|2007 NCAA TOURNAMENT PREVIEW - EAST REGION
March 13, 2007
Jeff, SCS.com Staff Writer
The East Rutherford Region has the potential to be the best region in the NCAA Tournament. There is talent and depth abound across the region, and the best player in the country, Kevin Durant, is sitting there relatively silent at the #4 spot with his Longhorns. Donít forget Georgetown, the Big East champions, or North Carolina, the ACC champions. There are several non-BCS sleepers in this region, as well, including the two teams that ďstoleĒ at-large bids in George Washington and New Mexico State. It will be an interesting couple of weeks, to say the least.
North Carolina - The Tar Heels might be the deepest and most talented team in the country. They can score on anyone, and love to get up and down the court. Tyler Hansbrough is a load to stop down low, and Brandan Wright is long and athletic. Wayne Ellington can shoot the lights-out, and Tywon Lawson might be the quickest player in the country. Reyshawn Terry is their x-factor.
Georgetown - The Hoyas are one of the hottest teams in the country, winning 15 of their last 16, and dominating Pittsburgh to win the Big East Championship. They are led by a terrific frontcourt duo in Jeff Green and Roy Hibbert. Green is a do-it-all player that can score in a variety of ways, while Hibbert is developing into a star down low. Jonathan Wallace and Jessie Sapp are underrated in the backcourt.
Washington State - The Cougars looked like a legit Final Four sleeper a few weeks ago, but they havenít played as well lately. Still, they really get after it on the defensive end, and limit opportunities for the opponent. Derrick Low and Kyle Weaver form one of the most underrated backcourts in the country, and the Cougars have a decent frontcourt to provide balance.
Texas - I have a feeling youíre going to see plenty of ďTexasĒ picks in the Final Four of your office pool. That is because of one reason ó Kevin Durant. He is clearly the best player in the country, and can carry the Longhorns on his back to the promised land. Throw in D.J. Augustin, one of the best point guards around, and A.J. Abrams, a very good shooter, and Texas is tough.
USC - Iíve liked the Trojans for weeks now. They play excellent defense. (Donít look at tape of the Pac-10 title game. Just donít, trust me.) And they also have plenty of options offensively. Nick Young is one of the best wings in the country, and can score in a variety of ways. Gabe Pruitt and Lodrick Stewart can shoot the three, and Taj Gibson is the most underrated freshman post player in America.
New Mexico State - Looking for a deep sleeper? Look no further (not that you can) than the WAC champion Aggies. NMSU has plenty of athletes and a lot of depth, mostly from major-conference transfers. Justin Hawkins is a much underrated performer, and can do it all. Elijah Ingram is a solid point guard, and Tyrone Nelson is tough down low. Donít sleep on NMSU.
George Washington - While the Colonials didnít receive as much publicity as they did last year, theyíre a very similar team to last season, despite only returning one starter from that squad. They are extremely athletic, and can give teams trouble with their pressure. Maureece Rice and Carl Elliot form a great backcourt, and GW has athletes aplenty up front.
Most Over-Seeded Team - Vanderbilt: The Commodores were up and down all season, and havenít been impressive since the Florida victory. They got a very favorable draw, though
Runner-Up: George Washington: I already talked about Arkansas yesterday, but how did GW get an 11? Does that mean they had a better profile than the last at-large teams?
Most Under-Seeded Team - Marquette: The Golden Eagles swept Pittsburgh, and have plenty of quality wins ó yet got the dreaded 8-9 match-up. This team has a tough draw, as well.
Runner-Up: New Mexico State: They won the WAC tourney, and beat Nevada during the year.
Team On a Roll - Georgetown: You canít go against the Hoyas here. They have won 15 of their last 16, and are coming off of a blowout win over Pittsburgh in the Big East Championship.
Runner-Up: Texas: The Longhorns have lost only two of their last ten ó both to Kansas.
Team In a Slump - Michigan State: The Spartans are not that impressive on paper, and their struggles away from home donít help. Have lost three of their last four.
Runner-Up: Boston College: The Eagles have lost five of seven, but they still got a #7.
Best First Round Matchup - Vanderbilt vs. George Washington: Both teams are perimeter-oriented clubs that have athletes that can run and score. Maureece Rice vs. Shan Foster should be a fun battle.
Runner-Up: Texas vs. New Mexico State: Why would you ever pass up a chance to watch Kevin Durant?
Best Potential Second Matchup - Texas vs. USC: Two of my Final Four sleepers for the past two weeks. Does USC have the personnel to match-up with Durant? Does Texas have the wings to fight USC?
Runner-Up: Boston College vs. Georgetown: Expect a slow-down, physical game with two tough teams.
Best First Round Coaching Matchup - Al Skinner vs. Bobby Knight: Skinner always gets the most out of his players and is very successful, while Knight is one of the best of all time.
Runner-Up: Tom Crean vs. Tom Izzo: Two of the best coaches of the past few years, and on the same coaching tree.
Best Bet for a First Round Upset - Oral Roberts over Washington State: The Cougars donít have a lot of size inside, and Caleb Green is one of the best post players in the country. Ken Tutt can really shoot it.
Runner-Up: George Washington over Vanderbilt: The Colonials have the length and athletes to disrupt Vandyís wings.
Best Player You Know All About - Kevin Durant, Texas: What more can you say about him? Heís the best player in the country, and can put the Longhorns on this back.
Runner-Up: Jeff Green, Georgetown: The Big East Player of the Year can do everything. He is a tough matchup.
Best Player You've Never Heard Of - Caleb Green, Oral Roberts: He is one of the best post players around, and is a lock for 20 and 10 nearly every night. Look out for him.
Runner-Up: Justin Hawkins, New Mexico State: Can do a little of everything, and will be battling Durant in the first round.
Best Name - Sonny Weems, Arkansas: ďSonnyĒ also has plenty of game. He can go inside or outside and is tough defensively. Weems loves to get out on the break.
Runner-Up: Ken Tutt, Oral Roberts: ďKing TutĒ can shoot the ball from deep, and score at the hoop.
Best Reason to Watch this Region - Kevin Durant: Can Durant carry the Longhorns by himself? It will be interesting to see if Durant can pull a Carmelo Anthony this season.
Runner-Up: Is North Carolinaís talent enough to get them to Atlanta? The Tar Heels have great talent, but are inconsistent defensively.
G: Drew Neitzel, Michigan State
F: Jared Dudley, Boston College
F: Kevin Durant, Texas
F: Jeff Green, Georgetown
C: Tyler Hansbrough, North Carolina
Thereís plenty of talent in this region ó and I didnít even include Nick Young of USC or Caleb Green of Oral Roberts, or the SEC Player of the Year, Derrick Byars. The frontcourt battles in this region are going to be terrific.
This region is going to be one of the more wide-open regions around. North Carolina is the top seed, but their youth and defensive inconsistencies might bounce them early. Texas has Kevin Durant, and USC is tough all-around. Georgetown has the great frontcourt. Itís going to be fun to watch.