Saturday, March 18, 2006

Saturday's Second Round Breakdown

Duke vs. George Washington- This has the potential to be a high-scoring game that could be closer than some would expect. Duke is coming off of a less-than-impressive victory over Southern, while GW came back from down by 18 points to defeat UNC-Wilmington. The Colonials' pressure defense and athleticism could give Duke problems, as the Blue Devils' have had trouble defending athletic teams that can spread the floor and take defenders one-on-one. Moreover, point guard Greg Paulus is prone to making bad decisions on occasion. On the other side, it will be interesting to see how Pops Mensah-Bonsu defends Shelden Williams. If he does not allow Williams to have a huge day, GW has a chance. Additionally, the plethora of wings that GW has are going to have slow down J.J. Redick. Prediction: Duke 86, George Washington 80

Florida vs. Wisconsin-Milwaukee- Both teams looked pretty impressive in their first games, as Florida destroyed South Alabama, while UW-Milwaukee pulled off yet another upset with a win over Oklahoma. Will their second straight Cinderella run continue? If it is to happen, they are going to have to force turnovers like they did against Oklahoma. However, the Sooners were forced out of their style when the Panthers sped the game up. Florida does not mind running with UWM. The Gators have superb athletes all over the roster and can play at any pace. Florida's Corey Brewer is going to have to slow down Joah Tucker, while UW-Milwaukee is going to have to find a way to not allow Joakim Noah to have a major impact on the game. Prediction: Florida 77, Wisconsin-Milwaukee 72

Tennessee vs. Wichita State- Wichita State is a popular pick to upset Tennessee and move on to the Sweet Sixteen. But will it happen? The Shockers looked outstanding in their blowout win over Seton Hall in the first round, while Tennessee needed a shot with 0.4 seconds by Chris Lofton to down #15 Winthrop. Wichita State's frontcourt is very good, while the Volunteers don't really have an overwhelming frontline. If the Shockers can get Andre Patterson or Major Wingate in foul trouble early, the Volunteers are in trouble. On the other side, the backcourt of C.J. Watson and Chris Lofton are going to have to have a huge day to keep Tennessee in the game. Wichita State's backcourt is only average defensively, so it could happen. Should be a great game. Prediction: Wichita State 73, Tennessee 69

Illinois vs. Washington- Should be one of the best match-ups of the day. It will be a contrast of styles, between Illinois, who likes to play a half-court, defensive-minded game, and Washington, who likes to get out and run and score points in transition. The Fighting Illini held off Air Force in the first round, while Washington took command of Utah State from the opening tap and rolled to victory. The main key to the game will be the point guard play. Dee Brown is one of the best in the country, while the Huskies' Justin Dentmon is only a freshman. He can't allow Brown to dictate the game. For Washington, Brandon Roy is going to have to have another big game. If Rich McBride defends him, he could go off and take over the game. Brian Randle would give him a much more difficult time scoring, but I don't know if Bruce Weber is going to make that defensive switch. Washington showed against Utah State that they can play a half-court game in addition to their normal transition game, which gives them a good shot at winning this game. Prediction: Washington 75, Illinois 73

LSU vs. Texas A&M- This should be another good game, as Texas A&M looks to continue their upset run through the Tournament, while LSU tries to move on to the Sweet Sixteen. The Aggies upset Syracuse in the first round, while the Tigers struggled against Iona early on, but dominated them in the second half. Texas A&M likes to really slow the pace down and keep the game in the 40s or 50s. The problem for them is that LSU has the personnel to play in the half-court effectively. Glen Davis is nearly unstoppable down low, while Tyrus Thomas and Tasmin Mitchell are athletic and versatile. Texas A&M does not have the frontcourt talent or athleticism to hang with those guys. On the perimeter, Acie Law and Darrell Mitchell should be a great matchup. When it comes down to it, the Aggies simply do not have as many weapons as LSU does. Prediction: LSU 63, Texas A&M 55

Boston College vs. Montana- For some reason, this might be the least exciting game of the day. Considering the fact that Montana was in control for the entire game in their win over Nevada and Boston College needed double-overtime to take down Pacific, it is interesting to see that no one is really talking about the game. BC needs to start playing the way they did in the ACC Tournament--and the second overtime of their first-round game. For Montana to pull off another upset, Andrew Strait is going to need a big game down low, both offensively and defensively, in order to counter Craig Smith. The Boston College backcourt is going to have to step up and start to provide balance on the perimeter. Marcellus Kemp for Nevada had a huge game against Montana; it will be interesting to see if anyone on BC can duplicate that. In the end, Montana won't be able to deal with BC's physical style of play and BC's frontcourt will get them the victory. Prediction: Boston College 69, Montana 60

UCLA vs. Alabama- This should be another very good game between a higher seed and a team in the middle of the bracket (7-10 range). UCLA had one of the easier wins of the Tournament in their demolition of Belmont in the first round. On the other hand, Alabama looked very good in their game against Marquette, but they needed a heroic performance from Jean Felix to come out with a victory. Felix had 31 points and 8 three-pointers off the bench for the Crimson Tide. It may take another day like that from a role player on Alabama to beat UCLA. This is going to be a contrast of personnel. Alabama has mainly two guards, while UCLA has one of the top backcourts in the country in Jordan Farmar and Arron Afflalo. Farmar vs. Ronald Steele should be a great matchup. UCLA does not have a host of talented big men, while the frontcourt is where Alabama thrives. Jermareo Davidson and Richard Hendrix are excellent on the glass, while Luc Richard Mbah a Moute is the main frontcourt player for UCLA. However, the Bruins showed, against Cal and Leon Powe, that they can slow down talented post players, and Alabama did not really dominate the paint against Marquette, who has even less talented frontcourt players that UCLA. Prediction: UCLA 72, Alabama 66

Gonzaga vs. Indiana- One of the more popular second-round upset picks this year. Gonzaga, as usual, struggled against inferior competition when it just got by Xavier in the first round. On the other side, Indiana was losing for nearly the entire game until Robert Vaden hit a three to give them the lead in the final minute. In other words, both teams are going to have to step their games up in the second round. Marco Killingsworth going up against J.P. Batista should be an outstanding battle down low. Killingsworth is more physical, while Batista tends to get into foul trouble at times. Indiana plays very good defense, due to their athleticism and versatility. Robert Vaden is going to have to play very good defense on Adam Morrison, and not allow to have another 35-point performance like he did in the first round. If they do not allow Morrison to dominate the game, they will pull the upset. Their amount of perimeter players that can shoot the ball with consistency is going to give the Bulldogs' problems. Prediction: Indiana 75, Gonzaga 71

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