|SCS.COM NCAA TOURNAMENT PREVIEW: INDIANAPOLIS
March 18, 2009
Daniel, SCS.com Staff Writer
There isnít much of a potential for upsets in the Indianapolis region, so Iím sorry to disappoint you. It does, however, include the nationís hottest team, the most controversial bubble team, and a loveable newbie out of the Summit League.
(1) Louisville - Rather quietly, Louisville ascended to the top overall seed of the NCAA tournament by winning the Big East regular season and conference tournament titles. All year long, the Cardinals have won with their stifling defense. Rick Pitinoís hectic zone press has given opponents trouble for years, and this yearís team is no different. The only concern for UL is guard play. The Cards rely a lot on their spectacular forwards, Earl Clark and Terrance Williams, but there isnít a reliable point guard on the roster.
(2) Michigan State - The regular season Big Ten Champs enter the 2009 tournament looking to get back to the Final Four for the first time since 2005. The Spartans have a shot to do it with their depth and defensive intensity, but will need to overcome some internal obstacles first. Michigan State hasnít shot the ball well from the outside lately, and Raymar Morgan just isnít himself after suffering from pneumonia earlier this season.
(3) Kansas - All of the talk surrounding Kansas concerns its youth, but why canít we mention the fact that Sherron Collins and Cole Aldrich might be the best guard/center combo in the Big 12? Those two players can carry the Jayhawks on their backs. If younger players like Tyshawn Taylor and the Morris twins can grow up a little, thereís no telling how far this team could go.
(4) Wake Forest - At one time, Wake was ranked number one in the nation. The Demon Deacons slipped a bit and lost a few unexpected games to inferior opponents, but donít overlook the talent on this roster. Wake Forest has five players around seven feet tall and Jeff Teague can explode during any given game. All of Wakeís size will come in handy during the NCAA tournament, when foul trouble and fatigue set in.
(6) West Virginia - Playing in the Big East, West Virginia often went unnoticed this year. After taking Louisville to the wire in its final regular season game and beating Pitt in the Big East tournament, the Mountaineers received some attention from the selection committee in the form of a six seed. Bob Hugginsí blue-collar approach on defense and on the offensive boards may help West Virginia take out Kansas in the second round.
(10) Southern California - Thereís something beautiful about the way USC plays. I canít explain it, but Tim Floydís style of basketball is like a form of art. Seriously though, the Trojans underachieved for much of the year but had the ability to compete at the top of the Pac-10. Daniel Hackett runs the offense smoothly and DeMar DeRozan is beginning to improve in his freshman season. As long as Taj Gibson stays out of foul trouble, USC will at least make the second round and give Michigan State a competitive game.
(12) Arizona - We know Arizona can beat elite teams. Wins over Kansas, Gonzaga, Washington, UCLA and USC got the ĎCats into the NCAA tournament. We also know that Arizona canít win on the road, evidenced by their 2-9 road record. Luckily, no NCAA tournament games are played on the road. Arizona has proven it can take on anyone, and it wonít back down from a top five seed.
Most Over-Seeded Team - Boston College: Due to victories over Duke and North Carolina, as well as Florida State, Boston College received a very generous seven seed. Yet for some reason, the selection committee decided to disregard losses to Saint Louis, Harvard, and North Carolina State.
Runner-Up: Siena: The Saintsí RPI is responsible for its nine seed, but their only victory against an NCAA tournament team is 14 seed Cornell. Sienaís resume is more in line with an 11 or 12 seed.
Most Under-Seeded Team - Ohio State: Finishing 11-8 in a balanced Big Ten, Ohio State could have moved up a couple of spots. OSU has lost just one game to a non-NCAA tournament participant (Northwestern).
Team On a Roll - Louisville: Perhaps you remember Notre Dameís 33 point blasting of Louisville awhile back. Guess what? Since then, the Cardinals havenít lost.
Runner-Up: USC: Entering the Pac-10 tournament, Southern Cal was looking at an NIT berth. By defeating three NCAA tourney teamsóCal, UCLA and Arizona Stateóthe Trojans gained an auto bid.
Team In a Slump - Arizona: The ĎCats have lost five of six games entering the NCAA tournament, which is probably why they were the last team in the field of 65.
Runner-Up: Kansas: After a surprising loss to Texas Tech near the end of the regular season, KU went down to Baylor in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
Best First Round Matchup - Utah vs. Arizona: Luke Nevill and Jordan Hill will go head-to-head in the post, and thatís just one match-up to look for. With two players likely headed to the NBA next year in Hill and Chase Budinger, Arizona has the talent to hang with Utah, but the lack of depth and an experienced coach has hurt the Wildcats all season.
Best Potential Second Round Matchup - Kansas vs. West Virginia: Had West Virginia not had to play in the Big East, the Mountaineers may have an even higher seed. I really like Bob Hugginsí squad for its toughness and resiliency.
Runner-Up: Ohio State vs. Louisville: This may be closer than expected because the game will take place in Dayton, which seems incredibly unfair to Louisville. Remember though, two years ago, sixth seeded Louisville played third seeded Texas A&M in Lexington. Karma!
Best First Round Coaching Matchup - Al Skinner (BC) vs. Tim Floyd (USC): These are two coaches with a distinct style that never seems to waver from year to year. Consistency is always a good thing.
Best Bet for a First Round Upset - Arizona over Utah: As I said earlier, personnel-wise Arizona stacks up favorably with Utah.
Best Player You Know All About - Terrance Williams (Louisville): This guy has elevated his game recently, coinciding with Louisvilleís tear. Heís been all over ESPN, with good reason.
Runner-Up: Sherron Collins (Kansas): Heís the type of player that can take over a game. As long as he stays under control, there arenít many better point guards.
Best Player You've Never Heard Of - Ben Woodside (North Dakota State): Actually, you probably have heard about Woodside by now. Remember, heís the guy who scored 60 points in one game this December! He also hit the game-winner against Oakland to send NDSU to the tournament.
Runner-Up: Jordan Hill (Arizona): For being one of the best big men in the entire country and a potential lottery pick in the NBA Draft, Hill sure flies under the radar.
Best Name - Chief Kickingstallionsims (Alabama State): Need I explain?
Runner-Up: Dallas Lauderdale (Ohio State): It has a nice ring to it.
Best Reason to Watch this Region Who can knock off Louisville?: The Cardinals look unbeatable these days. So whoís going to stop them? Whoever defeats them will need to slow the tempo and play a half court game to offset Louisvilleís pressing style.
G: Sherron Collins, Kansas
G: Ben Woodside, North Dakota State
F: Evan Turner, Ohio State
F: Terrance Williams, Louisville
C: Jordan Hill, Arizona
Iím sure I left off someone obvious. Yesterday, from the Boston region, I forgot Sam Young. Please let me know if I screwed up this time.
Iím picking Louisville to make it through Indianapolis and on to Detroit. Thatís an easy pick, but I donít feel like anyone else will threaten the Cardinals. Kansas has looked shaky lately, Wake Forest has been inconsistent and Michigan State needs Raymar Morgan back to normal.