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March 16, 2011
Tournament Preview
Duke in the West

by Ken Pomeroy


Duke is the favorite to come out of the West, which features strength at the top of the bracket and generally weaker-than-normal seeds after that. San Diego State has the second-best chance to get out of this region, followed closely by Texas. According to this analysis, there's an 81 percent chance one of those three teams represents the West region in Houston.

Seed                   Rd3   Sweet16  Elite8  Final4  Final   Champ
 1    Duke             98.3    84.5    56.5    40.3    23.5    15.3
 4    Texas            86.8    67.9    32.0    20.4    10.2     5.8
 2    San Diego St.    92.7    70.1    47.1    20.7     9.5     5.0
 3    Connecticut      83.3    48.3    22.1     7.2     2.5     1.0
 6    Cincinnati       56.6    28.7    11.8     3.3     1.0     0.4
 5    Arizona          76.8    24.1     6.1     2.4     0.6     0.2
11    Missouri         43.4    19.3     6.8     1.6     0.4     0.1
 7    Temple           51.0    14.7     6.0     1.3     0.3     0.08
10    Penn St.         49.0    13.8     5.5     1.2     0.3     0.07
 8    Michigan         56.8     9.5     2.9     0.9     0.2     0.06
 9    Tennessee        43.2     5.9     1.5     0.4     0.07    0.02
13    Oakland          13.2     4.9     0.7     0.2     0.02    0.004
12    Memphis          23.2     3.1     0.3     0.05    0.006   0.0008
14    Bucknell         16.7     3.6     0.6     0.06    0.006   0.0007
15    Northern Colorado 7.3     1.4     0.2     0.01    0.001   0.00008
16    Hampton           1.7     0.2     0.008   0.0004  0.00001 0.0000004

(16) Hampton vs. (1) Duke (Charlotte: Friday, 3:10 on truTV)
Hampton earned the auto-bid after knocking off Morgan State in the MEAC title game. (But did the Pirates really earn it? I'm always inclined to believe a Todd Bozeman conspiracy theory.) They get to face the Blue Devils in what will be a test case for whether Kyrie Irving will get significant postseason minutes. This isn't last year's Duke in the sense that they don't pound the offensive boards. However they still make opponents score two at a time better than any team in the field. They combine their customary lockdown of the perimeter with an ability to avoid sending teams to the free throw line. Hampton played the weakest schedule of any tourney team and they figure to be overwhelmed here.

(9) Tennessee vs. (8) Michigan (Charlotte: Friday, 12:40 on truTV)
While my preseason system scored some hits on forecasting the upcoming season it whiffed on the Wolverines, who were pegged for last in the Big Ten. Head coach John Beilein and his players deserve credit for overcoming a 1-6 Big Ten start to make the field with room to spare. The Michigan defensive stats look much different than years past when Beilein has gone almost exclusively 1-3-1. The Wolverines no longer forces turnovers in bunches, but they're a better rebounding team and in terms of effectiveness the defense still works well enough.

Tennessee didn't have a double-digit win in SEC play that wasn't against LSU or Auburn. The Volunteers profile isn't terribly pretty. They're a poor shooting team that is able to retrieve enough of their misses to keep their offensive efficiency slightly north of Florida State levels, but not at a level that suggests a deep run is in store for the Vols this season.

(12) Memphis vs. (5) Arizona (Tulsa: Friday, 2:45 on CBS)
By my calculations, Derrick Williams will draw about 14 fouls in this game. Williams comes in having drawn about eight fouls for every 40 minutes played, which is one of the top ten figures in the land. And the Tigers' interior players, whether it's Tarik Black or Will Coleman, are somewhat foul-prone.

While I'll remain skeptical that Memphis has come together in any meaningful way over the past three weeks, this team beating Arizona wouldn't be the craziest thing to happen in the tournament. The Wildcats' defense has been giving up over a point per possession with regularity and provides an odd mix of very good perimeter defense with very bad interior defense. Memphis, by contrast, owns a solid interior offense to go with poor three-point shooting. Whatever the Tigers do with the basketball will involve points in the paint.

