April 25, 2014 by Charlie Eisenhood in Livewire with 3 comments
What a weird week. It was going to be a huge weekend of Regionals, but the postponing of Metro East and North Central turned this weekend into a bit of a quieter affair. But here are my predictions for Nationals qualifiers from each region competing this weekend.
Great Lakes: I wrote the preview for the Great Lakes this year, so most of what I want to say already went there. It comes down to this: Michigan is the deepest and most talented team in the region, and I would be pretty surprised if they didn’t come away with a bid.
The other bid is a lot more up in the air, and I think it’s going to come down to how well the teams make adjustments in the early part of the game against each other. Can Northwestern contain EMU’s Highsmith and Bansfield? Can EMU figure out smart defenses that don’t exhaust their short roster? Does Illinois have the experience to overcome limited depth, and a Northwestern team that knows what they want to do?
I like experience in the postseason. That’s why the Nets are going to beat the Raptors tonight (bonus prediction!).
Ohio Valley: Chalk, chalk, chalk. Pittsburgh wins going away. I think the fight on the other side of the bracket should be much more interesting. I think Penn State will probably make their way to the finals, but their possible semis matchup with Ohio State should be a good one.
I think someone in Pool B or Pool C should pull an Oakland and tank a game or two intentionally in order to get into the play-in game to put themselves in a position to play Pitt in quarters. Might as well be as fresh as possible when you face them, right? Would Penn State rather make the finals and get crushed by the deeper Pitt yet again, or play them when they’re fresh on Sunday morning? Just like when Oakland did it, it won’t matter!
Southeast: Easily the most interesting Regionals this weekend, and perhaps one of the most fun to watch in the country this year. Often three plus bids makes for a dull affair, but I think there will be plenty of excitement in the fight for the final bid in Tuscaloosa.
Straight bracket play is a great format for Central Florida, who earned the one seed after taking home the Florida Conference title. It means they don’t have a chance to see FSU or Florida until the finals. They may see #4 seed Georgia in the semis; I think UCF’s depth will really shine through in that game. UCF’s Jeremy Langdon will probably get the assignment on UGA’s Elliot Erickson and give him a lot of trouble. That will be enough to get UCF an easy win there.
Can Central Florida take the crown yet again? I think we started to see signs that UCF is putting it together at Conferences. Not just that they went undefeated, but that they did it with great performances from their best players. They are so dangerous when Mike Ogren, John Best, Langdon, and Brawley Adams are playing well.
FSU and Florida are neck in neck in that other semifinal. Both will know how big is to win that game — in fact, I’d wager that whoever wins that game will definitely qualify, and the loser could well find themselves facing a serious trap game in the backdoor semifinal.
There is going to be a big upset at some point — I just don’t know if it will matter or happen in a game-to-go. I would love to see LSU, Georgia, or Alabama surprise someone. But I wouldn’t bet on it happening in the clutch.
1. Central Florida
2. Florida State