Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Sweet Sixteen Breakdown: West Region

Favorite: Connecticut. The Huskies have easily been the most impressive team thus far in the tournament. Their margin of victory in both of their wins was the most of anyone in the first two rounds: 56 against Chattanooga and then 26 against Texas A&M. UConn is averaging 97.5 points per game and allowing just 56.5 per contest. A.J. Price has been the star so far, averaging 23.5 points, 5.5 rebounds and 5.5 assists per game. He also hit 9-of-18 from three-point range. Hasheem Thabeet has only played 20 minutes in each game, and did get into foul trouble against Texas A&M. He can’t have a repeat of that against Purdue. Jeff Adrien is putting up 18 points and 12 rebounds and dominating down low. Stanley Robinson, the team’s X-factor, has been phenomenal, making a difference at both ends and averaging 18 and 6 per game. The Huskies are also getting quality bench production from Kemba Walker and Gavin Edwards. This team looks tough to beat right now.

Cinderella: Purdue. With Purdue the only non-top three seed advancing, it is clearly the Boilermakers that will be the underdog heading into the Sweet Sixteen. They have played well so far, holding off Northern Iowa by five in the first round and surviving a furious second-half comeback by Washington to escape by two. They are not shooting particularly accurately, from inside and outside the arc, but are playing very solid defense. JaJuan Johnson has been dominant down low, averaging 18 points per game, while E’Twaun Moore is leading the way on the perimeter. Robbie Hummel is contributing in a variety of areas, and Chris Kramer has been part of the reason for the excellent defense on Washington’s Isaiah Thomas and Justin Dentmon, as well as Northern Iowa’s Ali Farokhmanesh. Freshman Lewis Jackson will be a key at the point guard against Connecticut. If Kramer can slow down A.J. Price and Hasheem Thabeet gets into foul trouble again, Purdue might have a chance.

Most intriguing personnel match-up: Memphis’ Robert Dozier vs. Missouri’s DeMarre Carroll. Although the battle in the top half of the bracket between Connecticut’s Jeff Adrien and Purdue’s Robbie Hummel may have more star power, this match-up will pit two of the best and most athletic forwards in the country against each other. Dozier struggled in the first round against CSU-Northridge, but bounced back with 17 points and eight rebounds against Maryland. He is versatile and difficult to defend because of his ability to score in different ways. Carroll is supremely athletic and can run the floor as well as any big man in the country. He is also an excellent defender, spearheading the Missouri press. Carroll has contributed in every area this Tournament, averaging 14.0 points, 7.5 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game. Dozier will have to keep up with Carroll when he runs the floor, while Carroll can’t allow Dozier to get going offensively and grab offensive rebounds.

First-weekend knockout that will be here next year: California. The Golden Bears came out of nowhere to reach the NCAA Tournament as a No. 7 seed, but their three-point shooting went cold and they were bounced by Maryland in the first round. However, they only lose one senior – Jordan Wilkes – and will return the dynamite scoring backcourt of Jerome Randle and Patrick Christopher. Shooter Theo Robertson and Jamal Boykin also return to the starting lineup. Harper Kemp came on strong as the season went on, and could be poised for a big season. Jorge Gutierrez also impressed during the season. Texas A&M only loses Josh Carter, and will bring in Naji Hibbert to replace him, while Maryland gets an influx of two talented big guys to help shore up its frontcourt weaknesses next season. Keep an eye on the Aggies and Terrapins.

All-First Weekend Team:
Guard- A.J. Price, Connecticut: 23.5 points, 5.5 rebounds, 5.5 assists
Guard- Greivis Vasquez, Maryland: 22.5 points, 4.0 rebounds, 4.5 assists
Forward- Leo Lyons, Missouri: 20.5 points, 7.0 rebounds
Forward- Lazar Hayward, Marquette: 19.5 rebounds, 9.5 rebounds
Forward- Quincy Pondexter, Washington: 21.5 points, 9.0 rebounds
Sixth Man- Roburt Sallie, Memphis: 24.0 points, 13-19 three-point shooting

1 comment:

  1. I picked Pitt as my champion, and they've caused me near-heart attacks with their games. I didn't have faith in UConn, as I have them losing to Memphis in the Elite Eight. I hate brackets.