My Tournament Picks

Everyone by now has filled out their brackets.  It is a national pastime that usually leads to someone's girlfriend beating them because she picked teams based on their mascots or jerseys.  Its embarrassing, but usually happens.  Luckily (or unluckily, depending on how my night at the bar goes) I don't have a girlfriend, so there is no embarrassment in posting my 2009 Tournament picks.  However, to those of you with girlfriends, beware of the mascot trick.  It gets you every time.

Without further ado, here are my picks!

Ncaa_bracket_copy_medium

Now I know they may be hard to see.  Just click on the picture and it will blow up larger for you, if you're so inclined. 

Also, these are not the official Blogger So Dear bracket picks.  These are my own, which is why they differ.  The official picks were broken down region by region earlier today and yesterday.

Brief explanations after the jump...

EAST REGION (picks in bold)

1 Pitt vs. 16 E. Tennessee St. - Pitt is just too good.  KenPom gives E. Tennessee St. a 6% chance of winning this game, and honestly, that may still be too high.  The 2nd most efficient offensive team, with the 34th most efficient defense, Pitt is too well rounded for the 112th ranked, undersized (185 in effective height) Bucs.

8 Oklahoma St. vs. 9 Tennessee - Unlike the Bucs, this section of Tennessee is not undersized at all, ranking 50th in effective height.  This will be a very close game against the 32nd ranked Vols and the 33rd ranked Cowboys.  KenPom splits this game down the middle, but the size and big game experience of Tennessee give them the edge in this close close game.  Honestly, the only thing that pushes this the Vols way is that Tyler Smith and Wayne Chism have been there while Anderson hasn't.

5 FSU vs. 12 Wisonsin - Well, Wisconsin shouldn't be in the tournament, and they won't last long.  KenPom disagrees, giving the 'Noles a 47% chance of winning, but I just feel like Toney Douglas is too hot right now for a slow, less-athletic Badgers team to stop.  Also, FSU's defense is vastly underrated, they are the 12th most efficient defense in the nation, actually more efficient than Wisconsin's (59).  I just think Toney Douglas is on a mission.

4 Xavier vs. 13 Portland St. - Despite this game basically being a home game for the 119th ranked Vikings, I think that 24th ranked Xavier has is locked up.  They are a tall bunch, ranked 19th in effective height.  Portland St. is 187th.  Also, while the Vikings rarely get to the stripe (324 in the nation in FTA/FGA), Xavier is 5th in the same stat, getting 23% of their points from the stripe.

6 UCLA vs. 11 VCU - Somewhat of a gut pick.  Eric Maynor is playing lights out, and they stomped George Mason in the CAA title game.  VCU is very well rounded, scoring 27% of their points behind the arc and 20% from the stripe.  They are 61st in the country in effective FG%.  UCLA is the 3rd most efficient offensive team, and usually a Final Four lock, but Eric Maynor can easily be the best player on the court if he plays well, and Larry Sanders will clog up the middle, disrupting the two point scoring ability of UCLA, where they get 57% of their points (58th in the nation).

3 Villanova vs. 14 American - Game is in Philly, Villanova has only lost once there this year...to the #1 ranked team in the country...by one point.  No upset here.

7 Texas vs. 10 Minnesota - Texas is the 28th ranked team in the nation, while Minny is 45th.  Texas is very big (54th in effective height) and well rounded (47th offensively, 29th defensively).  They do get a bulk of their point from inside the line (60%), which could be a problem against the #1 ranked team in Block Percentage, but A.J. shoots around 40% outside the arc, and is too good to let his team lose to an inexperienced (307th ranked) Minny squad. 

2 Duke vs. 15 Binghampton - D.J. Rivera is good, but Duke is 4th in O-efficiency and 17th in D-efficiency...no upset here.

 

SOUTH REGION

1 UNC vs. 16 Radford - Game is in Greensboro; with or without Lawson, this game's a rout.

8 LSU vs. 9 Butler - If J'Nathan Bullock can take over against Matt Howard, imagine what Tasmin Mitchell can do.  Butler is good, but too young and not as athletic as the Tigers.  Go with LSU.  24th in experience against 341st, and their best player matched up against Mitchell, it just seems like a no-brainer to me, but I have been wrong before.

