Monday, March 21, 2011

2011 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament First and Second Round Thoughts: E and W

Wow! What a weekend! Every March, I remember again the magical nature of the madness. Let's start in the East region and take a look at what happened.

Buckeyes: I thought going into the tournament that OSU is the most invincible 1 seed. Looking at their competition, I don't see a team in their region that can match up. They demonstrated that by dismantling the Patriots defense, and I see more blowouts coming.
Kentucky: Princeton's offense was beautiful with all the back cuts and layups, but ultimately, athletic talent won out. I don't see much of a future for UK though, as OSU looms, and so does the curse of the NCAA gods.
Marquette: The Golden Eagles really proved me wrong. I didn't believe they had tournament chops, having correctly tabbed them for upsets before. But then, I should have known that I couldn't trust Syracuse's Scoop Jardine. I trust Boehim, but not with a player that lets me down in the big games I've seen this year. I don't know that I could have picked against them prior to the Sweet Sixteen, but I'm not completely surprised by this. I'm more surprised that Marquette was the team that knocked them off, but props to them for doing it.
Tar Heels: I really thought Isaiah Thomas could carry Washington with his veteran talent, but ultimately, they fell short. I know that they though they were fouled on the long 3 at the end, but UNC played well. I still foresee an upset in the makings for the young UNC squad.

Duke: Michigan's offense was great in both the first and second rounds, but their defense left a lot to be desired. Specifically, no one could stop Nolan Smith as he shot an absurd percentage. Some shoddy Duke transition defense (they'll need to work on that) made the game close, but honestly, I didn't harbor any doubt that the Blue Devils would pull out the win.
Arizona: What a gutsy call to go to a pick and roll on the last play. There are so many things that can go wrong, with both the help defense and the difficulty of the pass, but everything went right for the Wildcats because (listen here, boys and girls), they gave the ball to their best player going towards the rim. In a day and era where everyone wants to take dagger threes and avoid contact (probably because of bad free-throw shooting), I still believe that teams that go towards the rim convert more clutch opportunities. I picked Derrick Williams as the best player in this quartet of teams, and he has proved thus far. I don't see the Wildcats advancing past the Dukies, though, for the addition of Kyrie Irving gives Duke too many offensive and defensive options.
UConn: No big surprise here. Kemba Walker going all Kemba on Cincy. SDSU better watch out less he turn into Jimmer on them and leads the Huskies to the win.
SDSU: they are better than Temple, but a few things held them up. First, dumb decisions in both transition and half-court sets led to low percentage shots. They needed to realize they had an athletic and size advantage, and use it. They needed to realize that Gay could get to the rim any time he wanted, and make something out of it with two-man action and kickouts for hoops or drives. Second, clogged toilet clutch offensive sets left them with their 3rd best player holding the ball 16 feet away from the basket with his back to the rim. From there, I would say that an awful jump shot is a foregone conclusion. They have the talent to knock off UConn, but Calhoun is smart and the Aztecs need to play smarter. Or trust that Calhoun will also be stricken down by the basketball gods.

Southwest and Southeast Analysis after the break.

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