Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Sweet Sixteen Day One Preview Part 1

If you followed the seeds exactly, you would be rewarded with a sheet that had 14 of the Sweet Sixteen teams correct.  You would have only missed on what passes for a Cinderella this year, #12 Arizona (a team that finds itself there only because it had seriously underperformed, given their talent, all year long) and #5 Purdue (who advanced over what I consider to be a curiously overrated Washington).

But now, half-assed experts like myself feel that upsets are coming.  Sure, there will be no George Mason in this Final Four, but I feel pretty safe in assuming that it won't be last year's all #1 Seeds there, either.  So let's look at tomorrow's games.  Upsets?  Maybe.  I'm going to write a little bit about each game, match-ups, etc, and then I'll give a prediction.

I'm going in order of time of tip-off, just to be fair and shit.

(1) UConn vs. (#5) Purdue. West Region; Tip Off 6:07 CST.

I think it is safe at this point to call the Huskies clear, but not overwhelming favorites--Vegas has Purdue as 7 point dogs.  I'm entirely sure why it isn't a bigger spread--UConn has destroyed not just their first two opponents in the dance, but a good number of their Big East rivals.  Yes, they lost to Syracuse and Pittsburgh in the closing weeks of the Big East season--but they have four losses on the year, 3 to Pittsburgh, and the other was a ridiculous 6 OT game for the ages against another Sweet 16 team.  I think you have to squint awfully hard to make Purdue look like Pittsburgh.  That said, Purdue isn't totally without weapons--the backcourt of is particularly dangerous.  Robbie Hummel gets a lot of the ink, because he such a dangerous shooter--he hovers right around 40% from beyond the arc, punishes fouls, and boards well.  But E'Twaun Moore can also shoot the lights out.  Forward  JaJuan Johnson, a sophomore like Hummel, looks like a star in the making--6'10, rangy, quick, with a good deal of smarts.  If this weren't a Matt Painter team, he would probably be averaging closer to 35 minutes a game, instead of the 20-some that he does.  For a lot of teams, he would be an impossible match up.

But UConn is not most teams.  They have an athletic wingman of their own in 6' 9"Stanley Robinson, whose playing time has increased as the year has gone on.  And for good reason.  He seems to have learned when to take his shot; he plays smart defense, and take pressure off the rest of the frontcourt, which features two players that defenses pay special attention to.  I speak, of course, of Hasheem Thabeet and Jeff Adrien.  Those two players, if they play the way I think they should, will wreak havok on the Purdue defense (shocking prediction, I know).  Here's my shocking prediction--Thabeet, who has had 0 assists in his last five games, will have 5 assists in this game.  I think Purdue will swarm on Thabeet, and I do believe that Jeff Adrien will flash to the foul line receive Thabeet passes, and hit 15' jumpers like it is his job (as it will soon will be).

No shocker here.  UConn takes care of business as their front court is simply too much for the undersized and younger Purdue squad.  One Caveat:  Foul Trouble and Team Depth.  UConn is not deep.  Their star players are cognizant of that, and rarely get in foul trouble, but a referee with a itchy whistle-blowin' muscle could seriously impact this game.  

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