Saturday, March 29, 2008

An Unbiased Elite Eight PREVIEW [Saturday Edition]

Pay and I have decided to stick with what works, revisiting last year’s Elite Eight format we enjoyed so much, as we deliver your Unofficial Unbiased Preview to the Elite Eight.

The Sweet Sixteen got their pub the past two mornings. [I & II]

Don’t worry. We aren’t afraid to tick off a few coaches, call out non-professional athletes, or let our gut reactions – not our corporate sponsors or contacts – decide our analysis and perhaps, a prediction or two.

Without further banter, let’s roll!

…games are in order of tip-off (6:40pm and 9:05pm respectively)…

West Regional Final
: #1. UCLA vs. #3. Xavier

Beware of the impact, and chest hair, of UCLA's role players.
Credit: Yahoo! Sports

Key Players
When Darren Collison fouled out with over 5 minutes remaining in their Sweet Sixteen matchup against the Hilltoppers, the Bruins appeared to not break a sweat. It should’ve came as no surprise when the tandem of Westbrook/Shipp brought up the ball, thanks in large part to the brilliance of freshman Kevin Love. His passing has always been flaunted, his defense has arrived on the national scene, and now Love may be the one man whose team needs him more than any other. Josh Duncan is in for a nightmarish matchup.

XavierAs important as Lavender’s poise, Burrell’s discipline and Raymond’s clutch-shooting has been to the Musketeers, anyone who has watched Xavier this tournament must realize the impact of PF Josh Duncan. Steadying them during a late WVU run, fouling out in the closing minutes was just as impactful for Alexander to WVU as Duncan was the Musketeers. In fact, if Duncan can play 30 minutes – battling with Love without fouling out first – then, he might be the West Regional MVP you never expected. Kevin Love is in for a nightmarish matchup.

Moment of Truth
It’s too hard for me to believe this game won’t be foul happy. The Bruins have shown in back-to-back games that they can overcome double-digit deficits (A&M) and nearly blow one of their own (WKU). The same can be said about the Musketeers actually (Georgia and WVU respectively). The real question I have is: who will be the first impact starter to foul out? Collison, Burrell, Lavender, Love or Duncan? In fact, it’s much more likely a few of these guys might be gone before the final buzzer, whether that’s after 40 minutes or not.

Key Stats
Without going too crazy, here’s two critical tourney statistics worth mentioning:
UCLA – Without going overboard, Kevin Love’s numbers have been astronomical throughout the season. However, his regular season numbers (17.6, 10.7, & 1.5) were pedestrian compared to his tournament averages (22.6, 11.3, & 5). While A&M offered up some beef, no opponent has had the talent that Josh Duncan has the attacking perimeter players the Musketeers offer a bounty of. Keep it up, Kev.

Xavier – Their opponents have shot respectively 6-13 (Georgia), 8-21 (Purdue), & West Virginia (1-11) for a total of 33.3%. While far from problematic as a whole, Xavier will rely heavily on limiting open shot opportunities from behind the arc from the Bruins and affording them a hot start early.

Interesting Facts
-UCLA is trying to be the first team to make 3 straight Final Fours. Who was the last to do it? Michigan State and Tom Izzo (sandwiching a Final Four-appearance in there). Of course, the Bruins did it with relative ease back in the 70s (aka The Wooden Years).

-Trying to remember the last time Xavier was in the Final Four? Good luck. Truth is: Xavier reached the Elite Eight in 2004 (Santos!) and was dispatched by top-seeded Duke. That’s as close as they’ve gotten to the final Saturday of the college basketball season. However, if you’re looking for a Cincinnati-based Final Four squad, check out the 91-92 Bearcats with a young Nick Van Exel at the point.

Pay’s Prediction: UCLA wins, 75-68
Clement’s Prediction: UCLA wins, 78-73

East Regional Final
: #1. North Carolina vs. #3. Louisville

If Lawson is knocking down his shots early...good luck Cardinals.
Credit: Yahoo! Sports

Key Players
Early in the first half of their Sweet 16 battle versus Washington State, it was Danny Green who led the Tar Heels to an insurmountable 14-point halftime bulge. His aggressiveness and ability to finish is invaluable against Louisville’s pressure defense. That said, Ty Lawson and Quentin Thomas will have to continue making excellent decisions in breaking down the Cardinals. Of course, Tyler Hansbrough cannot have a first half like he did against the Cougars if he wants his legacy at Carolina to end in a national championship. Also, Wayne Ellington will need to continue hitting mid-range jumpers in transition.

Louisville – If the Cardinals are to extinguish the Tar Heels, it will come down to senior center David Padgett. He anchors the zone, is perhaps the nation’s best floor communicators and helped hold Tennessee to 34% field goal shooting. Do-everything forward Terrence Williams has struggled at times, but can take over a game at both ends of the floor and is never to take a big shot (and make it). However, Earl Clark and Andre McGee have elevated this team to the Elite Eight, and others (Jerry Smith, Juan Palacios, Derrick Character) are fully capable of contributing double-figure points.

Moment of Truth
Much like the first Elite Eight matchup, there will be fouls. Whomever can get the other into foul trouble first has a decided advantage and may force the opposition to veer away from their preferred style of play. Also, both outrebounded their opponents in the last round by more than ten. The squad that is most capable of securing the basketball will win this game and book their ticket to San Antonio.

Key Stats
-The Tar Heels have shot 57.7% including 42.6% from 3-point range in the NCAA Tournament. Sophomore point guard Ty Lawson carries a nearly 2.5 to 1 assist-to-turnover ratio.

-Meanwhile, the Cardinals surrender only 38.4% from the field and only 30.7% from behind the arc. Something has to give in that department. Also, the Cardinals must improve upon their 64.9% clip from the charity stripe should they wish to upend the favored Tar Heels.

Interesting Fact
- Roy Williams and Rick Pitino are second (behind Coach K) in Final Four appearances (5) with 5 different teams combined.

Pay’s Prediction: North Carolina wins, 76-72
Clement’s Prediction: North Carolina wins, 83-71

See you tomorrow with the OTHER half of the Elite Eight...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

great job guys....cant wait for what you think about the Davidson/Kansas Matchup....GO DAVIDSON!