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SCS.COM NCAA TOURNAMENT PREVIEW: BOSTON
March 16, 2009

SCS.com As with any bracket, top seed Pittsburgh is the favorite to advance to Detroit out of the Boston region. Donít 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.

THE FAVORITES

  • (1) Pittsburgh: Itís 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 flawó 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 donít completely count out the Blue Devils.

  • (3) Villanova: Dante Cunninghamís emergence during his senior season compliments the Wildcatsí outstanding guard play. As long as Villanova defends, this team can go a long way in this tournament with its offensive firepower and depth.

    THE SLEEPERS

  • (5) Florida State: It seems cheap to pick a five-seed from the ACC as a ďsleeper,Ē but Florida State could make its way to Detroit with a little luck. The Seminolesí 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 donít forget that Eric Maynor, who made the game-winner against Duke in 2007, still plays for VCU as a senior.

    THE FACTS

  • 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 havenít 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 havenít 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 Fordís first season in Stillwater is worthy of an NCAA tourney bid.

    Runner-Up - American: As I just mentioned, American hasnít 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 Smithís 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 Howlandís 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 doesnít 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. Iíd 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): Howlandís coaching ability is obvious from UCLAís three straight Final Fours, but Anthony Grant may be a rising star. Thatís probably why all sorts of schools are courting him as their next head coach.

  • Best Bet for a First Round Upset - VCU over UCLA: Iíd almost call a UCLA win an upset. The scenario is perfectó 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. Heís always smiling, he beats the crap out of people and he prides himself on his work ethic. Not to mention heís a pretty talented player as well.

    Runner-Up: Toney Douglas (Florida State): Douglasí career had been productive up to this year at FSU, but heís taken his game to a whole new level in 2009. By elevating himself as one of the ACCís best guards, heís helped Florida State to a surprising five seed.

  • Best Player You've Never Heard Of - James Anderson (Oklahoma State): I know Iím 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 ďyĒ 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 youíve 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 thereís nothing better than watching Duke go down. Unless youíre a Blue Devils fan, that is.

    ALL-REGION TEAM

  • 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 Iím sure I missed many others. Shoot me an email to disparage me.

    FINAL THOUGHTS

    Iím sure you are interested in my pick to advance from the Boston region, right? Probably not, but here it goes anyway: Iím going with Villanova. I am upset that Hubert Davis of ESPN copied my pick and called Villanova to the Final Four, but Iím not backing down from my prediction.

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