MARIO’S MIRACLE

April 15, 2008

What a national championship game. I think this one game made up for some of the other poor games in the Elite 8 and Final Four. The game was back and forth… Kansas was in control one moment, but then Memphis was in control a minute later. The Tigers were undoubtedly doomed by their poor free throw shooting. Chris Douglas-Roberts missed three and Derrick Rose missed one and then Kansas did a phenomenal job capitalizing. To me, the play that gave the Jayhawks hope was when Sharron Collins stole the Memphis inbounds pass and went on to hit a big three-pointer from the corner to cut the deficit to four points. From there, the momentum swung back to the Jayhawks one last time.

I don’t think Memphis lost the game because they didn’t foul at the end. I think a foul could have made up for the fact that they can’t hit free throws, but the REASON they lost was simply because they choked from the line. I don’t care if the Tigers could hit free throws during the whole tournament. They showed no capability to hit free throws as a team all season, so why should I be surprised that they missed four huge free throws down the stretch in the national championship game. I wasn’t surprised and neither should you. This is a bad free throw shooting team and it shows when the national championship was on the line.


Final Four Preview

April 4, 2008

memphis.gif Memphis Tigers

Why they can win it all

This team is an absolutely mystery. They can’t hit free throws and look absolutely vulnerable. Then other games, free throws don’t matter because the Tigers will blow out their opponents by 20 points. But here is the thing… after the Mississippi State game, this team already motivated team got more motivated. They are out to prove all those people who thought this team couldn’t win because of their free throw shooting wrong. Memphis is an absolutely dominant team in all other facets of the game. They rebound, defend, shoot well, run up and down the court and can score the basketball with any team in the nation.

Player that must play well for Memphis to win

I’m going with two players. It’s the backcourt duo of Derrick Rose and Chris Douglas-Roberts. The two have put up a combined 98 points in Houston and neither of their opponents came close to competing with the Tigers. If Rose and CDR perform at the level they did a week ago, Memphis will be cutting off the nets on Monday.

ucla.gif UCLA Bruins

Why they can win it all

UCLA has been in this position three straight years now. It’s the Bruins third straight appearance in the Final Four, but both teams they have been derailed by eventually champion, Florida. This year, the Bruins have the one piece they were missing the previous two years… a legitimate big man. Kevin Love is the sole reason the Bruins are more capable of winning a championship this year. I don’t care about the experience or the great guards… it’s all about the Love.

Player that must play well for UCLA to win

Again, I’m going with multiple players here. But this time, I’m going with three players… Josh Shipp, Russell Westbrook and Darren Collison. Just think about the guards this team will have to match up with… Chris Douglas-Roberts and Derrick Rose from Memphis, Wayne Ellington, Ty Lawson and Danny Green from UNC, Mario Chalmers, Sharron Collins and Brandon Rush from Kansas. The Bruins’ trio will have their hands full if they want to come out on top.

unc.gif North Carolina Tar Heels

Why they can win it all

Everybody’s favorite to win it all. The North Carolina Tar Heels are playing their best basketball of the season when it matters the most. They can win it all because they have the deepest team in the country. When Ty Lawson went down to injury, other role players really stepped it up and now with Lawson back, UNC is more capable of winning it all. Danny Green is playing unbelievable basketball. Big man Alex Stepheson and backup point guard Quentin Thomas are become more than serviceable off the bench. When you put those three guys with the stars in Lawson, Wayne Ellington and Tyler Hansbrough, you currently have the best team in the nation.

