|SCS.COM NCAA TOURNAMENT PREVIEW: BOSTON
March 16, 2009
Daniel, SCS.com Staff Writer
As with any bracket, top seed Pittsburgh is the favorite to advance to Detroit out of the Boston region. Don’t be so quick to anoint the Panthers the Final Four representative, however. Boston also includes Duke at the bottom as the two seed, a dangerous Villanova team out of the Big East, and a Texas team that once found itself ranked in the top 10.
(1) Pittsburgh: It’s hard to find a weakness for Pittsburgh. The Panthers have a caretaker at point guard in Levance Fields and a pure scorer in Sam Young. DeJuan Blair, the powerful 6 foot 7 enforcer, just might be the most intimidating player in college basketball.
(2) Duke: Though Duke may argue that it is a different team than the squad that flamed out in the second round in 2008, the Blue Devils still have a fatal personnel flaw— a lack of interior scoring. Luckily, Coach K has this team playing inspired defense and Duke has the ability to light up the scoreboard from three-point land. So don’t completely count out the Blue Devils.
(3) Villanova: Dante Cunningham’s emergence during his senior season compliments the Wildcats’ outstanding guard play. As long as Villanova defends, this team can go a long way in this tournament with its offensive firepower and depth.
(5) Florida State: It seems cheap to pick a five-seed from the ACC as a “sleeper,” but Florida State could make its way to Detroit with a little luck. The Seminoles’ size in the frontcourt can be disruptive to opposing offenses and stars like Toney Douglas can take over games in the NCAA tournament.
(11) VCU: This one is way too easy. Two years ago as an 11 seed, VCU knocked off a historic program (Duke) and this year, the 11th seeded Rams drew the legendary UCLA Bruins. UCLA relies too much on the perimeter jump shot and don’t forget that Eric Maynor, who made the game-winner against Duke in 2007, still plays for VCU as a senior.
Most Over-Seeded Team - Xavier: After beating Missouri and Memphis in a November tournament in Puerto Rico, the Musketeers broke into the top 25 and have stayed there all year. Since then, however, they haven’t looked much like a ranked team, playing seven NCAA tournament teams and finishing just 3-4 in those games.
Most Under-Seeded Team - American: The Eagles finished 13-1 in conference play and haven’t lost since January 24th. With an RPI of 73, the committee could have at least given American a 13 seed.
Team On a Roll - Oklahoma State: In the past ten games, OSU has won eight times and lost by single digits to Oklahoma and Missouri. In the Big 12 tournament, the Cowboys finally won a Bedlam game against OU, and that victory also proved that Travis Ford’s first season in Stillwater is worthy of an NCAA tourney bid.
Runner-Up - American: As I just mentioned, American hasn’t lost since January and is currently riding a 13 game winning streak.
Team In a Slump - Minnesota: Once a lock for the NCAA tournament, Tubby Smith’s team took a tumble during the end of Big Ten play. The Gophers have not won back-to-back games in a month and a half.
Best First Round Matchup - Oklahoma State vs. Tennessee: As we all know, 8/9 match-ups are always the most entertaining. But how about when the eight and nine seeds are up-tempo teams that play faster than pretty much everyone in America? I hope CBS plays this game in my region.
Runner-Up: UCLA vs. VCU: For Ben Howland’s standards, the 2008-09 season has been a down year for UCLA, which means it could be ripe for an upset against VCU.
Best Potential Second Round Matchup - Florida State vs. Xavier: Both of these teams have some serious bulk in the frontcourt, so an FSU/Xavier game might resemble a Big East contest. I think Toney Douglas would be the difference were these two teams to meet.
Runner-Up: Texas vs. Duke: Texas simply doesn’t have the offense to keep up with Duke, especially when A.J. Abrams struggles. The Longhorns due play lockdown defense, which could help keep them in the game.
Best First Round Coaching Matchup - Rick Barnes (Texas) vs. Tubby Smith (Minnesota): Besides Coach K, these are the two most accomplished coaches in the Boston region. I’d even argue that Barnes is underrated. He has built Texas, a football school, into a basketball powerhouse and deserves recognition for that.
Runner-Up: Ben Howland (UCLA) vs Anthony Grant (VCU): Howland’s coaching ability is obvious from UCLA’s three straight Final Fours, but Anthony Grant may be a rising star. That’s probably why all sorts of schools are courting him as their next head coach.
Best Bet for a First Round Upset - VCU over UCLA: I’d almost call a UCLA win an upset. The scenario is perfect— an experienced team with a star point guard beats the storied program with 11 National Championships.
Runner-Up: Portland State over Xavier: PSU went on the road and beat Gonzaga during the non-conference season, so the Vikings know what it takes to pull an upset.
Best Player You Know All About - DeJuan Blair (Pittsburgh): In terms of pure entertainment value, Blair tops the list. He’s always smiling, he beats the crap out of people and he prides himself on his work ethic. Not to mention he’s a pretty talented player as well.
Runner-Up: Toney Douglas (Florida State): Douglas’ career had been productive up to this year at FSU, but he’s taken his game to a whole new level in 2009. By elevating himself as one of the ACC’s best guards, he’s helped Florida State to a surprising five seed.
Best Player You've Never Heard Of - James Anderson (Oklahoma State): I know I’m supposed to pick a player from a mid-major team for this category. I still feel like James Anderson has constantly flown under the radar despite his two spectacular seasons at Oklahoma State.
Runner-Up: Kevin Tiggs (ETSU): After a strong season in 07-08, Tiggs added a perimeter jumper to his game and can now do almost everything on a basketball court. The 6 foot 4 wing led the Atlantic Sun in scoring.
Best Name - Olek Czyz (Duke): I wonder what this name means in whatever language it came from. By the way, would we consider his last name void of vowels or does “y” take over in this instance?
Runner-Up: Adam Sollazzo (ETSU): Sounds like a pasta.
Best Reason to Watch this Region - Pittsburgh tries to advance past Sweet 16 under Jamie Dixon: If you’ve watched the Panthers all year long, you know just how good they are. That is why Jamie Dixon cannot let this team fall before the Elite Eight. Not again.
Runner-Up: Duke might lose: Whenever Duke is playing, tune in, because there’s nothing better than watching Duke go down. Unless you’re a Blue Devils fan, that is.
G: Toney Douglas, Florida State
F: Kyle Singler, Duke
F: Kevin Tiggs, East Tennessee State
F: James Anderson, Oklahoma State
C: DeJuan Blair, Pittsburgh
With only five spots to give, several deserving players were left out here. Dante Cunningham (Villanova), Scottie Reynolds (Villanova), A.J. Abrams (Texas), and Gerald Henderson (Duke) are just a few that come to mind. And I’m sure I missed many others. Shoot me an email to disparage me.
I’m sure you are interested in my pick to advance from the Boston region, right? Probably not, but here it goes anyway: I’m going with Villanova. I am upset that Hubert Davis of ESPN copied my pick and called Villanova to the Final Four, but I’m not backing down from my prediction.