The BCS conference middle class gets to go head to head tonight, along with two Western powers in Gonzaga and Utah State. The Big Ten and Pac Ten face off in one game, while the Big East and Big XII meet in another. It should be a wild and riveting close to a long glorious day of college basketball.
SOUTHEAST REGIONAL- #7 UCLA vs. #10 Michigan State (TBS, 9:20)
Michigan State has new life after such a lack luster season. We know that they have the ability to make a run, because many of these players were part of the last two Final Four teams. Michigan State has had difficulty defending the threes this year, but UCLA is not a very good outside shooting team. UCLA is led by their front line of Tyler Honeycutt, Reeves Nelson, and Joshua Smith
The Pick: Michigan State wins a close one over the young Bruins. Look for lots of banging inside. This will be a big boy game.
SOUTHEAST REGIONAL- #6 St. John’s vs. #11 Gonzaga (CBS, 9:45)
Gonzaga has a big front line, led by seven-footer Robert Sacre, and Elias Harris. They are very good at defending in the paint, but can give up some outside looks. The St. John’s front line of the Justins, Brownlee and Burrell, will have to play to a draw inside. St. John’s is not a great outside shooting team, and relies on Dwight Hardy to create and penetrate.
The Pick: I’ve gone back and forth on this one, but I’m going with Gonzaga to pull the mild upset in Denver. I think the matchup favors the Zags because St. John’s is not a great perimeter shooting team. They’ll need to be tonight.
WEST REGIONAL- #6 Cincinnati vs. #11 Missouri (TBS, 9:45)
Missouri has been a disappointment, and their struggles have largely centered on their halfcourt defense, particularly on the perimeter, and their defensive rebounding is abysmal. They will press and trap and create turnovers, and are among the best in steals, turnovers, and blocks. But if a team gets a shot off, they score well and get second chances. Ricardo Ratliffe is the best interior defender, but he has a tendency to commit bad fouls and take himself out of the game.
Cincinnati is one of the best offensive rebounding teams, a bad combination for Missouri. The Bearcats play a deep rotation, a good thing against Missouri, and I look for them to turn the ball over (because Missouri turns everyone over) but handle Missouri in half court. If I were the Bearcats, I would break the press then set up half court, keep it a choppy game, and not let Missouri run. Obviously, you want to take really easy scores, but I think otherwise, you focus on wearing the Tigers down and getting Ratliffe in foul trouble.
The Pick: Cincinnati. I’ll be rooting for Missouri, but I’ve been a little down on this team all year because of the weak perimeter defense and defensive rebounding, and I’m not expecting a sudden turnaround.
SOUTHEAST REGIONAL – #5 Kansas State vs. #12 Utah State (TruTV, 9:57)
The last game of the night could be fantastic. Tai Wesley and Utah State are grossly underseeded. They are very good defensively all around, and limit second chances for opponents. That will be a key versus Kansas State, who excels at getting second chance points and relies on it heavily in their offense. That will be the key to the game–can Utah State limit Kansas State and force them to make shots?
The Pick: Utah State in the perceived upset, though Pomeroy has the Aggies rated higher entering the game.
[photo via Getty]