5 Illinois vs. 12 Western Kentucky - This game was close.  We all know about Illinois scoring struggles.  That said, they are still the 23rd ranked team in KenPom and have the 4th most efficient defense.  Thats just too good for the Hilltoppers, who are much shorter (224th nationally vs. 13th nationally) and are only 67th in O-efficiency.

4 Gonzaga vs. 13 Akron - Akron isn't good, the game is in Portland, look elsewhere for your upset.  5th in KenPom vs. 90th.

6 Arizona St. vs. 11 Temple - Its a battle of two great shooting guards, but I think Harden takes it over Christmas.  12th ranked team vs. the 47th ranked team.  ASU is the 5th most efficient offensive team and 2nd in effective FG%.  Go with the Sun Devils.

3 Syracuse vs. 14 Stephen F. Austin - 'Cuse is not tired.  I don't want to hear that excuse.  So they played one extra game.  Their tournament ended Saturday and they play Friday.  Thats enough time.  They dispatch of the Lumberjacks.

7 Clemson vs. 10 Michigan - I don't think Michigan should be in the tournament either, and Clemson is better than a 7 seed.  They are 22nd via KenPom and have the 11th most efficient offense on top of the 52nd most efficient defense.  Look for Booker to overwhelm Sims down low as the Tigers take this game.

2 Oklahoma vs. 15 Morgan State - Love Bozeman's story, but hate to tell him that he's one and done thanks to Blake Griffin.

 

MIDWEST REGION

1 Louisville vs. 16 Morehead State - Louisville takes their second most efficient defense in the country and shuts down the 341st ranked team in effective height...could be painful to watch.

8 Ohio State vs. 9 Siena - I know I sang the Saints praises all year, but this is a tough draw for them.  The Bucks block a lot of shots and are tall. They have the 26th ranked offense, and Evan Turner is good.  Siena is a good team, but they get 61% of their points inside the arc (7th in the nation).  Those are shots that the taller Buckeyes (Siena is 302nd in effective height) should block or alter.  I think it will be close, but Siena doesn't repeat last year's success.

5 Utah vs. 12 Arizona - This is a tough game for me, because I don't think Arizona deserves to be in.  That said, Utah is a weak 5 seed.  Luke Nevill helps them have a higher offensive rebound percentage than any other team in the country, but they don't force any turnovers at all.  Couple that with Arizona's 8th ranked offense and better than average turnover percentage and I think the Wildcats take it. 

4 Wake Forest vs. 13 Cleveland State - Basically, I couldn't post this if I had this game going any other way.  We all know why Wake wins if they show up, and I think they show up.  Cleveland State plays man, so as long as Wake doesn't feel the need to chuck up threes, they win.

6 West Virginia vs. 11 Dayton - WVU is 8th via KenPom, Dayton is 83rd.  West Virginia has the 15th ranked offense and 7th ranked defense.  Those numbers for Dayton are 142 and 39, respectively.  I take WVU in this for those reasons. 

3 Kansas vs. 14 North Dakota State - N.D. State is a great team, but not great enough to top the defending champs.  Kansas' 20th ranked offense and 15th ranked defense proves too much for the Bison. 

7 BC vs. 10 USC - ACC homer pick alert!  Southern Cal is much higher via KenPom, and is first in block percentage in the nation.  That said, they are only 133 in 3P% allowed, which is where BC gets a quarter of their points.  I just think Rice wins this for the Eagles.

2 Michigan St.  vs. 15 Robert Morris - MSU is the weakest 2 seed in my opinion, but too strong to be knocked off by RMU.  No upset here.

 

WEST REGION

1 UConn vs. 16 Chattanooga - UConn wins, even without Dyson.

8 BYU vs. Texas A&M - BYU has the 21st ranked offense and the 23rd ranked defense.  They love to run, which Texas A&M doesn't (232 in adjusted tempo).  A&M gets to the line a lot, but I think BYU will control the tempo and take this game. 

5 Purdue vs. 12 UNI - If this were Creighton instead of UNI, I would take Creighton.  But it isn't, and I won't.  Purdue is 14th via KenPom, and has the 5th ranked defense and 52nd ranked offense.  They only allow the 9th lowest effective FG%, compare that to UNI's mediocre effective FG% (65th ranked) and I take Purdue and Hummel. 

