Wednesday, March 14, 2007

South Region First-Round Previews


Ohio State vs. Central Connecticut State: The Buckeyes are one of the favorites to reach the Final Four and contend for the National Championship. However, they are young and relatively inexperienced. None of that will matter against the Blue Devils, though. Even it was the other Blue Devils. Greg Oden is too much for CCSU.

BYU vs. Xavier: Another game pitting two teams from non-BCS conferences in the first round. The Cougars won the Mountain West regular-season title, but fell in the tournament title game at UNLV. The Musketeers ran pretty much the same course, peaking late in conference play but falling in the conference tournament. The key will be Xavier’s versatile frontcourt matching up with BYU’s duo of Trent Plaisted and Keena Young. Moreover, an interesting thing to keep an eye on will be BYU essentially going on the road to face the lower-seeded Musketeers.

Tennessee vs. Long Beach State: This will be the highest-scoring game of the first round. Both teams love to pressure the ball defensively and get up and down the court at the other end to get points. LBSU struggled early in the year, but really started to fill it up during Big West play. They are fearless offensively. Tennessee played well late in the year, and even knocked off Florida. Neither team has much of an inside option, so whoever has the most scoring options should win. That goes to LBSU. However, they will have to make sure Chris Lofton doesn’t go off for UT.

Virginia vs. Albany: This should be a very good game, featuring plenty of talented guards. UVA has one of the best backcourts in the country in Sean Singletary and J.R. Reynolds, while Albany counters with the ultra-quick Jamar Wilson. The Great Danes put a scare into Connecticut in the first round last season, and will hope to do it again. Virginia has struggled away from home this year, and lacks a consistent third option and frontcourt production. If Albany can get points in the paint and handle the backboards, they have a shot.

Louisville vs. Stanford: A very intriguing match-up between two teams that improved as the year went on. Louisville made a surprising run late in the season, and is playing very well right now. Rick Pitino has weapons all over their roster, and is a tough team to match-up with because of their talent and athleticism. Stanford backed their way into the Tournament, but now that they are here, they can make noise. They have a terrific frontcourt, led by the Lopez twins and Lawrence Hill. I’m looking forward to this one.

Texas A&M vs. Pennsylvania: Ivy teams usually put a scare into a higher-seeded team, but I don’t think that will be the case this year. The Quakers have a great inside-outside duo in Ibrahim Jaaber and Mark Zoller, but not enough weapons outside of that. A&M might have the most potential to reach the Final Four out of this region. Expect a low-scoring game, though. Neither team is particularly explosive offensively.

Nevada vs. Creighton: Why did the committee have to match these two teams up? Both are potential sleepers in the Tournament, and have the chops to pull off a few upsets. Moreover, both teams were significantly underseeded and will go into the Dance with a chip on their shoulders. Nevada has a terrific trio in guards Ramon Sessions and Marcelus Kemp and forward Nick Fazekas, while Creighton counters with the inside-outside duo of Nate Funk and Anthony Tolliver. Which supporting cast will step up?

Memphis vs. North Texas: This game has one of the most interesting coaching storylines in the Tournament. North Texas coach, Johnny Jones, was the Memphis coach before John Calipari stepped up and took over the reins. Both teams have plenty of athletes, so expect an up-tempo game with players that can attack the basket and shoot the ball. Even though North Texas may not have the weapons to pull off the upset, I think that they will give Memphis a good run due to versatile athletes.

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