Monday, April 28, 2008

Paul, Not Kobe, Should Win MVP

Kobe Bryant is the best player in the NBA, and would be the first selection in a pick-up game featuring everyone in the league.

The ten-time All-Star is unbelievably talented and can seemingly score whenever he touches the ball.

Despite all of that, he has never won a Most Valuable Player award – and that streak should continue this season.

Unfortunately, it won’t.

The 6-6 swingman ranked second in the NBA in scoring, and led the Los Angeles Lakers to the best record in the Western Conference and the first seed in the playoffs. In most years, that would certainly be deserving of the MVP.

This year, though, it shouldn’t be.

The New Orleans Hornets improved this season by an astonishing 17 games, and set a franchise record for wins in a season with 56. Furthermore, they finished just one-game back of Bryant’s Lakers in the Western Conference.

The sole reason for the drastic improvement over last season? The player who should be this year’s MVP: Chris Paul.
Paul, a six-foot point guard from Wake Forest University, single-handedly changed the Hornets from a team that was mediocre before his arrival into a squad that can contend for an NBA Championship in just his third season in the league.

He had a phenomenal campaign this year, leading the league in both assists (11.6 per game) and steals (2.7), in addition to averaging 21.1 points per game. Paul is one of just eight players in NBA history to average at least 20 points and 10 assists per game throughout the course of an entire season.

Paul also made his teammates exponentially better. Before Paul arrived on the Hornets three years ago, power forward David West averaged 4.5 points per game in his first two seasons. Now, West is an All-Star.

7-1 center Tyson Chandler was always known as a player who did not live up to his potential during the majority of his seven-year career. However, Chandler really developed into a key performer this season, finishing third in the league in rebounding (11.7 per game) and second in field-goal percentage (62.3 percent).

The fact of the matter is that Paul was – and is still not – surrounded by a group of traditional stars. Still, he finds ways to make plays when it counts and is able to carry the Hornets by himself when necessary.

On the other hand, Bryant has All-Star Pau Gasol and match-up nightmare Lamar Odom at the forward positions, as well as arguably the league’s best young center in Andrew Bynum. Not to take anything away from what Bryant has done this season, but he has simply had more talent at disposal to take some of the pressure off of him.

Without Paul, the Hornets might not be in the playoff hunt. Without Bryant, the Lakers would still have the best frontcourt in the NBA and a playoff-caliber club.

Bryant is known as one of the best late-game players and possibly the most clutch scorer in the NBA. While that may be true, it’s not as if Paul hasn’t done his fair share of fourth-quarter and second-half hero acts.

Did everyone miss Paul’s incredible performance against Dallas in the first game of the playoffs last weekend?

Down by 12 points at halftime to the visiting Mavericks, Paul demonstrated his complete arsenal of talents in the second half, turning that 12-point deficit into a 12-point victory. Paul finished with 35 points, 10 assists and four steals, including 15 points in the third quarter. The Hornets desperately needed a spark at the start of the second half – and Paul’s game-changing, personal 7-0 run was exactly that. Paul was simply not going to allow the Hornets to lose.

If that didn’t cement his status as the 2007-2008 MVP, I’m not sure what else he could have done.

Looking at various “experts” around the league, though, it’s obvious that Bryant is the clear favorite to win the award. But why?

Because his more-talented and experienced team finished one game ahead of Paul’s Hornets?

Because he scores more points and plays in the huge media market of Los Angeles?

Or is it because Bryant has had a longer and more successful career than Paul, who has just been in the league just three seasons and is making his first playoff appearance?

The MVP award is not a career award, and it should not be. That’s what the Hall of Fame is meant for.

The Most Valuable Player award should go to the player who meant the most to his team in a given season.

This year, that player was clearly Chris Paul.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Potential Over Production? No Thanks


It’s the reason Kwame Brown and Michael Olowakandi were the first overall picks in their respective NBA Drafts.

It’s the reason Saer Sene, a player who averaged four points per game in Belgium and had only played basketball for two years, was drafted No. 10 in the 2006 NBA Draft.

It’s the reason Marvin Williams, a sixth man in college, was drafted ahead of sure-fire NBA stars Chris Paul and Deron Williams in the 2005 draft.

And, finally, it’s the reason there are so many foreign players drafted in the first-round of most drafts, despite the fact that one out of every five or six actually pan out.

Even though taking a player based on potential comes with a high risk and it works out less often than it does, teams and general managers continue to do it at an alarming rate. And it looks like the trend is going to continue this year. Just take a look at mock drafts from different media outlets.

DeAndre Jordan averaged less than eight points per game in his lone season with the Texas A&M, and played a combined 29 minutes – scoring seven points and grabbing four rebounds – in his last four college games. However, the seven-footer is projected by both and to get picked tenth in the Draft.

Similarly, Nevada power forward JaVale McGee and Florida center Marreese Speights are projected to be chosen in the top-15 picks by most mock drafts – but neither player even averaged more than ten minutes per game two seasons ago. Sure, they played fairly well this past season, but neither has improved enough to be even considered for selection that early.

Now, look at the flipside.

Chris Douglas-Roberts, a 6-7 wing from Memphis, was an All-American this past season and helped lead the Tigers to the National Championship game. Of course, he’s only projected to be picked in the late-teens to early 20s – and behind all three of the aforementioned players, as well as LSU’s Anthony Randolph, a 6-10 freshman small forward who made 46 percent of his field-goal attempts and 10 percent of his three-point shots.

Why does this keep happening? One word: potential.

It seems that most scouts would rather salivate over a mysterious 6-10 swingman from Italy (say, Danilo Gallinari) than a proven college player who averaged 21 points and 10 rebounds in the Pac-10 Conference (say, Ryan Anderson).

But, hey, if not many people have seen the guy play but he looks good on paper, he has to be better, right?

It boils down to potential over production. Teams would rather take a chance on a supremely talented foreign player or an inexperienced but skilled college player than someone who has consistently produced but might have a lower “ceiling” than the other two.

But at what risk are these players being drafted with? Reflecting back at last year’s draft, I took a look at each foreign player and college freshman that was chosen in the first 20 picks. For some absurd reason, there were nine of these types of players selected, and just five of them had what I consider a decent season (averaging at least five points or rebounds, or three assists). On the other hand, of the other 11 players selected in the first 20 picks, eight fit the “decent” profile.

Of course, this is just one small sampling from one year’s draft class – and a rather arbitrary definition of “decent” – but it shows that these players drafted based on potential are not performing better than the players who actually proved themselves on the college level.

It happens year after year, and I don’t understand it. The teams drafting in the lottery (first 14 picks) need to get players who will make immediate impacts. However, these are the teams drafting based on potential. It doesn’t make sense to wait around for a player to develop while the successful teams are grabbing more proven players.

Oh, wait, but these developing players have potential – how could a team think about passing that up?

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Evans to Choose Memphis

As first reported by the Philadelphia Daily News and Gary Parrish of, the rich are about to get richer. Tyreke Evans, the nation's top unsigned high school recruit, is planning on choosing Memphis as his collegiate destination, according to sources close to the situation. The 6-5 combo guard will make his official decision at a press conference on Wednesday at 3:00 p.m. "Look at everything, spell it all out, Tyreke fits perfectly at Memphis," one source said. "[His family is] looking at what program will give him the most exposure and develop him into an NBA-caliber player." The source also said Evans wanted to get away from Chester (Pa.) after an incident in which he allegedly witnessed a homicide involving his cousin. Another source said: "The feeling is that Tyreke was always going to wind up at Memphis." Evans is ranked as the No. 2 point guard and No. 8 player overall by, and the No. 2 shooting guard and No. 7 player overall by

Pargo to Test Draft Waters

According to a statement released by the university, Gonzaga junior point guard Jeremy Pargo has announced that he will enter the NBA Draft. However, he is not going to sign with an agent, leaving open the option of returning to the Bulldogs for his senior season. "This is a great opportunity for me to play against future NBA players in front of NBA executives," Pargo said. "Going through the early entry process will be a great learning experience. I am looking forward to Orlando and the pre-draft workouts and then I will make the decision whether to return to Gonzaga and earn my degree or stay in the draft." Head coach Mark Few supported Pargo's decision to test the waters. "I have full confidence in Jeremy that he will make an educated and thoughtful decision after going through the process,” Few said. Pargo averaged 12.1 points, 3.7 rebounds and 6.0 assists per game this past season.