4 Washington vs. 13 Mississippi St. - A lot of people have this as an upset pick.  I disagree.  Washington has the 37th ranked offense and 11th ranked defense in the country.  Also, the game is in Portland.  Washington gets a ton of O-Rebounds too, 3rd in the country in O-rebound percentage.  Couple that with a terrible defensive O-Rebounding percentage for Miss St. (264 in the nation) and I think Brockman could get about 500 rebounds. 

6 Marquette vs. 11 Utah State - Even without James I think Marquette takes this game.  Wesley Matthews and Jerel McNeal will run all over USU's guards, and Lazar Hayward should match up decently with Wilkinson.  USU is a solid team, but keep in mind that Marquette kept every game close even without James.

3 Missouri vs. 14 Cornell - Mizzou is too good to lose this game.  Go with Mizzou, no other analysis needed.

7 California vs. 10 Maryland - Here's the thing, Cal is the best shooting 3P team in the nation, but only gets a quarter of their points outside the arc.  However, they don't get to the line very often.  The problem is, Maryland is even worse in FTA/FGA (334th nationally).  However, Cal's defense caters to Maryland's strengths.  They allow opponents to score 57% of their points from 2 point range, which is exactly what Maryland likes, scoring 57% of their points within the pain.  Also, Greivis is hot, and Gary Williams is a great game coach.  I go with Maryland.

2 Memphis vs. 15 CS Northridge - I don't like Memphis, but they are too good to lose this game.

 

SECOND ROUND

EAST REGION

1 Pitt vs. 9 Tennessee - Pitt again has the second rated offense in the nation, and is first in O-Rebounding percentage.  They might not be the tallest bunch, but we all know that Blair plays like a madman around the rim, as evidenced by his domination of Thabeet.  Add in Levance Fields and Sam Young and I think they have the talent to make a long long run.  Tennessee has a tall team, but allow a 30.3 O-Rebounding percentage against their opponents; not terrible (68th nationally), but couple that with Pitt's stellar percentage and that equals a good amount of second chance buckets that Blair almost always converts.

5 FSU vs. 4 Xavier - Again, I think the play of Toney Douglas pushes FSU over the top in this one.  Xavier is efficient on both offense and defense, but I don't think they have an answer for Douglas defensively.  They are 337 nationally in Block percentage, which basically means an open lane for Douglas to get into and make things happen.  Also, FSU gets to the line pretty often, and are a good FT shooting team.  Xavier is above average in opponents FTA/FGA, but I think FSU gets to the line more than Xavier likes, and converts.  That coupled with Douglas means a FSU win.

11 VCU vs. 3 Villanova - Like 2007, VCU only wins one tourney game.  Villanova gets to the line a lot (31st in FTA/FGA) and converts, (29th in FT%).  Larry Sanders will foul those driving guards that 'Nova has.  Eric Maynor will put up points on this team that allows 33.9% 3 point shooting, but it won't be enough as VCU doesn't get enough points at the foul line (only 20%) and allows too many O-Rebounds.  'Nova plays a faster game than VCU likes, and I think Wright will push the tempo against a team with not much of a bench.

7 Texas vs. 2 Duke - A lot of people, experts included, have Texas taking this game.  I see how it could happen, I just don't see it happening.  Duke has the 4th most efficient offense in the nation and the 17th ranked defense.  Compare that to Texas' ranks of 47 and 29 respectively.  Texas does have some quality bigs in Pittman and Atchley, but they allow 34% from behind the arc, where Duke thrives, getting 28% of their points.  Couple that with the 51st ranked FTA/FGA and I believe Duke gets enough from their guards to get the win.

 

SOUTH REGION

1 UNC vs. 8 LSU - With or without Lawson I see the 'Heels taking this.  The nations most efficient offense thrives on Lawson's (the nations most efficient player) contributions, but any of Hansbrough, Ellington, and Green can go off at any point against LSU.  I see the Tigers throwing two-three defenders at Hansbrough all game, but unlike FSU, they don't have Toney Douglas.  No doubt Marcus Thornton will make an impact, and we all know what Mitchell can do, but LSU plays a slower ball game than UNC (148 nationally) and Frasor can handle the run and gun, albeit not as well as Lawson.  I see the 'Heels taking this one regardless of Lawson.

