NCAA Regional Reset: West Region

Posted by AMurawa on March 25th, 2013

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Andrew Murawa (@amurawa) is the NCAA Tournament’s West Region correspondent.

The West Regional begins Thursday night in Los Angeles with Arizona vs. Ohio State followed by La Salle vs. Wichita State. The East Regional Reset published earlier today, and be sure to look out for the South and Midwest Regional Resets later this afternoon. Also make sure to follow RTCWestRegion for news and analysis from Los Angeles throughout the week.

Downtown LA is the Site of the West Regional

Downtown LA is the Site of the West Regional

New Favorite:  #2 Ohio State. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss. In a region where the Buckeyes are the only one of the top five seeds still alive, they’re the no-brainer. We proclaimed them the favorite a week ago and the madness that has gone down since then has only cemented the Buckeyes as the best bet to advance to Atlanta out of this region. Yeah, they needed to dodge an abnormally unimpressive performance from Aaron Craft down the stretch on Sunday while getting a bit of late help from a referee, but OSU survived and advanced and will be favored to win any games they play between now and Atlanta.

Horse of Darkness:  #9 Wichita State. Responsible for eliminating the region’s #1 seed, we’re skipping right over Arizona to the Shockers. They’ll be a favorite to advance to the Elite Eight against La Salle and they’ve shown their ability to both lock up the glass against elite rebounding teams and to knock down threes at an astounding rate, although not yet in the same game. It would be a surprise to see the Shockers in Atlanta, but they’re within striking distance.

Biggest Surprise (1st Weekend):  Ohio State Advancing To The Sweet Sixteen. In a region where everything else has gone straight to hell and as the Buckeyes got everything they wanted from Iowa State on Sunday, you couldn’t have been blamed to have expected Thad Matta and company to join the scrap heap of favorites to lose on the first weekend of NCAA play. Gonzaga? Gone. New Mexico? Never stood a chance. Wisconsin? Who dat? But somehow, in a region of Davids taking down Goliaths, the Buckeyes still stand strong.

Wichita's Stunning Late-Game Turnaround Against Gonzaga Was Just One Of Many Unexpected Results (Steve Dykes, USA Today Sports)

Wichita’s Stunning Late-Game Turnaround Against Gonzaga Was Just One Of Many Unexpected Results (Steve Dykes, USA Today Sports)

Completely Expected (1st Weekend): Almost Nothing Else. Harvard going nuts and earning its first-ever NCAA Tournament win. Wichita State outrebounding one of the nation’s best rebounding teams. Ole Miss out-Wisconsining the Badgers. La Salle pulling off the front leg of the old VCU First-Four-to-Final-Four marathon. Iowa State blowing out Notre Dame and then giving the Buckeyes everything they could handle until a poor late call hurt their chances. And then the wild statistical anomalies as Wichita State went from up 13 to down eight to knocking off Gonzaga. Really, it’s easier to come up with a bevy of surprises than it is to find expected occurrences.

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Bracket Prep: West Region Analysis

Posted by AMurawa on March 18th, 2013

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Throughout Monday, we will roll out our region-by-region analysis on the following schedule: East (9 AM), Midwest (11 AM), South (1 PM), West (3 PM). Here, Andrew Murawa (@amurawa) breaks down the West Region from top to bottom. Also, be sure to follow our RTC West Region handle on Twitter for continuous updates the next two weeks (@RTCwestregion).

You can also check out our RTC Podblast with Andrew breaking down the West Region, which will drop both on the site and on iTunes Tuesday.

West Region

Favorite: #2 Ohio State (26-7, 16-5 Big Ten). Not to take anything away from Gonzaga, a team and a program that should be very pleased with itself for the excellent season it has had, but the Buckeyes get the nod by an eyelash. While the Zags have been coasting through WCC play for the past couple months, Thad Matta’s club has dealt with the gauntlet of the Big Ten and emerged with an eight-game winning streak, boasting wins over teams like Indiana, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois and Michigan State (twice). Aaron Craft, a veteran guard with plenty of great basketball in his past, is probably playing the best ball of his distinguished career. And guys like LaQuinton Ross, Sam Thompson and Lenzelle Smith are tossing in just enough offense to aid big-time scorer Deshaun Thomas. Throw in the nation’s sixth-best team in defensive efficiency and let’s make the battle-tested Buckeyes a slight favorite to repeat as a Final Four team.

