Team To Beat - Memphis
The Tigers were a turn-around jumper from Tennessee's Tyler Smith away from being undefeated heading into the dance. Led by Derrick Rose and Chris Douglas-Roberts, this Memphis team can run-and-gun with the best of them. The biggest question for the Tigers - how will playing in a weak C-USA affect them coming into the tournament?
Team To Watch - Pitt
Pitt is playing as well as anyone in the country right now, after becoming just the second team in Big East tourney history to win four games in four days for the championship. With Levance Fields finally healthy, this team is deep, tough, and experienced. Ronald Ramon and Fields play off each other very well, with Fields being a penetrator and Ramon a dead-eye shooter. Sam Young was the most improved player in the Big East, and maybe the country, developing a very good jump shot and perimeter game to complement his size and strength inside. DeJuan Blair is an animal on the block and maybe the most difficult box-out in the game with his long arms and 270 pound body.
Upsets To Watch For - #6 Marquette vs. #3 Stanford
I don't see any first round upsets happening in this region, which is probably the toughest region this year. I do like Marquette over Stanford, however. The Cardinals tend to struggle against teams with good guard play. Stanford is a very one-dimensional team with Team Lopez inside and not much else. Marquette has struggled a bit on the road, and with this game being played in Anaheim there will probably be a pretty large contingent of Stanford faithful, but I see the five headed monster of Dominic James, Jerel McNeal, Wesley Matthews, Maurice Acker, and David Cubillan being too much for Stanford.
Best Matchups - #4 Pitt vs. #5 Michigan State/#1 Memphis
Tom Izzo has traditionally been one of the best tournament coaches, but no team in the country is playing better than Pitt right now. I like Pitt to win this game. I think they have enough good defenders to slow down Drew Neitzel and Raymarr Morgan, and they may be a better rebounding team than Michigan State is this year. I also like Pitt over Memphis in what would be a phenomenal Sweet 16 game. Pitt is just as athletic and just as tough as Memphis, and the Panther's and have enough experience and guts that they will not be intimidated by the Memphis pressure. The key for Pitt in those two games will be Gilbert Brown. He will draw the defensive matchups of MSU's Morgan and Memphis's Douglas-Roberts, and if he can slow them down, Pitt will have the inside path to the Elite 8.
My Pick - Texas
I think Texas will be too much for Pitt in the Elite 8. DJ Augustin is the best PG in the country, and he has the ability to carry this Longhorns team where Kevin Durant couldn't. The perimeter ability of Damion James and Connor Atchley will offset the interior advantage Pitt has.
Monday, March 17, 2008
Team To Beat - Memphis