Thursday, March 01, 2007

This Isn't Russia Is It?

"Hey Wang, what's with all the pictures? It's a parking lot, come on!"

So we are officially into March, and at this time, I would like to congratulate you on making it through another month (although it was an abbreviated one) and hope everyone is doing good out there. Again, it is March, so you know what that means: "March Madness." In lieu of that, I want to offer up a short, little preview of what you can possibly expect when it comes to Tourney time.

Yes, I am one of "those people" who does a ton of research on the Tourney. I'm not going to lie, I absolutely love just pouring over statistics trying to figure out what team has what it takes to make a deep run, and what teams will be out there to "shock" people. In the coming weeks, as "Championship Week" unfolds, I will be listing a lot of statistics that you should definitely keep in mind when you are filling in your brackets. As for now, let me break down a couple of teams in different categories. First, I'm going to start off by talking about teams that have what it takes to win a bunch of games and make it far in the tournament. Secondly, I will talk about teams that are simply out there to screw with your head. These will be ones that could sink your whole bracket. And finally, I will talk about some potential "cinderellas" that could earn you some points that others may be overlooking.

Who's Going To Make A Run:
UCLA: The Bruins, in my opinion, have been the most solid team in the country this year. Led by the favorite to win the Pac-10 Player of the Year, Arron Afflalo, the Bruins have posted a solid 25-3 record, including a 14-2 mark in the surprising Pac-10. The Bruins do not appear to be outstanding in any category, but the thing is, they aren't bad in any area either. This is a solid team from top to bottom. I think the main concern I have about UCLA is the fact that they were in the Final Four and the National Championship game last year, and very rarely does it happen that a team can duplicate its success from the previous year. Still, with all that being said, Ben Howland is probably one of the most underappreciated coaches in the country, which makes me think the Bruins have a definite shot to perhaps equal their success from last year.

Ohio St.: The Buckeyes have enough depth to go lights out on pretty much any teamin the Tourney. Everyone knows about Greg Oden and his dominance, but what is overlooked has been the play of the other Buckeye freshmen, most notably Mike Conley, Jr. and Daequan Cook. With those two running the backcourt, and the aforementioned Oden, I don't see anyone that could possibly slow this team down.

Texas A&M: Acie Law IV is just that good. I'm basing this prediction just on one guy. And if he isn't convincing enough, you're also looking at a team that boosts four players averaging double-digits in scoring a night. The Aggies have five losses this year (LSU with a healthy Mark Davis, UCLA, two to Texas Tech, and Texas). But when you look at those games, they lost all of them by a combined 21 points. This team is blowout-proof, meaning that playing against them will be a struggle for most opponents.

Texas: There is no hotter team right now than Texas. Plus, when you throw in Durant, who I think will have a "'Melo" like impact on the Longhorns in the tournament, then you have all the makings of a team that can catch fire and start knocking out the big names. Definitely keep an eye on Durant's health, as he left the Kansas game over the weekend with an ankle injury.

Teams You Should Have Nothing To Do With:
Kansas: Ever since Roy Williams made his return to Tobacco Road, the Bill Self-led Jayhawks have been horrendous in the tournament, losing in the first round the last two years. I know that people have billed Kansas to be "the deepest team in the country," but I have more than my fair share of doubt that they will be making any noise come March. I can definitely see them getting bounced in the second or third round, depending on what kind of draw they get.

Pittsburgh: If you want to talk about a really bad tournament team, look no further than the Panthers, who have a top-5 seed in four of the last five tournaments, and have not made it out of the Sweet Sixteen. This team plays pretty well in the regular season, but has disappointed time and time again in the Tourney.

Southern Illinois: The Salukis are going to be in for a train wreck this year. After their loss to Creighton in the Missouri Valley Championship game, they will most likely end up with a 5 or 6 seed, at which point they will turn around and get completely blown out (ok, maybe I shouldn't say "blown out" because I have no clue who they might be playing). The Salukis are going against my "reverse cinderella theory," so I don't see them getting far at all.

Nevada: Again, in staying with the reversals of fortune, Nevada has to still be in that category. They do have one of the most underrated players in the country in Nick Fazekas, but again, they will be getting a top 5 seed for the second year in a row, and considering they had a 5 seed last year and lost in the first round to Montana, I have absolutely no confidence in the Wolf Pack at this time.

Teams To Watch Out For:
Winthrop: Winthrop, Winthrop, Winthrop. If I've told you once, I'll tell you again: Winthrop is going to be the sleeper this year for sure. The Eagles have already made their presence known this year with two close road losses to North Carolina and Wisconsin. Also, Winthrop has won 18 games in a row, the second longest active winning streak in the country (Memphis). Winthrop looks like they will get either an 11 or a 12, and if they get the right teams in their bracket, a trip to the Sweet Sixteen is not out of the question at all.

Arizona: With the toughest schedule in all the land, the Wildcats have "underperformed" this year, coming into the Pac-10 tournament with a 20-9 record and an 11-7 mark in the conference. However, when you talk about talent, the 'Cats are definitely not short on that. This team could be especially dangerous if they get a 7 or 8 seed, as they will give a top-ranked team all kinds of headaches with their athleticism.

Indiana: As I was watching the Hoosiers play Michigan St. last week, this occured to me: If Indiana can get hot, they could be arguably the most dangerous team in the entire tournament. I am dead serious right here. Indiana boosts five guys on their team that shoot over 40% from beyond the arc. When you take that, and you add an outstanding post player like D.J. White, the potential for this team is out the window (also I've always liked Kelvin Sampson as well)

Texas Tech: Here's a team, like Indiana, who has been thrown into a 10 seed as of right now. The Red Raiders have been a team that has flown under the radar, but when you look back on their year, they have some tremendous victories (Kansas, A&M twice, Oklahoma St. when they were #17). And of course, you know who is on the bench, so you never know what "The General" has up his sleeve.

There will be more to come as the tournament continues, but that's all for now. Take care now. Peace.


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