for Belmont to pull out the victory over Georgetown. The Hoyas simply will not be able to slow the game down enough to keep themselves in it. Belmont will shoot furiously from all over the floor, and force upon Georgetown a tempo it cannot sustain.

No. 7 Saint Mary’s vs. No. 10 Purdue

Matthew Dellavedova looks to lead Saint Mary’s past Purdue.
Ethan Miller/Getty Images

This game will be very fast-paced, high-scoring, and exciting.

Robbie Hummel takes his final shot at NCAA tournament glory, while Matthew Dellavedova tries to steal the spotlight.

Purdue (21-12) may not be able to keep up with Saint Mary’s if the Gaels are shooting well from the get-go and, unfortunately for Purdue, their best chance to win is to keep the tempo moving, and avoid getting into a free-throw shooting contest.

Saint Mary’s (27-5) could find themselves in trouble if their big men get into foul trouble quickly, but otherwise, the Gaels should have no problem outscoring the Boilermakers.

No. 2 Kansas vs. No. 15 Detroit

Thomas Robinson looks to lead the Jayhawks over Detroit in their first-round matchup.
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

In this matchup, the most interesting subplot will be to see how many rebounds Thomas Robinson can gather in 20 minutes, because the Jayhawks (27-6) won’t be needing much out of him in the second half to beat the Horizon League champions, Detroit (22-13).

Detroit pulled off an improbable upset going away against Valparaiso in their conference tournament championship game to punch their ticket to the Big Dance. However, unlike Horizon League rival Butler, don’t expect the Titans to pull off any shockers.

The fact that they’ve made it this far is shocking enough.

Kansas will win big.

For your printable bracket for the 2012 NCAA tournament, click here

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No. 4 Michigan vs No. 13 Ohio

Trey Burke looks to lead Michigan past Ohio.
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The Ohio University Bobcats (27-7) will look to continue their run into March against the Michigan Wolverines (24-9). After knocking off two higher-seeded opponents in the MAC tournament, the Bobcats will try to make it three in a row. Unless Michigan is caught looking ahead at possible second-round opponent Temple, they will fall well short.

Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway, Jr., and Co., put together a stellar Big Ten regular season after overcoming some early-season jitters.

Much like Temple, the Wolverines have really grown into their style of play, a hallmark of a Jon Beilein-coached team. Driven by their perimeter players, Michigan displays both patience and explosiveness on the offensive end.

This first-round matchup should be a breeze for the Maize and Blue.

No. 6 San Diego State vs. No. 11 North Carolina State

Jamaal Franklin looks to lead his Aztecs into the second round.
Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Before their ACC tournament run, few even expected NC State to be here. The Wolfpack (22-12) were able to string together some late-season victories and played North Carolina extremely close in their ACC semi-final matchup to find themselves with a comfortable No. 11-seed in the NCAA tournament.

Hopefully, they aren’t getting too comfortable.

NC State is the definition of a mediocre team in 2011-2012. They lost to the teams they were supposed to lose to, often by wide margins, and beat most of the teams they were supposed to beat.

Facing a talented, long, and athletic San Diego State team in the NCAA tournament first round, expect that trend to continue.

San Diego State (26-7) has the length and athleticism to defend NC State from end-to-end, force them into turnovers and create easy transition baskets for themselves. NC State doesn’t have the ability to flip that statement around.

Look for Jamaal Franklin and the rest of the Aztecs to regain their form of late, before their conference tournament loss to New Mexico, and fight their way through to round two.

No. 3 Georgetown vs. No 14. Belmont

After narrowly missing an upset in 2011, the Belmont Bruins will finally break through and pull a major upset in the first round against Georgetown.
Harry How/Getty Images

What a year to be a No. 3-seed!

The Belmont Bruins (27-7) are one very good basketball team. After narrowly dropping their tournament game last season, when many picked them to pull a monster upset, they began this season with a one-point loss at Duke. After getting whipped in their second game, a loss to Memphis, Belmont has been beaten by more than five points only once.

The Bruins can shoot. They distribute the ball well among themselves, always making the extra pass that buys the shooter the extra split second he needs to be sure his aim is true. They don’t defend or rebound particularly well, but they can cause enough of a nuisance that their offense can keep them hanging around just long enough to pull an upset.

The Georgetown Hoyas (23-8) play a very contrasting style to that of Belmont. Where Belmont shoots early in the shot clock, the Hoyas grind out the clock. Where Belmont can score a lot of points very quickly, Georgetown can find themselves in trouble if the score gets above 65.

Georgetown simply does not have the offensive firepower to keep up with their opponents.

In another huge upset, look for Belmont to pull out the victory over Georgetown. The Hoyas simply will not be able to slow the game down enough to keep themselves in it. Belmont will shoot furiously from all over the floor, and force upon Georgetown a tempo it cannot sustain.

No. 7 Saint Mary’s vs. No. 10 Purdue

Matthew Dellavedova looks to lead Saint Mary’s past Purdue.
Ethan Miller/Getty Images

This game will be very fast-paced, high-scoring, and exciting.

Robbie Hummel takes his final shot at NCAA tournament glory, while Matthew Dellavedova tries to steal the spotlight.

Purdue (21-12) may not be able to keep up with Saint Mary’s if the Gaels are shooting well from the get-go and, unfortunately for Purdue, their best chance to win is to keep the tempo moving, and avoid getting into a free-throw shooting contest.

Saint Mary’s (27-5) could find themselves in trouble if their big men get into foul trouble quickly, but otherwise, the Gaels should have no problem outscoring the Boilermakers.

No. 2 Kansas vs. No. 15 Detroit

Thomas Robinson looks to lead the Jayhawks over Detroit in their first-round matchup.
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

In this matchup, the most interesting subplot will be to see how many rebounds Thomas Robinson can gather in 20 minutes, because the Jayhawks (27-6) won’t be needing much out of him in the second half to beat the Horizon League champions, Detroit (22-13).

Detroit pulled off an improbable upset going away against Valparaiso in their conference tournament championship game to punch their ticket to the Big Dance. However, unlike Horizon League rival Butler, don’t expect the Titans to pull off any shockers.

The fact that they’ve made it this far is shocking enough.

Kansas will win big.

For your printable bracket for the 2012 NCAA tournament, click here

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No. 8 Creighton vs No. 9 Alabama

Creighton star forward Doug McDermott will lead his Blue Jays toward a second round matchup with mighty North Carolina.
Eric Francis/Getty Images

Creighton (28-5), led by star forward Doug McDermott, son of head coach Greg McDermott, can score nearly at will, but struggles to defend with consistency.

Alabama (21-11), guided by one of the hottest young coaching prospects in the game today, Anthony Grant, can defend the best teams in the country, but struggles to find the bucket on the offensive end of the floor.

Something’s gotta give, right?

Creighton has far too much firepower for the Crimson Tide to handle. They may be able to disrupt what the Blue Jays want to do on the offensive end of the floor, but they will still not be able to score when they have the ball, giving Creighton the comfort of “room-for-error” in this first-round matchup.

Unfortunately for Tide fans, not only could they lose their season, but their coach may be headed to greener pastures as well. Anthony Grant’s name will surely be connected to every big job that comes available this offseason.

No. 5 Temple vs. No. 12 California/No. 12 South Florida

Ramone Moore looks to lead Temple well beyond the first round.
Chris Chambers/Getty Images

Temple (24-7) was rewarded by the seeding committee for a dominating run through their A-10 regular season with a matchup that favors their strengths regardless of who they will face.

California (24-9) lacks any semblance of toughness, mental or physical, and would struggle to get going offensively against Temple’s rugged, stubborn Philly-style defense. South Florida (20-13) plays much of the same style as the Owls, but doesn’t have nearly the offensive firepower as the No. 5-seed in the South Region.

Led by a trio of guards, Ramone Moore, Khalif Wyatt, and Juan Fernandez, the Owls can score in the transition game, from the perimeter, or by taking it to the basket hard, making them a very undesirable opponent in the NCAA tournament.

There isn’t any one way to definitively slow the Owls attack and, while they try to figure that out, they still have to figure out how to establish themselves offensively against a team that can play shut-down defense.

Temple beat then-No. 3 Duke at home, and beat Wichita State on a neutral floor. They destroyed Xavier in their most recent game that saw any kind of hype. While Fran Dunphy’s Owls have taken some bad losses, they are very well-rounded. This team will be dangerous as long as they are alive.

No. 4 Michigan vs No. 13 Ohio

Trey Burke looks to lead Michigan past Ohio.
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The Ohio University Bobcats (27-7) will look to continue their run into March against the Michigan Wolverines (24-9). After knocking off two higher-seeded opponents in the MAC tournament, the Bobcats will try to make it three in a row. Unless Michigan is caught looking ahead at possible second-round opponent Temple, they will fall well short.

Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway, Jr., and Co., put together a stellar Big Ten regular season after overcoming some early-season jitters.

Much like Temple, the Wolverines have really grown into their style of play, a hallmark of a Jon Beilein-coached team. Driven by their perimeter players, Michigan displays both patience and explosiveness on the offensive end.

This first-round matchup should be a breeze for the Maize and Blue.

No. 6 San Diego State vs. No. 11 North Carolina State

Jamaal Franklin looks to lead his Aztecs into the second round.
Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Before their ACC tournament run, few even expected NC State to be here. The Wolfpack (22-12) were able to string together some late-season victories and played North Carolina extremely close in their ACC semi-final matchup to find themselves with a comfortable No. 11-seed in the NCAA tournament.

Hopefully, they aren’t getting too comfortable.

NC State is the definition of a mediocre team in 2011-2012. They lost to the teams they were supposed to lose to, often by wide margins, and beat most of the teams they were supposed to beat.

Facing a talented, long, and athletic San Diego State team in the NCAA tournament first round, expect that trend to continue.

San Diego State (26-7) has the length and athleticism to defend NC State from end-to-end, force them into turnovers and create easy transition baskets for themselves. NC State doesn’t have the ability to flip that statement around.

Look for Jamaal Franklin and the rest of the Aztecs to regain their form of late, before their conference tournament loss to New Mexico, and fight their way through to round two.

No. 3 Georgetown vs. No 14. Belmont

After narrowly missing an upset in 2011, the Belmont Bruins will finally break through and pull a major upset in the first round against Georgetown.
Harry How/Getty Images

What a year to be a No. 3-seed!

The Belmont Bruins (27-7) are one very good basketball team. After narrowly dropping their tournament game last season, when many picked them to pull a monster upset, they began this season with a one-point loss at Duke. After getting whipped in their second game, a loss to Memphis, Belmont has been beaten by more than five points only once.

The Bruins can shoot. They distribute the ball well among themselves, always making the extra pass that buys the shooter the extra split second he needs to be sure his aim is true. They don’t defend or rebound particularly well, but they can cause enough of a nuisance that their offense can keep them hanging around just long enough to pull an upset.

The Georgetown Hoyas (23-8) play a very contrasting style to that of Belmont. Where Belmont shoots early in the shot clock, the Hoyas grind out the clock. Where Belmont can score a lot of points very quickly, Georgetown can find themselves in trouble if the score gets above 65.

Georgetown simply does not have the offensive firepower to keep up with their opponents.

In another huge upset, look for Belmont to pull out the victory over Georgetown. The Hoyas simply will not be able to slow the game down enough to keep themselves in it. Belmont will shoot furiously from all over the floor, and force upon Georgetown a tempo it cannot sustain.

No. 7 Saint Mary’s vs. No. 10 Purdue

Matthew Dellavedova looks to lead Saint Mary’s past Purdue.
Ethan Miller/Getty Images

This game will be very fast-paced, high-scoring, and exciting.

Robbie Hummel takes his final shot at NCAA tournament glory, while Matthew Dellavedova tries to steal the spotlight.

Purdue (21-12) may not be able to keep up with Saint Mary’s if the Gaels are shooting well from the get-go and, unfortunately for Purdue, their best chance to win is to keep the tempo moving, and avoid getting into a free-throw shooting contest.

Saint Mary’s (27-5) could find themselves in trouble if their big men get into foul trouble quickly, but otherwise, the Gaels should have no problem outscoring the Boilermakers.

No. 2 Kansas vs. No. 15 Detroit

Thomas Robinson looks to lead the Jayhawks over Detroit in their first-round matchup.
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

In this matchup, the most interesting subplot will be to see how many rebounds Thomas Robinson can gather in 20 minutes, because the Jayhawks (27-6) won’t be needing much out of him in the second half to beat the Horizon League champions, Detroit (22-13).

Detroit pulled off an improbable upset going away against Valparaiso in their conference tournament championship game to punch their ticket to the Big Dance. However, unlike Horizon League rival Butler, don’t expect the Titans to pull off any shockers.

The fact that they’ve made it this far is shocking enough.

Kansas will win big.

For your printable bracket for the 2012 NCAA tournament, click here

Begin Slideshow

Keep Reading

No. 2 Ohio State vs. No. 15 Loyola (MD)

Jared Sullinger and the Ohio State Buckeyes are out to avenge last season’s early exit.
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Jared Sullinger and the Ohio State Buckeyes (27-7) were one win away from being a No. 1 seed, dropping a tight game to Michigan State in the Big Ten tournament final. Despite not actually getting that No.1 seed, the Buckeyes still get a No. 1 vs No. 16-type matchup here.

The Greyhounds of Loyola (24-8) stole a bid by winning the MAAC, a league that many expected Iona to walk away with. While they will have something to decorate the rafters with from this season, there won’t be anything else.

Ohio State is the far superior team in this matchup and the only question is, at which point do you rest Sullinger and his fellow starters? Halfway through the first half? Halftime? This game won’t even be close.

No. 1 North Carolina vs. No. 16 Lamar/No. 16 Vermont

Kendall Marshall’s steady leadership will undoubtedly lead the Tar Heels past their first round opponent.
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Not too long ago, Vermont (23-11) was a team that no one wanted to see opposite them in the bracket. In 2005, the then-No.13 seeded Catamounts shocked No. 4 Syracuse, and the world, with their first-round upset.

Well, Vermont fans, you may want to cue that game up on your DVR because, if Vermont can win their play-in game, they will face a beat down of epic proportions.

For Pat Knight, son of Bobby Knight, and his Lamar Cardinals (23-11), the prospects aren’t much better. While Knight earned himself some notoriety with a post-game rant that obviously stirred his troops in recent weeks, his team just doesn’t have what it takes to compete with the North Carolina Tar Heels (29-5).

North Carolina wins big, regardless of who they play.

No. 8 Creighton vs No. 9 Alabama

Creighton star forward Doug McDermott will lead his Blue Jays toward a second round matchup with mighty North Carolina.
Eric Francis/Getty Images

Creighton (28-5), led by star forward Doug McDermott, son of head coach Greg McDermott, can score nearly at will, but struggles to defend with consistency.

Alabama (21-11), guided by one of the hottest young coaching prospects in the game today, Anthony Grant, can defend the best teams in the country, but struggles to find the bucket on the offensive end of the floor.

Something’s gotta give, right?

Creighton has far too much firepower for the Crimson Tide to handle. They may be able to disrupt what the Blue Jays want to do on the offensive end of the floor, but they will still not be able to score when they have the ball, giving Creighton the comfort of “room-for-error” in this first-round matchup.

Unfortunately for Tide fans, not only could they lose their season, but their coach may be headed to greener pastures as well. Anthony Grant’s name will surely be connected to every big job that comes available this offseason.

No. 5 Temple vs. No. 12 California/No. 12 South Florida

Ramone Moore looks to lead Temple well beyond the first round.
Chris Chambers/Getty Images

Temple (24-7) was rewarded by the seeding committee for a dominating run through their A-10 regular season with a matchup that favors their strengths regardless of who they will face.

California (24-9) lacks any semblance of toughness, mental or physical, and would struggle to get going offensively against Temple’s rugged, stubborn Philly-style defense. South Florida (20-13) plays much of the same style as the Owls, but doesn’t have nearly the offensive firepower as the No. 5-seed in the South Region.

Led by a trio of guards, Ramone Moore, Khalif Wyatt, and Juan Fernandez, the Owls can score in the transition game, from the perimeter, or by taking it to the basket hard, making them a very undesirable opponent in the NCAA tournament.

There isn’t any one way to definitively slow the Owls attack and, while they try to figure that out, they still have to figure out how to establish themselves offensively against a team that can play shut-down defense.

Temple beat then-No. 3 Duke at home, and beat Wichita State on a neutral floor. They destroyed Xavier in their most recent game that saw any kind of hype. While Fran Dunphy’s Owls have taken some bad losses, they are very well-rounded. This team will be dangerous as long as they are alive.

No. 4 Michigan vs No. 13 Ohio

Trey Burke looks to lead Michigan past Ohio.
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The Ohio University Bobcats (27-7) will look to continue their run into March against the Michigan Wolverines (24-9). After knocking off two higher-seeded opponents in the MAC tournament, the Bobcats will try to make it three in a row. Unless Michigan is caught looking ahead at possible second-round opponent Temple, they will fall well short.

Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway, Jr., and Co., put together a stellar Big Ten regular season after overcoming some early-season jitters.

