This region, like most, is a high risk-high reward deal, even at its pinnacle.
No. 1 seed Indiana is both an easy pick to go to the Final Four and a complicated one. There have been times this season when the 27-6 Hoosiers flat-out underperformed, and unfortunately for them, some of those times came down the stretch.
On the other hand, Indiana is a complete team, highlighted by two stars: the 7-foot Cody Zeller, who led the Hoosiers in scoring and rebounding and who also has been putting up large numbers of late, and athletic guard Victor Oladipo, who is a fine defender and has hit nearly 45 percent from beyond the arc.
Indiana lost on its home floor a couple of times this season, showing some vulnerability there, and couldn’t finish in the league tournament after winning the Big Ten regular-season title.
That’s one of the reasons the pick here is Miami.
The Hurricanes aren’t exactly a sure thing, either, having suffered through their own lapses. But when they’re right, which they typically are, they are magnificent. Miami won the ACC regular season and the conference tournament, led by Shane Larkin, who went for 28 points against North Carolina in the title game. Alongside Larkin, Trey McKinney Jones dropped 20 points on the Heels on a floor in Greensboro that might as well have been a home court for UNC.
Winning in that environment is what teams headed for the Final Four do.
As for the rest of the group, UNLV couldn’t beat New Mexico in the Mountain West tourney, but the Rebels are better than Cal and should push past the 20-11 Bears in their match. Most of the little guys have little shot at taking out the bigger names in the early rounds here, with one exception: keep an eye on the Montana Grizzlies. Even if Syracuse manages to beat them, it will get a game.
Miami, the second seed, will blow through the bottom half of its bracket to the region final and then go to the Final Four.
Why Indiana is No. 1
The Hoosiers are solid at both ends of the floor. When they miss shots, they rebound their own misses almost 40 percent of the time.
Out on a limb
It’s an extended reach, but Montana beats Syracuse. The Grizz are better than everybody thinks they are, and better than Syracuse thinks they are.
No faith in
California. The Bears will lose to UNLV in their first game and back the overall lack of respect by the selection committee for the Pac-12 Conference.