NCAA Tournament Preview: West Region 2009
March Madness 2009 First Round Locks:
Obviously, you can pencil Connecticut, Memphis, and Missouri in for first round victories, but aside from that, the West Region offers a lot of upset potential.
The Huskies and the two Tigers (Memphis and Missouri) are all superior basketball teams and are all playing the best basketball of their seasons. There should be no talk of upsets, as long as they’re playing Chattanooga, Cornell, and CS Northridge in the first round, and that should be obvious.
I am also going to throw in Texas A&M as a lock against BYU. The Aggies went 23-9 overall and finished fourth in an extremely competitive Big 12 Conference. Led by Josh Carter’s 14.1 points and 4.5 rebounds per game, Texas A&M should be able to take care of BYU.
March Madness 2009 Upset Alerts:
Much like the Midwest Region, the West Region features a slew of games that could potentially be won by the lower seed. Maryland, a No. 10 seed, may not be considered a heavy underdog against the seven-seeded California Bears, but I like them as an upset nonetheless.
The Big Ten proved to be a balanced but overall weak conference this year, and although I like Purdue’s ability to shoot the lights out, any Big Ten team is vulnerable.
However, my two upset picks are:
4 Washington vs. 13 Mississippi State
Mississippi State is playing their best basketball of the season right now, winning the SEC Tournament to earn a bid to the 2009 big dance. The Bulldogs finished strong on a nine-game winning streak that included wins against Tennessee, LSU, Georgia, and South Carolina—all teams that won 20+ games.
Led by Jarvis Varnado’s 13.1 points and 9 rebounds per game, the Bulldogs present a challenge for almost any team in the nation right now.
6 Marquette vs. 11 Utah State
Without senior guard Dominic James, the Golden Eagles struggled towards the end of the season. Utah State finished the regular season with an overall record of 30-4 (14-2 in conference play). The Aggies finished the season with a conference tournament title.
Gary Wilkinson, the senior forward, provides leadership to go along with his 17.1 points and 6.9 rebounds per game. If Marquette doesn’t come to play, Utah State should be able to take advantage with the upset.
March Madness 2009 Player to Watch:
DeMarre Carroll was a dominant force for the Missouri Tigers during the course of the regular season. Missouri comes into the tournament as a potentially dominant three seed. The Tigers are playing exceptional basketball right now, and Carroll has a lot to do with that.
Carroll led the Tigers with 16.8 points per game and also pulled down 7.3 rebounds to go along with his scoring. After 29 and 27 point efforts against USC and Texas Tech, it’s hard to ignore the potential impact Carroll could have on any given game.
If Missouri is able to upend Memphis and reach the elite eight or even the Final Four, you can bet Carroll will be a big part of a deep run.
March Madness 2009 Overall Outlook:
The top half of the West region doesn’t pose too much of a threat to Connecticut, expect to see them playing an elite eight game against whoever comes out of the bottom half. While Missouri is playing great basketball and could potentially beat anyone in the nation right now, you have to like Memphis’ chances to reach the finals in this region.
The Tigers are just too much offensively when playing at the pace they’re accustomed to. Look for Connecticut to play Memphis for a Final Four spot, with the Tigers winning what should be an exciting matchup. Memphis is too talented to fall short of the Final Four in 2009.
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