The New Orleans Regional was supposed to be the most wide open of any of the four regions and after the first weekend, that is still the case. With No. 1 seed Pittsburgh losing to Butler, a case can be made for any of the four remaining teams ending up in the Final Four. None of the four teams provide significant matchup issues for the others and all four have the capability of beating each other in a one-game scenario. No matter what happens in New Orleans, the games there will be the hardest to forsee and thus likely, the most exciting.
Three storylines dominating New Orleans
- Jimmer Fredette tries to will his BYU team to the Final Four
- Butler seeks to prove last year was not a fluke and get to the Final Four for the second consecutive year.
- Florida coach Billy Donovan goes for his fourth Final four in just over a decade
How they got to New Orleans
No. 2 Florida: The Gators have been one of the most impressive teams so far in the NCAA tournament and are playing their best basketball of the season. SEC Player of the Year Chandler Parsons led Florida throughout the year with his ability to score both inside and outside and hit the offensive glass. However in the last four weeks, guard Erving Walker has also stepped up and shown that not only does he want to take the big shots, he can also finish them. The Gators dominated UC-Santa Barbara in the first round, in as thorough a win as any team took in the round of 64. In the round of 32, the Gators struggled at times with UCLA, but executed down the stretch, thanks to the multitude of scoring weapons and Walker’s big play. No team in the New Orleans region has more weapons and the Gators will be the one team that can exploit advantages at its fourth and fifth options in both regional games.
No. 3 BYU: It was unknown just how the Cougars would respond in the NCAA tournament, after the loss of Brandon Davies just two weeks prior. But BYU has answered the call and played some inspired basketball. The story with BYU will always be Jimmer Fredette, who was amazing once again in the Cougars’ round of 32 victory over Gonzaga. The win over the Zags was one of the most impressive of the tournament due to just how thorough it ended up being. Most believed that the Cougars were susceptible to a team that played physical and would try to exploit them on the interior, but BYU showcased that when its offense is clicking, defensive mismatches will not have much of an effect. They go into New Orleans with an opening game against a team they defeated last year and with a legitimate chance to overcome the late season turmoil and reach the Final Four.
No. 4 Wisconsin: After the Badgers played so dreadfully in a 36-33 loss to Penn State in the Big Ten tournament, Wisconsin was considered a potential first round upset victim in the NCAA tournament. But after a convincing win over Belmont in the round of 64 and a gritty, hard-fought victory over Jacob Pullen and Kansas State, Wisconsin now moves on to New Orleans for the Southeast regional. Jordan Taylor and Jon Leuer are one of the best one-two punches left in the tournament and will be difficult for any of the teams remaining in New Orleans to stop. The Badgers must however have other players step up and hit big shots to advance. Against Kansas State, Tim Jarmusz and Mike Bruesewitz both hit big shots from behind the three-point arc and it will require a repeat performance in New Orleans for Wisconsin to make a trip to Houston for the Final Four.
No. 8 Butler: The Butler Bulldogs are as close to America’s team in college basketball right now as anyone in the sport. After two exciting, harrowing winds in Washington D.C., Butler is now on to try and make another miracle run to the Final Four for the second consecutive year. Matt Howard’s lay-up at the buzzer versus Old Dominion was the culmination of a great battle between two teams playing each other far too early in the tournament. The Bulldogs then moved on to get an impressive win over Pittsburgh in one of the better first weekend games in the past decade in the NCAA tournament. While most will remember the game for the bizarre ending, Butler had a near perfect performance throughout and showcased just how much it has improved since its rough early start to the season. Now the Bulldogs go to a regional in which there is no team it cannot beat and a Final Four is once again on the doorstep.
New Orleans’s five best players
- Jimmer Fredette: The biggest star in college basketball has had an amazing season and is two games away from entering college basketball immortality.
- Jordan Taylor: There is no more explosive player in the country that is lesser known than the Wisconsin star who is one breakout performance away from stardom.
- Chandler Parsons: The SEC Player of the Year has had ups and downs in his career, but when he plays well, he is a matchup nightmare for any defender.
- Matt Howard: One of the best tournament players of the last 15 years. He finds a way to score in the post where it seems impossible.
- Jon Leuer: The Wisconsin big man is a load to handle and can step out and shoot, making him a very dangerous weapon.
This is the most wide open regional and a case can be made for any of the teams advancing. I will pick the Florida Gators, only because they have the most variety of weapons and are thus best suited to withstand a bad game by one of their star players. I look for Florida to play Wisconsin in the regional final and get the victory to send Billy Donovan to yet another Final Four.
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