Monday, March 17, 2008

2008 NCAA Tournament Analysis

From now until Thursday, I'll be going region-by-region, analyzing the matchups, teams, and revealing my picks. Today, the East Region:

East (Charlotte)

Best Player

Tyler Hansbrough, North Carolina

He may be one of the more annoying players to watch in all of basketball, but there's no doubting the stats he puts up. Every time you look up, he seems to be shooting free throws. Hansbrough has made his living being physical and getting the easy buckets. Whether they're free throws, lay-ups, or dunks, Hansbrough lives inside the paint. He's unlikely to make much of an impact in the pros, where his short arms and defensive weaknesses will be exploited. But, for now, Hansbrough is the best player in this region and one of the top 3 in the nation (along with Michael Beasley and Kevin Love).

Best Matchup

Butler (7) v. South Alabama (10)

Even as the higher seed, Butler will be playing a virtual road game in the first round. The Jaguars get the advantage of playing in Birmingham, not far from USA's Mobile campus. This matchup offers a great contrast of styles. Butler plays a slower, more methodical game based on defense and open 3-pointers. The Jaguars are much more physical on the glass and play at a faster pace. The teams were relatively even in the regular season, each team outscoring its opposition by about 10 ppg. However, USA outrebounded its opponents by 7/gm, while the Bulldogs had about one less per game than its opponents. Headed by thick 6'6" forwards Brandon Davis and DeAndre Coleman, USA will look to use its inside power to beat Butler's superior 3-point ability. Butler will need a big game from freshman Matt Howard down low. Two of USA's losses were to Ole Miss by 5 and Vandy in double OT, so it's not like the Jaguars are an unknown. Butler may be the bigger name, but playing in front of the home Alabama crowd, they will be severely tested.

Biggest Sleeper
George Mason (12)

The team that finished 8th in 2006 and went to the Final Four is back in the Tourney after a year off. Four players remain from that team, including starters Will Thomas and Folarin Campbell. Mason has the key ingredients to make a run this season. They have the inside presence with Thomas (15.8, 10.5). The Patriots also have three capable long-range shooters in Campbell, John Vaughan, and Dre Smith. The experience of Thomas and Campbell should not be underestimated. Whereas most mid-major and low-major schools can be psyched-out before the opening tip, the Patriots will be more than ready to play. Going against 5 seed Notre Dame and possibly 4 seed Washington St. in the second round, G. Mason has a good shot to make the Sweet 16.

Upset Special
St. Joseph's (11) over Oklahoma (6)

I think the Sooners are the most over-ranked team in this region. They were outscored by opponents in the Big 12. They have a strong inside presence with Blake Griffin and Longar Longar, but they are weak offensively in the backcourt. Only one player, Tony Crocker, can be considered a legitimate outside threat. But the Hawks have four players shooting at least 35% from long-range. Plus, with Pat Calathes and Ahmad Nivins, St. Joe's has the inside ability to stop Griffin and Longar. The Hawks shoot better from 2's, 3's, and the line than the Sooners. The teams are about even in turnovers and defense, so this game will likely come down to offense. If that's the case, the Hawks will win. Griffin or Longar is going to have guard Calathes on the perimeter because of his shooting. Taking a premium Sooner defender and rebounder outside the paint opens up plenty of lanes for passing and penetrating. Oklahoma played Texas three times this year, losing all 3 and never scoring more than 54 points. What does Texas do similar to St. Joe? They have big men who can play outside (Damion James and Connor Atchley) and guards who shoot a high percentage. I predict a win for the Hawks down in Birmingham.

First Round
North Carolina over play-in winner
Indiana over Arkansas
Notre Dame over George Mason
Washington St. over Winthrop
St. Joe's over Oklahoma
Louisville over Boise St.
South Alabama over Butler
Tennessee over American

Second Round
N. Carolina over Indiana
Notre Dame over Wash. St.
Louisville over St. Joe's
Tennessee over S. Alabama

Third Round
N. Carolina over N. Dame
Louisville over Tennessee

East Regional Final
North Carolina over Louisville

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Best matchup: ND and George Mason
...South Alabama shouldn't even be in the tournament.
Sleeper: Wash. St. Their experience of playing tough in the PAC-10 this year will pay off.
I agree with the upset pick, but it really shouldn't even be an upset. Oklahoma is overseeded.