Thursday, March 20, 2008

NCAA West Region Preview

16 teams, 8 matchups. Who will be the four teams from the South that advance to the sweet 16? Lets take a close look at each matchup and see where all the teams in this region stand

UCLA (1) -vs- Mississippi Valley State (16)
Upset Potential: 0.80% in honor of State's most legendary alum, Jerry Rice. In all honesty though, UCLA is going to basically run a glorified practice in this game. If Kevin Love plays more than 20 minutes i'd be surprised because they won't need him.
Player to Watch: Russell Westbrook. Everyone knows Love and Collison, but UCLA will need Westbrook to play great defense throughout the tournament if they want to reach San Antonio.
Prediction: UCLA 82-53

BYU (8) -vs- Texas A&M (9)
Upset Potential: 50%. This may be the most even matchup of the entire first round. BYU is awful on the road but is very fundamentally sound. Texas A&M has the talent of a 3 seed, but the consistency of applesauce. Trying to figure out this game is like trying to solve a rubik's cube in the dark.
Player to Watch: Josh Carter. If Carter can get his shots off and provide offense for the Aggies, they can really be dangerous. But too often he dissapears in games and A&M struggles to score. Whichever Carter shows up will determine the fate of this game.
Prediction: BYU 70-69

Drake (5) -vs- Western Kentucky (12)
Upset Potential: 41%. Drake has been the best mid-major all year but not a single player on the roster has been in the Big Dance and they are playing a team that only lost by 6 at Tennessee earlier this year. Drake has shooters for days, but the Hilltoppers can also score the ball plenty enough to keep things close.
Player to Watch: Courtney Lee. He's only a sophomore but he averaged 20 points this year and is skilled enough to carry Western Kentucky to the second weekend of the tournament.
Prediction: Western Kentucky wins 78-76 in an OT thriller.

UConn (4) -vs- San Diego (13)
Upset Potential: 22%. UConn was bounced in the first round of the Big East tournament and San Diego won the Big West tourney, but both teams will not have played in over a week which will give Jim Calhoun plenty of time to rile up those Huskies and for those wacky Toreros to come off their emotional high. If UConn comes out sluggish though, things could get interesting.
Player to Watch: AJ Price. When he isnt stealing laptops he's a pretty damn point guard. UConn has the interior behemoths to contend with anyone, but it will need good guard play if they want to go far in the tournament.
Prediction: UConn 82-67

Purdue (6) -vs- Baylor (11)
Upset Potential: 44%. Purdue is a very young team that showed signs of wearing down towards the end of the season, and Baylor has 2nd life after barely sneaking into the tourney. If the Bears guards are making their shots and pushing the tempo, the Boilers could very easily be one and done.
Player to Watch: Robbie Hummel got most of the hype this year, mainly because he's white, but real hoops fans know the best freshman on Purdue all year was Etwaun Moore. Someone is going to need to be a leader for the Boilers in the unchartered waters of March Madness and he is their best candidate.
Prediction: Baylor 78-71

Xavier (3) -vs- Georgia (14)
Upset Potential: 9%. When you combine a senior-laden favorite with a team that just came off winning an unprecedented SEC title, you can see how likely Xavier is to win. Georgia may have more energy tomorrow but it will near impossible to match the emotional effort they showed in Atlanta. Plus there will be no way the Dawgs will sneak up on the X after last week's events.
Player to Watch: Stanley Burrell. One of the most versatile players in the nation will get a chance to help lead Xavier on a deep run in the tournament. He can score 20 a night or shut down any opponent's top offensive weapon.
Prediction: Xavier 80-62

West Virginia (7) -vs- Arizona (10)
Upset Potential: 48%. Bob Huggins has been achieving success with smoke and mirrors all season. It also helps that Joe Alexander has played like Jerry West the last few weeks. Arizona got in the tournament because they lost to a lot of good teams, but they will have the best player on the court in Jerryd Bayless. When him and Nic Wise are in the lineup together, the Cats are 17-7. They are playing tomorrow.
Player to Watch: Joe Alexander. He's probably going to need to go for 30 for the Mountaineers to have any chance in this one despite their higher seed. If Arizona can even limit him slightly, they will probably win this game since WVU has no other reliable scoring option to turn to.
Prediction: Arizona 72-67

Duke (2) -vs- Belmont (15)
Upset Potential: 0%. Come on. Even if this game is close, which it won't be, the refs will make sure Duke wins in the end just because they are Duke. Look for Duke to hit about 20 threes and be playing all white guys in the 2nd half.
Player to Watch: The first Belmont guy to yam on Greg Paulus the way Danny Green did gets a complimentary handshake from Young Swole, and a complimentary handjob from Erin Andrews.
Prediction: Duke 88-55

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