The Basketblog

Celebrating the love of the Game.

Tournament Breakdown: Part 4

East

North Carolina vs. Mt. St. Mary’s
I was sad that Coppin State lost. Two years ago when their entire team was freshmen and sophomores, I said they’d win a game in this year’s tournament. I was going to call the play-in game their one win and say I was right. Then I was going to talk about how they play some of the most difficult non-conference schedules each year but how the teams they play end up finishing much worse than they start each year, and then I’d make up a “Coppin Curse.” But they’re not in this game, so I won’t talk about them. Carolina wins.

Indiana vs. Arkansas
Indiana’s been average at best since Kelvin Sampson left. They’ve gone 3-3, including losses to Penn State and Minnesota and a 103-74 loss to Michigan State. Two of their three wins were by three points each over Northwestern and at home over Ohio State. Stories came out that players were still in contact with their old coach and would rather play for them than interim coach Dan Dakich. Well, they’ve been playing like it. That sounds like a first-round loss to me. Although Arkansas made it to the SEC championship game, all games played after the tornado shouldn’t count for much. Their win over Tennessee was after the tornado; their win over Vanderbilt was before, but Vanderbilt is bad away from home. Overall, they’re only 6-6 in their last 12 games. They’ll win though because they’re playing Indiana.

Notre Dame vs. George Mason
Notre Dame played an unimpressive non-conference schedule, playing zero road games and losing games to Baylor and Georgia Tech. Their conference schedule was about as weak as a Big East schedule can get. They only played two of the seven other tournament teams more than once. They split with Connecticut and Marquette and lost to Marquette again in their first conference tournament game. Notre Dame is somewhat overrated. George Mason isn’t as good as when they made the final four, but their two best players were key players in their final four run–Folarin Campbell and Will Thomas. They are both seniors and ought to play well in their last chance. Their final four team had two good big men and good shooters; this team has only one good big man and good shooters. They won’t make the final four, but I’m picking them to get out of the first round at least.

Washington State vs. Winthrop
I’m guessing Winthrop got this high a seed because they played good teams, even though they lost to them. They only went 10-4 in a bad conference and don’t have a top 100 rpi. Teams not in the top 75 rarely win games. This isn’t the same Winthrop that beat Notre Dame last year and nearly beat Tennessee two years ago. Their leading scorer and point guard are still with the team but the quality of the rest of the team is quite a bit lower. Washington state lost eight games this year to four teams. They went 0-3 against Arizona, 0-2 against Stanford, 0-2 against UCLA, and 0-1 against California. Other than the Cal loss, their losses were to the most talented teams in the Pac-10. Winthrop is not one of the three most talented teams.

Oklahoma vs. St. Joseph’s
This seems to be everyone’s favorite upset pick. I guess that’s because St. Joe’s beat a top-15 team twice in a week. Xavier is a guard-oriented team though, and St. Joe’s other “big” wins were over Villanova and UMASS, two teams without a key player over 6’8″. Oklahoma’s top three scorers are 6’10”, 6’11”, and 6’6″. That doesn’t necessarily mean they can’t beat big men, but Syracuse’s big men beat up on them; Gonzaga’s 6’10” forward Austin Daye led them in scoring when they beat St. Joe’s; Holy Cross’s big men did well; Creighton’s big men did well. I’m picking Blake Griffin to have a big game and Oklahoma to win.

Louisville vs. Boise State
Am I the only one really hoping Boise State plays Oklahoma in the second round? Can Louisville throw this game and make that happen? Boise State hasn’t had a really bad loss since early December, so they could be dangerous, and their best player Reggie Larry fills up stat sheets. Louisville may be another overrated Big East team. The only tournament teams they played twice were Marquette and Georgetown. They did beat Georgetown once and Marquette twice though, and beat West Virginia, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, and Villanova the one time they played each of them. Four of their eight losses were without David Padgett (or in his first game back). They are a solid team with him healthy and shouldn’t lose this one.

Butler vs. South Alabama
This one angers me, as does the fact that the winner faces Tennessee. I wanted to pick both of them to make the sweet sixteen but don’t have either of them doing that now. Butler is a great team, has their entire roster back after a sweet sixteen run last year, and is led by seniors. South Alabama has a good team, is playing in their home state, and is also led by upperclassmen. Usually if I think a team is underseeded, I’ll pick them every time, but I’m afraid to pick against the team in their home state as well. I’m picking Butler but could be convinced to change that pick.

Tennessee vs. American
Underseeded team vs. overseeded team. This ought to be a 1/16 game, and the 1s never lose those. American ought to be back for another try next year. Their top four scorers are all juniors. Watch for them to be like Vermont (from the same conference) a few years ago.