Riek to Enter NBA Draft

According to Andy Katz of, prep school product John Riek will enter the NBA Draft. Family advisor Fatah Muraisi said Reik has been working out at the IMG Academy and will send in his paperwork to the NBA by the April 27 deadline. Riek also plans to attend the Orlando pre-draft camp. The 7-2 center has had a well-traveled high school career, going from the Sudan to Our Savior New American (Centereach, N.Y.), and then finally ending up at The Winchendon School (Mass.). He graduated high school in 2006, though, enabling him to enter the NBA Draft despite not going to college.

Providence Hires Davis as New Coach

Providence has finally found its next coach, as the Friars have hired Drake head coach Keno Davis to the same position. "We are very excited to have Keno Davis leading our men's basketball program," PC President Brian Shanley said. "It was our task to find a coach who would lead our student-athletes and embrace the College's mission. Keno Davis met all of our selection criteria." Davis was named the 2008 National Coach of the Year by several media outlets, as he led Drake to a 28-5 record and a No. 5 seed in the NCAA Tournament. "I believe Keno Davis has the knowledge, passion, commitment and ability to bring Providence College basketball to another level," Athletics Director Bob Driscoll said. "From the first moment I met Keno, I was impressed with his competitive nature and his desire to return Friar basketball to national prominence." Before becoming an assistant under his father, Dr. Tom Davis, at Drake, Keno Davis was an assistant at Southern Indiana and Southeast Missouri State.

Marist to Hire Memphis Assistant; Gavin Transfers

As first reported by Mike DeCourcy of Sporting News, Memphis assistant Chuck Martin will be named the new head coach at Marist. Martin was hired at Memphis under John Calipari in 2006 after working as an assistant at St. John's. He was also previously at Manhattan and Drexel. The prior Marist head coach, Matt Brady, left the Red Foxes to coach James Madison.

According to Jeff Goodman of, Marist freshman guard Jay Gavin is leaving the Red Foxes and transferring to Virginia Commonwealth. Gavin averaged 12.3 points per game this past season, hitting 39 percent of his three-point attempts. Sources tell me that there seemed to be a disconnect between previous head coach Matt Brady and Gavin throughout much of the season.

Wiggins Leaves UConn

As rumored earlier in the week, Connecticut sophomore guard Doug Wiggins asked for a release from his scholarship and will transfer. "I completely respect Doug's decision," head coach Jim Calhoun said in a statement. "He has contributed to many successes for us in his time here. We will do everything we can to help him finish school in good standing this semester and move on to a place where he will be happy." East Hartford High coach Anthony Menard said Wiggins wants to move to a place more suitable to his style of play. "It was a good experience for him," Menard said. "He respects Coach Calhoun, loves UConn, but the bottom line is he wants to play." As for Wiggins' next destination, Menard said it's less about the size of the program and more about the playing time. "It doesn't matter what the front of the jersey says to Doug anymore," he said. "It's about being at the right program. It's just about finding the right fit." Wiggins had a tumultuous career in Storrs. He failed two drug tests, and was suspended on two separate occasions. He averaged 6.7 points and 2.7 rebounds per game this past season.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Reports: Rose Going Pro, Signing with Agent

According to multiple reports, Memphis freshman point guard Derrick Rose is going to declare for the NBA Draft and sign with an agent. Eyewitness News Memphis reports that Rose pulled a teammate aside over the weekend and told him of his plans to go pro. Furthermore, Darren Rovell of CNBC was informed by two sources that Rose intends to hire Arn Tellem of the Wasserman Media Group as his agent. Rose, who is expected to be one of the top two picks in the Draft, averaged 14.9 points, 4.5 rebounds and 4.7 assists per game this past season in helping lead the Tigers to the National Championship game.

Beasley to Announce He's Going Pro

According to Jeff Goodman of, Kansas State freshman Michael Beasley will announce today that he intends to enter his name in the NBA Draft. Sources say that Beasley, who is planning to make an official announcement today at 5:00 p.m. CST, will sign with an agent. "He will hire an agent in the future," the source said. "He's just not sure who it will be yet." Beasley is expected to be one of the top two picks in the Draft. The All-American forward averaged 26.2 points and 12.4 rebounds per game this past season.

Love Planning to Declare for Draft; Mass UCLA Exodus?

According to the Los Angeles Daily News, UCLA freshman center Kevin Love is ready to announce his intentions to enter the NBA Draft. Sources said the announcement could come as soon as Wednesday. Furthermore, the sources said Love is declaring because of the injury risk that comes with staying in school, and also because the money he will get from being a likely lottery pick is too much to pass up. The 6-10 big man averaged 17.5 points and 10.6 rebounds per game this past season, helping lead the Bruins to the Final Four.

Update: According to Jeff Goodman of, Love has not made up his mind. "I haven't decided yet," Love said. "I still have some holes to fill on the whole thing, but I should know by the end of the week. I won't make a decision until at least Thursday." He added that he went home to Portland this past weekend to discuss the decision with his family. "I went home to figure a lot of things out and it was the perfect place to clear my head of any distractions. It's such a tough decision because so much is at stake and there is my career looming in the back of my head."

The Daily News also reports that the coaching staff expects junior point guard Darren Collison and sophomore guard Russell Westbrook to enter their names in the NBA Draft. Additionally, juniors Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and Josh Shipp are weighing the possibility of testing the Draft waters without hiring an agent, and then taking their names out if they are not satisfied with their feedback.

Thabeet Returning?; Wiggins, Kelly Out?

According to Andy Katz of, Connecticut head coach Jim Calhoun said sophomore center Hasheem Thabeet is about 60-40 percent towards returning for his junior campaign. The 7-3 big man is likely to be drafted in the middle of the first-round, but there is a consensus that he has things to work on. "Will he be drafted in the first round? He's too big, too strong, not to help a team and he can block shots in the NBA right now," Calhoun said. "But there are a lot of things that he doesn't pick up instinctively. No matter where he is he'll have to work on his post moves this summer." Thabeet averaged 10.5 points, 7.9 rebounds and 4.5 blocks per game this past season.

Furthermore, Katz reported that Calhoun said sophomore guard Doug Wiggins "could be" one of the players leaving the team this offseason. Wiggins was suspended earlier this season, along with Jerome Dyson, but still managed to average 6.7 points, 2.7 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.0 steals per game.

Another player that might be on his way out is sophomore forward Curtis Kelly. According to Dick Weiss of the New York Daily News, Kelly is said to be considering a transfer from the Huskies. Incoming freshman Kemba Walker, who played at Rice High School with Kelly, seems to have confirmed the rumors. "I heard about it,” Walker said. "I’m definitely disappointed, but I guess it’s a better thing for him." Kelly averaged 2.0 points and 1.8 rebounds per game this past season.

Prince Out 3-4 Months After Surgery

According to a release by the university, Tennessee sophomore guard J.P. Prince underwent arthroscopic reconstructive surgery to his left shoulder Friday morning, and will miss three-to-four months. However, he is expected to be fully recovered by the time practice begins in October. The former Arizona transfer was named the Sixth Man of the Year in the SEC this past season, averaging 8.0 points and 3.2 rebounds per game after becoming eligible midseason.

