>> Thursday, March 25, 2010
Yesterday we took the time to break down today's games for you, and while those games seem to be more intriguing than tomorrow's versions, there are still some nice games on tap, and a couple involving some cinderella stories that I find just as interesting as the Cornell Big Red.
6. Tennessee vs. 2. Ohio State
All we've heard all season was just how pitiful the SEC has performed as a whole. What people fail to realize is that the conference has been much more competitive than meets the eye and Bruce Pearl's convicts are one of the reasons why. Tennessee has beaten Kansas earlier this season with 6 players and a bunch of walk-ons and was impressive throughout the opening weekend of the NCAA tournament. Wayne Chism, Scotty Hopson and company are talented, play a helter skelter style of ball and will give Ohio State absolute fits in the tempo category. Do not overlook this group of Volunteers, Evan Turner.
Turner is a one-man wrecking crew and is the most likely recipient of the NPOY of the year award. However, outside of the big four of Turner, Lighty, Diebler and Buford, Ohio State has zero quality players. They lack depth and punch from anyone off the bench and if Turner struggles with the pressure and the rough play of the Volunteers, the Buckeyes are in trouble.
I don't usually like to pick Bruce Pearl in a big game, but I'm of the belief that OSU is extremely overrated and Pearl will finally get UT past the Sweet 16.
Tennessee-74 Ohio State 65
10. St. Mary's vs. 3. Baylor
Omar Samhan irritates me, and he irritates me badly. I cannot stand a fat dude playing in low-tops, but the kid produces. No-one outside of an alumnus of St. Mary's expected them to be in this game, but the sharp-shooting of Mickey McConnell and the post presence of Samhan have turned the Gaels into a dangerous team. Although, the question remains, can the Gaels handle the size and athleticism of the Baylor Bears?
Baylor is a program that should be the feel good story of this tournament. Just seven short years ago there was a murder scandal revolving around the program, and now Scott Drew has this team firmly planted in the upper echelon of the Big 12. Baylor has a scorer in LaceDarius Dunn who can put up numbers quickly and he is joined by Tweety Carter in forming one of the best backcourt duos left in the tournament. Epke Udoh controls the interior on the offensive and defensive ends, and with that kind of talent, Baylor is a favorite to reach the final four out of the NIT east region. Oh, I mean, the NCAA East Region.
Baylor has entirely too much punch for the Gaels and they will send this Cinderella home without its glass slipper.
Baylor-81 St. Mary's-67
9. Northern Iowa vs. 5. Michigan State
Boy, Coach Jacobson sure has a gritty bunch down at NIU, doesn't he? Sure, they busted our brackets, but it gave the majority of us great joy in seeing the media's savior, KU, go down in flames. Thanks to NIU we no longer have to hear how great Sherron Collins is at basketball, when we all know he's better at eating twinkies. They also dismissed us from having to watch Greg Ostertag, Jr. play basketball. Ah, the joys they have brought us this march. However, these boys aren't done yet. They're not flashy, they won't score a ton of points, but damn if they won't win some ball games.Ali Farokhmanesh and company will provide more than a challenge for Tom Izzo.
Izzo will be attacking this game without the services of his best player, Kalin Lucas, whom is out with a torn achilles. It's a shame to see a great player like Lucas lost for the season, and it'll be interesting to see if Draymond Green and Raymar Morgan can step their game up another notch and somehow beat the cinderella's from Iowa. Tom Izzo is a great march coach, and his Spartan's will be game, but without Lucas they won't have enough to win this game.
Northern Iowa-63 Michigan State-55
4. Purdue vs. 1. Duke
Everybody had already decided that Matt Painter and company were dead without Robbie Hummell, but the Boilermakers keep winning. Even without Hummell, the Boilers still have a talented roster in E'Twaun Moore and JaJuan Johnson and they have more than enough talent and grit to stick with the Dukies from Durham.
Duke was handed a bracket of ease by the NCAA Selection Committee, but even when a bracket is presumed easy, there will still be roadblocks. Even with the emergence of Greg Zoubek, Duke is still very, very weak in the front court, and will struggle to contain the talents of JaJuan Johnson on the interior. This game will be much closer than the experts think, but Duke will pull it out on the strength of Singler, Smith and Scheyer.