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March 24, 2009

SCS.comDespite the absence of head coach Jim Calhoun in round one, Connecticut rumbled through its first two NCAA games without much issue. Memphis, meanwhile, dodged a pair of bullets from Cal State Northridge and Maryland to advance to Glendale, while Missouri also won a pair of hard-fought battles to make their way to the Sweet Sixteen. Fifth-seeded Purdue took care of Northern Iowa in their opener and then took down fourth-seeded Washington in hostile territory to earn the right to take on the Huskies.


(1) Connecticut - The Huskies have been the most impressive team in the tournament dismantling both Chattanooga and Texas A&M. Connecticut took on Chattanooga without Jim Calhoun on the bench who was hospitalized due to dehydration. However, it did not matter as they used a 46-5 run to beat the Mocs. In the second round, A.J. Price and Jeff Adrien combined for 50 points to blowout the Aggies.
(2) Memphis - The Tigers received a bit of a scare from first round opponent Cal State-Northridge. Memphis trailed by 3 with under 9 minutes remaining in the game before they delivered a knockout blow in the form of a 20-6 run to closeout the game. The second round was a little easier as they basically controlled Maryland for the majority of the game.
(3) Missouri - One of the bigger surprises in the country continues its stellar season as it enters the Sweet 16. Missouri simply was too athletic for Cornell is their opening round game. Big East foe Marquette was able to match the Tigers athlete for athlete but eventually made a couple costly errors down the stretch before falling to Missouri.
(5) Purdue - They have had two tough games, but the name of the game is survive and advance. Winning in the northwest over Washington says something about the character of this team. The competition will get a bit stiffer however as they take on Connecticut. The Boilmakers also have shown they can play against height, especially after beating Northern Iowa and Jordan Eglseder.


(1) Connecticut - So far everything has been going right for Connecticut. After a sluggish start for the first 10 minutes against Chattanooga, the Huskies have absolutely rolled. On offense, they have averaged 97.5 points per game, while only giving up 56.6 over their two games thus far.
(2) Memphis - Through two games, the story for the Tigers has been balance and efficiency, especially against Maryland. Versus the Terps, they managed five players each score 13 points or more. That balance led to Memphis shooting just under 60% from the field and created open looks from the outside resulting in 10 of 19 from long distance. If they Tigers get this balance the rest of the way, they will be tough to beat.
(3) Missouri - Missouri has done what they have done all season, win with defense. Known for the pressure, the Tigers have shown they can play solid defense when teams break their press. They have also taken care of the basketball, as they have turned the ball over about half as many times as their opponents through the first two rounds.
(5) Purdue - Purdue squeaked through the first two rounds with defense. They are not going to overwhelm anyone with talent, but their style can be difficult to adjust to, especially for teams facing them for the first time. Against Washington, they jumped out to a big league and then hung on for the victory. The difference against the Huskies was the 14 points they out-gained them by from the charity stripe and from outside.


(1) Connecticut - Connecticut has been stellar in their first two games, so not too much needs work. Against Chattanooga, Connecticut was shaky from the free-throw as well as from behind the arch. If they shoot like that against Memphis or Purdue, they could be heading back to Storrs early.
(2) Memphis - Antonio Anderson and Tyreke Evans have combined for 10 turnovers in each of Memphisí first two games. This could be a problem in that neither Maryland nor Cal State Northridge applies the kind of pressure that Missouri throws out for the whole game. Needless to say, the Tigers will need to take care of the basketball.
(3) Missouri - Through their first two contests of the tournament, the Tigers have been erratic from three point land, they will need to improve this against Memphis. Also, Marquette was able to handle Missouriís pressure for the most part until crunch time. Missouri will need to continue to apply pressure throughout the tournament.
(5) Purdue - Although they are known for their defense, at some point Purdue is going to get into a position where they need to make a few baskets. One more cause for concern is the lead they coughed up against Washington. Granted they did win the game, but at one point in the second half they were up 14. Surrender that lead against Connecticut and surely they will capitalize.


(1) Connecticut vs (5) Purdue
Head to Head: Hasheem Thabeet (Connecticut) vs JaJuan Johnson (Purdue) - Johnson had a big game against Washington, but despite facing solid post players, none of them possess the defensive presence of Thabeet. The Connecticut center has the reputation of being good for 15 points per game on the defensive end before the game even starts. Johnson needs to at least hold his own in the paint.
For the Huskies to win.... If Connecticut simply plays its game, does not turn the ball over and miss everything from the field they should win. However, Purdue prides itself on the defensive end with its quirky style. As long as Thabeet asserts himself on the defensive end and Price and Adrien handle the inside-outside scoring, the Huskies should be just fine.
For the Boilermakers to win.... Purdue faces a tall order, literally. They are going to have problems inside with Thabeet, which makes their perimeter players very important. This is already a team that struggles on the offensive end, so when they have the ball they need to take full advantage of every opportunity.
The deciding factor: Purdueís ability to put the ball in the basket will determine this game. Connecticut should still be able to score despite the Boilermakerís defense. Obviously style will be important, if Purdue can slow the game down and limit the number of chances for each team, they will stay close and have and chance to win it at the end.
(2) Memphis vs (3) Missouri
Head to Head: Robert Dozier (Memphis) vs DeMarre Carroll (Missouri) - The story of the game will be how well the talented but at times erratic guards of Memphis handle Missouriís hellish defense. But what happens in the paint could be the difference in the game. Dozier and Carroll are not going to sneak up on their oppoenent, both are known commodities, but whoever bests the other could determine the game.
For the Memphis Tigers to win.... They need to handle Missouriís pressure. Missouri pressure the ball as well as any team in the country. Memphis does the talented guard, however they are turnover prone. If they limit the turnovers, they will win this game.
For the Missouri Tigers to win.... They need to create turnovers. Getting in Tyreke Evansí face and taking the ball will be the key to the game. Also Missouri needs to shoot the ball better than it has. If they make their shots and create turnovers, they very well could head to the Elite Eight.
The deciding factor: In what should be the most exciting game of the Sweet Sixteen round, the Tigers and Tigers will play a game of keep away. Memphis will want to break the press and get easy baskets, while Missouri will want to play in transition for the majority of the game. If Memphis breaks the press and gets to the half court, Missouri may have trouble keeping their ultra-quick guard away from the basket, making it tough to win the game.
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