'Nova's Grant to Miami

As reported by Adam Zagoria of The Herald News (N.J.), former Villanova freshman guard Malcolm Grant has chosen Miami (Fl.) as his next destination after announcing his departure from the Wildcats last week. "Miami was the first school to call me and they met with him and we thought that was the best fit for him," said Grant's high school coach, Todd Myles, of Paul Robeson High. "He's going to do what he has to do and work hard on the court and let this situation motivate him and have a great year after sitting out." He chose the Hurricanes over Vanderbilt, Michigan, Massachusetts, Butler and VCU. Grant averaged 5.6 points and 1.4 assists per game last season.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

News and Notes Weekend Recap

Friday, April 11

Self Says No to Oklahoma State
Travis Ford Turns Down Providence
Dominic James Returning for Senior Season

LSU's Johnson, Thornton to Test Waters?
Mitchell Leaving Florida
Indiana Assistant Moving Up at Detroit
Toledo Hires Notre Dame Assistant
Centenary Hires Duquesne Assistant
UMBC Assistant Moving On, Staying In-State

Sunday, April 13

Taylor King Transferring to Villanova

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Plaisted to Test NBA Draft Waters

According to head coach Mike Rose, BYU junior forward Trent Plaisted will declare for the NBA Draft but will not hire an agent, leaving open the possibility of returning to the Cougars for his senior season. Rose said Plaisted will wait until June to make a final decision and that he wasn't surprised by Plaisted's choice to test the draft process, reports Andy Katz of Plaisted, who would be returning for his fifth season, averaged 15.6 points and 7.7 rebounds per game this past campaign.

Pitt's Young Likely Staying in School

According to Jeff Greer of and The Pitt News, Pittsburgh junior forward Sam Young is likely to return to the Panthers for his senior season. Said a spokesman close to the basketball program: "I'd say it's 90 percent that Sam will stay. No one here is talking about him leaving. All they're asking about is Big East Media Day." However, the spokesman said the decision by Joe Alexander of West Virginia to enter the NBA Draft could have an effect on Young's decision, as the two went to Hargrave Military Academy together and are very good friends. Young had a breakout campaign this past season, averaging 18.1 points and 6.3 rebounds per game.

Providence's Williams to Transfer

According to Jeff Goodman of, Providence sophomore guard Dwain Williams is leaving the Friars' program and will transfer. Williams averaged 11.0 points and 2.2 assists per game this past season, but missed the last six games of the year with an ankle injury that may require surgery. He's still on campus and taking classes, according to the Providence Journal, but the firing of coach Tim Welsh has likely made an impact on Williams' decision.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Mayo Entering the NBA Draft

USC freshman guard O.J. Mayo has announced that he will enter the NBA Draft and hire an agent, ending his career with the Trojans after just one season. "I'd like to express my appreciation to my coaches and teammates for their support in one of the most important decisions I've ever made. I will be entering the 2008 NBA draft. I am going to finish the semester here at USC and then focus on preparing for the NBA draft. Attending USC has been such a great experience for me and has really helped prepare me for my next step in life." Head coach Tim Floyd agreed with Mayo's decision. "This comes as no surprise," he said. "We are appreciative of everything O.J. did for all of us the year he was with us. We wish him well. I have no doubt that he will be a great professional." Mayo is likely to be a top-10 pick after averaging 20.7 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game this past season.

Purdue's Martin to Transfer

Purdue freshman forward Scott Martin has announced that he is leaving the Boilermakers' program and transferring. "I truly valued my time here at Purdue," Martin said in a statement. "I made many great friendships and met a lot of great people. I am thankful to the coaching staff and my teammates for the opportunity they have given me. I feel it is my best interest to take a different route for my basketball career." Head coach Matt Painter supported Martin's decision. "We'll help him any way we can, and wish him and his family nothing but the best in the future," he said. Martin started eight games this past season, averaging 8.5 points and 3.8 rebounds per game.

Jordan Will Test Draft Waters

Texas A&M freshman center DeAndre Jordan has announced that he will enter the NBA Draft. However, he will not sign with an agent, leaving open the possibility that he will return to the Aggies for his sophomore campaign. "I just want to test the waters and get a good feel for where I might be drafted," Jordan said in a statement. Coach Mark Turgeon supported the decision. "DeAndre wants to explore where he might be in this year's draft," he said. "This is the first step in that process." The 7-foot Jordan is projected as a lottery pick despite not living up to the lofty expectations he had when he arrived in College Station. He started 21 games, averaging 7.9 points and 6.0 rebounds per game.

Pickett Leaving Alabama

Alabama freshman point guard Rico Pickett has been suspended for failing to comply with team rules, and will likely transfer. Said head coach Mark Gottfried in a release: "We have standards and levels academically as well as athletically that our student-athletes need to meet, and there are consequences when they fail to do that." However, Pickett's father, Enrico Pickett, has a different view of the situation. "He told them that he wanted to leave," he said. "They told him they weren't going to release him [from his scholarship]. This is their way of fighting back, saying that he is suspended for academic reasons. He is transferring. That is a fact. You heard it from me." This is the second time Pickett has been suspended since arriving in Tuscaloosa, missing one game earlier this season for showing up late to practice. He started 20 games this past season, averaging 5.9 points and 3.3 assists per game.

News and Notes Recap

From now until the NBA Draft, we will begin posting a daily "News and Notes" section. It will include rumors about early-entries and coaching changes, as well as transfer and personnel decisions. Furthermore, early top-25 rankings and analysis from media outlets aroundthe country will also be linked to. To catch everyone up until now, though, I've compiled all the important news from the past three weeks or so.

Tuesday, March 11
Harden Returning to ASU

Monday, March 17
Hickson Heading to NBA
Mizzou’s Lyons to Test Waters

Thursday, March 20
Harangody Returning to School

Friday, March 21
Gibson Staying in School?

Wednesday, March 26
Hendrix to Test Draft Waters
Duquesne’s James Testing Waters

Thursday, March 27
Caracter Not Coming Back
Jefferson Returning to USC

Friday, March 28
Vaden to Test NBA Waters

Saturday, March 29
Bayless Not Going Pro?
Rivers Possibly Testing Waters

Monday, March 31
Lopez Twins Enter Draft
Curry to Return for Junior Year
Horn Moves to South Carolina
Nevada’s McGee Goes Pro
King Transfers from Duke
Wake Forest Stud Recruit Arrested
Vandy’s Bell to Transfer

Tuesday, April 1
Indiana to Hire Crean as New Coach
Indiana Dismisses Two Starters
Sutton to Resign from OSU
O’Neill Not Returning to Arizona
Hudson Declares without Agent
Kent State Names Assistant New Coach

Wednesday, April 2
Patterson Out 4-6 Months After Surgery
Larranaga Says No to Providence
Hopson Commits to Tennessee
Taylor Wants Out of Marquette

Thursday, April 3
Cal's Anderson Testing Waters
LSU’s Randolph Going Pro
Henderson Out 3-4 Months After Surgery
Walker Likely Declaring for Draft
Grier Says No to Oregon State
Loyola Marymount Hires Portland Assistant

Friday, April 4
Montgomery Returns to the College Ranks
Gordon Enters the NBA Draft

Saturday, April 5
Bayless Declares for Draft
Clark to Enter NBA Draft
‘Bama’s Steele Will Test Waters
NJIT Hires Columbia Assistant as New Coach

Sunday, April 6
Collison and Love Both Going Pro?
Basset Returning to Indiana?
Texas Assistant Hired at WKU
Bobby G on his Way Out at Seton Hall?
Braun Moves On Quickly – to Rice
Oregon State Hires Brown Head Coach

Monday, April 7

Hansbrough Leaving Mississippi State
Marquette Promoting Assistant to Top Spot

Tuesday, April 8
Rush Leaving Kansas for NBA
KU’s Collins Likely Staying in School
Budinger Declares for NBA Draft
Speights to Test Draft Waters

Wednesday, April 9

Stanford’s Johnson Going to LSU
Love, Collison Entering Draft

Greene Planning to Declare
Alexander Will Test Draft Waters
Griffin Returning to Oklahoma

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

What's Ahead for March Madness All Season?

First of all, congratulations to the Kansas Jayhawks, who cemented their spot in history with an amazing comeback to erase a nine-point deficit with just over two minutes remaining to beat Memphis and win the championship. The three-pointer by Mario Chalmers to force overtime will be remembered as one of the greatest shots in Final Four history.

Next, thanks to everyone who read the March Madness All Season website this season. There are about 400,000 of you, so I appreciate all the traffic and feedback I have received this past season. As always, if there is anything you would like me or the website to improve on, e-mail me at and let me know. Thanks.

