Saturday, March 21, 2009

Thirty Two's Company

Capsules are being added throughout the day so scroll down for the later games

No. 3 Villanova Wildcats (27-7, Big East)
vs.
No. 6 University of California, Los Angeles Bruins (25-8, Pac 10)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
1:05 P.M. EST

If Nova comes out like they did in the second half of their first game, against American, then they should win this game handily. If they come out like they did in the first half then UCLA will take control and have a chance to win a game in which neither team breaks 60 points. Trailing by ten at the half, the Wildcats came out after the intermission and pressed American. They pressed and they penetrated. They turned over the upstart Eagles and got to the foul line, ultimately sinking 23 more free throws.

No. 2 Memphis Tigers (31-3, C-USA)
vs.
No. 10 Maryland Terrapins (20-13, ACC)
Kansas City, Missouri
3:20 P.M. EST

Everyone's favorite Venezuelan-born college hoopster carried the Terps (27/5/4/2) past the Berkley Bears. Greivis Vasquez can fill it up. And, he seems to rise to the occassion (don't forget that triple double against UNC not too long ago). Which means that the Terps have a puncher's chance here.
Defensively they pestered Cal on the perimeter and will try to do the same to Roburt Sallie (who came off the bench to score 35 in round one) and the Memphis Tigers. Although Memphis got a scare put into them by Cal State Northridge I think they survive and advance today. I think they are too strong and too deep for Maryland. I think the Terps focus on defending the perimeter that the Tigers will use their strength inside. And that if the Terps pack it in that Sallie and Tyreke Evans will do their damage from the outside. While the Terps need Vasquez to win it for them, I think that Memphis can make adjustments to whatever Maryland does. And, John Callipari just got me a great deal on a used car so I'm going to give him the benefit of the doubt for playing in Conference USA (although midseason road wins at Tennessee and at Gonzaga help too).

No. 1 UConn Huskies (27-4, Big East)
vs.
No. 9 Texas A&M Aggies (24-9, Big 12)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
3:35 P.M. EST

My favorite philosopher on dark days, Freddy, once said that "whatever doesn't kill your coach makes you stronger." I never really thought about what he meant until today. I think UConn is primed for a deep run right now. The fact that they were able to blow the doors off their first round opponent with their coach in the hospital has to have them feeling like they are invincible with him back on the sideline. Even though they did top Missouri not too long ago, an Aggies win this afternoon would be the most shocking result of the day, in my opinion. And, I did pick them to advance past BYU. Yet, I see the point spread is just 10 (whereas LSU is getting 12.5 against UNC and Siena is getting 11 against Louisville. Maybe (read: it's likely) there is something that I'm missing here.

No. 4 Washington Huskies (25-8, Pac 10)
vs.
No. 5 Purdue Boilermakers (26-9, Big 10)
Portland, Oregon
5:40 P.M. EST

Part of the reason why I thought that Purdue would advance through to the second round of this tournament was because I watched the Boilermakers defeat Boston College at Madison Square Garden in November. Well, last night I watched USC drive right over BC. And, Washington beat the Trojans twice this season in Pac 10 play. Which, right now, seems a bit more impressive. They also beat UCLA, Arizona and Arizona State during the Pac 10 season. Add that to a non-conference win over the apparently formidable Cleveland State Vikings and the Huskies resume looks pretty impressive.
Purdue beat Northern Iowa to get here. Washington beat Mississippi State (who I picked to win). Again, advantage UW.
It should be mentioned that the fact that Washington's leading scorer is named Isaiah Thomas makes me cringe and want to root for whomever they play against. Luckily for them, they've also got a player named Quincy Pontdexter - who dropped 23 in round one - which means that they get a free pass on name-based discrimination from me.
If either of these clubs were playing the mid-major upstarts then I'd probably go for the underdog each time. But, since I've got to pick one of them, I'm going with the Huskies. On paper they are better and in real life the game is being played in Portland. So, I don't think this game breaks today's run of wins by favorites.

No. 1 UNC Tar Heels (28-4, ACC)
vs.
No. 8 LSU Tigers (26-7, SEC)
Greensboro, North Carolina
5:45 P.M. EST

According to the Charlotte Observer, UNC point guard Ty Lawson had not practiced as of lunchtime yesterday. He was going to try later in the afternoon. And then, if all went well, he would be a game-time decision. I assume that he takes the floor to start. And I assume that he is not himself. This opens the door for the Tigers. And, they're going to walk through it for the upset win. Or, at least, they're going to walk through it to cover the 12.5 point spread. Go put a few bucks on that and them come back.
Back? OK. LSU's Marcus Thornton scored 30 in round one and made clutch shots down the stretch as the Tigers held off Butler. They had three players with 3 or more assists and played solid team ball. Chris Johnson blocked four shots and Thornton had four steals. They're athletic enough to play with UNC and they've got the go-to guy to make buckets down the stretch. Although Wayne Ellington had a 25-point game against Radford, I think the ease of that game will not have readied them for the intensity of LSU in the early stages. UNC showed that they could be had this year when teams really mixed it up with them physically and I think the boys from the bayou are going to do just that.

No. 2 Oklahoma Sooners (27-5, Big 12)
vs.
No. 10 Michigan Wolverines (20-13, Big 10)
Kansas City, Missouri
5:50 P.M. EST

If Michigan had been able to shut the door on Clemson in round one then I'd be very, very tempted to take them here. Mostly because those Griffen-less games that Oklahoma played late in the season made me not trust the Sooners. But Michigan didn't close the door on Clemson. They almost dropped the game. And, they've won two games in row just once (with wins over Wisconsin and Iowa) since the second week of January.
In their opening contest, Oklahoma took care of business. They blazed a wagon trail over Morgan State and Griffen looked like the best player in the country. He scored 28 points and pulled down 13 boards. He was also body slammed. Which was awkward for everyone. Morgan State's Ameer Ali flipped him over his back and to the hardwood in the second half. Ali was ejected. And Griffen got up. He's apparently fine. Which means that the Sooners are fine. Of course, if Griffen gets into foul trouble early and Manny Harris can get going then the Wolverines surely have a chance. But, I'm not betting on it. And, I'm the sort of guy who likes making bets so much that I just bet against UNC.

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