South Region (Houston, TX)
Summary of the first two rounds:
The South region, similar to the East region, only had one game where the higher seed advanced past the lower seed (higher meaning higher number) when (5) Michigan State defeated (4) Pittsburgh 65-54 in the second round. The Spartans also won their first round game by 11 points in their victory over Temple. Their next opponent will be the number one seed Memphis Tigers, who made easy work of Texas-Arlington in the first round, but found themselves a little too close for comfort against Mississippi State. For Memphis, foul shooting was a major problem in this game as it has been all season long. They went 15-32 from the stripe including only 2-6 when the game was on the line with under 20 seconds left. Their poor foul shooting gave Mississippi one last chance to tie it, but junior Jamont Gordon’s three-pointer missed the target.
The bottom half of the bracket went as planned with no upsets. Stanford rolled over Ivy League champ Cornell 77-53, but a pesky Marquette team took them to overtime in the second round. With nine seconds left in regulation Robin Lopez made one of two free throws to tie it up and Marquette’s Lazar Hayward missed his opportunity at winning the game when his two point shot fell short. In the overtime, Robin’s twin brother Brook Lopez was the hero. Brook scored eight points in the extra session including a two point jumper with three seconds left to win the game 82-81.
Guard A.J. Abrams led his number two seed Texas Longhorns in scoring with 26 points in each of the first two games of the tournament helping them defeat Austin Peay 74-54 and a resilient Miami team 75-72. Miami was down by 17 points with just under 11 minutes left in the game, but junior guard Jack McClinton surged a comeback that pulled them within three points when senior Raymond Hicks (off the bench) nailed a three pointer with 15 seconds left. However, two clutch free throws by A.J. sealed the deal for Texas which allowed them to advance to play Stanford in the round of 16.
Let’s look at the Sweet 16 match ups:
(1) Memphis vs. (5) Michigan State:
Should we worry about this team’s capability of hitting foul shots? Maybe, but this team isn’t an 11-loss team. They have only lost one game all season long, so they must be doing something right. Let’s ignore the shade-under-60% free throw average and focus on why this team is so good. Memphis has a lot of guys on their team that can play and constantly throw different lineups at the opposition. They can play big, they can play small, and this rotation keeps them fresh. They are led by 6-7 guard Chris Douglas-Roberts who shoots 54% from the field and freshman guard Derek Rose who leads the Tigers in assists. They have two 6-9 forwards that play very big in Robert Dozier and senior Joey Dorsey who loves to call the painted box his own. I guess what I’m trying to say is that Memphis has a lot of depth which is very important. Can Michigan State compete with this team? The Spartans have all five starters back from last year and are led by senior guard Drew Neitzel who leads the nation in assist to turnover ratio. I like that. However, if Michigan State has any chance at knocking off Memphis they will need a huge game from forward Raymar Morgan. Raymar had a hot start in the beginning of the year, as did the Spartans (19-2), but became very inconsistent in the second half of the year getting himself into foul trouble in a lot of the games. So, if Raymar can avoid the whistle Michigan State might have a shot, but I still think Memphis is too tough.
Perry’s Edge Memphis
(2) Texas vs. (3) Stanford:
I love this Texas team and let me tell you why. They have an outstanding point guard in D.J. Augustin who leads the team in scoring and assists. They have a deadly sharp shooter, A.J. Abrams, who is having a great tournament thus far. And 6-7 forward Damion James loves to rip down the rebounds and establishes a solid presence in the middle. However, center Connor Atchley and forward Gary Johnson are going to have their biggest task of the season. They will be facing up against the Lopez twins, Robin and Brook. I just noticed the Lopez twins have girly names. That’s funny. Ms. Robin and Ms. Brook both stand seven-feet tall and love to dominate the paint. Combined they averaged 29 points and almost 14 rebounds per game. Furthermore, for Stanford to win, junior point guard Mitch Johnson and company will need to stop D.J. and A.J. from dominating the perimeter. For Texas to win, their big men are going to need to contain the Lopez girls and Stanford’s inside game. I usually will take the inside presence over the perimeter game, but I love D.J. Augustin. Oh, and they’re playing in Houston. Perry’s Edge Texas.
