|1 Syracuse v. 16 UNC Asheville||Syracuse||Kansas State||Vanderbilt||Ohio State|
|8 Kansas State v. 9 So. Miss||Kansas State|
|5 Vanderbilt v. 12 Harvard||Vanderbilt||Vanderbilt|
|4 Wisconsin v. 13 Montana||Wisconsin|
|6 Cincy v. 11 Texas||Cincinnati||Florida State||Ohio State|
|3 Florida State v. 14 St. Bonaventure||Florida State|
|7 Gonzaga v. 10 West Virginia||West Virginia||Ohio State|
|2 Ohio State v. 15 Loyola||Ohio State|
Key to the region…Do you buy into Syracuse's season-long domination. If so, write the Orange into the Final Four and move on. But some will note that Syracuse's top two RPI non-conference wins came against Florida…and Marshall. Some will (correctly) say the Big East is a touch overrated this season and thus discount the epic perception of a one-loss regular season. Now, Ohio State has depth concerns, Florida State's offense disappears for stretches and Vanderbilt's toughness is not always apparent. All true, but it's the answer to the first question that dictates this region.
Round of 64 upset: West Virginia (10) over Gonzaga (7). Hardly a stunning call in essentially a 50-50 game, but this is part Bob Huggins over Mark Few and part the Mountaineers' toughness over the Zags' fluidity. Not sleeping on Texas, Harvard or Saint Bonaventure, but I am also not in love enough to advance those double-digit seeds.
Player to watch: Besides its renowned 2-3 zone defense, top-seeded Syracuse's strength lies with its deep rotation, but the Orange's hope of Final Four run hinges on center Fab Melo. The physical 7-footer, who lost is cool in spots during the Big East Tournament, is coach Jim Boeheim's primary interior enforcer. Yet despite Melo's presence, the Orange repeatedly are pummeled on the defensive boards. Have the sophomore pick up his game or find a way to patch up this Achilles Heel and Syracuse is Final Four bound. If not…
(***On Tuesday afternoon Syracuse ruled Melo ineligible for the tournament. Yeah, I would say the Orange's rebounding concerns just became a lot more dire.)
Others: Devidas Dulkys (Florida State), John Jenkins (Vanderbilt), Rodney McGruder (Kansas State), Andrew Nicholson (Saint Bonaventure)
Sweet 16 matchups: Vanderbilt over Kansas State, Ohio State over Florida State…Wait, where is top-seeded Syracuse? Um, that rebounding issue gets exposed against a relentless Kansas State squad, but Vanderbilt's shooters and NBA talent prevails in the Sweet 16. Buckeyes versus Seminoles seems more like a New Year's Day bowl game. This matchup would surely be a rugged affair and the winner is Final Four bound.
And going to the Final Four…Ohio State. Call this a vibe pick as much as anything. Despite being highly ranked much of the season while playing in the highest rated conference, the Buckeyes feel almost like an afterthought in the national title talk. Jared Sullinger's below-the-rim game is not nearly as tantalizing to the masses this season, yet he remains highly effective. He also has NBA-level help on the wings and the Big Ten's defensive player of year Aaron Craft running the point. After losing in the Elite Eight last season, coach Thad Matta directs his troops one round further this year…71-65, Jared Sullinger named the region's most outstanding player.