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BRACKET BLOG: Southeast Region

My previews of four regions in 48 hours continues unabated.

While you're waiting on the next preview, which I expect to publish at midnight, make sure you go here to enter the 293rd annual BOTC Bracket Challenge.

The group ID is 104278 and the password is FearTheBeard.

Then follow the jump for a discussion of the Southeast Region, the wide-open menagerie populated by a pair of Bruins, a trio of Bulldogs, and Panthers, Cougars and Wildcats aplenty.

(P.S. I'm doing these out of order because tonight's two play-in games feed into the as-yet-non-previewed regions, so I can't publish them until after midnight).

Previous Entries:

The Teams

  1. Pittsburgh Panthers
  2. Florida Gators
  3. BYU Cougars
  4. Wisconsin Badgers
  5. Kansas St. Wildcats
  6. St. John's Red Storm
  7. UCLA Bruins
  8. Butler Bulldogs
  9. Old Dominion Monarchs
  10. Michigan St. Spartans
  11. Gonzaga Bulldogs
  12. Utah State Aggies
  13. Belmont Bruins
  14. Wofford Terriers
  15. UC Santa Barbara Gauchos
  16. UNC-Asheville Bulldogs

The Sites

  • Denver, Colo.
  • New Orleans, La. (Sweet Sixteen | Elite Eight)
  • Tampa, Fla.
  • Tucson, Ariz.
  • Washington, D.C.

The Breakdown

No. 1 Pittsburgh (27-5) vs. No. 16 North Carolina-Asheville (20-13)
March 17 | 2:10 p.m. CST | Washington | truTV
Tim Brando | Mike Gminski

Kudos to Asheville for winning an NCAA Tournament game, even if it was a truncated, bastardized version of one. At least it was an exciting finish, which is more than we can say for the nightcap.

But this is the end of the road for the Bulldogs, who already have won so many games they shouldn't have just to get this far.

If Asheville even breaches 60 points against the stingy Pittsburgh defense, it would be a minor miracle.

GAMER: not available
Pomeroy: Pitt 76, UNCA 58
Sagarin: Pitt 68, UNCA 55

No. 2 Florida (26-7) vs. No. 15 California-Santa Barbara (18-13)
March 17 | 5:50 p.m. CST | Tampa | TBS
Ian Eagle | Jim Spanarkel

OK, I've seen a lot of Florida this year, and not just against the Cats. The Gators are a nice team, but they're easily the worst No. 2 seed in the field. The committee should have swapped them with Kentucky or Texas, straight up.

That doesn't mean UF will lose to the Gauchos of Santa Barbara, however. For the second straight year, UCSB arrived here by knocking off regular-season champion Long Beach State in the Big West championship.

Considering the game is in Tampa, there is an overwhelming advantage in favor of Florida in terms of home crowd, travel and other such intangibles. Gators roll, although the final score probably won't reflect it.

GAMER: Florida 69, UCSB 58
Pomeroy: Florida 71, UCSB 59
Sagarin: Florida 65, UCSB 56

No. 3 Brigham Young (30-4) vs. No. 14 Wofford (21-12)
March 17 | 6:15 p.m. CST | Denver | CBS
Verne Lundquist | Bill Raftery

Although BYU is a depleted team and certainly over-seeded at No. 3 (One spot higher than Texas? Really?), the Cougars should have little trouble in this one.

Wofford was a trendy pick to knock off Wisconsin last season, but the Terriers couldn't quite get it done. Turns out Cornell possessed that destiny in the second round, instead.

But BYU will have the advantage of being used to playing at altitude, and I think Jimmer Fredette and his Latter-Day cohorts should be able to run the Terriers around the court in circles until they're too gassed to think about defending.

GAMER: BYU 79, Wofford 66
Pomeroy: BYU 82, Wofford 70
Sagarin: BYU 76, Wofford 66

UPSET ALERT: No. 4 Wisconsin (23-8) vs. No. 13 Belmont (30-4)
March 17 | 6:27 p.m. CST | Tucson | truTV
Kevin Harlan | Reggie Miller | Dan Bonner

Oh, man, this one is almost too easy. Here are some arguments in favor of and against a possible Belmont upset.

Leaving aside the fact that Wisconsin has a history of losing games in the first two rounds to double-digit seeds (Cornell, Davidson), Belmont is one of the best 3-point shooting teams in the country. Guess who's near the bottom of the barrel in 3-point percentage defense? That's right, the Badger Badger Badgers.

I'll allow for the possibility that Wisconsin is able to control the tempo tomorrow and push the Bruins around inside. But Belmont is one of the few conference favorites to actually win its conference tournament, which means they are dialed in mentally. With their frenetic, uptempo attack, it will surprise precisely no one if they pull this off.

Like most games of this sort, if it's high-scoring, Belmont will win. If it's low-scoring, Wisconsin will win.

