What Does It Take To Be ELITE?
Louisville versus Arizona
Two incredibly athletic teams face off in this Midwest Regional game. The match up of Earl Clark of Louisville and Jordan Hill of Arizona will be particularly intriguing. Hill is having a better overall tournament (16.5 ppg and 10.5 rpg) but don’t count out Clark who was among the best forwards in the Big East this year.
The biggest question in this game is if the Wildcats can contain Terrence Williams. Williams is coming off a 24 point 15 rebound game against Siena and is, arguably, the best create-for-yourself player in the Big East. Williams can shoot, drive the lane, pass, and rebound.
If Arizona cannot stop him, they will not be able to stop the Cardinals.
UConn versus Purdue
The Huskies are on a roll and may be the hardest team to beat right now. What makes it so difficult to stop them is their depth and balanced offensive attack.
A.J. Price is averaging 23.5 ppg to go with 5.5 assists and rebounds per game in the tournament. Jeff Adrien is averaging 18 points and 12 rebounds and is shooting considerably well in this tournament (65 percent).
As if that were not enough, Stanley Robinson has come into his own since the Big East Tournament and is averaging 18 points and six boards in the first two rounds. Although he had a quiet second-round game against Texas A&M, Hasheem Thabeet is not to be taken lightly.
E’Twaun Moore of Purdue is playing well this tournament, averaging 15.5 points and four assists despite getting into foul trouble against Washington. JaJuan Johnson is a scoring threat, averaging 18 points a game in the tournament, but his production stops there.
For the Boilermakers to make this game even close, Robbie Hummel must step up and take on Thabeet. He’s only 6'8", 212 pounds, but Hummel needs to assert himself in the paint on both sides of the ball for Purdue to stand a chance against the high-powered Huskies.
Oklahoma versus Syracuse
Can anyone stop Blake Griffin? So far, the answer is no. Syracuse might be able to work around him and shoot the three-ball, but the Sooners are not one-player deep.
On the season, Oklahoma had all five starters averaging nearly double figures in points with Blake Griffin leading the way with 22.5. In the tournament, Griffin is averaging over 30 points and 15 boards a game.
It would be unwise for Syracuse to even attempt to stop this man-beast; unless they can get him into foul trouble.
For Syracuse to stay in this game, they must pass the ball around the perimeter and hit the open shot. Avoid driving to the hole against the Blake and his brother Taylor, although Johnny Flynn has my blessing if he desires to do so.
Eric Devendorf can shoot from long range, so can Andy Rautins, and even Flynn has been known to drop his share of treys, though he’s only hit one in the tournament so far. Devendorf hit five against Arizona State and is shooting almost 40 percent from behind the arc for the year.
Rautins hit three against ASU, but is known to knock the shot down in the clutch; just refer to the 6OT thriller against UConn.
If the Orange can control the pace of the game by being very selective with their shots, it will open up the lane for Flynn to drive to the hole. Watch out for Blake Griffin, though. I hear he eats Oranges for breakfast.
Villanova versus Duke
As I said before, this will be the very best game of the tournament. Two completely opposite schemes that are executed to the most effective ways possible will clash for a spot in the Elite Eight.
Villanova is a very athletic team, known for slashing to the basket and drawing fouls. Duke uses a spread offensive attack to hit the mid-range jumper and open up the floor for easy buckets.
The best matchup of this game will be between Dante Cunningham of Villanova and Kyle Singler of Duke. Both guys are of the same stature, 6'8"/230ish, but play very different games.
Cunningham is known to post up and punish people in the paint, Singler is known to step away from the basket and knock down shots. Look for the transition of Singler to a post-up forward against Cunningham as the key to the Blue Devils success or lack thereof.
Big East Teams
All five teams from the Big East in the Sweet 16 have the chance to make it to the Elite Eight. Pittsburgh has a tough matchup against Xavier, Villanova has an impending epic basketball game against Duke, and Syracuse will have their hands full with Oklahoma.
I see UConn and Louisville advancing easily, Villanova advancing barely, but Pittsburgh and Syracuse heading home.
No. 1 Teams
Will we have another Final Four consisting of all No. 1 seeds? God, I hope not. Though there are no Cinderellas from smaller conferences left this year (if Arizona wants to call themselves a Cinderella, they should not even show up to play next season), I do believe that two No. 1 seeds are vulnerable.
Pittsburgh is up against a very solid shooting Xavier team that is looking to extend their run in the tournament. North Carolina is up against a very good Gonzaga team that, as a program, has never made it to the Final Four. Look for Gonzaga to pull the upset and Xavier to bring the Panthers to their knees—vengeance for this UConn fan.
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