Aaron Craft and The Buckeyes Have Been Through The Big Ten Gauntlet, Making Them The Slight West Regional Favorite

Aaron Craft and The Buckeyes Have Been Through The Big Ten Gauntlet, Making Them The Slight West Regional Favorite

Should They Falter: #1 Gonzaga (31-2, 18-0 WCC). It would be easy to play the contrarian here and offer up plenty of backlash to the Bulldogs’ first-ever #1 seed and name New Mexico – a pretty darn good team in their own right – as the next best team in this region. But make no mistake, Gonzaga can ball. With Kelly Olynyk, a first-team All-American favorite, the Zags have the third-most efficient offense in the nation and Mark Few’s best offensive team in his time in Spokane. And while there are some concerns about the Zags’ ability to match up defensively with big and athletic guards, this is a team that is also Few’s most efficient defensive team ever – by far. While there are plenty of potential stumbling blocks (regardless of who they face in the Round of 32, that looks like a serious rumble, for instance), the Zags definitely have the ability to reach an Elite Eight. Or better. Read the rest of this entry »

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ATB: Syracuse Survives, OSU Recovers, and Upset City in the West…

Posted by EJacoby on March 23rd, 2012

Tonight’s Lede. Half of our Elite Eight teams are set, with the East and West regions completing their semifinal matchups on Thursday night. The East Region in Boston finished as expected, with chalk advancing to the Elite Eight in the form of Syracuse and Ohio State for what should be a fantastic regional final on Saturday. But the story in Phoenix was much different, as the favored #1 and #3 seeds went down in games that were dominated by the lower seeds. Only one game on the night finished in single digits but there was plenty of exciting basketball that took place. And the one game that was a close one happened to be one of the Big Dance’s best. Let’s break it down… 

Your Watercooler Moment. Jordan Taylor’s Shot Falls Short, #1 Syracuse Survives.

Wisconsin is Devastated After Coming so Close Against Syracuse (Getty Images/J. Rogash)

Our first game of the night was a classic, one that featured two very different teams that both executed at an extremely high level offensively. Four-seed Wisconsin brought its patented ball-control, super-slow tempo game plan into Boston with hopes of knocking off top-seeded Syracuse with a methodical approach, good shooting, and strong collective defense. But no defense could stop what either team was bringing to the table in this one. The Badgers executed their plan offensively, hitting an amazing 14-27 from three-point range in a wonderful display of outside shooting that would usually be enough for a victory. But the Orange were just as strong on the other end, converting 55.1% of their field goals with easy baskets in the paint from a variety of one-on-one scorers. The two teams combined for just 12 turnovers and this game came down to the very last shot, one that fell short on a long three-point attempt from Jordan Taylor on a broken offensive play. Despite the fairly low 64-63 final score, the game featured crisp execution throughout its entirety. Syracuse was just one possession better, thanks to its easy offense earned through superior athleticism and playmaking in the half court. It’s on to the Elite Eight for the Orange!

Also Worth Chatting About. The First #1-Seed to Fall are Tom Izzo’s Spartans.

Everyone knows that March is Michigan State’s month. Tom Izzo has brought the Spartans to six Final Fours in his tenure, and he had never been knocked out of the NCAA Tournament before the final weekend when his team was a #1 seed. That came to an end on Thursday, when Michigan State was outplayed from the start by Rick Pitino’s #4 Louisville Cardinals. The Spartans racked up more turnovers (15) than made field goals (14) while shooting 28.6% from the field. Louisville was too athletic and strong defensively, essentially beating Michigan State at its own game. The Cardinals won the battle on the boards, in the turnover margin, and from behind the arc (they shot 9-23 compared to 5-21 for MSU). Gorgui Dieng racked up seven blocks and three steals to go along with nine rebounds in an elite defensive performance, and Peyton Siva ran the offense well with nine assists. Izzo’s March mystique could not get his players to put the ball in the basket, and our first #1 seed finally goes down.