(13) Oakland vs. (4) Texas (Tulsa: Friday, 12:15 on CBS)
The Grizzlies are every bit as difficult to gauge as Belmont or Utah State. Oakland dominated the Summit League, winning 20 of 21 games against its conference foes. They didn't bludgeon the opposition to the extent that the Bruins or Aggies did, but they were also seldom threatened. Keith Benson is a foul-drawing machine, but he's not even the most involved Oakland player on the offensive end. That distinction goes to point guard Reggie Hamilton, who made 61 percent of his twos, a notable accomplishment for someone listed at 5-11.

Texas still owns the nation's top-rated defense but it hasn't looked the same since the stunning second-half collapse at Nebraska on February 19. They'll get a real test from Oakland in this regard. The Grizzlies averaged a cool 1.23 points per possession in conference play.

(11) Missouri vs. (6) Cincinnati (Washington, D.C.: Thursday, 9:50 on TNT)
The Tigers aren't trending in the right direction and one always has to worry about a defense that depends heavily on forcing turnovers. The Bearcats aren't terribly turnover-prone, although point guard Cashmere Wright did have his occasional problems in this area. (On the plus side he led the nation in assist rate among players named for a fabric.)

It won't matter so much that Cincinnati makes shots, just that they take them. They should be able to feast on offensive boards. Interesting note: Cincinnati got a lot of press for its weak non-conference schedule but they also had the weakest conference schedule among Big East members. Yet they probably deserve their seeding. Weak schedule does not equal weak team.

(14) Bucknell vs. (3) Connecticut (Washington, D.C.: Thursday, 7:20 on TNT)
The Bison have a couple of games against Big East teams already, having started the season with road losses to Villanova and Marquette. Bucknell had a healthy lead on Marquette before the Golden Eagles closed the game with a 28-4 run. So this game may not be a total walkover.

One possible problem is that only one Bison regular stands taller than 6-6. In another year that might be a deal-breaker against UConn, but the Huskies rank in the bottom 30 nationally in terms of the points they get from both the center and power forward positions. It's still a Kemba-based offense, and when Walker isn't scoring, offensive responsibilities usually fall to backcourt-mates Shabazz Napier or Jeremy Lamb. If UConn doesn't get its usual supply of offensive rebounds, this could be interesting for a while.

(10) Temple vs. (7) Penn State (Tucson: Thursday, 2:10 on TNT)
Those nostalgic committee members were surely looking to rekindle an old Atlantic 10 rivalry here. Log5 has this one as close to a coin flip as a game can get. Penn State put together a strikingly predictable resume -- they beat who they should beat and lost to who they should lose to, with the notable exceptions of a December home loss to Maine and a win over Wisconsin in the Big Ten tournament. Their 19-14 record was less the result of mediocrity as much as it was playing in the Big Ten.

This is as good a time as any to give some credit to Temple's Ramone Moore. He didn't deserve to win A-10 player of the year, of course. But as a steady scorer who was Temple's rock while various players had to sit with injuries this season, he deserved better than second team all-conference. He's arguably Temple's most productive offensive player.

(15) Northern Colorado vs. (2) San Diego State (Tucson: Thursday, 4:40 on TNT)
I was disappointed in the committee for not matching up UNC vs. UNC in the first round. UNC-Greeley doesn't have much in common with its Chapel Hill namesake. They're a bit methodical offensively and they like to shoot the three an awful lot. San Diego State has one of the best three-point defenses in all the land. This doesn't figure to be a favorable matchup for the Bears. But honestly, the mismatch in this game has less to do with tactics and more to do with the Aztecs just having much more talent.

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Ken Pomeroy is an author of Basketball Prospectus. You can contact Ken by clicking here or click here to see Ken's other articles.

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