Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Sweet 16 Preview and Predictions, Day 1

You can get a two hour preview of the NCAA Tourney games on CSTV, today at 2pm pacific (5pm eastern), but you can also get a preview right here. For all the TV stuff, be sure to check our March Madness TV listings.

West Virginia vs Xavier
The first wave of games tips off with a good old rivarly, Bob Huggins vs Xavier. As you may recall, Huggins was the head coach at Cincy, and they had an annual intense rivarly game every year. We now love West Virginia even more, after they beat up the Dookies, and we are planning a blogging celebration for them later today :) And because of that we want West Virgina to win and move along. But Xavier, just like Texas, is one of those crazy teams that can beat anyone and can lose to almost anyone. They already showed early tournament onions by making comebacks against Georgia and Purdue.

But ultimately we think the combination of outside shooting, Joe Alexander, and Bob Huggins toughness will get the Threepointers over the top and send the Musketeers home. And the X-men will have to worry some more, as their head coach may be poached by one of the BCS schools. Indiana is not the only major program looking for a head coach, and the impressive success of Herb Sendek at Arizona State may tempt other Pac-10 schools to go after one of his former assistants. We are talking potentially Oregon, California or USC. But let's leave that for the coaching carousel discussion :)

North Carolina vs Washington State
In the other game, North Carolina will face Washington State. This is the ultimate contrast in style, although the young singer is not a ...dick like his dad, he lets his team run when they have the advantage. We've said all along that Washington State, just like Wisconsin, are operating in a narrow band. They usually beat the teams they are supposed to beat, and lose to the teams they are supposed to lose to.

If you don't think so, be sure to check Washington State's record, courtesy of Ken Pom RPI. They are 0-5 against Sweet 16 teams (UCLA, Stanford), but they beat up NCAA teams that lost in the first week (Baylor, Zags, USC, Oregon). Arizona is an exception because when they had their full complement they were playing like a Sweet 16 team. But injuries and such derailed them. But that's a story for another day.

Ultimately we think that UNC will overmatch Wazoo. Derrick Low may give them some headaches, as neither Lawson or Q are ideally suited to guard him. Kyle Weaver on the other hand will have his hands full having to deal with Ellington on defense and Ginyard and Green on offense. Hansbrough will probably be limited by the Wazoo interior play and defensive scheme, but the combination of Lawson and Green/Ellington, and possibly Deon Thompson's bank shots will be the difference.

Louisville vs Tennessee
This is a game we have a hard time getting a read on. Both teams are deep, both press and run and gun. We would have preferred that this was a Final Four game instead of a Sweet 16 game.

But let's consider Tennessee's history in the NCAA tourney in the Bruce Pearl era and Pitino's history. That does not look favorable for Tennessee, but one could have easily made the same argument for Texas A&M vs Louisville last year at Rupp Arena, and Billy Clyde Gillispie pulled out a tough win at his future home court beating Pitino on his former home court. Or to use Pitino-speak, his former home cot :)

But there's something else that goes against Tennessee: Consider how they did not only in past NCAA tourneys under Bruce Pearl, but also in other tourneys. This year they got blown out by Texas in a pre-season tourney in New Jersey. Last year they lost to Butler in the pre-season NIT. They haven't done well in the SEC tourney either.

Obviously the three point shot can be a determining factor and if there is a big difference in the shots made, we think that the team with that advantage will probably win the game.

Other than Lofton - if he is having a wild shooting game - we don't see any potential matchup advantages for the Vols.

Ultimately we think that Padgett and T-Will will be able to make up for the potential shortcomings of the Cardinals guards crumbling under the Vols pressure, and Derrick Caracter and Earl Clark will be too much for the Vols big men to handle. Louisville will win, we predict, but it could be a very close game.

Western Kentucky vs UCLA
We badly want Western Kentucky to win, but we are afraid that UCLA will be too much. Duke West has been getting a series of "friendly" calls by the zebras, not just the highly visible controversial calls, but also the multiple fouls per possession the UCLA wrestling-forwards commit on screens on offense and double teams on defense.

We have enough material now to convict Ben Howland of ruining the game of basketball. You have two of the fastest guards in the country in Collison and Westbrook, and the most smartest (LOL) big man in Kevin Love, and yet you try to win the games in a slugfest, the same way a desperate low-major coach of a 300+ RRI team is clinging on to dear life. For crimes against basketball, Ben Howland, you have been convicted to lose in the Elite 8, and never make it to the Final Four again :)

Friday's Games
We will be posting our preview and predictions for the four day two games later today! Update! The time is Later! Here is the preview and predictions for day two of the Sweet 16 (Friday).

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