4 Gonzaga vs. 5 Illinois - Unlike WKU, Gonzaga can score efficiently.  This game pits the 5th most efficient offense (and 9th ranked defense) against the 4th most efficient defense (but 96th ranked offense).  The problem for Illinois will be getting to the line.  They are 344th in FTA/FGA, which is terrible.  Gonzaga is 26th in the nation in terms of keeping the other team off the stripe.  They are 10th in effective FG% and will be one of the most well-oiled offensive machines Illinois has seen all year.  Illinois will slow them down, but Gonzaga will return the favor.  It will be a low scoring affair, but Gonzaga should take it easily in my opinion.

6 Arizona St. vs. 3 Syracuse - Again, I think 'Cuse will be ready to go, I while I think Harden might be the best player they've seen all year, they have seen a Marquette team with two great guards in Matthews and McNeal.  They are 9th in the nation in 3P% allowed, which is huge for ASU as they get 35% of their points behind the arc (29th nationally).  ASU is a great offensive team, but I see Syracuse having too many weapons in Flynn, Devendorf, Harris, and Rautins for ASU to take this game.

7 Clemson vs. 2 Oklahoma - Honestly, this will be a battle of the bigs between Booker and Griffin.  Booker is a great player, but I don't think he, or anyone else, can slow down Griffin.  Oklahoma shoots 56% in their 2 point buckets, Clemson allows 46%.  It should be a close enough game, but Oklahoma should get to the line enough (9th in FTA/FGA) to lock this one up.

MIDWEST REGION

1 Louisville vs. 8 Ohio State - This game should be closer than people expect it to be.  The game is in Dayton, which should have a good contingent of both teams fans, but I see Ohio State getting the slight advantage in their home state.  That said, Louisville has the 2nd rated defense in the nation.  They only allow a 44% effective FG%.  Ohio State only has the 72nd rated defense, but does have the 9th best effective FG% in the country.  The problem is that Ohio State mostly plays zone, and UL gets 33% of their points from behind the arc, so that shouldn't effect them.  However, UL's defense is strong both inside and outside the arc.  UL should take this.

4 Wake Forest vs. 12 Arizona - Everything I talked about up to this point should convince me to take Arizona in this game.  They play zone, Wake only shoots 32% from behind the arc and only gets 15% of their points from there.  However, Wake does shoot 54% from within the arc, and is 25th in the nation in terms of getting to the line.  Arizona doesn't get to the line, but is 7th in limiting their opponents FTs.  That said, they also allow the 214th worst 2P%.  If Wake doesn't try and shoot over the zone, they should hit their shots, and get some fouls along the way to winning this game.

6 West Virginia vs. 3 Kansas - I'd like for WVU to take this game, but I don't think it will happen.  WVU is a more efficient team offensively and defensively, but don't shoot well from behind the arc, and Kansas is capable running the zone.  Kansas is also in the top 53 in all three shooting catergories (3P, 2P, and FT), while WVU peaks at 147 in FT shooting.  It will be a close game, but I take Self and the 34th tallest team in the nation over Huggy and the 102nd tallest.

7 Boston College vs. 2 Michigan State - BC barely squeaked by USC in the first round, and I can't honestly take them over MSU in this game.  BC has a solid offense, but their defense falls to 132 in the nation.  They don't force many turnovers, and aren't above 91 in any allowed shot percentage.  MSU doesn't shoot the lights out, but are 5th in O-Rebounding percentage.  BC is 311 in O-Rebounding Percentage allowed.  That adds up to BC usually allowing MSU to hit shots, and if they don't, letting Suton and Raymar Morgan gobble up boards.

WEST REGION

1 UConn vs. 8 BYU - This should be an interesting game.  UConn doesn't play as fast as BYU, but has the third rated defense in the nation in terms of efficiency.  They only allow 31% of 3-point shots to fall, and only 40% of shots within the arc to fall.  They are also first in the nation in not allowing their opponents to get to the stripe in terms of FTA/FGA.  BYU doesn't rely on any shot, evenly spread out between 3-point shots, 2-pointers, and FTs.  That said, they shoot very well from behind (33rd nationally) and within (8th nationally) the arc.  I'm not sure how much of an impact Thabeet will have as they don't take it to the hoop as hard as others do, but the main difference will be the fact that despite this, UConn is the 2nd tallest team in the nation, and the 34th most experienced.  Calhoun will win this for them.

