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2011 NCAA Tournament: Southeast Region Preview

Ashton Gibbs
Yes, Blatant Homerism is a college football blog. We love March Madness and college hoops, too. For the next few days, we'll breaking down the Big Dance in all its glory for your edification.

Leading up to Thursday's tip-off, The Skinny and I will be previewing each region. First up is the Southeast, where the Pittsburgh Panthers are looking for a long-awaited Final Four bid.

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2011 NCAA Tournament: Southeast Region Preview

Overall Quality (1-5): 1.75

The story in this region is teams seeded above their heads. Pittsburgh deserves the No. 1 spot. Florida, BYU, Wisconsin, Kansas State all look about one line above where they should be, though.

Buy Low: Belmont

Ian Clark
Basketball junkies love the Bruins, and with good reason. This squad can run and gun, and it's a deep team that isn't overly reliant on one guy. The matchup with Wisconsin is easily one of the best of the first round.

Sell High: Kansas State

The selection committee rewarded the Wildcats for a hot finish and strong non-conference schedule that included Duke, UNLV, Florida and Gonzaga. Playing all those squads outside the league is nice and all, but KSU wasn't beating many of them. The 'Cats didn't beat many good teams away from the Octagon, either.

Locational Landmine: UCLA in Tampa

This assignment for the Bruins sticks out like a sour thumb. Road trips east seem to have a more negative effect on teams from the west coast than the other way around.

Tom IzzoBet the Farm: Michigan State (-1.5) vs. UCLA

Sparty arguably shouldn't have a spot in the tournament, MSU is dancing nonetheless. Given the potential for a flat performance out of UCLA (see above), this looks like a short Florida vacation to me.

Bang the Spartans and tourney titan Tiny Tom Izzo to cover.

Best Villain: Florida

Aside from being overrated as a No. 2 seed, Florida's opening the tournament in Tampa and has its regional in New Orleans. Somehow UF also managed to get ailing BYU as the 3 seed in its region.

The Gators have the chops to be a Final Four team with or without the help, but who did Billy Donovan pay to get such a sweet draw?

Player on the Spot: Jimmer Fredette, BYU

Could it be anyone else? The likely consensus national player of the year has the weight of the Mormon nation on his shoulders. The Cougars have fallen apart since post man Brandon Davies was allegedly suspended for getting jiggy.

BYU will need a superhuman effort out of The Jimmer to survive the first weekend.

Coach of the Hour: Jamie Dixon, Pittsburgh

Jamie Dixon
Our national hoops consciousness tends to put too much emphasis on how coaches fare during March Madness. Dixon is Exhibit A. Pitt wins year in and year out and consistently outperforms its talent, but the lack of a Final Four on Dixon's resume seems to keep him out of the upper echelon of coaches.

Dixon doesn't need a Final Four to validate his coaching acumen, but I'm sure he'd like to end the questions.

Darkhorse: St. John's

You won't find many teams out there who have beaten two No. 1 seeds this year. Coach Steve Lavin has re-energized the Red Storm, and his team clearly has the talent to make a deep run. How SJU responds to the loss of D.J. Kennedy, of course, remains to be seen.

Winner: Pittsburgh over Florida

The Panthers drew the easiest route to Houston of all the teams on the top line. Pitt won't win any beauty pageants along the way, but, for my money, this is the easiest call of the four regions.