Round 2

North Carolina vs. Arkansas
Tyler Hansbrough is the best player in the nation. I haven’t been watching college basketball that long, but he is the best player I remember seeing. He’s not the most talented player ever (or even this year; there are a few more talented than he is), but no one combines his talent with his work ethic and toughness. Now take a great player who plays hard and tough all game and make him an 82% free throw shooter. Now look at the rest of his team: a great point guard, great shooters, and great athleticism. Arkansas doesn’t impress me, and no one has impressed me more than Carolina this year.

George Mason vs. Washington State
I think Mason’s seniors extend their career one more game. The three teams WSU lost to multiple times all have good inside players. I’m calling Will Thomas to have a big game and bring George Mason to the sweet sixteen.

Oklahoma vs. Louisville
I tried to come up with a good reason for picking Oklahoma here but couldn’t. Call it my obligatory “6 over 3″ pick. Louisville did lose to UCONN and Georgetown, teams with 7-footers. Oklahoma doesn’t have a 7-footer, but they do have 6’10” Griffin and 6’11” Longar.

Butler vs. Tennessee
Butler scared Florida last year and will scare Tennessee this year, but Tennessee is too good. This is a good an upset pick as any, though because Drake is led by seniors and was there last year. However, Tennessee is also led by seniors, was there last year, and almost knocked off a title-game team in the third round. Butler got a horrible seed and will pay for it by losing this game.

Round 3

North Carolina vs. George Mason
Even though he goes to the line ten times a game, Tyler Hansbrough is rarely in foul trouble. He’s only had four fouls four times. When have you seen a player who plays as physically as he does commit so few fouls? Will Thomas shoots almost 6 free throws per game and also commits few fouls. Both will stay in the game and battle the whole way. Hansbrough’s supporting cast is better though and will pull out a close game.

Oklahoma vs. Tennessee
I didn’t have a good reason for Oklahoma to beat Louisville. Who do you think I’ll pick in this one? Before the tornado game, which should not be held against Tennessee (even though it clearly was), their only losses were at Texas, at Kentucky, and at Vanderbilt. If you ignore Kentucky’s horrible non-conference season, those three teams lost a total of one home game all year. Tennessee did not lose a game that wasn’t in an opponent’s gym and won in many good teams’ gyms. They are as good as it gets and should have gotten a 1-seed.

Regional Championship

North Carolina vs. Tennesee
The last five teams I have left are all great teams that are hard to separate from each other. When I was picking them, I picked the team I thought was better to win each game. Well, except for this one. Carolina is playing in Charlotte; they don’t lose tournament games in North Carolina. I’d have a hard time deciding whether Tennessee or North Carolina was better, so I’m going with the “home” team.

Final Four

The better team wins each game.  North Carolina is better than Georgetown, UCLA is better than Texas, and UCLA is better than North Carolina.  Championship game score:  72-65.  If you disagree with any of these picks, let me know why.

March 18, 2008 Posted by | ACC, Basketball, Big 12, Big East, Big Ten, NCAA, Pac-10, SEC, Sports, WAC | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tournament Breakdown: Part 3

Thanks to the first two parts, this blog has been viewed more today than it has in any single month (before this one, obviously). Part 4 will come after I know the winner of the…play-in game.

Midwest

Kansas vs. Portland State
I’ve criticized Kansas because they didn’t beat great teams this year (1-1 against 5 seeds or higher–both games against Texas), but one thing they do well is beat up on bad teams. I thought Portland State should have been higher because they played some good teams (as many as Kansas did) and came within 12 of winning at Washington State, but they won’t compete with Kansas. Their guards are pretty good and might not get killed by Kansas’s guards, but their top rebounder is only 6’4″. Kansas will kill them inside, which will lead to outside shots.

UNLV vs. Kent State
I think this is the best first-round game that no one is talking about. UNLV protects the ball and turns teams over (11 turnovers per game/8 steals per game), so they could just get lucky and make a run in the tournament. Kent State has inside and outside scorers and also forces a lot of turnovers (8.5 steals per game). Kent State got a win at St. Mary’s, and UNLV had a 29 point win against BYU. I’m taking UNLV because of the tournament experience they got last year.

Clemson vs. Villanova
I’m not as high on Clemson as others are. They play a heavy-pressure, gambling defense and are bad at free throws. If they play a team that protects the ball well or is in a game that comes down to the last few possessions, they might be in trouble. As good as Scottie Reynolds is, he is young and turns the ball over 3 times a game. Villanova as a team had more turnovers than assists this year. Clemson wins.

Vanderbilt vs. Siena
Siena’s great win this year against Stanford came before Brook Lopez was playing. They apparently got some favorable calls in that game too…they shot 32 free throws to Stanford’s 3. If Shan Foster gets hurt for Vanderbilt and the refs call 12 more fouls on Vanderbilt than on Siena, Siena might just pull off an upset.

