Tuesday, 25 March 2008

Sweet 16 Predictions

With my bracket sort of in shambles (thanks Pac-10!), it's time to move on and give some new predictions for the Sweet 16. The 8 games look to provide some very interesting matchups and contrasting styles, making it a pretty nice slate of games.

North Carolina over Washington - You couldn't ask for a game with more diverse playing styles. North Carolina likes to run all day, as they have averaged 110.5 PPG in the Tourney. Washington St. likes to slow things down and grind it out, giving up an averge of 40.5 PPG in the first 2 games. As they say, something has to give. Only allowing 41 points to Notre Dame is seriously impressive, and leads me to believe that the Cougars are going to make this game a lot closer than the talent would suggest that it could. Washington St. will be able to slow things down and make North Carolina shoot a lot of jumpshots, but in the end, I don't see them having any way of shutting down Tyler Hansbrough in the post.

Louisville over Tennessee - I picked Tennessee to win this game before the Tournament, but I am changing my vote. Louisville has been a lot more impressive than the Volunteers have so far. Both teams like to play full-court games, and it seems like Tennessee is having some trouble holding onto the ball with some questions at the PG spot (let's just say we probably won't be saying JP Prince start again this game). This should be an extremely entertaining game between two very good, well-coached teams, but I think Louisville is playing better basketball right now.

Kansas over Villanova - The Wildcats have been impressive thus far, but it's hard to see them matching up with Kansas. The Jayhawks guards are good enough defensively to stop Scottie Reynolds, and it seems as if they just have too much depth for Villanova to contend with.

Wisconsin over Davidson - Davidson is the Cinderella team of the Tournament so far (even more so than lower-seeded Western Kentucky), which makes them a bit of a trendy pick here. But I like the Badgers and their stout defense to move on. They have the athletes to throw at Stephen Curry to be able to slow down his open looks (granted, he doesn't need much space for it to be an open look), and they might be the best help defense team in the country, meaning that Curry won't find a lot of space when he drives the ball. Not that Georgetown or Gonzaga were poor defensive teams, but I just think Curry is going to have a much tougher go of it against the Badgers, propelling Bo Ryan's team to the Elite Eight.

Memphis over Michigan St. - Michigan St. will try to slow things down and grind it out, but I don't see them having enough offense to keep up with Memphis all game. The Tigers are a solid defensive team, and I don't see the Spartans having enough playmakers to keep a consistent flow going in the halfcourt offense for Michigan St. I like Memphis here.

Texas over Stanford - A fascinating matchup between two teams that do completely different things (and do them well), I like the Longhorns by a smidgen. The Lopez Twins will be very difficult for Texas to contain, and they will also slow down the penetration of DJ Augustin, but I think the versatility of Damion James will make the difference. He will make the Stanford bigs come out and defend him, drawing them away from the basket. This should be a great matchup.

UCLA over Western Kentucky - Courtney Lee will give the Bruins some problems, but not enough for WKU to overcome UCLA. The Bruins suffered a scare against A&M, but I have a hard time seeing them so unfocused (at least for the first 30 minutes) for 2 straight games under Ben Howland. Kevin Love looked like he was on a mission at the end of last game, and Darren Collison is playing the best basketball of his career.

Xavier over West Virginia - Xavier is a more complete team than the ones that WVU has beaten so far. They can go inside or outside, and the Mountaineers will have some trouble matching up with Josh Duncan for the Musketeers. Meanwhile, I think that Xavier's athletic wing players will be able to slow down Joe Alexander and Alex Ruoff, allowing Xavier to move on.

Not a lot of upsets, but that is the beauty of March... sometimes they're really hard to see before they happen. What do you think will happen this weekend?

Wednesday, 19 March 2008

NCAA Bracket Predictions: Final Four

Time for the Final Four Picks!


East Winner: Tennessee VS.
Midwest Winner: Kansas

This would be an exciting matchup between two teams with very potent offenses. Tennessee would come out and press all day, but Kansas has the guard play and ballhandling to handle the pressure. Tennessee would have to make contested shots, as Kansas is very good defensively. At the end of the day, Kansas is just a little better, more balanced team.

South Winner: Texas VS.
West Winner: UCLA

Texas won the first matchup between these teams at Pauley Pavilion, but this is a different UCLA team. Darren Collison is fully healthy and playing the best basketball of his life. Kevin Love is fully ingrained within the UCLA offense. They are clicking and playing a lot better. I think they do a better job with team defense on DJ Augustin, and this leads UCLA to victory.

Championship Game: UCLA vs. Kansas

A rematch of last year's regional final, and what a load of talent would be on display for this game. Both teams are excellent defensively and efficient offensively. Kansas is a little better shooting the basketball, but UCLA is better scoring down low with Kevin Love. In the end, I think the Bruins balance wins out... as if there was any doubt about who I'd pick to win it all.