Player that must play well for North Carolina to win

Tyler Hansbrough. This one is rather obvious right? Well, I didn’t pick Hansbrough because he is the best player in the country. I picked him because of North Carolina’s lack of other interior threats. Alex Stepheson and Deon Thompson have been good role players, but what if Hansbrough fouls out? Do you still think this team can win the game if the game is tied with two minutes left? Hansbrough not only has to play well, but he has to be on the court.

kansas.gif Kansas Jayhawks

Why they can win it all

To me, it seems as if Kansas is the weakest number one seed in everybody’s eyes. But it’s scary that a team as talented, balanced and deep as Kansas is going relatively unnoticed in this Final Four. The Jayhawks have two greats guards (Brandon Rush and Mario Chalmers) with two other very good guards (Sharron Collins and Russell Robinson) in the backcourt. They have three very good big men, one in Sasha Kaun who would be starting on a lot of other teams around the nation. Kansas had the easiest road out of any number one seed, but looked rather unimpressive against Davidson. I feel that his team will the loosest team in San Antonio, being the huge underdog against North Carolina.

Player that must play well for Kansas to win

Brandon Rush. Wow, how bad was Rush against Davidson? He was chucking up bricks from every part of the court, even looks that were wide open. But Rush is the star of this team and stars must perform late in March. If Rush has an outing like he did against Davidson (12 pts, 4-14 from the field), Kansas has no shot. Their defense is good, but unless the Jayhawks can put up 80 points, they aren’t getting past the Tar Heels.

———————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————-

How My Final Four Plays Out

In the early game, I see Memphis taking out the Bruins. Too much Rose and Douglas-Roberts in this one. I just think this Memphis team has way too much athleticism for UCLA to handle.

In the late game, Kansas will prevail over UNC. Too much athleticism especially on the inside. Darrell Arthur, Darnell Jackson and Sasha Kaun will be too much for Tyler Hansbrough and the Kansas guards will go to work against UNC. Two upsets for me…

That leaves Kansas vs. Memphis in the title game. So my national champion is…..

memphis.gifThey are great in every facet of the game other than free throws. I love Joey Dorsey and Robert Dozier inside. I think they will be too much on the interior for UNC and what answer will UNC have for Rose and CDR? Memphis will cut down the nets in San Antonio on Monday.


Midwest Regional Final

March 30, 2008

kansas.gif#1 Kansas Jayhawks vs. #10 Davidson Wildcats davidson.gif

What Kansas must do

This one is way too easy… Stop Stephen Curry. I don’t even need to go into detail about this one. If the Jayhawks stop Curry, they will be on their way to San Antonio.

What Davidson must do

Hang around. The Wildcats aren’t going to blow out the Jayhawks like they did Wisconsin. But they will also not be able to get into big holes like they did against Gonzaga and Georgetown, if they want to win this one. They need to keep the game as close as possible for as long as possible. Keep Stephen Curry within range to pull off his miracles at the end of the game.

Gamebreaker

Ummm, this one is almost too obvious too…. Stephen Curry must have a 30 point performance if the Wildcats want any hope of winning this game. But I know you know about Curry. They need Jason Richards to have his 15 points and 10 assists and need a lot of help on the inside from Andrew Lovedale. Davidson will need the performance of a lifetime to get to the Final Four.

My Region Winner

I liked Kansas in this region from the start of the tournament and I certainly don’t think Davidson can derail them


South Regional Final

March 30, 2008

memphis.gif #1 Memphis Tigers vs. #2 Texas Longhorns texas.gif

What Memphis must do

Memphis needs to somehow force somebody other than Abrams and Augustin beat them. These two guards are phenomenal and if they both get going, then it will be a long day for the Tigers. The Texas combo averaged almost 34 points per game, so Memphis must try to contain one of them. They have the personnel to do so, they must now execute.

What Texas must do

Stop dribble penetration. Memphis is extremely athletic and players like Chris Douglas-Roberts and Derrick Rose can get to the rim at will. Therefore, Texas needs to force Memphis to be a jump shooting team.¬† No starting Memphis guard has hit more than 45 three-pointers on the season and that’s because the Tigers can get to the hole whenever they want. Force them to hit the deep ball on a consistent basis.

Gamebreaker

cdr.jpgChris Douglas-Roberts. People don’t realize that CDR is a finalist for the Naismith Award handed out to the nation’s best player. He’s an absolute freak of nature because of his combination of size, strength and athleticism. The only weakness is ability to consistently hit jump shots, but he can certainly bring down the house with his rim-rattling dunks.