Also, feel free to take a look back at some of the biggest projects I've done this past season: 2007-2008 College Basketball Season Preview, 2008 Championship Week Preview, and the 2008 NCAA Tournament Preview.

Looking ahead to the offseason for the site, I'll be back with a new article on Friday looking at the Pre-Preseason Top 25 for next season, and some other teams to watch heading into next year. I will also have an article sometime soon looking back at my predictions that I made for the 2007-2008 season and how accurate they really were. It should be humbling, to say the least. Then, throughout the offseason, I'll have various articles discussing different things, including the NBA Draft Early-Entries, next year's recruits, etc.

Moreover, I'm also going to start posting a daily "News and Notes" section, which will include links to news stories and other college basketball-related articles from newspapers and media outlets from across the country. It will have all the NBA Draft news and rumors, early-entry decisions and coaching moves that you need.

It should be a very interesting offseason, with all the coaching changes and personnel turnover. Stay locked into March Madness All Season for all the latest in analysis and news and you will never feel lost in the college basketball world.

Louisville Not Renewing Sosa's Scholarship?

According to a source, there is talk around the Big East and the Louisville program that the Cardinals are not going to renew sophomore point guard Edgar Sosa's scholarship for next season. Sosa and head coach Rick Pitino never seemed to be on the same page this past season, and Sosa was not the same player he was down the stretch of his freshman year.

With sophomore forwards Earl Clark and Derrick Caracter already declaring for the NBA Draft, and David Padgett and Juan Palacious out of eligibility, this could be another developing situation to keep an eye on.

Super Mario

Monday, April 7, 2008

National Championship Preview: Memphis vs. Kansas

We are finally here. The National Championship Game. The game everyone has been talking about since March Madness started. Memphis and Kansas were clearly two of the top teams in the country all season long, and they have each proven that over the past five games. One may not think that the Tigers and Jayhawks are the two best teams in the country, but they have been the best the past couple of weeks – and ultimately, that’s what matters. Hopefully, this will be the perfect climax to a Big Dance that has lacked for exciting games in the last few rounds. Enjoy the conclusion to the best three weeks in the world of sports, the NCAA Tournament.

How They Got Here

Memphis, despite having just one loss all season, did not get the overall No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament and was placed in the second-most difficult region. The Tigers opened the Tournament with a blowout win over Texas-Arlington in a game that was never close. Against Mississippi State in the second round, victory was not assured until Jamont Gordon’s three-point attempt at the buzzer bounced off the rim. Missed free-throws late in the game nearly cost the Tigers. The Sweet Sixteen match-up against Michigan State was not nearly as competitive. The Tigers jumped out to an early lead and took a 30-point margin into halftime. In the Elite Eight, the Tigers had to face Texas in Houston, which immediately put them at a disadvantage. But Derrick Rose outplayed D.J. Augustin at the point, and Memphis advanced in convincing fashion. The Final Four came next, as did UCLA. Many expected the Bruins’ outstanding defensive duo of Darren Collison and Russell Westbrook to slow down Memphis’ perimeter game, but Rose and Chris Douglas-Roberts combined for 53 points as the Tigers jumped out to an early lead which they extended in the second half. Memphis’ overall athleticism and size advantage at various positions across the court was really the key to the game for the Tigers. Furthermore, their ability to get fast-break opportunities and not allow the Bruins to set their defense was a major factor, as was UCLA’s inability to get star big man Kevin Love the ball enough. Memphis is the first team to win 38 games – they want one more, though.

Kansas had not been the most dominant one seed for much of the NCAA Tournament, but it won three of its first four games by double-digits and demonstrated why it deserved a top-seed. The Jayhawks opened the Tournament with an easy win over the champions from the Big Sky, Portland State. Against UNLV in the second round, it was a relatively close game for most of the contest, but Kansas pulled away down the stretch for a 19-point victory. The Sweet Sixteen brought a No. 12 seed in Villanova. This time, Kansas jumped out to an early lead in the first half and never looked back en route to a 15-point win. The Elite Eight brought Cinderella team Davidson, and the Wildcats nearly knocked off Kansas. A back-and-forth game was not decided until Jason Richards’ last-second three was off the mark. KU won by two, which advanced it to the Final Four for the first time in the Bill Self era. The Jayhawks’ struggles to beat Davidson put many people on the North Carolina bandwagon heading into the two teams’ Final Four battle – a contest that had storylines abound in the days leading up to the game. However, Kansas was a completely different team than anyone had seen all season, as it jumped out to a 28-point lead in the first-half before North Carolina slowly began chipping back. The Tar Heels eventually cut the lead to four, but they seemingly ran out of energy and couldn’t get over the hump. Kansas then went on a run of its own to put the game out of reach. The Jayhawks have one more hurdle to leap.

Five Key Questions

1. Can Kansas’ guards slow down the high-scoring Memphis backcourt? Heading into its game against UCLA on Saturday, the key match-up was obviously UCLA’s perimeter defense against the duo of Derrick Rose and Chris Douglas-Roberts. Many thought Darren Collison and Russell Westbrook could contain them; that was completely off-base. Rose constantly got to the basket on whoever was guarding him, while CDR was able to score in a variety of ways. The Jayhawks have a group of very good defensive guards, including Russell Robinson and Mario Chalmers. However, both are 6-1 – the exact aspect of Collison that Memphis took advantage of. Brandon Rush has the height and length to give Douglas-Roberts problems, but Kansas needs to keep Rose out of the lane.

2. Will Joey Dorsey and the Memphis big men stay out of foul trouble? For much of the season, foul trouble has proven to be a problem for the Tigers, especially on the interior. Dorsey is one of the best interior defenders and rebounders in the country, but he has a propensity to get into early foul trouble. Robert Dozier and Shawn Taggart both struggle in that area as well. However, the three did a solid job of staying on the floor against Kevin Love and UCLA. Dorsey and Taggart both picked up three fouls, but the trio combined for 79 minutes of floor time. Darrell Arthur leads a deep and talented Kansas frontline; Memphis needs its big men – especially Dorsey – to be on the court.

3. Will either team be able to consistently knock down three-pointers? Although both teams are extremely balanced and can score in a variety of ways, both inside and outside, each squad needs to be able to hit its three-pointers in order to win the game. Both teams shot just 33 percent from behind the arc in their semifinal wins, but the winner will have to do better on Monday night. On the season, Kansas hit nearly 40 percent of its attempts, while Memphis – who shot almost 200 more threes than Kansas – knocked down just 35 percent from deep. Both teams love getting up and down the court, and transition threes get momentum going in a hurry. However, both teams need to be able to hit them in a half-court setting as well.

4. Whose bench will come up bigger? Which team will have the unsung player that makes a difference? This may not seem as important as the other ones, but it is. In the championship game, players are going to have to step up in order for their team to win. Some of those unsung players are going to come off the bench. Both teams can go fairly deep down the roster. Memphis might be the deepest team in the country, and Shawn Taggart has been a huge factor in the NCAA Tournament. He is a tough match-up due to his size, athleticism and length down low. Three-point marksman Doneal Mack could make a difference too. On the other side, Sherron Collins is one of the best sixth men in the nation – he played 30 minutes against North Carolina. He is tough to defend. Cole Aldrich was a factor against the Tar Heels; he and Sasha Kaun need to make plays inside.

5. Who will be the go-to-guy to step up down the stretch? Neither team got to this point by riding one player. Memphis has options galore up-and-down the roster, but it relies on two players when it counts. Derrick Rose is one of the most difficult point guards in the country to defend because of his size and strength, while Chris Douglas-Roberts might have been the best pure scorer at the Final Four. One of those two will get the ball down the stretch. For Kansas, this category is even more important. The Jayhawks were arguably the most balanced team in the country, but they never established a go-to-guy. Brandon Rush can score in different ways; Mario Chalmers can shoot clutch threes and get to the basket; and Sherron Collins might be the best one-on-one player they have. One of them will have to step up at the end of the game and get a basket.

