Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

March 21, 2013

KYLE HOBSTETTER: Helpful hints to handle Madness

Kyle Hobstetter
The Independent

ASHLAND — This week is kind of like my Christmas. There are so many words that can describe this week for me: Utopia, Passion, Dream. But the true word for it is simply ... Madness.

The NCAA Tournament started Tuesday, but it really starts today, and it’s the most exciting time of the year for me.

Superstars, Cinderellas, seeding, games that are etched in our minds — it all comes this time of year through the NCAA Tournament.

Now before the first tipoff of the second round, I hope to help you with understanding this year’s tournament saga.

Whether it’s with filling out your brackets or helping you decide which game to watch, I’m here with some helpful hints.

So, Happy Unproductive Days at work or school (we all know it’s true). And enjoy the NCAA Tournament.

Toughest Region

‰The Midwest. By far the Midwest Region is the scariest of the four, especially for you Louisville fans out there.

You have the top-ranked team in the ACC in Duke, the Pac-12 Tournament champs in Oregon (who are a 12 seed!), the Atlantic 10 champs in Saint Louis, Conference USA champion Memphis and Missouri Valley champion Creighton.

Then you have Oklahoma State, Michigan State, Cincinnati, Missouri and Colorado State who are all capable of winning games in this tournament.

Louisville is deserving of the top No. 1 seed, but the selection committee did them no favors with this draw.

I still expect the Cardinals to find a way to the Final Four, but it will be a challenge.

Players to Watch

Here is a look at a player in each Region to keep an eye on.

‰Midwest — Derrick Nix (Michigan State). In basketball, Nix is what we call a man among boys.

The 6-foot-9, 270-pound senior can dominate the paint in the Midwest region and could carry the Spartans on his back to another Final Four appearence.

‰West  — Kelly Olynyk (Gonzaga). The junior went from a redshirt last season to possibly taking home national player of the year honors.

The Bulldogs are getting huge numbers from the 7-footer, who averages 17.5 points per game and 7.2 rebounds.

He also led Gonzaga’s best overall team to its highest NCAA seed in school history. If Olynyk can control the paint, look for Gonzaga to go far.

‰South — Otto Porter (Georgetown). I am a little biased towards the Big East, but my opinion is that Porter is the best player in college basketball.

Hoyas coach John Thompson III said it best during Sunday’s selection show — not only can Porter do it all, he can do it all well.

The 6-8 forward averaged over 16 points and seven rebounds to help Georgetown win the Big East Regular season title.

‰East — Khalif Wyatt (Temple). If the Owls move on, it’s going to be because of Wyatt.

The senior guard is the Atlantic 10’s leading scorer at a staggering 19.4 points per game.

Behind Wyatt, Temple can upset a lot of people’s brackets.

Best Second Round Games

Here is a look at the four games in each region that will be the most entertaining

‰Midwest — No. 10 Cincinnati vs. No. 7 Creighton. Who will win between Creighton’s up-tempo, no-defense style and Cincinnati’s hard-nosed defense, offensively challenged style?

‰West — No. 5 Wisconsin vs. No. 12 Ole Miss. This has a chance to be a real rock fight. Ole Miss has come on strong late in the season, while Wisconsin can struggle if they can’t make shots.

‰South — No. 8 North Carolina vs. No. 9 Villanova. Villanova has been this season’s Jack the Giant Killer, knocking off big-name teams left and right

North Carolina has struggled, but is coming off a trip to the ACC Tournament championship game. Look for this one to be close until the final whistle.

‰East — No. 6 Butler vs. No. 11 Bucknell. This Butler team isn’t the one of old and I don’t see another trip to the Final Four in sight. But coach Brad Stevens will have his team ready.

Bucknell is just like Butler — well-coached, disciplined and the Bison take care of the ball. This game will be close and could come down to who finally makes a mistake.

Upset Alert

The best part of the NCAA Tournament is the upsets. Here is a look at the best possible upsets in each region.

‰Midwest — No. 12 Oregon reaching the Sweet Sixteen. Oregon is a good basketball team. But like the rest of the Pac-12, the Ducks were underseeded.

Oregon can beat No. 5 seed Oklahoma State and also match up well against No. 4 Saint Louis.

Oregon is balanced, and could have a starter step up on each night and be the star. Don’t be surprised if the Ducks end up playing Louisville in the Sweet Sixteen.

‰West — No. 8 Pittsburgh into the Elite Eight. The best way to beat top-seeded Gonzaga is to out-muscle them. Out-muscling people is also the motto for Pittsburgh basketball.

The Panthers’ Talib Zanna and Steven Adams can easily take Gonzaga star Olynyk out of his game. Don’t be surprised if Jamie Dixon has his team knocking on the door of a Final Four berth.

‰South — No. 4 Michigan loses in the second round ... again. Last year Michigan had a No. 4 seed, and fell to No. 13 Ohio and star D.J. Cooper.

This year Michigan has a No. 4 seed, and can fall to No. 13 South Dakota State and star Nate Wolters.

I didn’t mention this above because I was saving it for right here but ... WATCH THIS GAME! Wolters against Michigan star Trey Burke is going to be a good one.

‰East — No. 14 Davidson could cause havoc. Davidson is scary for No. 3 Marquette, which is faltering down the stretch and is not as good a team as in years past.

If Davidson can get by Marquette, I can see it beating the winner of Bucknell and Butler.

And while Davidson doesn’t have Stephen Curry this tournament, Jake Cohen and De'Mon Brooks could carry the load for the Cougars in the NCAA Tournament.

My Final Four

Louisville over Ohio State and Indiana over Georgetown.

National Champion

Louisville over Indiana.

KYLE HOBSTETTER can be reached at khobstetter@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2658.