More than a year since I joined the site, the Wildcats are back in the NCAA Tournament — which means I finally can introduce a new feature that's been in the back of my mind ever since I first adopted my moniker.
So join me every night at midnight, from now until the first games ("real" games — Dayton doesn't count) tip off Thursday, as I break down a different region each night and offer some insights to consider when making your picks.
Hit the jump for discussion of the East Region.
- West Virginia Mountaineers
- New Mexico Lobos
- Wisconsin Badgers
- Temple Owls
- Marquette Golden Eagles
- Clemson Tigers
- Texas Longhorns
- Wake Forest Demon Deacons
- Missouri Tigers
- Washington Huskies
- Cornell Big Red
- Wofford Terriers
- Montana Grizzlies
- Morgan St. Bears
- East Tennessee St. Buccaneers
- Buffalo, N.Y.
- Jacksonville, Fla.
- New Orleans, La.
- San Jose, Calif.
- Syracuse, N.Y. (Sweet Sixteen | Elite Eight)
No. 1 Kentucky (32-2) vs. No. 16 East Tennessee State (20-14)
March 18 | 6:15 p.m. | New Orleans
Congratulations to the Buccaneers for making it this far, but the road ends here.
GAMER: Kentucky 78, ETSU 65
KenPom: Kentucky 77, ETSU 60
Sagarin: Kentucky 72, ETSU 53
No. 2 West Virginia (27-6) vs. No. 15 Morgan State (27-9)
March 19 | 11:15 a.m. | Buffalo
Same goes for the Golden Bears.
How the heck did West Virginia, which in my estimation should have been a No. 1 seed, end up in the same region as the second-best team in the country? Some reward for winning the Big East Tournament, huh?
Should both teams make it that far, it will be an interesting match-up. Bob Huggins recruited Patrick Patterson and DeMarcus Cousins while at K-State, and watching Da'Sean Butler try to out-duel John Wall will be fun.
GAMER: West Virginia 72, Morgan State 61
KenPom: West Virginia 78, Morgan State 61
Sagarin: West Virginia 71, Morgan State 54
No. 3 New Mexico (29-4) vs. No. 14 Montana (22-9)
March 18 | 8:40 p.m. | San Jose
New Mexico could have been a No. 2 seed, in my opinion, so this is another tough draw for Kentucky.
The Lobos will compete with Washington for who can bring the largest fan base to San Jose, but I expect the former to advance out of the pod to the Sweet Sixteen.
GAMER: New Mexico 74, Montana 68
KenPom: New Mexico 72, Montana 65
Sagarin: New Mexico 76, Montana 67
UPSET ALERT: No. 4 Wisconsin (23-8) vs. No. 13 Wofford (26-8)
March 19 | 1:50 p.m. | Jacksonville
Call it a gut feeling, but I'm just not that impressed by Wisconsin this season. Maybe that sounds crazy, given how easily the Badgers dispatched us two years ago. But this is not one of Bo Ryan's better teams, and away from home, they really haven't done much.
I'll admit that I don't know too much about Wofford, but it seems like those usually are the most dangerous of the teams seeded between 13 and 15. The Terriers were competitive in road losses to Illinois and Michigan State, and that experience should serve them well in the opening round. They also beat Georgia and South Carolina.
GAMER: Wisconsin 64, Wofford 56
KenPom: Wisconsin 63, Wofford 52
Sagarin: Wisconsin 68, Wofford 59
UPSET ALERT: No. 5 Temple (29-5) vs. No. 12 Cornell (27-4)
March 19 | 11:30 a.m. | Jacksonville
A preface: Temple deserved a No. 4 seed more than Wisconsin did.
That said, I honestly think Cornell will win this game. Now, I'm not going to pull a Jay Bilas and predict the Big Red all the way to the Elite Eight, but two scores stand out in my mind when evaluating this match-up:
Kansas 84, Temple 52. Kansas 71, Cornell 66.
The former game was at Temple; the latter, in Allen Fieldhouse. Sounds like the perfect recipe for a 5-12 upset to me.
GAMER: Temple 61, Cornell 60
KenPom: Temple 63, Cornell 58
Sagarin: Temple 67, Cornell 63
UPSET ALERT: No. 6 Marquette (22-11) vs. No. 11 Washington (24-9)
March 18 | 6:20 p.m. | San Jose
Notice a theme here? Yes, there appear to be a few over-seeded/under-seeded teams in this particular region.
Marquette might be the most schizophrenic team in the country. Everyone felt sorry for the Golden Eagles back in January, when they were losing multiple games by one-possession margins, including two in a week to West Virginia.
Then they finally figured out how to win those close games and subsequently ripped off a nice little winning streak.
But this is one of the less impressive-looking Big East teams I've seen in a while, and it's a far cry from the guard-loaded teams that did so much damage in the tournament the last few years. They could be prone to an upset.
Meanwhile, Washington's record isn't particularly impressive and its league sure as hell isn't, but don't sleep on the Huskies. They will have a home crowd, they're on a nice roll after winning the Pac-10 Tournament, and they have one of the speediest and most explosive point guards in the nation, Isaiah Thomas.
GAMER: Marquette 68, Washington 64
KenPom: Marquette 73, Washington 72
Sagarin: Marquette 66, Washington 64
UPSET ALERT: No. 7 Clemson (21-10) vs. No. 10 Missouri (22-10)
March 19 | 1:35 p.m. | Buffalo
The committee did Missouri no favors. The Tigers have to fly to New York, where they will meet a clone of themselves in a genuine Tiger fight. Clemson is to the ACC as Mizzou is to the Big 12 — that annoying team that presses the hell out of you and is a pain in the ass to prepare for.
And if Missouri survives that (and I think it will — I've never been that impressed with Oliver Purnell's squads), it gets to face Bob Huggins and the West Virginia Mountaineers. Huggs not only is familiar with Mike Anderson's system from his one year at K-State, but also from the years when the two dueled at Cincinnati and UAB. Bad match-up.
GAMER: Clemson 68, Missouri 63
KenPom: Clemson 70, Missouri 69
Sagarin: Missouri 66, Clemson 65
No. 8 Texas (24-9) vs. No. 9 Wake Forest (19-10)
March 18 | 8:35 p.m. | New Orleans
No two teams are entering the tournament with less momentum than Texas and Wake Forest. The Longhorns have lost nine of their last 16 games, while the Demon Deacons have lost five of their last six. Yuck.
So why no upset alert, you might ask? Well, first, I don't consider a No. 9 seed beating an 8 to be an upset. And second, I actually think Texas might win this game. I'm not sure Wake Forest is that much better than Iowa State or Oklahoma State, and the Longhorns were able to handle both of those teams in the last month.
Besides, Texas simply has too much talent not to pull at least one NCAA win out of you-know-where. But with a likely date against Kentucky looming in the second round, I'd be shocked if Rick Barnes' bunch advanced to the second weekend.
GAMER: Texas 76, Wake Forest 69
KenPom: Texas 77, Wake Forest 72
Sagarin: Texas 78, Wake Forest 74