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RTC Sweet Sixteen Podblasts: East & West Regions

Posted by rtmsf on March 20th, 2012

After such a successful weekend picking teams to advance in our brackets (what, you didn’t go 46-2 like us?), the RTC Podcast crew is back for another set of analytical Podblasts covering each region this week. Today we release a Podblast for the two regions that will get under way on Thursday night in Boston and Phoenix, the East and West Regions. Brian Otskey joins us as the NCAA East correspondent, and Andrew Murawa is back as the NCAA West correspondent. Tomorrow we’ll have the South and Midwest Regions published for your podcasting pleasure.

East Region Sweet Sixteen Podblast

West Region Sweet Sixteen Podblast

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Bracket Prep: West Region Analysis

Posted by AMurawa on March 12th, 2012

Throughout Monday, we will roll out our region-by-region analysis on the following schedule: East (9 AM), South (11 AM), Midwest (2 PM), West (4 PM). Here, Andrew Murawa (@amurawa) breaks down the West Region from top to bottom. Also, be sure to follow our RTC West Region handle on Twitter for continuous updates the next two weeks (@RTCwestregion).

You can also check out our RTC Podblast with Andrew breaking down the West Region here.

West Region

Favorite: Michigan State, #1, 27-7. This is the fourth time in the Tom Izzo era that Michigan State has earned a #1 seed. The previous three times (1999, 2000, and 2001), they advanced at least to the Final Four, winning the national title in 2000. Led by likely All-American senior forward Draymond Green, this is, almost without question, the best Spartan team since those teams at the turn of the century. They do have to go forward without injured freshman Branden Dawson, out for the year with a torn ACL, but senior Brandon Wood stepped into his starting spot and he shot the ball well in the Big Ten Tournament this weekend. You can say that there are more talented teams in this region (Missouri and Marquette come to mind), but beating Izzo in March is always easier said than done.

Draymond Green And Michigan State Are The Team To Beat In The West Region (AP)

Should They Falter: Missouri, #2, 30-4. While the Spartans are the favorite, the Tigers are a solid 1-A. The Selection Committee had Mizzou as the #8 overall seed, but they have been excellent all season long behind the most efficient offense in the nation. The Tigers are undersized (only two players taller than 6’6” are in the rotation) and lack depth (they only play seven guys), but head coach Frank Haith gets every last drop out of the guys who do play. And with guards like Marcus Denmon, Kim English, Phil Pressey, and Michael Dixon, they have enough talent on the perimeter to cause plenty of trouble.

Grossly Overseeded: BYU, #14 (First Four), 26-8. I don’t have a whole lot of problems with any of the seeding this year; I think the Selection Committee by and large did a pretty good job. But I’m not sure why BYU is in the tournament. Their lone quality win of the season is over Gonzaga, a team who doesn’t have much in the way of quality wins itself. I would rather have seen a team like Drexel or Oral Roberts (teams admittedly without a ton of big wins either) get the Cougars’ spot. The Dragons and Golden Eagles both had better records against top 50 RPI teams, and both excelled in their conference regular season. I will even take Iona, their First Four opponent, over the Cougs despite a complete lack of quality wins on the Gaels’ resume. The committee gave Iona credit for scheduling a tough non-conference slate, and their strength of schedule out of conference even exceeds BYU’s.

Grossly Underseeded: Missouri, #2, 30-4. I’m having trouble working up a whole lot of outrage about anything in the bracket, but Missouri should not have dropped to the #8 overall seed. To me, they were right in the conversation with Kansas for the #5 overall seed (and I might have given Missouri the edge, although the committee docked them for a relatively tame non-conference schedule). The only difference for the Tigers in terms of their placement in the bracket is that had they earned the #5 overall seed, they would have been dropped in the St. Louis regional instead of being shipped West. But the good news is that they still are in the bracket with the lowest #1 seed. It all works out.

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RTC Bracket Prep: Midwest Region

Posted by jstevrtc on March 15th, 2010

This is the fourth of our four quick-and-dirty region breakdowns. This will serve to help the quick triggers who like to fill out their brackets first thing on Monday morning. For the rest of you, we’ll be providing more detailed game-by-game analysis throughout the rest of the week.

Edward Jones Dome Hosts the Midwest Regional

Region: Midwest

Favorite: Kansas, #1-seed, 32-2. The overall #1 seed.  The experts say there are no dominant teams this year, but for our money this year’s Jayhawks are just as dominant as North Carolina was in 2008-09.  Top-flight weapons at every position.  A solid bench.  Excellent coaching.  Youth.  Experience.  Any way you prefer to be beaten, they’ll beat you.  That switch they flipped to put Texas A&M away in the Big 12 Tournament was scary, but that’s the sort of command of which they’re capable.

