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Tournament Breakdown: Part 2

West

UCLA vs. Mississippi Valley State
MVSU is the alma mater of Jerry Rice. Even if they had the greatest receiver ever on their team, MVSU still would lose this game by 30. Pick them only if you want to commit bracket suicide.

BYU vs. Texas A&M
BYU has size and experience and can play both inside and outside. Their top two scorers each shoot well over 50% from the field, one of them hitting 46% of his threes (58/125). Texas A&M has done well this year because they have no real weaknesses although they are not great at anything. When they beat Texas, they shot well from outside and Texas didn’t. BYU is bigger than Texas and shouldn’t be bothered as much by A&M’s perimeter defense.

Drake vs. Western Kentucky
These teams seem remarkably similar to me. Both are guard-oriented and shoot well. Two differences I noticed: Drake is more balanced on offense, while WKU has a star (Courney Lee). WKU also has more turnovers than assists this year, but Drake has more assists than turnovers. Those two reasons are why I’m picking Drake. I think their defense is strong enough to shut down one star.

Connecticut vs. San Diego
I was high on San Diego after watching them beat St. Mary’s and Gonzaga in their conference tournament. I was going to pick them to win their first round game…until I saw who they were playing. They don’t have much outside offense besides Brandon Johnson, their point guard. He could go for 30 but they’d lose because they will not get much post offense against Connecticut’s big guys. If you want a 13 or lower seed that can pull an upset though, this would be my pick.

Purdue vs. Baylor
I don’t think many people saw either of these teams in the tournament at the beginning of the season. I wonder how legitimate either of them are now. Purdue beat up on a bad Big Ten and had only one good non-conference win–over an injured Louisville. They did beat Wisconsin, but are they really that good or was it just a really good match up for Purdue? Baylor started hot but has lost 8 of their last 13 games. Granted, 6 of those losses were to tournament teams. Well, crap. I had Purdue picked here but now that I’ve looked closer, I’m thinking Baylor. Baylor has a lot of juniors; Purdue is mostly freshmen and sophomores. Pick Baylor here.

Xavier vs. Georgia
There’s a reason Georgia won only 4 games in the SEC this year. There’s another reason why they won 4 games in the SEC–tornado. Never would have happened if the whole tournament hadn’t turned into a circus. Xavier has been great all year and only lost a couple games in a pretty good conference (probably just as good as the SEC anyway). Xavier is balanced, experienced, good at shooting…they have six guys averaging double-figures in scoring. Georgia made a great run to get here, but they can’t compete with Xavier.

West Virginia vs. Arizona
This match up interests me. I think Arizona is the better team, but how do I explain why they didn’t win more games? Chase Budinger is good enough to win a game by himself, and he might not be the best player on that team. All their stats are good…they just don’t always win. That’s basically why I’m picking West Virginia. If Arizona hasn’t shown the “killer instinct” all year and been able to beat teams that they should, why will they start now? West Virginia is balanced but has a star as well. If Joe Alexander plays like he did down the stretch, he can win a game by himself as well.

Duke vs. Belmont
As much as you may hate Duke, they are a pretty good team. In the past, teams have taken a shot at them by trying to get their big guys in foul trouble or shut down their star. This Duke team’s weakness is their lack of size. Belmont will not be able to exploit that. Their best rebounder is 6’4″ and they don’t even average 2 blocks per game. Duke will win big.

Round 2

UCLA vs. BYU
I think UCLA is the best all-around team in the nation. I’m not going to pick against them ever. I’m also not going to try to come up with a reason why they’ll win each game; I think they’re just better. BYU will keep this one close though.

Drake vs. Connecticut
This game reminds me a lot of Butler vs. Florida in the sweet sixteen last year. Butler nearly won that game. Difference this time is Drake is more experienced than Butler, and Connecticut is less experienced than Florida. I’m taking Drake this time. UCONN lost in the big east tournament to a balanced West Virginia team that is very similar to Drake. Connecticut has been taking it easy in their last few games; you know a team like Drake is going to come hard. Besides, if I think there’s a chance UCONN could lose in the first round, it would be irresponsible for me to pick them farther than this.