Much like Temple, the Wolverines have really grown into their style of play, a hallmark of a Jon Beilein-coached team. Driven by their perimeter players, Michigan displays both patience and explosiveness on the offensive end.

This first-round matchup should be a breeze for the Maize and Blue.

No. 6 San Diego State vs. No. 11 North Carolina State

Jamaal Franklin looks to lead his Aztecs into the second round.
Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Before their ACC tournament run, few even expected NC State to be here. The Wolfpack (22-12) were able to string together some late-season victories and played North Carolina extremely close in their ACC semi-final matchup to find themselves with a comfortable No. 11-seed in the NCAA tournament.

Hopefully, they aren’t getting too comfortable.

NC State is the definition of a mediocre team in 2011-2012. They lost to the teams they were supposed to lose to, often by wide margins, and beat most of the teams they were supposed to beat.

Facing a talented, long, and athletic San Diego State team in the NCAA tournament first round, expect that trend to continue.

San Diego State (26-7) has the length and athleticism to defend NC State from end-to-end, force them into turnovers and create easy transition baskets for themselves. NC State doesn’t have the ability to flip that statement around.

Look for Jamaal Franklin and the rest of the Aztecs to regain their form of late, before their conference tournament loss to New Mexico, and fight their way through to round two.

No. 3 Georgetown vs. No 14. Belmont

After narrowly missing an upset in 2011, the Belmont Bruins will finally break through and pull a major upset in the first round against Georgetown.
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What a year to be a No. 3-seed!

The Belmont Bruins (27-7) are one very good basketball team. After narrowly dropping their tournament game last season, when many picked them to pull a monster upset, they began this season with a one-point loss at Duke. After getting whipped in their second game, a loss to Memphis, Belmont has been beaten by more than five points only once.

The Bruins can shoot. They distribute the ball well among themselves, always making the extra pass that buys the shooter the extra split second he needs to be sure his aim is true. They don’t defend or rebound particularly well, but they can cause enough of a nuisance that their offense can keep them hanging around just long enough to pull an upset.

The Georgetown Hoyas (23-8) play a very contrasting style to that of Belmont. Where Belmont shoots early in the shot clock, the Hoyas grind out the clock. Where Belmont can score a lot of points very quickly, Georgetown can find themselves in trouble if the score gets above 65.

Georgetown simply does not have the offensive firepower to keep up with their opponents.

In another huge upset, look for Belmont to pull out the victory over Georgetown. The Hoyas simply will not be able to slow the game down enough to keep themselves in it. Belmont will shoot furiously from all over the floor, and force upon Georgetown a tempo it cannot sustain.

No. 7 Saint Mary’s vs. No. 10 Purdue

Matthew Dellavedova looks to lead Saint Mary’s past Purdue.
Ethan Miller/Getty Images

This game will be very fast-paced, high-scoring, and exciting.

Robbie Hummel takes his final shot at NCAA tournament glory, while Matthew Dellavedova tries to steal the spotlight.

Purdue (21-12) may not be able to keep up with Saint Mary’s if the Gaels are shooting well from the get-go and, unfortunately for Purdue, their best chance to win is to keep the tempo moving, and avoid getting into a free-throw shooting contest.

Saint Mary’s (27-5) could find themselves in trouble if their big men get into foul trouble quickly, but otherwise, the Gaels should have no problem outscoring the Boilermakers.

No. 2 Kansas vs. No. 15 Detroit

Thomas Robinson looks to lead the Jayhawks over Detroit in their first-round matchup.
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In this matchup, the most interesting subplot will be to see how many rebounds Thomas Robinson can gather in 20 minutes, because the Jayhawks (27-6) won’t be needing much out of him in the second half to beat the Horizon League champions, Detroit (22-13).

Detroit pulled off an improbable upset going away against Valparaiso in their conference tournament championship game to punch their ticket to the Big Dance. However, unlike Horizon League rival Butler, don’t expect the Titans to pull off any shockers.

The fact that they’ve made it this far is shocking enough.

Kansas will win big.

For your printable bracket for the 2012 NCAA tournament, click here

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No. 1 Syracuse vs. No. 16 UNC-Asheville

Fab Melo has been a force inside all season for the Orange.
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Syracuse (31-2) earned a No. 1-seed despite falling to Cincinnati in the Big East tournament.

The Orange’s biggest advantage is their depth and balance. With so many players capable of shouldering the load, it is hard to defend the Orange by taking away their strengths, simply because there are so many.

Speaking of defense, the Orange are long and suffocating on defense, forcing turnovers and bad shots that fuel an explosive transition offense. Often, teams find themselves keeping close with Syracuse until a series of bad possessions lets the Orange build some momentum and then they almost can’t be stopped.

The first to try in the 2012 NCAA tournament will be UNC-Asheville (24-9), and they will fail mightily. While UNC-Asheville does like to push an up-tempo pace and can fill it up from the outside, they lack the size they will need to get over and around Syracuse’s defenders.

‘Cuse will run away with this one.

No. 8 Kansas State vs. No. 9 Southern Mississippi

Kansas State’s Rodney McGruder will look to carry Kansas State past Southern Miss.
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File this matchup under the “tough to call” category.

Both teams thrive on physical play. Frank Martin’s Kansas State Wildcats (21-10) came into their own as the season wore on, working themselves off the bubble since early-to-mid February. Having said that, take one look at the results of their games and it is easy to see that they struggle against teams with effective big men.

Southern Miss (25-8) does have an effective big man in Maurice Bolden, but he plays a lot on the perimeter as opposed to exclusively in the post, where Kansas State is most vulnerable. Darnell Dodson is a big guard who can score as well, but again, his game doesn’t necessarily exploit Kansas State’s weaknesses.

While the matchup may not indicate a likely winner in and of itself, a quick look at the recent trend each team is following does. Since the beginning of February, Southern Miss has been a relatively average team, losing twice to Marshall, and once each to Houston, UAB, and UTEP.

In that same time span, Kansas State has only lost to the likes of Baylor, Kansas, Texas, and Iowa State, all of whom are dancing.

Finally, Larry Eustachy may have resurrected his career in Hattiesburg, but before he trashed it in the first place at Iowa State, his Cyclone teams were notorious tournament underachievers, once being eliminated in a 2-seed vs 15-seed matchup.

This game may be an all-out brawl and a nail-biter all at once, but expect Kansas State to avoid the mini-upset.

No. 5 Vanderbilt vs. No. 12 Harvard

Vanderbilt is a slam dunk to win this first round matchup.
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This matchup sounds more like an argument you would hear between members at an exclusive country club than an NCAA tournament matchup, but both teams came into 2011-2012 with high expectations.

Harvard (26-4), which squeaked out of the Ivy League when Penn fell to Princeton, seemed to be a trendy pick for a tournament Cinderella at the peak of the non-conference schedule, but appeared to hit rough water in the relatively weak Ivy League.

Vanderbilt (24-10) had quite the opposite season, performing terribly at the start of the year, but coming on strong towards the end as their team got healthy and began to gel.

Now it is Vandy that is the trendy pick to dance well beyond what their seed would indicate and that is not without merit. The Commodores rely heavily on senior leadership, sharp shooting from the outside, and solid rebounding and defense on the interior.

Lance Goulbourne, Festus Ezeli, Jeffery Taylor, and John Jenkins form a nucleus that is as talented as it is experienced. Since the calendar rolled into February, Vanderbilt’s only losses have come at the hands of Tennessee, Florida, and Kentucky, none of which are especially troubling.

When you factor in how effective the Commodores had become at both ends of the floor by the end of the SEC tournament, it’s easy to see why many have Vandy in their Final Four.

As the Vanderbilt train gets rolling out of the station, Harvard will be nothing more than a small bump in the tracks. Look for Vandy to roll in this one.

No. 4 Wisconsin vs. No. 13 Montana

Wisconsin’s Jordan Taylor looks to lead the Badgers deep into March.
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The Montana Grizzlies (25-6) roll into the tournament having just snatched the Big Sky’s automatic bid from the hands of Weber State, a team many had pegged to make some noise in the Big Dance. That doesn’t mean, however, that Montana should be expected to make any noise themselves.

Wisconsin (24-9) comes into the tournament led by senior guard Jordan Taylor. The Badgers are consistent, defensive-minded, patient, and very physical. The Wisconsin roster is loaded with good shooters, so a cold-shooting night is unlikely to derail the Badgers this early in the tournament.

When your opponent has so many obvious factors leaning in their favor, you must be able to do something exceptionally well in order to beat them.

Unfortunately, Montana does not.

They are a solid basketball team, with a good record against weaker competition. They do not have the size or speed to force Wisconsin to do anything it isn’t comfortable doing.

If Montana can catch fire from beyond the arc, they may keep this one interesting past halftime, but the only victories the Grizzlies are going home with will be moral.

Wisconsin marches on.

No. 6 Cincinnati vs. No. 11 Texas

J’Covan Brown is the leader of a young, talented Texas team that seems to be coming together at the right time.
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Cincinnati comes into the NCAA tournament having just reeled off consecutive upset victories in the Big East tournament, where they eventually fell to Louisville in a tight one in the final.

Texas enters the tournament having posted just one bad loss since the beginning of February, and have the look and feel of a young team finally figuring out how to compete at the college level.

Which trend will prevail?

Given the recent tournament history of Big East teams that put together improbable runs in the conference tournament, which, aside from UConn’s miracle run of 2011, is not very good, Texas is in good shape to pull off the upset.

Rick Barnes’ squad is exceptionally young and exceptionally talented. Of the Longhorns top nine players in terms of minutes per game, six are freshmen. For most teams across the country, outside of the Duke-Kentucky-UNC-trifecta, having that many freshmen on the floor at once would surely lead to some growing pains, as it has in Austin.

For all their inexperience, the Longhorns are that much bigger, faster, and stronger than a scrappy Cincinnati squad that would have been no higher than an 8-seed if not for their late tournament run.

Look for the Longhorns to win a close game, with J’Covan Brown doing his best Kemba Walker impression.

No. 3 Florida State vs No. 14 St. Bonaventure

Leonard Hamilton’s Florida State Seminoles will squeak by an energized St. Bonaventure squad.
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While the seeding associated with these teams surely doesn’t indicate it, this is a far more dangerous matchup for the Seminoles (24-9) than most would expect, especially considering their run through the ACC tournament.

That run, however, needs an asterisk next to it.

John Henson sat out the title game for the Tar Heels in order to rest his injured wrist for the NCAA tournament. Bid already in hand, Roy Williams was not going to risk his shot at the national title for a shot at the ACC title. Florida State beat a North Carolina squad desperately in need of a rest.

St. Bonaventure (20-11), on the other hand, is among the hottest teams in the country.

The Bonnies charged into the A-10 tournament having seized a first round bye over the course of the last few weeks, and rode the momentum all the way to the NCAA tournament. So, does a team that has spent the better part of the last two weeks beating bubble-team after bubble-team sound like a 14-seed?

Led by their dynamic 6’9″ senior forward, Andrew Nicholson, the Bonnies are far better than the 14-seed the NCAA tournament committee pegged them with. St. Bonaventure is clearly better than Montana (13-seed), Harvard (12-seed), Davidson (13-seed), etc.

The list goes on.

The team that pays the ultimate price for the tournament committee’s oversight? Florida State.

Instead of coasting through a well-deserved directional-school cupcake in the first round, Leonard Hamilton’s Seminole’s must now summon the energy to beat a team that is gaining confidence like a steam-roller going downhill.

Will they do it? Yes, but just barely. Florida State has become some people’s hot Final Four pick, and they will surely be sweating out the final minutes of this one.

No. 7 Gonzaga vs. No. 10 West Virginia

Kevin Jones and the Mountaineers will bring a level of physicality for which the Zags are not ready.
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The WCC used to be, without question, a one-bid conference. With the recent success of school’s like Gonzaga and St. Mary’s, and the recent addition of perennially competitive BYU, the conference has suddenly found itself in the midst of its own renaissance.

Despite the increased exposure and respect the league is now getting on a national level, its teams are still getting the shaft when it comes to seeding in the NCAA tournament.

Really, should Gonzaga (25-6), whose worst out-of-conference loss came at the hands of Illinois before the Illini’s epic mid-season meltdown, who lost to Michigan State by only 7 points, and who just lost their conference title game to the 18th best team in the country according to the polls, be a 7-seed?

The Zags reward for a job well done this year? A first-round date with Bob Huggins’ rugged West Virginia Mountaineers (19-13).

West Virginia is led by Kevin Jones and Darryl “Truck” Bryant, two seasoned veterans who have shone under the bright lights of the tournament before. Despite not posting a win worthy of note since January, the Mountaineers are a nightmare matchup for an undersized Gonzaga team that relies heavily on its ability to get open looks at the basket to keep their offense moving.

Look for West Virginia to post the mini-upset of the Zags, beating up on Gonzaga’s guards to disrupt their tempo and rhythm.

No. 2 Ohio State vs. No. 15 Loyola (MD)

Jared Sullinger and the Ohio State Buckeyes are out to avenge last season’s early exit.
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Jared Sullinger and the Ohio State Buckeyes (27-7) were one win away from being a No. 1 seed, dropping a tight game to Michigan State in the Big Ten tournament final. Despite not actually getting that No.1 seed, the Buckeyes still get a No. 1 vs No. 16-type matchup here.

The Greyhounds of Loyola (24-8) stole a bid by winning the MAAC, a league that many expected Iona to walk away with. While they will have something to decorate the rafters with from this season, there won’t be anything else.

Ohio State is the far superior team in this matchup and the only question is, at which point do you rest Sullinger and his fellow starters? Halfway through the first half? Halftime? This game won’t even be close.

No. 1 North Carolina vs. No. 16 Lamar/No. 16 Vermont

Kendall Marshall’s steady leadership will undoubtedly lead the Tar Heels past their first round opponent.
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Not too long ago, Vermont (23-11) was a team that no one wanted to see opposite them in the bracket. In 2005, the then-No.13 seeded Catamounts shocked No. 4 Syracuse, and the world, with their first-round upset.

Well, Vermont fans, you may want to cue that game up on your DVR because, if Vermont can win their play-in game, they will face a beat down of epic proportions.

For Pat Knight, son of Bobby Knight, and his Lamar Cardinals (23-11), the prospects aren’t much better. While Knight earned himself some notoriety with a post-game rant that obviously stirred his troops in recent weeks, his team just doesn’t have what it takes to compete with the North Carolina Tar Heels (29-5).

North Carolina wins big, regardless of who they play.

No. 8 Creighton vs No. 9 Alabama

Creighton star forward Doug McDermott will lead his Blue Jays toward a second round matchup with mighty North Carolina.
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Creighton (28-5), led by star forward Doug McDermott, son of head coach Greg McDermott, can score nearly at will, but struggles to defend with consistency.

Alabama (21-11), guided by one of the hottest young coaching prospects in the game today, Anthony Grant, can defend the best teams in the country, but struggles to find the bucket on the offensive end of the floor.

Something’s gotta give, right?

Creighton has far too much firepower for the Crimson Tide to handle. They may be able to disrupt what the Blue Jays want to do on the offensive end of the floor, but they will still not be able to score when they have the ball, giving Creighton the comfort of “room-for-error” in this first-round matchup.

Unfortunately for Tide fans, not only could they lose their season, but their coach may be headed to greener pastures as well. Anthony Grant’s name will surely be connected to every big job that comes available this offseason.

No. 5 Temple vs. No. 12 California/No. 12 South Florida

Ramone Moore looks to lead Temple well beyond the first round.
Chris Chambers/Getty Images

Temple (24-7) was rewarded by the seeding committee for a dominating run through their A-10 regular season with a matchup that favors their strengths regardless of who they will face.

California (24-9) lacks any semblance of toughness, mental or physical, and would struggle to get going offensively against Temple’s rugged, stubborn Philly-style defense. South Florida (20-13) plays much of the same style as the Owls, but doesn’t have nearly the offensive firepower as the No. 5-seed in the South Region.

Led by a trio of guards, Ramone Moore, Khalif Wyatt, and Juan Fernandez, the Owls can score in the transition game, from the perimeter, or by taking it to the basket hard, making them a very undesirable opponent in the NCAA tournament.

There isn’t any one way to definitively slow the Owls attack and, while they try to figure that out, they still have to figure out how to establish themselves offensively against a team that can play shut-down defense.

Temple beat then-No. 3 Duke at home, and beat Wichita State on a neutral floor. They destroyed Xavier in their most recent game that saw any kind of hype. While Fran Dunphy’s Owls have taken some bad losses, they are very well-rounded. This team will be dangerous as long as they are alive.

No. 4 Michigan vs No. 13 Ohio

Trey Burke looks to lead Michigan past Ohio.
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The Ohio University Bobcats (27-7) will look to continue their run into March against the Michigan Wolverines (24-9). After knocking off two higher-seeded opponents in the MAC tournament, the Bobcats will try to make it three in a row. Unless Michigan is caught looking ahead at possible second-round opponent Temple, they will fall well short.

Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway, Jr., and Co., put together a stellar Big Ten regular season after overcoming some early-season jitters.

Much like Temple, the Wolverines have really grown into their style of play, a hallmark of a Jon Beilein-coached team. Driven by their perimeter players, Michigan displays both patience and explosiveness on the offensive end.

