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

SCS.com The Glendale region feature perhaps the nationís two most talented teams in number one seed Connecticut and the second seed in Memphis. Obviously these are the fourth and fifth seeds overall, but could provide the best game of the whole tournament in the Elite Eight. The region also boasts some interesting storylines involving BCS conference teams taking on mid-majors in all but two first round battles, and one of those is Mississippi State, a team that squeaked by winning the SEC Tournament. One other note of interest, the Glendale region will play host to half of the BCS conference champions in MSU, Purdue and Missouri.

THE FAVORITES

  • (1) Connecticut - The Huskies enter the NCAA Tournament coming off of a heart-breaking loss to Syracuse in a six overtime thriller. However, it gave Hasheem Thabeet, A.J. Price and company a chance to rest and heal for a lengthy tournament run.

  • (2) Memphis - Memphis has not lost since December 20 and is undefeated since sliding Tyreke Evans over to the point. Needless to say, the Tigers are as athletic as any team in the country and will not be overmatched by any team. One cause of concern could be the teamís shooting which has been dreadful all season.

  • (3) Missouri - One of the nationís biggest surprises this season has been Missouri and they are extremely hot. Since the turn of the New Year, the Tigers have only lost four times and are a strong contender to continue to surprise doubters. DeMarre Carroll is the teamís leading scorer and rebounder and will keep Missouri active in the paint throughout the tournament.

    THE SLEEPERS

  • (11) Utah State - The Aggies are one of the most consistent teams in the country every season and this year was no different as they won 30 games. Utah State could have trouble with teams featuring a lot of height, but in their half of the bracket there seems to be a lack of seven footers. The Aggies also have a good combination of scoring from the inside and outside.

  • (12) Northern Iowa - The Missouri Valley champion always gives higher seeded teams trouble in the opening round. The Panthers have six players that can shoot the three and if they are on, that will open up the inside for Jordan Eglseder and Adam Koch.

  • (13) Mississippi State - The only chance they had to make the field was win the SEC Tournament and that is was they did, which has to say something about this team. Coming in winning six straight shows they are hot and a 23 win SEC team is not a normal 13 seed. Jarvis Varnado could provide some trouble in the paint for opponents in this region.

    THE FACTS

  • Most Over-Seeded Team - Maryland: The number ten seed is not typically a team you would consider over-seeded, however when you look at the 11 line and other teams on the 10 line, the Terps simply were not as consistent this season.

    Runner-Up: Marquette: This team is simply not the same without Dominic James. Since the senior guard has gone down, the Golden Eagles lost five out of six games.

  • Most Under-Seeded Team - Mississippi State: The Bulldogs managed to earn seven victories over tournament and bubble teams this season. That alone should prove they are better than a 13 seed. They also only have two bad losses, one of which came in overtime.

    Runner-Up: Purdue: With nine wins over tournament teams, all from large conferences, Purdue could have easily worked its way up to a protected seed. Not to mention, they are also the tournament champions of the second ranked conference according to the RPI.

  • Team On a Roll - Memphis: As mentioned before, the Tigers have not lost since December 20, which clearly makes them the hottest team in the region. However, their competition level will increase substantially in the coming weeks.

    Runner-Up: Missouri: The Big XII champion is the winner of 11 out of its last 13 games. The Tigers stepped up their pressure over the last month and it has improved their play.

  • Team In a Slump - Marquette: After losing Dominic James, Marquette struggled greatly. Their only win since Jamesí injury was a blowout over Saint Johnís.

    Runner-Up: California: Losing four out of six heading into the tournament is never desirable. Needless to say the boys from Berkley will look to right the ship when the game truly matter.

  • Best First Round Matchup - BYU vs Texas A&M: As usual, the 8-9 matchup is competitive, but this one should be very good. The Cougars were regular season Mountain West champs, while the Aggies enter winners in six of their past seven.

    Runner-Up: Purdue vs Northern Iowa: If you like defensive struggles, this game should be a classic. Both teams pride themselves on the defensive end and because of that fact this game is sure to be close.