NCAA Bracket Predictions: West

The final region!


(1) UCLA over (16) Miss. Valley St. - I think the Bruins should be able to take this one.

(9) Texas A&M over (8) BYU - I like the Cougars, but the Aggies are playing well right now and are just a little more talented.

(5) Drake over (12) Western Kentucky - I'm really excited for this game. But I think Drake's team-oriented style will be able to overcome Courtney Lee, the most talented player in this game.

(4) Connecticut over (13) San Diego - The Toreros are playing well, and Brandon Johnson and Geno Pomare are really good players, but UConn is really good. AJ Price is playing at a pretty high level right now.

(11) Baylor over (6) Purdue - I like the guard play for Baylor. Plus, they're more experienced than Purdue (not necessarily tournament experience, but game experience). Plus, going what they've been through the past couple years, they might be a little hungrier.

(3) Xavier over (14) Georgia - It was a nice storybook run for the Dawgs, but it ends at the hands of the Musketeers.

(10) Arizona over (7) West Virginia - Arizona is really good and really talented when they're healthy... well, they're healthy.

(2) Duke vs. (15) Belmont - Thanks for playing Belmont.


(1) UCLA over (9) Texas A&M - UCLA has the interior defense to deal with Jones and Jordan, and A&M can't match the Bruins guard play.

(4) Connecticut over (5) Drake - I love Drake, but they haven't faced a defense like UConn yet this year. They'll still get their shots (they won't be as affected by Thabeet in the middle), but UConn's quickness will be just a little too disruptive.

(11) Baylor over (3) Xavier - With question marks about whether Drew Lavendar is 100%, Baylor's guards will pose problems for the Musketeers. They become the highest seed to make the Sweet 16 by eeking out a win.

(10) Arizona over (2) Duke - Duke can be beat by quick guards, and that could mean a big game for Jerryd Bayless. The Wildcats shock Duke and advance to the Sweet 16, showing the strength of the Pac 10.


(1) UCLA over (4) Connecticut - The disciplined defense of the Bruins is the difference in this game. They win a low-scoring game against the Huskies to keep their run going.

(10) Arizona over (11) Baylor - The Wildcats just have more all-around talent in this game, and that propels them into the Elite Eight. Chase Budinger should have a huge day.


(1) UCLA over (10) Arizona - They meet for the third time, and once again, UCLA comes out on top. Too much defense, too much Kevin Love.

Regional Champion: UCLA

NCAA Bracket Predictions: South

Moving on to the South region...


(1) Memphis over (16) Texas-Arlington - Memphis wins a squeaker.

(8) Mississippi St. over (9) Oregon - JaMont Gordon is the best player in this game, and he leads an underrated Mississippi St. club to a win over Oregon.

(5) Michigan St. over (12) Temple - The Owls are becoming a popular upset pick, but I like Tom Izzo coached teams a lot. I like the Nietzel and Izzo combo to lead the Spartans to round 2.

(4) Pittsburgh over (13) Oral Roberts - I like ORU, but Pittsburgh is playing pretty solid basketball right now. Their toughness wins out.

(6) Marquette over (11) Kentucky - I don't see the Kentucky guards being able to stop the Marquette guards, and the Wildcats don't have the size to exploit Marquette down low.

(3) Stanford over (14) Cornell - Cornell might keep it close for a while because of their shooting ability, but they can't handle Stanford down low all day.

(10) St. Mary's over (7) Miami - Like everyone else, I'm taking the combo of Patrick Mills and Diamon Simpson to lead the Gaels into round 2.

(2) Texas over (15) Austin Peay - Texas wins this going away. Obviously.


(1) Memphis over (8) Mississippi St. - Too many athletes and too much depth for Memphis in this game.

(4) Pittsburgh over (5) Michigan St. - This would be a low-scoring battle, but I like the experience that Pittsburgh has to lead them into the Sweet 16.

(3) Stanford over (6) Marquette - The Marquette guards could have a tough time scoring once they get it into the paint and run into the Lopez Twins. This is a fascinating potential matchup, but I think the Stanford guards are better than Marquette's big men.

(2) Texas over (10) St. Mary's - The Gaels will keep it interesting if they hit their outside shots, but Texas can hurt you in too many ways.


(1) Memphis over (4) Pittsburgh - Pitt is becoming a popular upset pick here, but I don't see it. I don't think they'll be able to match up with the speed of Memphis. Memphis puts up a little too many points for Pittsburgh to match.

(2) Texas vs. (3) Stanford - In a game I would absolutely love to see. The contrast of styles would be fantastic. I like the Longhorns to prevail in a really tight game, because they can make more plays down the stretch than Stanford. But how would Texas guard the Lopez Twins? How would Stanford guards the Longhorn guards? Intriguing.


