Saturday, March 22, 2008
NCAA Tourney Saturday Gameday Preview
(5) Notre Dame vs. (4) Washington State
Last Round: Notre Dame def. George Mason 68-50, Wazzu def. Winthrop 71-40
Upset Potential: 55%. In my opinion, the Fighting Irish are just flat out playing better basketball right now. Washington State started the season on Fire, before stabilizing a bit in the Pac 10 (which is proving to be worse than adverstised in the Big Dance). Forget about the last round, Notre Dame has won 13 of 15 while Wazzu has only won 9 of 15. I also think the Big East Battle tested this team for a long run.
Player to Watch: Luke Harangody. I already talked about him last round, but it's still true today. He had 18 and 14 last game and could explode on the Cougars in this one. They don't have anybody that defend inside adequately. Look for another Double-Double from Hair and Shoulders.
Prediction: ND 76-70
(8) UNLV vs. (1) Kansas
Last Round: UNLV def. Kent State 71-58, Kansas def. 85-61
Upset Potential: 15%. UNLV had a very deep tourney run last year, but they didn't have to go through a team of Kansas' Caliber. This is a rough matchup for the Runnin' Rebs. If only they could bring Shawn "Matrix" Marion back to help them out. Plenty of people will be rooting against the Jayhawks in this one (namely Cicero), but I don't see it happening.
Player to Watch: Darrell Arthur. While Brandon Rush is the Big Name on Campus, Arthur has flown under the radar (if that's possible in Lawrence) this season while leading Rock Chalk in scoring average. The future lottery pick had 17 points and 7 boards against Portland State while shooting 80 percent from the field. Another big game against UNLV wouldn't be surprising considering the depth of the Jayhawks leads defenses to have to spread out too much.
Prediction: Kansas 88-70
(11) Kansas State vs. (3) Wisconsin
Last Round: Kansas State def. USC 80-67, Wisconsin def. 71-56
Upset Potential: 45%. When you have the best player in the country and arguably the two best players on the floor, an upset is very possible. This is a battle of teams with completely different styles of play. The Wildcats love to Run 'n Gun, while the Badgers enjoy takin' it nice and slow. Whoever sets the tempo early on will have the advantage.
Player to Watch: Michael Beasley. As long as K-State is still in the tournament, Beasley's name will be listed in this section. I think Psycho T is a vital part of his team, but you can't argue that Beasley is the cream of the crop in the NCAA this year. And I don't see why there is an argument for Player of the Year. It's MB hands down. The award isn't Most Valuable, it's Best Player and that's Beasley no doubt. He has the ability to take over any game, and it's not a matter of if he dominates in this game, but how much.
Prediction: K-State 65-58
(6) Marquette vs. (3) Stanford
Last Round: Marquette def. Kentucky 74-66, Stanford def Cornell 77-53
Upset Potential: 25%. When the Golden Eagles are on their "A" game, they can shoot the lights out and beat a lot of quality teams, but when they're not it gets ugly. Marquette loves to shoot from downtown while it's no surprise that the Cardinal are strongest in the paint. The thing that Stanford has going in their favor is that it doesn't matter if one of the 7 foot Lopez twins has a bad game, because the other can just pick up the slack. Kenny Brown can fire from deep to take pressure off the twins as well, so this is an extremely dangerous team from all over the floor.
Player to Watch: Brook Lopez. The two headed twin killing giant is headlined by Brook. Robin actually outperformed him in the last game against Cornell, but they really didn't need him to step up. Cornell was just not up to par. They'll need him in this game as Marquette will definitely put a nice chunk of points on the board. More important than scoring for Brook is cleaning the glass, especially on the Offensive side.