Final Four Pick: Texas
West Region (Phoenix, AZ)
Summary of the first two rounds:
Mississippi Valley State scored 29 points in the first round. Not the first half, but the first round. UCLA laughed and advanced to round two where they found a legitimate opponent, Texas A&M. With 10 minutes left in the second half UCLA found themselves down by eight points 44-36. Texas A&M went scoreless for almost six minutes which allowed guard Russell Westbrook and the best freshman in college basketball Kevin Love to rally their team back within one point with 5:51 left. Russell scored all of his five points in that 7-0 run. Love tied the game at 45 and put UCLA up by two with consecutive two point baskets. The teams traded baskets until UCLA junior Darren Collison iced the game with 12 seconds left with a layup capping off his 21-point night.
The Cinderella team in the West, 12th seed Western Kentucky, provided us with the best game of the tournament in round one against Drake. In overtime, down by one point, Western Kentucky’s Ty Rogers took the hand-off from Tyrone Brazelton just behind the arc and nailed a three pointer to win the game as the buzzer sounded. In an easier game in the second round, WKU was able to defeat the 13th seeded San Diego who pulled off an upset of their own in the first round over Jim Calhoun’s UCONN Huskies. Western Kentucky will now face off against UCLA.
Xavier proved worthy of their number three seed by defeating SEC Tournament Champion Georgia 73-61 and a solid Purdue team 85-78. They will advance to play against the seventh seeded Mountaineers of West Virginia who defeated Arizona in the first round and that team I don’t like from Durham in the second round. If you want to read more of what happened in those games or how I really feel you can click here or here or here.
Let’s look at the Sweet 16 match ups:
(1) UCLA vs. (12) Western Kentucky:
I don’t think Western Kentucky has any shot at winning this game, but lets pretend. Western Kentucky has a shot at winning this game if future NBA star Courtney Lee and point guard Tyronne Brazelton can control the tempo of this game. In all honesty, Lee is one hell of a player. He averaged 20 points per game this year and has led his team to 19 victories in their last 20 games. He’s 6-5, 200 pounds, and has four years of college experience. However, Kevin Love only has one year of experience, he’s better, he’s bigger, and he plays for UCLA. Look for Love to control the inside game as his teammate Darren Collison controls the perimeter. These two players carried the Bruins down the stretch in their second round victory over Texas A&M and look for them to do the same against the Hilltoppers. Perry’s Edge UCLA.
(3) Xavier vs. (7) West Virginia:
I don’t trust basketball players under 5-10 and Xavier has one of those. His name is Drew Lavender, he’s 5-7, and he is good. That’s pretty much all I know about Xavier. They have pretty balanced scoring, they have a veteran team and they don’t turn the ball over. I shouldn’t have underestimated them a week ago, because these are the type of team that can go deep in the NCAA Tournament. However, they are playing against the team that I like most. If you haven’t seen Joe Alexander play yet, you’re in for a treat. This kid is good. He tends to force the issue at times but when he is under control he is a heck of a basketball player. He is 6-8 230 pounds and has both an inside game and outside game. He can handle the ball up top, play the post, and create his own shot. He plays defense, blocks shot, and loves to talk smack. Did I get my point across? In the game against Duke, Joe Mazulla came off the bench and controlled the whole game while coming two assists short from getting a triple double (a rare feat in college basketball). Look for Coach Huggins to turn to him early in this game. Keep your eye on forward Da’Sean Butler and guard Alex Ruoff as well. Ruoff probably has the best jumper of all the players left in this tournament. West Virginia has some guys that can play. They remind me of the team with Pittsnogle and Gansey. I’m riding the Alexander train till it ends.
Perry’s Edge: West Virginia
Final Four Pick: UCLA