Sweet 16 Preview: East Region

Posted by nvr1983 on March 27th, 2008

With the next games coming on Thursday (we don’t count the NIT or CBI), we figured you might want a preview. Since we have more than the usual 4 hours between games and sleep that we usually have before games the first week, we can offer you a little better preview. That doesn’t mean we will do any better with our admittedly awful predictions, but they will be more in-depth. I’ll cover the East Region first with the West Region to come later today and the Midwest/South tomorrow so check back later for our thoughts on the games.

East
- #1 UNC vs. #4 Washington State (7:27 PM): This game should be a battle of contrasting styles. During the first two rounds, no team has been as impressive offensively as the Tar Heels have been (scoring 113 and 108 points). On the other side of the ball, no team has been as impressive defensively as the Cougars have been (allowing 40 and 41 points).

Normally, we would argue that the team who wants to slow the game down could control the pace and consequently the game. However, the Tar Heels have looked unbelievable in the first two rounds. They appear fresh and may be coming together at the right time. Tyler Hansbrough is pretty much a guaranteed 20/10 at this point and Ty Lawson appears to be getting close to 100% (0 turnovers the first weekend). If the Tar Heels have a (relative) weakness, it is that they don’t have a lot of great shooters. Wayne Ellington can certainly fill it up from the outside, but if he is off they do not another reliable shooter. Given the Tar Heels other strengths (including the ability to play defense as shown at the end of the game at Cameron), they can usually make up for it, but they are vulnerable if another team is hitting from the outside.

We would really like this Washington State team to advance to the Final 4 if they were in any other region. If they are to advance to the Elite 8, they will need solid defense and hope that Aron Baynes and the other inside players can find a way to slow Hansbrough and company down. On top of that, they will also need to be hitting their outside shot because UNC will dominate them on the inside even if they do a good job. Fortunately for the Cougars, they have 3 excellent perimeter players who all shoot over 38% from 3. Tony Bennett will need big games out of Derrick Low, Kyle Weaver, and Taylor Rochestie to pull off the upset.

Opening Line: UNC -7.5 (O/U 142.5)
Prediction: Tar Heels by 10+. The Cougars have played well so far, but the Tar Heels are on a completely different level than Winthrop or Notre Dame. I think Washington State will keep it close for most of the first half, but the Tar Heels will start to pull away just before half and cruise in the rest of the way. A lot of the “experts” have been telling everyone who will listen that they think the Cougars can beat UNC, but I just don’t see it happening. Of course, you can look at my predictions from last week and draw your own conclusions. . .

- #2 Tennessee vs. #3 Louisville (9:57 PM): In my opinion this is the most interesting of the Sweet 16 games. Tennessee has been one of the top teams in the nation all season and in my opinion is/was the top #2 seed in the tournament. Louisville was one of the hottest teams in the country late in the season. Both teams would be legitimate Final 4 threats in any region and against any team. Obviously, potentially having to beat the Tar Heels in Charlotte will be a very tall task. Before they do that, they need to get by each other (and UNC has to win to, but we’re assuming that as almost a given with how good UNC looked last weekend).

While the mainstream media has had fun hyping this up as Rick Pitino in his Colonel Sanders suit versus Bruce Pearl in his orange blazer, the more important point is that they both have really good teams. The Cardinals have done an excellent job rebounding from a shaky early season start when they were slowed by injuries. While David Padgett is their “star” player, it is more of a committee of stars as 4 players average between 10.5 and 11.4 PPG and that isn’t counting the more well-known players like Edgar Sosa, Derrick Caracter, and Juan Palacios. However, the Cardinals calling card may be their defense that holds opposing teams to a meager 38.2% FG (6th in the nation).

The Cardinals will need that strong defense against the Volunteers, who are one of the most athletic teams in the nation averaging 82.5 PPG. While Tennessee doesn’t have a traditional low-post presence, they have plenty of guys who can get to the rim and finish. The Vols are led by preseason All-American Chris Lofton, who to be perfectly honest never really displayed the national POY level of play that he was predicted to provide before the season began as his numbers are down across the board most notably scoring from 20.8 PPG on 1.51 PPS (points per shot) down to 15.5 PPG on 1.32 PPS, a career low. However, he has picked up a lot of additional support from transfer Tyler Smith who averages 13.7 PPG and 6.8 RPG, who is as close to a low-post presence that Bruce Pearl has. With how good Pitino’s 2-3 zone has been, Pearl will need Lofton and JaJuan Smith to hit their outside shots. If they start hitting from 3, I wonder how long Pitino will wait before going man-to-man. One area of major concern for the Vols is their point guard play, which has been spotty at best lately.

