Wednesday, 21 March 2007

Sweet 16 Preview

Time for the highly anticipated preview and my picks for the game.

West Region

(1) Kansas vs. (4) Southern Illinois
Obviously the Salukis have the defense to keep this game competitive, but do they have the offensive firepower? I'm not so sure. Jamaal Tatum is their best offensive player, but even he is just a 44% shooter. The defense will keep it close, but in the end, I think Kansas just has too many offensive weapons.

(2) UCLA vs. (3) Pittsburgh
The key is whether or not Pittbrurgh can get the ball inside to Aaron Gray, and whether or not he can finish and get the Bruins big men into foul trouble, because then they're vulnerable. The trouble is, Gray hasn't been all that great lately, and the guards are going to have a hard time getting him the ball in good spots because of the pressuring defense of UCLA's guards. UCLA has to play better defensively than they did against Indiana, but I do like UCLA to pull off a low-scoring win and advance for a meeting with the Jayhawks.

South Region

(1) Ohio St. vs. (5) Tennessee
As I've said all along, I think the Vols will provide big matchup problems for the Buckeyes. Defensively, the Buckeyes are best in a 2-3 zone, because they have a big guy that's pretty good in the middle. The only trouble with the zone is that it basically dares people to shoot from the outside, and Tennessee can do that well. If the Buckeyes go man-to-man, Wayne Chism can pull Oden out from under the basket, clearing the lane for guys like Chris Lofton and Ramar Smith. All that said, I'd love to be a brave man and pick the Vols, but I'll go with the favorite in Ohio St., because for all of the matchup problems Tennessee will cause Ohio St., Oden causes those same problems for the Vols.

(2) Memphis vs. (3) Texas A&M
It seems like a lot of people are just assuming the Aggies will roll into the Elite 8, but wait a minute here. Memphis is good. Real good. They didn't face a lot of competition in C-USA, but a 16 point win over Nevada with Douglas-Roberts only playing 23 minutes is nothing to sneeze at. They're capable of a win, although I do still like Texas A&M for a few reasons: a) It's in San Antonio, 2) Chris Douglas-Roberts might not play, and even if he does he probably won't be 100%, and 3) That Law fella.

Midwest Region

(1) Florida vs. (5) Butler
Admittedly, I am a little surprised that Butler is this far. I didn't think they'd beat ODU, and I definitely didn't think they would beat Maryland. That's how my Tourney picks this year have gone. That said, I'll be completely shocked if they do manage to beat the Gators, because Al Horford is better than anything Butler has inside, but Butler is able to stay with anyone because they take care of the ball (only 9.4 turnovers per game), and they're capable of making a lot of 3s. A nice formula, if you can follow it, and Butler has this year. But Florida is a little too good.

(3) Oregon vs. (7) UNLV
I think this is a bad matchup for Oregon because they like to get out and run and take a lot of shots, and UNLV will slow the pace down. Heck, all you have to do is look at Oregon's first 2 games... they eeked out a win over a deliberate Miami (OH) team, and they handled a good, but fast-paced Winthrop team. I think this will be more like the former, but UNLV is better than Miami. The Runnin' Rebels are back... Lon Kruger, please come coach the Gophers.

East Region

(1) North Carolina vs. (5) USC
The Trojans were able to beat Texas pretty solidly last week, but it helped that they could focus on stopping 3 players, and as it turned out completely shutting down 1 of them was enough to win. That's not going to work against North Carolina, who attack in many ways with many different people. USC's had a nice Tourney run and Pruitt & Young (that sounds like a law firm) have the individual talent to compete, but North Carolina is too good and too deep.

(2) Georgetown vs. (6) Vanderbilt
Sort of like Butler, Vandy can stay in any game because they make a lot of shots... and Foster & Byars are really good. But I'm not sure they can hang with the Hoyas inside. We know what Jeff Green is capable of... but Roy Hibbert was the best Hoyas in round 2, and Patrick Ewing Jr. impresses me more and more everytime I see him. The Commodores will keep it close with shooting, but too much Green, too much Hibbert, and Georgetown advances.

I know I basically went with the favorites, but that's how I see it... what are your picks?