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The Sweet 16: NCAA Tournament - Road to the Final Four!
For the 2008 sweet 16 please click here
By Justin Mabanta, Sports Columnist
March 21, 2006
It’s Win or Go Home! 16 teams remain but it’s still a long road to the last dance in Indianapolis. Some of the favorites are still competing like Duke, UConn, and Memphis but still lingering on are certain ‘Cinderellas’ Bradley and George Mason. Let’s take a match-by-match glance of each region.
(1) Duke vs (4) LSU: LSU had a convincing win over Iona and a buzzer-beater win over Texas A&M. So far, lone-senior starter Derrick Mitchell and SEC player of the year Glen “Big Baby” Davis had led the team to victory. To contain Duke, they would need help from everyone else on the team. For Duke, JJ Redick and Shelden Williams have been the supreme force behind the Blue Devils offense. Williams has also been a rebounding machine in this tourney. He had 14 against G-Dub and 18 against Southern. But it was the game against G-Dub were one can see the real power the Blue Devils have. Josh McRoberts and point guard Greg Paulus played exceptional. The Tigers will not beat Duke if they played liked they did on Saturday.
(2) Texas vs (6) West Virginia: Thanks to an upset win by Northwestern State, West Virginia had an easier time reaching the Sweet 16. Both wins by the Mountaineers were pretty convincing beating Southern Illi by 18 and beating the Demons by 13. They made it all the way to the ‘Great 8’, can they do it again? Texas likes to play the zone defense but it might be a little more difficult against the Mountaineers who shoot the ball well. For West Virginia, they have to play hard against PJ Tucker. Tucker has been the best player for Texas in the tournament. This should be a close game.
(1) Memphis vs (13) Bradley: Right now, Memphis is playing like they’ll do anything to get to the Final 4 after last years free-throw disaster by Darius Washington against Louisville. The Tigers are moving the ball well and shooting over 50.0% from the 3 point line. After huge wins over Kansas and Pitt, this might be the end of the road for Bradley. For the Braves, big center, Patrick O’Bryant, would need to have another big game to upset Memphis.
(2) UCLA vs (3) Gonzaga: Every team’s strategy against Gonzaga is to restrain Adam Morrison from shooting the lights out. If Morrison is held under 20 points, the pressure relies on the shoulders of both JP Batista and Sean Mallon to carry the load. Gonzaga has been a high scoring team all season; UCLA can win this game if they play the same type of defense they did against Bama and Belmont.
(1) Connecticut vs (5) Washington: It’s been the Brandon Roy show for Washington. He’s probably been the best player in the tournament so far averaging 24.5 ppg. For UConn, they need to step up especially with their star-packed roster. They almost caused a stir against (16) Belmont and barely beat struggling Kentucky. If they don’t do something sooner of later, Washington will run all over them like they did against Utah State and Illi.
(7) Wichita St. vs (11) George Mason: Who the hell would ever predict this Sweet 16 match-up? Personally, I called George Mason over MSU but not over North Carolina! As mentioned earlier in the week, the Missouri Valley Conference has drastically improved. Bradley and Wichita State have already confirmed that statement. Missouri Valley will most likely reign in this game. Wichita State had already slaughtered Big East - Seton Hall and beat SEC - favorite Tennessee.
(1) Villanova vs (4) Boston College: It’s been all backcourt for Villanova with their wins. Randy Foye and coming off injury - guard Allen Ray have been the key strengths for the Wildcats. With Boston College, their team relies primarily with the ‘big-man’. With their wins, it’s been all Craig Smith and Jarred Dudley. The Eagles can also kick it outside for shots with the way Tyrese Rice shoots it. In this game, BC can absolutely upset number 1-seed Nova.
(3) Florida vs (7) Georgetown: No seniors, all sophomores lead the powerful Gators. Their best players have been all second year students, led by Corey Brewer and Joakim Noah (son of former tennis star Yannick Noah). Georgetown is led by 7 foot 2 center Roy Hibbert. He came up huge in big wins against Northern Iowa and top-seeded Ohio State. Point guard Ashanti Cook is also playing exceptional for the Hoyas. Even though, Georgetown is more experienced with seniors, the Gators will keep this game close with their heart and talent.