Debating William & Mary, sports and culture since 2011. Updated every Wednesday.

2012 CDH March Madness Breakdown: Part 1

In Basketball on March 14, 2012 at 10:05 am

When he wrote The Waste Land, T.S. Eliot could have deemed any month “the cruelest.” He did not go with March, and with good reason. If April is the cruelest month, March is the most gratifying. The cold grip of winter begins to disappear, girls dust off their best spring outfits, and March Madness grips the attention of every man, woman and child (well, mostly men) in the country (provided your team made it and Mad Men isn’t on).

But really, the NCAA men’s basketball tournament is the best of college athletics — surprise bids, upsets aplenty and a CAA Cinderella making a Final Four run (not you, William and Mary) — concentrated into three weeks of spring. Just the thought is enough to warm the heart of even the frostiest Snow Miser.

We here at Crim Del Harris have spent hours agonizing over our brackets, carefully examining each matchup and championship scenario to provide you, our dear readers, with a guide for the 2012 tournament. Here are our picks, starting with the Midwest region. Send us your thoughts in the comments.

MIDWEST

The Lamar Cardinals and Vermont Catamounts (seriously) will square off in one of the Midwest region’s two play-in games. These teams match up well with each other: Both went 23-11 in the regular season, less than a percentage point separates their 3-point field goal percents and both average around 12 turnovers per game. But since their midseason turnaround, Coach Pat Knight’s “awful seniors” appear to have the edge in this game. Look for Lamar to squeak past Vermont…and immediately lose to North Carolina in the second round.

The other play-in game features California and South Florida. The numbers favor the Golden Bears in this matchup. Cal outscores South Florida by over 10 points per game, shoots 47. 9 percent from the field compared to the Bulls’s 43.6 percent, and tallies nearly five assists more per game than does South Florida. Look for California to win, comfortably.

In the second round, North Carolina, Kansas and Georgetown should advance easily, Michigan should be able to handle Ohio, and Creighton should be able to ride its MVC tournament momentum over Alabama. But the Midwest region is set for its fair share of upsets as well. Cal is in good position to take down the Big East-bound Temple Owls in their matchup. N.C. State bests San Diego State in most offensive categories, excluding rebounds, putting the Aztecs on upset alert. St. Mary’s edges Purdue in most stats, but not by much. The Boilermakers’s success beyond the arc could be key in this upset.

But in the end, this region will come down to two teams: the Tar Heels and the Jayhawks. Despite their ACC tournament loss to Florida State, North Carolina was a clear No. 1 seed, and Kansas could easily have been one as well. Kansas cut its teeth in the regular season with hard-fought contests against rival and No. 2 seed Missouri, while Carolina tallied four wins over top-25 teams. With two high-caliber teams, this matchup could be a battle for forwards, pitting Kansas’s Thomas Robinson against Carolina’s dynamic duo of Harrison Barnes and Tyler Zeller. Expect the Jayhawks to play an exciting game, but both the No. 1 seed and the victory will go to the Tar Heels. North Carolina is going to New Orleans.

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