5 Purdue vs. 4 Washington - I like Purdue and Hummel, but they don't match up well with the 6th fastest team in terms of adjusted tempo in the nation.  Washington gets a ton of O-Rebounds, blocks a lot of shots, and gets to the line as well as anyone.  Compare that to a Purdue team that is 127th in allowing O-Rebounds, and really struggles getting to the line (249th in FTA/FGA) and this game matches up well for Washington.  This will be a battle, but free throws and second chance points, coupled with fast break points will win this for Washington.

6 Marquette vs. 3 Missouri - This is where losing a distributing PG like James will hurt the Golden Eagles.  Mizzou has the second highest steal percentage in the nation, and only allows 30% 3-point shooting.  Marquette gets 27% of their points from behind the arc, and I would guess without James breaking down defenses, that number is higher since he left.  Also, without their point, their tenth rated TO% will not live up to form against a ball-hawking Mizzou team.  Marquette will get to the line, but not enough to top Mizzou.

10 Maryland vs. 2 Memphis - Memphis has the top rated defense in terms of efficiency, and is also #1 in effective FG% allowed.  Now, remember, half of their games were against Conference USA competition, but Maryland only has the 72nd rated offense and has the 260th ranked effective FG%.  This translates to a poor offensive day for the Terps, and a loss.  If they got to the line more efficiently they could win, but they are 334 in FTA/FGA.  Sorry Greivis, game over.

 

SWEET SIXTEEN

EAST REGION

1 Pitt  vs. 5 FSU - The second most efficient offense against the 12 most efficient defense.  The issue for the 'Noles in this game will come on the boards, as the Panthers are the highest ranked team in terms of O-Rebounding percentage.  The 'Noles are 274 in O-Rebounding percentage allowed.  Levance Fields will be one of the better defenders Douglas has seen all year, and Blair will tear it up inside.  However, I think Sam Young will be the highlight of this game as I don't see anyone who can match up well inside and out on FSU.  FSU is a lot taller than Pitt, but look how that faired for UConn.  When DeJuan Blair is on your squad it doesn't matter how tall the other team is.

2 Duke vs. 3 Villanova - This game will be a battle of the guards, coupled with Cunningham duking it out down low against Singler.  These teams match up very evenly, but what gives Duke the edge is Villanova's not-stellar 3-Point defense.  They allow opponents to shoot 34% and score 35% of their points behind the arc.  Duke shoots 35% and their 3-point shooting accounts for 28% of their scoring.  If Duke can shoot over 'Nova's zone, they win, if not, they lose.  I think they can, and they will.

 

SOUTH REGION

1 UNC vs. 4 Gonzaga - This is another game many people are predicting an upset in.  I see Lawson being back by the second weekend of the tournament, and therefore the 'Heels winning this game.  This will be a close game, but what will push it the 'Heels way will the FT disparity.  The Zags are only 217 in terms of getting to the line, and the 'Heels are 6th best in opponent's FTA/FGA.  The Zags have the best 2-point defense in the nation, but the 'Heels are more than capable of hitting the three-point shot, shooting 37%.  These teams are very similar teams, and the Zags are taller and older.  However, the Heels have more big game experience after last years Final 4 run, and I think they pull this out but only  WITH Lawson, and I think he plays.

2 Oklahoma vs. 3 Syracuse - Blake Griffin will be a man in this game down low, as Syracuse only has the 185th best 2-point defense.  That said, I think Syracuse has more weapons outside the paint than Oklahoma.  Flynn will run all Austin Johnson, who is a good point, but nowhere near Flynn's level in my opinion.  Syracuse has the 6th highest 2-point FG% and only allows opponents to shoot 29.5% behind the arc.  OU does get 26% of their points behind the arc, so Syracuse should limit that.  Harris and Onuaku are some sturdy bigs who should hang with Griffin down low and should be a formidable double team.  I just see Flynn upping the tempo in this, penetrating like he did against UConn, and outrunning and outgunning an Oklahoma team totally reliant on Griffin.