  • Best First Round Coaching Matchup - Mike Montgomery (California) vs Gary Williams (Maryland): Both coaches have had tournament success and plenty of experience in big games. Williams righted the ship after a rocky start this season for Maryland, while Montgomery seems poised to guide California to the level he once led Stanford.

    Runner-Up: Lorenzo Romar (Washington) vs Rick Stansbury (Mississippi State): Washington has not seen such consistent winning in decades if ever than they have under Romarís tenure. Stansbury did a phenomenal job keeping the Bulldogs focused through the SEC Tournament.

  • Best Bet for a First Round Upset - Utah State over Marquette: Once again, Marquette is not the same without James. The Aggies are a 30 win team that can score in many different styles and showed a lot of grit winning the WAC Title over Nevada in Reno.

    Runner-Up: Maryland over California: Despite playing inconsistent basketball this season, the Terps are playing their best ball of the season right now. California seems to have peaked earlier this season and has struggled since.

  • Best Player You Know All About - Hasheem Thabeet (Connecticut): Maybe not the most graceful player in the country and at times allows himself to get pushed around. But the fact remains, the second he steps on the court, he is worth 15 points thanks to his defensive presence alone. Opponents have to decide ahead of time if they want to try to play physical with him or bank on jump shots drawing him away from the lane.

    Runner-Up: Tyreke Evans (Memphis): Certainly not a true point guard, but the Tigers are undefeated since Evans took over point guard duties. The freshman averages over 16 points, 5 rebounds, and close to 4 assists per game.

  • Best Player You've Never Heard Of - Gary Wilkinson (Utah State): The Aggiesí leading scorer is a force in the paint and has only been held in single digits four times this season. Wilkinson is also relentless on the boards making any opponent earn the rebound over him.

    Runner-Up: Tremaine Townsend (Cal State-Northridge): Townsend is a gritty post player who also can step outside when needed. He dropped 23 on UCLA earlier this season showing he can play with the big boys.

  • Best Name - Chinemelu Elonu (Texas A&M): The name may take a few attempts to pronounce correctly, but any post play who has gone against the Junior certainly knows him.
    Runner-Up: Kwadzo Ahelegbe (Northern Iowa): Northern Iowa possibly boasts the most interesting roster when it comes to names in the whole country. But Ahelegbe leads the way much like he does on the court.

  • Best Reason to Watch this Region - The potential battle between Memphis and Connecticut could be a classic. How can Connecticut handle the Memphis up-tempo style of play? And will Memphisí dribble drive offense be disrupted by Thabeetís presence? Whoever dictates style will emerge the victor.

    Runner-Up: With three BCS conference champions, plus the Conference USA champ, in addition to three 30 games winners, this region of full of teams that know how to win. This seems to be a bracket that seeding can be thrown out the window and each win will be earned.

    ALL-REGION TEAM

  • G: Tyreke Evans, Memphis
  • G: Jerel McNeal, Marquette
  • G: A.J. Price, Connecticut
  • F: Robert Dozier, Memphis
  • C: Hasheem Thabeet, Connecticut
  • Perhaps no region could post a more dangerous starting five, especially defensively. Dozier and Thabeet are both very intimidating in the paint, while the other three are all great perimeter players. McNeal is a wonderful defensive player who happens to lead Marquette in scoring. Evans and Price are the floor leaders for the top two teams in this region,

    FINAL THOUGHTS

    It has been repeated several times, but this region is all about the potential Memphis and Connecticut game. Their potential roadblocks come in the form of Missouri and Washington. Missouri matches up extremely well with Memphis in that you beat pressure with pressure, track meets generally can go either way. Washington will attack Thabeet with thick bodies much like Pittsburgh did, however they do not have the depth to eventually pull out the upset, but will give the Huskies trouble. A Sweet Sixteen sleeper could be Utah State, who seemingly has good matchups in its first two rounds, especially they can handle Missouriís pressure.

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