Friday, March 21, 2008

Saturday's Second Round Breakdown

Duke vs. West Virginia (2:10 PM): This is going to be one of the more exciting second-round games of the day. Both teams love to shoot the three, and neither team has much of a go-to-guy down low. Expect a lot of perimeter action between two well-coached, well-disciplined teams. Duke struggled mightily against No. 15 Belmont in the first-round before Gerald Henderson drove the length of the court for the game-winning layup with 12 seconds left. West Virginia, on the other hand, knocked off Arizona in the opener by 10. A key match-up to watch will be WVU’s Joe Alexander vs. Duke’s Kyle Singler. Both players can score inside and out and usually create match-up problems for their opponents. In the end, Duke’s perimeter depth and talent will give it the slight edge. Prediction: Duke 73, West Virginia 70

Wisconsin vs. Kansas State (4:20 PM): An interesting contrast between a Wisconsin team that is very balanced and relies heavily on its system at both ends of the floor and a Kansas State team that uses its abundance of talent to overpower teams. The Badgers struggled early on against Cal State Fullerton but pulled away in the second half, while Kansas State was very impressive against USC. Bill Walker controlled the first half and Michael Beasley dominated the second for the Wildcats. It will be interesting to see if Wisconsin will be able to slow down Beasley; Brian Butch is not quick enough to defend him. On the other side, is KSU disciplined enough to beat the Badgers? I think Bo Ryan will have something up his sleeve to slow down Walker, Beasley and the rest of the young Wildcats. Prediction: Wisconsin 68, Kansas State 61

Xavier vs. Purdue (4:40 PM): A very solid game between two balanced teams that can beat you in a variety of ways. The only different is that one is filled with upperclassmen and experience (Xavier), while the other has a plethora of freshmen and young players (Purdue). The Musketeers were down in their first-round game to Georgia for the first 30 minutes, but they went on a run late in the second half won going away. Purdue took control from the opening tip against Baylor and never looked back. The forward battles between Purdue’s Robbie Hummel and Scott Martin and Xavier’s Derrick Brown and Josh Duncan will be key. I think the difference is going to be Drew Lavender at the point for Xavier; he will get them the win. Prediction: Xavier 71, Purdue 65

Washington State vs. Notre Dame (6:40 PM): An interesting game between two teams that play completely different ways. Washington State likes to play a grind-it-out type of game, while Notre Dame likes to get up and down the court and would rather play in the 70s and 80s than the 60s. WSU won its first-round game against Winthrop by outscoring them by 31 in the second half after going into the half tied, while Notre Dame ended any talk of George Mason repeating its Cinderella run. For Washington State, the Cougs will have to slow down Luke Harangody up front, and get the tempo in their favor. If Notre Dame has to play a strictly halfcourt game, the Irish will fall. In the end, WSU’s defense will be too much for Notre Dame to overcome. Prediction: Washington State 70, Notre Dame 63

Stanford vs. Marquette (6:45 PM): A complete contrast of personnel. Stanford has one of the best frontcourts in the country, led by the Lopez twins, Brook and Robin, and Lawrence Hill. On the other, Marquette has a loaded perimeter group, including Dominic James and Jerel McNeal, as well as Wesley Matthews. Which group will prevail? Stanford’s guards did a great job against Cornell on Thursday, hitting their perimeter shots, while Marquette’s Lazar Hayward gave great inside production. I think Stanford will be able to keep James out of the lane, and their guards will take care of the ball so Marquette can’t get steals and transition baskets. Brook Lopez will dominate down low. Prediction: Stanford 68, Marquette 58

Kansas vs. UNLV (6:50 PM): Definitely the biggest mismatch of the day, in my opinion. Kansas is one of the most complete teams in the country, while UNLV – despite the Rebels’ outstanding performance against Kent State on Thursday – has defeated just two NCAA Tournament teams all season and are simply not good enough to hang with the Jayhawks. Wink Adams is an outstanding guard who can single-handedly keep the Rebels in the game, but Kansas has a great group of perimeter defenders who will stifle Adams and co. UNLV reached the Sweet Sixteen last season after upsetting No. 2-seeded Wisconsin, but the Rebels’ run stops here this year. Kansas is just too balanced and too talented. Prediction: Kansas 79, UNLV 67

Pittsburgh vs. Michigan State (9:10 PM): Two of the best programs in college basketball over the past several years battle it out in one of the best second-round match-ups of the Tournament. Both teams have the talent and potential to make a deep run in the Big Dance, but both have been just inconsistent enough to lose to anyone on a given night, as well. Pittsburgh dominated its first-round game against Oral Roberts, while Michigan State handled a hot Temple team comfortably. The key match-up is going to be the frontcourt battle between Pitt’s Sam Young and DeJuan Blair and Michigan State’s Raymar Morgan and Goran Suton. Another key will be Michigan State freshman Kalin Lucas’ ability to handle the point against an experienced Pitt backcourt. The difference will be Michigan State’s inside-outside balance and the Spartans’ defense. Prediction: Michigan State 69, Pittsburgh 66

UCLA vs. Texas A&M (9:15 PM): An interesting rematch of a non-conference game from 2006-2007 between these two teams that was also played in Anaheim. UCLA won that game by three – expect a larger margin of defeat on Saturday. The Bruins absolutely destroyed Mississippi Valley State in the first-round, while Texas A&M played one of its better games in the past couple of months when it beat BYU on Thursday. The Aggies do have the inside-outside talent to hang with UCLA, but only if Josh Carter is knocking down threes and the inside trio of Joseph Jones, DeAndre Jordan and Bryan Davis are playing cohesively. A&M just hasn’t been consistent enough to make one think they can pull it together and upset the Bruins. Furthermore, with Darren Collison at the point, UCLA has a huge edge at the most important position on the floor. Prediction: UCLA 75, Texas A&M 61

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