Sweet 16 Preview-West Region (Thursday)

ucla.gif#1 UCLA Bruins

How they got here

The combination of Kevin Love and Darren Collison. I think Collison is the most overlooked part about this teams survival in the second round. He had 21 points and two key layups down the stretch to help Love get the Bruins to the Sweet 16.

Chances of Winning it all

39%. This number gets knocked down a bit because of the injury concerns. Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and Josh Shipp are both banged up, but this UCLA team definitely has the talent if those two don’t play. Take a look at these names and remember them because you’ll see them all in the pros: Collison, Westbrook, Love… throw in Shipp and you possibly have FOUR top 20 picks. Also, take a look at their road. They should easily get to the Final Four and must then win two tough games. Some teams have to win four tough ones.

Player to Watch

shipp.jpgJosh Shipp. Mr. Shipp where have you been?!?! I mentioned him earlier because he’s a little banged up, but scoring only six points in two games? He’s the third leading scorer on the team behind Love and Collison, averaging just over 12 points a game. He hasn’t even had 12 in the entire tournament and he put up a goose egg against the Aggies. He’s going to have to be more productive for the Bruins to win it all. You can also make an argument for Russell Westbrook here. The Bruins just need more help outside of Love and Westbrook.

wky.gif#12 Western Kentucky Hilltoppers

How they got here

The Hilltoppers needed a last second miracle three-pointer from Ty Rogers to upset the fifth seeded Drake Bulldogs. They then easily handled a worn-down San Diego team in the second round to get to where they will be on Thursday. But it would serve an injustice to mention the Hilltoppers without mentioning Sun Belt Player of the Year Courtney Lee and Tyrone Brazelton. The duo had 44 in the first game and 48 in the second.

Chances of Winning it all

0%. I’ve said a lot of teams don’t have a shot, but this team literally has no chance. Do you really see them having a shot?

Player to Watch

lee.jpgCourtney Lee. The Sun Belt Player of the Year, as I have already mentioned, has been the star for the Hilltoppers all season. He averages over 20 points a game and without him putting up huge numbers, Western Kentucky might not even put up 50 points against UCLA. Points will be tough to come by against the Bruins and Lee will need a majority of them. He’ll get some help from Brazelton, but Lee must be beyond spectacular for the Hilltoppers. I can’t say it enough… stars have to come to play in March.

xavier.gif#3 Xavier Musketeers

How they got here

Xavier could of been another victim of Georgia’s miracle run, but they used its defense to pull out a win over the Bulldogs. It then showed resiliency in holding off the Boilersmakers to advance to the Sweet 16. The big men for Xavier, especially Josh Duncan, really carried the Musketeers in the first round, but the great guards, Stanley Burrell and Drew Lavender, really picked it up in the second round.

Chances of Winning it all

3%. Xavier has a long shot of winning the tournament, but it can still be done. Would I bet on it? Absolutely not. But I love the experience and grittiness of this team. They are a deep team that can really play some tough defense and frustrate their opponents. However, can they get by UCLA, Memphis/Texas, and UNC/Louisville/Tennessee/Kansas? Yea right.

Player to Watch

lavender.jpgDrew Lavender. This team simply goes as far as the senior point guard takes them. The offensive struggled in the first game as did Lavender, going only 5 of 12 from the field with a measly two assists. But in the second game, Lavender was more efficient, taking only seven shots (made four) , getting to the free throw line eight times, and dishing out 9 assists. The better he plays, the more likely the Musketeers are to win.

west-virginia.gif#7 West Virginia Mountaineers

How they got here

West Virginia held off Arizona in the first round and many people know that they toppled the Blue Devils in convincingly fashion in the second round. The Mountaineers have been on a tear near the end of the season, winning six of its last seven. Four of those seven wins were against Pittsburgh, Connecticut and then Arizona and Duke in the NCAA Tournament.

Chances of Winning it all

1%. The Mountaineers have virtually no shot at winning the title, but they do have a better shot than most think at getting to the Final Four. They have good perimeter players in Darris Nichols, Alex Ruoff and Da’Sean Butler, and have a great player, Joe Alexander, on the inside. But this is simply not a team that can win it all.

Player to Watch

alexander.jpgIt’s gotta be Joe Alexander. This big man has really opened eyes down the stretch because he can score. He gives the Mountaineers a deadly scorer inside the three-point arc, something they have really lacked in the past. He’s excellent with his back to the basket and also has the ability to drive to the hole. If West Virginia wants to keep winning, it must continue to ride Alexander.

My Region Winner – UCLA

Aneesh

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