This first-round matchup should be a breeze for the Maize and Blue.

No. 6 San Diego State vs. No. 11 North Carolina State

Jamaal Franklin looks to lead his Aztecs into the second round.
Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Before their ACC tournament run, few even expected NC State to be here. The Wolfpack (22-12) were able to string together some late-season victories and played North Carolina extremely close in their ACC semi-final matchup to find themselves with a comfortable No. 11-seed in the NCAA tournament.

Hopefully, they aren’t getting too comfortable.

NC State is the definition of a mediocre team in 2011-2012. They lost to the teams they were supposed to lose to, often by wide margins, and beat most of the teams they were supposed to beat.

Facing a talented, long, and athletic San Diego State team in the NCAA tournament first round, expect that trend to continue.

San Diego State (26-7) has the length and athleticism to defend NC State from end-to-end, force them into turnovers and create easy transition baskets for themselves. NC State doesn’t have the ability to flip that statement around.

Look for Jamaal Franklin and the rest of the Aztecs to regain their form of late, before their conference tournament loss to New Mexico, and fight their way through to round two.

No. 3 Georgetown vs. No 14. Belmont

After narrowly missing an upset in 2011, the Belmont Bruins will finally break through and pull a major upset in the first round against Georgetown.
Harry How/Getty Images

What a year to be a No. 3-seed!

The Belmont Bruins (27-7) are one very good basketball team. After narrowly dropping their tournament game last season, when many picked them to pull a monster upset, they began this season with a one-point loss at Duke. After getting whipped in their second game, a loss to Memphis, Belmont has been beaten by more than five points only once.

The Bruins can shoot. They distribute the ball well among themselves, always making the extra pass that buys the shooter the extra split second he needs to be sure his aim is true. They don’t defend or rebound particularly well, but they can cause enough of a nuisance that their offense can keep them hanging around just long enough to pull an upset.

The Georgetown Hoyas (23-8) play a very contrasting style to that of Belmont. Where Belmont shoots early in the shot clock, the Hoyas grind out the clock. Where Belmont can score a lot of points very quickly, Georgetown can find themselves in trouble if the score gets above 65.

Georgetown simply does not have the offensive firepower to keep up with their opponents.

In another huge upset, look for Belmont to pull out the victory over Georgetown. The Hoyas simply will not be able to slow the game down enough to keep themselves in it. Belmont will shoot furiously from all over the floor, and force upon Georgetown a tempo it cannot sustain.

No. 7 Saint Mary’s vs. No. 10 Purdue

Matthew Dellavedova looks to lead Saint Mary’s past Purdue.
Ethan Miller/Getty Images

This game will be very fast-paced, high-scoring, and exciting.

Robbie Hummel takes his final shot at NCAA tournament glory, while Matthew Dellavedova tries to steal the spotlight.

Purdue (21-12) may not be able to keep up with Saint Mary’s if the Gaels are shooting well from the get-go and, unfortunately for Purdue, their best chance to win is to keep the tempo moving, and avoid getting into a free-throw shooting contest.

Saint Mary’s (27-5) could find themselves in trouble if their big men get into foul trouble quickly, but otherwise, the Gaels should have no problem outscoring the Boilermakers.

No. 2 Kansas vs. No. 15 Detroit

Thomas Robinson looks to lead the Jayhawks over Detroit in their first-round matchup.
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

In this matchup, the most interesting subplot will be to see how many rebounds Thomas Robinson can gather in 20 minutes, because the Jayhawks (27-6) won’t be needing much out of him in the second half to beat the Horizon League champions, Detroit (22-13).

Detroit pulled off an improbable upset going away against Valparaiso in their conference tournament championship game to punch their ticket to the Big Dance. However, unlike Horizon League rival Butler, don’t expect the Titans to pull off any shockers.

The fact that they’ve made it this far is shocking enough.

Kansas will win big.

For your printable bracket for the 2012 NCAA tournament, click here

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No. 4 Louisville vs. No. 13 Davidson

Peyton Siva leads a red-hot Louisville team into the NCAA tournament.
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Rick Pitino‘s Louisville Cardinals (26-9) are yet again riding a wave of momentum into the NCAA tournament, having put on a tantalizing display of physicality, finesse, and suffocating defense en route to the Big East tournament crown.

If Davidson (25-7) were anything like the Wildcats of yesteryear, they could pose a threat to upset Pitino’s Cardinals, but, alas, Stephon Curry is not walking through that door.

Peyton Siva, Kyle Kuric, and Gorgui Dieng simply pose too many matchup problems for Davidson, who was exposed by Wichita State on BracketBusters Saturday as being incapable of handling the speed that top teams can push the tempo towards. While they were able to upset Kansas in Lawrence, that feat was completed before Kansas had developed any consistency at guard, so they were forced to play the type of half-court game that Davidson favors.

Look for Louisville to force Davidson into early mistakes in the backcourt, and keep them from finding their outside stroke by simply out-muscling the Wildcats, punching their ticket to the second round with relative ease.

No. 6 Murray State vs. No. 11 Colorado State

Isaiah Canaan has kept Murray State’s offense rolling this season.
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Given Colorado State’s solid in-conference play this season and Murray State’s relatively low profile, many will look for the Rams (20-11) to pull off the upset against the Racers (30-1), and many will be wrong.

Colorado State is a fundamentally sound basketball team that takes care of the ball on offense and tries to keep teams from finding their comfort-zone on defense. While this can be an effective brand of basketball against a team that lacks an assertive, smart point guard, Murray State has an assertive, smart point guard.

Isaiah Canaan was one of the top players in the country this season, and he keeps the Racers racing. It is his ability to crack a defense wide-open that has made Murray State such a difficult team to beat this season.

While Colorado State has had a nice season, they simply do not have an answer for what Canaan brings to the court. It will be a close game, but Murray State will pull this one out and move on to the second round.

No. 3 Marquette vs. No. 14 BYU/ No. 14 Iona

Iona PG Scott Machado runs the nation’s most potent scoring attack.
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Depending on what happens in the play-in game, this matchup could be either one of the best opening weekend games we’ll see, or a complete snooze-fest.

Marquette (25-7) is a very solid basketball team. Well-rounded, tough, solid defensively, and explosive offensively, the Golden Eagles are just the type of team that could very conceivably make a run to New Orleans.

But if Iona (25-7) takes care of business in their play-in game against BYU (25-8), the Gaels are most certainly capable of keeping pace with Marquette, making for a very interesting game.

Iona is led by the power trio of Scott Machado, Michael Glover, and MoMo Jones, who was last seen leading Arizona’s surprising tournament run of a year ago. The Gaels are incredibly explosive offensively, leading the nation with an 83-points-per-game scoring average.

Machado, Glover, and Jones aren’t small either. Marquette cannot expect to control the game simply by bringing a level of physicality the Gaels surely haven’t seen in the MAAC.

If BYU is able to outclass Iona in Dayton, look for Marquette to easily advance to the next round. If Iona is able to get past the Cougars, this could be the 2012 NCAA tournament’s biggest upset.

Look for Iona to steal a close one, 89-84.

No. 7 Florida vs. No 10 Virginia

Bradley Beal has been a star of late for Billy Donovan’s Gators
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In a matchup between two teams that ultimately backed into the tournament, this game will come down to how well Florida’s guards are able to handle Virginia’s unique defensive scheme.

Florida (23-10) boasts one of the deepest, most talented backcourts in the nation, led by Bradley Beal, Kenny Boynton, Erving Walker, and Mike Rosario. That group will be called upon to crack the code of Virginia’s suffocating defense that simultaneously takes away open looks from the outside while preventing penetration.

Even though Virginia (22-9) will give Florida fits in this first-round matchup, the Cavaliers simply don’t have the offensive firepower to take advantage of the opportunities their defense will create for them.

Look for Florida to shoot their way out of this one, winning a close, low-scoring affair.

No. 2 Missouri vs. No. 15 Norfolk State

Kim English will look to shoot the Tigers into New Orleans.
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Missouri (30-4) has had one of the best seasons in school history in 2011-2012, head coach Frank Haith’s first season at the school.

Led by dominating guard play, the Tigers are coming into the tournament with a chip on their shoulder after being denied a No. 1-seed, despite having won the Big 12 tournament in dominating fashion.

Look for Marcus Denmon, Kim English, Phil and Matt Pressey, and Michael Dixon to run circles around Norfolk State (25-9).

No. 1 Syracuse vs. No. 16 UNC-Asheville

Fab Melo has been a force inside all season for the Orange.
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Syracuse (31-2) earned a No. 1-seed despite falling to Cincinnati in the Big East tournament.

The Orange’s biggest advantage is their depth and balance. With so many players capable of shouldering the load, it is hard to defend the Orange by taking away their strengths, simply because there are so many.

Speaking of defense, the Orange are long and suffocating on defense, forcing turnovers and bad shots that fuel an explosive transition offense. Often, teams find themselves keeping close with Syracuse until a series of bad possessions lets the Orange build some momentum and then they almost can’t be stopped.

The first to try in the 2012 NCAA tournament will be UNC-Asheville (24-9), and they will fail mightily. While UNC-Asheville does like to push an up-tempo pace and can fill it up from the outside, they lack the size they will need to get over and around Syracuse’s defenders.

‘Cuse will run away with this one.

No. 8 Kansas State vs. No. 9 Southern Mississippi

Kansas State’s Rodney McGruder will look to carry Kansas State past Southern Miss.
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

File this matchup under the “tough to call” category.

Both teams thrive on physical play. Frank Martin’s Kansas State Wildcats (21-10) came into their own as the season wore on, working themselves off the bubble since early-to-mid February. Having said that, take one look at the results of their games and it is easy to see that they struggle against teams with effective big men.

Southern Miss (25-8) does have an effective big man in Maurice Bolden, but he plays a lot on the perimeter as opposed to exclusively in the post, where Kansas State is most vulnerable. Darnell Dodson is a big guard who can score as well, but again, his game doesn’t necessarily exploit Kansas State’s weaknesses.

While the matchup may not indicate a likely winner in and of itself, a quick look at the recent trend each team is following does. Since the beginning of February, Southern Miss has been a relatively average team, losing twice to Marshall, and once each to Houston, UAB, and UTEP.

In that same time span, Kansas State has only lost to the likes of Baylor, Kansas, Texas, and Iowa State, all of whom are dancing.

Finally, Larry Eustachy may have resurrected his career in Hattiesburg, but before he trashed it in the first place at Iowa State, his Cyclone teams were notorious tournament underachievers, once being eliminated in a 2-seed vs 15-seed matchup.

This game may be an all-out brawl and a nail-biter all at once, but expect Kansas State to avoid the mini-upset.

No. 5 Vanderbilt vs. No. 12 Harvard

Vanderbilt is a slam dunk to win this first round matchup.
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

This matchup sounds more like an argument you would hear between members at an exclusive country club than an NCAA tournament matchup, but both teams came into 2011-2012 with high expectations.

Harvard (26-4), which squeaked out of the Ivy League when Penn fell to Princeton, seemed to be a trendy pick for a tournament Cinderella at the peak of the non-conference schedule, but appeared to hit rough water in the relatively weak Ivy League.

Vanderbilt (24-10) had quite the opposite season, performing terribly at the start of the year, but coming on strong towards the end as their team got healthy and began to gel.

Now it is Vandy that is the trendy pick to dance well beyond what their seed would indicate and that is not without merit. The Commodores rely heavily on senior leadership, sharp shooting from the outside, and solid rebounding and defense on the interior.

Lance Goulbourne, Festus Ezeli, Jeffery Taylor, and John Jenkins form a nucleus that is as talented as it is experienced. Since the calendar rolled into February, Vanderbilt’s only losses have come at the hands of Tennessee, Florida, and Kentucky, none of which are especially troubling.

When you factor in how effective the Commodores had become at both ends of the floor by the end of the SEC tournament, it’s easy to see why many have Vandy in their Final Four.

As the Vanderbilt train gets rolling out of the station, Harvard will be nothing more than a small bump in the tracks. Look for Vandy to roll in this one.

No. 4 Wisconsin vs. No. 13 Montana

Wisconsin’s Jordan Taylor looks to lead the Badgers deep into March.
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

The Montana Grizzlies (25-6) roll into the tournament having just snatched the Big Sky’s automatic bid from the hands of Weber State, a team many had pegged to make some noise in the Big Dance. That doesn’t mean, however, that Montana should be expected to make any noise themselves.

Wisconsin (24-9) comes into the tournament led by senior guard Jordan Taylor. The Badgers are consistent, defensive-minded, patient, and very physical. The Wisconsin roster is loaded with good shooters, so a cold-shooting night is unlikely to derail the Badgers this early in the tournament.

When your opponent has so many obvious factors leaning in their favor, you must be able to do something exceptionally well in order to beat them.

Unfortunately, Montana does not.

They are a solid basketball team, with a good record against weaker competition. They do not have the size or speed to force Wisconsin to do anything it isn’t comfortable doing.

If Montana can catch fire from beyond the arc, they may keep this one interesting past halftime, but the only victories the Grizzlies are going home with will be moral.

Wisconsin marches on.

No. 6 Cincinnati vs. No. 11 Texas

J’Covan Brown is the leader of a young, talented Texas team that seems to be coming together at the right time.
Ed Zurga/Getty Images

Cincinnati comes into the NCAA tournament having just reeled off consecutive upset victories in the Big East tournament, where they eventually fell to Louisville in a tight one in the final.

Texas enters the tournament having posted just one bad loss since the beginning of February, and have the look and feel of a young team finally figuring out how to compete at the college level.

Which trend will prevail?

Given the recent tournament history of Big East teams that put together improbable runs in the conference tournament, which, aside from UConn’s miracle run of 2011, is not very good, Texas is in good shape to pull off the upset.

Rick Barnes’ squad is exceptionally young and exceptionally talented. Of the Longhorns top nine players in terms of minutes per game, six are freshmen. For most teams across the country, outside of the Duke-Kentucky-UNC-trifecta, having that many freshmen on the floor at once would surely lead to some growing pains, as it has in Austin.

For all their inexperience, the Longhorns are that much bigger, faster, and stronger than a scrappy Cincinnati squad that would have been no higher than an 8-seed if not for their late tournament run.

Look for the Longhorns to win a close game, with J’Covan Brown doing his best Kemba Walker impression.

No. 3 Florida State vs No. 14 St. Bonaventure

Leonard Hamilton’s Florida State Seminoles will squeak by an energized St. Bonaventure squad.
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While the seeding associated with these teams surely doesn’t indicate it, this is a far more dangerous matchup for the Seminoles (24-9) than most would expect, especially considering their run through the ACC tournament.

That run, however, needs an asterisk next to it.

John Henson sat out the title game for the Tar Heels in order to rest his injured wrist for the NCAA tournament. Bid already in hand, Roy Williams was not going to risk his shot at the national title for a shot at the ACC title. Florida State beat a North Carolina squad desperately in need of a rest.

St. Bonaventure (20-11), on the other hand, is among the hottest teams in the country.

The Bonnies charged into the A-10 tournament having seized a first round bye over the course of the last few weeks, and rode the momentum all the way to the NCAA tournament. So, does a team that has spent the better part of the last two weeks beating bubble-team after bubble-team sound like a 14-seed?

Led by their dynamic 6’9″ senior forward, Andrew Nicholson, the Bonnies are far better than the 14-seed the NCAA tournament committee pegged them with. St. Bonaventure is clearly better than Montana (13-seed), Harvard (12-seed), Davidson (13-seed), etc.

The list goes on.

The team that pays the ultimate price for the tournament committee’s oversight? Florida State.

Instead of coasting through a well-deserved directional-school cupcake in the first round, Leonard Hamilton’s Seminole’s must now summon the energy to beat a team that is gaining confidence like a steam-roller going downhill.

Will they do it? Yes, but just barely. Florida State has become some people’s hot Final Four pick, and they will surely be sweating out the final minutes of this one.

No. 7 Gonzaga vs. No. 10 West Virginia

Kevin Jones and the Mountaineers will bring a level of physicality for which the Zags are not ready.
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The WCC used to be, without question, a one-bid conference. With the recent success of school’s like Gonzaga and St. Mary’s, and the recent addition of perennially competitive BYU, the conference has suddenly found itself in the midst of its own renaissance.

Despite the increased exposure and respect the league is now getting on a national level, its teams are still getting the shaft when it comes to seeding in the NCAA tournament.

Really, should Gonzaga (25-6), whose worst out-of-conference loss came at the hands of Illinois before the Illini’s epic mid-season meltdown, who lost to Michigan State by only 7 points, and who just lost their conference title game to the 18th best team in the country according to the polls, be a 7-seed?

The Zags reward for a job well done this year? A first-round date with Bob Huggins’ rugged West Virginia Mountaineers (19-13).

West Virginia is led by Kevin Jones and Darryl “Truck” Bryant, two seasoned veterans who have shone under the bright lights of the tournament before. Despite not posting a win worthy of note since January, the Mountaineers are a nightmare matchup for an undersized Gonzaga team that relies heavily on its ability to get open looks at the basket to keep their offense moving.