Baylor vs. Xavier
I wanted to pick against Baylor in the first round; I’m not sending them to the sweet sixteen. Xavier is a great team that almost beat Ohio State to get the sweet sixteen last year. Baylor is good but not great and hasn’t been here in a really, really long time (last time they won a game was 1950). They’re going in the right direction, but this won’t be the year they win more than one game.

West Virginia vs. Duke
Duke has made the sweet sixteen 7 of the last 8 years. Last year was the one time. Last year’s team was, frankly, not nearly as good as this year’s. These teams are very similar to each other, but in one game, I’m taking Coach K over Bob Huggins. I will say this though: If Arizona has the killer mentality to beat West Virginia, they are good enough to beat Duke. One win might be enough to wake them up and get them to the elite eight. That’s a great low-seed sleeper if you’re looking for one.

Round 3

UCLA vs. Drake
Could this game be like Butler vs. Florida last year? The great mid-major coming closer to knocking off the eventual champion than anyone else? Drake will need to hit jump shots to have a chance; UCLA’s defense is too tough otherwise. This game could be close, but Drake hasn’t played anyone this good ever.

Xavier vs. Duke
Xavier doesn’t have the size to give Duke problems, but they do have more experience. These teams are very similar in every way. The only way I can see to differentiate between them is age and experience. Xavier wins.

Regional Championship

UCLA vs. Xavier
UCLA is the best.  I think BYU would be their toughest competition in this region unless Arizona smells blood and makes it this far.  They just have too few weaknesses to be beat by anything but a great performance.  Granted, anyone can put forth a great performance in any game, but if that were realistic, we might as well close our eyes and randomly pick the winner of each game.  UCLA is the best team; UCLA has no big weakness; I pick UCLA in each game.

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March 17, 2008 Posted by | ACC, Basketball, Big 12, Big East, Big Ten, Horizon, MVC, NCAA, Pac-10, SEC, Sports | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Tournament Breakdown: Part 1

I’ll look at one part of the bracket today. I’ll do another part tonight and the other half tomorrow.

South

Memphis vs. UT-Arlington
I must confess. Because I was busy with high school basketball teams all winter, I have not actually watched Memphis play this year. I’ve seen more of Arlington than I have of Memphis, so I’m not exactly qualified to talk about this game. I do know, however, that Arlington had lost 5 of their last 7 games before their conference tournament and Memphis had lost 1 of their last 31. I do think this is the best chance a 16 has to beat a 1 this year though. The occasional times those games go down to the end, the better team shows their power at the end and pulls away, right? What if, when Memphis starts to pull away, Arlington just puts them on the line every possession and hits a couple big threes?

Mississippi State vs. Oregon
I didn’t think Oregon should be in it; I can’t figure out why Mississippi State isn’t better than they are. Needless to say, I’m picking MSU. Their starting five is about as talented as it gets. Check out their stats. Oregon only had one big conference win–over Stanford. They never beat USC, UCLA, or Washington State. Their non-conference win was over an overrated Kansas State. Explain why they got in. They have a small guard-oriented team that will not match up well against MSU’s size. They’ll need to force a lot of turnovers and hit threes to have a chance.

Michigan State vs. Temple
Michigan State can compete with anyone on the right day (beat Texas, put up 103 on Indiana) but can play terribly on others (lost to Penn State and Iowa). They committed 18 turnovers and shot only 4 free throws against Iowa. I don’t see that happening in the tournament with Tom Izzo as their coach. Temple has gotten hot at the right time, but they’re still not a particularly good team and don’t have the size to defend Michigan State inside.

Pittsburgh vs. Oral Roberts
Oral Roberts is over-seeded here. They aren’t as good as last year’s team that got a 14-seed and lost by 16 to Washington State. However, there are a ton of bad teams at the bottom of this bracket, so I guess the seed is fair. Still, they don’t have much of a chance against Pittsburgh that is finally (mostly) healthy and could make a deep run.

Marquette vs. Kentucky
Remember that Kentucky doesn’t have their best player, Patrick Patterson. Supposedly they’ve played well without him, but they’ve gone 2-2 without him. Both wins were over non-tournament teams. Only three of their wins were over tournament teams. Compare that to Marquette, who has wins at Wisconsin and Villanova and a neutral court win over Notre Dame. They were playing well in the big east tournament until they ran into the Pittsburgh buzzsaw. They only lose to good teams; Kentucky is not one of them.