Prediction: Stanford 77-66
(5) Michigan State vs. (4) Pittsburgh
Last Round: MSU def. Temple 72-61, Pitt def. Oral Roberts 82-63
Upset Potential 40%. My favorite matchup of the second round. This number would have been much lower a few days ago, but the Spartans really impressed me on Thursday. Temple over MSU was a very trendy upset pick and I was concerned that they would start off slow and have to play catchup, but they basically dominated the Owls from start to finish enroute to a win that wasn't as close as the scoreboard said. Tom Izzo has a history of great tournament perfomances and you know he'll have his team ready today. Pitt on the other hand didn't allow ORU to get any sort of rhythm and made for a very uninteresting game. That's how they play though and that's what's led their success this year. The Panthers hope to continue their hot play off of their Big East Tourney Championship.
Player to Watch: Drew Neitzel. The Spartans PG is the leader of a very bi-polar team. When on fire, he's able to will his team to win under almost any circumstances. He was outstanding in last year's tourney and almost helped MSU pull of a shocker over UNC last year with a much less talented squad. If he's clicking on all cylinders here, Pitt could have their hands full.
Prediction: Pittsburgh 71-70 in Overtime
(9) Texas A&M vs. (1) UCLA
Last Round: Texas A&M def. BYU 67-62, UCLA def. Miss. Valley State 70-29
Upset Potential: 15%. The Aggies are a hard team to figure out. Like a rubic's cube, you may think you have them solved, but then you realize you have no idea. At the beginning of the season, they looked like they could be a dark horse contender for the Final Four, then in Big 12 Conference Play they went into a tailspin. The past couple of weeks, it appears that they've found themselves again. Was it all a mirage? We'll find out pretty quickly today as UCLA poses one of the toughest possible matchups for them. The Bruins are like the Noah's Ark of College Basketball. They've got 2 of each position, you can't get much deeper than that. Unless the Aggies can slow down the game right away and get UCLA out of their element it could be brutal for A&M.
Player to Watch: Kevin Love. I'm going out on a limb aren't I? Well, it's tough to pick anyone else. The vaunted Freshman has been a beast inside this year and doesn't show any signs of letting up. The only thing that can slow him down...is himself (or his ailing back to be precise). The whole back issue didn't appear to be a problem last round as he ate up the Delta Devil Defense to the tune of 20 points, 9 boards, and 4 blocks. Look for another line similar to this today.
Prediction: UCLA 83-68
(6) Purdue vs. (3) Xavier
Last Round: Purdue def. Baylor 90-79, Xavier def. UGA 73-61.
Upset Potential: 35%. I wouldn't have thought this number would have been this close before I saw Xavier barely squeak by Georgia. I realize the Bulldogs were on a roll, but that was too close for comfort. On paper, X marks the spot and looks like the much better team, but the Baby Boilers have lit the paper on fire this year and outperformed expectations. Led by a bunch of Frisky White Guys, Purdon't somehow managed to outlast IU in the tourney, who would have thunk it? Still, it's going to be tough for the Boilermakers to win this game unless they are en fuego from behind the arc.
Player to Watch: Robbie Hummel. He may not be the best player on the floor, but he'll need to play like it if Purdue wants to come out victorious. Hummel only had 1 Triple last game against Baylor and that won't cut it in this one. He needs to lead by example with this team, and the only way to do that is to leave it all out on the court.
Prediction: Xavier 76-72
(7) West Virginia vs. (2) Duke
Last Round: WVU def. Arizona 75-65, Duke def. Belmont 71-70
Upset Potential 40%. The Mounts proved the haters wrong last round with a fairly convincing win over lower seeded favorite Arizona. Meanwhile, the Dookies looked pathetic and nearly became only the 5th 2 seed to lose in the first round. They can't afford another let down against WVU or it could be another early exit for the Blue Devils.
Player to Watch: Joe Alexander. Not his best performance against the Wildcats, but 14 points, 8 rebounds is still solid. He'll need to play like he did in his previous 5 games (20 points or more) if he want to fuel an upset over Duke. A big key for Alexander and his teammates is making their free throws. In a close game, Duke usually wins because they are a great FT shooting team. Joe went 6-6 from the charity stripe last game, but the rest of the team only made 2 total.
Prediction: Duke 83-80
Posted by Andrew Adamson at 1:01 PM