(2) Texas over (1) Memphis - I like Texas' versatility a little more. I like Joey Dorsey a lot, but I don't think he matches up really well with the Texas big men. Derrick Rose vs. DJ Augustin would be an awesome matchup, and I think Augustin is just a little more refined at this point in his career.

Regional Champion: TEXAS

Tuesday, 18 March 2008

NCAA Bracket Predictions: Midwest Region

Moving on to the Midwest.


(1) Kansas over (16) Portland St. - The Jayhawks should dispatch of them pretty easily.

(8) UNLV over (9) Kent St. - Kent St. is certainly a really good team, but I like UNLV. They're very well-coached by Lon Kruger, they have Tourney experience (at least, the few holdovers from last year), and they're fresh off winning the Mountain West.

(5) Clemson over (12) Villanova - Clemson is really good. Villanova is really inconsistent. I have a hard time seeing Nova putting up enough points in this game.

(4) Vanderbilt over (13) Siena - Siena is becoming the trendy upset pick, but hold on a minute. I know they have talent, but they don't have anyone like Shan Foster or AJ Ogilvy. And Kevin Stallings is a pretty darn good coach. I'll take Vandy to win this game.

(6) USC vs. (11) Kansas St. - All about coaching, and USC has a huge edge there. I'm excited to see what Tim Floyd, the man who beat Kevin Durant in last year's Tourney, comes up this year to try and slow down Michael Beasley.

(3) Wisconsin over (14) CF Fullerton - Badgers are too tough defensively here.

(10) Davidson over (7) Gonzaga - The Zags have talent all over, but Davidson is playing too well right now. They obviously have Stephen Curry, but don't discount Jason Richards at the PG spot. He's real good.

(2) Georgetown over (15) UMBC - Uh, yeah. I think the Hoyas will have enough in this one.


(1) Kansas over (8) UNLV - UNLV is a tough team, but they don't have the talent or depth to match up with the Jayhawks

(5) Clemson over (4) Vanderbilt - The Tigers are playing very good basketball right now. They have the big men to slow down Ogilvy down low, and that makes the Commodores one-dimensional.

(6) USC over (3) Wisconsin - I just like USC's superior athleticism and talent in this game. It might not be pretty, but I think they'll be able to score just a little more easily than the Badgers.

(10) Davidson over (2) Georgetown - Just a feeling. The Hoyas haven't been overly impressive all season long. They need Hibbert to step up, and I just see Davidson being a little better in this one. At the very least, they won't be intimidated.


(1) Kansas over (5) Clemson - I think Clemson would have a very legitimate chance in this one, but the Jayhawks are playing very good basketball right now. They're just a little too talented for Clemson.

(6) USC over (10) Davidson - USC's a little too talented. Tim Floyd can devise some type of game plan to help slow down Stephen Curry, and USC's athletes can get to the rim against Davidson.


(1) Kansas over (6) USC - The Trojans run out of gas. Kansas is much deeper in this game, allowing them to run USC off the floor.

Regional Champion: KANSAS

NCAA Bracket Predictions: East Region

First up, all of my picks for the East region!


(1) North Carolina over (16) Play-In - Obviously.

(9) Arkansas over (8) Indiana - Oh, how the Hoosiers have fallen. They have the talent to win this game and give UNC a scare, but not the heart. Razorbacks have the big men to contend with DJ White.

(5) Notre Dame over (12) George Mason - Not a good matchup for the Patriots. They can't run with the Irish, and I don't think they'll be able to slow the game down.

(4) Washington St. over (13) Winthrop - Tempting to pick Winthrop to win an NCAA game for the 2nd straight year, but I don't think they have the firepower.

(11) St. Joseph's over (6) Oklahoma - Not crazy about this pick, but the Sooners don't have a ton of offensive explosiveness. This will be a low-scoring, ugly game.

(3) Louisville over (14) Boise St. - Boise is a real dangerous 14 seed, but Louisville is just too good. But I think this game will be closer than people expect.

(7) Butler over (10) South Alabama - I really like South Alabama, but Butler is too good. They're a 4 or 5 seed masquerading as a 7 seed.

(2) Tennessee over (15) American - Tennessee will have a much easier go of it than the last time they were a 2 seed.


(1) North Carolina over (9) Arkansas - Arkansas does not have the firepower or athleticism to hang with the top-seeded Heels for 40 minutes.

(5) Notre Dame over (4) Washington St. - The Cougars are a great defensive team, but you can beat them by shooting over them. The Irish have the shooters to do it. Kyle McAlarney is a huge key in this game.

(3) Louisville over (11) St. Joseph's - The Cardinal are too deep and versatile for Phil Martelli's team.

