Blog Entry

The Real Bracket Busters

Posted on: February 22, 2011 5:41 pm

Posted by Jeff Borzello

Let’s face it: NCAA Tournament pools are won by people who pick the right sleepers to reach the Final Four, and those that have the foresight to spot a high-seeded bust when they see them. Those cute, 12-over-5 upset picks that everyone in your office had? That doesn’t do it. The big money (figuratively speaking, of course) is made when you choose the middle-range seeded team that makes a deep run, or when you have a top-seeded team getting knocked out in round two.

We are only nearing the end of February, but it’s time to look at some teams that can a) ruin your bracket or b) carry your bracket to the top of the standings. The teams in Group A that I will discuss are potential high-seeded teams that I don’t think have the necessary make-up to make a deep run in March. Group B teams are squads that will likely be seeded five through eight or lower, but have what it takes to pull off a few upsets and end up in Indianapolis.

Don’t Trust These Teams

Villanova: If you’ve been following me on Twitter this season, you would know I’m not a fan of the Wildcats. Losses in six of their last 11 games has magnified my lack of confidence. They lack leadership, they don’t get consistent inside production from Antonio Pena or Mouphtaou Yarou and their offense falters when they can’t hit outside shots.

Florida: The Gators have looked a lot better in recent weeks, winning five in a row heading into a tough finishing stretch. I’m still not sold on them, though. The frontcourt, despite plenty of talent, is soft defensively, while the backcourt of Erving Walker and Kenny Boynton is inconsistent. Moreover, neither Walker nor Boynton is a true point guard.

Louisville: Rick Pitino has done a tremendous job with the Cardinals this season, but this team simply doesn’t have a lot of talent. They don’t rebound the ball well at either end, they don’t attack the rim and they turn it over too often. Preston Knowles is the go-to scorer, but he is struggling of late. When Terrence Jennings isn’t producing inside, the team is one-dimensional.

Connecticut: Clearly, I’m not sold on most of the Big East contenders this season. The Huskies have the kind of player who can carry them to a Final Four in Kemba Walker, but when he goes cold, this team can be picked off. They don’t shoot the ball well, and the freshmen have been inconsistent. Defensively, they allow far too many offensive rebounds. UConn will go as Kemba goes.

BYU: This comes with a caveat. I needed to choose a team in the top two seed lines, and I think BYU is the most vulnerable. Like Connecticut and Kemba Walker, the Cougars will go as far as Jimmer Fredette can take them. He is nearly impossible to stop, but he has been slowed down before, making BYU vulnerable. Depending on the match-ups, The Jimmer might be sent home early.

Don’t Overlook These Teams

Washington: Ken Pomeroy and his efficient ratings have pegged the Huskies all season as a team that is better than their record. Qualitatively, I would agree. Isaiah Thomas is one ofthe most difficult players to defend, and Matthew Bryan-Amaning provides an inside presence. Lorenzo Romar has multiple lockdown defenders, as well has plenty of experience.

Missouri: The Tigers have looked vulnerable at times in Big 12 play, but they are going to be a nightmare to play with only a couple of days of preparation. They get up and down the floor, forcing turnovers and getting transition baskets. Marcus Denmon leads a host of perimeter scorers, while Ricardo Ratliffe gives Missouri a go-to-guy on the inside.

Kansas State: This has nothing to do with the fact I picked the Wildcats to win the national title in the preseason. With Jacob Pullen on the perimeter, Frank Martin on the sidelines and loads of depth up front, Kansas State can match-up with anyone in the country. If the guards take care of the ball and the big men play to their potential, the Wildcats have what it takes to make a run.

Vanderbilt: With the tough finishing stretch the Commodores have, they will likely finish with a six seed or so. Look out for them at that spot, though. Vandy can beat you in a variety of ways, with John Jenkins hitting 3s and Festuz Ezeli scoring down low. Throw in Jeffery Taylor’s two-way talents and this is a tough offense. Defensively, they are disciplined and force tough shots. 

Illinois: If the Fighting Illini sneak into the NCAA Tournament, they are going to be someone no team wants to play. Despite their recent struggles, they still have the pieces to beat anyone in the country. Demetri McCamey leads a host of shooters, while Mike Davis and Mike Tisdale are tough inside. If the outside shots are falling, Illinois can get hot and make a run.

Photos: US Presswire (Corey Fisher, Isaiah Thomas)


Since: Feb 11, 2009
Posted on: February 24, 2011 11:54 am

The Real Bracket Busters

I am a huge MWC fan and BYU is for sure beatable.  They lack depth and with Jimmer doing his stuff, worried about Jimmer's stats, they will go down early.  Jimmer loves to dribble, dribble, get trapped, and then try to pass.  Some channels (the 4 letter) love this goof.  He is a horrible, HORRIBLE defender and a bad passer.  Sure, he gets assists since someone open can hit a shot.  As for Washington, yea, they are good.  My only problem with them is that they go to sleep in a lot of their games.  They have periods of no or little scoring and in a tournament with some really good shotting teams, that will kill you.  I feel for the first time in a long while the winner is hard to pick and maybe an underdog could win it all like San Diego State or St John's to name two.