MIDWEST

1 Louisville vs. 4 Wake Forest - This is a bold pick, but I think Jeff Teague wins this one.  It is in Indianapolis, which will be huge for him.  Louisville runs a man defense, which should be good for Wake.  The problem for UL will be FTs, as they are only 283rd in FTA/FGA and 302nd in FT%.  Wake on the other hand is 25th in FTA/FGA and shoots 71% from the stripe.  Wake is also the tallest team in the nation.  If Wake employs that length and puts Johnson on T-Williams, they should be able to shut down Williams.  These teams each have a glaring weakness: Wake's is three point shooting, UL's is FT shooting and opportunities.  The difference: UL isn't equipped to exploit Wake's weakness, while Wake can exploit UL's.

2 Michigan State vs. 3 Kansas - In my opinion, MSU is the weakest 2 seed by far.  They aren't spectacular at anything outside of O-Rebounding percentage.  The reason I pick Kansas in this game is because of how well rounded they are.  They are the 37th ranked 3-point shooting team and the 33rd ranked 2-point shooting team.  MSU isn't as effective a shooting team, but also allow 47.4% of opponents 2-point shots to drop, only 137 in the nation.  I see Sherron Collins driving and dishing Kansas to a victory.

WEST REGION

1 UConn vs. 4 Washington - UConn doesn't allow as many offensive rebounds as the other squads Washington has faced, so the Huskies can't rely on those boards like they have in the past.  The problem for Washington in this one is that they like to go inside getting 60% of their points in there (22nd nationally) and they don't get blocked very much.  This is a problem because in this game they will get blocked.  This will affect the O-rebounds they get, and hurt them offensively in a way they haven't experienced yet.  If they can gameplan well for Thabeet they can win, but I don't they can do it, and I think UConn wins this.

2 Memphis vs. 3 Missouri - I am not impressed by Memphis.  They lost all their guys, but still had a good year.  Unlike Kansas, they did this in the weak C-USA (Kansas won the Big 12).  Memphis is a poor 3-point shooting team, and will get nothing against the 22nd ranked 3-point defense.  Mizzou doesn't turn it over, and forces quite a few (12th and 8th, respectively).  The problem for Memphis is that they ran into a solid defensive team (Mizzou-8th, Memphis-1st), and they struggle scoring (only 157 in effective FG%).  Memphis can slow down Mizzou, but Mizzou makes the most of east possession by not turning it over, and have the 18th most efficient offense.  It will be close, but Mizzou should take this.

ELITE EIGHT

EAST

1 Pitt vs. 2 Duke - Again, the difference here will be Blair gobbling up offensive rebounds.  As of now its well documented how well Pitt rebounds offensively (1st in O-Rebounding percentage), but Duke is 181 in O-Rebounding percentage allowed.  Another factor that pushes this game in Pitt's favor is that Duke gets 23% of their points from the stripe (60th in the nation).  Thats not a whole lot, but in games like this it matters that Pitt is 50th in the nation in opponent's FTA/FGA.  Duke won't get as many points as it would like from the stripe, Blair will rebound all over an overmatched Singler or Lance Thomas, and Pitt will take this game.

SOUTH

1 UNC vs. 3 Syracuse - Two teams with similar styles and similar personell, UNC takes this because of Hansbrough.  Yes, last round Griffin couldn't win it for Oklahoma, but Hansbrough wins this because he, along with Davis and Thompson, will gobble up boards on both ends against 'Cuse.  Carolina is 8th in O-rebounding percentage and 117th in O-Rebounding percentage allowed.  'Cuse is only 68th in O-rebounding percentage and 289th in O-Rebounding percentage allowed.  Yes, Griffin also will rebound like nuts, but the UNC bigs will have help.  Lawson-Flynn will be a great battle, but Lawson can hang with Flynn defensively, and Ellington can answer Devendorf shot for shot.  Green should take this one over as well as 'Cuse doesn't have an answer for him defensively (Rautins?).  UNC should finally topple the mighty Orange.

