I can't believe it has been almost two weeks since I last posted. I've been really busy visiting home, going to school, making money and of course watching college basketball.
I picked 64 of the 65 teams right in my picks of who would go to the tournament. Ironically the team that was the last to get in the dance, the team that I had justified in not making it was #12 seed Arizona. Arizona is now the lowest seed still alive. This tournament has been very top heavy with no 1-3 seed losing yet. It is still wide open as we go into my favorite weekend. The weekend of the Sweet 16 and Elite 8. Tonight at around 7pm the fun starts again.
So here are my previews and predictions.
Today's games-Thursday March 26th
#1 UConn vs. #5 Purdue 7:07pm
UConn has not been tested yet this tournament, but they will be tonight by a tough Purdue team that is led by inside/outside threat Robbie Hummel. UConn's frontcourt duo of Hasheem Thabeet and Jeff Adrien could be way too much for the Boilermakers to handle, but Purdue has their own talented big man in JuJuan Johnson. Both teams have good veteran perimeter players. Purdue has PG-E'Twaun Moore (if I knock up a girl and she has a boy I might consider naming him E'Twaun Moran, that would be a cool name) and UConn is led by A.J. Price and SF Stanley Robinson who has stepped up big since Jerome Dyson's injury. If either of UConn's big men get in trouble the game should be even. I would love to see and upset but that could still be a long shot.
Prediction: UConn by 6
#2 Memphis vs. #3 Missouri 30 minutes after first game
This is the battle of the Tigers. Both are veteran teams led by seniors. However Memphis' seniors will be playing in their forth straight Sweet Sixteen while Missouri's seniors just played their first tournament games last weekend. Experience is not the only advantage Memphis has. Memphis is more athletic and has a much better defense than Missouri. Both are high scoring teams but it will be tough for Missouri to win a shootout against a defense this good and this athletic. Ironically the X-Factor will likely be how the most inexperienced player on the court, Memphis Freshman phenom Tyreke Evans plays. If Evans has a good game and Memphis plays the way they have played then it's hard to imagine the Memphis Tigers not getting to a forth straight Elite 8.
Prediction: Memphis by 13
#1 Pittsburgh vs. #4 Xavier 7:27pm
This game has two main story lines. Pittsburgh trying to got past the Sweet 16 for the first time and Xavier coach Sean Miller will be playing against his alma mater Pittsburgh. He was a guard in the 80's a had the assist to Jerome Lane on the famous "send it in Jerome" dunk that shattered the glass on the backboard. Xavier has made it to the Elite 8 twice in the past six seasons including a trip last year. As far as the game itself, Pittsburgh has struggled in the first two rounds and Xavier is better than OK St. or East Tennessee St. However, Pittsburgh should still find a way to win with the stars they have. Xavier is talented but they just have no answer for DuJuan Blair and Sam Young.
Prediction: Pittsburgh by 5
#2 Duke vs. #3 Villanova 30 minutes after first game
This was the matchup I had circled on Selection Sunday. I am not a big Duke fan, but I was rooting for them over Texas just to see this game. Both teams are very perimeter oriented but also have a great forward inside. Duke has Kyle Singler and Villanova has Dante Cunningham. Villanova has 5 talented guards in their rotation, while Duke has the PG duo of Nolan Smith and Greg Paulus along with SG John Scheyer. But the key for Duke will be versatile G/F Gerald Henderson who is finally playing like a NBA lottery pick. Villanova doesn't have a player like Henderson so Duke has a very slight advantage on the outside. But, as most people who follow college basketball know, the team that shoots the rock the best from the outside will be the team that moves on. This is the one game you don't want to miss. As far as who will win, flip a coin.
