Friday, March 24, 2006

Friday's Sweet Sixteen Previews

Wichita State vs. George Mason- A dream game for mid-major fans everywhere. Two Cinderella teams will face off in a rematch of a Bracket Buster game played in February in which George Mason went on the road to beat Wichita State. George Mason, a team many people thought should not even be in the NCAA Tournament, upset Michigan State and North Carolina to get here, while Wichita State dominated Seton Hall and then made clutch baskets down the stretch to defeat Tennessee. It should be a great game, with the winner taking on the Huskies of either Connecticut or Washington. A key match-up will be Wichita State's PJ Couisnard vs. George Mason's Folarin Campbell. Both have had great NCAA Tournaments and will look to carry their team to another victory. The inside battle should be excellent as well. Jai Lewis is a beast on the interior for GMU, while Will Thomas is a ferocious rebounder. WSU counters with MVC Player of the Year Paul Miller and underrated Kyle Wilson. The guard play is also very even, with shooter Sean Ogirri leading the way for the Shockers and Lamar Butler and Tony Skinn forming a solid one-two punch for the Patriots. With such an evenly-matched game, it is going to come down to who can make the clutch shots down the stretch. With that in mind, I think George Mason's overall balance is going to be the difference. Not to mention the fact that they are playing close to home in Washington, D.C. Either way, it should be an outstanding game. Prediction: George Mason 68, Wichita State 65

Connecticut vs. Washington- Battle of the Huskies. Two supremely athletic and deep teams will go at it with the right to go to the Elite Eight on the line. Connecticut, by far the most talented team in the country, has not played to their potential at all this Tournament and struggled to wins over Albany and Kentucky. Washington, on the other hand, looked very impressive in their victory over Utah State, in which they controlled the game, and their come-from-behind win against Illinois. If UConn focuses and plays hard for 40 minutes, no one will beat them. That has only happened on a few occasions this season, though. Meanwhile, Washington is going to have trouble with the tempo of the game. If they play to their transition game, UConn's superior athletes will get easy baskets. If they slow the game down, UConn will just toss the ball inside to their host of big men. However, any team that has Brandon Roy has a chance. He is one of the best players in the country, and will need a big game to keep Washington in it. The Huskies are going to have to find someone to guard him. The key personnel match-up will be Washington's Bobby Jones vs. UConn's Rudy Gay. Jones is the only player on the Washington team with the size and athleticism to guard Gay. He held Dee Brown to 5 of 18 shooting, demonstrating his ability to defend quicker players. Jones can defend any position on the floor, and will need to shut down Gay if Washington is to win this game. Moreover, Justin Dentmon is going to need to play a great game against UConn's Marcus Williams. He is a freshman, but has played very well in the NCAA Tournament. Williams is the best point guard in the country, though. The difference will be UConn's depth and inside play. Jon Brockman and Jamaal Williams are not big enough to defend Hilton Armstrong and Josh Boone, while Mike Jensen is simply not strong enough. If Washington plays a near-perfect game or UConn decides to play with a lack of interest, they could pull the upset. UConn is prone to lackadaisical spells, but I think they will be up for this game. Prediction: Connecticut 76, Washington 69

Villanova vs. Boston College- One of the most anticipated match-ups of the Tournament so far. The current co-Big East Champion takes on a former Big East power. Villanova, at the top of the rankings throughout the season, defeated Monmouth and Arizona in less-than-impressive fashion, while Boston College, a popular sleeper pick to the Final Four, came back to beat Pacific in double overtime and then blew out Montana in the second round. It will be a contrast of styles. Villanova's quick, aggressive guards against Boston College's strength and power inside. 'Nova has been vulnerable to teams with excellent frontcourts, while BC has been suspect against squads with great guard groups. It should be interesting. The best head-to-head match-up will take place between Randy Foye of Villanova and BC's Jared Dudley. Foye is the biggest of the 'Nova guards, while Dudley is the most versatile of the BC forwards. He is going to need to stay in front of Foye and not allow him to constantly penetrate for easy baskets. On the other hand, if Dudley posts Foye up, Foye could be in trouble as Dudley is such a solid all-around player that he can overpower Foye or pass out of a double-team. Allen Ray vs. Sean Marshall is going to be another interesting battle. Marshall is BC's best perimeter defender, while Ray is an outstanding all-around scorer. Boston College's perimeter players have been performing much better lately, which will be key. Up front, Will Sheridan is going to have his hands full with BC's Craig Smith, one of the best post players in the country. Smith could have a huge game. If he does, BC will win. The difference will be Boston College's overall balance. They have a solid perimeter game to slow down Villanova's somewhat, and they also have a far superior interior group to overpower the Wildcats inside. The old Big East gets the win in what will be an unbelievable game. Prediction: Boston College 72, Villanova 70

Florida vs. Georgetown- A battle between two balanced teams that, at the start of the season, were not popular picks to make it here. However, each group improved as the season went on, and they are both peaking at the right time. Florida has been the most dominant team of the Tournament so far. They destroyed both South Alabama and Wisconsin-Milwaukee en route to the Sweet Sixteen. On the other hand, Georgetown has also been very impressive. They survived a close game against Northern Iowa, and then overpowered Ohio State on the interior to blow out the Buckeyes. Both teams are fairly evenly matched, which makes for a phenomenal game between two teams with loads of talent. The most intriguing battle comes between Georgetown's Jeff Green and Florida's Joakim Noah. They each are versatile players that usually pose match-up problems for the opposition. Noah has been one of the most impressive players in the Tournament, while Green is an inside-outside threat. Noah's athleticism and quickness could be the difference. Corey Brewer of Florida and Brandon Bowman of Georgetown are also going to be matched-up. Bowman has been a major disappointment so far in the Big Dance, while Brewer has played well. Bowman is going to have to step his game up if the Hoyas are going to win. Also up front, Roy Hibbert of Georgetown has been outstanding. At 7-2, he is a load for anyone to handle. Florida's athletic super-rebounder Al Horford is going to do his best. On the perimeter, the Hoyas' Ashanti Cook has performed well in the NCAA Tournament, and could be in line for a big game. Florida's Lee Humphrey is a shooter, but does not have the athleticism or quickness to stay with Cook. Also, the Gators' Taurean Green is going to have to step up his game. Florida's overall balance will end up being the difference. They have the frontcourt to hang with the Hoyas, and their backcourt might be superior all-around. Watch out for Noah and Brewer to come up with big plays down the stretch in what will be a close game. Prediction: Florida 67, Georgetown 65

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