Should They Falter: Ohio State, #2-seed, 27-7. We all know how special Evan Turner is.  But teams seem to make the mistake of thinking that this team has no other weapons.  David Lighty, Jon Diebler, and William Buford are all capable of big games.  They defer to Turner, yet Turner enjoys sharing the wealth.  As a team, they almost never take a bad shot, a trait that will serve them well even more this time of year.

Grossly Overseeded: Northern Iowa, #9-seed, 28-4. Northern Iowa’s only win in the NCAA was 20 years ago.  I know that has nothing to do with now, but the last four times they’ve been to the Tournament, they’ve been a popular upset pick and have always come up short.  To be honest, based on their body of work, they’re probably seeded where they should be, it’s just that there are a few teams seeded lower than them that are playing a little better brand of basketball right now.  If UNI can give us some results in the Tournament, then we’ll be happy to put some chips on their square in the future.

Grossly Underseeded: Michigan State, #5-seed, 24-8. At this point, we should all be used to Tom Izzo overachieving in the NCAA Tournament.  This team went 14-4 in the extremely tough Big Ten.  After that stretch in which they dropped three straight (at Wisconsin, at Illinois, and Purdue), everyone forgot about them.  Then they won five of six to end the year before the conference tournament, the only loss coming against surging Ohio State.  Don’t ever sell the Spartans short in the Big Dance.

Sweet Sixteen Sleeper: Houston, #13-seed, 19-15. Aubrey Coleman is the nation’s leading scorer at 25.0 PPG, and it looks like he and Kelvin Lewis have finally started to put it together.  Honestly, we thought we’d see more out of the Cougars this year.  They’ll be a tougher out for Maryland than everyone thinks.  Houston is second in the nation in turnovers per game (8.8), and 12th in turnovers forced (16.8), nice numbers when you have a pair of guards who can scoop up those turnovers and score quickly.

Final Four Sleeper:  #5 Michigan State. They can own a game through their work on the boards.

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QnD Midwest Region Analysis

Posted by zhayes9 on March 15th, 2009

MIDWEST REGION PREVIEW (by Zach Hayes)

Favorite
Louisville, #1 Overall Seed, 28-5 (16-2), Big East Regular Season and Conference Champions

Should They Falter
Wake Forest, #4 Seed, 24-6 (11-5). Even more than Michigan State in the Regional Final, Wake could present the biggest match-up problem for Louisville.

Grossly Overseeded
Utah, #5 Seed, 24-9 (12-4). Utah tied for the Mountain West regular season title and tournament (carried by great computer numbers), but how can anyone say this team should have a higher seed than UCLA, Clemson, or West Virginia?

Grossly Underseeded
None. With the exception of Utah, the committee did an excellent job seeding this region.

Sweet Sixteen Sleeper (#12 seed or lower)
#12 seed Arizona. The last team in the field lucked out with an over-seeded Utah team then could throw their match-up zone at a Wake team that hasn’t handled a zone defense all season.

Final Four Sleeper (#4 seed or lower)
#6 seed West Virginia. If Alex Ruoff has a tremendous tournament and Devin Ebanks continues to progress into stardom, they have the personnel. A freshman PG worries me though.

Carmelo Anthony Award
Sherron Collins, 18.3 PPG, 5.0 APG, 38% 3PT- As Sherron Collins goes, the Kansas Jayhawks go. He has the chance to take this young team under his wings and lead them to another Final Four.

Stephen Curry Award
Ben Woodside, 22.8 PPG, 6.3 APG, 43% FG- Many college hoops diehards know Woodside and his scoring prowess already. Most casual fans will be introduced to him for the first time and his Cinderella Bison.

Home Cooking
Louisville, 1, 152 miles to Dayton. Ohio State, 71 miles to Dayton.

Can’t Miss First Round Game
#7 Boston College vs. #10 USC, Friday. A very evenly matched game between two teams with studs like Tyrese Rice, Rakim Sanders, DeMar DeRozan, and Taj Gibson. Can the Trojans keep it going?

Don’t Miss This One Either
#3 Kansas vs. #14 North Dakota State, Friday. An inexperienced and slumping Kansas team battling a fifth-year senior laden Bison squad. Could we have an upset brewing in Minneapolis? Don’t miss this one.