MIDWEST

4 Wake Forest vs. 3 Kansas - Unfortunately our Deacs' run ends here.  Kansas can throw a zone at Wake if need be, and have the 7th best 2-point defense.  Wake relies on 2-point buckets and Kansas should be able to slow them down.  Kansas is one of the most well rounded teams in the tournament, scoring 26% of their buckets behind the arc, 52.8% of their buckets within the arc, and 21% from the stripe.  Wake gets 62% of their points from within the arc, and shoot 54% in there.  The issue for the Deacs is that while they are good defensively all over the court, so is Kansas, and Kansas can score from all over the court, while Wake can not.

WEST

1 UConn vs. 3 Missouri - Mizzou will take care of the ball, but rely on buckets in the paint too much to win this game.  They shoot 36% from beyond the arc, but like Washington, aren't used to being blocked inside (13th in Block percentage offensively).  Thabeet can and will block anyone.  DeMarre Carroll is great, but he isn't DeJaun Blair, and can be stopped by Thabeet.  Leo Lyons is also a stud, but has the task of beating Jeff Adrien.  UConn is much taller than Mizzou, (57th v. 2nd) and more experience (34 v. 175).  Mizzou had a good run, but it ends here.

FINAL FOUR

1 Pitt vs. 1 UNC - The two most efficient offensive teams in the nation match up here.  UNC's strength defensively is not allowing opponent's to shoot free throws (6th in opponents FTA/FGA).  This won't hurt Pitt as only 17% of their points come from the stripe.  I don't see Blair dominating Hansbrough on the boards, but he should get his fair share of second chance points.  UNC is 117th in O-Rebounding percentage allowed and 8th in O-Rebounding percentage.  Pitt's ranks are 1 offensively and 27 defensively.  Pitt doesn't turn it over, but doesn't force turnovers and have the 21st ranked 2-point shooting percentage.  UNC doesn't turn it over, but doesn't force them either, and has the 54th ranked 2-point defense.  Effective FG%:  Pitt's is 53.4, UNC's is 52.7.  UNC allows opponents to a 47.2 Effective FG%; Pitt's is 46.9.  I just think Pitt is the stronger all around team at this juncture, and they take it.

1 UConn vs. 3 Kansas - Thabeet will keep the Jayhawks out of the paint and should be able to stop Aldrich down low.  A.J. Price will be able to contain Collins in a battle of great PGs.  However, the rest of the lineup tips the Huskies' direction.  Kansas gets 21% of their points from the stripe, and UConn only allows opponents to get 14% of their points there.  That will hurt the Jayhawks.  Also, UConn allows the 4th lowest 2-point FG%, and Kansas shoots 52.4% within the arc, so they will be hurt there as well.  That said, Kansas' defense within the arc is also staunch, 7th nationally.  I think the difference in this game is Jeff Adrien; Kansas starts three guys 6-3 or shorter, and while Marcus and Markieff Morris are strong, 6-9 players off the bench, they are only freshmen and Adrien should be able to take care of them offensively.  The difference between this game and the Wake-Kansas game is taht UConn can shoot over any zone Kansas throws at it (35% from deep) whereas Wake cannot, and Kansas can use a zone to hide their lack of size.

NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP

1 Pitt vs. 1 UConn - This has already happened twice, and you always hear the "don't wanna play the same team three times" adage, but I don't think it matters here.  Blair negates anything Thabeet throws at him, and might be the only man in the country who can score on Thabeet in the paint.  Levance Fields and A.J. Price are a wash.  Biggs and Adrien will battle, with Adrien getting some buckets, but Biggs containing him for the most part.  The problem that UConn has with PItt is, who guards Sam Young?  They don't have anyone to stop Young.  Obviously A.J. Price guards Fields, and the bigs guard each other down low.  That leaves 6-3 Austrie and 6-1 Kemba Walker.  Neither one matches up well against the 6-6 Young.  As you may have noticed, there are no stats here.  This is because these teams negate each others stats, as we have seen.  Pitt doesn't overpower on the offensive boards against UConn because of Adrien and Thabeet, but UConn doesn't control the lane against Pitt because of DeJuan Blair.  I see Young going nuts in this game and capping an under appreciated career with 25 points in an 85-78 win against the Huskies.

 

 

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