Team and Player Breakdowns


Memphis was ranked as the preseason No. 1 in several polls, including mine, and the Tigers did not disappoint those that pegged them as the top team in the country. They jumped out to a 26-0 record before falling at home to Tennessee late in the game – a loss that might have spurred on their run to the title game. The Tigers love to get out and push the pace all game, creating offense with their defense and pressuring teams into turnovers. They limit second-chances, which propels their fast-break, enabling them to get transition points and momentum.

Memphis has one of the best perimeter duos in the country in freshman point guard Derrick Rose and junior wing Chris Douglas-Roberts. Rose is a premier point guard although he tends to make freshmen mistakes at times. He came into college as an extremely highly-rated lead guard and has been one of the best playmakers in the country. He is nearly impossible to keep out of the lane when he wants to penetrate because of his size, strength and quickness. Rose can shoot the ball from the perimeter, but is much more efficient when driving to the basket and creating for himself and his teammates. Douglas-Roberts became one of the better scorers in the nation with his ability to finish in a variety of ways. The Tigers had lacked a go-to scorer at the start of the year, but CDR clearly stepped into that role. He was arguably the best pure scorer at the Final Four due to his offensive versatility. He can shoot the ball from deep, knock down a mid-range jumper or take his defender to the basket. He can finish with both hands and has an arsenal of acrobatic finishes. Antonio Anderson contributes in different ways, whether it is distributing and handling the ball, or knocking down three-pointers. He can also defend on the perimeter and gets transition baskets regularly. Doneal Mack is a very good three-point shooter who can get hot in a hurry from behind the arc. Willie Kemp started at point guard last season and sees minutes off the bench at both guard spots. Andre Allen was suspended for the semifinals for violating team rules and will likely miss the title game as well.

Up front, Memphis isn’t as deep but it still has plenty of talent and options. Robert Dozier has shown flashes of his potential but has not been consistent throughout the season. He can score in a variety of ways, by posting-up defenders or driving to the basket from the top of the key. Dozier is somewhat inconsistent offensively but he is clearly talented enough to have a big game at any given time. Joey Dorsey might be the best interior defender-rebounder combination player in the country. He is an outstanding shot-blocker who can change games with his ability to defend. He also averages almost 10 rebounds per game, but has had trouble with fouls for much of his career. Offensively, he shoots over 65 percent from the field but isn’t a consistent option. For example, he had 15 rebounds in the semifinals but also finished with zero points. If he stays on the floor, his size and strength make him tough to tangle with down low. Shawn Taggart is a very solid scorer and rebounder who has shown flashes of his skill. He has come on very strong in the NCAA Tournament, demonstrating an ability to finish around the rim as well as stepping out and attempting a couple of jumpers. He is athletic and long, and can make plays inside.


Kansas was in most people’s top-five heading into the season, and played like one of the best teams in the country all season long. KU started the season at 19-0 before struggling somewhat and losing three of its next seven. It hasn’t lost since. The Jayhawks are clearly one of the most talented and balanced teams in the nation, which makes them difficult to defend offensively despite their lack of a true go-to-guy. Defensively, they force turnovers with their outstanding perimeter defenders and get transition points.

It all starts on the perimeter for the Jayhawks, who have one of the most talented and deepest backcourts groups of anyone in the country. Brandon Rush is an outstanding scorer who can get points in a variety of ways, but sometimes lacks aggressiveness. He has the ability to knock down deep perimeter shots, but is at his best when taking defenders off the dribble and shooting mid-range jumpers. His length enables him to get to the basket finish around the rim as well. Sometimes, though, he tends to be too unselfish and defers to his teammates too often. Mario Chalmers is one of the best two-way players in the country. He can score from the perimeter consistently, and has proven that he can make clutch shots when given the chance. Chalmers can also get to the basket off of penetration. Defensively, Chalmers has quick hands and racks up steals very quickly. The third starter, Russell Robinson does not appear as often as the other two do in highlight reels, but he plays as much of a role as they do. He is one of the best defenders in the country, and has forced scorers from coast-to-coast into difficult nights from the floor against the Jayhawks. He is also a very good floor leader and can score in bunches if needed. Even though he comes off the bench, Sherron Collins might be the most talented and explosive of them all. He is very strong and can get into the lane on anyone in the nation, and he has the athleticism to finish above the rim. He is not afraid to take a big shot and has the ball in his hands at key times.

While the Jayhawks’ perimeter group gets most of the headlines, don’t sleep on the frontcourt. Darrell Arthur is one of the more talented forwards in the country, and has shown flashes of his potential throughout the year. He has been called a first-round, or even lottery, pick by several scouts, but needs to become more consistent and dominant to reach that lofty goal. He has a nice variety of inside moves, but he gets into foul trouble at times and is also not very aggressive down low. Darnell Jackson really improved this season, and became an offensive threat inside instead of just a banger who can get rebounds and garbage points down low. His development has been one of the keys for this Jayhawks team this year. Sasha Kaun started last year, but has come off the bench this season. He is experienced and can contribute in a number of categories down low. Cole Aldrich is a talented big man who needs some seasoning to truly become a consistent factor. However, he played very well against North Carolina and is a solid defender, rebounder and finisher.

Match-up Analysis

Derrick Rose vs. Russell Robinson: This is going to be one of the key match-ups of the game. Rose was the best point guard in the country over the past few weeks, but Robinson is a lockdown defender who will try to contain him. Advantage: Memphis

Antonio Anderson vs. Mario Chalmers: Both players can do a variety of things on the court, and will be factors. Anderson is the consummate role player, while Chalmers is a playmaker at both ends of the floor. Advantage: Kansas

Chris Douglas-Roberts vs. Brandon Rush: What a match-up on the wing. Both players are playing their best basketball of the season at the right time, with Douglas-Roberts utterly unstoppable lately. Rush is developing into a go-to-guy, but he will have his hands-full with CDR. Advantage: Memphis

Robert Dozier vs. Darrell Arthur: Two very talented players that don’t always play to their potential. Dozier can do a variety of things, while Arthur might be the key for Kansas. He needs to get the ball in position to score, and then execute inside. Advantage: Kansas

Joey Dorsey vs. Darnell Jackson: Another interesting match-up. Dorsey is extremely strong down low, but Jackson will not back down from him and has the ability to hold his own inside. Jackson is a solid offensive option; will Dorsey do anything at that end? Advantage: Memphis

Memphis Bench vs. Kansas Bench: Both teams are deep on the bench, and can really bring difference-makers into the game off the pine. Shawn Taggart is the main man for Memphis, but Doneal Mack can shoot and Willie Kemp can handle. Kansas’ Sherron Collins is outstanding, but Sasha Kaun is a former starters and Cole Aldrich has been solid lately. Advantage: Even

John Calipari vs. Bill Self: Both coaches have done great jobs this year, when it comes to juggling ample amounts of talent and keeping chemistry a positive instead of a negative. Calipari continues to be able to get “non-BCS” teams to the Final Four, while Self finally got the monkey off his back and advanced to the Final Four. Neither coach has won a championship before, but Calipari has done a great job of exploiting the right match-ups lately. Advantage: Memphis

Who's Going to Win and Why

This game is going to be outstanding. After Saturday's Final Four contests, I sure hope it is. For the second year in a row, it is a No. 1 vs. a No. 1 – although that was a foregone conclusion given what the Final Four was comprised of. Both teams are obviously extremely talented, with future pros up and down the respective rosters, and have been tested all season. The two teams have combined for just four losses all season, and neither team wants to drop another one. I’m expecting a terrific battle.

