Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Sweet Sixteen Breakdown: Midwest Region

Favorite: Louisville. The Cardinals might not be the most impressive team in the region so far, but I still believe they are the favorite to come out of the Midwest. Although Morehead State hung around longer than expected and Siena was leading in the final several minutes, Louisville played well down the stretch in both games. Terrence Williams has been fantastic so far, putting up 18.5 points and 12 rebounds per game. Earl Clark’s numbers are down, but he has come up big in spots and is tough to defend. Rounding out the frontcourt is Samardo Samuels, who has been dominant in the first two rounds, at both ends and on the glass. The backcourt play has been spotty, with no guards scoring in double-figures in either of the first two games. Jerry Smith is an excellent three-point shooter, but he has only attempted four in two games. Edgar Sosa and Andre McGee are averaging more assists than turnovers, which is a plus, and Terrence Jennings has been productive off the bench down low. The Cardinals should be able to handle Arizona.

Cinderella: Arizona. By far the lowest seed to reach the Sweet Sixteen, the Wildcats are either finally playing to the potential of their talent or are the benefactors of a lucky draw. They did face the worst No. 5 seed in Utah, and then played No. 13 seed Cleveland State in the second round. Their regional semi-final battle against Louisville will be much tougher. Obviously, the trio of Nic Wise, Chase Budinger and Jordan Hill has led the team so far. Wise is averaging 24.0 points and 5.0 assists per game; Budinger is putting up 17.5 points, 6.5 rebounds and 3.0 assists; and Hill is contributing 16.5 points and 11.0 rebounds. The key has been production from a fourth scorer. In the first round, it was Kyle Fogg with 11 points. Against Cleveland State, Jamelle Horne came through with 15 points and five rebounds. They are getting very little production from the bench, with just five points total from non-starters (all by Fendi Onobun) in the two games. Against Louisville, Nic Wise is going to have to be the leader. He has an advantage at the point, but can’t turn the ball over against Louisville’s press. Furthermore, Horne will have to come up big against Earl Clark.

Most intriguing personnel match-up: Michigan State’s Kalin Lucas vs. Kansas’ Sherron Collins. Two of the best point guards in the country will battle it out in a rematch of the two teams’ Jan. 10 contest, which Michigan State won, 75-62. In that game, Collins had 25 points and eight assists, but also eight turnovers, while Lucas had 22 points and five rebounds. Collins has been phenomenal so far in the Tournament, averaging 28.5 points, 5.5 rebounds and 5.0 assists – with just two turnovers in the two games. He is one of the most difficult players in college basketball to defend, due to his strength, quickness and shooting ability. Lucas hasn’t been as productive, putting up 11.5 points and 5.0 assists per game. He is one of the fastest players in the country, and can get into the lane on almost anyone. He also doesn’t turn the ball over much. Whoever takes care of the ball better and runs their respective offense more smoothly will determine the winner.

First-weekend knockout that will be here next year: Wake Forest. If the Demon Deacons’ core trio of Jeff Teague, James Johnson and Al-Farouq Aminu all stay in Winston-Salem for another year, they will be a tough team to beat. Teague is one of the best guards in the country, and Johnson and Aminu are very difficult to match-up with. Wake also returns starters Chas McFarland and L.D. Williams, as well as sixth man and second-leading assist man Ish Smith. Recruit Ari Stewart will also be welcomed into the fold next season; he will only add to their dominant frontline. West Virginia and USC will also be teams to watch next season, while Ohio State will return everyone.

All-First Weekend Team:
Guard- Sherron Collins, Kansas: 28.5 points, 5.5 rebounds, 5.0 assists
Guard- Nic Wise, Arizona: 24.0 points, 5.0 assists
Guard- Cedric Jackson, Cleveland State: 17.0 points, 6.0 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 4.0 steals

Forward- Terrence Williams, Louisville: 18.5 points, 12.0 rebounds
Forward- Edwin Ubiles, Siena: 22.0 points, 6.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 3.0 steals

Sixth Man- Dwight Lewis, USC: 19.5 points, 5.5 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 2.0 steals


  1. Cole Aldrich had one of 6 triple doubles in the history of the NCAA tournament. I think that would qualify him as a Midwest first round all tourney player.

  2. I agree...I overlooked him when making the list.