Thursday, March 27, 2008

Sweet 16 MatchUps: Day1

Friday marks the tip off for the round of sixteen at the NCAA tourney. Making the Sweet Sixteen is quite an achievement for any school, but since you are there you might as well make the most of your opportunity. I will endeavour to breakdown the games for you:

Xavier (29-6) v West Virgina (26-10)

In the West bracket , the #7 seed West Virgina Mountaineers takes on the 3rd seed Xavier Musketeers. When you have a look at the team statistics there is not much that separates these teams.

Both teams score around 75pts a game, while they hold teams to about 63/game.

Guys to look out for are Joe Alexander for West Virginia and Drew Lavender of Xavier. Alexander is a big guy who can step out to the perimeter and make shoots or take his man of the dribble. He has been in a groove over the last moth and has created all kinds of match up problems for the opposition. Look for this to continue.

Lavender on the other hand is a "waterbug". He controls the tempo for Xavier. He must do this for his team to advance to the Final Eight. He averages about 4 assists/game, but he will need to manage his turnovers if the Musketeers are to continue with their season.

My tip is the Mountaineers. Coach Bob Huggins will have his troops fired up on the defensive end for this one, plus they are peaking at the right time.

Western Kentucky (29-6) v UCLA (33-3)

This is quite an intriguing game for me. No doubt the #1 seed UCLA Bruins have everything to see them win a national title, but the Hilltppoers of Western Kentucky are an explosive scoring team.

The Bruins need to get some help for centre Kevin Love and point guard Darren Collison. If they can find a third contributor, the Hilltoppers are in for a long night because the Bruins play some serious lock down defense. Their first two opponents did not crack 40 points for the game.

Meanwhile the Hilltoppers will look for Courtney Lee (20.5 pts/game) and 1st round hero Tyrone Brazelton (14pts/game) to light up the scoreboard. If both these guys can combine for 45 points, they have a legitimate chance of causing the upset.

My tip here is UCLA coach Ben Howland will not allow the NBA bound Lee to get off against his team. I look for the Bruins to be playing in the championship game.

Washington St (26-8) v North Carolina (34-2)

Talk about a contrast in style here. UNC average 90pts/game while WSU allow their opponents only 56pts/game. Something has to give here.

Tyler Hansbrough and Ty Lawson get all the publicity for the Tar Heels, but I feel it will be Wayne Ellington who cuts loose in this one. Ellington will be the recipient off of Lawson's penetration and Hanbrough constantly getting double teamed.

For WSU to have a chance they need to get UNC in a half court offense and their "bigs" need to stay out of foul trouble. Aussie Aron Baynes will have his hands full with Hansbrough, but teams who have success against Carolina limit Hansbrough's touches. Baynes can do this. Also Baynes' can help his cause by going at Hansbrough at the other end. Get him in foul trouble and the Tar Heels are a different team.

My tip is Carolina. Although the Cougars will not let Carolina score 90 points, the Cougars will struggle to match however many points it is that UNC post.

Louisville (26-8) v Tennessee (31-4)

Rick Pitino has his Louisville Cardinals playing well in March so Tennessee will need to be on their game.

The Cardinals have been getting some great play from their big man David Padgett. When he is playing well this team could find themselves in the Final Four. The question here is, can he continue this high level of play?

The Volunteers on the other hand rely on playing uptempo and pulling the trigger as soon as they see daylight. Chris Lofton has an NBA stroke, so he if can drain 6/7 three's the Vols will be in action. Look for Tyler Smith's all round play to be a factor as well.

My tip is the Cardinal. Both teams like to get up and down, but Pitino's men allow 10pts/game less. This will be key and get them over the line in a close one.

In NBL news, will the Dragons get their man by tomorrow? Who will take over the Kings coaching position? More on Goorj and the Dragons. Ingles is exploring the NBA. Bradshaw heads to Europe. Powell still going well in the D-League.

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