Thursday, March 27, 2008

Thursday Night Sweet 16 Preview

Now that the mayhem of the first weekend of the tournament is behind us, we settle into the Round of 16 starting tonight. The teams remaining are pretty consistent with what we normally see. There are three certified Cinderellas (Davidson, Villanova, Western Kentucky) and all 4 of the 1 seeds remain alive. What is in store for the 2nd weekend of the tournament? Lets start by breaking down tonight's games.

West Virginia -vs- Xavier, 710pm

The Mountaineers are the favorite team for most Americans these days, since they knocked out Duke last Saturday. They are led by Joe Alexander who was become a top candidate for an All-American next season. Over the past few weeks they have been one of the hottest teams in the nation by combining the scoring exploits of Alexander with reliable guard play and the typical physical defense that is a hallmark of a Slob Huggins team (He likes Booze). Tonight they go up against senior-laden Xavier. The X has not been overwhelmingly impressive, but has proven that they have the guile to overcome 2nd half deficits and win close games. Not only do they have the inside presence that WVU's opponents Duke and Arizona did not possess, but they will also be the best defensive team that the Neers have seen so far in the tournament. Brent Musburger's boy toy Robbie Hummel was held to single digits by Stanley Burrell, and now it is Joe Alexander's turn to face the best perimeter defender in America. If Burrell can shut him down, its going to be hard for WVU to score enough to outpace the balanced Musketeer attack. For that reason, and also because of Xavier's decided advantage in experience, they should win a relatively close game tonight.
GDB Prediction: Xavier 73-64

Washington State -vs- North Carolina, 727pm

Everyone was in awe of UNC's first weekend performance and rightfully so, but very quietly the Cougars were just as impressive in crushing their first two opponents. Now we have a matchup of two teams that are polar opposites in the college basketball landscape. UNC loves to push the tempo and turn the game into a contest of athleticism, which is pretty much death for anyone who plays that style along with them. Wazzu on the other hand is a slow-down team that relies on precise offense execution and suffocating defense. Both teams executed their styles excellently last weekend, but tonight something's got to give. While the Heels have the talent advantage, an old saying is that its much easier to slow down a game than to speed it up. WSU has the guards in Derrick Low and Kyle Weaver to control the penetration game of Tywon Lawson and control the tempo, and 3 solid big men who can share the responsibility of guarding the white Merton Hanks, aka Tyler Hansbrough. The Cougars have the talent and experience to make the game the way they want it, but one thing going against them is that the game is being played in UNC's backyard in Charlotte. This will help the Heels to be energized by the crowd and use their run and gun style. I predict the Heels will get off to a real fast start, probably something like 17-7 before the under 12 timeout, but over time WSU will start to control the tempo and change things into a half-court game. This will lead to a white knuckle 2nd half as the game goes down to the wire. If Hansbrough really is POY, he will provide the baskets the Heels will need down the stretch to win this one, if not WSU has a real chance at an upset.
GDB: Heels 72-69 in a one possession game

Western Kentucky -vs- UCLA, 940pm

A classic matchup between the upstart Cinderella and the overwhelming favorite. Western KY was lucky to beat Drake in round one, but followed that up by defeating fellow upstart San Diego proving they were not a one game fluke. UCLA appeared to get lucky in round 2 once again, getting away with an obvious foul in the dying seconds to beat a talented Texas A&M team. They appear to match up much better in this game though. Western KY has no one to handle Kevin Love, who absolutely took over down the stretch against the Aggies and willed the Bruins to victory. The Bruins also have stellar perimter defense thanks to Darren Collison and Russell Westbrook, who will face up against Hilltopper gunners Dewon Brazelton and Courtney Lee. There's no chance those guys explode tonight like they did in the Drake upset, because Ben Howland knows there isn't much besides them, and will focus his defensive gameplan on stopping them. It also helps that the game is in Phoenix and there will be plenty of Bruins fans in the crowd. With chances being that this game isn't really close in the 2nd half, lets all hope CBS has the sense to turn their cameras towards the UCLA cheerleaders, who are Death Valley in July hot. All those girls could gladly get a severe dicking courtesy of Young Swole.
GDB Prediction: UCLA 82-63

Louisville -vs- Tennessee, 957pm

This is probably the most intriguing game of the night. Two teams that love to get up and down the court and play full court pressure defense face off in the 2nd game in Charlotte. Louisville looked deadly in the first weekend, winning by 20+ in each game despite shooting under 50% from the free throw line. Tennessee on the other hand looked rather ordinary in defeating American and Butler. They had awful point guard play because for some reason the usually smart Bruce Pearl sat normal PG Ramar Smith and played the human turnover machine JP Prince, who almost cost the game against Butler with his bonehead decisions. Furthermore, top scoring option Chris Lofton was non-existent and is now hobbled with an ankle injury. Not much of this looks good heading into a game against such a hot opponent, but Tennesee has been one of the more resourceful teams in the nation. You don't get 30 wins for no reason and Bruce Pearl will have coached up his deep squad. They also got past a severely underseeded opponent in Butler, who probably deserved a 5-seed. The Vols now get to go against a team that will push the tempo just as much as they do, which means they will be playing the game they like. Both teams have noted deficiencies at point guard, but are deep enough at the other positions to more than compensate. The key will probably be which team controls the board. Can Chism and Crews do enough to slow down Padgett and crew for Louisville. If they can keep the rebound number close to even and if Lofton is healthy, Tennesee can win this one. But with so much uncertainty surrounding Lofton, the edge at the moment has to go to the Cardinals, who come in with confidence and the talent to pull off the upset.
GDB Prediction: Louisville 94-86

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