Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Tournament Notes

Thoughts and observations from the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament...

East Region:

North Carolina
- Teams don't get 100 put on them in the second round. The Tar Heels ran Arkansas out of the gym. They are defending and their offense looks unstoppable. For the first time all year the most talented team in the country is focused. Everyone should be very very scared. What's more is the way Lawson has looked and the fact that Hansbrough has only had to score 21 and 17 in the first two games. Can't wait to see if they run Washington State, a team that hangs their hat on defense, out of the gym.

Washington State - Speaking of the Cougars, a great under the radar performance. Coming off a year where they lost early with high expectations, they have played great defense and dominated two straight games, only no one noticed. 40 points and 41 points given up in a 31 point and 20 point win. This senior laden team is playing great basketball and has no expectations going into a game against the tournament favorites.

Louisville - Another team that went about their business this weekend. I think they will beat Tennessee handily. They handled Oklahoma like a second teir team. Well, Oklahoma is a second teir team, and great teams handle teams that shouldn't play with them. They play a great team game, and have one of the best coaches in the game on the bench.

Butler - They probably should have won that game, as Tennessee is a team just waiting for someone to beat them. I was disappointed with point guard Mike Green. I was expecting more from him and he seemed to play out of control and get himself into trouble driving to the basket all night long. AJ Graves played as advertised, but everytime Butler had a chance to make their move it seemed Green would get to the rack, draw three defenders and throw the ball up looking for the foul that never came.

Tennessee - They look about the same as the first time they were a #2 seed. A team waiting for someone to beat them. They struggled with American and they struggled against Butler. They rely on playing games at a frantic pace and good teams will slow them down and force them to play a half court game. In the half court game, you'll find a team that has no consistency out of the point guard position, has to be shooting well, and can't defend. Anything further than the Sweet 16 will be overachieving for this team.

Midwest Region:

Kansas - They have looked impressive and have handled all the challenges that have been thrown at them. They play good defense, and they get scoring from everyone on their roster. But all season they have played an easy schedule and struggled in close games (outside of the Big XII Championship game). The games are about to get serious and what will Kansas, a team that is notorious for collapsing, going to do in a close game with a lot on the line. Who gets the ball?

Villanova - This team continues to overachieve. They hung around in a tough conference and snuck into the tournament. Once they got there, they reminded everyone that you win with good defense and point guard play. Scottie Reynolds has been great in the tournament, and the Wildcats play with a physical intensity despite the fact that they're not great inside.

Wisconsin - I've seen the Badgers on TV a few times, and once in person against the Longhorns, and I will say two things. I have yet to be impressed by them, and I've yet to see them lose. This team plays ugly Big Ten basketball to perfection and Bo Ryan is one of the most unsung coaches in America. Which I guess its fitting at one of the most unsung schools in college basketball. They will beat Davidson and Stephen Curry will struggle. They play disciplined, physical, boring basketball. And they have a chance to knock of Kansas to get to the Final Four.

Georgetown - This is a team that didn't look impressive at any point this season. They played with teams they shouldn't have but they kept winning. Well they some how managed to blow an 18 point lead to a less talented team, and their season is over. Roy Hibbert was extremely disappointing for the second tournament in a row. He should have turned pro last season because I think is stock peaked last year.

West Region:

Duke - We should have seen it coming. They play high pressure defense and can't defend. They have no interior presence and rely on three pointers. Yet it's still weird to see Coach K teams lose early in the tournament. What was more disturbing is to see Coach K's expressions throughout the tournament. I know he had been sick, but he looked tired and understanding of his team's fate. Is the program suffering from the marketization and his team USA commitments?

Drake - It should be a rule that every mid-major should get screwed with 9 and 10 seeds for one or two years before we give them a five seed. It seems like mid-majors need tournament experience before they can handle something other than being the underdog. Everyone got our hopes up with this Drake team, and we were all let down.

Texas A&M - It was a underachieving and sometimes painful to watch season for the Aggies. Then the tournament roles around and they turn into a solid shooting team that has a great inside presence and plays tough defense. If they didn't choke from 10 minutes left until 4 minutes left in the UCLA game, they are thinking about the Final Four after pulling off the upset of the tournament. Even with that let down, they still got hosed. But after seeing that and the two Pac-10 tainted wins, I'm convinced John Wooden is working over the refs telepathically.

UCLA - I have not been impressed with this team the last two weeks. They got huge breaks in the Pac-10 Tournament and haven't looked that impressive in the Dance. They should have lost to A&M, but Collison and Love made insane plays down the stretch. The A&M game will either be their turning point that wakes them up and gets them to the Finals, or it will be the beginning of the end in a region that should be a cake walk. Shipp has fallen off the face of the earth and may be hurt now, and Mbah a' Moute isn't himself. I don't see how they can play with a North Carolina or Kansas.

South Region:

Memphis - Much like Tennessee, I dont' think they play the type of basketball that is condusive to winning the title. They rely on creating a hectic pace and getting out in transition. If you pack in defensively and force them to shoot and take care of the basketball I think they will crumble. They are more talented than Tennessee and have a better coach, but I still don't think they play the kind of basketball it takes to win championships. They will get their chance to prove me wrong as Michigan State will do all of those things and give Memphis their first test since the Tennessee game.

Michigan State - You have to give Tom Izzo credit. He has them focused for the right part of the season. They have played two good games in a row for the first time in a long time and they have the talent to play with Memphis. If Izzo can pull off the upset it will be one of his most impressive coaching jobs. If they do hang with Memphis it will be a physical game and Neitzel will torch Memphis from deep.

Pittsburgh - Pitt had a good point guard in Levance Fields, talent inside in Blair and Young, and a deep, physical team. It was a team that was primed to make a deep run in the tournament. Only they ran into a team with a better coach that had more experience in playing that grinding tough March style of basketball. An unlucky draw and an off night sent them home early.

Stanford - Trent Johnson is an idiot. To get tossed in the first half of an NCAA tournament game with a lead? Idiotic. Inexcusable. Especially when your assistant coach that takes over is going to bench your best two players for 5 minutes in the second half. I understand what he was doing. Both Lopez twins had 3 fouls, and he had an 8 point lead. Rest them from 11 minutes until the 8 minute timeout and then you have them fresh and not in grave foul trouble the rest of the way. Only when it went to 6:45 before he called a timeout and had watched the lead completely disappear did it become a horrible idea. They let Marquette back in the game and when you let a team back in the game that late, they're going to stay in it the rest of the way. Stanford should feel fortunate. And if Trent Johnson says he wouldnt' change a thing after that incident, then he's an even bigger idiot. Because no matter how good a coach Trent Johnson is, he doesn't help his team if he's not on the court. And no point made halfway through the first half is going to benefit your team over the 25 minutes that you're not going to be there.

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