Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Chicago Region Preview

The Chicago Region, in many people's minds, is the easiest region to project. They say that Illinois has a cakewalk to the Final Four. Well, they may have a bus ride to each game (Chicago, St. Louis), but they sure do not have a cakewalk. They have probably the best #3 seed and one of the top #2 seeds in Arizona and Oklahoma State, respectively. Just by that, it's obvious that the Illini are not going to waltz through the Chicago Region like it was the Big Ten.

Favorite: Illinois. The obvious front-runner from the Chicago Region heading into the Tournament. Dee Brown, Deron Williams, and Luther Head are a great perimeter trio, while Roger Power and James Augustine are underrated inside players. However, down the stretch, the Illini struggled a little bit. If a team has a go-to post man, Illinois could have some trouble guarding him.

Other Contenders: Arizona, Oklahoma State. Arizona is one of the more streaky teams in the country, capable of winning the championship or losing in the first round. Salim Stoudamaire is the best shooter in basketball, while Channing Frye is one of the best post players in the country. Oklahoma State is experienced and has John Lucas and Joey Graham to carry them throughout the tournament, as they did last season. Lack of a true center and inability to play against zones could hinder them.

Sleepers: LSU, Alabama. LSU has one of the best post tandems in the country in Brandon Bass and Glen Davis. If Tack Minor and the rest of the guards can hit shots, the Tigers can make some noise. Fellow SEC team Alabama has one of the top starting fives in the nation. However, they lack depth. Kennedy Winston is great at taking it to the basket. The turnover-prone Tide need to take care of the ball better.

Mid-Major Teams to Watch: Southern Illinois, UW-Milwaukee. Southern Illinois is tournament-tested, and have one of the best players in the Field in Darren Brooks. He can do it all. The Salukis also play great defense. UW-Milwaukee has won 17 of 18 and runs a press that can disrupt any team's offense. Ed McCants and Noah Tucker can carry the Panthers.

Top Five Players:
1. Salim Stoudamaire, Arizona
2. Brandon Bass, LSU
3. Luther Head, Illinois
4. Kennedy Winston, Alabama
5. Darren Brooks, Southern Illinois

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