Breaking Down the Midwest Bracket

Notre Dame may not have gotten a great first round draw, but when looking at the other top seeds in this bracket, the Irish faired pretty well.  I still think it stinks that Notre Dame will be the only 6th, 7th, or 8th seed to face a ranked opponent, but the Midwest bracket shapes up nicely for the Irish with one of weaker #2 seeds in Wisconsin and despite the run Oregon is on, no one had them as a 3 seed until the Pac 10 Tourney.

Here’s a look at the other 15 teams in Notre Dame’s bracket.

#1 Florida Gators (29-5)
Notre Dame didn’t luck out with defending national champion Florida in their bracket.  The Gators returned everyone and made short work of the SEC Tournament this past weekend.  Personally, I hope the Gators get tripped up early if for no other reason than Florida has won the last football and men’s basketball titles and enough is enough.  I also would prefer not to have to watch too much of Joakim Noah in this year’s tourney.  Still, the Gators are the safest bet of all the #1 seeds to make it to the Final 4 and if the Irish were to face Florida, they would need to play absolutely perfect to have a chance.  One of the few advantages of being the 6th seed, however, is that Notre Dame wouldn’t have to face Florida until the Elite 8 at the earliest.  If that were to happen, I think its safe to say most Notre Dame fans would be happy no matter the outcome.

#2 Wisconsin (29-5)
Wisconsin limps into the tourney as losers of three of six and without the services of big man Brian Butch.  In their defense, two of the three losses were at the hands of #1 seed Ohio State, but the Badgers also struggled with Michigan State in their regular season finale.  Butch started 30 games and was the team’s leading rebounder which makes them a fairly vulnerable #2.  When compared to Georgetown, Memphis, and UCLA; I’d gladly take my chances with a banged up Wisconsin team amongst the four #2 seeds.  Butch’s absence, should the Irish and Badgers meet could be exploited by Luke Harangody.  These two teams wouldn’t have to meet until the Sweet 16.

#3 Oregon (26-7)
The Ducks are one of the hottest teams heading into the tournament after their impressive run through the Pac 10 Tournament this weekend.  They can shoot the lights out from three point range – they were 34 of 65 from beyond the arch in their three games in the Pac 10 Tournament – yikes.  The only good news about having a team like Oregon as a 3 seed is that if they go cold, they could be in for a long night – just as the Irish have found themselves all too often in recent years.  Should the Ducks and Irish meet in the second round, it would definitely be a fun game to watch with both schools having excellent shooting squads.  Could Notre Dame’s low post game with Harangody be the difference in such a game?  Very possibly.

#4 Maryland (24-8)
Something tells me Notre Dame might be able to beat these guys.  Maybe it was the 81-74 victory the Irish secured over the Terrapins back in December.  Maryland was on a roll heading into the ACC Tournament with two wins over Duke and another over North Carolina as part of a seven game winning streak to end the regular season.  A shocking loss to 12-20 Miami in the first round of the ACC Tourney, however, has some people wondering which team will show up.  As the 4th seed, Maryland will need to get passed Florida before potentially seeing the Irish and that seems unlikely.

#5 Butler (27-6)
The Bulldogs beat the Irish back in November, and despite a shocking loss to Wright State in the Horizon League Championship, this is a good team that could make some noise.  Unfortunately for them they were given a 5 seed will face another strong mid major who had a disappointing conference tournament – Old Dominion.  I’m pulling for ODU to represent my alma mater’s conference, the Colonial, and I’d also like to see Butler lose since their loss to Wright State very likely could have kept my boys from Drexel out of the tournament.  For Notre Dame to potentially see Butler again, the Bulldogs would have to beat the 5-12 jinx, then most likely beat Maryland (although Davidson is looking like a nice upset pick to me), and then go through Florida.

#7 UNLV (28-6)
A senior laden team that just won the Mountain West Conference title over BYU.  The  Runnin’ Rebels are a pretty balanced team and play well at both ends of the floor and could be a tough out because there isn’t one guy that kills you – three players averaged between 13 and 14 points for the Rebels this season.  UNLV didn’t get a good draw with a fairly hot Georgia Tech team in round 1.

#8 Arizona (20-10)

Lute Olsen’s team won 20 for the 20th straight year, but his Wildcats had a pretty inconsistent season.  They beat #2 seed Memphis early in the season and beat Oregon once in Pac 10 play, but lost to UCLA twice, USC once, Oregon once, and Washington State once – not exactly an impressive run through the top of the conference.  Arizona is always a tough out in the tournament, however, and as an 8 seed last year they took #1 seed Villanova down to the final minute in the second round.  Don’t expect much of the same from these Cats though even if they get past the Boilermakers in round 1.

#9 Purdue (21-11)
Purdue was a bubble team heading into the conference tournament week, but an impressive 19 point win over Iowa secured a bid for the Boilermakers.  Purdue played three teams in this bracket – Georgia Tech, Wisconsin, and Butler – and lost all three.  Purdue’s a pretty good team, but no one would be surprised if their record against teams in this bracket was 0-4 by the weekend.

#10 Georgia Tech (20-11)
The Yellow Jackets can up and down the court about as good as anyone in the country, but an early exit in the ACC Tourney at the hands of 15-15 Wake Forest raised some questions about what kind of team they would be in the Big Dance.  Tech is the kind of team that can make a run from a low seed because of their speed and athleticism.  Tech has struggled on the road this season and won’t find much help in Chicago should they advance to the second round against Wisconsin.  Should Tech get hot, Notre Dame could potentially face the Yellow Jackets in the Sweet 16.  Notre Dame likes to run and play a fast paced game which could make a matchup with Tech favorable.

#11 Winthrop (28-4)
Winthrop played four ranked teams this season and gave all but one a run for their money.  Two of those ranked teams happen to be in this bracket – Maryland (a 71-60 winner) and Wisconsin (a 82-79 winner).  Winthrop is becoming one of this year’s media darlings prior to the tournament as a potential Cinderella team.  Good news for Notre Dame is that the teams picks as potential bracket busters usually get busted up themselves.  Still, as a top 25 team, its kind of crazy to see an 11 seed next to Winthrop, but Notre Dame should have enough fire power to get by the Eagles in the first round.

#12 Old Dominion (24-8)
ODU is a solid mid major school with some impressive wins – including a win over Georgetown on the road and two impressive wins over Drexel.  I think ODU will upset Butler and then upset Maryland in the second round to give the Colonial a Sweet 16 team for the second year in a row.  Don’t expect ODU to be able to upset a #1 seed like fellow Colonial conference mate George Mason did to UConn last year though.

#13 Davidson (29-4)
I mentioned earlier that I’m thinking about Davidson over Maryland as a potential upset pick, but I’m not exactly sold yet.  They haven’t really been tested this season, but I just have a gut feeling they could give Maryland a game – so expect a HUGE Maryland win now.

#14 Miami (Ohio) (18-14)
Miami upset Akron to get into the Tournament but won’t have enough magic left in them to get past Oregon.

#15 Someone

Wisconsin might be a bit banged up, but they have more than enough gas in the tank to get past Texas A&M Corpus Christi

#16 Someone else
No 16th seed as ever won and Jackson St. won’t challenge defending champ Florida.

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