Look for West Virginia to post the mini-upset of the Zags, beating up on Gonzaga’s guards to disrupt their tempo and rhythm.

No. 2 Ohio State vs. No. 15 Loyola (MD)

Jared Sullinger and the Ohio State Buckeyes are out to avenge last season’s early exit.
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Jared Sullinger and the Ohio State Buckeyes (27-7) were one win away from being a No. 1 seed, dropping a tight game to Michigan State in the Big Ten tournament final. Despite not actually getting that No.1 seed, the Buckeyes still get a No. 1 vs No. 16-type matchup here.

The Greyhounds of Loyola (24-8) stole a bid by winning the MAAC, a league that many expected Iona to walk away with. While they will have something to decorate the rafters with from this season, there won’t be anything else.

Ohio State is the far superior team in this matchup and the only question is, at which point do you rest Sullinger and his fellow starters? Halfway through the first half? Halftime? This game won’t even be close.

No. 1 North Carolina vs. No. 16 Lamar/No. 16 Vermont

Kendall Marshall’s steady leadership will undoubtedly lead the Tar Heels past their first round opponent.
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Not too long ago, Vermont (23-11) was a team that no one wanted to see opposite them in the bracket. In 2005, the then-No.13 seeded Catamounts shocked No. 4 Syracuse, and the world, with their first-round upset.

Well, Vermont fans, you may want to cue that game up on your DVR because, if Vermont can win their play-in game, they will face a beat down of epic proportions.

For Pat Knight, son of Bobby Knight, and his Lamar Cardinals (23-11), the prospects aren’t much better. While Knight earned himself some notoriety with a post-game rant that obviously stirred his troops in recent weeks, his team just doesn’t have what it takes to compete with the North Carolina Tar Heels (29-5).

North Carolina wins big, regardless of who they play.

No. 8 Creighton vs No. 9 Alabama

Creighton star forward Doug McDermott will lead his Blue Jays toward a second round matchup with mighty North Carolina.
Eric Francis/Getty Images

Creighton (28-5), led by star forward Doug McDermott, son of head coach Greg McDermott, can score nearly at will, but struggles to defend with consistency.

Alabama (21-11), guided by one of the hottest young coaching prospects in the game today, Anthony Grant, can defend the best teams in the country, but struggles to find the bucket on the offensive end of the floor.

Something’s gotta give, right?

Creighton has far too much firepower for the Crimson Tide to handle. They may be able to disrupt what the Blue Jays want to do on the offensive end of the floor, but they will still not be able to score when they have the ball, giving Creighton the comfort of “room-for-error” in this first-round matchup.

Unfortunately for Tide fans, not only could they lose their season, but their coach may be headed to greener pastures as well. Anthony Grant’s name will surely be connected to every big job that comes available this offseason.

No. 5 Temple vs. No. 12 California/No. 12 South Florida

Ramone Moore looks to lead Temple well beyond the first round.
Chris Chambers/Getty Images

Temple (24-7) was rewarded by the seeding committee for a dominating run through their A-10 regular season with a matchup that favors their strengths regardless of who they will face.

California (24-9) lacks any semblance of toughness, mental or physical, and would struggle to get going offensively against Temple’s rugged, stubborn Philly-style defense. South Florida (20-13) plays much of the same style as the Owls, but doesn’t have nearly the offensive firepower as the No. 5-seed in the South Region.

Led by a trio of guards, Ramone Moore, Khalif Wyatt, and Juan Fernandez, the Owls can score in the transition game, from the perimeter, or by taking it to the basket hard, making them a very undesirable opponent in the NCAA tournament.

There isn’t any one way to definitively slow the Owls attack and, while they try to figure that out, they still have to figure out how to establish themselves offensively against a team that can play shut-down defense.

Temple beat then-No. 3 Duke at home, and beat Wichita State on a neutral floor. They destroyed Xavier in their most recent game that saw any kind of hype. While Fran Dunphy’s Owls have taken some bad losses, they are very well-rounded. This team will be dangerous as long as they are alive.

No. 4 Michigan vs No. 13 Ohio

Trey Burke looks to lead Michigan past Ohio.
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The Ohio University Bobcats (27-7) will look to continue their run into March against the Michigan Wolverines (24-9). After knocking off two higher-seeded opponents in the MAC tournament, the Bobcats will try to make it three in a row. Unless Michigan is caught looking ahead at possible second-round opponent Temple, they will fall well short.

Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway, Jr., and Co., put together a stellar Big Ten regular season after overcoming some early-season jitters.

Much like Temple, the Wolverines have really grown into their style of play, a hallmark of a Jon Beilein-coached team. Driven by their perimeter players, Michigan displays both patience and explosiveness on the offensive end.

This first-round matchup should be a breeze for the Maize and Blue.

No. 6 San Diego State vs. No. 11 North Carolina State

Jamaal Franklin looks to lead his Aztecs into the second round.
Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Before their ACC tournament run, few even expected NC State to be here. The Wolfpack (22-12) were able to string together some late-season victories and played North Carolina extremely close in their ACC semi-final matchup to find themselves with a comfortable No. 11-seed in the NCAA tournament.

Hopefully, they aren’t getting too comfortable.

NC State is the definition of a mediocre team in 2011-2012. They lost to the teams they were supposed to lose to, often by wide margins, and beat most of the teams they were supposed to beat.

Facing a talented, long, and athletic San Diego State team in the NCAA tournament first round, expect that trend to continue.

San Diego State (26-7) has the length and athleticism to defend NC State from end-to-end, force them into turnovers and create easy transition baskets for themselves. NC State doesn’t have the ability to flip that statement around.

Look for Jamaal Franklin and the rest of the Aztecs to regain their form of late, before their conference tournament loss to New Mexico, and fight their way through to round two.

No. 3 Georgetown vs. No 14. Belmont

After narrowly missing an upset in 2011, the Belmont Bruins will finally break through and pull a major upset in the first round against Georgetown.
Harry How/Getty Images

What a year to be a No. 3-seed!

The Belmont Bruins (27-7) are one very good basketball team. After narrowly dropping their tournament game last season, when many picked them to pull a monster upset, they began this season with a one-point loss at Duke. After getting whipped in their second game, a loss to Memphis, Belmont has been beaten by more than five points only once.

The Bruins can shoot. They distribute the ball well among themselves, always making the extra pass that buys the shooter the extra split second he needs to be sure his aim is true. They don’t defend or rebound particularly well, but they can cause enough of a nuisance that their offense can keep them hanging around just long enough to pull an upset.

The Georgetown Hoyas (23-8) play a very contrasting style to that of Belmont. Where Belmont shoots early in the shot clock, the Hoyas grind out the clock. Where Belmont can score a lot of points very quickly, Georgetown can find themselves in trouble if the score gets above 65.

Georgetown simply does not have the offensive firepower to keep up with their opponents.

In another huge upset, look for Belmont to pull out the victory over Georgetown. The Hoyas simply will not be able to slow the game down enough to keep themselves in it. Belmont will shoot furiously from all over the floor, and force upon Georgetown a tempo it cannot sustain.

No. 7 Saint Mary’s vs. No. 10 Purdue

Matthew Dellavedova looks to lead Saint Mary’s past Purdue.
Ethan Miller/Getty Images

This game will be very fast-paced, high-scoring, and exciting.

Robbie Hummel takes his final shot at NCAA tournament glory, while Matthew Dellavedova tries to steal the spotlight.

Purdue (21-12) may not be able to keep up with Saint Mary’s if the Gaels are shooting well from the get-go and, unfortunately for Purdue, their best chance to win is to keep the tempo moving, and avoid getting into a free-throw shooting contest.

Saint Mary’s (27-5) could find themselves in trouble if their big men get into foul trouble quickly, but otherwise, the Gaels should have no problem outscoring the Boilermakers.

No. 2 Kansas vs. No. 15 Detroit

Thomas Robinson looks to lead the Jayhawks over Detroit in their first-round matchup.
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

In this matchup, the most interesting subplot will be to see how many rebounds Thomas Robinson can gather in 20 minutes, because the Jayhawks (27-6) won’t be needing much out of him in the second half to beat the Horizon League champions, Detroit (22-13).

Detroit pulled off an improbable upset going away against Valparaiso in their conference tournament championship game to punch their ticket to the Big Dance. However, unlike Horizon League rival Butler, don’t expect the Titans to pull off any shockers.

The fact that they’ve made it this far is shocking enough.

Kansas will win big.

For your printable bracket for the 2012 NCAA tournament, click here

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No. 1 Michigan State vs. No 16. LIU Brooklyn

Draymond Green and Michigan State will have no problem advancing to a second round matchup with Memphis or Saint Louis.
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The talent gap between Big 10 tournament champions Michigan State (27-7) and NEC tournament titleholders LIU Brooklyn (25-8) is astronomical.

Draymond Green and Co. should have no problem disposing of the Blackbirds, who make their first NCAA tournament appearance since 1997, based on size alone.

Look for Michigan State to win big over LIU Brooklyn on Friday.

No. 8 Memphis vs No. 9 Saint Louis

Will Barton has quietly put together an All-American-type season at Memphis.
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

For being such quality teams, the Memphis Tigers (26-8) and Saint Louis Billikens (25-7) have received very little attention from the media over the course of the season.

Memphis is led by point guard Joe Jackson and dynamic shooting guard Will Barton. Both are top-tier talents and, since dropping a few close, winnable games to nationally ranked teams early in the season, Memphis has been on a roll since opening conference play.

Josh Pastner’s Tigers are long and athletic, enough so that should they win this matchup. They would certainly be no easy out for Michigan State in the second round. Every player in Memphis’ lineup can attack the basket, and when their shots are falling, they can be nearly impossible to defend.

Saint Louis, for its part, is not an easy out either. Rick Majerus’ squad is a tough, defensive-minded group that will not back down from anyone. Led by Brian Conklin and Kwamain Mitchell, the Billikens are efficient on offense and look to wear their opponents down over the course of the game.

Possessions will be at a premium in this first-round matchup, and if Memphis gets too careless with shot selection or sloppy with the ball, Saint Louis can put them in a deep hole rather quickly. In the end, however, the Tigers are simply more talented than the Billikens on a matchup-to-matchup basis and should have no problem creating space for themselves offensively.

Look for Memphis to pull away late in a physical, hard-fought battle that will prepare the winner well for what lies ahead in the second round.

No. 5 New Mexico vs. No. 12 Long Beach State

Casper Ware leads a fearless Long Beach State team.
Eric Francis/Getty Images

Every year, there seems to be a 12-seed that knocks off a 5-seed, and 2012 will prove to be no different.

Dan Monson’s Long Beach State (25-8) team was specifically built to be a Cinderella in March, and their first-round matchup is a favorable one. The 49ers played anyone and everyone on the road this season, meaning star guard Casper Ware and his crew are battle tested and, most importantly, confident in their ability to play with anyone in the land.

New Mexico (27-6) is lead by UCLA-transfer Drew Gordon. Head coach Steve Alford’s team favors an efficient, grind-it-out style that plays to Gordon’s strengths. If left unchecked, Gordon is capable of turning the tide of any game in his team’s favor as he can easily control the boards and patrols the paint.

Having said that, Ware and his 49er teammates can score in bunches and don’t necessarily need to control the paint or glass to keep a game close, as evidenced by tight losses to Kansas and North Carolina.

Look for Ware to exploit New Mexico’s guards and push the tempo, minimizing Gordon’s impact on the outcome of the game, and carry Long Beach State to the upset win over the Lobos.

No. 4 Louisville vs. No. 13 Davidson

Peyton Siva leads a red-hot Louisville team into the NCAA tournament.
Chris Trotman/Getty Images

Rick Pitino‘s Louisville Cardinals (26-9) are yet again riding a wave of momentum into the NCAA tournament, having put on a tantalizing display of physicality, finesse, and suffocating defense en route to the Big East tournament crown.

If Davidson (25-7) were anything like the Wildcats of yesteryear, they could pose a threat to upset Pitino’s Cardinals, but, alas, Stephon Curry is not walking through that door.

Peyton Siva, Kyle Kuric, and Gorgui Dieng simply pose too many matchup problems for Davidson, who was exposed by Wichita State on BracketBusters Saturday as being incapable of handling the speed that top teams can push the tempo towards. While they were able to upset Kansas in Lawrence, that feat was completed before Kansas had developed any consistency at guard, so they were forced to play the type of half-court game that Davidson favors.

Look for Louisville to force Davidson into early mistakes in the backcourt, and keep them from finding their outside stroke by simply out-muscling the Wildcats, punching their ticket to the second round with relative ease.

No. 6 Murray State vs. No. 11 Colorado State

Isaiah Canaan has kept Murray State’s offense rolling this season.
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Given Colorado State’s solid in-conference play this season and Murray State’s relatively low profile, many will look for the Rams (20-11) to pull off the upset against the Racers (30-1), and many will be wrong.

Colorado State is a fundamentally sound basketball team that takes care of the ball on offense and tries to keep teams from finding their comfort-zone on defense. While this can be an effective brand of basketball against a team that lacks an assertive, smart point guard, Murray State has an assertive, smart point guard.

Isaiah Canaan was one of the top players in the country this season, and he keeps the Racers racing. It is his ability to crack a defense wide-open that has made Murray State such a difficult team to beat this season.

While Colorado State has had a nice season, they simply do not have an answer for what Canaan brings to the court. It will be a close game, but Murray State will pull this one out and move on to the second round.

No. 3 Marquette vs. No. 14 BYU/ No. 14 Iona

Iona PG Scott Machado runs the nation’s most potent scoring attack.
Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

Depending on what happens in the play-in game, this matchup could be either one of the best opening weekend games we’ll see, or a complete snooze-fest.

Marquette (25-7) is a very solid basketball team. Well-rounded, tough, solid defensively, and explosive offensively, the Golden Eagles are just the type of team that could very conceivably make a run to New Orleans.

But if Iona (25-7) takes care of business in their play-in game against BYU (25-8), the Gaels are most certainly capable of keeping pace with Marquette, making for a very interesting game.

Iona is led by the power trio of Scott Machado, Michael Glover, and MoMo Jones, who was last seen leading Arizona’s surprising tournament run of a year ago. The Gaels are incredibly explosive offensively, leading the nation with an 83-points-per-game scoring average.

Machado, Glover, and Jones aren’t small either. Marquette cannot expect to control the game simply by bringing a level of physicality the Gaels surely haven’t seen in the MAAC.

If BYU is able to outclass Iona in Dayton, look for Marquette to easily advance to the next round. If Iona is able to get past the Cougars, this could be the 2012 NCAA tournament’s biggest upset.

Look for Iona to steal a close one, 89-84.

No. 7 Florida vs. No 10 Virginia

Bradley Beal has been a star of late for Billy Donovan’s Gators
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

In a matchup between two teams that ultimately backed into the tournament, this game will come down to how well Florida’s guards are able to handle Virginia’s unique defensive scheme.

Florida (23-10) boasts one of the deepest, most talented backcourts in the nation, led by Bradley Beal, Kenny Boynton, Erving Walker, and Mike Rosario. That group will be called upon to crack the code of Virginia’s suffocating defense that simultaneously takes away open looks from the outside while preventing penetration.

Even though Virginia (22-9) will give Florida fits in this first-round matchup, the Cavaliers simply don’t have the offensive firepower to take advantage of the opportunities their defense will create for them.

Look for Florida to shoot their way out of this one, winning a close, low-scoring affair.

No. 2 Missouri vs. No. 15 Norfolk State

Kim English will look to shoot the Tigers into New Orleans.
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Missouri (30-4) has had one of the best seasons in school history in 2011-2012, head coach Frank Haith’s first season at the school.

Led by dominating guard play, the Tigers are coming into the tournament with a chip on their shoulder after being denied a No. 1-seed, despite having won the Big 12 tournament in dominating fashion.

Look for Marcus Denmon, Kim English, Phil and Matt Pressey, and Michael Dixon to run circles around Norfolk State (25-9).

No. 1 Syracuse vs. No. 16 UNC-Asheville

Fab Melo has been a force inside all season for the Orange.
Chris Trotman/Getty Images

Syracuse (31-2) earned a No. 1-seed despite falling to Cincinnati in the Big East tournament.

The Orange’s biggest advantage is their depth and balance. With so many players capable of shouldering the load, it is hard to defend the Orange by taking away their strengths, simply because there are so many.

Speaking of defense, the Orange are long and suffocating on defense, forcing turnovers and bad shots that fuel an explosive transition offense. Often, teams find themselves keeping close with Syracuse until a series of bad possessions lets the Orange build some momentum and then they almost can’t be stopped.

The first to try in the 2012 NCAA tournament will be UNC-Asheville (24-9), and they will fail mightily. While UNC-Asheville does like to push an up-tempo pace and can fill it up from the outside, they lack the size they will need to get over and around Syracuse’s defenders.

‘Cuse will run away with this one.

No. 8 Kansas State vs. No. 9 Southern Mississippi

Kansas State’s Rodney McGruder will look to carry Kansas State past Southern Miss.
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

File this matchup under the “tough to call” category.