My Region Winner 

Memphis. It’s the Tigers year to get over the hump and into the Final Four. Texas has great guards, but the defensive prowess of the Memphis guards will make the difference.


East Regional Final

March 29, 2008

unc.gif #1 North Carolina Tar Heels vs. #3 Louisville Cardinals louisville.gif

9:05 pm, CBS

What North Carolina must do

Take care of the ball and push it. North Carolina has no problem pushing the ball, but it must take care of it against Louisville’s press otherwise the Cardinals will shove the ball back down their throats. The Cardinals thrive off their press and forcing bad, quick jump shots. If the Tar Heels take care of the ball and push it up the court, it will get some great looks at the rim. Louisville is tough when they set its 2-3 zone even against teams that can shoot because of the Cardinals length and athleticism.

What Louisville must do

Take it hard to the rim. If Louisville hits their shots, then they are nearly impossible to beat. I know this applies with any team, but it especially applies with Louisville because this is a team that tends to get very jump shot happy. It showed against Tennessee as the team was very aggressive early, then took a lot of jump shots to let Tennessee get back in it and then went back to being aggressive to blow the game open. Louisville doesn’t have great shooters, but does have great athletes who will be able to get to the rim at will against UNC.

Gamebreaker

terrence-williams.jpgTerrence Williams. Louisville will not be able to win this game without a great performance from this guy. He is a very streaky shooter, so if he shoots well, say goodnight to Carolina. But even if he isn’t shooting the ball great, nobody on North Carolina, not even its best defender Marcus Ginyard, can match up with the length, athleticism and explosiveness of Williams. He must assert himself as a major force early in the game and then break the game open late.

Region Winner

I want to take Louisville so bad, but I just don’t see North Carolina losing in Charlotte. I know people say that the Tar Heels have lost twice at home, but those games seem so far away. North Carolina is playing too well at this time of the year to virtually lose a home game.


West Regional Final

March 29, 2008

ucla.gif #1 UCLA Bruins vs. #3 Xavier Musketeersxavier.gif

6:40 pm, CBS

What UCLA must do

Get some help. the Bruins have had trouble getting its three fantastic perimeter players, Josh Shipp, Russell Westbrook and Darren Collison, on the same page. Collison was great against Texas A&M, but fouled out against Western Kentucky and only had four points in the process. Shipp and Westbrook rebounded from a poor first weekend, but UCLA is nearly unbeatable well all three of those guys are clicking.

What Xavier must do

Xavier must really attack Kevin Love inside. You saw how that game against West Virginia completely changed when the Mountaineers only inside threat, Joe Alexander, left the game. Love is UCLA only real inside threat, so if Josh Duncan and the other Musketeers can attack the heart and soul of this Bruin team, Xavier will be bound for San Antonio

Gamebreaker

Drew Lavender. If this little fella plays well, then Xavier is a much better team. He’s a leader on the court and when he’s knocking down three’s, the rest of his team seems to follow his lead. In the West Virginia game, Xavier was down by three and was really desperate for a bucket. Who came through? Drew Lavender. He hit a big three to tie the game and then B.J. Raymond followed his lead.

Region Winner

I’m changing my pick here. I think Xavier will win this one. This surprises me too, but I really think the Musketeers can pull it off. They have great guards on the perimeter who can really defend and I think that this teams aggressiveness can get Love in foul trouble. They are a resilient bunch who won’t go away because they can really shoot the three. I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised though if this pick blows up on me and Xavier loses by 30.


Sweet 16 Preview-Midwest Region (Friday)

March 27, 2008

kansas.gif#1 Kansas Jayhawks

How they got here

Kansas blew by its first two opponents, Portland State and UNLV. The Big 12 Champs used their experience and depth to overwhelm both teams and now look to get over the hump they haven’t been able to get over in previous years.

