Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Sweet Sixteen Breakdown: Minneapolis Region

Favorite: Florida. After the way the Gators have played the past two games, how can you go against them? Villanova is the #1 seed, but have shown some weaknesses, while Boston College has to go through the Wildcats to get to the Elite Eight. Florida has been the most dominant team in the NCAA Tournament so far, dominating both South Alabama and Wisconsin-Milwaukee. They have demonstrated excellent balance, even without great production from point guard Taurean Green. Moreoever, their frontcourt has played as well as any trio in the country. Corey Brewer has been a very good all-around player, while Al Horford is a monster on the glass and in the paint. Joakim Noah may have the most impact in the Tournament of non-All Americans. He is an impossible match-up and and can dominate games. Lee Humphrey has shot almost 60% from three-point range. If Green can step his game up, this team can win the title. Georgetown should provide a challenge, but it will be a game of frontcourts, and Florida has the better one. In the regional final, both Villanova and Boston College would be tough games, but the Gators' balance might be more than either team can handle.

Cinderella: Georgetown. Like West Virginia, the Hoyas are not much of a Cinderella as plenty of people had them in the Sweet Sixteen, but the rest of the teams left are Top-4 seeds, which is far from any type of Cinderella range. Georgetown, as a 7th seed, survived a tight game with Northern Iowa in the first round but blew out Ohio State in the next round. They did this with only a combined eight points in two games from talented forward Brandon Bowman. If he steps his game up, this team could make a Final Four run. Roy Hibbert has developed into a dominant center within the span of two games, while Ashanti Cook has provided perimeter balance. Jeff Green showed off his all-around ability, and the rest of the backcourt have contributed solid minutes and numbers. With their balance and dominant frontcourt, the Hoyas will be tough to beat. However, Florida will meet them in the Sweet Sixteen. The Gators have the frontcourt to match Georgetown's, and also have a better overall team. Either way, it has been a great season for John Thompson III and the Hoyas.

Most intriguing personnel matchup: Villanova's Randy Foye vs. Boston College's Jared Dudley. While it is not a guarantee that these two players will go head-to-head, it is likely that they will face-off against each other at one time or another during the course of the game. Foye is the biggest of the 'Nova guards, while Dudley is the most versatile of the BC forwards. Foye has had to match-up with the likes of Rudy Gay, Taj Gray, and P.J. Tucker so he used to going against bigger players. However, taller, more athletic players (like Gay) have had defensive success against Foye. Dudley is strong, but not overly quick. 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. This is going to be a very interesting battle.

First-weekend knockout that will be here next year: Ohio State. Did you expect anyone else? Yes, the Buckeyes lose Big Ten Player of the Year Terence Dials, shooter Je'Kel Foster, clutch player Matt Sylvester, and all-around stud J.J. Sullinger, but don't cry for Thad Matta. He brings in arguably the best recruiting class in the country to go with the returnees. Greg Oden is the best high school player in years and could dominate the Big Ten for at least a year. On the perimeter, Mike Conley is an excellent point guard that has played with Oden in high school. Their chemistry will be noticeable immediately. On the wing, Daequan Cook and David Lighty are two of the top five shooting guards coming into college. Add those four to returning starter Jamar Butler and super sixth man Ron Lewis, and the Buckeyes are going to be loaded.

All-First Weekend Team:
Guard- Randy Foye, Villanova: 20.5 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 2.5 apg, 3.5 spg
Guard- Mustafa Shakur, Arizona: 19.0 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 7.0 apg
Forward- Craig Smith, Boston College: 23.5 ppg, 14.5 rpg
Forward- Joakim Noah, Florida: 16.5 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 6.5 apg, 2.5 spg, 4.5 bpg
Center- Roy Hibbert, Georgetown: 18.5 ppg, 11.5 rpg, 2.0 bpg
Sixth Man- Jared Dudley, Boston College: 21.5 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 4.0 apg, 2.0 spg

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