USC vs. Kansas State
I’ve said the only reason Kansas State made it is because they have a great freshman. This matchup supports my theory–they paired Beasley with OJ Mayo. Kansas State had a great six-game stretch in January (beating Oklahoma, Texas A&M and Kansas), but they were 14-11 without any wins against tournament teams the rest of the year. USC played well against the best big man they faced this year–beating Stanford at home and holding the Lopez twins to 10 combined points when they played at Stanford. They’ll do well enough against Beasley to get the win.

Wisconsin vs. Cal State Fullerton
Like Kansas, Wisconsin wins big against bad teams. Outside their conference season, they did not have a single-digit win against a non-tournament team. They had a couple bad losses (big to Duke and at home to Marquette) but got it together since then. Their only two losses were to Purdue who is a bad matchup for Wisconsin. CSF played a couple tournament teams and lost by double digits to both St. Mary’s and Arizona. They are high-scoring, but they won’t get to 50 in this one.

Gonzaga vs. Davidson
I said at the beginning of the year that I’d pick Davidson in the first round no matter who they played (like I did with Winthrop last year). Gonzaga is a tough game for them though. Unlike a power conference team that might overlook somewhat a team like Davidson, Gonzaga is used to playing teams like them every game in their conference. Gonzaga has good depth and balance, while Davidson gets 1/3 of their scoring from Stephen Curry. I think he is solid enough to get them a win though. They almost beat Maryland last year and had almost everyone back.

Georgetown vs. UMBC
If possible, I think Georgetown is underrated. They won the Big East regular season and easily won their first two conference tournament games before falling to a hot Pittsburgh team. They’ve showed that they can both blow out good teams and win close games. They won six games by three points or less, which will help them in this tournament. UMBC doesn’t have anyone who can challenge Hibbert inside. Their top rebounder is 6’4″. They lost by 24 to West Virginia and shouldn’t be much closer in this one.

Round 2

Kansas vs. UNLV
I think this will be a tougher game for Kansas than most do. UNLV is one of the best in the nation at protecting the ball. If they don’t turn it over and get a good shot each possession, they could beat Kansas. Kansas would need to shoot poorly to lose this one. They’ll be able to look ahead somewhat, which is something UNLV will not be able to do. The two teams are very similar, but Kansas is just better.

Clemson vs. Vanderbilt
Vanderbilt is not very good away from home. They were 2-6 on the road in the SEC and 1-1 in the SEC tournament. They only won by 6 on the road against a Depaul team that only won 11 games all year. Clemson isn’t great on the road either, but they did well in the neutral ACC tournament. Shan Foster is the best shooter in the nation, but will Clemson’s pressure defense give him enough good, in-rhythm looks? I’m taking Clemson, but only because Vanderbilt is bad away from home.

USC vs. Wisconsin
Wisconsin’s relaxed, slow style of play is something Mayo and USC hasn’t seen this year. USC was 2-7 when they didn’t score 60 points this year; Wisconsin allowed 60 points only 9 times all year. Wisconsin is underrated because they play in the Big Ten and aren’t flashy, but they are as good as anyone. They’ll shut down USC’s offense and win this one by 12.

Davidson vs. Georgetown
Another game Davidson can win because Georgetown plays so many close games, and Davidson plays well against good teams. Georgetown is a great team though and is able to play any style. This one will probably come down to the last few possessions, and Davidson could very well pull of an upset. I am picking Georgetown’s talent and experience though.

Round 3

Kansas vs. Clemson
If Clemson makes it this far, it is because their hot streak has continued. I think this is the toughest team Kansas could play in this position–Clemson is a team that is able to push and defend all game like Kansas is. It could come down to which team makes more shots. I see this one coming down to the end, and I’m picking the better free throw shooting team: Kansas.

Wisconsin vs. Georgetown
As I said previously, Georgetown can play any style, including Wisconsin’s super-slow style. This game will be played in the 50’s. Georgetown has actually played more games this year with both teams below 60. They’ve beaten good teams in games like that (Louisville, West Virginia, Villanova). Wisconsin also has played good teams in close, low-scoring games, beating Michigan State and losing to Purdue. The teams are very similar, but Georgetown has played more big games this year, has more tournament experience, and has better outside shooting. That is why I am picking them.

Regional Championship

Kansas vs. Georgetown
Continuing the trend in this region, this will be a very competitive game. In fact, there are five or six teams that have a good chance of getting to the final four.  As said before, Georgetown can play any style…but so can Kansas.  In all previous games, I’ve picked the team I think is better.  I’m going to break that trend here.  I’m picking Georgetown because their tournament experience and Bill Self’s inability to win the big games will work in their favor in an otherwise even game.  Both teams have a tough road to get here though.  One could get knocked off earlier or be so beat up that they lose here.  Don’t bet anything big on this region.

March 18, 2008 Posted by | ACC, Basketball, Big 12, Big East, Big Ten, MWC, NCAA, Pac-10, SEC, Sports | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment