Yes, Blatant Homerism is a college football blog. We love March Madness and college hoops, too. For the next few days, we’ll breaking down the Big Dance in all its glory for your edification.
Leading up to Thursday’s tip-off, The Skinny and I will be previewing each region. We’ve already covered the Southeast. Next up is the Southwest, where Kansas is a heavy favorite to advance.
2011 NCAA Tournament: Southwest Region Preview
Overall Quality (1-5): 3.5
The presence of Kansas, Notre Dame and Purdue gives this region the strongest threesome of the four. Louisville is decent, but probably a little overrated as a 4 seed. After that, things thin out pretty quickly.
Play-in Game Winner: Southern California over Virginia Commonwealth
Master motivator Kevin O’Neill should have the Trojans spitting mad about the disrespect of having to play this game. Can someone explain to me what VCU is doing here?
Buy Low: Nevada-Las Vegas
I don’t really look at any of the teams in this bracket as underrated, but UNLV is stronger than your average 8 seed. The Runnin’ Rebels, well coached by the reliably boring Lon Kruger, are coming out of a solid conference and can give opponents fits defensively with their ability to create turnovers.
Sell High: Texas A&M
The Aggies tend to generate admiration from coaches and pundits who appreciated their hard-nosed defense, but Mark Turgeon’s boys are about as blah as teams come this season. Simply put, nothing sticks out about A&M. I suspect that a lack of offense will eventually bury the Aggies in round two against sweet-stroking Notre Dame.
Locational Landmine: USC
So the Trojans are boarding a plane today bound for Dayton, Ohio, for a playoff game against VCU. Assuming they win, they’ll get on another plane and head to Chicago for at least one more game, possibly two. Sounds like a real hoot.
Bet the Farm: Morehaed State (+10) over Louisville
Led by Kenneth “The Worm” Faried, Morehead has the kind of depth that we usually find in the Big Dance’s giant killers. I doubt that will be enough to knock off the Cardinals, but it should put a scare into Louisville.
(And I made it through that without any Rick Pitino jokes.)
Best Villain: Virginia Commonwealth
Every year, the talking heads unite to unfairly ostracize some poor team that somehow landed on the right side of the bubble. This year, they’re banging on the selections of more than a few squads, with VCU receiving plenty of scorn.
If the Rams make it past the play-in game, they’d draw Georgetown in the first round. They could even win a “real” tournament game. Shameful.
Player on the Spot: JaJuan Johnson, Purdue
Talented big men who stay in college for four years have become the Halley’s Comet of the hoops world. Purdue’s first-team All-American center is the most complete big man in the college game and is capable of putting the Boilermakers on his back en route to the Final Four.
A matchup with Kansas’ Morris twins looms in the Elite Eight. I’ll take that.
Coach of the Hour: Bill Self, Kansas
Considering he has a national championship to his credit, Self’s reputation as a crappy tournament coach strikes me as more than just a little unfair. In this case, however, he has little excuse for a first weekend flameout like last year. Louisville, Purdue and Notre Dame are nice teams, but they’re clearly a cut below Kansas in my mind.
The Jayhawks have a relatively clear path to the Final Four; Self shouldn’t screw up such a gift.
Does a 4 seed qualify as a darkhorse? It’s going to have to, because I don’t see many compelling candidates among the 13 lower-seeded squads.
(Man, this is such a weak field.)
Winner: Kansas over Purdue
Kansas’ B-grade backcourt will eventually catch up with it, but I don’t see that happening during regional action. Self has the Jayhawks humming right now, though, and they’re unmatched from a talent standpoint in this pod.
KU is on a collision course with Ohio State in the national finals.