|SWEET SIXTEEN PREVIEW: MEMPHIS REGIONAL
March 26, 2009
Larry, SCS.com Staff Writer
Like the Boston regional, the Memhphis regional has sent each of its top four seeds into the round of sixteen this weekend. Top-seeded North Carolina held off a feisty LSU squad to advance and will take on fourth-seeded Gonzaga, who needed a last-second shot to take down pesky Western Kentucky to make the trip south. Second-seeded Oklahoma, meanwhile, was able to take down Michigan and earn the right to meet third-seeded Syracuse who out-lasted Arizona State to advance. The action in Memphis gets underway on Friday night!
HOW THEY GOT HERE
(1) North Carolina - After a first round laugher without point guard Ty Lawson, the Heels received a bit of a scare from a very athletic LSU team before pulling away for a double digit win late in the second half. Lawson suited up against LSU and had a big game going for 23 points while dishing out 6 assists.
(2) Oklahoma - After stumbling down the stretch, the Sooners dominated Morgan State in its tournament opener. In the second round, things got a little tougher against Michigan as Oklahoma found itself in a one possession game with only six minutes remaining. But as usual superstar Blake Griffin came thorough with eight points down the stretch.
(3) Syracuse - The Orange easily handled an underrated Stephen F. Austin team in the opening round. They then had the unenviable task of taking on Arizona State and its future lottery pick James Harden. Syracuse did a solid job on Harden and shot extremely well to compliment its defensive play.
(4) Gonzaga - Once the sleeper, now the target. The Zags no longer have the luxury of sneaking up on people, especially mid-majors who want to supplant them. Gonzaga took care of Akron to open the tournament then got a last second victory of Western Kentucky in the battle featuring mid-major powers.
GETTING IT DONE
(1) North Carolina - The most important thing is that Ty Lawson played and seems healthy after a monster second half against LSU. Not surprisingly, the Carolina offense has been stellar, especially against LSU, who provides problems matching for many teams. Ellington shot the ball very well against the Tigers.
(2) Oklahoma - The formula has not been much different than it has for most of the season. Oklahoma relies heavily on Blake Griffin who has rebounded well after being shaken up towards the end of the season. Willie Warren has also done a nice job not turning the ball over, especially against such a tough defense like Michigan.
(3) Syracuse - If Syracuse shoots 45% from downtown like they did against Arizona State, they are going to be tough to beat. Eric Devendorf and Andy Rautins combined for eight three-pointers against the Sun Devils. The zone that Jim Boeheim employs has also stalled its opponents through the first two rounds.
(4) Gonzaga - Most importantly, Gonzaga has made the plays in the clutch that they had trouble making in previous years. The final shot by Demetri Goodson could go a long way if Gonzaga can find a way past Carolina. Also, this Gonzaga team has played better defense than in prior years. Jeremy Pargo and Matt Bouldin also enjoyed big nights against the Hilltoppers.
NEEDS SOME WORK
(1) North Carolina - Obviously Lawsonís health is a huge concern. If Lawson canít go at any juncture from this point forward, Carolina could be in trouble. Aside from injury, the Tar Heels have had trouble playing defense on a regular basis. At some point a team is going to be able to go toe-to-toe with the Heels and whoever gets a stop will win.
(2) Oklahoma - Same with Carolina, Griffinís health is the story out of Norman. He seems healthy and looked good, but as hard as he plays, he is always at risk. The other area of concern is the backcourt and how well they will respond against Syracuseís zone, so far they have been very good.
(3) Syracuse - The Orange has played extremely well since the regular season has ended, however their biggest problem this season appeared to be consistency. They will need to avoid the letdowns that have plagued them over the past few seasons.
(4) Gonzaga - Against the big boys like Carolina and Oklahoma, Austin Daye needs to stay out of foul trouble. He only played 19 minutes against Western Kentucky. Luckily for the Zags, the four guard attack was enough to advance. Gonzaga also was lucky in the second round considering Western Kentucky was dreadfull from the foul line.
(1) North Carolina vs (4) Gonzaga
Head to Head: Ty Lawson (North Carolina) vs Jeremy Pargo (Gonzaga) - The battle at the point will go a long way in determining the outcome of this match-up. Lawson appears healthy and it is commonly known how important he is to the Heels, Pargo plays outstanding defense and controls the show for Gonzaga. If either one can disrupt the others flow, more than likely they will advance to the Elite Eight.
For the Tar Heels to win.... They just need to play their game plus some defense. Gonzaga can go toe-to-toe with North Carolina, however Carolina is much deeper. More than likely this will not be a blowout, so the Heels just need to wear down the Zags and pounce during the back end of the second half.
For the Bulldogs to win.... They need to just keep punching, if North Carolina has a weakness it is on the defensive end. So if the Zags can keep close and get a few stops, they will have a chance to get the win. Gonzaga is very long which could create problem for North Carolina, they also have played significantly better defense this season than in previous years.
The deciding factor: Both of these teams can light up the scoreboard, so it will come down to who gets the big stops down the stretch. So basically, unless either team is simply on fire, the game will be determined on the defensive end. One more factor to keep an eye on is whether or not the post players can stay on the court. If either team can get their opponentís big men in foul trouble, that will be a large advantage for long stretches.
(2) Oklahoma vs (3) Syracuse
Head to Head: Willie Warren (Oklahoma) vs Jonny Flynn (Syracuse) - You know what you are getting with Blake Griffin, so the big match-up for the Sooners involves freshman Willie Warren and how well he plays against Jonny Flynn. Flynn has emerged as a potential lottery pick and has been outstanding. If Flynn dominates this battle, more than likely Syracuse will advance.
For the Sooners to win.... Two things need to happen. First, Griffin needs to have his normal game, obviously he has the ability to dominate but as long as he plays well, the Sooners will be in the game. Second, Willie Warren needs to have a good game, as mentioned before, if he outplays Flynn, Oklahoma will be one step closer to the Final Four.
For the Orange to win.... Plain and simple, shoot well and do not let Blake Griffin kill you. Griffin is going to get his, but if they can use their zone to frustrate him, they will greatly improve their chances of winning. The Orange also canít afford to have an off-night from the field, if they get into a slugfest with the Sooners, Oklahoma will win.
The deciding factor: It may sound obvious, but whoever makes shots will win. Griffin has the potential to carry the Sooners to the Final Four, but Oklahoma is not very deep, but against a zone like Syracuse, that may not matter as much. Both teams get streaky at times and also have the ability to go into long funks with the exceptions of their big guns. When it is said and done, the team that avoids the funks will survive.