Friday, March 23, 2007

Friday Night Tournament Previews

Last night, the chalk held and I remain disgusted by Tennessee's inability to put away Ohio State. Tonight, we might be in store for the same, which is good for college basketball's elite as well as the ratings for the Elite 8 games.

Clement and I are splitting up the regions. He's got Georgetown/Vanderbilt and Oregon/UNLV and I've got the two #1 seeds versus the upstart #5 seeds.

East Region Game #1
#2. Georgetown vs. #6. Vanderbilt
It's tough to pick directly against your Cinderella, but I expect the Hoyas to dictate every piece of this game on Friday. While Hibbert often seems entrenched in granite, he has looked smooth enough thus far, alongside Jeff Green (who always seems to play well when it matters most). The key may be role players like Sapp, Ewing Jr., and Summers if the Hoyas plan to take the wind out of the sails of the Commodores. Speaking of which, don't underestimate what it took to take down Washington State in double overtime. Often the hardest part of advancing deep into the tournament are those difficult early games. Derrick Byars is an insane talent who demands the ball when it matters (which coaches always love). While Vandy has a lot going against them, the SEC has upset the Big East before in similar surprising fashion (ala Alabama over the Orange in 2004).

Players to Watch: Patrick Ewing Jr. [Georgetown] & Shan Foster [Vanderbilt]
Moment of Truth: If Vandy falls down 6 or 8 within a few minutes, will they attempt to shoot the gym out with poorly-placed threes…or work the ball through the Georgetown defense and take smartly-placed threes? We shall see.

East Region Game #2
#1. North Carolina vs. #5. USC
When analyzing this game, one question immediately comes to mind. Okay, about three. Does USC have enough bodies to compete with North Carolina for the last 10 minutes of the game? Can USC get a repeat performance of Sunday from both Taj Gibson and Daniel Hackett? Did Lodrick Stewart really have a root canal on Tuesday or are they just trying to soften up the Heels? One thing Tim Floyd can exploit is the relative weakness of Carolina's swingmen. Nick Young is a stud. Ellington is young and Reyshawn Terry is struggling with potential strep. Gabe Pruitt and Ty Lawson are expected to entertain.

Players to Watch: Daniel Hackett [USC] & Reyshawn Terry [North Carolina]
Moment of Truth: If Carolina is down late, who will be the player to step up alongside Tyler Hansbrough? How will Tim Floyd counteract the depth of Carolina, especially in the frontcourt?

Midwest Region Game #1
#1. Florida vs. #5. Butler
Another contrast in styles in store for this game, but not to the extent of Kansas and Southern Illinois last night. The Gators score 80 per game while the Bulldogs only give up 57, so expect Butler's ball-handlers to slow this game down. If Butler wins this game, it will be because of their ball security courtesy of Graves and Green, their ability to get to the free throw line, and of course, the trifecta. The annoyance factor must come into play as well for Butler. Florida has to be good for 30-35 minutes to be certain of victory and be resolute in their decision making. They must also take advantage of the hefty size disparity between the national champion and the mid-major. If Taurean Green can hold his own and find Humphrey, then Florida should be playing on Sunday against the Oregon/UNLV winner.

Players to Watch: Taurean Green [Florida] and Pete Campbell [Butler]
Moment of Truth: Butler's poise and ability to make open shots will determine whether this one will be decided in the final 5 minutes. If such is the case, chalk may finally not hold.

Midwest Region Game #2
#3. Oregon vs. #7. UNLV
An underrated game to say the least…in fact it's the one I'm dying to see. You might snicker, but the coaches are talented [Kent & Kruger] and the teams are filled with talented player who are fun to watch [i.e. Tajuan Porter & Kevin Kruger]. Both teams have been a little fortunate to face sub-par shooting [especially UNLV], yet both teams capitalize on opponent's mistakes and have performed well when their leads appear to be shrinking to nothing. In fact, it's this back-and-forth style which makes this game so intriguing. It could definitely be worth of an overtime session…or two.

Players to Watch: Wendell White [UNLV] & Bryce Taylor [Oregon]
Moment of Truth: UNLV has been a team of spurts, runs, and often droughts this season. Oregon could be the hottest team in the country right now. So in essence, UNLV needs to start well during the first 4-6 minutes. I'm not saying they need to be up 12, but they better not be down 12.

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