Before any NCAA Tournament team cuts down the nets in Arlington, Texas, site of the 2014 Final Four, they must navigate those tricky early rounds. Some higher seeds like won't be so lucky. As you fill out one or 27 brackets, here are five bracket busting scenarios:
Midwest: No. 12 NC State/Xavier over No. 5 Saint Louis - We don't know who will face the Atlantic 10 regular season champions, but we know either opponent enters the NCAA's on a better run than the Billikens. Saint Louis defends for 40 minutes and sports an all-senior starting lineup. It also sports a current stretch of four losses in five games. NC State, led by ACC Player of the Year T.J. Warren, won four of its last five including a takedown of Syracuse.
East: No. 12 Harvard over No. 5 Cincinnati - The Crimson won an NCAA Tourney game last season as a 14-seed while the Bearcats lost their opening round matchup. Both teams defend, but the Ivy champions have less dips on the offensive end thanks to sneaky depth and conference Player of the Year Wesley Saunders. Cincy guard Sean Kilpatrick had a monster season and could carry his side into the Sweet 16 if they can get past the smart kids.
South: No. 11 Dayton over No. 6 Ohio State - These schools are both located in the Buckeye state, but we can't call them rivals in part because they rarely face each other. Last matchup, 2009 NIT. That's not the Flyers call. The Atlantic 10 program is the hotter of the two teams, having won 10 of 12 and has the underdog chip to play. Ohio State started the season 15-0, finished 10-9.
West: No. 7 Oregon over No. 2 Wisconsin (Round of 32) - The offensively gifted Ducks impressed me in the season opener against Georgetown and with their late season push including wins over Arizona and UCLA. Already had this one in my bracket and then I saw my guy Rob Dauster with CollegeBasketballTalk.com make the same call in his West Region preview. Not sure if that makes me feel better or worse, but his thoughts are essentially mine:
"Wisconsin can score this year. They are getting up and down the floor much more than in the past, which fits in well with how the Ducks like to play. And the Badgers struggle against teams with guards that can penetrate."
East: No. 9 George Washington over No. 8 Memphis - Not a fan of looking at the 8-9 game for an upset, but certainly the Tigers have the higher national profile with seven NCAA appearances in the last eight years. Both teams have strong guard play and Memphis' up-tempo style could cause problems if GW is loose with the ball. However, the mentally tough Colonials have the interior edge with big men Isaiah Armwood and Kevin Larsen. Ultimately, the tournament is all about matchups. I'm not the only one thinking this is a good one for the Foggy Bottom crew and poor one for the Beale Street bunch.
If you were going to craft a prototype "DO NOT WANT" for Memphis, it's a highly disciplined team with a terrific coach.— Andy Glockner (@AndyGlockner) March 17, 2014