Since: Dec 3, 2010
Posted on: February 24, 2011 7:34 am

The Real Bracket Busters

Just because you are a "lawyer" doesn't give you the monopoly on insight. You're bringing up John Wooden???? Please! With no disrespct to the greatest coach of all time, the game has changed. I have every confidence he would have changed with the game. Purdue ran the Buckeyes ragged in the first 8-10 minutes and that was Purdue! Let's see them up against some of the faster teams like Texas, Pitt and KU. Mark my words when you're crying in your briefs on the second Sunday. Two pieces of advice that you may take or not. When trying to give analysis leave home court bias on the bench. Oh ya, and watch some games other than the Buckeyes!!

Since: Apr 3, 2007
Posted on: February 23, 2011 1:33 pm

The Real Bracket Busters

I have watched every single Ohio State game this year and if anyone had a game plan designed to beat the buckeyes it was Izzo and Michigan State.  If a good team can do what they were doing, THAT is how to beat Ohio State.  Both Wisconsin and Purdue needed an otherworldly performance by their star to get the job done.  And it is foolish to rely on that to win a game.

Since: Apr 3, 2007
Posted on: February 23, 2011 1:31 pm

The Real Bracket Busters

JTR41, first, John Wooden only played 7 players regularly.  In college basketball, there is no way you must play more than that.  That is just something the media latches on to to make a story.  7 deep is more than enough.  And second, it is funny you think Purdue gave everyone a template to beat the buckeyes.  They won because Moore played out of his mind.  He single handedly changed the outcome of the game.  So if the template they gave was to have one player shoot the lights out and have the best game of his career then I guess you are right.  But back in reality you are dead wrong.  It had nothing to do with having enough horses.

Since: Oct 25, 2007
Posted on: February 23, 2011 1:17 pm

The Real Bracket Busters

Concerning Louisville: I think you just read the preseason rankings and watched the highlights of the Cincy game. Our inside game has been coming around lately as our players get healthy. Defense is rapidly improving. Usually fare pretty well in the tourney although I woud like to forget last year. We could lose in the first round, but I wouldn't bet my big money on it.

Concerning BYU: I don't follow. So you just put them in here b/c you had to put a team from the top 2 seed lines? Not a very convincing argument.

Concerning Kansas State and Illinois: Will they even make the tourney?

In summary: The teams you pick to not make a deep run are all on the 4 seed line (besides aforementioned BYU) , so they're not expected to make the Elite 8 anyway. Some of the teams you pick to make noise might not even be there. Granted, you rubbed me the wrong way by calling my team untalented, but I don't agree with much on here. I mean, Illinois is just awful.

Since: Dec 3, 2010
Posted on: February 23, 2011 1:02 pm

The Real Bracket Busters

Ohio State plays only 7 players. Lowest of all the "main" contenders. They just don't have the depth and it is really going to hurt by the Sweet 16 or Elite Eights. Sure they can be physical but for how long. The Boilermakers gave everyone a template to beat the Buckeyes and they don't have enough horses to compensate. I'm a huge KU fan but I have to say the two squads that "look" the best are the Panthers and the Longhorns but any of the Top 10 or 12 teams can win it this year.

Since: Dec 5, 2008
Posted on: February 23, 2011 12:53 pm

The Real Bracket Busters

I am assuming that you have a SUPER loose definition of "tough" when referencing U of I's big men.  To call Tisdale, Davis or any big on the Illini tough is a stretch of epic proportions.  Just listen to any sports talk radio in the area, including a recent interview of Bruce Weber on 670 the score, and you will see that they are of the soft ilk.  And if you needed any further evidence, look to their recent whipping at the hands of Michigan State's inside presence. 

They will be one and done as usual come tournament time.  That is, if they even make the tournament.

Since: Apr 3, 2007
Posted on: February 23, 2011 10:56 am

The Real Bracket Busters

mauxdeverite, what in the world makes you think Ohio State would lose to a physical team?  They are one of the most physical teams in the nation and the only way any team can hang with them is to get hot from outside.  Maybe you are commenting without actually having watched any of their games because no one wants to get physical with Sullinger, Lauderdale, Lighty and Craft.  Both inside and outside, those are some of the most physical defenders around.  There are ways to beat the buckeyes, but being physical is not the way.  Nice attempt to look like an expert though.

Since: Nov 29, 2006
Posted on: February 23, 2011 12:13 am

The Real Bracket Busters

Guessing that the author of this blog is a frat boy whose knowledge of college basketball covers about the last ten minutes of history. And this guy is an expert? If you want to have any chance of winning your pool this year, you had better ignore every team that this bozo told you not to. Illinois? Kansas State? Washington? C'mon man, get a clue. And yet Borzello loves those teams and rips on Louisville, Villanova, and UConn? A word to the wise. Don't overlook ANY Big East team when they are matched against non Big East opponents. The problem is that there will be at least two Big East teams in two regions, and three in each of the other regions. They will kill each other. Top seeds that could face an early exit include Ohio State and Duke. The Blue Devils are like Twinkies, soft and white on the inside. They are going nowhere. The Buckeyes will lose to the first physical team they run up against from the top twenty. Top seeds that could go the distance. Pitt and Texas. A few teams that nobody wants to play? You say Illinois. How about West Virginia, St. John's, and Wisconsin? Don't be fooled by the sexy teams that fit the eye, with the speed, and the rim hanging athletes. Guarding the ball, rebounding, and executing the half court offense wins the NCAA. The teams that can do these things are who you should ride. Avoid those that cannot do all three of those things. Everyone else will be riding them.  

Since: Aug 21, 2006
Posted on: February 23, 2011 12:00 am

The Real Bracket Busters


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