Both teams thrive on physical play. Frank Martin’s Kansas State Wildcats (21-10) came into their own as the season wore on, working themselves off the bubble since early-to-mid February. Having said that, take one look at the results of their games and it is easy to see that they struggle against teams with effective big men.

Southern Miss (25-8) does have an effective big man in Maurice Bolden, but he plays a lot on the perimeter as opposed to exclusively in the post, where Kansas State is most vulnerable. Darnell Dodson is a big guard who can score as well, but again, his game doesn’t necessarily exploit Kansas State’s weaknesses.

While the matchup may not indicate a likely winner in and of itself, a quick look at the recent trend each team is following does. Since the beginning of February, Southern Miss has been a relatively average team, losing twice to Marshall, and once each to Houston, UAB, and UTEP.

In that same time span, Kansas State has only lost to the likes of Baylor, Kansas, Texas, and Iowa State, all of whom are dancing.

Finally, Larry Eustachy may have resurrected his career in Hattiesburg, but before he trashed it in the first place at Iowa State, his Cyclone teams were notorious tournament underachievers, once being eliminated in a 2-seed vs 15-seed matchup.

This game may be an all-out brawl and a nail-biter all at once, but expect Kansas State to avoid the mini-upset.

No. 5 Vanderbilt vs. No. 12 Harvard

Vanderbilt is a slam dunk to win this first round matchup.
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

This matchup sounds more like an argument you would hear between members at an exclusive country club than an NCAA tournament matchup, but both teams came into 2011-2012 with high expectations.

Harvard (26-4), which squeaked out of the Ivy League when Penn fell to Princeton, seemed to be a trendy pick for a tournament Cinderella at the peak of the non-conference schedule, but appeared to hit rough water in the relatively weak Ivy League.

Vanderbilt (24-10) had quite the opposite season, performing terribly at the start of the year, but coming on strong towards the end as their team got healthy and began to gel.

Now it is Vandy that is the trendy pick to dance well beyond what their seed would indicate and that is not without merit. The Commodores rely heavily on senior leadership, sharp shooting from the outside, and solid rebounding and defense on the interior.

Lance Goulbourne, Festus Ezeli, Jeffery Taylor, and John Jenkins form a nucleus that is as talented as it is experienced. Since the calendar rolled into February, Vanderbilt’s only losses have come at the hands of Tennessee, Florida, and Kentucky, none of which are especially troubling.

When you factor in how effective the Commodores had become at both ends of the floor by the end of the SEC tournament, it’s easy to see why many have Vandy in their Final Four.

As the Vanderbilt train gets rolling out of the station, Harvard will be nothing more than a small bump in the tracks. Look for Vandy to roll in this one.

No. 4 Wisconsin vs. No. 13 Montana

Wisconsin’s Jordan Taylor looks to lead the Badgers deep into March.
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

The Montana Grizzlies (25-6) roll into the tournament having just snatched the Big Sky’s automatic bid from the hands of Weber State, a team many had pegged to make some noise in the Big Dance. That doesn’t mean, however, that Montana should be expected to make any noise themselves.

Wisconsin (24-9) comes into the tournament led by senior guard Jordan Taylor. The Badgers are consistent, defensive-minded, patient, and very physical. The Wisconsin roster is loaded with good shooters, so a cold-shooting night is unlikely to derail the Badgers this early in the tournament.

When your opponent has so many obvious factors leaning in their favor, you must be able to do something exceptionally well in order to beat them.

Unfortunately, Montana does not.

They are a solid basketball team, with a good record against weaker competition. They do not have the size or speed to force Wisconsin to do anything it isn’t comfortable doing.

If Montana can catch fire from beyond the arc, they may keep this one interesting past halftime, but the only victories the Grizzlies are going home with will be moral.

Wisconsin marches on.

No. 6 Cincinnati vs. No. 11 Texas

J’Covan Brown is the leader of a young, talented Texas team that seems to be coming together at the right time.
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Cincinnati comes into the NCAA tournament having just reeled off consecutive upset victories in the Big East tournament, where they eventually fell to Louisville in a tight one in the final.

Texas enters the tournament having posted just one bad loss since the beginning of February, and have the look and feel of a young team finally figuring out how to compete at the college level.

Which trend will prevail?

Given the recent tournament history of Big East teams that put together improbable runs in the conference tournament, which, aside from UConn’s miracle run of 2011, is not very good, Texas is in good shape to pull off the upset.

Rick Barnes’ squad is exceptionally young and exceptionally talented. Of the Longhorns top nine players in terms of minutes per game, six are freshmen. For most teams across the country, outside of the Duke-Kentucky-UNC-trifecta, having that many freshmen on the floor at once would surely lead to some growing pains, as it has in Austin.

For all their inexperience, the Longhorns are that much bigger, faster, and stronger than a scrappy Cincinnati squad that would have been no higher than an 8-seed if not for their late tournament run.

Look for the Longhorns to win a close game, with J’Covan Brown doing his best Kemba Walker impression.

No. 3 Florida State vs No. 14 St. Bonaventure

Leonard Hamilton’s Florida State Seminoles will squeak by an energized St. Bonaventure squad.
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While the seeding associated with these teams surely doesn’t indicate it, this is a far more dangerous matchup for the Seminoles (24-9) than most would expect, especially considering their run through the ACC tournament.

That run, however, needs an asterisk next to it.

John Henson sat out the title game for the Tar Heels in order to rest his injured wrist for the NCAA tournament. Bid already in hand, Roy Williams was not going to risk his shot at the national title for a shot at the ACC title. Florida State beat a North Carolina squad desperately in need of a rest.

St. Bonaventure (20-11), on the other hand, is among the hottest teams in the country.

The Bonnies charged into the A-10 tournament having seized a first round bye over the course of the last few weeks, and rode the momentum all the way to the NCAA tournament. So, does a team that has spent the better part of the last two weeks beating bubble-team after bubble-team sound like a 14-seed?

Led by their dynamic 6’9″ senior forward, Andrew Nicholson, the Bonnies are far better than the 14-seed the NCAA tournament committee pegged them with. St. Bonaventure is clearly better than Montana (13-seed), Harvard (12-seed), Davidson (13-seed), etc.

The list goes on.

The team that pays the ultimate price for the tournament committee’s oversight? Florida State.

Instead of coasting through a well-deserved directional-school cupcake in the first round, Leonard Hamilton’s Seminole’s must now summon the energy to beat a team that is gaining confidence like a steam-roller going downhill.

Will they do it? Yes, but just barely. Florida State has become some people’s hot Final Four pick, and they will surely be sweating out the final minutes of this one.

No. 7 Gonzaga vs. No. 10 West Virginia

Kevin Jones and the Mountaineers will bring a level of physicality for which the Zags are not ready.
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The WCC used to be, without question, a one-bid conference. With the recent success of school’s like Gonzaga and St. Mary’s, and the recent addition of perennially competitive BYU, the conference has suddenly found itself in the midst of its own renaissance.

Despite the increased exposure and respect the league is now getting on a national level, its teams are still getting the shaft when it comes to seeding in the NCAA tournament.

Really, should Gonzaga (25-6), whose worst out-of-conference loss came at the hands of Illinois before the Illini’s epic mid-season meltdown, who lost to Michigan State by only 7 points, and who just lost their conference title game to the 18th best team in the country according to the polls, be a 7-seed?

The Zags reward for a job well done this year? A first-round date with Bob Huggins’ rugged West Virginia Mountaineers (19-13).

West Virginia is led by Kevin Jones and Darryl “Truck” Bryant, two seasoned veterans who have shone under the bright lights of the tournament before. Despite not posting a win worthy of note since January, the Mountaineers are a nightmare matchup for an undersized Gonzaga team that relies heavily on its ability to get open looks at the basket to keep their offense moving.

Look for West Virginia to post the mini-upset of the Zags, beating up on Gonzaga’s guards to disrupt their tempo and rhythm.

No. 2 Ohio State vs. No. 15 Loyola (MD)

Jared Sullinger and the Ohio State Buckeyes are out to avenge last season’s early exit.
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Jared Sullinger and the Ohio State Buckeyes (27-7) were one win away from being a No. 1 seed, dropping a tight game to Michigan State in the Big Ten tournament final. Despite not actually getting that No.1 seed, the Buckeyes still get a No. 1 vs No. 16-type matchup here.

The Greyhounds of Loyola (24-8) stole a bid by winning the MAAC, a league that many expected Iona to walk away with. While they will have something to decorate the rafters with from this season, there won’t be anything else.

Ohio State is the far superior team in this matchup and the only question is, at which point do you rest Sullinger and his fellow starters? Halfway through the first half? Halftime? This game won’t even be close.

No. 1 North Carolina vs. No. 16 Lamar/No. 16 Vermont

Kendall Marshall’s steady leadership will undoubtedly lead the Tar Heels past their first round opponent.
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Not too long ago, Vermont (23-11) was a team that no one wanted to see opposite them in the bracket. In 2005, the then-No.13 seeded Catamounts shocked No. 4 Syracuse, and the world, with their first-round upset.

Well, Vermont fans, you may want to cue that game up on your DVR because, if Vermont can win their play-in game, they will face a beat down of epic proportions.

For Pat Knight, son of Bobby Knight, and his Lamar Cardinals (23-11), the prospects aren’t much better. While Knight earned himself some notoriety with a post-game rant that obviously stirred his troops in recent weeks, his team just doesn’t have what it takes to compete with the North Carolina Tar Heels (29-5).

North Carolina wins big, regardless of who they play.

No. 8 Creighton vs No. 9 Alabama

Creighton star forward Doug McDermott will lead his Blue Jays toward a second round matchup with mighty North Carolina.
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Creighton (28-5), led by star forward Doug McDermott, son of head coach Greg McDermott, can score nearly at will, but struggles to defend with consistency.

Alabama (21-11), guided by one of the hottest young coaching prospects in the game today, Anthony Grant, can defend the best teams in the country, but struggles to find the bucket on the offensive end of the floor.

Something’s gotta give, right?

Creighton has far too much firepower for the Crimson Tide to handle. They may be able to disrupt what the Blue Jays want to do on the offensive end of the floor, but they will still not be able to score when they have the ball, giving Creighton the comfort of “room-for-error” in this first-round matchup.

Unfortunately for Tide fans, not only could they lose their season, but their coach may be headed to greener pastures as well. Anthony Grant’s name will surely be connected to every big job that comes available this offseason.

No. 5 Temple vs. No. 12 California/No. 12 South Florida

Ramone Moore looks to lead Temple well beyond the first round.
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Temple (24-7) was rewarded by the seeding committee for a dominating run through their A-10 regular season with a matchup that favors their strengths regardless of who they will face.

California (24-9) lacks any semblance of toughness, mental or physical, and would struggle to get going offensively against Temple’s rugged, stubborn Philly-style defense. South Florida (20-13) plays much of the same style as the Owls, but doesn’t have nearly the offensive firepower as the No. 5-seed in the South Region.

Led by a trio of guards, Ramone Moore, Khalif Wyatt, and Juan Fernandez, the Owls can score in the transition game, from the perimeter, or by taking it to the basket hard, making them a very undesirable opponent in the NCAA tournament.

There isn’t any one way to definitively slow the Owls attack and, while they try to figure that out, they still have to figure out how to establish themselves offensively against a team that can play shut-down defense.

Temple beat then-No. 3 Duke at home, and beat Wichita State on a neutral floor. They destroyed Xavier in their most recent game that saw any kind of hype. While Fran Dunphy’s Owls have taken some bad losses, they are very well-rounded. This team will be dangerous as long as they are alive.

No. 4 Michigan vs No. 13 Ohio

Trey Burke looks to lead Michigan past Ohio.
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The Ohio University Bobcats (27-7) will look to continue their run into March against the Michigan Wolverines (24-9). After knocking off two higher-seeded opponents in the MAC tournament, the Bobcats will try to make it three in a row. Unless Michigan is caught looking ahead at possible second-round opponent Temple, they will fall well short.

Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway, Jr., and Co., put together a stellar Big Ten regular season after overcoming some early-season jitters.

Much like Temple, the Wolverines have really grown into their style of play, a hallmark of a Jon Beilein-coached team. Driven by their perimeter players, Michigan displays both patience and explosiveness on the offensive end.

This first-round matchup should be a breeze for the Maize and Blue.

No. 6 San Diego State vs. No. 11 North Carolina State

Jamaal Franklin looks to lead his Aztecs into the second round.
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Before their ACC tournament run, few even expected NC State to be here. The Wolfpack (22-12) were able to string together some late-season victories and played North Carolina extremely close in their ACC semi-final matchup to find themselves with a comfortable No. 11-seed in the NCAA tournament.

Hopefully, they aren’t getting too comfortable.

NC State is the definition of a mediocre team in 2011-2012. They lost to the teams they were supposed to lose to, often by wide margins, and beat most of the teams they were supposed to beat.

Facing a talented, long, and athletic San Diego State team in the NCAA tournament first round, expect that trend to continue.

San Diego State (26-7) has the length and athleticism to defend NC State from end-to-end, force them into turnovers and create easy transition baskets for themselves. NC State doesn’t have the ability to flip that statement around.

Look for Jamaal Franklin and the rest of the Aztecs to regain their form of late, before their conference tournament loss to New Mexico, and fight their way through to round two.

No. 3 Georgetown vs. No 14. Belmont

After narrowly missing an upset in 2011, the Belmont Bruins will finally break through and pull a major upset in the first round against Georgetown.
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What a year to be a No. 3-seed!

The Belmont Bruins (27-7) are one very good basketball team. After narrowly dropping their tournament game last season, when many picked them to pull a monster upset, they began this season with a one-point loss at Duke. After getting whipped in their second game, a loss to Memphis, Belmont has been beaten by more than five points only once.

The Bruins can shoot. They distribute the ball well among themselves, always making the extra pass that buys the shooter the extra split second he needs to be sure his aim is true. They don’t defend or rebound particularly well, but they can cause enough of a nuisance that their offense can keep them hanging around just long enough to pull an upset.

The Georgetown Hoyas (23-8) play a very contrasting style to that of Belmont. Where Belmont shoots early in the shot clock, the Hoyas grind out the clock. Where Belmont can score a lot of points very quickly, Georgetown can find themselves in trouble if the score gets above 65.

Georgetown simply does not have the offensive firepower to keep up with their opponents.

In another huge upset, look for Belmont to pull out the victory over Georgetown. The Hoyas simply will not be able to slow the game down enough to keep themselves in it. Belmont will shoot furiously from all over the floor, and force upon Georgetown a tempo it cannot sustain.

No. 7 Saint Mary’s vs. No. 10 Purdue

Matthew Dellavedova looks to lead Saint Mary’s past Purdue.
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This game will be very fast-paced, high-scoring, and exciting.

Robbie Hummel takes his final shot at NCAA tournament glory, while Matthew Dellavedova tries to steal the spotlight.

Purdue (21-12) may not be able to keep up with Saint Mary’s if the Gaels are shooting well from the get-go and, unfortunately for Purdue, their best chance to win is to keep the tempo moving, and avoid getting into a free-throw shooting contest.

Saint Mary’s (27-5) could find themselves in trouble if their big men get into foul trouble quickly, but otherwise, the Gaels should have no problem outscoring the Boilermakers.

No. 2 Kansas vs. No. 15 Detroit

Thomas Robinson looks to lead the Jayhawks over Detroit in their first-round matchup.
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In this matchup, the most interesting subplot will be to see how many rebounds Thomas Robinson can gather in 20 minutes, because the Jayhawks (27-6) won’t be needing much out of him in the second half to beat the Horizon League champions, Detroit (22-13).

Detroit pulled off an improbable upset going away against Valparaiso in their conference tournament championship game to punch their ticket to the Big Dance. However, unlike Horizon League rival Butler, don’t expect the Titans to pull off any shockers.

The fact that they’ve made it this far is shocking enough.

Kansas will win big.

For your printable bracket for the 2012 NCAA tournament, click here

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No. 2 Duke vs. No 15 Lehigh

Freshman Austin Rivers has lived up to his billing of late.
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A classic David vs. Goliath matchup, Duke (27-6) will play Lehigh (26-7) in a first round game on Friday.

While at first glance, this should be an easy win for the Blue Devils, Lehigh could pose some problems for Coach K’s crew.

Led by C.J. McCollum, one of the nation’s leading scorers at 21.9 points per game, the Mountain Hawks are a solid team. McCollum and forward Greg Knutson team to create a formidable inside-out combination that battled the likes of Iowa State and Michigan State closely before bowing out late during the regular season.

If Duke wants to turn their first-round matchup into a shooting exposition, Lehigh certainly has the guns to keep it close.

In the end, however, Duke simply has too much size and talent. Austin Rivers, Seth Curry, and Co., should roll on into a weekend matchup with the winner of the Xavier/Notre Dame game.

No. 1 Michigan State vs. No 16. LIU Brooklyn

Draymond Green and Michigan State will have no problem advancing to a second round matchup with Memphis or Saint Louis.
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The talent gap between Big 10 tournament champions Michigan State (27-7) and NEC tournament titleholders LIU Brooklyn (25-8) is astronomical.