Prediction: Duke by 1 on a Gerald Henderson 17 footer
Tomorrow, Friday March 27th
#1 Louisville vs. #12 Arizona 7:07pm
A #12 seed has never beat a #1 seed and only one #12 seed has ever made it to the Elite 8 (Missouri in 2002). However there is a first time for everything, but don't count on it happening this year. Arizona is led by future NBA draft picks F/C Jordan Hill and wing Chase Budinger. Zona is talented but Louisville is loaded. Louisville has at least 3 guys who will be playing at the next level and are led by Terrence Williams who is the most versatile player in the nation. Louisville also has that Pitino guy coaching and he knows a little something about winning in March. This game will be close until about midway through the second half when Louisville's skill, defense, depth and every other advantage they have will take over. Some people are saying that Pitino might be interested in becoming Zona's next head coach. A more interesting story line is Pitino wanting revenge on an Arizona, the team that upset his Kentucky team in 1997 National Title, the last game Pitino ever coached at Kentucky.
Prediction: Louisville by 11
#2 Michigan St. vs. #3 Kansas 30 minutes after the first game
The battle of the overachievers. Two great programs from the midwest square off in the midwest. The regular season champs from the Big Ten and Big 12 have both exceeded expectations and are one game from the Elite 8. After winning the National Title last year and then losing their starting lineup to the NBA, folks in Kansas did not expect to win the Big 12 title again. But thanks to superstar G Sherron Collins and big man Cole Aldrich, the Jayhawks are back again this year. Many thought to youth of Michigan St. would prevent them from winning the Big Ten. But despite their is youth they are very talented and led by Big Ten player of the year, Sophomore PG Kalin Lucas and talented wing Raymar Morgan. Both teams have good coaches who have won National Titles. This is a pretty even matchup but it will come down to which star guard is better. In my opinion Sherron Collins is as good as any PG in the nation and will outplay Kalin Lucas.
Prediction: Kansas by 3
#2 Oklahoma vs. #3 Syracuse 7:27pm
After last weeks win over Arizona St., Syracuse's star PG Jonny Flynn was asked what he thought about Oklahoma. His answer "Blake Griffin, Blake Griffin, Blake Griffin." It is no secret that Oklahoma is as good as good as its all world F/C Blake Griffin. Syracuse knows they can't stop Griffin, but if they limit him and stop the others around him, especially Freshman G Willie Warren then they can win. Flynn might be the best PG in the nation, with apologies to Ty Lawson, Sharron Collins, Kalin Lucas, and Tyreke Evans. After watching Flynn in the Big East Tournament and in the Big Dance I am not afraid to say that. The Cuse will need a big game from him along with Eric Devendorf and Flynn's high school buddy Paul Harris. If Syracuse can hit some big 3's a limit Mr. Griffin to lets say 24 points and 14 boards then the Orange have a good chance to move to the Elite 8. I can't wait to see this game and I hope it goes to OT. Plus it will be Griffin's last college game if the Sonners lose, that alone makes it must see TV. I hope Lousiville is blowing out Zona so CBS will primarily show this game.
Prediction: Syracuse by 4 in double OT
#1 UNC vs. #4 Gonzaga 30 minutes after first game
Both teams have been knocking on the door the past couple of years. UNC for another National Title and Gonzaga for their first Final Four appearance. Could this be the magical year for one of them? UNC was every one's pre-season favorite and is still a favorite to win the National Title. However this team may not be as good as the Carolina team of 2006. Star PG Ty Lawson has battled an injured toe and the Tar Hels will need him to come up big against the Zags. UNC's other star Tyler Hansborough could go down as the greatest Tar Hel ever if Carolina does win the National Title. However the tough road starts here against a very talented and deep Gonzaga team that is as hungry to get to the Final Four as UNC is hungry to win the whole thing. The Zags are led by their own talented big white dude, Josh Heytvelt. Gonzaga has good guards in Matt Bouldin and Jeremy Pargo but they might not be enough to stop Lawson and sharp shooting Wayne Ellington. That is why Gonzaga needs talented forward Austin Daye to play up to his potential and play like a man if the Zags are to pull this tournament's first major upset. If your going to predict an upset it might as well be against and team you don't like and think is overrated
Prediction: Gonzaga by 3