Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Austin Region Preview

The Austin Region is said to be the weakest bracket. However, I think that it has some quality teams capable of running the table to the Final Four. Duke is at the top, as usual, while Syracuse got a seed that might be a little too low. The bottom of the bracket is set up perfectly for Oklahoma.

Favorite: Duke. The Blue Devils won the ACC Tournament to get yet another #1 seed. JJ Redick and Daniel Ewing are an outstanding wing combo, and Sean Dockery is back to provide an actual point guard. Shelden Williams is one of the best low-post players in the country. Depth could be an issue with the Blue Devils, but they are getting some of that back lately. If they don't tire out, the rest of the region should watch out.

Other Contenders: Syracuse, Oklahoma. Nope, not Kentucky. The Wildcats are overrated and can't score if they needed to. Syracuse seems to be hitting their stride again, and still have one of the top inside-outside duos in Gerry McNamara and Hakim Warrick. They need support, however. Oklahoma has the whole bottom bracket to themselves. Taj Gray and Kevin Bookout lead a Sooners team that plays off of emotion. If they come out strong, it's over for the opposition.

Sleepers: Cincinnati, Iowa. Yes, both of these teams play each other in the first round. But the winner could make a decent run because of the prospect of facing Kentucky in the next round. Cincinnati plays some of the best defense in the country, and has a great post combo in Eric Hicks and Jason Maxiell. Outside shooting is fairly weak, though. Iowa is hot lately, and can be a sleeper if their big three: Jeff Horner, Eric Haluska, and Greg Brunner are hitting on the same cylinder.

Mid-Majors to Watch: UTEP, Old Dominion. Too bad Vermont had to play Syracuse. Couldn't they have gotten Boston College or something? UTEP has a nice tandem in passing extraordinaire Filberto Rivera and mid-range star Omar Thomas. Old Dominion has Alex Loughton inside and Isaiah Hunter on the perimeter. Both of these teams could spring upsets.

Top Five Players:
1. JJ Redick, Duke
2. Hakim Warrick, Syracuse
3. Andrew Bogut, Utah
4. Lawrence Roberts, Mississippi State
5. Taylor Coppenrath, Vermont

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