Chances of Winning it all

30%. This team is the most talented team in the nation, hands down. But I question their ability to makes the plays down the stretch to win BIG games. In recent years, they have always underachieved losing to teams like Bucknell and Bradley. So a loss to a team like Villanova is still not out of the question, but in the end, I expect this team to roll through the region and have a great shot at winning it all in San Antonio.

Player to Watch

rush.jpgBrandon Rush. I feel that if the Jayhawks are to win the title, then Brandon Rush will have to carry them on his back at some point in time. This team is so deep and talented, that no player on the team plays more than 30 minutes a game. But nobody on this team is more capable of lighting it up than Rush, who can slash to the hole and shoot the three.

villanova.gif#12 Villanova Wildcats

How they got here

Remember about three weeks ago, when this team wasn’t even the one of the last four teams out. They needed a steam rolling of Syracuse in the first round of the Big East Tournament and numerous losses by fellow bubble teams to even sniff a tournament berth. Well, they not only got in the tournament, but they are now playing in the Sweet 16. Villanova came back from a porous first half to upset Clemson and then easily cruised by upstart Siena.

Chances of Winning it all

0.0001%. I’ll give the Wildcats a slight shot because they play in the Big East. But other than that, there is really no hope. The Wildcats are about to hit a brick wall.

Player to Watch

scottie-reynolds.jpgScottie Reynolds. I’ve seen the kid play in high school and college and I know that he can carry a team on his back. This Villanova team is Reynolds and when he’s bad, so is ‘Nova. I don’t like the fact that he shoots a very low percentage from the field (42%), but this kid can still get it done with his grittiness and ability to get to the rim.

wisconsin.gif#3 Wisconsin Badgers

How they got here

After winning the Big Ten regular season and tournament, the Badgers dominated their first two opponents, especially on the defensive end. They held Cal-State Fullerton to 56 points (I know great accomplishment right?) and thoroughly dominated Michael Beasley and Kansas State, giving up only 55 points. Many people had the Badgers not making it out of the first weekend, but Wisconsin showed that they are very capable of winning this region.

Chances of winning it all

3%. They have a shot because of their defense, but Wisconsin always falls short on the offensive end. There are too many offensively talented teams out there, so the Badgers won’t hold every opponent to under 60 points. In a big game spot, will this team be able to score a bucket?

Player to Watch

flowers.jpgMr. Stephen Curry, please meet Mr. Michael Flowers. This guy is widely regarded as the best defensive player in the nation and he’ll get a task in slowing down Curry that nobody else has successfully completed. Think about some other guys Flowers would have to shut down the deeper the Badgers get in the tournament. Rush/Chalmers, Ellington/Lawson, Rose/Douglas-Roberts, Augustin/Abrams, Westbrook/Shipp/Collison. He must be big on the defensive end if the Badgers want to keep playing.

davidson.gif#10 Davidson Wildcats

How they got here

The darlings of this years tournament came back against two quality opponents to advance this far. Davidson overcame a 11-point second half deficit against Gonzaga and erased a 17-point second half deficit to stun favored Georgetown. Stephen Curry is the only reason the Wildcats came back, putting up 55 second half points in the process.

Chances of Winning it all

0%. People compare this team to George Mason, but remember how overwhelmed the Patriots were when they reached the Final Four? Well, even if Davidson somehow gets by Wisconsin and Kansas, there is absolutely no shot they sniff the championship game.

Player to Watch

curry2.jpgUmm. Andrew Lovedale? Jason Richards? Yea right. All eyes are going to be on Stephen Curry. This man put up 70 points in the first two rounds and has been absolutely unreal in the second half of games. He seems to see how the opponent will play them in the first half and then just go off in the second half. He better play both halves from now on because there is little room for error for the Wildcats. We’ll see how he can handle the defense of Flowers, but no players Sweet 16 performance will be watched more than Curry’s. No matter what happens though, this kid had a phenomenal tournament.

My Region Winner – Kansas

Aneesh