Lock of the Year
West Virginia will make the Elite 8. They’ll take down Dayton, North Dakota State and Michigan State en route to a rematch with Louisville.

Juiciest Potential Match-up (Purists)
#6 West Virginia vs. #2 Michigan State, Regional Semifinal. Two of the best rebounding and fundamentally sound teams in the nation could do battle for a spot in the Regional Final.

Juiciest Potential Match-up (Media)
#1 Louisville vs. #4 Wake Forest. The amount of talent on the floor in this game (Samardo Samuels, Earl Clark, Terrence Williams, Jeff Teague, James Johnson, and Al-Farouq Aminu) will have NBA scouts drooling.

We Got Screwed
Kansas, #3 Seed, 25-7 (14-2). Besides the fact that Kansas deserved a #2 seed over Oklahoma, they have to face the most dangerous #14 seed in the tournament (North Dakota St.) and the most dangerous #6 seed in the second round (West Virginia). I would feel a lot better about Kansas matching up with the other #6 seeds.

Strongest Pod
#2 Michigan State, #7 Boston College, #10 USC, #15 Robert Morris. BC-USC could be a fun 7-10 game while Robert Morris is no slouch for the Spartans.

Upset Special
#14 North Dakota State will beat #3 Kansas in the first round.

Region MVP
Terrence Williams, Louisville.

So-Called Experts
The general consensus seems to be Louisville and I tend to agree. Sorry for going chalk, folks, but they’re easily the best team in this region.

Vegas Odds to Win Region


2009-midwest-odds

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Chalk City

Posted by nvr1983 on March 30th, 2008

It looks like Clark Kellogg will have bragging rights over the CBS Sports studio for the next week as for the first time in the 64+ team era the Final 4 will be composed of all #1s. In the end all four of these #1 seeds definitely seemed to be the best teams in their region.

All Chalk

East: UNC absolutely dominated every game they played. Louisville made it close for a little bit in the 2nd half, but Rick Pitino had no answer for Tyler Hansbrough, who apparently developed a great outside game sometime this year as he started to hit fall-away jumpers against good defense to put the Cardinals away.

West: So we got this game wrong. Out of all the #1 seeds, UCLA appeared to be the most vulnerable during their march to San Antonio. The Bruins looked very beatable between their drubbing of Mississippi Valley State in the 1st round and their beatdown of Xavier in the Elite 8. The one constant for the Bruins during the entire tournament has been Kevin Love, who has made himself several million dollars during this tournament if he decides to leave after this season. While everybody else on the team had at least one horrible game, Love showed up every night and is the reason that UCLA is in the Final 4. This didn’t hurt either.

South: After a shaky game in the 2nd round, Memphis looked like the #1 team in the country. After cruising in during the 2nd half of their win against Michigan State, Memphis dominated Texas in Houston. It seems like almost every analyst had Texas advancing out of this region. I certainly did although I was smart/fickle enough to change my mind and prediction before the Elite 8. Everybody picked on their inability to shoot free throws, but like Shaq they make them when it matters. In the Elite 8, Derrick Rose controlled the game winning the head-to-head match-up against D.J. Augustin ensuring he will be a top 2 pick in the draft if and when he declares (Beasley will be #1 unless a team really needs a PG). They will be a tough match-up for pre-tournament favorite UCLA.

Midwest: After rolling through the first 3 rounds, Kansas finally ran into a challenge in the Elite 8. Davidson put up a great fight, but in the end Kansas just had too much as they dominated the Wildcats on the inside the entire game. Stephen Curry and Brian Barr had great games for the Wildcats, who did a phenomenal job of getting back on defense to prevent Kansas from running the way they like. The Jayhawks took the lead for good on a 3 by Sherron Collins with 6:35 left. Davidson had a chance to win on the last possession, but Stephen Curry made a rare mistake for him in this tournament by taking too much time leaving Jason Richards to attempt a desperation 3 at the buzzer. Tip of the hat to Davidson and Curry who had a great game and tournament. It seemed to me that Curry ran out of gas at the end as he had a great first half, but did not have his usual second half explosion or one of his best shooting days today (4/15 from 3). Congrats to Bill Self for finally getting to the Final 4.

