March 14, 2012 NCAA Tournament: East Region Preview
By Bohlin & Willis
Since Selection Sunday, we have seen a major shift in power in the East Region. On Tuesday, Syracuse University suspended the anchor of their vaunted 2-3 zone for the duration of the NCAA Tournament. While the specifics of the suspension have not been released by the University it is safe to assume it is related to academics. Earlier in the season Melo was ruled ineligible due to his grades. Consequently the Cuse struggled in his absence, losing their only game of the regular season without having him in the line up. This opens up the East Regional to a host of teams to potentially make a run as the #1 seeded Orange must now rely on their bench to step up now that Melo has officially been ruled out.
Ohio State: Is there a happier coach in the country than Thad Matta right now? The #2 seed in the East have to be feeling good about their chances to march along to New Orleans after Tuesday’s news. Behind Jared Sullinger, the Buckeyes have a legitimate shot at running through this bracket and with the loss of forward Fab Melo for Syracuse I think you have to look at Ohio State as the clear favorite now. Their 3, 4, and 5 positions can ball with any team on the court, as Will Burford and Deshaun Thomas are both fantastic alongside Sullinger.
Syracuse: Even without Melo the Orange boast one of the most talented teams in this region. They’ve got a fantastic coach in Jim Boeheim, and a very deep pool of talent to play with. The loss of Melo is just one of many tough breaks for this team, and yet they have still persevered through all the adversity faced. Despite having quite a bit of size, they’re one of the worst rebounding teams in the tournament, and that’s a statistic to look at for. It could inevitably be their downfall.
Second Round: Vanderbilt (5) vs Harvard (12)
This is one of the more intriguing second round match ups of the entire tournament, let alone the East Region. The Commodores, fresh off their upset of Kentucky in the SEC Title game, have turned into a very popular pick to make a deep run in the NCAA’s. Standing in their way are the Ivy League Champions, the Harvard Crimson. Coached by Tommy Ammaker, this isn’t your fathers Crimson squad. They are full of athletes and spent a good portion of the season ranked in the Top 25. The committee did no favors to the SEC Champs by matching them up with Harvard.
Sweet 16: Ohio State vs Florida State
Florida State appears to be the team everyone is gassing this year. As reported earlier during the ACC tournament, they’re clearly a mercurial team. Capable of beating Duke and North Carolina (twice); just as capable of losing to them in the same breath. The ACC champs have certainly hit their stride, and look to keep it up against Ohio State. Ohio State might be a bit more consistent, but only a tad. Either way, the game would likely be very close and something fans would enjoy
Players to Watch:
1.) John Jenkins, Vanderbilt – The 6’4 junior out of Vanderbilt has some serious stats. Averaging 20 PPG, the guy shoots almost 9 three-pointers a game (and makes 44 percent of them!) He was the SEC tournament MVP, and happens to be coming off a 17 point performance against Kentucky. Jenkins has scored in double figures every game this season, and he’s the main reason that Vanderbilt is as dangerous as they are.
2.) Jared Sullinger, Ohio State – Sullinger came back to school in an attempt to win the big rug cutting festival, and I’m predicting he is going to be on an absolute destruction path during this tournament. You could make the argument that he was better last year than he was this year, and Sullinger is going to have to prove to NBA scouts otherwise. Sullinger plays basketball the right way; he is as unselfish as they come, and it’s why his stats suffer. Nonetheless, look for him to turn it on this tournament.
3.) Kevin Jones, West Virginia – If Jones weren’t a Mountaineer, he’d have attended Ball So Hard University along with Terrell Suggs. The senior forward is the leader of West Virginia’s team, and averages a ridiculous 20 points and 11 rebounds a pop. He’s scored at least 18 points and grabbed at least 10 rebounds in each of his last three games, including one against Andre Drummond and UConn. He’s not a passer, he’s not really a shot blocker; the man just loves to score and rebound.
The ‘Bonas (as my friend and alumni Jeff likes to call them), happen to be one of the hottest mid-major teams in the nation. They just nabbed the Atlantic-10 Championship, and are looking for more. Led by forward Andrew Nicholson (dropped 26 points, 18 rebounds, and 8 blocks vs. Xavier) , St. Bonaventure might just be able to make a lot more noise than people expect depending on which Florida State team shows up.
It’s got to be #2 Ohio State. They’ve got the size, experience, offense and defense. The total package, there is no reason why Thad’s men can’t boogie to the Final Four.