Draymond Green and Co. should have no problem disposing of the Blackbirds, who make their first NCAA tournament appearance since 1997, based on size alone.

Look for Michigan State to win big over LIU Brooklyn on Friday.

No. 8 Memphis vs No. 9 Saint Louis

Will Barton has quietly put together an All-American-type season at Memphis.
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For being such quality teams, the Memphis Tigers (26-8) and Saint Louis Billikens (25-7) have received very little attention from the media over the course of the season.

Memphis is led by point guard Joe Jackson and dynamic shooting guard Will Barton. Both are top-tier talents and, since dropping a few close, winnable games to nationally ranked teams early in the season, Memphis has been on a roll since opening conference play.

Josh Pastner’s Tigers are long and athletic, enough so that should they win this matchup. They would certainly be no easy out for Michigan State in the second round. Every player in Memphis’ lineup can attack the basket, and when their shots are falling, they can be nearly impossible to defend.

Saint Louis, for its part, is not an easy out either. Rick Majerus’ squad is a tough, defensive-minded group that will not back down from anyone. Led by Brian Conklin and Kwamain Mitchell, the Billikens are efficient on offense and look to wear their opponents down over the course of the game.

Possessions will be at a premium in this first-round matchup, and if Memphis gets too careless with shot selection or sloppy with the ball, Saint Louis can put them in a deep hole rather quickly. In the end, however, the Tigers are simply more talented than the Billikens on a matchup-to-matchup basis and should have no problem creating space for themselves offensively.

Look for Memphis to pull away late in a physical, hard-fought battle that will prepare the winner well for what lies ahead in the second round.

No. 5 New Mexico vs. No. 12 Long Beach State

Casper Ware leads a fearless Long Beach State team.
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Every year, there seems to be a 12-seed that knocks off a 5-seed, and 2012 will prove to be no different.

Dan Monson’s Long Beach State (25-8) team was specifically built to be a Cinderella in March, and their first-round matchup is a favorable one. The 49ers played anyone and everyone on the road this season, meaning star guard Casper Ware and his crew are battle tested and, most importantly, confident in their ability to play with anyone in the land.

New Mexico (27-6) is lead by UCLA-transfer Drew Gordon. Head coach Steve Alford’s team favors an efficient, grind-it-out style that plays to Gordon’s strengths. If left unchecked, Gordon is capable of turning the tide of any game in his team’s favor as he can easily control the boards and patrols the paint.

Having said that, Ware and his 49er teammates can score in bunches and don’t necessarily need to control the paint or glass to keep a game close, as evidenced by tight losses to Kansas and North Carolina.

Look for Ware to exploit New Mexico’s guards and push the tempo, minimizing Gordon’s impact on the outcome of the game, and carry Long Beach State to the upset win over the Lobos.

No. 4 Louisville vs. No. 13 Davidson

Peyton Siva leads a red-hot Louisville team into the NCAA tournament.
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Rick Pitino‘s Louisville Cardinals (26-9) are yet again riding a wave of momentum into the NCAA tournament, having put on a tantalizing display of physicality, finesse, and suffocating defense en route to the Big East tournament crown.

If Davidson (25-7) were anything like the Wildcats of yesteryear, they could pose a threat to upset Pitino’s Cardinals, but, alas, Stephon Curry is not walking through that door.

Peyton Siva, Kyle Kuric, and Gorgui Dieng simply pose too many matchup problems for Davidson, who was exposed by Wichita State on BracketBusters Saturday as being incapable of handling the speed that top teams can push the tempo towards. While they were able to upset Kansas in Lawrence, that feat was completed before Kansas had developed any consistency at guard, so they were forced to play the type of half-court game that Davidson favors.

Look for Louisville to force Davidson into early mistakes in the backcourt, and keep them from finding their outside stroke by simply out-muscling the Wildcats, punching their ticket to the second round with relative ease.

No. 6 Murray State vs. No. 11 Colorado State

Isaiah Canaan has kept Murray State’s offense rolling this season.
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Given Colorado State’s solid in-conference play this season and Murray State’s relatively low profile, many will look for the Rams (20-11) to pull off the upset against the Racers (30-1), and many will be wrong.

Colorado State is a fundamentally sound basketball team that takes care of the ball on offense and tries to keep teams from finding their comfort-zone on defense. While this can be an effective brand of basketball against a team that lacks an assertive, smart point guard, Murray State has an assertive, smart point guard.

Isaiah Canaan was one of the top players in the country this season, and he keeps the Racers racing. It is his ability to crack a defense wide-open that has made Murray State such a difficult team to beat this season.

While Colorado State has had a nice season, they simply do not have an answer for what Canaan brings to the court. It will be a close game, but Murray State will pull this one out and move on to the second round.

No. 3 Marquette vs. No. 14 BYU/ No. 14 Iona

Iona PG Scott Machado runs the nation’s most potent scoring attack.
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Depending on what happens in the play-in game, this matchup could be either one of the best opening weekend games we’ll see, or a complete snooze-fest.

Marquette (25-7) is a very solid basketball team. Well-rounded, tough, solid defensively, and explosive offensively, the Golden Eagles are just the type of team that could very conceivably make a run to New Orleans.

But if Iona (25-7) takes care of business in their play-in game against BYU (25-8), the Gaels are most certainly capable of keeping pace with Marquette, making for a very interesting game.

Iona is led by the power trio of Scott Machado, Michael Glover, and MoMo Jones, who was last seen leading Arizona’s surprising tournament run of a year ago. The Gaels are incredibly explosive offensively, leading the nation with an 83-points-per-game scoring average.

Machado, Glover, and Jones aren’t small either. Marquette cannot expect to control the game simply by bringing a level of physicality the Gaels surely haven’t seen in the MAAC.

If BYU is able to outclass Iona in Dayton, look for Marquette to easily advance to the next round. If Iona is able to get past the Cougars, this could be the 2012 NCAA tournament’s biggest upset.

Look for Iona to steal a close one, 89-84.

No. 7 Florida vs. No 10 Virginia

Bradley Beal has been a star of late for Billy Donovan’s Gators
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

In a matchup between two teams that ultimately backed into the tournament, this game will come down to how well Florida’s guards are able to handle Virginia’s unique defensive scheme.

Florida (23-10) boasts one of the deepest, most talented backcourts in the nation, led by Bradley Beal, Kenny Boynton, Erving Walker, and Mike Rosario. That group will be called upon to crack the code of Virginia’s suffocating defense that simultaneously takes away open looks from the outside while preventing penetration.

Even though Virginia (22-9) will give Florida fits in this first-round matchup, the Cavaliers simply don’t have the offensive firepower to take advantage of the opportunities their defense will create for them.

Look for Florida to shoot their way out of this one, winning a close, low-scoring affair.

No. 2 Missouri vs. No. 15 Norfolk State

Kim English will look to shoot the Tigers into New Orleans.
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Missouri (30-4) has had one of the best seasons in school history in 2011-2012, head coach Frank Haith’s first season at the school.

Led by dominating guard play, the Tigers are coming into the tournament with a chip on their shoulder after being denied a No. 1-seed, despite having won the Big 12 tournament in dominating fashion.

Look for Marcus Denmon, Kim English, Phil and Matt Pressey, and Michael Dixon to run circles around Norfolk State (25-9).

No. 1 Syracuse vs. No. 16 UNC-Asheville

Fab Melo has been a force inside all season for the Orange.
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Syracuse (31-2) earned a No. 1-seed despite falling to Cincinnati in the Big East tournament.

The Orange’s biggest advantage is their depth and balance. With so many players capable of shouldering the load, it is hard to defend the Orange by taking away their strengths, simply because there are so many.

Speaking of defense, the Orange are long and suffocating on defense, forcing turnovers and bad shots that fuel an explosive transition offense. Often, teams find themselves keeping close with Syracuse until a series of bad possessions lets the Orange build some momentum and then they almost can’t be stopped.

The first to try in the 2012 NCAA tournament will be UNC-Asheville (24-9), and they will fail mightily. While UNC-Asheville does like to push an up-tempo pace and can fill it up from the outside, they lack the size they will need to get over and around Syracuse’s defenders.

‘Cuse will run away with this one.

No. 8 Kansas State vs. No. 9 Southern Mississippi

Kansas State’s Rodney McGruder will look to carry Kansas State past Southern Miss.
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

File this matchup under the “tough to call” category.

Both teams thrive on physical play. Frank Martin’s Kansas State Wildcats (21-10) came into their own as the season wore on, working themselves off the bubble since early-to-mid February. Having said that, take one look at the results of their games and it is easy to see that they struggle against teams with effective big men.

Southern Miss (25-8) does have an effective big man in Maurice Bolden, but he plays a lot on the perimeter as opposed to exclusively in the post, where Kansas State is most vulnerable. Darnell Dodson is a big guard who can score as well, but again, his game doesn’t necessarily exploit Kansas State’s weaknesses.

While the matchup may not indicate a likely winner in and of itself, a quick look at the recent trend each team is following does. Since the beginning of February, Southern Miss has been a relatively average team, losing twice to Marshall, and once each to Houston, UAB, and UTEP.

In that same time span, Kansas State has only lost to the likes of Baylor, Kansas, Texas, and Iowa State, all of whom are dancing.

Finally, Larry Eustachy may have resurrected his career in Hattiesburg, but before he trashed it in the first place at Iowa State, his Cyclone teams were notorious tournament underachievers, once being eliminated in a 2-seed vs 15-seed matchup.

This game may be an all-out brawl and a nail-biter all at once, but expect Kansas State to avoid the mini-upset.

No. 5 Vanderbilt vs. No. 12 Harvard

Vanderbilt is a slam dunk to win this first round matchup.
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

This matchup sounds more like an argument you would hear between members at an exclusive country club than an NCAA tournament matchup, but both teams came into 2011-2012 with high expectations.

Harvard (26-4), which squeaked out of the Ivy League when Penn fell to Princeton, seemed to be a trendy pick for a tournament Cinderella at the peak of the non-conference schedule, but appeared to hit rough water in the relatively weak Ivy League.

Vanderbilt (24-10) had quite the opposite season, performing terribly at the start of the year, but coming on strong towards the end as their team got healthy and began to gel.

Now it is Vandy that is the trendy pick to dance well beyond what their seed would indicate and that is not without merit. The Commodores rely heavily on senior leadership, sharp shooting from the outside, and solid rebounding and defense on the interior.

Lance Goulbourne, Festus Ezeli, Jeffery Taylor, and John Jenkins form a nucleus that is as talented as it is experienced. Since the calendar rolled into February, Vanderbilt’s only losses have come at the hands of Tennessee, Florida, and Kentucky, none of which are especially troubling.

When you factor in how effective the Commodores had become at both ends of the floor by the end of the SEC tournament, it’s easy to see why many have Vandy in their Final Four.

As the Vanderbilt train gets rolling out of the station, Harvard will be nothing more than a small bump in the tracks. Look for Vandy to roll in this one.

No. 4 Wisconsin vs. No. 13 Montana

Wisconsin’s Jordan Taylor looks to lead the Badgers deep into March.
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

The Montana Grizzlies (25-6) roll into the tournament having just snatched the Big Sky’s automatic bid from the hands of Weber State, a team many had pegged to make some noise in the Big Dance. That doesn’t mean, however, that Montana should be expected to make any noise themselves.

Wisconsin (24-9) comes into the tournament led by senior guard Jordan Taylor. The Badgers are consistent, defensive-minded, patient, and very physical. The Wisconsin roster is loaded with good shooters, so a cold-shooting night is unlikely to derail the Badgers this early in the tournament.

When your opponent has so many obvious factors leaning in their favor, you must be able to do something exceptionally well in order to beat them.

Unfortunately, Montana does not.

They are a solid basketball team, with a good record against weaker competition. They do not have the size or speed to force Wisconsin to do anything it isn’t comfortable doing.

If Montana can catch fire from beyond the arc, they may keep this one interesting past halftime, but the only victories the Grizzlies are going home with will be moral.

Wisconsin marches on.

No. 6 Cincinnati vs. No. 11 Texas

J’Covan Brown is the leader of a young, talented Texas team that seems to be coming together at the right time.
Ed Zurga/Getty Images

Cincinnati comes into the NCAA tournament having just reeled off consecutive upset victories in the Big East tournament, where they eventually fell to Louisville in a tight one in the final.

Texas enters the tournament having posted just one bad loss since the beginning of February, and have the look and feel of a young team finally figuring out how to compete at the college level.

Which trend will prevail?

Given the recent tournament history of Big East teams that put together improbable runs in the conference tournament, which, aside from UConn’s miracle run of 2011, is not very good, Texas is in good shape to pull off the upset.

Rick Barnes’ squad is exceptionally young and exceptionally talented. Of the Longhorns top nine players in terms of minutes per game, six are freshmen. For most teams across the country, outside of the Duke-Kentucky-UNC-trifecta, having that many freshmen on the floor at once would surely lead to some growing pains, as it has in Austin.

For all their inexperience, the Longhorns are that much bigger, faster, and stronger than a scrappy Cincinnati squad that would have been no higher than an 8-seed if not for their late tournament run.

Look for the Longhorns to win a close game, with J’Covan Brown doing his best Kemba Walker impression.

No. 3 Florida State vs No. 14 St. Bonaventure

Leonard Hamilton’s Florida State Seminoles will squeak by an energized St. Bonaventure squad.
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

While the seeding associated with these teams surely doesn’t indicate it, this is a far more dangerous matchup for the Seminoles (24-9) than most would expect, especially considering their run through the ACC tournament.

That run, however, needs an asterisk next to it.

John Henson sat out the title game for the Tar Heels in order to rest his injured wrist for the NCAA tournament. Bid already in hand, Roy Williams was not going to risk his shot at the national title for a shot at the ACC title. Florida State beat a North Carolina squad desperately in need of a rest.

St. Bonaventure (20-11), on the other hand, is among the hottest teams in the country.

The Bonnies charged into the A-10 tournament having seized a first round bye over the course of the last few weeks, and rode the momentum all the way to the NCAA tournament. So, does a team that has spent the better part of the last two weeks beating bubble-team after bubble-team sound like a 14-seed?

Led by their dynamic 6’9″ senior forward, Andrew Nicholson, the Bonnies are far better than the 14-seed the NCAA tournament committee pegged them with. St. Bonaventure is clearly better than Montana (13-seed), Harvard (12-seed), Davidson (13-seed), etc.

The list goes on.

The team that pays the ultimate price for the tournament committee’s oversight? Florida State.

Instead of coasting through a well-deserved directional-school cupcake in the first round, Leonard Hamilton’s Seminole’s must now summon the energy to beat a team that is gaining confidence like a steam-roller going downhill.

Will they do it? Yes, but just barely. Florida State has become some people’s hot Final Four pick, and they will surely be sweating out the final minutes of this one.

No. 7 Gonzaga vs. No. 10 West Virginia

Kevin Jones and the Mountaineers will bring a level of physicality for which the Zags are not ready.
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The WCC used to be, without question, a one-bid conference. With the recent success of school’s like Gonzaga and St. Mary’s, and the recent addition of perennially competitive BYU, the conference has suddenly found itself in the midst of its own renaissance.

Despite the increased exposure and respect the league is now getting on a national level, its teams are still getting the shaft when it comes to seeding in the NCAA tournament.

Really, should Gonzaga (25-6), whose worst out-of-conference loss came at the hands of Illinois before the Illini’s epic mid-season meltdown, who lost to Michigan State by only 7 points, and who just lost their conference title game to the 18th best team in the country according to the polls, be a 7-seed?

The Zags reward for a job well done this year? A first-round date with Bob Huggins’ rugged West Virginia Mountaineers (19-13).

West Virginia is led by Kevin Jones and Darryl “Truck” Bryant, two seasoned veterans who have shone under the bright lights of the tournament before. Despite not posting a win worthy of note since January, the Mountaineers are a nightmare matchup for an undersized Gonzaga team that relies heavily on its ability to get open looks at the basket to keep their offense moving.

Look for West Virginia to post the mini-upset of the Zags, beating up on Gonzaga’s guards to disrupt their tempo and rhythm.

No. 2 Ohio State vs. No. 15 Loyola (MD)

Jared Sullinger and the Ohio State Buckeyes are out to avenge last season’s early exit.
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Jared Sullinger and the Ohio State Buckeyes (27-7) were one win away from being a No. 1 seed, dropping a tight game to Michigan State in the Big Ten tournament final. Despite not actually getting that No.1 seed, the Buckeyes still get a No. 1 vs No. 16-type matchup here.

The Greyhounds of Loyola (24-8) stole a bid by winning the MAAC, a league that many expected Iona to walk away with. While they will have something to decorate the rafters with from this season, there won’t be anything else.

Ohio State is the far superior team in this matchup and the only question is, at which point do you rest Sullinger and his fellow starters? Halfway through the first half? Halftime? This game won’t even be close.

No. 1 North Carolina vs. No. 16 Lamar/No. 16 Vermont

Kendall Marshall’s steady leadership will undoubtedly lead the Tar Heels past their first round opponent.
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Not too long ago, Vermont (23-11) was a team that no one wanted to see opposite them in the bracket. In 2005, the then-No.13 seeded Catamounts shocked No. 4 Syracuse, and the world, with their first-round upset.

