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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

'Easting on Some College Hoops

Did you guys get the pun in the title? It's like "feasting" but since I'm writing about the East Region in the NCAA Men's Hoops Tournament, it's "Easting."

Get it?
The silence can only mean two things: either you're looking at your computer screen with a facial expression reminiscent of Angela's in The Office episode when she finds out that Oscar is gay, or you just ran off to go tell the first person you could find about my awesome wordplay.
If it's the former, I won't apologize, but I do implore you to read on.
If it's the latter, take your time telling everyone you see how awesome Korked Bats is, then come back over here and read on.

At any rate, let's get to it!

• • •

5 predictions for
The East Region:

1. Wisconsin will beat Florida State

You guys know the drill. Every year, a 12 beats a 5 in the first round. Five-seeds have the first major drop-off in winning percentage (One-seeds have a 100% winning percentage in the first round, two-seeds have 96%, three-seeds have 84%, four-seeds have 82%, and five seeds 67%) and a big contributor to this is that twelve-seeds are typically the lowest seed you'll see an at-large team get.

Cue this year.

Here's why I love Wisconsin here. They are a fundamental team. Not sexy. Not fun to watch. But they do Big 10 things. They play great fundamental defense, and run an efficient offense. Again, they're not explosive. They don't scare you. But you don't want to play them.

Florida State is more of a one-man band than D-12. Toney Douglas leads the team in scoring at 21.3 points per game, and the next leading scorer checks in at an intimidating 8.5 ppg. Douglas has played in every game this year and has averaged over 37 mpg throughout ACC play and the ACC tournament.

So you have an undersized, worn-down shooting guard trying to carry a team against a defensively disciplined group of Bo Ryan players that will work tirelessly to contain him.
I couldn't love this match-up any more for the Badgers.

Let's put it like this: the 'Noles are 10-1 this season when Douglas shoots 50% or better (4-1 in ACC regular season and tournament play combined). So as Toney goes, so goes Florida State

Considering Toney goes against a team giving up less than 60 points a game, Florida State goes home early.

2. Portland State will beat Xavier

If someone can explain to me how Xavier still nabbed a four-seed after going 5-5 in its last 10 games (all against A-10 teams, mind you), feel free to do so below.

Meanwhile Portland State is 8-2 in their last 10 games- including winning six straight- and they don't have to travel anywhere near as far (the game is in Boise) as the higher-seeded Musketeers. I love their balance (four guys averaging at least 11 ppg) and the fact that they've played against some talented teams this year (non-con games against Gonzaga, Washington, and Baylor).

I feel like I pick against Xavier in the first round every year, and they've made fools of me each of the last two years.

So you know how the saying goes. Fool me once. Shame on you. Fool me twice, and I'll continue to blindly pick against you.

3. Tennessee will scare Pittsburgh

I don't have the cajones to take Tennessee, but I promise that this will be one of those top-seed-takes-a-team-lightly-and-falls-down-by-20-before-coming-back-in-the-last-3-minutes games. Tennessee is a very talented team (I would love them if they didn't draw Pitt in the second round) that is very effective when they get out and run.

Pitt isn't.

My guess is that it'll go like this:
DeJuan Blair will jog up and down the court for the game's first 15 minutes, allowing Wayne Chism to go for 14 quick points and the Vols to jump out to a 20 point lead. At that point, Jamie Dixon will realize that he needs to put Sam Young on Chism, and Pitt will make a methodical, boring-to-watch comeback that will culminate with Pitt going ahead for the first time with 40 seconds left in the game.

4. You won't hear the word "Pittsburgh" in the same sentence as "offensive explosion" at all during this tournament (except the first round)

I hate Pitt. They don't have the ability to score in bunches- nor keep up with a running team (see their losses to Louisville and Villanova).

Look back at the national championship squads over each of the last eight years. All of them could explode for big points when they needed to. Some did it with a collection of good scorers (KU in '08, Florida in '06 & '07, North Carolina in '05) and others with one streaky scorer that could take over whenever he needed (Ben Gordon with UConn in '04, Carmelo Anthony with Syracuse in '03, and Juan Dixon with Maryland in '02). Pitt has neither.

