Monday, March 17, 2008

Four Games We Love

Four Games I Love - Clement Edition

Pay is going to take over the reigns with his own four matchups in an evening post.

Xavier is on tons of media "hot-lists" as a Final Four sleeper.
Question is: are the healthy enough???


Here we go…

East Region
#7. Butler vs. #10. South Alabama
-It’s only fair to let Pay have Mason vs. Notre Dame. Fortunately, I have tons of interest in this mid-major battle between the WCC’s Zags and the Sun Belt’s Jags. Both teams have strong depth, playmakers at multiple positions and a TON to prove. Even more interesting is that South Alabama wound up in a pod being played in Birmingham (yes, Alabama).

Midwest Region
#6. USC vs. #11. Kansas State
-Mayo v. Beasley. Need I say more? Honestly, I don’t.

South Region
#5. Michigan State vs. #12. Temple
-Nicknamed Team Schizophrenia by several media outlets, Michigan State may be the most difficult team to read in this entire bracket. In years past, they’ve proved doubters wrong, and rode momentum and great coaching to the Final Four (2005 rings a bell). Other years, they’ve folded out early to seemingly lesser competition (2006 rang a bell, at first). Enter the A-10 Tourney champs and this might be the 5/12 matchup that several people are eyeing intently.

West Region
#3. Xavier vs. #14. Georgia
-Everyone is jocking the Musketeers as their "sleeper" team. Yeah, as if a #3 seed is a real sleeper. Nevertheless, if Drew Lavender is healthy, I like Xavier to make a real run in this tournament. The problem is: he isn’t. Suddenly, you enter in that pod the remarkable SEC Tourney Champion Georgia Bulldogs (rest!), the last announced team (Baylor) and another schizophrenic Big Ten team (Purdue). Call me crazy, but Xavier is just as likely to make a legit Elite Eight run as they are to not survive the opening weekend.

Pay will check in shortly with his four...

Four Games I Love - Paymon Edition

East Region
#5 Notre Dame vs. #12 George Mason
- Thanks for letting me tackle the alma mater's battle versus "Da-da-da-da-da ol' Notre Dame". That was for Sum. Since Notre Dame has been consistent this season (great on offense, average on defense), this matchup will come down to how Mason plays defense. Why? That's because Mason will have to stick with what worked in Richmond, and cover the perimeter (ND averages 8.5 made threes per game and shoots 41% from behind the arc). These teams are very similar statistically despite the Irish holding a distinct height advantage, though the Irish are a better perimeter shooting squad. The battle between Will Thomas and Luke Harangody will be intriguing. All of this said, guard play wins this one.

Midwest Region
#8 UNLV vs. #9 Kent State
- The real media will provide you every detail possible on Gonzaga and Davidson (did you know the game was in Raleigh and that Gonzaga may be jet-lagged???). It's like that team has never traveled before. Moving onto this game, if UNLV wins, it will be because of ball security (+4.3 turnover margin and averaging only 10 TOs per contest). Keeping the ball won't be easy, as the Golden Flashes force in excess of 16 turnovers per game. On the opposite of the ball, Haminn Quaintance's long frame presents matchup problems and disrupt the free-flowing Runnin' Rebels. Once again, all eyes are on the guards -- more specifically, Wink Adams versus Al Fisher.

South Region
#6 Marquette vs. #11 Kentucky
- Without a doubt, this is my least favorite region. I hope Billy Gillispie and his assistants have surrounded Rupp Arena with the newspaper and web clippings clamoring over Kentucky's inclusion in the tournament field. For those just joining us, this tournament is about guard play and the last time I checked, Ramel Bradley and Joe Crawford were awfully good seniors. Of course, they must be on their 'A' game if they want to progress past the backcourt trio of Jerel McNeal (73 steals), Dominic James (60 steals) and Wesley Matthews, all of whom average double figures in scoring.

West Region
#5 Drake vs. #12 Western Kentucky
- You gotta love it when the tournament selection committee pits one mid-major against another. I don't. According to some experts, Drake is considered the best shooting team in the field. Led by Missouri Valley Conference POY Adam Emmenecker, Drake has four double-digit average scorers (of which Emmenecker is not one) who made at least 40 three-pointers. The latent facts are that "The Drake" has underrated athleticism and has a penchant for playing stiff defense (opponents averaging less than 61 ppg). As for the Hilltoppers of Western Kentucky, Courtney Lee (20.4 ppg in 29.4 mpg!) is the man; however, WKU has ten players who average more than ten minutes of action per game. In its two losses to South Alabama, the Hilltoppers were held to 28.6 and 22.7 percent three-point shooting. Drake knows what it needs to accomplish.

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