If Memphis is going to continue its dream season, it will need to do several things in order to get the win. First, it will need to get big games from Derrick Rose and Chris Douglas-Roberts again. Both players were unbelievable in the semifinals and have really carried the team over the past couple of weeks. They need to continue to be aggressive and get off to good starts. Furthermore, a third option will have to step up. If those two get bottled up or at least slowed down, someone else has to be able to contribute offensively. Antonio Anderson and Robert Dozier are candidates. As for free-throw shooting, as long as Rose or CDR have the ball late, it won’t be a factor. Defensively, Joey Dorsey needs to stay on the floor. He was a major factor against UCLA and Kevin Love, and has the ability to dominate the boards at both ends of the floor against Kansas. The Jayhawks struggle to rebound the ball at times; Dorsey needs to take advantage of that, but he can only do that if he stays out of foul trouble. Furthermore, the Tigers need to force turnovers and get easy baskets. Kansas had 19 turnovers against North Carolina, and can be prone to careless passes. Memphis needs to take advantage of that, so they can push the pace and get transition offense.

On the other side, Kansas also has to do a variety of things if it wants to win the national championship. The key will be its defense. The Jayhawks have plenty of individual defensive talent on the perimeter – but so did UCLA, and we all saw what happened when they tried to guard Derrick Rose and Chris Douglas-Roberts. Slowing those two down should be number one on the priority list for KU. Russell Robinson, Mario Chalmers and Brandon Rush have a tough assignment. The Jayhawks also need to rebound the ball and limit second opportunities for Memphis. Kansas has struggled at times to grab defensive boards, but it needs to make sure to rebound and not allow Memphis to get multiple chances at points. Furthermore, competing for offensive boards slows down Memphis’ transition game. Offensively, Kansas has to get the ball down low to Darrell Arthur and the other big men early and often. Arthur got several touches at the outset of the North Carolina game, and converted for baskets inside. However, the Jayhawks’ guards sometimes forget about him in the paint and he does not get involved in the offense. Kansas also needs to take care of the ball and not give Memphis easy baskets. The Tigers’ thrive on turnovers and mistakes, and the Jayhawks had a problem with that against North Carolina. They can’t have a repeat of that.

As a stark contrast to the previous two Final Four games, I have a feeling this game is going to come down to the final minutes. Both teams are loaded all over their rosters, and they have both been excellent since the outset of the season. However, I’m going with the team I picked No. 1 at the beginning of the season – Memphis. Derrick Rose and Chris Douglas-Roberts have been unstoppable lately, and they have the scoring ability to overcome Kansas’ defensive pressure, while Joey Dorsey will control the inside. Too many turnovers and not enough outside shots late in the game will be Kansas’ downfall as John Calipari will get his first national championship.

Prediction: Memphis 78, Kansas 74

Friday, April 4, 2008

North Carolina vs. Kansas Preview

For a complete preview of the Final Four, click here.

North Carolina. Kansas. Could we get any more storylines in this game? Two of the greatest programs in college basketball squaring off for the right to get to the title game; combined, these two teams have an unbelievable 30 Final Four appearances. If that wasn’t enough, North Carolina coach Roy Williams was the former coach at Kansas before returning home to the Tar Heels. Williams got over the hump by winning the national title that he couldn’t win with Kansas three seasons ago with UNC, while Kansas coach Bill Self also passed his biggest test by finally getting to the Final Four in his fifth season with the Jayhawks. It should an outstanding game.

North Carolina's Road to the Final Four

North Carolina, the overall No.1 seed in the entire NCAA Tournament, has been on a tear so far in the Big Dance, annihilating any team in its path. The Tar Heels opened the Tournament with an easy win over Mount St. Mary’s, although the game was close for some of the first half. In the second round, UNC jumped out to a 25-point halftime lead against Arkansas and never looked back. The Tar Heels scored over 100 points for the second consecutive game. Against Washington State in the Sweet Sixteen, they didn’t reach triple-digits again, but they overcame an early deficit to go on a big run in the first-half en route to a 21-point victory. The Tar Heels faced the toughest game in the Elite Eight, as they got off to a good start against Louisville before the Cardinals tied it in the second half. Tyler Hansbrough was too much, though, and UNC survived.

Kansas' Road to the Final Four

Kansas has not been the most dominant one seed thus far in the NCAA Tournament, but it has won each game by double-digits and has demonstrated why it deserved a top-seed. The Jayhawks opened the Tournament with an easy win over the champions from the Big Sky, Portland State. Against UNLV in the second round, it was a relatively close game for most of the contest, but Kansas pulled away down the stretch for a 19-point victory. The Sweet Sixteen brought a No. 12 seed in Villanova. This time, Kansas jumped out to an early lead in the first half and never looked back en route to a 15-point win. The Elite Eight brought Cinderella team Davidson, and the Wildcats nearly knocked off Kansas. A back-and-forth game was not decided until Jason Richards’ last-second three was off the mark. KU won by two.

North Carolina Team Breakdown

North Carolina came into the season as one of the favorites for the national title and did nothing to dissuade that for most of season. The Tar Heels lost just two games, to Maryland and Duke, both in Chapel Hill. North Carolina is led by Player of the Year co-favorite Tyler Hansbrough, who has carried the Tar Heels at times this season. He is relentless inside and can simply overpower and outwork for points and rebounds. In the backcourt, Ty Lawson is back and healthy. He is extremely quick with the ball and gets UNC’s offense going. Wayne Ellington is an outstanding shooter who can get hot from outside and the mid-range. Marcus Ginyard is a lockdown defender, while Danny Green is the ultimate role player and sixth man. Deon Thompson has shown flashes of his potential inside, while Alex Stepheson provides depth. Quentin Thomas has proven he can handle the point guard position if necessary.

Kansas Team Breakdown

Kansas is certainly one of the most complete and talented teams in the country, with future pros up and down the roster. The Jayhawks have great inside-outside balance and are also one of the best defensive teams in the country. It all starts on the perimeter, where Kansas has one of the deepest guard groups in the nation. Brandon Rush is the team’s best scorer and shooter, but he tends to defer to his teammates too often and needs to become more aggressive offensively. Mario Chalmers is an excellent player at both ends of the floor, while Russell Robinson is a lockdown defender and a leader. Sherron Collins, who comes off the bench, is the most explosive and dynamic of them all. Up front, Darrell Arthur is a future first-round pick who is tough to guard, while Darnell Jackson is a banger down low who can score and rebound. Sasha Kaun does the dirty work off the bench, and Cole Aldrich also sees minutes up front.

Match-up Analysis

If you’re not excited about watching this game, I’m not sure what is wrong with you. This might be the best game to watch of the year. Both teams like getting up and down the court, forcing turnovers with their defenses and getting easy baskets in transition. Both teams have plenty of weapons, both inside and out, and each team is experienced and hungry to get to the national title game. Can Bill Self get to the Championship game in his first Final Four? Or will Roy Williams get a chance to win his second title in four years after not winning one at Kansas?

Although both teams would rather play a full-court game rather than a slow, half-court game, will it end up being that way? North Carolina will run no matter what, but Kansas might be better suited to play a half-court game. The Jayhawks can score in the half-court due to their multiple options, and their defense is far superior to North Carolina’s. Forcing UNC out of the transition game could be their key to victory. Look for the tempo of this game to be a factor. If North Carolina is going to move on to the championship, the Tar Heels are going to need a big game from Tyler Hansbrough. He had a monster game against Louisville in the Elite Eight, and could be in store for another productive game inside. He has an edge on whoever will be guarding him down low on Kansas. Furthermore, North Carolina’s perimeter players have to hit their shots. When Wayne Ellington and Danny Green are not knocking down jumpers, the North Carolina offense is much easier to defend (relatively speaking). Defensively, the Tar Heels need to be sure to not allow Kansas’ guards to get hot. Marcus Ginyard can shut down Brandon Rush, but Sherron Collins and Mario Chalmers are explosive players who could have big games against the questionable Tar Heels’ defense.

