12mens_bracket East

The CBT Bracket Breakdown: East Region

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See the rest of our regional breakdowns here.

Final Four Favorite: No. 1 Syracuse: For the last couple of months of the season, the Orange have been the consensus second best team in the country. They have their issues — defensive rebounding, for one — but this is a group that is as talented and balanced as any team in the country. They legitimately have six starters on their roster, with CJ Fair and Dion Waiters coming off the bench, and selfless enough as a unit that they can deal with whoever is struggling riding the bench. That said, its their defense that is going to carry them as far as they’ll go.

And if they lose…?: No. 2 Ohio State: The issues that I have had with Ohio State all season long are still quite present. William Buford is not consistent enough as a secondary scoring option and Aaron Craft is not as effective when he is counted on to be more than a facilitator and a defender. That said, Jared Sullinger is still Jared Sullinger, and he’s good enough to lead the Buckeyes. If Deshaun Thomas and Buford are productive, watch out.

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Sweet 16 sleeper (9 or lower): No. 13 Montana: A lot of people would put Harvard in this spot, and I wouldn’t blame them. But the Grizzlies are intriguing to me. They have one of the best back courts in the region with Will Cherry and Kareem Jamar and they have enough size up to hang with some of the bigger schools. Cherry is also a terrific defender. Montana gets Wisconsin in the first round, so Jordan Taylor beware.

Final Four sleeper (5 or lower): No. 5 Vanderbilt: The Commodores are the most interesting team in this region of the bracket. From a talent perspective, they should be a top two or three seed. They have two first round picks on their perimeter in John Jenkins and Jeff Taylor and a big man in Festus Ezeli that will play in the NBA. The issue with Vanderbilt is that they have almost had a culture of losing. They’ve gotten dropped in the first round of the NCAA Tournament a few times recently and they’ve been notoriously incapable of winning big games. But they just beat Kentucky. Does that get them over the hump? Are they “fixed”?

Player to watch (top 8 seeds): Jordan Taylor, Wisconsin: Taylor hasn’t exactly had the season we all expected him to, but that doesn’t change the fact that he is one of the best point guards in the country. And he means everything for the Badgers. He’s the reason they can control tempo and he’s the guy who gets the ball put into his hands at the end of a shot clock.

source: Getty Images

Player to watch (bottom 8 seeds): Andrew Nicholson, St. Bonaventure: Nicholson proved himself during the Atlantic 10 Tournament, averaged 23.7 ppg, 10.0 rpg and 5.3 bpg as he led the Bonnies to the conference’s automatic bid. He also probably played himself into the first round of the NBA Draft. The problem? His first game will be against Florida State and Bernard James.

I would also be remiss if I didn’t mention Kevin Jones. He’s an all-american that led the Big East in scoring and rebounding. The kid can play.

Best potential matchup: No. 1 Syracuse vs. No. 2 Ohio State: I know it’s a bit of a cop out to pick the top two teams, but this is a matchup that really intrigues me. Jared Sullinger is the most dominant presence on the block in the country, but Syracuse is loaded up front. I’d love to see Aaron Craft try and defend Dion Waiters and Scoop Jardine. Deshaun Thomas could be a perfect option at the high post against the Syracuse zone. I could go on and on.

So who is getting upset?:

– I think Montana knocking off Wisconsin is an obvious pick, and one that will be trendy this week.

– If they make to to the second round, I like Cincinnati over Florida State as well.

– Everyone is going to pick Vanderbilt over Harvard, and I like Harvard. They have good bigs and a very underrated point guard in Brandyn Curry. I just don’t see it this season. Sorry, Harvard.

– Keep an eye on Kansas State and Syracuse in the Round of 32. Syracuse is terrible on the defensive glass and Kansas State is as good as anyone in the country when it comes to getting second chance points.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.

Louisville backcourt struggles in first scrimmage

Quentin Snider, Jerian Grant
Associated Press
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While a few teams did manage to hold special events for the official start of practice this weekend, most simply went about their business with drills and conditioning. One team that was the exception to all of this was Louisville, which held the first of its two intersquad scrimmages on Saturday. The Cardinals had a head start of sorts on the season, as they played six exhibition games in Puerto Rico this summer.

One hope heading into Saturday’s scrimmage was that guards Trey Lewis and Quentin Snider would have better chemistry than they did in Puerto Rico. But according to Jeff Greer of the Louisville Courier-Journal, that remains a work in progress for the Cleveland State transfer (Lewis) and rising sophomore (Snider).

They struggled in Puerto Rico, and they struggled again in Saturday’s Red-White scrimmage, the first public intrasquad practice since August. They played one half of the game together, paired with the presumed starting lineup with Mangok Mathiang out with an eye injury, a group that also included Damion Lee, Jaylen Johnson and Chinanu Onuaku.

That team lost the first half by 13 points to a younger group of Louisville players, and Lewis and Snider combined for eight points on 3-of-12 shooting, five turnovers, five steals, four assists and three rebounds.

“I thought (Snider) and (Lewis) did not play well together,” U of L coach Rick Pitino said. “They’ve got to get used to that. Neither guy made other guys better. That’s what they need to learn to do.”

As Greer also noted in his story the Cardinals have in recent years employed backcourt tandems in which both guards are capable of making plays for themselves and others. On the 2013 national champion team Peyton Siva and Russ Smith led the way, with Smith being joined by Terry Rozier or Chris Jones the following season and Rozier/Jones being the grouping last season before the latter was dismissed from the team.

Once Jones was dismissed Snider saw more time on the court, and his development was one of the keys for a Louisville team that fell one win short of the Final Four. Louisville needs him to take another step forward heading into the 2015-16 season, because even with Lewis’ experience at the Division I level Snider has more experience playing in Pitino’s system.

But while Saturday’s scrimmage didn’t go as well as anyone involved hoped, there’s still plenty of time for Louisville to work out the kinks before they open the season November 13 against Samford.

Knee injury sidelines Memphis assistant

Toronto Raptors vs Charlotte Hornets
Associated Press
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With practices beginning this weekend, not only are players looking to avoid the injury bug but their coaches are as well. And in the case of Memphis, the Tigers won’t have one of their assistants on the court for a little while due to a knee injury.

Assistant coach Damon Stoudamire, who returned to Josh Pastner’s staff this summer after a two-year stint at Arizona, suffered the injury during a recent workout according to L. Jason Smith of the Memphis Commercial-Appeal. And Stoudamire will require surgery, which will put him on the shelf for a little bit.

“He was working out himself and I think he thought he was in his rookie year,” Pastner said. “We think he’s got a torn meniscus, which will require surgery and put him out for a couple of days.”

Stoudamire isn’t the only assistant coach working through pain either. Syracuse’s Mike Hopkins, who is also Jim Boeheim’s heir apparent as head coach, suffered a neck injury body surfing during a family vacation last month. Hopkins spent some time in a neck brace while putting players through workouts as a result of the injury.

As for the Tigers, they’ll have a mixture of experience on the perimeter and youth in the front court as they look to get back to the NCAA tournament after missing out last season. Among the newcomers are talented forwards Dedric and K.J. Lawson, with experienced guards such as Kedren Johnson, Trahson Burrell and Ricky Tarrant (grad transfer from Alabama) expected to be key contributors on the perimeter.