STATE OF THE NO. 1: Kansas
Kansas is the best team in the country and a strong favorite to make it to Indianapolis. Beyond the obvious -- the 32-2 record, the convincing Big 12 regular-season and tournament titles, the depth, talent and experience -- the Jayhawks are extremely strong in every statistical category Final Four teams usually excel in.
According to kenpom.com, KU is in the top five in both adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency, is 24th in two-point field goal percentage and second in two-point defensive percentage. The Jayhawks also hit the offensive glass extremely well and are flexible style-wise, as comfortable in a game with possessions in the low 60s as they are in the high 70s.
Kansas also is very difficult to slow down because its offensive attack is so balanced. Sherron Collins is the key ballhandler and clutch-time scorer, but every major rotation player for Kansas uses between 20 and 23 percent of the team's possessions while on the floor.
Simply put, they are a dominant, balanced, experienced team that will be very difficult to derail before Indianapolis. That said, the committee didn't do the Jayhawks any favors as the overall No. 1 seed.
KU should handle either UNLV or Northern Iowa in a second-round matchup, although UNI's slow-down style might make for a more uncomfortable game than a matchup with the Rebels, who likely don't have the firepower to stay with the Jayhawks for 40 minutes. After that, though, it could get tough.
KU could face either a hot Maryland or a talented-albeit-inconsistent Michigan State team in the Sweet 16, and neither 2 seed Ohio State nor 3 seed Georgetown would be any bargain in a regional final. Throw in No. 6 seed Tennessee and No. 7 seed Oklahoma State, which accounted for KU's two losses, and this is by far the most loaded bracket of the four.
BRACKETBUSTER: San Diego State
No. 11 seed San Diego State is coming off a Mountain West tournament title, beating UNLV on its home floor after taking down New Mexico for the second time this season in the semis. SDSU has the athletes to make life very difficult for both Tennessee and likely second-round opponent Georgetown.
The Aztecs actually had the same scoring margin (+0.11 points per possession) as the Lobos in league play. Billy White is a very efficient scorer and freshman Kawhi Leonard is a rebounding savant. They are top-40ish nationally in both efficiency categories, hit the offensive glass like fiends and both shoot and defend well inside the arc. Just don't let the game come down to free throws ...
SUSPECT TEAM: N/A
There really isn't a badly overseeded team in the top half of this bracket. Michigan State may be a tad high as a 5 seed, but not really, especially if you get them on the right night. This region also has a 2 that had an outside chance for a 1, a 3 that easily could have been a 2 and a 4 that tied for the conference title with the No. 3 overall seed.
JUICIEST MATCHUP: Tennessee vs. San Diego State
It should be a full-court, up-tempo, entertaining game that could very well end in a late-night upset in Providence. Kenpom.com projects a one-point Tennessee win. West Coast teams usually struggle coming all the way East, but the estimated 9:45 p.m. start time basically replicates a normal game time for the Aztecs. They should be ready.
If seeds hold, there could be a monster Sweet 16 showdown between Ohio State and Georgetown.
GAME BREAKER: Evan Turner, Ohio State
There's no final answer other than Turner, but this region is utterly loaded with star power. In addition to Turner, you have 2010 conference players of the year in Maryland's Greivis Vasquez, Oklahoma State's James Anderson and Northern Iowa's Adam Koch, as well as UC Santa Barbara's Orlando Johnson and Lehigh's C.J. McCollum. (Also, Michigan State's Kalin Lucas won last season's Big Ten honor.) Then add in stars like KU's Collins and Cole Aldrich, Georgia Tech's Derrick Favors and UNLV's Tre'von Willis, plus Ohio's Armon Bassett (an Indiana transfer) and the guy coming up in the next category, and there is a lot to watch.
BEST PLAYER YOU'VE NEVER HEARD OF: Aubrey Coleman, Houston
Coleman made news last season for stomping on the face of Arizona's Chase Budinger, but the news this year is his scoring prowess. Coleman is leading the nation at a robust 25.6 points per game and he fired up almost 700 field-goal attempts along with over 300 free throws this season. Coleman is the fifth-highest usage player in Division I, with over 34 percent of Houston's possessions while he's on the floor (which is almost always) ending with some act from him. With Maryland's preferred tempo, watch Coleman squeeze off a ton of shots in the 4-13 game in Spokane.
THE PRESSURE'S ON: Greg Monroe, Georgetown
Monroe passed up the NBA draft last year after an up-and-down freshman season and it seems to have been the right choice. The Hoyas' big man has shown a smooth, multifaceted skill set on his way to 16.1 points and 9.5 rebounds a game, while acting as the sweet-passing post man in the Hoyas' Princeton-style offense. Now he will have the national stage to burnish his rep (and draft stock), and he's the best big man in Georgetown's side of the region. The scoring of Austin Freeman and (especially) Chris Wright is a huge component to how Georgetown fares, but if Monroe's right, the Hoyas could make it to Indy.
NUMBERS TO PONDER: 21, 9.1 and 12.6
High-major category: 21. That's the number of years since the last time Georgetown played a first-round NCAA tournament game in Providence. The game? The legendary 50-49 escape over No. 16 seed Princeton.
Mid-major category: 9.1 and 12.6. That's Houston's number of turnovers per game and percentage of possessions on which they commit a turnover. The latter rate leads Division I and is remarkable given the Cougars play at the 20th fastest tempo in the country at over 72 possessions per game.
THE PICK: Kansas
The regional's best team plus the easier side of the draw should equal Indy.
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