I see you. I can read your lips saying "Sam Young." Not buying it. Sam Young isn't an explosive scorer. He's a consistent scorer, yes, but not explosive. Explosive scorers explode for big games. Sam Young has only scored 25 points or more three times since the start of Big East play. Considering Pitt is a team that relies on him to be their explosive scorer (the team isn't very balanced offensively- only three guys average double digit ppg), you'd like to see him go off more often.

5. Duke will advance to the Final Four

I've spent my last two predictions dogging Pitt, so do you honestly think that I have them advancing to Detroit? I said that Pitt would struggle to get past Tennessee because they are a running team that can force Pitt out of their grinding, methodical, snooze-fest of an offense.

Duke is a better passing (albeit less athletic), more disciplined version of Tennessee. They're the best team in the nation at going small. So as long as Krysceskiviskireskiski doesn't try to match up with Pitt by going big (starting Brian "I Have an 11-Inch Vertical" Zoubek at center, Lance Thomas at power forward, Kyle Singler at small forward, Gerald Henderson at the shooting guard and Jon Scheyer at point), then Duke will win.

Allow me to defend myself first though (so what if I might already be making excuses): if Duke tries to go big, they'll lose by double digits. No one in the nation is better than Pitt at slowing the pace, beating you up, building a lead, and then putting their foot on your throat.

That's exactly what will happen if Duke tries to guard Blair with Zoubek.

Also, allow me to hereby establish the Gerald Henderson Will Be a Lottery Pick After an Incredible NCAA Tournament Bandwagon. Feel free to jump on whenever. Over the last month or two, Henderson has become Duke's crunch-time scorer (even over Singler) and has an unguardable pull-up jumper. He's a superlative athlete and makes very intelligent decisions in the open floor. Think a more offensively skilled Shane Battier.

Having that being said, his most important function- in the Pitt game at least- will be the match-up problems he creates. If Pitt puts Sam Young on Henderson, then Singler will be able to get free looks all night. If they put Young on Singler, then Henderson will dominate the ball and take over in the game's last five minutes.

I promise I have a foundation of fact here. Look at Pitt's loss to Louisville. They couldn't match up with the tandem of Terrance Williams and Earl Clark (my favorite non-Carroll-Lyons duo in the nation).

Henderson and Singler will create a similar match-up, and a similar result.

• • •

I don't want to ramble on, but here are some rapid-fire observations:
  • Texas isn't the same without D.J. Augistin. It forces them to either put A.J. Abrams (a shotty ball-handler) or Dogus Balbay (a 45% free throw shooter) at the point. Don't be surprised if they lose to Tubby and his Gophers.
  • Oklahoma State's best player is 5 foot 11 and weighs 210 pounds (a very generous estimate, might I add). With that, I hereby establish the Byron Eaton Corollary: Always pick against a running team whose sub-6-foot point guard weighs 200+ pounds.
  • As Ohio State 15th man/blogger extraordinaire Mark Titus points out, Wisconsin's team provides a clinic in the buzz-cut. What screams "FUNDAMENTAL!!"more than a bunch of white guys with buzzcuts?!?
  • Don't sleep on UCLA. They aren't the same squad they've been the last few years, but they still have a talented roster with a freshman in Jrue Holliday that could jump into the lottery if his tournament is good enough (a la USC's Demar Derozan). Seems like a good time for him to start trying. I like their chances even better if they sneak Jordan Farmar into the game in Blake Arnet's jersey.
  • I defy you to find me a more phonetically pleasing team name than the Binghampton Bearcats. I've spent the last seven minutes considering changing prediction number 5 just because I want to hear Ian Ealge say "Fit on that glass slipper, Binghampton Bearcats!" all the way into April so badly.
  • The end of this NCAA tournament will be as exciting as the end of this blog post...
(Searching)

(Reaching)

Yeah!!



1 comments:

D Nasty said...

Couldn't have said it better myself. THE DUUUUUKKKIIIEEESSSS!!!!

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