Monday, March 17, 2008

NCAA Tournament First Round Capsules: East Region

North Carolina vs. Mt. St. Mary’s/Coppin State

Did I ever mention how much I hate the play-in game?

I’m going to assume Mt. St. Mary’s wins the play-in game for my purposes, mostly because I have never seen Coppin St play, so I can’t really assess their chances. Not that either of these teams has a chance in hell.

Mt. St. Mary’s does have some athleticism. Guys like Goode, Vann, Cajou, the Atupems are all very nice athletes. What they do not have is anybody in their regular rotation who is over 6’7. Even if Goode and Cajou and Vann are successful at slowing Ellington and Lawson and the perimeter crew, they have absolutely no answer for Hansbrough in the middle.

This is not going to be fun to watch, and is not going to be close.

First guess: North Carolina 91 Mt. St. Mary’s 59

Indiana vs. Arkansas

The question here is really more about Indiana’s mindset than anything else. It almost seems like when Sampson quit in late February, the rest of the team quit along with him. I’ve thought for much of the season that one of Eric Gordon’s few weaknesses may have been his mental focus, and perhaps this is just another example of that. Unless Gordon or DJ White steps into a leadership role and can get this team playing again, no amount of match-ups or strategy will save the Hoosiers’ season

Supposing the Hoosiers were to care desperately about their first round match-up, they could match up pretty well with the Razorbacks, While Gary Ervin has made some great strides this year, especially in the second half of the season, running up against a tough Hoosier backcourt of Gordon, Crawford and Bassett could be a lot to handle for a point guard who is prone to turning the ball over. Where Arkansas generally makes their hay is in the paint, with big guys like Thomas, Townes and Hill grabbing rebounds and playing tough defense, but Indiana should be able to compete down low with DJ White an All-American caliber talent.

However, this really does come down to the mental aspect, and I’m thinking Indiana will not be able to flip the switch.

First guess: Arkansas 77 Indiana 69

Washington State vs. Winthrop

The type of teams that give Washington St problems are the teams with big players on the perimeter, teams like UCLA and Stanford. While I think Mantoris Robinson can match up pretty well with Kyle Weaver, there isn’t enough height on the Winthrop perimeter to cause Low or Rochestie a whole lot of problems.

This Wash St. team isn’t particularly deep either, but their 8-man rotation should be plenty to get by a Winthrop team that is nowhere near as good as last year’s squad that upset Notre Dame in the first round.

First guess: Washington St 62 Winthrop 51

Notre Dame vs. George Mason

This will feature an interesting match-up down low between Will Thomas and Luke Harangody. Thomas does have the tendency to seemingly disappear at times, but given that the NCAA tournament does bring out the best in George Mason, he should give the ever-ready Harangody a run for his money.

Notre Dame is going to get up and down the court, use its athleticism and 3pt ability to score a lot of points. Mason will want to keep the tempo a little slower, but does have athleticism enough to match up physically with Notre Dame, however beyond Thomas, I don’t know that they have someone that they can count on consistently on the offensive end.

First guess: Notre Dame 79 George Mason 68

Oklahoma vs. St. Joe’s

St. Joe’s is certainly going to have trouble matching up with Blake Griffin. While they could throw Ahmad Nivins at him (and they very well may do that), doing so would create problems with Longar.

I think St. Joe’s has the edge at the guard position with Tasheed Carr and Darrin Govens, and Calathes can create match-up problems of his own, but I think an incredible physical specimen like Griffin will be too much for the Hawks to handle, in a fairly tight game.

First guess: Oklahoma 61 St. Joe’s 55

Louisville vs. Boise State

Boise St is a nice balanced team: some good inside production out of Nelson and Larry, some nice perimeter players like Tiedemann and Bauscher and some good ballhandlers in Thomas and Greene. The thing is, Louisville has much the same makeup, but I think their individual pieces are a little better than the pieces the Broncos can put on the floor, and the Cardinals are far more athletic. There just isn’t a guy on Boise who can guard Terrence Williams man on man.

So the Broncos drop back in a zone? Then the Cards put Padgett in the high post and he picks them apart from there.

I’m sure there is a way that Boise can win this game. I just have no idea what that is.

Early guess: Louisville 78 Boise St 62

Butler vs. South Alabama

South Alabama is one of 4 teams in this NCAA tournament that I have never seen play (Cornell, Coppin St and Mississippi Valley St being the others), and they are by far the most meaningful of those 4 teams.

I really have absolutely zero capacity at this point to handicap this game. I can look up some reviews online and some stats and sorta fudge together some kind of guess as to what might transpire, but without having seen the team play, there really ain’t a whole lot I can say about this.

As to Butler, I know what they will do. They’ll play deliberate offensive, they’ll scrap for every loose ball, they’ll dump the ball into Howard, they’ll get penetration from Green and Graves, they’ll get 3s from all over the court from half the ballclub, they’ll play terrific defense, and they will probably keep this game fairly close, whether they are winning or losing.

I’ll say this much: Butler sorta got screwed with a number seven seed. Absolutely terrible. This team earned a 4 or at lowest a 5 seed, and by all rights should be playing somebody like Georgia or Villanova or (god forbid) Arizona St in this round. Butler got screwed with a 7 seed, and in the process, a seemingly deserving team like South Alabama got screwed as well.

Early guess: Incomplete data. I really can’t make a guess here. I could say something like Butler by a deuce and I may or may not be right, but it is based on absolutely nothing.

Tennessee vs. American

I like this American team. Garrison Carr is a fun player to watch, they will scrap and fight and defend and rebound and put up a fight.

And, they’ll lose this game by 20 plus.

Way, way too much athleticism on the Volunteer side. This really isn’t worth going into much depth. Tennessee will beat American in the open floor, they’ll beat ‘em in the half court, they’ll beat ‘em from the 3pt line, they’ll beat ‘em on the dribble-drive, they’ll beat ‘em defensively, they’ll beat ‘em in Lawrence, they’ll beat ‘em in Manhattan. Hell, they’ll beat ‘em in Africa.

First guess: Tennessee 81 American 56

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