Greenberg’s Sports Book: Previewing the Midwest Region
With the opportunity to make more bets and win/loss money, Greg Kaplan has jumped head first into the 2013 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. How will this year’s tournament play out? It’s anybody’s guess, but for some reason Greg is making his guesses public.
Louisville enters the tournament as the overall #1 seed, having navigated the Big East to a championship in the final year of the power conference at its height. Though the Cardinals went through a lull earlier in the year, they’re still one of the most complete teams in the NCAA. No team offers a quicker backcourt than the duo of Russ Smith and Peyton Siva, plus the interior strength of Gorgui Dieng. Not to mention, Louisville has nearly endless range with role players like Wayne Blackshear and Luke Hancock.
Duke may have stumbled in the ACC Tournament, but don’t think that they’re not going to have a say in things this March. Duke arguably has the best starting five in basketball, with all five starters averaging double-figures, with Mason Plumlee and Seth Curry headlining. However, the Blue Devils are clearly a different team when Ryan Kelly is healthy and in the line-up, meaning opposing teams should be very worried.
Speaking of ridiculously strong teams in one bracket, Michigan State. Probably the most dangerous of the 3-seeds, but stuck in the same bracket with Louisville and Duke. Only one of these teams will be able to hold their heads high at the end of the day. And don’t think that I’m trying to under-sell Saint Louis. They were rightfully rewarded for a strong regular season in a very deep A-10 (five teams in the field) followed up with a A-10 Tournament championship. We’re not done talking about them just yet.
Hardly calling Missouri an upset, but they are the lower seed in their match-up. Missouri is the only team in the nation to sport six players averaging more than 10 points per game, and have a powerful duo inside between Laurence Bowers and Alex Oriakhi. Not to mention, Phil Pressey is still one of the few elite point guards in the NCAA.
Now, I told you we weren’t done talking about Saint Louis. Yes, they had a strong season. And yes, they are deserving of a #4 seed. However, New Mexico State is a terrible match-up for them. For as well as the Billikens have played this year, they are incredibly thin inside and don’t have much size. The Aggies, on the hand, have two massive towers in Bandja Sy and Sim Bhullar. Not to mention, Daniel Mullings could be the best player on either team in the match-up. If you wanted to get sexy with an upset pick early on, New Mexico State may be your go-to choice.
Sweet 16 Surprises?
In the Midwest, I don’t think so this year. After Saint Louis falls, I see a lot of things playing out the way you would expect it. I’m a smidge hesitant to put faith in Oklahoma State, seeing how they’re led by a freshman point guard, albeit a really good freshman point guard.
If I had to pinpoint any one “surprise”, it may be that I’d take Michigan State over Duke in the Sweet 16 to advance. Even then, however, it would be hard to flat-out call that game an upset, seeing how both teams have hovered inside the Top 10 all year. Spoiler alert: I’m really high on Big Ten teams in this year’s dance. You’ll learn more about this as we get closer to the Final Four.
It may not be predictable or flashy or very creative, but I feel like Louisville is going to be coming out of the Midwest. Of all the #1 seeds in the dance, Louisville may have one of the easiest roads to the championship, if all goes according to how I think it will (winner of the #16-seed play-in, Missouri, Oklahoma State then a real tough match-up with Michigan State).
There is one main principle I take into every tournament, and that’s any team with an elite point guard and a big man inside that can control the boards will have an inherent advantage. In Louisville’s case, they have two point guards teams need to worry about, in addition to the powerful Dieng inside.
I’ve said it since Day 1 this year, Louisville is the type of team that’s either going to make a deep run into the dance, or they’ll be eliminated extremely early. There is no middle ground for them. The betting man who I am, I’m banking on them doing the former. Hopefully.