Friday, March 27, 2009

Sweet 16 Preview

UPDATE: The Friday Sweet 16 previews are now up. We were 4-4 in our picks yesterday, by the way (h/t myself).

The NCAA Tournament's first weekend was, in a word, uneventful. While teams like Memphis and Pitt and Louisville all received early round scares, the first two rounds of the greatest spectacle in sports left us with a chalky Sweet 16. Each of the top three seeds won two games for the first time since the tournament expanded to 64/65 teams. Two regions had their top four seed make the Sweet 16, also a first. The other two teams to make the second weekend - fifth seed Purdue, who was a preseason favorite in the Big Ten, and twelfth seed Arizona, who is making their 25th straight tournament appearance.

To some, the first weekend was a bust. But what the this year's version of the dance lacks in cinderellas, upsets, and buzzer beaters, it makes up for with dynamite Sweet 16 match-ups.

So without further ado, here is your Sweet 16 preview:

Best Match-up, Storyline: We could go with Eric Devendorf and inundation of hate/anti-hate he has gotten in the last few days, but I feel like we've written about that before. We could go with UConn and the distractions they are going to face heading into their date with Purdue tomorrow, but the tournament is supposed to be college hoops bliss, not a reminder of how unethical and corrupt the landscape of college athletics has become. We could even go with the fact that there are seven coaches remaining who have a national title on their resume (two of whom, Tim Izzo and Bill Self, are squaring off) or that Taylor King transferred from Duke to Villanova during the off-season, but that bores us.

So we will go with this: Sean Miller vs. Pitt. Miller ran the point for Pitt from 1987-92 before graduating and joining the coaching ranks. But Miller is also one of the hottest coaching commodities this side of Anthony Grant. Do we dare mention that Miller is considered by many to be the heir to the throw at Pitt whenever Jamie Dixon decides to move on? Apparently, we do. Boom.

Best Match-up, Stylistically: This one is easy. Villanova versus Duke. Both teams are loaded with perimeter talent, both teams love to spread the floor, and both play a tough, pressuring style of defense. We originally had Nova winning this game, but at the last minute went with Duke because, among other things, we were swayed by an article talking about offensive efficiency and tournament success. It was 2 am, and for the record, I regret the decision after seeing Texas come within two borderline foul calls of having a shot at the end of regulation to beat Duke and seeing Villanova pummel three-time Final Four participant UCLA.

Best Match-up, Mano-a-Mano: There are some intriguing match-ups all over the Sweet 16 landscape (C-Bud#34 vs. T-Will, DeMarre Carroll/Leo Lyons vs. Shawn Taggart/Robert Dozier, anyone on UNC vs. anyone on Gonzaga), but the best is going to be Sherron Collins going up against Kalin Lucas. Lucas (the Big Ten player of the year) and Collins (the Big XII player of the year had Blake Griffin gone pro) are both scoring point guards that can also distribute. Lucas is lightening quick with the ball in his hands, especially in transition, and can get around even some of the best defenders. Collins is a broader, stronger player with the ball that can over power smaller guards. It should be fun watching these two go at each other all game. And yes, I know mano-a-mano means hand-to-hand, not man-to-man.

Best Match-up, Just Because: I don't know why, but I cannot wait for the Memphis-Missouri match-up. Maybe it is all the athletes in the game. Maybe it is because perennial powerhouse Memphis is playing newcomer Missouri. Maybe it is the contrasting, but tough nonetheless, defensive styles (Missouri playing their 40 minutes of hell defense while Memphis plays the best half court defense in the country). I don't know, I'm just pissed that this game is on at the same time as Duke-Nova.

He is your Sweet 16 schedule of games and announcers (follow the links for a preview of the games):

- Thursday, 7:07 PM, West Region: #5 Purdue vs. #1 UConn - Dick Enberg, Jay Bilas
- Thursday, 7:27 PM, East Region: #4 Xavier vs. #1 Pitt - Verne Lundquist, Bill Raftery
- Thursday, 9:37 PM, West Region: #3 Missouri vs. #2 Memphis - Enberg, Bilas
- Thursday, 9:57 PM, East Region: #3 Villanova vs. #2 Duke - Lundquist, Raftery

- Friday, 7:07 PM, Midwest Region: #12 Arizona vs. #1 Louisville - Gus Johnson, Len Elmore
- Friday, 7:27 PM, South Region: #3 Syracuse vs. #2 Oklahoma - Jim Nantz, Clark Kellogg
- Friday, 9:37 PM, Midwest Region: #3 Kansas, #2 Michigan State - Johnson, Elmore
- Friday, 9:57 PM, South Region: #4 Gonzaga vs. #1 UNC - Nantz, Kellogg

No comments: