This region had the wildest opening round ride. It was definitely an “odd” round with the second, fourth, sixth and eighth seeds bowing out in the first round. A 10 and a 15 actually played each other in round two. What does all this mean? It means that the door is even more open now for the top seeds that remain. Stanford, Cincinnati, Maryland and Georgetown all bring distinctive styles to this regional, which should make for some interesting contests.
1 Stanford v. 5 Cincinnati
Cincinnati literally scared its opponents off in the first two rounds with its tough defense. Don’t look for its next opponent to be as easily persuaded. Stanford survived its second round game against the toughest nine seed in this year’s field. An athletic St. Joe’s team played with tremendous heart and fire but yet it wasn’t enough against the mighty Cardinal. This year, Bob Huggins’ Bearcats rely on the perimeter stylings of Kenny Satterfield. He’ll go up against Stanford’s underrated point guard Mike McDonald. Satterfield may win that battle but this is a war. Stanford has the difference-maker in Casey Jacobsen, an advantage inside with the Collins twins and some of the best free throw shooting in the country to finish games off. Stanford should end Cincy’s tournament run.
3 Maryland v. 10 Georgetown
These two storied programs are only separated by 15 miles, yet they have rarely played. They can’t duck each other now. Georgetown’s road to get here took a wild turn in the first round. It took a shot-clock beating runner to get by Arkansas. They did get a little bit of a break in round two, as they easily handled the upstart Hampton Pirates. Maryland also had a tough game in the first round against George Mason before dispensing of Georgia State in round two. Maryland’s speed could give the Hoyas some problems. Conversely, Georgetown has a definite height advantage inside. Both teams will want to play fast and Maryland is much better at it than the Hoyas. Look for the Terrapins to win this one.
1 Stanford v. 3 Maryland
After all the upsets in the opening round, it comes down to a 1 versus 3 match-up. Gary Williams’s Maryland squad is striving to get into the Final Four for the first time. It has the talent to get there. Guard Steve Blake leads this team with his gutsy play and perimeter shooting and Lonny Baxter is a load inside. Unfortunately for Terrapin fans, that won’t be enough. Stanford will be able to handle Baxter and their constant inside-out threat will wear down Maryland. Stanford will get its ticket to the Final Four.