We’ll be back later with a preview of the Final 4 along with some shots at Roy Williams going against his old school Kansas in the late game on Saturday. Check back throughout the week as we’ll be making more posts.

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Elite 8 Preview: UCLA-Xavier & UNC-Louisville

Posted by nvr1983 on March 28th, 2008

#1 UCLA vs. #3 Xavier (6:40 PM): Both teams are coming off hard-fought victories in the Sweet 16. Xavier obviously was challenged by West Virginia, who took them into OT and may very well have won if Joe Alexander had been able to hit a FT at the end of regulation (81% FT) or not foul out early in OT. The Bruins were challenged by Western Kentucky, who came back from 21 down at half as Tyrone Brazelton scored 31 pts abusing Darren Collison (before Collison fouled out with 5:39 to play). The Bruins held strong at the end and won with big efforts from Kevin Love (29 and 14–no surprise) and James Keefe (18 and 12–huge surprise).

The Bruins can count on a big game from Love who finds a way to get his numbers because he knows where he needs to be. What the Bruins can’t count on is Keefe coming anywhere near those numbers. They need Collison, Russell Westbrook, and Josh Shipp to really step up their games this round. If they can get this inside/outside balance, they should control this game, but they haven’t looked that good since their opening round game against Mississippi Valley State. However, I’m not sure if that was more UCLA or their opponent. In either case, the Bruins haven’t looked like the team that most analysts predicted would cut down the nets in San Antonio.

As noted earlier, Xavier escaped with a win in their Sweet 16 game with Joe Alexander’s mistakes and some clutch 3 point shooting from B.J. Raymond. Even though Josh Duncan dominated the scoring last round, the Muskeeters are usually pretty good at spreading the ball around leading to their extremely balanced scoring averages. It will be interesting to see how they try to match up against Love, Collison, and Westbrook as that may be the key to the game.

Opening Line: UCLA -6.
Prediction: As Kevin Love said after their last game, the Bruins play has been “unacceptable”. I think that on paper (and when they are on) UCLA has all the makings of a championship team with a nice mix of experience, talent, and an inside/outside game. If they’re firing on all cylinders, the Bruins could blow this game wide open like they did in the early part of their Sweet 16 game. Unfortunately for Ben Howland, they have not been able to do that consistently. I think UCLA has have played with fire one too many times and tonight it will catch up with them. I’m going with Xavier in a hard-fought game earning a trip to the Final 4.

#1 UNC vs. #3 Louisville (9:05 PM): This is probably the best match-up of the weekend on paper. Both teams are absolutely loaded and appear to be playing at their peak. The Tar Heels have been the most dominant team in the tournament so far while the Cardinals have matched them in dominance the past 2 rounds. Both teams absolutely crushed their very capable opponents (Washington State and Tennessee, respectively) on Thursday night.

The Tar Heels’ calling card this season has been their phenomenal offense, but in the last round they showed Tony Bennett’s Cougars that they know how to play a little D too. Offensively, Tyler Hansbrough has been solid if not spectacular although he hasn’t needed to be so far in the tournament. One of the major drivers of the Tar Heels dominance in the tournament has been Ty Lawson who appears to be back near 100%. When he gets in the open court, I’m not sure if anybody can keep up with Lawson. Although those two get all the hype, I think the key to the game for UNC will be if Wayne Ellington can hit from outside. He’s the only great outside shooter that Roy Williams has and his ability to hit from 3 will be very important against Rick Pitino’s 2-3 zone. If he is hitting, Pitino will have a decision to make: let him bomb away or go man-to-man and risk having Psycho T go off.

Louisville is peaking at the perfect time. They made a very good Tennessee team look very bad on Thursday night although the Vols PG issues certainly contributed. They don’t have quite the star power that UNC has, but Pitino’s boys (David Padgett & company) are no slouches. Padgett has a lot of help offensively as the Cardinals have another half dozen guys who can get in double figures on the right night. The key for the Cardinals will be how their defense controls UNC. It will be interesting to see how their press is able to handle Lawson and how their zone matches up against Ellington’s outside shooting.

