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WEEK TWO PREVIEW: OAKLAND REGION
March 21, 2006

Also See > Complete Oakland Region Preview

(1) MEMPHIS vs (13) BRADLEY

SCS.com Though I was the only SCS.com staff member to pick Bradley over Kansas in round one, even I did not think the Braves would get past Pittsburgh on Sunday and move into the Sweet Sixteen. But that's exactly what happened. Led by the play of 7'0" big man Patrick O'Bryant and all-MVC standout Marcellus Sommerville, BU has earned its way into a Thursday night showdown with the Oakland Region's top seed. Memphis made it to this point by way of defeating Oral Roberts and upset-minded Bucknell. While Bradley has played a pair of games decided by a combined 10 points, UM's two contests were decided by an average of 17 points each. Will the Tigers be prepared for a close game with a team that has already knocked off the Big XII Tournament champion and a team that won 10 games in the nation's toughest conference?

Memphis is one of the most athletic and talented teams in the country but is not overly experienced, especially in terms of NCAA play. Leading scorer and All-American candidate Rodney Carney is a senior, but the Tigers' next eight scorers are either freshmen or sophomores. And while UM can certainly matchup with the Braves at the guard and forward positions, will they be able to contend with O'Bryant down low? That task will likely be left up to Joey Dorsey, a 6'9" forward who averages 7 points and 8 boards per contest. From the Braves' perspective, even if O'Bryant does his damage, they will still have to get production from others besides he and star forward Marcellus Sommerville. Seniors Tony Bennett and Lawrence Wright combine to score nearly 21 per game, and that pair, along with junior Daniel Ruffin, will have to be on their game if the Braves are to have a chance to move on to the Elite Eight.

STAFF PREDICTIONS
BEN CORTNEY DAVID JEFF JONATHAN REED
Memphis Bradley Bradley Memphis Memphis Memphis

(2) UCLA vs (3) GONZAGA

These two West Coast rivals will go head-to-head in one of the best Sweet Sixteen matchups this year's Tournament has to offer. The Bruins, who knocked off Belmont and Alabama last week, come in as the PAC 10's regular season and tournament champion. The Zags, meanwhile, won the West Coast Conference's regular season and tournament titles and defeated Xavier and Indiana to make it to this point. Gonzaga's attack is centered around the performance of national player of the year candidate Adam Morrison. The senior scores more than 28 points per contest, shoots over 43% from downtown, and grabs a half-dozen boards per game. Stopping the 'stache will not be a one-man responsibility, but even as Morrison does his work, the Bulldogs will have to get the job done elsewhere if they want to advance.

A large responsibility will also fall on the likes of J.P. Batista and Derek Raivio. The former is the Zags' big man down low who scores nearly 20 points per game, while the latter is the junior point guard who scores 11 per contest while also dishing out three assists each night out. The Bruins, meanwhile, can do much of their damage from beyond the three-point arc. Leading scorer Arron Afflalo scores 16 per game and shoots better than 37% from downtown. Jordan Farmar's 34% shot from downtown is less effective, but he's still UCLA's second-leading scorer with nearly 14 points per game. Guards Josh Shipp and Cedric Bozeman shoot 46% and 42% from three-point range, respectively, and that pair tosses in a combined 20 points per contest. Since the Bruins' scoring comes from a variety of sources, their chances look good if they can control Morrison and keep Batista from dominating the paint. If that fails, though, it could be the Zags who dance on to the Elite Eight.

STAFF PREDICTIONS
BEN CORTNEY DAVID JEFF JONATHAN REED
UCLA UCLA UCLA UCLA UCLA UCLA

REGIONAL FINAL

Regardless of how the two games turn out, it will be one team from west of the Mississippi battling one squad from East of the river. Will the Braves' miraculous run continue, or will the Tigers live up to their potential as a one-seed? And which West Coast power will prevail, PAC 10 champion UCLA or mid-major turned annual-power Gonzaga?

STAFF PREDICTIONS
BEN CORTNEY DAVID JEFF JONATHAN REED
UCLA UCLA UCLA Memphis Memphis UCLA

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