Team To Beat - North Carolina
They won the ACC regular season title. They won the ACC tournament title. They have the favorite for national player of the year. They are the #1 overall seed.Ty Lawson finally looked healthy against Clemson on Sunday. And to top it off, they don't play a game more than two hours from Chapel Hill until the Final Four.
Team To Watch - Louisville
Louisville is a very good defensive team, whether they are in their zone or their press. They have a rotation of four tough guards that play the top of their 2-3 zone and 2-2-1 press, and they have a ton length and athleticism in Terrence Williams and Earl Clark. Louisville runs their offense through center David Padgett, who scores 11.7 ppg but more importantly is a very good passer from the low and high post who can find shooters on the wing and people underneath.
Upsets To Watch For - #13 Winthrop over #4 Washington State
The East Region is the most likely region to see an upset with South Alabama, St. Joseph's, and George Mason all capable of advancing as double digit seeds. However, Winthrop is the most likely upset. They are tourney tested, finally winning a first round game last year against Notre Dame after making the NCAA's 7 of the previous 9 years. Winthrop, like Wazzu, is a team that hangs its hat on defense, but the Eagles are much more athletic. They are led by streaky shooter Michael Jenkins, who averages 14.3 ppg (the Eagles are 15-2 when he scores more than 12 points), and big man Taj McCullough, who averaged 11.3 ppg and 5.6 rpg after a successful transition from the 3 to the 4. I can also see Butler knocking off Tennessee. The Bulldogs can shoot the heck out of the ball, and between AJ Graves and Mike Green, they have two very good senior guards that won't be affected by Tennessee's pressure. If they get hot, Tennessee may not make it out of the first weekend.
Best Matchups - Butler vs. South Alabama, Notre Dame vs. Winthrop, Tennessee vs. Butler
Butler may have been the most talked about mid-major all season, while South Alabama was the most talked about bubble team in the week leading up to Selection Sunday. They play very different styles (Butler is a three point shooting team whereas South Alabama is a very good defensive team that likes to drive), but both have tremendous backcourts that should make this game fun to watch. It will also be interesting to see Notre Dame play Winthrop a year after the Eagles upset the Irish. And if you like three-point shooting, hope that both Tennessee and Butler advance to face each other in the second round.
My Pick - North Carolina
I like North Carolina to get by Louisville en route to San Antonio. UNC probably isn't going to face much of a test until the Elite 8. I really like this Louisville team, and this will be a very exciting game because both teams love to run, but I think UNC has too much talent.
Monday, March 17, 2008
Team To Beat - North Carolina