#6 Butler vs. #11 Bucknell
Why is it that the Selection committee always pits small schools that could make a deep run against each other. While Brad Stevens will never surprise me after his consecutive title appearances I wonder how his Bulldogs will handle Bucknell and star Mike Muscala
Shane Larkin, PG, Miami, 5’11”
Larkin has been sensational all year and if the Hurricanes make it to Atlanta expect Larkin to be the main reason. It seems like Larkin plays at a different speed than his opponents. Looking at the Hurricanes’ path it seems like they good chance to get to the Elite 8.
Allen Crabbe, SG, California, 6’6″
Crabbe has great size and the skills that NBA GMs love for wings. Crabbe seemingly does it all on offense and is not afraid to mix it up and scrap for loose balls. With a virtual home game against UNLV Crabbe can use his tournament to springboard to the NBA.
Prediction – Miami Hurricanes
Now onto the most wide-open region in the whole tournament. I can legitimately buy into Pittsburgh potentially making the a deep run to the Final Four. While Gonzaga definitely warranted being a 1-seed they are the least proven of the top seeds but that’s not to say they don’t have the pedigree to win the Big Dance.
Perhaps to two hottest teams in the region are New Mexico and Ohio State, who have been playing great the last month. Defensively so many of the teams in this region are solid if not spectacular defensively.
From a draft standpoint Pittsburgh’s Steven Adams has the potential to boost his stock into the lottery while Deshaun Thomas of Ohio State needs a strong performance to solidify his stock into the second round or higher, or even Kelly Olynyk who is a solid first round prospect will warrant a close look by NBA Draft fanatics.
#8 Pittsburgh vs. #1 Gonzaga
I know I am taking a leap in predicting these two teams face off but the potential of Olynyk vs. Adams is tantalizing. Adams is the athletic shot blocking big that will create problems for the Zags. There is a lot of pressure on Mark Few to show that the Zags warranted a 1-seed but this seems like the first potential upset of a 1-seed this March.
#7 Notre Dame vs. #10 Iowa State
A lot of things happened this last week in the world of college basketball but nothing was more heinous than the neon green uniforms the Irish wore in the Big East tournament. I am not a proponent of karma but I could buy into those jerseys costing the Irish in their opening matchup. Iowa State has been very good for much of the year and Georges Niang and Korie Lucious seem like the type of dynamic duo that could make a deep run in a region full of question marks.
Georges Niang, PF, Iowa State, 6’7″
Niang, like Royce White a year ago, is the skilled point forward that allows the Cyclones to create matchup nightmares for their opponents. With plenty of range and touch Niang showed in a close loss to Kansas why he has a very bright future whenever he decides to declare for the NBA Draft.
Laquinton Ross, SF, Ohio State, 6’7″
If Ohio State makes the Final Four Ross will be a big reason why. While I am shocked by the way the Buckeyes turned their season around there is no doubt that Deshaun Thomas will be pressured by defenses in an effort to make others step up. If Ross, who has more NBA ability than Thomas, accepts the challenge the Buckeyes will be a very tough out.
Prediction – Ohio State Buckeyes
MORE FROM JOE KOTOCH:
TOP SCORERS IN THE NCAA; A CLOSER LOOK
Top 20 Picks: Pre-March Madness
Top 2013 Draft Prospects: Centers
Top 2013 Draft Prospects: Power Forwards
Top 2013 Draft Prospects: Small Forwards
Top 2013 Draft Prospects: Point Guards
Top 2013 Draft Prospects: Shooting Guards
Joe Kotoch is the Editor-in-Chief of Pro Basketball Draft, a leading scouting service in the world of professional basketball. Before Joe created PBD, he served as an NBPA & FIBA certified agent and scouted players all across the world. Born and raised in Cleveland, Joe also contributes to Fox Sports Ohio and the Cleveland Plain Dealer. You can follow Joe on Twitter @Probballdraft.