Well, Vermont fans, you may want to cue that game up on your DVR because, if Vermont can win their play-in game, they will face a beat down of epic proportions.

For Pat Knight, son of Bobby Knight, and his Lamar Cardinals (23-11), the prospects aren’t much better. While Knight earned himself some notoriety with a post-game rant that obviously stirred his troops in recent weeks, his team just doesn’t have what it takes to compete with the North Carolina Tar Heels (29-5).

North Carolina wins big, regardless of who they play.

No. 8 Creighton vs No. 9 Alabama

Creighton star forward Doug McDermott will lead his Blue Jays toward a second round matchup with mighty North Carolina.
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Creighton (28-5), led by star forward Doug McDermott, son of head coach Greg McDermott, can score nearly at will, but struggles to defend with consistency.

Alabama (21-11), guided by one of the hottest young coaching prospects in the game today, Anthony Grant, can defend the best teams in the country, but struggles to find the bucket on the offensive end of the floor.

Something’s gotta give, right?

Creighton has far too much firepower for the Crimson Tide to handle. They may be able to disrupt what the Blue Jays want to do on the offensive end of the floor, but they will still not be able to score when they have the ball, giving Creighton the comfort of “room-for-error” in this first-round matchup.

Unfortunately for Tide fans, not only could they lose their season, but their coach may be headed to greener pastures as well. Anthony Grant’s name will surely be connected to every big job that comes available this offseason.

No. 5 Temple vs. No. 12 California/No. 12 South Florida

Ramone Moore looks to lead Temple well beyond the first round.
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Temple (24-7) was rewarded by the seeding committee for a dominating run through their A-10 regular season with a matchup that favors their strengths regardless of who they will face.

California (24-9) lacks any semblance of toughness, mental or physical, and would struggle to get going offensively against Temple’s rugged, stubborn Philly-style defense. South Florida (20-13) plays much of the same style as the Owls, but doesn’t have nearly the offensive firepower as the No. 5-seed in the South Region.

Led by a trio of guards, Ramone Moore, Khalif Wyatt, and Juan Fernandez, the Owls can score in the transition game, from the perimeter, or by taking it to the basket hard, making them a very undesirable opponent in the NCAA tournament.

There isn’t any one way to definitively slow the Owls attack and, while they try to figure that out, they still have to figure out how to establish themselves offensively against a team that can play shut-down defense.

Temple beat then-No. 3 Duke at home, and beat Wichita State on a neutral floor. They destroyed Xavier in their most recent game that saw any kind of hype. While Fran Dunphy’s Owls have taken some bad losses, they are very well-rounded. This team will be dangerous as long as they are alive.

No. 4 Michigan vs No. 13 Ohio

Trey Burke looks to lead Michigan past Ohio.
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The Ohio University Bobcats (27-7) will look to continue their run into March against the Michigan Wolverines (24-9). After knocking off two higher-seeded opponents in the MAC tournament, the Bobcats will try to make it three in a row. Unless Michigan is caught looking ahead at possible second-round opponent Temple, they will fall well short.

Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway, Jr., and Co., put together a stellar Big Ten regular season after overcoming some early-season jitters.

Much like Temple, the Wolverines have really grown into their style of play, a hallmark of a Jon Beilein-coached team. Driven by their perimeter players, Michigan displays both patience and explosiveness on the offensive end.

This first-round matchup should be a breeze for the Maize and Blue.

No. 6 San Diego State vs. No. 11 North Carolina State

Jamaal Franklin looks to lead his Aztecs into the second round.
Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Before their ACC tournament run, few even expected NC State to be here. The Wolfpack (22-12) were able to string together some late-season victories and played North Carolina extremely close in their ACC semi-final matchup to find themselves with a comfortable No. 11-seed in the NCAA tournament.

Hopefully, they aren’t getting too comfortable.

NC State is the definition of a mediocre team in 2011-2012. They lost to the teams they were supposed to lose to, often by wide margins, and beat most of the teams they were supposed to beat.

Facing a talented, long, and athletic San Diego State team in the NCAA tournament first round, expect that trend to continue.

San Diego State (26-7) has the length and athleticism to defend NC State from end-to-end, force them into turnovers and create easy transition baskets for themselves. NC State doesn’t have the ability to flip that statement around.

Look for Jamaal Franklin and the rest of the Aztecs to regain their form of late, before their conference tournament loss to New Mexico, and fight their way through to round two.

No. 3 Georgetown vs. No 14. Belmont

After narrowly missing an upset in 2011, the Belmont Bruins will finally break through and pull a major upset in the first round against Georgetown.
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What a year to be a No. 3-seed!

The Belmont Bruins (27-7) are one very good basketball team. After narrowly dropping their tournament game last season, when many picked them to pull a monster upset, they began this season with a one-point loss at Duke. After getting whipped in their second game, a loss to Memphis, Belmont has been beaten by more than five points only once.

The Bruins can shoot. They distribute the ball well among themselves, always making the extra pass that buys the shooter the extra split second he needs to be sure his aim is true. They don’t defend or rebound particularly well, but they can cause enough of a nuisance that their offense can keep them hanging around just long enough to pull an upset.

The Georgetown Hoyas (23-8) play a very contrasting style to that of Belmont. Where Belmont shoots early in the shot clock, the Hoyas grind out the clock. Where Belmont can score a lot of points very quickly, Georgetown can find themselves in trouble if the score gets above 65.

Georgetown simply does not have the offensive firepower to keep up with their opponents.

In another huge upset, look for Belmont to pull out the victory over Georgetown. The Hoyas simply will not be able to slow the game down enough to keep themselves in it. Belmont will shoot furiously from all over the floor, and force upon Georgetown a tempo it cannot sustain.

No. 7 Saint Mary’s vs. No. 10 Purdue

Matthew Dellavedova looks to lead Saint Mary’s past Purdue.
Ethan Miller/Getty Images

This game will be very fast-paced, high-scoring, and exciting.

Robbie Hummel takes his final shot at NCAA tournament glory, while Matthew Dellavedova tries to steal the spotlight.

Purdue (21-12) may not be able to keep up with Saint Mary’s if the Gaels are shooting well from the get-go and, unfortunately for Purdue, their best chance to win is to keep the tempo moving, and avoid getting into a free-throw shooting contest.

Saint Mary’s (27-5) could find themselves in trouble if their big men get into foul trouble quickly, but otherwise, the Gaels should have no problem outscoring the Boilermakers.

No. 2 Kansas vs. No. 15 Detroit

Thomas Robinson looks to lead the Jayhawks over Detroit in their first-round matchup.
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In this matchup, the most interesting subplot will be to see how many rebounds Thomas Robinson can gather in 20 minutes, because the Jayhawks (27-6) won’t be needing much out of him in the second half to beat the Horizon League champions, Detroit (22-13).

Detroit pulled off an improbable upset going away against Valparaiso in their conference tournament championship game to punch their ticket to the Big Dance. However, unlike Horizon League rival Butler, don’t expect the Titans to pull off any shockers.

The fact that they’ve made it this far is shocking enough.

Kansas will win big.

 

No. 7 Notre Dame vs. No. 10 Xavier
Tu Holloway is not about to let his college career end on the disappointing note that has been Xavier’s 2011-2012 season.
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The Notre Dame Fighting Irish (22-11) were one of the biggest surprises of the 2011-2012 season. Few expected Mike Brey’s squad to even finish above-.500 this season, let alone make the NCAA tournament.

Xavier (21-12), on the other hand, has been one of this season’s biggest disappointments.

Since their notorious brawl with players from Cincinnati at the end of what would have otherwise been a great non-conference win, the Musketeers seem to have lost their capacity to play with the feisty energy that has been the hallmark of Xavier basketball over the last decade.

This game will be one of the more interesting matchups to watch in the first round of the tournament. Xavier’s Tu Holloway and Co. will look to reclaim what was supposed to have been one of the best seasons in school history, while Notre Dame will be looking to put an exclamation point on a surprising year.

Holloway is one of the country’s most dynamic guards, capable of creating his own shot or getting to the rim at will thanks to his quickness. He’s also capable of knocking down open looks if the defense tries to minimize his ability to create.

Junior Mark Lyons, Holloway’s backcourt mate, is also a very dynamic scorer.

Look for the two of them to torture a less talented group of Irish guards and, with their fragile confidence slowly returning thanks to an A-10 tournament run that featured a solid semi-final victory over fellow tournament qualifier Saint Louis, Xavier will post the upset over Notre Dame.

No. 2 Duke vs. No 15 Lehigh

Freshman Austin Rivers has lived up to his billing of late.
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A classic David vs. Goliath matchup, Duke (27-6) will play Lehigh (26-7) in a first round game on Friday.

While at first glance, this should be an easy win for the Blue Devils, Lehigh could pose some problems for Coach K’s crew.

Led by C.J. McCollum, one of the nation’s leading scorers at 21.9 points per game, the Mountain Hawks are a solid team. McCollum and forward Greg Knutson team to create a formidable inside-out combination that battled the likes of Iowa State and Michigan State closely before bowing out late during the regular season.

If Duke wants to turn their first-round matchup into a shooting exposition, Lehigh certainly has the guns to keep it close.

In the end, however, Duke simply has too much size and talent. Austin Rivers, Seth Curry, and Co., should roll on into a weekend matchup with the winner of the Xavier/Notre Dame game.

No. 1 Michigan State vs. No 16. LIU Brooklyn

Draymond Green and Michigan State will have no problem advancing to a second round matchup with Memphis or Saint Louis.
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The talent gap between Big 10 tournament champions Michigan State (27-7) and NEC tournament titleholders LIU Brooklyn (25-8) is astronomical.

Draymond Green and Co. should have no problem disposing of the Blackbirds, who make their first NCAA tournament appearance since 1997, based on size alone.

Look for Michigan State to win big over LIU Brooklyn on Friday.

No. 8 Memphis vs No. 9 Saint Louis

Will Barton has quietly put together an All-American-type season at Memphis.
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For being such quality teams, the Memphis Tigers (26-8) and Saint Louis Billikens (25-7) have received very little attention from the media over the course of the season.

Memphis is led by point guard Joe Jackson and dynamic shooting guard Will Barton. Both are top-tier talents and, since dropping a few close, winnable games to nationally ranked teams early in the season, Memphis has been on a roll since opening conference play.

Josh Pastner’s Tigers are long and athletic, enough so that should they win this matchup. They would certainly be no easy out for Michigan State in the second round. Every player in Memphis’ lineup can attack the basket, and when their shots are falling, they can be nearly impossible to defend.

Saint Louis, for its part, is not an easy out either. Rick Majerus’ squad is a tough, defensive-minded group that will not back down from anyone. Led by Brian Conklin and Kwamain Mitchell, the Billikens are efficient on offense and look to wear their opponents down over the course of the game.

Possessions will be at a premium in this first-round matchup, and if Memphis gets too careless with shot selection or sloppy with the ball, Saint Louis can put them in a deep hole rather quickly. In the end, however, the Tigers are simply more talented than the Billikens on a matchup-to-matchup basis and should have no problem creating space for themselves offensively.

Look for Memphis to pull away late in a physical, hard-fought battle that will prepare the winner well for what lies ahead in the second round.

No. 5 New Mexico vs. No. 12 Long Beach State

Casper Ware leads a fearless Long Beach State team.
Eric Francis/Getty Images

Every year, there seems to be a 12-seed that knocks off a 5-seed, and 2012 will prove to be no different.

Dan Monson’s Long Beach State (25-8) team was specifically built to be a Cinderella in March, and their first-round matchup is a favorable one. The 49ers played anyone and everyone on the road this season, meaning star guard Casper Ware and his crew are battle tested and, most importantly, confident in their ability to play with anyone in the land.

New Mexico (27-6) is lead by UCLA-transfer Drew Gordon. Head coach Steve Alford’s team favors an efficient, grind-it-out style that plays to Gordon’s strengths. If left unchecked, Gordon is capable of turning the tide of any game in his team’s favor as he can easily control the boards and patrols the paint.

Having said that, Ware and his 49er teammates can score in bunches and don’t necessarily need to control the paint or glass to keep a game close, as evidenced by tight losses to Kansas and North Carolina.

Look for Ware to exploit New Mexico’s guards and push the tempo, minimizing Gordon’s impact on the outcome of the game, and carry Long Beach State to the upset win over the Lobos.

No. 4 Louisville vs. No. 13 Davidson

Peyton Siva leads a red-hot Louisville team into the NCAA tournament.
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Rick Pitino‘s Louisville Cardinals (26-9) are yet again riding a wave of momentum into the NCAA tournament, having put on a tantalizing display of physicality, finesse, and suffocating defense en route to the Big East tournament crown.

If Davidson (25-7) were anything like the Wildcats of yesteryear, they could pose a threat to upset Pitino’s Cardinals, but, alas, Stephon Curry is not walking through that door.

Peyton Siva, Kyle Kuric, and Gorgui Dieng simply pose too many matchup problems for Davidson, who was exposed by Wichita State on BracketBusters Saturday as being incapable of handling the speed that top teams can push the tempo towards. While they were able to upset Kansas in Lawrence, that feat was completed before Kansas had developed any consistency at guard, so they were forced to play the type of half-court game that Davidson favors.

Look for Louisville to force Davidson into early mistakes in the backcourt, and keep them from finding their outside stroke by simply out-muscling the Wildcats, punching their ticket to the second round with relative ease.

No. 6 Murray State vs. No. 11 Colorado State

Isaiah Canaan has kept Murray State’s offense rolling this season.
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Given Colorado State’s solid in-conference play this season and Murray State’s relatively low profile, many will look for the Rams (20-11) to pull off the upset against the Racers (30-1), and many will be wrong.

Colorado State is a fundamentally sound basketball team that takes care of the ball on offense and tries to keep teams from finding their comfort-zone on defense. While this can be an effective brand of basketball against a team that lacks an assertive, smart point guard, Murray State has an assertive, smart point guard.

Isaiah Canaan was one of the top players in the country this season, and he keeps the Racers racing. It is his ability to crack a defense wide-open that has made Murray State such a difficult team to beat this season.

While Colorado State has had a nice season, they simply do not have an answer for what Canaan brings to the court. It will be a close game, but Murray State will pull this one out and move on to the second round.

No. 3 Marquette vs. No. 14 BYU/ No. 14 Iona

Iona PG Scott Machado runs the nation’s most potent scoring attack.
Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

Depending on what happens in the play-in game, this matchup could be either one of the best opening weekend games we’ll see, or a complete snooze-fest.

Marquette (25-7) is a very solid basketball team. Well-rounded, tough, solid defensively, and explosive offensively, the Golden Eagles are just the type of team that could very conceivably make a run to New Orleans.

But if Iona (25-7) takes care of business in their play-in game against BYU (25-8), the Gaels are most certainly capable of keeping pace with Marquette, making for a very interesting game.

Iona is led by the power trio of Scott Machado, Michael Glover, and MoMo Jones, who was last seen leading Arizona’s surprising tournament run of a year ago. The Gaels are incredibly explosive offensively, leading the nation with an 83-points-per-game scoring average.

Machado, Glover, and Jones aren’t small either. Marquette cannot expect to control the game simply by bringing a level of physicality the Gaels surely haven’t seen in the MAAC.

If BYU is able to outclass Iona in Dayton, look for Marquette to easily advance to the next round. If Iona is able to get past the Cougars, this could be the 2012 NCAA tournament’s biggest upset.

Look for Iona to steal a close one, 89-84.

No. 7 Florida vs. No 10 Virginia

Bradley Beal has been a star of late for Billy Donovan’s Gators
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

In a matchup between two teams that ultimately backed into the tournament, this game will come down to how well Florida’s guards are able to handle Virginia’s unique defensive scheme.

Florida (23-10) boasts one of the deepest, most talented backcourts in the nation, led by Bradley Beal, Kenny Boynton, Erving Walker, and Mike Rosario. That group will be called upon to crack the code of Virginia’s suffocating defense that simultaneously takes away open looks from the outside while preventing penetration.

Even though Virginia (22-9) will give Florida fits in this first-round matchup, the Cavaliers simply don’t have the offensive firepower to take advantage of the opportunities their defense will create for them.

Look for Florida to shoot their way out of this one, winning a close, low-scoring affair.

No. 2 Missouri vs. No. 15 Norfolk State

Kim English will look to shoot the Tigers into New Orleans.
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Missouri (30-4) has had one of the best seasons in school history in 2011-2012, head coach Frank Haith’s first season at the school.

Led by dominating guard play, the Tigers are coming into the tournament with a chip on their shoulder after being denied a No. 1-seed, despite having won the Big 12 tournament in dominating fashion.

Look for Marcus Denmon, Kim English, Phil and Matt Pressey, and Michael Dixon to run circles around Norfolk State (25-9).

No. 1 Syracuse vs. No. 16 UNC-Asheville

Fab Melo has been a force inside all season for the Orange.
Chris Trotman/Getty Images

Syracuse (31-2) earned a No. 1-seed despite falling to Cincinnati in the Big East tournament.

