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March Madness Bracket Picks, East Regional: Syracuse Potential Sleeper For Ohio State?

Let's take a look at the key stats for each of the teams in the East regional that have a decent shot of making it to the Final Four.

#1 Ohio St. Buckeyes

Dossier courtesy of Pomeroy: Top offense in the country. Tenth best defense in the country. Pretty slow pace, but fourth best shooting team in the country and third best at shooting threes. Average field goal shooting defense, but the best in the country at keeping teams from going to the line (probably because most teams fall into too deep a hole to recover). They're great at holding onto the ball and pretty good at forcing turnovers. Great at grabbing defensive boards and decent at grabbing offensive boards.

The biggest weakness with Ohio State is that they only run six-seven deep, with a bench they rarely rely on. If anyone can get Ohio State's players into foul trouble and not settle for jump shots, they could be vulnerable. Also, outside of early victories over Florida and Florida State (both comfortable wins despite being on the road in both contests), they are not well-tested out of conference. Finally, they're a pretty young team, relying on two starting frosh to log big minutes in the NCAA tournament. 

Brief player synopsis

Jared Sullinger (6'9", 280 lb) has been a one man wrecking ball in the Big Ten. He gets a lot of shots inside and nails most of them, grabs boards, doesn't turn it over, goes to the foul line a lot. Dallas Lauderdale (who doesn't play as much, but is a big body at 6'8, 255 lb) also helps to clean up on the boards and can disrupt the offense with his blocking skills.

Aaron Craft (6'2', 195 lb) is the primary ball-handler and is good at distributing the ball, but he is prone to turning the ball over.

David Lighty (6'5", 220 lb) is good at grabbing steals and nailing outside shots, as is William Buford (6'5", 205 lb).  Jon Diebler (6'6", 205 lb) is perhaps the most efficient shooter in the country; although he doesn't take as as many shots as the other two wings, he's usually at least at .500 or above in his shooting numbers.

Odds to win national championship: 1 in 5.


#2 North Carolina Tar Heels

Dossier courtesy of Pomeroy: 37th best offense in the country, 7th best defense, 21st fastest tempo. Pretty good at field goal defense (48th). They're second only to Ohio State in keeping their opponents from shooting a lot of free throws (although they also don't shoot that many themselves. Strong offensive rebounding team, decent defensive rebounding team.  Very good at preventing blocks on offense and getting blocks on defense.

The biggest weakness with UNC is that they're not a great shooting team, particularly at the line. They shoot a pedestrian 33 percent from beyond the arc and a horrid 66% from the charity stripe. They're also a young team, and have struggled to put together consistent efforts through the season.

Brief player synopsis

Harrison Barnes (6'8", 210 lb) takes most of the shots--he's a decent if not efficient scorer, although he's proven that he can take a lot of big shots and make them.

Tyler Zeller (7'0", 250 lb) is UNC's most efficient scorer and a pretty good offensive rebounder and blocker as well. He also gets to the foul line a lot.

John Henson (6'10", 200 lb) also is involved in plenty of possessions and is just as good a scorer as Zeller is from the field, plus he's proven he can rebound the ball fairly well. But he is disastrous at shooting free throws (47% from the line as opposed to 51% from the field).

Kendall Marshall (6'3", 186 lb) is the primary ball handler and has one of the best assist rates in the country, but his turnover rate is just as high. He's an average shooter (44% 2 point shooter, 37% 3 point shooter, 67% free throw shooter).

Dexter Strickland (6'3", 180 lb) is pretty good at getting to the line, but he shoots only 67% when he gets there.

Odds to win national championship: 1 in 69.


#3 Syracuse Orange

Dossier courtesy of Pomeroy: 17th best offense, 16th best defense, an average tempo (174th). Pretty efficient scoring offense because of their ability to get two point buckets. They're great at locking down teams on defense with that nightmare zone defense. Also a great offensive rebounding squad and one of the best shot blocking and stealing teams in the country.

