I’ll be looking at each region over the next couple of days as the NCAA Tournament gets ready to tip. We’ll look at matchups to watch, previews, picks, players to watch and what team could be a sleeper to come out of each region. I’ll be releasing my entire bracket on Wednesday or Thursday so there won’t be a ton of revealing here.
Bryce Hopk How Do Purdue's Freshman Guards Handle Pressure - This is the biggest question for me specifically because of what we've seen all year. Purdue has been a top-5 team seemingly since the 3rd week of the season. I even really like Loyer and Smith. But they are two freshman who can't stop turning the ball over under pressure. I don't know why teams aren't pressing for damn near all 40 minutes after seeing them. They are going to draw Memphis/FAU in the 2nd round. Good luck.
2. There will be chaos according to history - Look at this tweet from KenPom
That's a good nugget! That's something to keep an eye on. It makes sense though. Now this year we have Marquette, one of the hottest teams in the country, and Purdue. Okay take them out since history says so. Who the hell do you trust in this region? I really don't see anyone winning it. I can't picture it. I can't see any of these teams winning 4 in a row and with each matchup.
3. Duke gets the MSG draw - Little old Duke getting the draw they wanted. Some may ask if K showed up to the committee meeting. I'm not ruling it out. Gets the shittiest 4 seed in Tennessee (especially without Ziegler). Gets a Sweet 16/Elite 8 in MSG where a bunch of neanderthal Yankees fans will show up. Gross.
4. What Kansas State shows up - Kansas State is one of the more fascinating teams to me. Their analytics aren't great. They are 25th basically across all metrics yet they are a 3 seed. They didn't really do shit in the nonconference - lost to Butler (woof) and beat Nevada. But I've also seen Markquis Nowell look like the best point guard in the country. We see Keyontae Johnson turn into an All-American. They can score with anyone, but their defense is actually what they are better at. I could see Kansas State making a Final Four, I could also see them losing round 1.
5. Max Is Back - No not PMT's Max, because Villanova stinks. But rather Max Abmas and Oral Roberts. This team is without a doubt better than the 15 seed who made the run a couple years ago. They brought in Connor Vanover, a 7'5" pick and pop big man from Arkansas. They also shoot the shit out of the ball. They obviously draw Duke in the first round but that PnR could be deadly.
Players to Watch
There are a couple ways to look at this, but I’m looking at this strictly as an intrigue factor. These are players that could be lottery picks in the NBA Draft, could put a team on their back or are just flat out good players. I'll try to avoid the obvious like Zach Edey or Jalen Wilson.
1. Braden Smith (Purdue) - I mean pick him or Fletcher Loyer. I mentioned it earlier but we'll go Braden here. He's shooting 39% from three this season. Purdue needs him to be consistent this Tournament if they make a Final Four. It's that simple. We know about Edey. We know what he can do. But you win with guards in March. Look at every national title team, great guards.
2. Jordan Brown (Louisiana) - I'm guessing he's not being talked about more because of the Oral Roberts seed here. But Jordan Brown is fucking awesome. He's putting up 19 and 9. He can both Tennessee at the rim. Obviously him vs Tennessee's bigs wil be huge in that game. If he can get them in foul trouble, Louisiana could cruise. He's also an elite rebounder, key against this Tennessee offense.
3. O-Max Prosper (Marquette) - I know Kolek won Big East POY but I'll go Prosper here because we've talked about Kolek a lot. Propser is arguably the best NBA prospect for Marquette. He's versatile as hell at 6'8". You can give him the ball and let him make a play. You can just have him work a team defensively.
4. Ed Croswell (Providence) - I'm going with Croswell (we know Hopkins) because of the first round matchup. If Croswell gets in foul trouble, good luck throwing more guys at Oscar. If Croswell stays on the floor it could be a disaster game for Oscar. I'm already scared.
5. Chris Livingston (Kentucky) - To me he's the difference with this Kentucky team. He provides that 2nd NBA prospect look when playing well. He likes to play in physical ass games. He's the one guy Kentucky has who is willing to be a bully. We saw him do it against Tennessee and Mississippi State. In what should be an ugly ass first round game, we need him.
Best Bet To Make The Final Four (via Barstool Sportsbook) - Kansas State (+900)
I'm not taking Duke. No thank you. Then there's the KenPom nugget about Purdue and Marquette. Okay, so what the hell to do? How about the 3 seed getting 9/1? Worth a little look there. Like I said, they've looked the part at times this year. They have wins at Texas and Baylor while beating Kansas at home. Pretty decent. They have the guard play. They have the defense. The matchups aren't great, but, shit, 9/1 in this region. Get weird with it.
Matchup You Most Want To See: No. 12 Oral Roberts vs No. 13 Louisiana
I got nothing. Upsets. Give us Max Abmas.
Best early gut first round play: I'll come out with my final plays day of, so this is just first gut. Don't overthink it.
Oral Roberts +6. They have the ability to draw Duke's bigs away from the rim and open up lanes for Abmas and the guards. This Duke team is damn good defensively but this is a young team. Now you have a quick turnaround for a unique offense. That's not the best recipe. Vanover is really the game changer here for ORU that can give Duke problems. ORU is also experienced, have played together for years. I'll take my chances.