Thursday, March 20, 2008

2008 Tourney Preview

It’s the most wonderful time of the year: March Madness. Fortunately for me, Ms. JR Mason is going home to be with her family for Easter. That means I won’t have to hear stuff like “Are you going to watch the next game too?”

Without further ado, here’s what you should (or shouldn’t) expect.

East Region

Teams that could go deep
North Carolina
– Carolina was 32-2 this year and look better than ever. Ty Lawson is back and Tyler Hansbrough should be the Player of the Year. Roy Williams doesn’t have a team full of athletes; he has a team full of athletic basketball players. That’s the difference between UNC and a team like Memphis.
Tennessee – Tennessee is arguably the best two seed in the tournament. They can play uptempo or in the half court. Chris Lofton is by far the most clutch player in college basketball, so any close game should go to them.
Louisville – Louisville was a program that was forgotten about early this season. No one was talking about them and they weren’t expected to do much in the Big East. They are deep and well coached, so they could definitely make a run.
Teams that could fall early
Washington State
– Washington State could either be a sleeper or a bust. I’m putting them here because they are too inconsistent for comfort. Also, they’re a tad disappointing, as I thought they’d be a Top 5-10 team all season.
Indiana – Just a dysfunctional group at this point.
Notre Dame – Not sold on these guys.
Mid-Major Report
George Mason
– After trailing VCU for most of the season in the CAA, George Mason is where I expected them to be. They have a very deep team, some Final Four experience, and one of the best coaches in basketball. They could definitely make a run.
Winthrop – Don’t know much about these guys this year, but they are normally good.
Butler – Butler is deep and has a lot of tournament experience. Since they can shoot, they can win.
South Alabama – Don’t know much about these guys either, but they have been a trendy pick to knock off Butler because they’re playing in Alabama. Avoid trends.

Midwest Region

Teams that could go deep
– I think they have the best combination of athleticism, depth, and coaching. If they don’t go far, I’d be very disappointing.
Vanderbilt – Vanderbilt doesn’t get much shine on the national scene, which is a shame. They will be fun to watch.
Davidson – Davidson is my mid-major pick to go deep this year. They had one of the best non-conference schedules in the nation and won’t be intimidated. Sophomore guard Stephen Curry is one of the nation’s best players, and as a freshman he almost led his team to an upset over Maryland.
Wisconsin – Bo Ryan’s teams always play defense and always shoot with a decent percentage. Those are two things you definitely need in the tournament.
Teams that could fall early
– I didn’t know what to expect from them this year, after they lost Jeff Green. After watching them against Memphis, I’ve felt they were suspect. They don’t have a go-to guy, which is a necessity in the NCAA’s.
USC – Have you seen the O.J. Mayo show? Tim Floyd isn’t doing a lick of coaching down in L.A.
Kansas St – Mike Beasley is fun to watch, but as with USC, you have to have a coach to go far in the tourney.
Mid-Major Report
Kent St.
– One of the best mid-major teams this year. They have a tradition of going deep and should be a tough out.
Gonzaga – The Zags have been up and down this year, finishing the season up (until losing to San Diego in the WCC championship game). Its really hard to tell what they will do this year.

South Region

Teams that could go deep
– Texas is a well coached, athletic team like Kansas. They definitely could go all the way, especially if D.J. Augustin and his shooters get hot.
Pittsburgh – Pitt is always a tough team. This season they have come together down the stretch and are playing their best basketball at the right time.
Michigan St. – It seems like every other year they make a run. This might be their year to make a run, although I’m never a big Michigan St. fan.
Marquette – Marquette has exciting guard play, which can make or break you.
Teams that could fall early
– You have to have a coach to win in the NCAA’s. They have more athletes than USC or Kansas State, but against a well coached team like Pittsburgh, they’ll go down.
Stanford – Lack of a go-to guy.
Mid-Major Report
St. Mary’s
– They were a tough team early, but seem to have hit a wall.
Cornell – They dominated the Ivy League this year, and Ivy League teams always play tough in the tourney.

West Region

Teams that could go deep
– Best coached team in the tourney. They have a lot of depth and talent at the guard, on the wings, and down low. After just making the Final Four the past two seasons, they should be poised to take it all this year.
Duke – They should have a fairly easy go at it until they run into the Bruins.
Drake – They might have been the best mid-major team in the country. Look for them to make a run.
Teams that could fall early
– Don’t trust the Huskies. Inconsistent and they don’t have a go-to guy.
Xavier – They’re becoming trendy. Avoid trends.
Mid-Major Report
Western Kentucky
– Don’t know much about them this year.
San Diego – They came on strong late and could be a sleeper team.

Final Four
North Carolina vs. Kansas
Texas vs. UCLA

Kansas vs. UCLA

– What more can I say about UCLA. Simmons waxed poetically about the Bruins yesterday, so if you need more credibility then take a look.

Top 10 Teams to Win it All
– 60% of the time …
Kansas – If it wasn’t for UCLA, they would be the favorite.
North Carolina – They could very easily beat Kansas and UCLA, so don’t count them out.
Texas – If they get hot, they can win it all.
Duke – You know Coach K will have the refs in his pocket, which is a huge advantage in close games.
Tennessee – Tennessee is a great team that’s fun to watch. I’d like to see them make a run.
Pittsburgh – They’re peaking at the right time, although you have to wonder if they can take the momentum all the way.
Wisconsin – Bo Ryan is good enough to get this above average team to the Final Four.
Louisville – Making the Final Four with this team would be one of Petino’s greatest feats.
Washington St. – Although I have them going down early, their combination of defense, experience, and guard play could help them make a run.

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