Opening Line: UNC -5.5.
Prediction: I’m going with the Tar Heels tonight. They’ve been the best team in the country in the first 3 rounds and they weren’t even clicking offensively against Washington State. Louisville has a great team and that line is ridiculously high, but I don’t think Hansbrough will let the Tar Heels lose. He’s had a very good college career so far, but he hasn’t been able to get his team over the hump. This will be a tight game, but I think that Hansbrough will come up big down the stretch giving the Heels the slight edge. The Tar Heels were on the verge of going to the Final 4 before collapsing against Georgetown and I can’t see them letting it happen again. As an added bonus, this sets up a potential national semifinal of Roy Williams versus Kansas. . .(more on that set of Elite 8 games later)

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Sweet 16 Preview: West Region

Posted by nvr1983 on March 27th, 2008

– #1 UCLA vs. #12 Western Kentucky (9:40 PM): Already more than one analyst has declared that WKU is going to pull off the monumental upset in this game. And one UCLA blog is seriously tempting the Weauxfgods with its rather brazen mocking of the Hilltoppers’ chances in tonight’s game. (Retracted strikethrough: rtmsf thinks he is the Dennis Miller of the college basketball blog world). So we ask ourselves – is this possible? Could UCLA lose to a double-digit seed in the Sweet 16?

One thing we know for certain is that the Bruins will not score enough points to obliterate the Hilltoppers. The question is whether the Toppers will be able to score enough points to put enough pressure on the Bruins to make something interesting happen. The answer lies in WKU’s backcourt of Courtney Lee (20/5/2) and Tyrone Brazelton (14/3/4), who have collectively averaged 44 PPG in the NCAAs thus far. UCLA’s perimeter defense is notoriously good at shutting players down, but will have their hands full with this pair.

On the other side of the ball, the Bruins have talented guys at every position. While uber-frosh Kevin Love has taken most of the headlines, Darren Collison, Josh Shipp, and Russell Westbrook have provided solid perimeter play to compliment the Pac-10 POY along with Luc Richard Mbah a Moute on the inside. The Bruins cruised in their first round game, but ran into a stiff challenge in the 2nd round against Texas A&M. In the end, they survived with some timely shooting from Love and a little help from the stripes. One of the concerns for the Bruins is that while their Ben Howland-designed defense has been as good as advertised, they have struggled offensively in the tournament outside of Love and Collison, who combined for 40 of the team’s 51 points versus the Aggies. UCLA is talented enough and this region is weak enough that they probably can get to San Antonio without bringing their “A” game, but eventually they will need more from Shipp and Mbah a Moute, who is still recovering from a sprained ankle.

Opening Line: UCLA -13
Prediction: I think that UCLA will eventually get pissed off at all the press they have gotten for getting away with calls (looking around . . .). This is a really big spread for a Sweet 16 game, but I guess it is a 1 vs. 12 so maybe it isn’t that big of a spread. Maybe Vegas Watch knows what a typical 1-12 spread is although I don’t think it happens that often. Anyways, the Bruins should be too much for the Hilltoppers and advance by double digits pulling away at the end after a hard-fought game. Even if their offense isn’t clicking, their intensity and athleticism on the defensive side of the ball will rattle Western Kentucky.

– #3 Xavier vs. #7 West Virginia (7:10 PM): The Musketeers may be the least heralded #3 seed of all-time and could be considered a mid-major of Cinderella of sorts, but after West Virginia knocked out Duke I’m pretty sure the Mountaineers have enough national goodwill that the crowd won’t be rooting that hard against them.

As I noted in an earlier preview, Xavier throws out a deep lineup with 5 players now averaging between 10.1 and 12.1 PPG to go along with a solid defense. For those that still doubt they are a legit team, I would suggest that you look at their wins over teams from power conferences in the first 2 rounds. Yes, Georgia’s record was mediocre at best, but they were hot coming off their SEC tournament run while Purdue had been a solid team the entire season in the Big 10, which admittedly isn’t having a great year.

West Virginia will counter with Joe Alexander, a rtmsf favorite, and a set of players who have adjusted well to the contrast in styles between current coach Bob Huggins and former coach John Beilein. As anyone who watched this team come from behind to beat #2 seed Duke in the 2nd round knows, Huggins has a nice stable of guys who can really play as they controlled the 2nd half of that game.

Opening Line: Pick ’em
Prediction: I’m going with the A-10 champs. These two teams are pretty evenly matched. Xavier doesn’t have a “star player” like Alexander, but they probably have a little more depth and experience and I’m going with that for the win.

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