Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Oakland Region Preview


The Oakland Region is arguably the weakest of the four regions. There is not a clear-cut Final Four team in the group. Memphis is the #1 seed, but got a very tough draw. They have a tough match-up in every round, including the first round against Oral Roberts. Kansas and Pittsburgh are going to play in the best second-round game of the Tournament, while the bottom of the bracket is wide-open.

Favorites and Contenders: There is not an obvious favorite in this region. I have seen various people tout UCLA, Gonzaga, Kansas, Memphis, and even Pittsburgh as potential Final Four teams. Starting at the top, Memphis is one of the most athletic teams in the country. They force teams into an up-tempo, turnover-filled game. Rodney Carney and Shawne Williams form an excellent forward duo, while Darius Washington is a playmaker at the guard spot. They are vulnerable down low, but if Joey Dorsey can hold his own, the Tigers will be fine. UCLA is becoming the favorite to emerge from the bottom half of the region. Their backcourt of Jordan Farmar and Arron Afflalo is second-to-none, and they could carry the Bruins for a few rounds. They don't have a legit low post player, which could hurt them against teams with good big men. Gonzaga struggled against mediocre WCC teams throughout the season, but they have the best player in the country in Adam Morrison. J.P. Batista is a go-to-guy on the interior. However, the Bulldogs don't play much defense, which could hinder them against a balanced team. Kansas is the most-popular pick to reach Indianapolis. Brandon Rush can be a dominant scorer, while Julian Wright is one of the most versatile players in the country. They Jayhawks are very young and inexperienced, which could come back to hurt them. Pittsburgh is the most experienced of any of these teams, led by senior Carl Krauser. They play a physical brand of ball, and are also great on the defensive end. Aaron Gray is a double-double machine on the inside. The Panthers don't have an explosive third scorer like most good teams do, but their style of play creates problems for opponents.

Sleepers: Indiana, Arkansas. Indiana is playing excellent basketball lately, and have won five of six. Marco Killingsworth is a go-to-guy on the interior and can carry the Hoosiers. Marshall Strickland and Robert Vaden lead a host of perimeter players that can all shoot the ball well. Their defense is also very solid. Arkansas had to go on a hot streak to reach the NCAA Tournament, but now that they are in, they can make some noise. Ronnie Brewer is an excellent all-around player, while Jonathon Modica is a nice scoring complement. Charlie Thomas and Darian Townes need to produce down low.

Mid-Major to Watch: San Diego State. The Aztecs are led by one of the best inside-outside combos in the country in Brandon Heath and Marcus Slaughter. Moreover, Florida transfer Mohamed Abukar is a very good offensive player up front. SDSU is versatile on offense and can beat you in a variety of ways. Moreover, they have some nice momentum after winning 16 of their last 18.

Top Five Players (only one per team):
1. Adam Morrison, F, Gonzaga
2. Rodney Carney, F, Memphis
3. Ronnie Brewer, G, Arkansas
4. Marco Killingsworth, F, Indiana
5. Arron Afflalo, G, UCLA

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