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


Sweet 16 Team Preview-South Region (Friday)

March 26, 2008

memphis.gif#1 Memphis Tigers

How they got here

Not free throw shooting, that’s for sure. Memphis easily handled Texas-Arlington in the first round, but that was expected. They then overcame their abysmal 47% from the FT line against Mississippi State to beat the Bulldogs in the second round.

Chances of Winning it all

11% and falling. Watching this team go to the free throw line is painful. I don’t care what John Calipari is saying because free throws are definitely a concern. Yea, they are incredibly talented and can overcome them, but how many times have they overcome their free throw shooting to get past the Elite 8? That Mississippi State game was more of a heart attack than it should have been, and Memphis’ chances are falling as fast as the Tiger’s FT shooting.

Player to Watch

rose.jpgDerrick Rose. I could have pick Chris Douglas-Roberts or Antonio Anderson or Joey Dorsey. But I pick Rose, because Pat Riley will certainly be watching him. This guy is an unbelievable talent who is big, strong, athletic, creative. He can score, play defense, create for others. He has a slight possibility of being the number one pick next year, but he is definitely a top 3 pick. Watching this kid is a treat.

michigan-state.gif#5 Michigan State Spartans

How they got here

Good coaching. There is no question that this is an extremely well-coached bunch. You can expect that from a Tom Izzo coached team. The Spartans blew by a lot of people’s upset pick, Temple, and then beat one of the hottest teams in the nation, Pittsburgh, in the second round. This a team playing well at the right time.

Chances of Winning it all

5%. This team is discipline enough to win the championship, but do they have the talent? They still have a tough road because if they get by the top seeded Tigers, they still have to take out Texas in Houston or a Stanford team they would struggle matching up with.

Player to Watch

neitzel.jpgIt has to be Drew Neitzel, but this team is extremely balanced and doesn’t rely on one guy. But if there is one guy who can cause havoc for opponents its Neitzel. The Junior hit 237 three-pointers this season and can absolutely light it up from the outside. If he gets going from deep, Michigan State will definitely make a run for the Final Four.

stanford.gif#3 Stanford Cardinals

How they Got Here

After blowing by the smartest team in the tournament, Cornell, the Cardinals won a thriller over Marquette. They rode their two trees inside, the Lopez twins, to the Sweet 16 and must rely on them if they want to keep playing.

Chances of Winning it All

7%. I really think this team has a better chance than most people think. They do have a tough matchup with Texas in Houston, but they could face Michigan State then UCLA again in the Final Four. When you have two trees inside that can control the paint, you will always be in games.

Player to Watch

goods.jpgAnthony Goods. Who? His last isn’t Lopez. Well, I’m going to stray away from the Lopez Twins on this one because we know to watch them. But Goods is a outside complement that the Cardinals need. The Junior is the third leading scorer on the team with over 10 points a game and has hit the most three-pointers (64) on the team. I know 64 isn’t much, but he’s an decent threat the Cardinals have from the outside and they need him to show up.

texas.gif#2 Texas Longhorns

How they got here

Not with Kevin Durant. This team is so much better with Durant and they are led by two great guards in A.J. Abrams and D.J. Augustin. They easily beat Austin Peay and squeaked by Miami (FL) in the second round. The Longhorns will have the luxury of playing the next two rounds in the state of Texas.

Chances of Winning it all

14%. I’ll say it again, but guards win in March. With those two great guards and with the next two rounds in Texas, I think the Longhorns have a great shot to get to the Final Four. However, like their Big 12 rival, Kansas, I question this teams ability with 5 minutes left on the clock in the second half.

Player to Watch

augustin.jpgD.J. Augustin. This guy is one of my favorite players in all of college basketball and I would make the case that he is the best point guard in the nation. But all bias aside, I don’t think Texas can survive without him. He scores over 19 points a game and averages just under 6 assists per game. The Sophomore is also a great shooter who shoots 38% from beyond the arc. The guards of Marquette really gave Stanford problems and Augustin and his backcourt partner, Abrams, will have to do the same. Those two could then have their hands full with the athletic guards of Memphis, but do I have to say it again… Guards win in March.

My Region Winner – Texas

Aneesh


Sweet 16 Preview-West Region (Thursday)

March 26, 2008

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