The biggest weakness with Syracuse is that they allow a lot of offensive rebounds and second chance opportunities. They are also a terrible free throw shooting team (although they hardly get to the line anyway for it to matter, keep that in mind when they're in a close game) and they rarely rely on anyone outside their starting five.

Brief player synopsis

Scoop Jardine (6'2", 190 lb) leads the charge with strong assist and steal rates.

Kris Joseph (6'7", 207 lb) is one of the team's best offensive threats (50% on two pointers, 37% on three pointers) and always manages to get to the free throw line (he's average when he gets there though, shooting only 70%). Also able to get steals.

Brandon Triche (6'4", 198 lb) is just as efficient at Joseph with two point baskets, but also shoots better from the free throw line.

Rick Jackson (6'9", 240 lb) is Syracuse's big man disrupter in that zone, and he does all the heavy rebounding. He also shoots 59% from the field, although he's not terribly good at the line (50%). Jackson also has one of the highest block rates in the country.

C.J. Fair (6'7", 200 lb) grabs offensive boards, blocks shots, and steals the ball a lot. Like almost everyone else on Syracuse's starting lineup, an excellent two point shooter.

Odds to win national championship: 1 in 31.


#4 Kentucky Wildcats

Dossier courtesy of Pomeroy: 7th best offense, 22nd best defense, average tempo (164th). Great shooting offense and great shooting defense. Pretty good rebounding on both sides. Excellent at holding onto the ball, excellent three point shooting offense and strong two point shooting defense. Good at getting blocks.

The biggest weakness with Kentucky is that they're young, again. Famed procurer of one-and-done talent John Calipari had to replace his entire starting lineup, leaving him with three starting frosh carrying the load this season. Youth don't usually win national championships, no matter how talented their lineup is.

Player synopsis

Terrence Jones (6'8", 244 lb) is the team's most talented and NBA-ready player. He's good at grabbing rebounds on both sides of the floor, gets to the line extremely well, swats shots away for blocks, and does not lose the rock. His biggest weakness is his shooting--only a 66% free throw shooter and 30% from outside the arc.

Brandon Knight (6'3", 185 lb) logs a lot of minutes as the team's only true point guard. Good assist rate and a decent shooter (39% from behind the three point line, 48% from the two point line, 79% from the free throw stripe).

Josh Harrellson (6'10", 275 lb) is the team's biggest body, and helps clean up along with Jones on the defensive glass. Harrelson is also one of the best offensive rebounders in the country and is an extremely efficient shooter.

Doron Lamb (6'4", 195 lb) is the team's best shooter. 80% from the line, 52% on two ponters, 47% on three pointers. Deadly guy to leave alone.

Darius Miller (6'7", 228 lb) is the team's second best shooter. 85% from the line, 52% on two pointers, 46% on three pointers. Not much difference, eh?

Odds to win national championship: 1 in 30.


#5 West Virginia Mountaineers

Dossier courtesy of Pomeroy: 31st best offense, 29th best defense. Great at holding down the shooting numbers of other teams, particularly those who shoot three pointers. Great offensive rebounding team, one of the best in the country. They're adept at getting to the free throw line. They are also a senior-laden team with plenty of experience a year off a Final Four appearance, with seven upperclassmen to rely on.

The biggest weakness with West Virginia is that they're not a really good shooting team. They also give up a lot of offensive rebounds.

Player synopsis

Darryl Bryant (6'2", 205 lb) is the point guard with excellent assist totals. He gets to the free throw line often, negating some of his poor shooting numbers from the field. Joe Mazzulla (6'2", 200 lb) also has a high assist rate while getting to the foul line at an excellent pace.

Casey Mitchell (6'4", 220 lb) takes a great deal of West Virginia's shots despite only being on the floor for limited minutes. Cam Thoroughman (6'7", 235 lb) distributes the ball while at the same time getting plenty of offensive rebounds.

Deniz Kilicli (6'9", 270 lb),  Kevin Jones (6'8", 255 lb) and John Flowers (6'7", 215 lb) provide the offensive and overall rebounding punch. Kiliclii and Flowers are also the primary blockers, and Flowers and Jones are pretty good finishers inside.

