Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Oakland Region First-Round Previews


Memphis vs. Oral Roberts- A longshot upset chance. Oral Roberts is one of the best #16-seeds to come around in awhile, while many question Memphis' ability as a result of their conference competition. However, the Tigers are far too deep and athletic for the Golden Eagles. Caleb Green should have a big game for ORU, though.

Arkansas vs. Bucknell- Another great first-round game. Bucknell pulled off the biggest upset of last year's tourney, beating Kansas, but this year they won't sneak up on anyone. Arkansas went on a hot streak at the end of the season to get a decent seed in the NCAA Tournament and will look to make the most of it. It will be interesting to see the Razorbacks' athletes against Bucknell's slow-down, fundamentally-sound game.

Pittsburgh vs. Kent State- Probably the least likely of the 12-5 upsets. Pitt may have been underseeded as a #5 seed, but they have great potential. Kent State won the MAC regular season and conference tournaments, and made the Elite Eight a few years ago. The backcourt matchup of Jay Youngblood and Carl Krauser should be interesting. However, the Golden Flashes don't have enough firepower up front to contend with Aaron Gray.

Kansas vs. Bradley- Two of the hottest teams in the country square off. Kansas won the Big 12 Tournament, while Bradley made a run to the finals of the MVC Tournament. Patrick O'Bryant can cause problems with his size down low, while Kansas' perimeter game is superior to the Braves. Brandon Rush vs. Marcellus Sommerville will be a good battle between two versatile offensive players.

Indiana vs. San Diego State- Could be one of the best games of the first round. The battle between Marco Killingsworth of Indiana and Marcus Slaughter is going to be excellent. Moreover, both teams have solid balance on the perimeter, and have many offensive weapons. The team that plays the better defense will win. The Hoosiers have been playing very well lately, while SDSU has a lot of momentum. Should be a good one.

Gonzaga vs. Xavier- Two teams that, a week ago, did not expect to be where they are now. Gonzaga struggled in the WCC Tournament, bringing their seed down, while Xavier went on a run and won the Atlantic-10 Tournament, just to get into the field. Both teams were also playing much better in January than they did in February. In other words, it's tough to predict what is going to happen. Justin Cage and the rest of the solid Xavier frontcourt are going to have their hands full with Adam Morrison and J.P. Batista.

Marquette vs. Alabama- Another great first-round matchup. Both teams played well in February to get bids, but both had early conference tournament exits. Which team is going to right the ship first? Marquette made a surprising run through the Big East and pulled off some quality wins, but they have not proven that they can win consistently away from home. On the other hand, Alabama is inconsistent, in general. It will be interesting to see if Marquette, who lacks solid post players, can hang with Bama's inside duo of Richard Hendrix and Jermareo Davidson.

UCLA vs. Belmont- Both teams share the same nickname, but that's about it. Belmont struggled to win the Atlantic Sun; UCLA dominated the Pac-10 Tournament. Josh Goodwin is an excellent shooter for Belmont and Justin Hare and Boomer Herndon are a solid inside-outside combo, but that is nowhere near enough to beat UCLA. UCLA starts their quest for a Final Four with an easy win.

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