Tuesday, March 18, 2008

2008 NCAA Tournament Analysis (cont.)

Midwest Region (Detroit)

Best Player

Michael Beasley, Kansas St.

Beasley has been a man among boys for the Wildcats this year. His averages of 26.5 and 12.4 are incredible for a freshman. It isn't like he's doing this because of heavy shot volume either. He shoots 54% from the field, 39% from long range, and 77% from the line. Unfortunately, only one other teammate, Bill Walker, averages 10+ pts/gm. This hampered the Wildcats in the Big 12 season, as they've lost 7 times since February 1st. In the first round, Beasley will go up against O.J. Mayo and USC. The Trojans feature a much better supporting cast than K-St. Players like Davon Jefferson and Taj Gibson have the size and athleticism to defend Beasley. If he is neutralized, the rest of the Wildcats may be put in a difficult situation.

Best Matchup

USC (6) v. Kansas St. (11)

The matchup of highly touted freshmen, Beasley and Mayo, has all the TV and ad execs drooling. Both players have lived up to the hype thus far, compiling All-America type numbers and leading his team into the Big Dance. As always with the Wildcats, this game will hinge on the play of the supporting cast. Beasley will put up his 20 and 10 regardless whether they win or lose. But K-St needs Walker and Jacob Pullen to add some scoring. When those two play well, the Wildcats usually win. Too often, the Wildcats get caught ceding to Beasley and forgetting how to play the game. The Trojans, meanwhile, surround their best player with an excellent cast. Jefferson and Gibson are beasts down low. Gibson is the rebounder and banger, while Jefferson tends to play above the rim and make the flashier plays. If one of them can get Beasley in foul trouble early, K-St will be in serious danger. Trojan PG Daniel Hackett is only a sophomore but he played major minutes for USC's 2007 tournament team. Hackett, along with Gibson and forward Dwight Lewis, gives USC a big edge in tournament experience. Playing close to home, in Omaha, the Wildcats would seem to have a slight advantage. But, K-St has struggled on road and neutral courts. I cannot see this team having much success if Beasley doesn't score 40 and rebound 20. Even then, the Trojan depth is much superior and will clinch the victory.

Biggest Sleeper

Davidson (10)

Playing close to home in Raleigh, Davidson has a great chance to make the Sweet 16. Led by supreme shooter, Stephen Curry, the Wildcats should have no problem dispatching Gonzaga. Remember, this Davidson squad only lost by 4 to North Carolina, 6 to Duke, and 12 to UCLA. And Davidson led by 17 at one point against the Bruins. So, this is certainly no small-conference fluke. Curry, 25.1 ppg, can score from anywhere on the court. If he were playing at Duke, Dick Vitale would be all over him as the second coming of J.J. Redick. Curry shoots 49% from the floor, 44% from 3-point, and 90% from the line. He even grabs 5 boards a game at 6'2" tall. His backcourt mate, Jason Richards, is no slouch either. He puts up 12.6 ppg with a 2.5:1 assist-turnover ratio. The key for Davidson will be their frontcourt players. Defending Gonzaga's Josh Heytvelt and Austin Daye or even G'Town's Roy Hibbert will require excellent defense from Boris Meno, Thomas Sander, and Andrew Lovedale. All 3 average better than five boards/gm while shooting over 50% from the field. Nothing less than that will be acceptable against the Bulldogs or Hoyas. But, if Curry can get his 25-30 points and his teammates can chip in superb defense and smart (i.e. few turnovers) play, there's no telling how far this team can go. Just keep in mind how well they played UNC, Duke, and UCLA early on. On a more neutral court, those games could be much different.

Upset Special
If I can't count my previously mentioned K-St or Davidson possibilities, I'd have to go with Villanova (12) over Clemson (5).

Personally, I see Clemson winning by double-digits over Nova. The Tigers have an impressive inside duo of James Mays and Trevor Booker that Nova can't really match. Dante Cunningham is a solid player, but he's nowhere near the caliber of player that the Tigers have. However, if Nova guard Scottie Reynolds can get hot, they have a chance. He can score points in bunches and in the tourney, a hot streak can make a big difference. It's not necessarily about the best overall team, but the best team at the current time.

First Round
Kansas over Portland St.
UNLV over Kent St.
Clemson over Villanova
Vanderbilt over Siena
USC over Kansas St.
Wisconsin over Cal St.-Fullerton
Davidson over Gonzaga
Georgetown over Maryland-Baltimore County

Second Round
Kansas over UNLV
Clemson over Vanderbilt
Wisconsin over USC
G'Town over Davidson

Third Round
Kansas over Clemson
Wisconsin over G'Town

Midwest Regional Final
Kansas over Wisconsin


Anonymous said...

I like the upset special. I see the strong play of the Nova guards outplaying the weaker Clemson guards.

Anonymous said...

Kansas has choked every year since losing LB as coach. Think PAC 10