Sunday, March 19, 2006

Oh, the Sweet 16...

With lots of suprises thus far in the NCAA tournament, the Sweet 16 is sure to be full of excitement. If you still have a live bracket, you should be congratulating yourself at this point. My bracket has 12/16 correct for the Sweet 16 and 6/8 of my chosen Elite 8 are live and all of my Final 4 teams are still kicking. Final 4 in my bracket: Gonzaga, Duke, UConn, Florida. If I had the opportunity to change one of my Final 4 picks, I would keep my picks the same. The Oakland region should provide some of the most exciting games as Memphis, Bradley, Gonzaga, and UCLA all look to be tough compeition. Tournament action will resume on Thursday, March 23.

Atlanta Region

▪ #1 Duke vs #4 LSU
Duke Blue Devil basketball under the reign of Coach K, Duke has visited the NCAA tournament 21 years, posting a 66-18 record. Duke is definitely no stranger to the Sweet 16. It is Duke's 9th straight appearance. Last year, the Blue Devils lost to Michigan State 78-68 in the Sweet 16. The last time that Duke won the tournament was in 2001, with a Final 4 appearance in 2004.
Duke boasts a 32-3 record on the season, as well as being 17-2 during conference play and also winning the ACC conference tournament. As a #1 seed, Duke handled #16 Southern 70-54 in the opening round, followed by another solid performance against #8 George Washington beating them by a final score of 74-61.

Against GW, JJ Redick led the scoring with 20 points, going 7-14 from the field, 4-9 from downtown, and 2-7 at the line. Shelden Williams chipped in with 17 points, connecting all 9 times at the line but only shooting 4-10 from the field. Williams pulled down a team high 14 rebounds. Josh McRoberts wasn't far behind with 13 rebounds and 14 points. Greg Paulus contributed 6 assists along with 10 points, although 6 turnovers was a part of the equation.

LSU has 18 years of NCAA tournament experience, with a 19-21 overall record in tournament play. They have never brought home the Championship, but they have made the Final 4 three times in their history. Their last Sweet 16 visit was in 2000. But records are records, and they are meant to be changed, so don't count LSU out of this game so quickly.

Going 25-8 during the season, and 15-3 in SEC play, LSU had little trouble with Iona in the opening round. Things were different against Texas A&M.

Glen "Big Baby" Davis scored 21 points and Darrel Mitchell drilled the game-winning 3-pointer with four seconds remaining to lift fourth-seeded LSU to a 58-57 triumph over No. 12 seed Texas A&M in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. It was the ninth victory in the last 10 games for the Tigers (25-8).

Prediction: Williams will be a bit much for younger Davis. J.J. Redick is returning to his usual form and the Blue Devils are getting solid contribution from Paulus, McRoberts, and Sean Dockery.
Projected Winner: Duke pick and preview (covers)

▪ #6 West Virginia vs #2 Texas
West Virginia will makes its second straight Sweet 16 appearance, while it is Texas' 4th in 5 years. The last time these two teams met was 11/21/05 in Texas, where the Longhorns pulled out a 76-75 victory.

West Virginia finished the season 3rd in the Big East. WVU would have liked to have done better in the Big East tournament, losing the first round to Pitt. They have had little problems in the NCAA Tournament thus far with 18 point and 13 point victories. Although Kevin Pittsnogle only connected 3-14 from the field and 1-6 from downtown, his 5 for 6 at the foul line helped him put up 4 points. Other Moutaineers stepped up though as Mike Gansey, JD Collins, and Frank Young each had over 10 points. Herber and Beilein also combined for 15 points.

The Mountaineers lived by the 3-ball in the regular season and has not changed their style of play for the NCAA Tournament. In round one, they attempted 32 long balls and hit 11 (33.4%) while going 7-22 (31.8%) in round two. On the season, the connected for 34.5% from behind the arc.

Texas won the Big 12 regular season with a record of 15-4. They boast an impressive 29-6 overall record. Texas cruised by Penn by 8 points in the first round, but put on a display in round 2 vs North Carolina State. Texas shot 46% and 42% (9-19) from 3pt range, which was miles ahead of NC State shooting 39.3% and only connecting on 3-22 (13.6%) from 3pt range.

Texas may have the advantage in this matchup. They are full of capable scorers such as PJ Tucker, LeMarcus Aldridge, AJ Abrams, and Daniel Gibson. Brad Buckman will also try to make his presence felt defensively. If Texas can defend the long ball, the Mountaineers may have a tough time keeping scoring pace with Texas.

Projected Winner: Texas pick and preview (covers)

Oakland Region

▪ #1 Memphis vs #13 Bradley

lowest seed since 1999 sweet 16

▪ #3 Gonzaga vs #2 UCLA

Washington Region

▪ #1 Connecticut vs #5 Washington

▪ #11 George Mason vs #7 Wichita St
George Mason stunned North Carolina, overcoming a 16-2 early hole to beat the National Champions 65-60.


▪ #1 Villanova vs #4 Boston College

▪ #3 Florida vs #7 Georgetown

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