Opening Line: Louisville -2.
It looks like Vegas isn’t giving the higher-seeded Volunteers any love. Neither will I. The Vols had a tough 2nd round game against Butler (a team that was much better than its #7 seed), but I just can’t shake the feeling that the Vols just haven’t raised their game to a March level quite like the other teams have. Of course, Bruce Pearl’s boys could come out and drop 100 on Pitino, but I just don’t see it happening. I’m going with Louisville in a close game (less than 5 pt victory).

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03.25.08 Fast Breaks

Posted by nvr1983 on March 25th, 2008

We’re working on Sweet 16 previews right now, but figured that we should appease our eager readers with some interesting news from around the country, which you may have missed with MLB’s Opening Day in Japan taking all the headlines (it certainly did in Boston).

  • SEC to repay fans who were unable to use tickets: Tornado-related ticket repayment: $2.5 M. Winning a 4 games in 4 days including a doubleheader before running out of gas in the NCAA tournament: Priceless.
  • Sweet 16 Thoughts: RTC favorite (and Duke ’92 grad) Seth Davis chimes in with his thoughts on the regions. We found his analysis of potential Oklahoma State coaches (Bill Self and Billy Gillispie) particularly interesting. Like Davis, we don’t think the Cowboys will get either of them, but it begs the question of how much money Boone Pickens is willing to put into the program?
  • Kansas State coach expects Beasley to enter NBA draft: In other news, Duke is not expect to fire Mike Krzyzewski. . .
  • Chris Lofton has a minor leg injury: We don’t think this will have much of an impact on Thursday against Louisville, but it is something to look out for given Tennessee’s point guard difficulties.
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08.30.07 Fast Breaks

Posted by rtmsf on August 30th, 2007

What’s going on around the hoops world this week?

  • “Hoops” Weiss reports that 2007 A10 rookie of the year Robert Mitchell (16ppg; 5rpg) from Duquesne is transferring to Seton Hall. 
  • More injuries – Louisville’s Edgar Sosa is out four weeks with a sprained ankle, and Arkansas’ Sonny Weems is out the same amount of time with a broken hand (Weems has to miss the Hawgs’ trip to Cancun – rotten timing for him).
  • The Wooden Classic matchups are set, with San Diego St. taking on St. Mary’s in the undercard and Davidson vs. UCLA in the headliner game on Dec. 8.  We can’t wait to see Stephen Curry match up against Darren Collison. 
  • Apparently KU’s Brandon Rush is a fast healer.
  • NC State’s Gavin Grant has high expectations for his squad this season (memo to GG: you’ll have four losses by Jan. 12).  Find all 12 ACC teams’ scheduling highlights here
  • Ever the shameless promoter, OJ Mayo is floating the idea of sticking around USC for two seasons
  • OJ’s former HS buddy Bill Walker is ready for his first full season in Manhattan (Kansas). 
  • Speaking of USC, we always wondered how that big lead against UNC evaporated so quickly in last year’s sweet 16.  Oh, right, Tim Floyd
  • Sticking with the SoCal theme, here’s the next wannabe crossover conglomerate that Floyd can “recruit” to USC – 2009 #1 player Renardo Sidney (and his pops). 
  • Large things are expected in HoosierLand for Eric Gordon (best since Isiah??  Wow!).  Kelvin Sampson gives an interview on his team’s prospects prior to IU’s trip to the Bahamas here
  • Finally, the Big 10 Network is set to come on the air tonight at 8pm.  According to Mike DeCourcey,  ”among the intriguing games that will show up on the BTN will be Indiana at Iowa (January 2), Purdue at Michigan State (January 8), Wisconsin at Illinois (February 20) and three conference tournament games.”
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