Odds to win national championship: 1 in 373.


#6 Xavier Musketeers

Dossier courtesy of Pomeroy: 30th in offense, 61st in defense, slow tempo team (205th). One of the best two point shooting teams in the country and one of the best two point shooting defenses in the country, very adept at handling the ball, very strong at getting to the line and making their free throws, very good defensive rebounding team. Xavier is one of the tallest teams in the country with regards to effective height.

Weaknesses with Xavier include no outside shooting (only a third of their three pointers go in) and average three point defense. Also a very thin team outside of their starting five.

Player synopsis

Tu Holloway (6'0", 185 lb) logs nearly 38 minutes a game and is still a very offensively efficient player. He shoots the ball well, distributes it at a high rate and also gets to the free throw line at an impressive rate (87% FT shooter, 49% on two point field goals, 35% on three point field goals).

Mark Lyons (6'1", 195 lb) plays about 35 minutes a game, but doesn't really have the same shooting prowess as Holloway. He can score, but he's probably the weak link on offense.

Jamel McLean (6'8", 235 lb) & Kenny Frease (7'0", 265 lb) are their big bodies, and are very tough to handle on the boards. McLean specializes in grabbing offensive rebounds and getting to the line, Frease takes the defensive glass. Both are proficient blockers as well.

Dante Jackson (6'5", 195 lb). He plays a lot, but for a wing player he's not very good at scoring. Not as bad as Lyons, but the lack of production outside from the two of them keep Xavier opponents from respecting the outside shots.

Odds to win national championship: 1 out of 1167


#7 Washington Huskies

Dossier courtesy of Pomeroy: 9th best offense in the country, 42nd best defense, 16th fastest tempo in the country. Efficient shooting team, particularly on the inside, good at ball control and not turning it over, strong offensive rebounding unit. Great at blocking shots and avoiding getting their own shots blocked. They are also a very deep team, with nine rotation players likely to suit up every game. A very dangerous team when their offense gets going.

Weaknesses with Washington are not being able to earn free points, or stop the other team from earning them. Thanks to the design of Lorenzo Romar's offense, Washington generally is a pull-up jump shooting team that doesn't run much set offense. The Huskies rarely get to the line, and when they do they stink at making those free points. Conversely, the Huskies put their opponents at the line way too often, meaning teams can hang around with Washington if they slow the pace down.

Player synopsis

Isaiah Thomas (5'8", 185 lb) is the engine that makes Washington go. He's a very efficient player (36% three point shooter, 52% two point shooter, 71% free throw shooter), and is able to get to the line and distribute the ball while keeping his turnover levels down.

Matthew Bryan-Amaning (6'9", 240 lb) has complemented Thomas well inside as Washington's primary big man. He isn't a great foul shooter even though he can get to the line (him and Thomas seem to be the only two guys willing to get there), but he's 55% from the field and is a potent rebounder on both sides of the court and can block shot.

Justin Holiday (6'6", 180 lb) is a pretty good athlete (as shown by his blocking ability), and is a pretty good shooter.

Venoy Overton (5'11", 185 lb) is a solid secondary ball-handler who is also a menace to deal with on the defensive side of the ball.

Aziz N'Diaye (7'0", 260 lb) is a big body who still is ineffective offensively. He can grab rebounds and swat away shots though.

Darnell Gant (6'8", 225 lb) could probably start for most Pac-10 teams because of his ability to crash the boards and knock shots away. He's part of a logjam after the big three for Washington.

C.J. Wilcox (6'5", 180 lb) and Scott Suggs (6'6", 185 lb) are starting to play more, and they're both very efficient in running the offense and nailing outside shots.

Odds to win national championship: 1 out of 104.


#8 George Mason Patriots

Dossier courtesy of Pomeroy: 29th best offense, 45th best defense, average tempo team. Excellent shooting, particularly at the three point line (but not too shabby at the two either). Good shooting defense as well, almost as good at defending behind the arc as they are at converting from it. Very good at holding onto the ball. Generally good at keeping teams off the line and from grabbing offensive rebounds.

