Sunday, March 22, 2009

InClement Weather: Sweet Sixteen Thoughts

Opening Round Reactions can be found HERE and HERE.

Oh yeah, in case you didn't know, people HATE Eric Devendorf.
See! See! See! [
All three posted next to the Syracuse result for today. COOL RIGHT!?!?]
Guess who loves it? Eric Devendorf.

Credit: Yahoo! Sports

Midwest Region

put the load on Terrence Williams and he responded with a stellar performance down the stretch against Siena. Their reward? An NBA-loaded squad from Arizona who is playing with house money. Execution in the opening 5 minutes and closing 5 minutes of each half will dictate who advances to the Elite Eight in this game.

Arizona proved a lot of experts correct. 1) They didn't deserve to be in the tournament field based on their regular season resume. 2) Once they got in, Arizona had a favorable draw and was very likely to make their way to the Sweet Sixteen due to their incredibly talented roster. Funny how things work out, right?

Kansas escaped a slow start against Dayton, mainly due to Dayton's even slower start. Cole Aldrich further impressed NBA scouts with a triple-double (13 pts, 20 rebs, 10 blocks!). The defending champs aren't afraid to grind out tough victories. Enter their next opponent...

Michigan State executed down the stretch, USC couldn't. The lack of urgency from the Trojan players during the final possession had to be unsettling for Tim Floyd (or was it?). The Spartans had 7 players log over 17 minutes and seem as balanced a squad remaining. Question is: do they have the offensive firepower necessary to win games in which they can't slow down the tempo to a crawl?

West Region

UCONN dispatched Texas A&M (as expected) with relative ease on Saturday afternoon. I was out watching I Love You, Man. I bet you wish you had too.

Purdue withstood all Washington could deliver in the 2nd half to advance to the Sweet Sixteen. Obvious memo out to the Boilermakers: you'll need two stellar halves to have a chance against UCONN. The real question remains: who can put Thabeet and Adrien on their butts on the Purdue front line? Any takers?

Missouri's ending against Marquette was one of the oddest endings you're likely to see in an NCAA Tournament game, without a buzzer beater being involved. J.T. Tiller made a fantastic Eaton-esque move to the hoop, with the game tied at 79 with 5.5 seconds to go, and drew a foul. After an awkward fall, "pinch-shooter" Kim English - yes, to add drama he is a freshman - nailed two free throws. Any Marquette fan was ballistic. Unfortunately, things only got worse when Lazar Hayward turned the ball over by stepping over the baseline before inbounding the ball. I don't want to hear about Acker's half-court heave/no foul call either, please. The final result was Missouri outlasting a gutsy Marquette squad. I thought if McNeal went for 30 and James played it'd be enough; however, Mike Anderson's incredible reclamation project at Missouri continues to improve.

Memphis dispatched Maryland early on. Tyreke Evans now has a gritty Missouri roster to deal with. Good luck to both sides on that front.

East Region

Pittsburgh trailed Oklahoma State with less than 3 minutes to go and then promptly answered the bell with its big 3 (Young, Blair, & Fields) making plays down the stretch. Can they dodge a third potential bullet against Xavier? Probably not. Will they storm out early and finally establish themselves as a legit #1-seed? Probably. By the way, Jamie Dixon has quickly become a Coach K-esque whiner on the sideline. He is livid after every call and has not lived up to the moniker of a tough coach on a tough team. He's a whiner. Plain and simple. Odd since DeJuan Blair walks a thin line between outworking and outright bullying opponents in the blocks.

Xavier withstood a brutal Wisconsin defensive effort in the first-half and executed down the stretch in the second half. I keep finding myself baffled at how much Xavier lost from last season's roster and has rebounded to make the Sweet Sixteen. They'll need nothing short of a stellar effort to make a second consecutive Elite Eight; however, if they can click on offense early and establish their tempo against Pitt, it's more than possible.

Villanova took out UCLA outside of the school's business building. Ridiculous.

Duke may have defeated Texas. They also may have gotten one too many fortunate calls down the stretch. Not that it should come as a surprise. Sure, I can hate all I want. Problem is: Duke may be Final Four bound if John Scheyer is going to be this heady a player. Uh oh.

South Region

UNC got an incredibly gutsy performance from Ty Lawson to overcome a scrappy LSU team down the stretch. It was nothing short of gutsy, but not heroic. Calm down, beat writers. Marcus Thornton tried his best; yet, the Heels were simply too much thanks in large part due to their talented point guard. They'll need this for four more games from Lawson. If healthy, this team would be a lock to cut down any and all nets. Problem is: he won't be 100%. That makes things slightly more dicey.

Gonzaga offered us as close a buzzer beater as possible. WKU had a legit gripe after not getting the timeout call. I can't imagine being in their shoes. Nevertheless, the tough reality is that Gonzaga still made the shot and still won. I'm pumped for UNC/Gonzaga. Which means the Tar Heels are gonna rout the Bulldogs and win by 30. Why? Because they can be that good.

Syracuse stiffled Arizona State for much of the game, responding to any adversity with calm outside shooting and a suffocating zone. The fourth Sweet Sixteen for Boeheim since '98, the Cuse should already be drawing up plans to hope to "contain" Blake Griffin. Good luck. Meanwhile, I am not pleased with the AP headline of Cuse "edging" ASU. When the Sun Devils cut the game long double-digit lead to 5, two straight 3s put it back to 11. The culprit was the most hated man in the tournament himself, Eric "K-Fed" Devendorf. James Harden is lucky NBA defenses aren't able to use a true zone defense. If so, the past two games might've knocked him out of the top 10. Cuse advanced and I sleep easy for a few more night.

Oklahoma defeated Michigan after the Wolverines excited their fanbase a little too much early on. Griffin took control, had a sensational posterizing-dunk, and the Sooners are quietly shaping back into form. Jeff Capel has a huge task ahead of him. One star player, no matter how incredibly talented, won't be enough without a solid gameplan that attacks the zone and isolates the Cuse big men to produce down the stretch.

Enjoy a few days of rest. If you have a team alive, keep on livin' the dream.
If not, don't resort to watching the NIT. Please.

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