The Orange’s biggest advantage is their depth and balance. With so many players capable of shouldering the load, it is hard to defend the Orange by taking away their strengths, simply because there are so many.

Speaking of defense, the Orange are long and suffocating on defense, forcing turnovers and bad shots that fuel an explosive transition offense. Often, teams find themselves keeping close with Syracuse until a series of bad possessions lets the Orange build some momentum and then they almost can’t be stopped.

The first to try in the 2012 NCAA tournament will be UNC-Asheville (24-9), and they will fail mightily. While UNC-Asheville does like to push an up-tempo pace and can fill it up from the outside, they lack the size they will need to get over and around Syracuse’s defenders.

‘Cuse will run away with this one.

No. 8 Kansas State vs. No. 9 Southern Mississippi

Kansas State’s Rodney McGruder will look to carry Kansas State past Southern Miss.
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

File this matchup under the “tough to call” category.

Both teams thrive on physical play. Frank Martin’s Kansas State Wildcats (21-10) came into their own as the season wore on, working themselves off the bubble since early-to-mid February. Having said that, take one look at the results of their games and it is easy to see that they struggle against teams with effective big men.

Southern Miss (25-8) does have an effective big man in Maurice Bolden, but he plays a lot on the perimeter as opposed to exclusively in the post, where Kansas State is most vulnerable. Darnell Dodson is a big guard who can score as well, but again, his game doesn’t necessarily exploit Kansas State’s weaknesses.

While the matchup may not indicate a likely winner in and of itself, a quick look at the recent trend each team is following does. Since the beginning of February, Southern Miss has been a relatively average team, losing twice to Marshall, and once each to Houston, UAB, and UTEP.

In that same time span, Kansas State has only lost to the likes of Baylor, Kansas, Texas, and Iowa State, all of whom are dancing.

Finally, Larry Eustachy may have resurrected his career in Hattiesburg, but before he trashed it in the first place at Iowa State, his Cyclone teams were notorious tournament underachievers, once being eliminated in a 2-seed vs 15-seed matchup.

This game may be an all-out brawl and a nail-biter all at once, but expect Kansas State to avoid the mini-upset.

No. 5 Vanderbilt vs. No. 12 Harvard

Vanderbilt is a slam dunk to win this first round matchup.
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

This matchup sounds more like an argument you would hear between members at an exclusive country club than an NCAA tournament matchup, but both teams came into 2011-2012 with high expectations.

Harvard (26-4), which squeaked out of the Ivy League when Penn fell to Princeton, seemed to be a trendy pick for a tournament Cinderella at the peak of the non-conference schedule, but appeared to hit rough water in the relatively weak Ivy League.

Vanderbilt (24-10) had quite the opposite season, performing terribly at the start of the year, but coming on strong towards the end as their team got healthy and began to gel.

Now it is Vandy that is the trendy pick to dance well beyond what their seed would indicate and that is not without merit. The Commodores rely heavily on senior leadership, sharp shooting from the outside, and solid rebounding and defense on the interior.

Lance Goulbourne, Festus Ezeli, Jeffery Taylor, and John Jenkins form a nucleus that is as talented as it is experienced. Since the calendar rolled into February, Vanderbilt’s only losses have come at the hands of Tennessee, Florida, and Kentucky, none of which are especially troubling.

When you factor in how effective the Commodores had become at both ends of the floor by the end of the SEC tournament, it’s easy to see why many have Vandy in their Final Four.

As the Vanderbilt train gets rolling out of the station, Harvard will be nothing more than a small bump in the tracks. Look for Vandy to roll in this one.

No. 4 Wisconsin vs. No. 13 Montana

Wisconsin’s Jordan Taylor looks to lead the Badgers deep into March.
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

The Montana Grizzlies (25-6) roll into the tournament having just snatched the Big Sky’s automatic bid from the hands of Weber State, a team many had pegged to make some noise in the Big Dance. That doesn’t mean, however, that Montana should be expected to make any noise themselves.

Wisconsin (24-9) comes into the tournament led by senior guard Jordan Taylor. The Badgers are consistent, defensive-minded, patient, and very physical. The Wisconsin roster is loaded with good shooters, so a cold-shooting night is unlikely to derail the Badgers this early in the tournament.

When your opponent has so many obvious factors leaning in their favor, you must be able to do something exceptionally well in order to beat them.

Unfortunately, Montana does not.

They are a solid basketball team, with a good record against weaker competition. They do not have the size or speed to force Wisconsin to do anything it isn’t comfortable doing.

If Montana can catch fire from beyond the arc, they may keep this one interesting past halftime, but the only victories the Grizzlies are going home with will be moral.

Wisconsin marches on.

No. 6 Cincinnati vs. No. 11 Texas

J’Covan Brown is the leader of a young, talented Texas team that seems to be coming together at the right time.
Ed Zurga/Getty Images

Cincinnati comes into the NCAA tournament having just reeled off consecutive upset victories in the Big East tournament, where they eventually fell to Louisville in a tight one in the final.

Texas enters the tournament having posted just one bad loss since the beginning of February, and have the look and feel of a young team finally figuring out how to compete at the college level.

Which trend will prevail?

Given the recent tournament history of Big East teams that put together improbable runs in the conference tournament, which, aside from UConn’s miracle run of 2011, is not very good, Texas is in good shape to pull off the upset.

Rick Barnes’ squad is exceptionally young and exceptionally talented. Of the Longhorns top nine players in terms of minutes per game, six are freshmen. For most teams across the country, outside of the Duke-Kentucky-UNC-trifecta, having that many freshmen on the floor at once would surely lead to some growing pains, as it has in Austin.

For all their inexperience, the Longhorns are that much bigger, faster, and stronger than a scrappy Cincinnati squad that would have been no higher than an 8-seed if not for their late tournament run.

Look for the Longhorns to win a close game, with J’Covan Brown doing his best Kemba Walker impression.

No. 3 Florida State vs No. 14 St. Bonaventure

Leonard Hamilton’s Florida State Seminoles will squeak by an energized St. Bonaventure squad.
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

While the seeding associated with these teams surely doesn’t indicate it, this is a far more dangerous matchup for the Seminoles (24-9) than most would expect, especially considering their run through the ACC tournament.

That run, however, needs an asterisk next to it.

John Henson sat out the title game for the Tar Heels in order to rest his injured wrist for the NCAA tournament. Bid already in hand, Roy Williams was not going to risk his shot at the national title for a shot at the ACC title. Florida State beat a North Carolina squad desperately in need of a rest.

St. Bonaventure (20-11), on the other hand, is among the hottest teams in the country.

The Bonnies charged into the A-10 tournament having seized a first round bye over the course of the last few weeks, and rode the momentum all the way to the NCAA tournament. So, does a team that has spent the better part of the last two weeks beating bubble-team after bubble-team sound like a 14-seed?

Led by their dynamic 6’9″ senior forward, Andrew Nicholson, the Bonnies are far better than the 14-seed the NCAA tournament committee pegged them with. St. Bonaventure is clearly better than Montana (13-seed), Harvard (12-seed), Davidson (13-seed), etc.

The list goes on.

The team that pays the ultimate price for the tournament committee’s oversight? Florida State.

Instead of coasting through a well-deserved directional-school cupcake in the first round, Leonard Hamilton’s Seminole’s must now summon the energy to beat a team that is gaining confidence like a steam-roller going downhill.

Will they do it? Yes, but just barely. Florida State has become some people’s hot Final Four pick, and they will surely be sweating out the final minutes of this one.

No. 7 Gonzaga vs. No. 10 West Virginia

Kevin Jones and the Mountaineers will bring a level of physicality for which the Zags are not ready.
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

The WCC used to be, without question, a one-bid conference. With the recent success of school’s like Gonzaga and St. Mary’s, and the recent addition of perennially competitive BYU, the conference has suddenly found itself in the midst of its own renaissance.

Despite the increased exposure and respect the league is now getting on a national level, its teams are still getting the shaft when it comes to seeding in the NCAA tournament.

Really, should Gonzaga (25-6), whose worst out-of-conference loss came at the hands of Illinois before the Illini’s epic mid-season meltdown, who lost to Michigan State by only 7 points, and who just lost their conference title game to the 18th best team in the country according to the polls, be a 7-seed?

The Zags reward for a job well done this year? A first-round date with Bob Huggins’ rugged West Virginia Mountaineers (19-13).

West Virginia is led by Kevin Jones and Darryl “Truck” Bryant, two seasoned veterans who have shone under the bright lights of the tournament before. Despite not posting a win worthy of note since January, the Mountaineers are a nightmare matchup for an undersized Gonzaga team that relies heavily on its ability to get open looks at the basket to keep their offense moving.

Look for West Virginia to post the mini-upset of the Zags, beating up on Gonzaga’s guards to disrupt their tempo and rhythm.

No. 2 Ohio State vs. No. 15 Loyola (MD)

Jared Sullinger and the Ohio State Buckeyes are out to avenge last season’s early exit.
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Jared Sullinger and the Ohio State Buckeyes (27-7) were one win away from being a No. 1 seed, dropping a tight game to Michigan State in the Big Ten tournament final. Despite not actually getting that No.1 seed, the Buckeyes still get a No. 1 vs No. 16-type matchup here.

The Greyhounds of Loyola (24-8) stole a bid by winning the MAAC, a league that many expected Iona to walk away with. While they will have something to decorate the rafters with from this season, there won’t be anything else.

Ohio State is the far superior team in this matchup and the only question is, at which point do you rest Sullinger and his fellow starters? Halfway through the first half? Halftime? This game won’t even be close.

No. 1 North Carolina vs. No. 16 Lamar/No. 16 Vermont

Kendall Marshall’s steady leadership will undoubtedly lead the Tar Heels past their first round opponent.
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Not too long ago, Vermont (23-11) was a team that no one wanted to see opposite them in the bracket. In 2005, the then-No.13 seeded Catamounts shocked No. 4 Syracuse, and the world, with their first-round upset.

Well, Vermont fans, you may want to cue that game up on your DVR because, if Vermont can win their play-in game, they will face a beat down of epic proportions.

For Pat Knight, son of Bobby Knight, and his Lamar Cardinals (23-11), the prospects aren’t much better. While Knight earned himself some notoriety with a post-game rant that obviously stirred his troops in recent weeks, his team just doesn’t have what it takes to compete with the North Carolina Tar Heels (29-5).

North Carolina wins big, regardless of who they play.

No. 8 Creighton vs No. 9 Alabama

Creighton star forward Doug McDermott will lead his Blue Jays toward a second round matchup with mighty North Carolina.
Eric Francis/Getty Images

Creighton (28-5), led by star forward Doug McDermott, son of head coach Greg McDermott, can score nearly at will, but struggles to defend with consistency.

Alabama (21-11), guided by one of the hottest young coaching prospects in the game today, Anthony Grant, can defend the best teams in the country, but struggles to find the bucket on the offensive end of the floor.

Something’s gotta give, right?

Creighton has far too much firepower for the Crimson Tide to handle. They may be able to disrupt what the Blue Jays want to do on the offensive end of the floor, but they will still not be able to score when they have the ball, giving Creighton the comfort of “room-for-error” in this first-round matchup.

Unfortunately for Tide fans, not only could they lose their season, but their coach may be headed to greener pastures as well. Anthony Grant’s name will surely be connected to every big job that comes available this offseason.

No. 5 Temple vs. No. 12 California/No. 12 South Florida

Ramone Moore looks to lead Temple well beyond the first round.
Chris Chambers/Getty Images

Temple (24-7) was rewarded by the seeding committee for a dominating run through their A-10 regular season with a matchup that favors their strengths regardless of who they will face.

California (24-9) lacks any semblance of toughness, mental or physical, and would struggle to get going offensively against Temple’s rugged, stubborn Philly-style defense. South Florida (20-13) plays much of the same style as the Owls, but doesn’t have nearly the offensive firepower as the No. 5-seed in the South Region.

Led by a trio of guards, Ramone Moore, Khalif Wyatt, and Juan Fernandez, the Owls can score in the transition game, from the perimeter, or by taking it to the basket hard, making them a very undesirable opponent in the NCAA tournament.

There isn’t any one way to definitively slow the Owls attack and, while they try to figure that out, they still have to figure out how to establish themselves offensively against a team that can play shut-down defense.

Temple beat then-No. 3 Duke at home, and beat Wichita State on a neutral floor. They destroyed Xavier in their most recent game that saw any kind of hype. While Fran Dunphy’s Owls have taken some bad losses, they are very well-rounded. This team will be dangerous as long as they are alive.

No. 4 Michigan vs No. 13 Ohio

Trey Burke looks to lead Michigan past Ohio.
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The Ohio University Bobcats (27-7) will look to continue their run into March against the Michigan Wolverines (24-9). After knocking off two higher-seeded opponents in the MAC tournament, the Bobcats will try to make it three in a row. Unless Michigan is caught looking ahead at possible second-round opponent Temple, they will fall well short.

Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway, Jr., and Co., put together a stellar Big Ten regular season after overcoming some early-season jitters.

Much like Temple, the Wolverines have really grown into their style of play, a hallmark of a Jon Beilein-coached team. Driven by their perimeter players, Michigan displays both patience and explosiveness on the offensive end.

This first-round matchup should be a breeze for the Maize and Blue.

No. 6 San Diego State vs. No. 11 North Carolina State

Jamaal Franklin looks to lead his Aztecs into the second round.
Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Before their ACC tournament run, few even expected NC State to be here. The Wolfpack (22-12) were able to string together some late-season victories and played North Carolina extremely close in their ACC semi-final matchup to find themselves with a comfortable No. 11-seed in the NCAA tournament.

Hopefully, they aren’t getting too comfortable.

NC State is the definition of a mediocre team in 2011-2012. They lost to the teams they were supposed to lose to, often by wide margins, and beat most of the teams they were supposed to beat.

Facing a talented, long, and athletic San Diego State team in the NCAA tournament first round, expect that trend to continue.

San Diego State (26-7) has the length and athleticism to defend NC State from end-to-end, force them into turnovers and create easy transition baskets for themselves. NC State doesn’t have the ability to flip that statement around.

Look for Jamaal Franklin and the rest of the Aztecs to regain their form of late, before their conference tournament loss to New Mexico, and fight their way through to round two.

No. 3 Georgetown vs. No 14. Belmont

After narrowly missing an upset in 2011, the Belmont Bruins will finally break through and pull a major upset in the first round against Georgetown.
Harry How/Getty Images

What a year to be a No. 3-seed!

The Belmont Bruins (27-7) are one very good basketball team. After narrowly dropping their tournament game last season, when many picked them to pull a monster upset, they began this season with a one-point loss at Duke. After getting whipped in their second game, a loss to Memphis, Belmont has been beaten by more than five points only once.

The Bruins can shoot. They distribute the ball well among themselves, always making the extra pass that buys the shooter the extra split second he needs to be sure his aim is true. They don’t defend or rebound particularly well, but they can cause enough of a nuisance that their offense can keep them hanging around just long enough to pull an upset.

The Georgetown Hoyas (23-8) play a very contrasting style to that of Belmont. Where Belmont shoots early in the shot clock, the Hoyas grind out the clock. Where Belmont can score a lot of points very quickly, Georgetown can find themselves in trouble if the score gets above 65.

Georgetown simply does not have the offensive firepower to keep up with their opponents.

In another huge upset, look for Belmont to pull out the victory over Georgetown. The Hoyas simply will not be able to slow the game down enough to keep themselves in it. Belmont will shoot furiously from all over the floor, and force upon Georgetown a tempo it cannot sustain.

No. 7 Saint Mary’s vs. No. 10 Purdue

Matthew Dellavedova looks to lead Saint Mary’s past Purdue.
Ethan Miller/Getty Images

This game will be very fast-paced, high-scoring, and exciting.

Robbie Hummel takes his final shot at NCAA tournament glory, while Matthew Dellavedova tries to steal the spotlight.

Purdue (21-12) may not be able to keep up with Saint Mary’s if the Gaels are shooting well from the get-go and, unfortunately for Purdue, their best chance to win is to keep the tempo moving, and avoid getting into a free-throw shooting contest.

Saint Mary’s (27-5) could find themselves in trouble if their big men get into foul trouble quickly, but otherwise, the Gaels should have no problem outscoring the Boilermakers.

No. 2 Kansas vs. No. 15 Detroit

Thomas Robinson looks to lead the Jayhawks over Detroit in their first-round matchup.
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

In this matchup, the most interesting subplot will be to see how many rebounds Thomas Robinson can gather in 20 minutes, because the Jayhawks (27-6) won’t be needing much out of him in the second half to beat the Horizon League champions, Detroit (22-13).

Detroit pulled off an improbable upset going away against Valparaiso in their conference tournament championship game to punch their ticket to the Big Dance. However, unlike Horizon League rival Butler, don’t expect the Titans to pull off any shockers.

The fact that they’ve made it this far is shocking enough.

Kansas will win big.

For your printable bracket for the 2012 NCAA tournament, click here

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1 Comment on "Untangling 2012 March Madness"

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  1. Bill says:

    Hiland, Interesting synopsis, I agree with your final four and with your overall winner. However, I do not agree entirely with the route you took to get there. I hope our brackets are fruitful. Bill

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