Team To Beat - UCLA
The Bruins will be looking to make their third straight Final Four - the first team to do so since Michigan State did from 1999-2001. Darren Collinson is healthy and playing his best ball of the season. Hopefully the ankle injury to Luc Richard Mbah A Moute won't keep him out past the first weekend and the back spasms Kevin Love was experiencing won't affect him in the tournament. But with the tournament experience that the Bruins have gained over the last two years, it's not to pick them to reach a third straight Final Four.
Team To Watch - UConn
The Huskies have struggled a bit since Jerome Dyson has come back from his suspension, losing three of their last six, but in their 10 games winning streak they proved that they could beat anyone, anywhere. The Huskies size and athleticism inside and shot blocking ability is very tough to matchup with for smaller teams. AJ Price has continually proven he has one of the biggest hearts in the country with his play late in games. The key for UConn will be whether or not their role players step up. You know what you are going to get with Hasheem Thabeet, Jeff Adrien, and Price, but if Craig Austrie, Stanley Robinson, Dyson, and Doug Wiggins can play tough defense, hit some three's, and get the Huskies some easy buckets, UConn will be a tough team to knock out.
Upsets To Watch For - #11 Baylor over #6 Purdue
Baylor is a team with five very good guards who combine to score 57.5 ppg, the best of which are Curtis Jerrells and LaceDarius Dunn. They like to get out and run, mainly because they don't have an inside presence other than Kevin Rogers. Baylor tends to struggle against teams that slow the game down and pound the ball down low, which is not the way Purdue likes to play. Purdue has had a great season, but they lost the only time they faced a team with Baylor's speed and athleticism (Clemson).
Best Matchups - Chase Budinger vs. Joe Alexander, #3 Xavier vs. #14 Georgia
Budinger and Alexander may be the two most athletic white guys in the country and have similar games, with Alexander doing a little more damage in the post and Budinger spending more time on the perimeter. The normal order of things are switched in the 3-14 matchup out west. Georgia, the team from the SEC, gets a 14 seed after coming out of nowhere to win the SEC tournament while Xavier, the mid-major, was ranked in the top 15 all season and earned a 3 seed. Regardless, Georgia comes into the tournament after winning four games in four days (including two in one day) while Xavier has been struggling of late, losing two of their last four games (both to St. Joseph's).
My Pick - UCLA
I see UCLA squeaking by UConn, and then beating Xavier en route to their third straight Final Four, where they get a rematch of their loss to Texas from early in the season.
Monday, March 17, 2008
Team To Beat - UCLA