As for Kansas, the Jayhawks will need to stop North Carolina’s transition basketball. As mentioned above, they don’t want to run with the Tar Heels despite their ability to execute efficiently on the fast-break. Getting North Carolina into a half-court game would be more suitable for Kansas than it would for the Tar Heels. Also defensively, Kansas needs to rebound the ball well. Davidson got plenty of second chances in the Elite Eight, and the Jayhawks have struggled at times this year grabbing boards. With Hansbrough down low, Kansas has to be sure to limit multiple opportunities for him and the rest of the Tar Heels. Moreover, Russell Robinson could play a big role defending Ty Lawson. He is an outstanding defender, and could be able to keep Lawson out of the lane on key possessions. That will be an important match-up. Chalmers and Rush need to prevent Ellington and Green from getting open looks. Offensively, Kansas needs to get inside production. Darrell Arthur is going to be a match-up problem for either Hansbrough or Deon Thompson, and he needs to put forth a good effort. Darnell Jackson could also be a factor. Furthermore, Kansas needs to find a go-to-guy late in the game. Against Davidson, it didn’t seem like the Jayhawks knew what they wanted to do with the ball. Collins, Chalmers and Rush can all score consistently, but one of them will need to step up and get baskets if necessary.

Down the stretch, I think Kansas’ defense and the Jayhawks’ ability to play at multiple tempos will be the difference. They should be able to force North Carolina into a half-court game when it matters, and the individual defensive abilities of Robinson, Chalmers and Rush will be a huge factor. Look for the x-factor to be Collins offensively. He has the strength and quickness to get key baskets. In what will be one of the most exciting games of the season, Kansas will prevail.

Prediction: Kansas 79, North Carolina 76

Memphis vs. UCLA Preview

For a complete preview of the Final Four, click here.

If you haven’t heard – and if you’re reading this site, I’m pretty sure you have – this is a historic Final Four. It is the first time that all four No. 1 seeds reached the Final Four, making for an outstanding semifinals and finals. Furthermore, each of the four teams in the Final Four all reached at least the Elite Eight last season, with UCLA making the semifinals for the third consecutive season. The Bruins will face off against Memphis in a rematch of the 1973 title game in which Bill Walton went 21-for-22 from the floor in a UCLA win. Will we see another superhuman individual effort – from either team?

Memphis' Road to the Final Four

Memphis, despite having just one loss all season, did not get the overall No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament and was placed in the second-most difficult region. The Tigers opened the Tournament with a blowout win over Texas-Arlington in a game that was never close. Against Mississippi State in the second round, victory was not assured until Jamont Gordon’s three-point attempt at the buzzer bounced off the rim. Missed free-throws late in the game nearly cost the Tigers. The Sweet Sixteen match-up against Michigan State was not nearly as competitive. The Tigers jumped out to an early lead and took a 30-point margin into halftime. In the Elite Eight, the Tigers had to face Texas in Houston, which immediately put them at a disadvantage. But Derrick Rose outplayed D.J. Augustin at the point, and Memphis advanced in convincing fashion.

UCLA's Road to the Final Four

UCLA, the top seed in the West Region, has not been overly impressive for most of the NCAA Tournament – yet is still one of the favorites to win the national title. The Bruins opened the Tournament with an easy win over Mississippi Valley State, holding the Delta Devils to just 29 points. In the second round, Texas A&M looked like it might pull the upset as the Aggies led by as many as 10 points in the second half. However, UCLA fought back and got the win on Darren Collison’s lay-up with nine seconds left. UCLA was in control of its Sweet Sixteen game against Western Kentucky even when the Hilltoppers made a run late in the game. In the Elite Eight, the Bruins finally put their foot to the pedal and showed why many are picking them to win it all. They dominated Xavier from the outset, and won by 19 despite getting just three points from the bench.

Memphis Team Breakdown

Memphis came into the season as my preseason No. 1, and did nothing all season that made me regret that pick. The Tigers are one of the deepest and most explosive teams in the country, and they have talent all over the roster. Derrick Rose and Chris Douglas-Roberts form one of the best perimeter tandems in the country. Rose is a fantastic freshman point guard who can take over games, while CDR is a dynamite scorer who is difficult to defend. Antonio Anderson can do a little of everything on the perimeter, while Willie Kemp and Doneal Mack provide depth. Andre Allen is suspended for Saturday. Up front, Robert Dozier is another player who is difficult to match-up with because of his size and skill set. Joey Dorsey is one of the best rebounders and defenders in the country, but only when he stays on the floor. He often struggles because of foul trouble. Shawn Taggart has developed as the season has progressed, and is now very solid off the bench.

UCLA Team Breakdown

UCLA has been near the top of the rankings all season, mainly because the Bruins have one of the best point guards in the country (Darren Collison), one of the best big men in the country (Kevin Love), and arguably the best coach in the country (Ben Howland).Collison is lightning-quick at both ends of the floor, and can change games with his defensive tenacity and penetration abilities. Love is dominant in the low-post, and is very difficult to stop due to his strength inside. The athletic Russell Westbrook is one of the best defensive players in the country; he constantly gets into passing lanes to intercept passes. Shipp has struggled lately, but he is a very good shooter and scorer. Luc Richard Mbah a Moute can do a little of everything, but has tended to turn the ball over too much in the NCAA Tournament. James Keefe has stepped up in the NCAA Tournament; he, Alfred Aboya and Lorenzo Mata-Real provide depth inside.

Match-up Analysis

While this may not be as up-tempo and fast-paced as the other Final Four match-up, it is certainly going to be equally as competitive. UCLA would rather play in a half-court game, while Memphis loves to pressure the ball and get up-and-down the court. Both teams are outstanding defensively, and each squad can score in a variety of ways offensively. Will UCLA get back to the national title game after falling in the semi-finals last season? Or will Memphis continue its unbelievable season into the championship game?

The key for both teams is going to be their ability to handle the other team’s defensive pressure. UCLA doesn’t press full-court, but it has aggressive guards that play the passing lanes and create steals. On the other hand, Memphis loves to pressure the ball for 94 feet, creating chaos and turnovers all over the floor. Whichever team wins that battle will have an immediate edge. For Memphis to avoid only its second loss of the season, it will first have to handle Kevin Love down low. Joey Dorsey is an excellent defensive player down low, but he tends to get in foul trouble. If he stays on the floor, he may have the strength and athleticism to cause problems for Love. They will also have to keep Russell Westbrook and Josh Shipp from getting open looks on the perimeter. If one or both of those players gets hot from the outside, it could mean trouble for the Tigers. Offensively, Memphis has to have a third option step-up. Derrick Rose and Chris Douglas-Roberts are likely going to get theirs, but someone else will have to be a factor. Robert Dozier is a possibility, but an x-factor could be Shawn Taggart off the bench. He will be a match-up problem for the Bruins.

On the other side, if UCLA is going to advance to the title game, it will have to get points offensively. It sounds simple, but the Bruins might be the least explosive team left in the Tournament. Furthermore, they need to get the tempo in their favor. Although UCLA has athletes that can play transition basketball, it does not want to run with Memphis. Defensively, Darren Collison and Westbrook are outstanding defenders who might be able to slow down Rose and Douglas-Roberts offensively. If they do that, Memphis will have to find other guys to step up and UCLA will be in better shape. Offensively, UCLA needs to get the ball to Love early and often. Earlier in the season, the Bruins didn’t get the ball to him enough – against Memphis, he needs to touch the ball on nearly every possession. If he can get Dorsey into foul trouble, it could be a long day for Memphis. Furthermore, Shipp needs to start hitting shots. He has struggled in the NCAA Tournament despite a solid performance against Xavier, and would be a major boost if he can hit some threes.

In the end, I think that UCLA’s ability to control tempo and score both inside and outside consistently will be the difference. Collison and Westbrook are quick enough defensively to give Rose and Douglas-Roberts problems, and I’m not sure Memphis’ supporting cast will provide enough production to make up the difference. Love will be a huge factor down low, and might be the key advantage for the Bruins.

Prediction: UCLA 75, Memphis 71

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Final Four Preview, Part Three

For a complete preview of the Final Four, click here.