(2) Tennessee over (7) Butler - Fascinating potential matchup. I've written many times about how much I love Butler, but it's a tough draw for them. They'll score points against a fairly undisciplined UT defense, but I'm not sure they'll be able to stop the Volunteers.


(1) North Carolina over (5) Notre Dame - This would be a really high-scoring battle, but too much depth for the Heels. Harangody vs. Hansbrough would be an awesome matchup down low.

(2) Tennessee vs. (3) Louisville - Two teams that I think could give the Heels a scare in the Elite Eight. I like Tennessee a little more in this game... Louisville has a lot of ballhandlers, but not really a true PG to handle the pressure.


(2) Tennessee over (1) North Carolina - I think the Volunteers have the talent to get to the Fina Four. As they have shown this year, they have the talent to beat anyone, and they won't be intimidated by North Carolina. I like the Vols to edge out North Carolina in a highly entertaining game.

Regional Champion: TENNESSEE

Sunday, 16 March 2008

Bracket First Impressions!

Here are my quick first thoughts on the 2008 NCAA Men's Basketball Bracket, with more to come this week... this is the best time of the sports year!

- Butler a 7 seed? Huh? I absolutely do not understand this seeding in the East region:
6 Oklahoma
7 Butler
8 Indiana

That makes no sense to me.

- Here are the top 4 first round games I am most looking forward to:

5 Drake vs. 12 Western Kentucky - 2 very good Mid-Majors... WKU has the best player (Courtney Lee), but Drake is the better team.
7 Butler vs. 10 South Alabama - Awesome matchup between 2 teams that could give Tennessee fits in round 2. Once again, USA might have the best player (Demetric Bennett), but Butler has the better team.
6 USC vs. 11 Kansas St. - For obvious reasons. Loads and loads of talent on display.
7 Gonzaga vs. 10 Davidson - Again, another great matchup between 2 really good Mids. I have no idea who to pick for this game.

- My top 3 potential 2nd Round matchups:

4 Connecticut vs. 5 Drake - Two different styles. Would be very interesting.
2 Tennessee vs. 7 Butler - There would be lots and lots of 3s fired in this game. This would be so much fun to watch.
4 Vanderbilt vs. 5 Clemson - Two really good teams... Kevin Stallings is an underrated coach.

- And finally, top 3 potential Sweet 16 matchups:

2 Tennessee vs. 3 Louisville - This would be an amazing game between 2 very talented, well-coached teams. I get giddy just thinking about this potential matchup.
2 Duke vs. 3 Xavier - Two efficient, talented clubs.
2 Texas vs. 3 Stanford - I also get giddy thinking about this potential matchup. Two opposite clubs. How would Texas stop Brook Lopez? How would Stanford stop DJ Augustin? Awesome. Please happen!

- On my first time through picking (which is definitely subject to change), I have no 12 seeds winning... hmmm...

- Is it Thursday yet?

- What most caught your eye?

Tuesday, 11 March 2008

Conference Tournament Preview: Wednesday

Back from Spring Break!

This is the best time of the college basketball season. Conference tournaments are getting in full swing, and then that is obviously followed by the awesomeness of the NCAA Tournament. Some of the major conference tournaments begin Wednesday, so here is just a breakdown of some of the key games that will be taking place.

Atlantic-10 Tournament
(8) Dayton vs. (9) St. Louis - With some of Dayton's non-conference wins (Louisville, Pitt), you have to figure they might still have a slim shot at an at-large if they can beat Xavier in the Quarterfinals of the A-10 Tournament. But the way that they've been playing lately, they can't afford to overlook St. Louis in round 1.

(6) Charlotte vs. (11) Rhode Island - Both of these teams have talent, and they can make a run in the A-10 Tourney if they get hot. Rhode Island has been in a freefall since their hot start. Meanwhile, Charlotte is led by streaky scorer Leemire Goldwire.

Big East Tournament
(8) Syracuse vs. (9) Villanova - The loser is essentially eliminated from at-large consideration, while the winner might even still need to beat Georgetown in the Quarterfinals to feel safe. Do-or-die game, and a great way to start off the Big East Tourney.

(5) West Virginia vs. (12) Providence - The Mountaineers have a good conference record, but they haven't really beaten a lot of quality opponents. A loss here might make them sweat a little, though they're probably safe either way.

Pac-10 Tournament
(7) Arizona vs. (10) Oregon St. - This is a must-win game for Arizona, though it shouldn't be a problem against 0-18 Oregon St. The Wildcats might need to win this game and a quarterfinal matchup with Stanford to be safe. If things are clicking, they have the potential to win 4 games in 4 days.

These are the games with the biggest bubble implications... on Thursday, the rest of the big tournaments start up, making that one of the best basketball days of the year! Which game are you most looking forward to seeing?