Stanford vs. Cornell
Even in their losses, Cornell has not been blown out. I don’t know how they play, but they shoot almost 50% from the field and over 40% from behind the three-point line. Stanford is an inside-dominated team with twin seven-footers Robin and Brook Lopez. Judging by stats, Cornell has a team of jump-shooters. This game could come down to whether the game is played on the inside or outside. If Cornell is able to speed the game up and force Stanford to shoot from the outside, they could pull off an upset. I am picking Stanford, however.

Miami vs. St. Mary’s
I haven’t seen Miami play this year. The one time I watched St. Mary’s impressed me even though they lost to San Diego. They play solid defense, forcing almost 8 steals a game. They’re better than you might think. Their only loss to a non-tournament team was at Southern Illinois, which is as tough a place to win as any. Even though I don’t know much about Miami, I’m picking St. Mary’s because I think they’re that good.

Texas vs. Austin Peay
Texas is as good as anyone in the nation. They aren’t a 1-seed only because they’ve lost some bad games. To be fair though, Missouri made an incredible amount of shots to beat them, and Texas Tech shot 43 free throws to beat them. Austin Peay shot very well against Memphis but still lost by 22 because they couldn’t handle Memphis’s talent and athleticism. Don’t expect anything different to happen here.

Second Round

Memphis vs. Mississippi State.
MSU can match Memphis in athleticism, but they turn the ball over far too much and also shoot free throws poorly. If they protect the ball, they can definitely pull off an upset, but I am picking Memphis.

Michigan State vs. Pittsburgh
Pitt’s better…but I’m picking Michigan State. I just like Tom Izzo in the postseason and still think Michigan State can beat anyone in the nation if they play right. Ultimately, I think Pittsburgh’s long run in the Big East tournament will wear them down and cause their loss in this game.

Marquette vs. Stanford
Marquette does not have nearly enough size to handle Stanford. They lost big to Connecticut and lost a close one at home to Georgetown (even though Georgetown had a bad game). If they can force turnovers and get fast break points, they might have a chance, but they are not big enough or good enough at shooting to beat a big team.

St. Mary’s vs. Texas
They played earlier this year. Texas won by 19, despite making only 25% of their threes and 54% from the free-throw line and getting outrebounded by 8. Augustin had 30 points despite making only one three pointer. I don’t see anything different happening this time.

Third Round

Memphis vs. Michigan State
Another game I think Memphis could lose but won’t. I’m ripping the Big Ten here: I don’t believe any team from that conference besides Indiana (with a real coach) can beat an athletic team. Michigan State lost by 19 to the athletic Hoosiers when they still had Sampson as their coach. This game will be closer than that, but Memphis will win fairly easily.

Stanford vs. Texas
Texas is a team that can shoot well enough and get enough fast break points to beat Stanford without competing against their size. It will be competitive, but the game is being played in Houston. Stanford is 2,000 miles away. Texas is 150. That gives Texas an advantage in a fairly even game otherwise.

Regional Championship

Memphis vs. Texas

Texas comes to play in big games. They beat UCLA and Tennessee earlier in the year when both were ranked high and beat Kansas when Kansas was ranked #2. Their loss in the conference championship game wouldn’t have happened if Kansas had shot a normal three-point percentage… Memphis’s early-season wins don’t look as impressive anymore. Oklahoma, USC, Georgetown, Arizona, and Gonzaga have all dropped in the rankings since they played Memphis. They lost at home to the best team they’ve played this year–Tennessee. Oh yeah, the game is played in Texas too. Texas wins and advances to the Final Four.

March 17, 2008 Posted by | ACC, Basketball, Big 12, Big East, Big Ten, CUSA, MWC, NCAA, Pac-10, SEC, Sports | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

My picks in review

ESPN’s bracketology got all the picks right this year…I missed one.  Darn.  I had Illinois State in rather than Oregon.  Lunardi got 29 of the 65 seeds correct; I had…32.  Ta-da.  I was within one seed on 59 of my 65 picks; he was within one seed on 54 of his picks.  That is all I have to say.

March 17, 2008 Posted by | Basketball, NCAA, Sports | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment