Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Sweet Sixteen Day One Preview Part 2

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) Pittsburgh vs (#4) Xavier.  East Region; Tip Off 6:27 CST

Another game that Vegas had decided has a solid favorite, with Xavier an 8 point dog.  

Xavier presents an interesting conundrum.  If you are a very casual fan of college basketball, you might ask yourself, "What is an Xavier?" or if you a very casual fan of college basketball, but a big X-Men nerd, you might ask, "Is Xavier located on Greymalkin Lane?"  Shut up, nerd. Yet, Xavier has been the standard-bearer of the Atlantic 10 Conference since Jameer Nelson graduated from St. Joseph's, oh so many years ago.  This is a team that beat fellow Sweet 16-er Memphis, but got beat bad by Duke and Butler.  

Pittsburgh does not present any conundrum.  Their formula is simple--Pittsburgh is 29-1 if DeJuan Blair doesn't foul out.  Getting him in foul trouble doesn't appear to be enough.  In games in which he is limited in time, he simply makes the most of that time.  Not that Pittsburgh is a one-trick pony--Jermaine Dixon and Levance Fields make up one of the least talked about, but most effective backcourt pairings amongst the #1 seeds.  They are not necessarily the best shooters in a backcourt--not by any stretch.  But with Blair and small forward Sam Young, they are a very well-rounded team.  

Let's be clear, I do not discount Xavier's chances in this game, but I know they will have to generate fouls--they are a great free throw shooting team (aside from forward CJ Anderson).  But they are giving up a ton of size at almost every position.  Not height, necessarily.  Just bulk.  DeJuan Blair is 6' 7", 265 pounds.  Xavier's Center/Foward Jason Love who is 6' 9" (and Xavier's tallest regular player) weighs 255.  Kenny Frease, a 7' with a ton of upside, maybe, is only 265.  

If Xavier can be aggressive and attack the Pittsburgh defense, and they can make Blair a nonfactor as much as possible, then they can get the advantage in the front court, and that could make the difference.  I'm predicting an upset here--Xavier, in a very close game.

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