Best Point Guard
1. Derrick Rose, Memphis
2. Darren Collison, UCLA
3. Ty Lawson, North Carolina
4. Russell Robinson, Kansas

Best Shooting Guard
1. Wayne Ellington, North Carolina
2. Russell Westbrook, UCLA

3. Mario Chalmers, Kansas
4. Antonio Anderson, Memphis

Best Wing
1. Chris Douglas-Roberts, Memphis
2. Brandon Rush, Kansas
3. Josh Shipp, UCLA
4. Marcus Ginyard, North Carolina

Best Power Forward
1. Darrell Arthur, Kansas
2. Robert Dozier, Memphis
3. Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, UCLA
4. Deon Thompson, North Carolina

Best Center
1. Tyler Hansbrough, North Carolina
2. Kevin Love, UCLA
3. Joey Dorsey, Memphis
4. Darnell Jackson, Kansas

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Andre Allen Suspended, Won't Play Saturday

Memphis senior point guard Andre Allen was suspended Wednesday night and did not make the trip to San Antonio for the Final Four. According to coach John Calipari, Allen was suspended for violating rules, but WREG-TV in Memphis reports that Allen failed a random drug test. Athletic director R.C. Johnson said Allen might not be available to play all weekend, while Calipari did not rule out the possibility Allen would be available to play Monday night should the Tigers beat UCLA on Saturday night. "Right now, we're just going to do what we're doing," Calipari said. "We'll be fine." Allen has played a key role in the past two NCAA Tournament as well as this one, serving as the back-up point guard. However, his numbers dipped this season with the arrival of stud recruit Derrick Rose. Allen averaged 3.3 points and 2.1 assists per game this season.

Final Four Preview, Part Two

For a complete preview of the Final Four, click here.

Best Go-To-Guy
1. Chris Douglas-Roberts, Memphis: Due to the amount of ways he can score, he might be the best pure scorer remaining. He can finish around the rim, with both hands, and from the arc. Take Derrick Rose here, too.
2. Tyler Hansbrough, North Carolina: Is relentless around the basket, and physically overpowers defenders near the rim. He also has a nice mid-range jumper that he can knock down.
3. Kevin Love, UCLA: Very difficult to defend. He can score in the paint, but can also step out and hit a three-pointer if left open. Throw in his passing ability, and he is so tough to prepare for.
4. Brandon Rush, Kansas: The Jayhawks’ main weakness might be their lack of a go-to-guy, but Rush’s length and shooting ability are solid. He can also take defenders off the dribble.

Best Three-Point Shooter
1. Darren Collison, UCLA: Although he doesn’t look for his own shot very often, he knocked down 53 percent of his threes. He is so quick that defenders are usually forced to back away from him.
2. Mario Chalmers, Kansas: Brandon Rush has more of a reputation as a shooter, but Chalmers is the more consistent and more efficient of the two. He can knock down difficult shots from deep.
3. Wayne Ellington, North Carolina: One of the best pure shooters in the country, he has a terrific mid-range jumper and an outstanding stroke. He has proven that he can knock down clutch shots.
4. Chris Douglas-Roberts, Memphis: Although defenders normally have to back off him and he doesn’t have the reputation of a shooter, knocking down 42 percent is impressive from deep. Doneal Mack can also get hot.

Best Second Option
1. Derrick Rose, Memphis: Rose has the best combination of size, strength and skill of any point guard in the country. Is nearly impossible to stop from penetrating past his defender into the lane.
2. Darren Collison, UCLA: Due to his outstanding quickness and speed, defenders have a tough time keeping him in front of them. Throw in his three-point accuracy, and he is difficult to stop.
3. Wayne Ellington, North Carolina: When Tyler Hansbrough gets double-teamed, his first kick-out option is Ellington. If Ellington gets hot shooting the ball, he can really fill it up quickly.
4. Mario Chalmers, Kansas: Chalmers might be the guy who gets the ball in his hands late in games. He can penetrate into the lane as well as knock down late three-pointers from deep.

Best Coach
1. Ben Howland, UCLA: Prepares his team very well for any team they face. Is nearly impossible to beat when you give him several days to make a gameplan. Third straight Final Four for Bruins.
2. Roy Williams, North Carolina: Has a chance to win his second national title in four years. Has found different ways to win this season due to injuries and various lineup problems.
3. John Calipari, Memphis: Continues to get teams from outside the major conferences to the top of the rankings. His up-tempo, pressure system is difficult to stop once it gets going.
4. Bill Self, Kansas: Finally got over the hump and into the Final Four after failing in the Elite Eight several times. Despite a tremendous amount of talent, he has avoided chemistry problems.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Final Four Preview, Part One

For a complete preview of the Final Four, click here.

Best Backcourt
1. Memphis: Derrick Rose and Chris Douglas-Roberts might be the best perimeter duo in college basketball. Throw in Antonio Anderson and plenty of depth, and this group is loaded.

2. North Carolina: With Ty Lawson back and fully healthy, the Tar Heels have a dynamite backcourt with him and Wayne Ellington, a terrific shooter. Quentin Thomas is solid.
3. Kansas: The Jayhawks might have the deepest and most talented perimeter, with Brandon Rush, Mario Chalmers, Russell Robinson and Sherron Collins all capable of being stars.
4. UCLA: The Bruins might be ranked last, but this is an outstanding backcourt. Darren Collison is a great point guard, while Russell Westbrook is a playmaker and Josh Shipp can shoot.

Best Frontcourt
1. North Carolina: Since UNC has Tyler Hansbrough on its side, this frontcourt is very good. Deon Thompson is solid, Marcus Ginyard is a lockdown defender and Danny Green does it all.

2. Kansas: The perimeter group gets most of the press for the Jayhawks, but both Darrell Arthur and Darnell Jackson are capable of big nights. Sasha Kaun has starting experience as well.
3. UCLA: Led by Kevin Love, this group provides balance inside. Love is one of the best big men around, while Luc Richard Mbah a Moute is versatile. James Keefe has played well of late.
4. Memphis: If the Tigers’ bigs stay out of foul trouble, they are very talented. Joey Dorsey blocks shots and rebounds, while Robert Dozier and Shawn Taggart are match-up problems.

Best Bench
1. Memphis: The Tigers have some of the best depth in America. Willie Kemp and Andre Allen are combo guards; Doneal Mack can shoot the three; and Shawn Taggart is solid inside.
2. North Carolina: Danny Green is one of the best sixth men in the nation, while Quentin Thomas filled in nicely while Ty Lawson was injured. Alex Stepheson comes off the bench down low.
3. Kansas: Led by Sherron Collins, the Jayhawks have plenty of talent on the bench. Sasha Kaun started all last season for Bill Self, while Cole Aldrich has proven capable of banging inside.
4. UCLA: This might be the one weakness for the Bruins. They lack perimeter depth in a big way, but James Keefe has stepped up in the frontcourt. Lorenzo Mata-Real and Alfred Aboya are solid.

Best Inside-Outside Combo
1. UCLA: This was a very tight race for the top spot. Darren Collison is one of the best point guards in the country, while Kevin Love has been dominant for most of the season inside.
2. North Carolina: Similarly to UCLA, Ty Lawson is capable of controlling a game from the point guard position, while Tyler Hansbrough is one of the favorites for National Player of the Year.
3. Kansas: The Jayhawks have a plethora of perimeter players, but the best is Brandon Rush, a talented shooter and scorer. Darrell Arthur has a load of potential inside due to his skill set.

4. Memphis: Take your pick on the perimeter between Derrick Rose and Chris Douglas-Roberts, while Robert Dozier – when he is focused – is a very difficult player to deal with up front.

Best Trio
1. North Carolina: The Tar Heels have three of the best at their position in the country. Ty Lawson is a dynamic point guard; Wayne Ellington can really shoot the ball; and Tyler Hansbrough is nearly unstoppable down low.
2. UCLA: The Bruins start with their point guard, Darren Collison, who controls play at both ends of the floor. Kevin Love is one of the most dominant players in college basketball, while Russell Westbrook has really developed.
3. Memphis: Whenever you start with the combo of Derrick Rose and Chris Douglas-Roberts on the perimeter, you’re in good shape. Both have the ability to dominate on the offensive end. Robert Dozier is a tough match-up.
4. Kansas: The Jayhawks have plenty of options for scoring, but no go-to-guy. However, Brandon Rush can get hot from the perimeter, while Mario Chalmers is tough to stop on the perimeter and off the dribble. Darrell Arthur is solid.