GAMER: Wisconsin 62, Belmont 60
Pomeroy: Wisconsin 66, Belmont 63
Sagarin: Wisconsin 67, Belmont 64

UPSET ALERT: No. 5 Kansas State (22-10) vs. No. 12 Utah State (30-3)
March 17 | 8:57 p.m. CST | Tucson | truTV
Kevin Harlan | Reggie Miller | Dan Bonner

When all three predictive systems spit out a K-State loss, I take notice.

While I personally think the Cats will prevail, it certainly wouldn't shock me if they come out and lay an egg. If they do, they most certainly will lose. This team isn't good enough to be schizophrenic — they have to be focused to defeat a fundamentally solid squad such as Utah State.

If we bring the effort we showed in Lincoln, we will succeed. If we bring a KU-in-Bramlage effort, we will roll them. But I've seen a few too many head-scratchers from the Cats this season to confidently and boldly declare inevitable victory.

GAMER: USU 69, K-State 67
Pomeroy: USU 64, K-State 62
Sagarin: USU 64, K-State 63

UPSET ALERT: No. 6 Saint John's (21-11) vs. No. 11 Gonzaga (24-9)
March 17 | 8:45 p.m. CST | Denver | CBS
Verne Lundquist | Bill Raftery

Steve Lavin and the St. John's resurgence have been one of the greatest stories in the 2010-11 basketball season.

But I fear it's going to come to an abrupt end. Here's a few reasons why:

  • St. John's plays poorly when it flies west. The Johnnies lost at St. Mary's last fall. They were thumped solidly by UCLA just one week after their season-defining win against Duke. I don't know if it's the time change, the travel or something else, but having to play in Denver does not favor the Red Storm.
  • The game won't be played at Madison Square Garden and the referees will be neutral — theoretically.
  • Gonzaga is a rapidly improving team. These aren't the Bulldogs that K-State waxed at Sprint Center. Elias Harris is healthy. Robert Sacre, who is a terrible match-up for St. John's, is coming into his own. Steven Gray isn't making nearly as many dumb mistakes as he was in November. They defend better. And the growth of key reserves David Stockton, Marquise Carter and Sam Dower has been breathtaking. Plus, Mark Few's one of the best tourney coaches in the field.
  • The season-ending injury to D.J. Kennedy puts a lot of pressure on the shoulders of Dwight Hardy. Is he up to it? Can Justin Burrell stay out of foul trouble. I just think SJU has less margin for error.

I think Gonzaga takes this one, and I also like the Zags to beat BYU this weekend in a preview of next year's premier West Coast Conference match-up.

It would be Gonzaga's first trip to the Sweet Sixteen in several years, and they might even have enough in them to make their first Elite Eight run since they splashed onto the scene in 1999.

GAMER: SJU 67, Gonzaga 66
Pomeroy: Gonzaga 69, SJU 68
Sagarin: Gonzaga 64, SJU 63

UPSET ALERT: No. 7 California-Los Angeles (22-10) vs. No. 10 Michigan State (19-14)
March 17 | 8:20 p.m. CST | Tampa | TBS
Ian Eagle | Jim Spanarkel

Like its fellow California university system member (UCSB), UCLA must fly east to take on the Fighting Izzos in a match-up of two NCAA Tournament blue-blood programs.

It gets an Upset Alert solely because of the identity of the lower seed's coach. Never, ever bet against an Izzo-coached team in March, kiddies.

Even though UCLA is a solid squad that almost won its conference, beat a hot St. John's team and almost won at Allen Fieldhouse, and Michigan State appears to be an underachieving mess, trust me, this will be a hard-fought battle.

Pomeroy: MSU 65, UCLA 64
Sagarin: MSU 67, UCLA 66

UPSET ALERT: No. 8 Butler (23-9) vs. No. 9 Old Dominion (27-6)
March 17 | 11:40 a.m. CST | Washington | truTV
Tim Brando | Mike Gminski

I hate it when the committee does this. Avid basketball watchers want to watch these upset-proven teams take on major-conference teams, not each other. Just more power-conference crap from the powers that be.

Anyhow, we all know what Butler can do. But without Gordon Hayward, the Bulldogs have proven to be merely good, not elite, this year. They pulled it together midway through conference play after some ugly losses and are riding a nine-game winning streak.

But Old Dominion is no stranger to upsets, either. The Monarchs won their conference tournament as a No. 2 seed and knocked off sixth-seeded Notre Dame (basically composed of all the same players on this year's top-10 team, plus Luke Harangody) in the first round of last year's Big Dance.

I've heard local experts describe ODU as a "light" version of a Big East team. Although not as deep, they're just as physical and attack the paint well. Maybe that's why they're 3-0 versus Big East teams in the NCAAs.

I think I know who Pitt will be rooting for. So, too, will a host of ODU fans from adjacent Virginia, who should provide a home feel.

GAMER: ODU 63, Butler 62
Pomeroy: Butler 62, ODU 61
Sagarin: Butler 62, ODU 61