Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Minneapolis Region Preview


The Minneapolis Region might be the best region in the NCAA Tournament. They have four legit Final Four contenders, and several mid-majors that can potentially pull off an upset. Villanova has the #1 seed, but with Allan Ray's health in question, they are vulnerable. Ohio State was the Big Ten regular season champ, Florida was the SEC Tournament champion, Boston College was the ACC runner-up, and Nevada won the WAC. The list goes on. In other words, this region is stacked. Don't be surprised when your pick to make the national semi-finals is knocked out early.

Favorite: Villanova. The Wildcats were one of the best teams in the country all season long. However, they were blown out by Pitt in the Big East Tournament and Allan Ray is not 100% after his eye injury. They have the best backcourt in the country in Ray, Randy Foye, Mike Nardi, and Kyle Lowry. Foye is a very good all-around player; Ray is an outstanding scorer; Nardi can shoot; and Lowry is always around the ball. The only problem they have is inside--they don't have a go-to-guy in the post. Will Sheridan does decently well down low, but he doesn't have the ability to get a bucket in crunch time.

Contenders: Ohio State, Florida, Boston College. Each of these three teams have a chance to make a run at the Final Four. Ohio State has several very good shooters who can hit the three, led by the solid backcourt of Jamar Butler and Je'Kel Foster. J.J. Sullinger is versatile, while Terence Dials was the Big Ten Player of the Year down low for the Buckeyes. However, OSU lacks post depth and, if they aren't hitting their threes, will go down early. Florida has the most balance in the country and can play any style of basketball. Moreover, they don't get blown out and have not lost by more than six points all season. Al Horford and Joakim Noah are two athletic big men, while Corey Brewer is a versatile forward, and Taurean Green is a very good point guard. Boston College is hot, and nearly knocked off Duke in the ACC title game. Jared Dudley and Craig Smith form one of the best forward tandems in the country, while Sean Williams is a good shot-blocker. Louis Hinnant is a solid all-around guard, and Sean Marshall is a physical wing that can shoot the ball. Tyrese Rice is a playmaker at the guard spot.

Sleeper: Georgetown. The Hoyas could make a run in this bracket, depending on the matchups. They are an excellent shooting team that can score at every position. Plus, they have versatile forwards that are difficult to guard in Brandon Bowman and Jeff Green. Roy Hibbert is a much-improved center down low. Ashanti Cook is a scoring guard, and Darrell Owens and Jonathan Wallace are solid shooters. If Georgetown is hitting their perimeter shots, look out for the Hoyas.

Mid-Major to Watch: Wisconsin-Milwaukee. The Panthers pulled off back-to-back upsets last season, and could do the same this year. Joah Tucker is a difficult matchup in the frontcourt. He and scoring guard Boo Davis form a great duo, while Adrian Tigert is a solid low-post player. Throw in several more long, athletic players, and UW-Milwaukee is tough to beat. They like to press and force turnovers, disrupting opponents' normal offense.

Top Five Players (only one per team):
1. Randy Foye, G, Villanova
2. Nick Fazekas, F, Nevada
3. Craig Smith, F, Boston College
4. Terence Dials, C, Ohio State
5. Alando Tucker, F, Wisconsin

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