Sunday, March 30, 2008

An Unbiased Elite Eight PREVIEW [Sunday 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 Saturday matchups (UCLA/Xavier & UNC/Louisville) got their due yesterday.

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 time- slot (2pm and 5pm respectively)…

South Regional Final: #1. Memphis vs. #3. Texas [aka “Free Throws Don’t Matter vs. Isn’t this game in TEXAS!?!?”]

Never underestimate the impact of a Naismith-finalist in games such as these.
Credit: Yahoo! Sports

Key Players
Derrick Rose v. DJ Augustin will headline the night. In fact, I’m going to say that again just to give the phenomenal PGs (freshman and sophomore, respectively) enough credit. However, the key player on the Tigers roster I am targeting is All-American and Naismith finalist Chris Douglas-Roberts. The stabilizing force for Calipari’s bunch, CDR can get to the line at-will (11-for-12 against the Spartans) and his hot hand is the worst possible news for any opponent. His size and defensive prowess make him a force on both sides of the court as well.

Texas Here’s my aforementioned promised second mentioning of the important of Rose v. Augustin (happy?). While Pay might justifiably bring up a guy named Atchley, I’m focusing on the best big man Texas has, Damion James. Arguably Texas’s most consistent player through three tournament games, James will have to earn rough baskets in the blocks and hit open jumpers for the Longhorns to withstand the force and fury of the Memphis attack. Might I also add that both Dorsey and Dozier can be prone to early foul trouble. Despite being a sophomore, James would be wise to exploit that early and often.

Moment of Truth
After AJ Abrams’s first five shots, whenever they take place, Texas will likely have a preview of the night their senior perimeter shooter is going to have. Whether he’s taking threes off of a screen or taking a runner near the free-throw line, it’s imperative how Abrams starts (and therefore finishes). Memphis locked Antonio Anderson on Drew Neitzel and gave him absolute fits; however, this matchup will be tougher on AA. I promise.

Key Stats
Don’t worry, I’m not here to talk about Memphis and free throws, AGAIN. Let’s try this instead: 15-0 to close out the first-half en route to a 50-20 halftime lead, and 0-16 to allow Michigan State to claw the score back to a 17-point deficit. Embarrassing to say the least for Michigan State, an upset special against Memphis which a ton of the media embraced (good luck with that one). Just as important was Drew Neitzel not scoring until 1:47 left in the game. Good luck, AJ Abrams.

-Dexter Pittman (4, 6, & 2) and Clint Chapman (4, 2, 1), Texas’s big men reserves combined for 17 of the most stabilizing minutes Rick Barnes could have ever hoped for on Friday night. Both role players average six minutes per game, yet found new responsibilities once the Lopez twins surfaced in the opponent’s lineup. Job well done, men. Problem is: can they possibly do it again against such amazing athletic talent?

Interesting Facts
- Though Memphis’s struggles from the free throw line (59.8%) have been documented, Texas is not much better at 68.0%. In fact, among the regulars, only DJ Augustin and AJ Abrams shoot above that clip.

- Four of the five Texas starters shoot above 37% from 3-point range.

Pay’s Prediction: Texas wins 75-67
Clement’s Prediction: Texas wins 87-84 (OT)

Midwest Regional Final: #1. Kansas vs. #10. Davidson [aka “Bill Self: You can do this vs. Gus Johnson’s Praying to Scream Our Game-Winner as loud as he possible can”]

Any chance, win or lose, that Curry is already the MOP of the Midwest Region?
Credit: Yahoo! Sports

Note from Clement: CBS commentator Gus Johnson needs to learn the difference between excitement for an incredible play or team effort AND going out of his way to root for the underdog and Cinderella story at the expense of calling a fair, accurate game. [Only HIS writing is more over-the-top, ego-inflated, and ridiculously biased.]

Key Players

It’s not fair how good Kansas is. In a tournament that has long been dominated by guard play, they have one of the nation’s best defenders (Mario Chalmers) and a dynamic guard with a flair for the unselfish (Brandon Rush). Additionally, there’s the less-heralded Russell Robinson and Sherron Collins, who may be the only guard quick enough to defeat Darren Collison or Ty Lawson in a race. Perceived as their only “weakness” prior to this season, Darrell Arthur and Darnell Jackson have been dominant in the blocks when they’ve needed to be and Sasha Kaun can take big defenders out for a 15-foot jumper.

Davidson – Let’s just get the two key players out of the way. Jason Richards and Stephen Curry must not only have repeat performances of their last three games, but they might even have to play better if they want the last two minutes of this game to be significant. In the trenches, Andrew Lovedale will have to body up with the Jayhawk quartet of Darnell Jackson, Darrell Arthur, Sasha Kaun and Cole Aldridge. Keeping the Davidson Final Four dream alive also requires the selfless contributions from Sander, Meno, Paulhus Gosselin and Rossiter that are almost never seen in box scores.

Moment of Truth
After the first prolonged Jayhawks run, will Stephen Curry begin to force shots if Jason Richards and Co. are ineffective? If Davidson can hold Kansas to less than 45% and/or force 15+ turnovers, they have a chance to defeat the dominant Jayhawks in a close game. In the end, Bob McKillop’s team will be four to five plays short of making a miraculous trip to the Final Four.

Key Stats
- 27 to 4. That may be one of the runs that Kansas has had in this tournament. It’s also Jason Richards’s assist-to-turnover ratio. Sick.

- Kansas shot over 50% from the field for the season and has done so in each of its three tournament games.

Interesting Facts
- December 21, 2007. That’s the last time Davidson lost.

- Kansas has a 5-3 record this season in games decided by single digits.

Pay’s Prediction: Kansas wins 83-72
Clement’s Prediction: Kansas wins 81-65

Final Four coverage will come fast and furious this week.

Unless you enjoy spoon-fed answers from the “networks”.

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