The biggest weakness for George Mason is the fact that they're playing in the deadly #8/9 slot. Kiss of death for a good-executing team. They're an average free throw shooting team as well.

Player synopsis

Cam Long (6'4", 187 lb): Great offensive player who doesn't take many bad shots (43% from downtown, 51% on two pointers, 76% on free throws). Gets steals too and holds onto the ball.

Ryan Pearson (6'6", 230 lb): Holds onto the ball and is the best rebounder (although it feels more like George Mason primarily team rebounds rather than having anyone who specializes at it). Gets to the line the most of anyone and is a decent 70% when he gets there.

Luke Hancock (6'5", 189 lb): Unusual to see a 6'5" guy be a primary ball-handler, but Hancock fills the job pretty well (although he does turn it over a bit too much). Still, he's shooting 81% from the line, 55% from the two point line and 34% from beyond the arc.

Andre Cornelius (5'10", 172 lb): The team's smallest player doesn't really make many passes, but he can shoot effectively (49% on two pointers, 39% on three pointers, 83% on free throws). You're starting to see a recurring trend of a team that can shoot very well in all categories.

Mike Morrison (6'9", 222 lb): Probably the biggest dose of athleticism GMU has, as he's nationally ranked in both rebounding categories and blocks

Isaiah Tate (6'4", 214 lb): Sixth man for GMU is actually their second best three point shooter at 42%.

Odds to win national championship: 1 in 890.


#9 Villanova Wildcats

Dossier courtesy of Pomeroy: 23rd best offense, 58th best defense, average tempo. Decent shooting defense (particularly guarding the three point line). Thanks to good height, they're pretty good at getting second chance opportunities and keeping opponents off the board. Good at getting to the line, and an excellent free throw shooting team when they get there.

Weaknesses for Villanova include average shooting offense. They're middle of the pack hitting their threes and their twos. They also get a lot of their shots blocked and their bench sees very limited action, which means we'll be seeing a lot of the starting five.

Player synopsis

Corey Fisher (6'1", 200 lb) is one of two primary ball-handlers for the Wildcats, as Villanova favors a lineup that has two guys equally adept at passing at the guard position. Fisher is not only good at passing the ball, but he also doesn't turnover the ball either. He also gets to the line a lot and nails 78% of them; it's too bad he has trouble shooting (48% from two point land, 33% from behind the three point line).

Maalik Wayns (6'1", 185 lb) can pass the ball just as well as Fisher, although he has trouble holding onto it just as much. He's even more adept at getting to the free throw line, which is critical since he's an excellent free throw shooter at 82%. Unfortunately, he's an even worse shooter than Fisher (47% from two point land, 27% from three point land).

Mouphtaou Yarou (6'10", 250 lb) is the team's big rebounder on both sides of the court--Antonio Pena (6'8", 235 lb) is also fairly good at getting on the defensive glass--and also is good at getting blocks.

Corey Stokes (6'5", 220 lb) likes making shots. All sorts of shots. 89% free throw shooter, 46% two point shooter, 43% three point shooter. Yikes. If Fisher and Wayns could get their own things going...

Odds to win national championship: 1 in 963.


Round of 64 predictions

#1 Ohio St. over #16 UT San Antonio

#2 North Carolina over #15 Long Island

#3 Syracuse over #14 Indiana St.

#4 Kentucky over #13 Princeton

#5 West Virginia over #12 Clemson

#11 Marquette over #6 Xavier

#7 Washington over #10 Georgia

#8 George Mason over #9 Villanova


Round of 32 predictions

#1 Ohio St. over #8 George Mason

#2 North Carolina over #7 Washington

#3 Syracuse over #11 Marquette

#4 Kentucky over #5 West Virginia


Sweet 16

#1 Ohio State over #4 Kentucky

#3 Syracuse over #2 North Carolina


Elite 8

#3 Syracuse over #1 Ohio State