Sunday, March 16, 2008

NCAA Tournament First Round Capsules: South Region

Memphis vs UT-Arlington

Dream scenario for UTA: Dorsey comes in a little over-amped, picks up a charge a minute into the game. A couple minutes later, he is called for a little body contact in attempting to block a Vereen shot. Meanwhile, UTA is sinking back into a zone, giving Memphis the outside shot, and they come in a little cold. Jeremy Smith is quick enough to stay in front of Rose, Guignard and Epps are able to get open at the perimeter and Griffin proves to be athletic enough to hang with Dozier.

Reality: Memphis 87 UTA 61

Mississippi State vs Oregon

These are very different teams, but I think very even teams. Miss St is built on power and athleticism and the halfcourt game. Oregon is gonna want to run up and down and out quick Miss St and bomb threes all over the place.

There are going to be some interesting matchups here: who guards Porter and (more importantly) who does Porter guard. Varnado can clean up after his defenders if they do lose some of their quicker opponents, but the key for Oregon is going to be getting into the paint with guys like Porter, Taylor and Hairston and kicking it out to their teammates at the 3pt line.

On the other side of the court, the Bulldogs will be posting up Rhodes, posting up Gordon, and kicking the ball out to their own 3pt shooters, such as Hansbrough, Stewart and even Phil Turner.

This really is a coin flip, but I’m going to take Oregon as Miss St’s problems at the free throw line may come back to haunt them.

First guess: Oregon 65 Miss St 63

Michigan State vs Temple

Temple’s offense starts with either Chris Clark or Mark Tyndale. While I think Lucas and/or Walton can handle Clark pretty well, the key to their success defensively will be frustrating Tyndale. Morgan will most likely get the first crack at him, and Morgan is a pretty quick defender. If Morgan were to get in foul trouble, I assume Summers would be next in line, and while he is an excellent athlete, I would guess that the senior Tyndale will have a few tricks up his sleeve for the freshman

Another key battle here will clearly be the Neitzel/Christmas battle. Hard to say who has the edge here, may be a wash.

As far as interior players, while the Spartans certainly have their fair share of big men, none are particularly dominant. Suton can step away and knock down the perimeter shot, which could be a key here.

The key weakness for MSU is scoring the ball. If Neitzel can get his against Christmas and one other player can deliver strong contributions offensively (with that player most likely being either Morgan, Suton or possibly Summers, who has played well recently), then Michigan St should be safe here.

Early guess: Michigan St 69 Temple 62

Pitt vs Oral Roberts

Any way you slice this game, it will be a battle. At the point position, Jarvis should be able to give Fields all he can handle. ORU will throw Ogunoye at Sam Young. Shawn King can bang with DeJuan Blair down low. Ehambe will give Ramon and Benjamin trouble. Pitt may be one of the hottest teams in the country, but this Oral Roberts team will not be intimidated and they will not back down.

While both teams are more comfortable getting into a halfcourt game and going at their opponent, each team has plenty of athletes who will take advantage of transition opportunities when they become available.

I think Pitt has enough to get through this round (and possibly well beyond), but it would behoove them to get to Denver early, get adjusted to the altitude and, perhaps most importantly, make their free throws early in the game, as well as late.

Early guess: Pitt 65 Oral Roberts 62

Marquette vs Kentucky

This actually sets up pretty well for Kentucky. They definitely are strongest at the guard, with some weakness in the middle, especially with Patterson out for Kentucky. While Marquette does have some nice interior players, they aren’t the type of guys who are going to supply a lot of the offense. Bradley, Crawford and Jasper match up pretty well with Marquette’s trio of guards, although Marquette certainly has more depth outside than does Kentucky. And, now that I think about it, this is also the type of matchup Marquette wants. Marquette can struggle against big teams.

Neither of these teams will (ideally) take, or make, a lot of 3s. They are going to rely on their guards getting some penetration and creating offense.

Free throws could be an issue here for Marquette, as they can struggle from the line at times. While Kentucky has some key players who are not great FT shooters (um, Jasper), Ramel Bradley will be the guy with the ball at key times and he is a great FT shooter.

This is really a very even matchup. I think matchups like McNeal/Jasper and James/Bradley are going to be amazing to watch. I have a suspiscion that Marquette will get more production out of their big guys (Barro, Hayward) than Kentucky will out of theirs, so I’ll take Marquette in a battle.

First guess: Marquette 61 Kentucky 58

Stanford vs Cornell

Bzzzt. Bzzzt. Incomplete data alert! I have never seen Cornell play.

I think to beat Stanford you have to have some big guys who are at least able to hang with the Lopezes and some quickness in the back court to take advantage of Stanford’s weaknesses. With absolutely no data to base this on, other than a good 5 minutes researching Cornell, I suspect Cornell does not have what it takes to hang with Stanford.

Early guess, based on little more than a shot in the dark: Stanford 71 Cornell 58

Miami vs St. Mary's

At first glance here, the matchups that intrigue me are McClinton vs. Golden and Simpson vs. whoever Miami throws at him (a combo of Collins and Graham, most likely). I don’t think the McClinton/Golden is anywhere near a good matchup for St. Mary’s, but if Mills can disrupt Hurdle (who is already turnover prone) enough, perhaps the Gaels can limit the damage McClinton can do, but in reality, he has got to be drooling at the thought of that matchup.

A possible key for St. Mary’s could be Tron Smith, who has the athleticism to stick with McClinton, and a bit of a size advantage.

Offensively, I think Simpson will probably be too quick for either Collins or Graham, and Simpson can also be an equalizer on the defensive end, erasing some shots if one of the less athletic Gael defenders loses their man.

This will be a bit of a contrast in styles at times, as St. Mary’s will get up and down and shoot up a lot of 3s, and should certainly be a interesting tight game.

Early guess: Miami 70 St. Mary’s 64

Texas vs Austin Peay

If Austin Peay were to have a chance in the first round, it would be against a team without the backcourt of Texas. If they had been matched up with Stanford, perhaps they would have had a bit of a chance (okay, not much of one still). Against Texas? Augustin will completely negate the quickness and defensive ability of Derrick Wright. Justin Mason or even Damion James can handle Drake Reed, and the front line of Texas (which, to be honest, is the Longhorn weakness) will dominate a poor rebounding Governor team.

First guess: Texas 83 Austin Peay 61

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