Vandy was lucky to make it this far, and everybody knew it, even Vandy. UConn stil has not faced a team in this tourney that had a reasonable chance of beating them, and Bama presents their first test (sort of). I said earlier this week that anything less than a Final Four given the carnage in their region would be an unmitigated disaster. I stand by that. The highest seed they will play en route to San Antonio is sixth-seeded Vandy. That's a gift of a draw.
Freije needed to play well for the Commodores to have any shot. He didn't, going 3-18 from the floor, the kind of line that just makes you hide your face. The signs of the Huskies' weakness are there: they committed 18 turnovers, their bench is paper thin and contributed a whopping six points, and they continually let the inferior team back into the game. I'm still not sold on them as they still haven't really beaten anybody. Unless Okafor gets healthy, and he still looks like he's playing at half speed, they will not win the title.
Bama and Syracuse played a pretty tight game which the Tide opened up right at the end. What sunk the Orangemen? In essence, they are a two-man team. Warrick and McNamara are really good, but they combined for 45 of the team's 71 points. Somebody else had to contribute (Pace? Hello?). Without McNamara having the game of his life, or Maryland forgetting how to shoot, they just were outmatched. It was a nice run, but that was pretty much the limit of Syracuse's ability. If they still had Carmello, we'd be talking about their travel plans to San Antonio.
Bama's looking really good, and I may have to take back my comment about UConn not playing anyone. Pettaway and Shelton seem to take turns dominating from the backcourt, while Winston finally got some support from Davis in the frontcourt. They can shoot, run, bang the boards, and play defense. They don't have a guy who matches up with the trees of Connecticut, but they didn't have anyone to match up with Warrick and they did okay.
Don't let the final fool you, this was a close, bitterly contested game, and OSU has got to feel lucky to still be in the tournament. No, they weren't lucky to win, they were the better team, but playing Pitt in a slugfest is rarely a good idea. The uglier the game, the better for the Panthers, and this game was pretty damn ugly. But eventually, the Cowboys hit some shots, and Pitt didn't, asthey are an atrocious shooting team. Bad shooting teams just don't win the tourney, usually because of games like this. They run into a team that is just as tough, only they have guys who can stroke it from outside. Looking at the boxscore, I'm stunned Krauser only has 15 points, as he was all over the place during the game. But I do remember him jacking up six ill-advised threes, none of which went in. Know your limitations.
No one is playing better than Okie State. Even in a game in which they shot 30% in the first half, they still almost shot 50% for the game. They pretty much play the anything-you-can-do-I-can-do-better style. They played a bare-knuckled brawl with Pitt. now they'll play a high-flying track meet with St. Joe's. They are equally comfortable with both styles. And that's the infuriating thing about playing OSU: they don't have a style of play. They just adopt your style and beat you upside the head.
You know, people have been picking against St. Joe's (myslef included) because they don't have a credible frontcourt and they have serious matchup problems. However, the Wake game showed we've been worried about the wrong problem. Sure, SJU only plays one forward, but that creates a matchup problem for their opponent, who has the unenviable task of covering four guards, all of whom can pass and shoot like mad. Martelli rides his top two extremely hard, Nelson and West have played almost every minute of every game in the tourney, but he knows where his bread is buttered. Why pretend? This team will go as far as West and Nelson can take them.
Justin Gray finally decided to show up for the tourney, butit was a little late for Wake Forest. Because Paul reverted to being an overwhelmed freshman. Barley played the kind of shutdown defense SJU needed to have any chance. Paul didn't have a bad game, but he wasn't the dominant force he had been last weekend. Now Barley has an even tougher assignment, slowing down John Lucas. And somebody has to find an answer for Allen.
posted by Poseur 3/26/2004 12:55:00 PM
Yankees drive truckload of money up to Rivera's house
For all of the talk of the Yankees bi spending ways, the biggest advantage is their ability to retain talent. It's news that the A's resigned Chavez because they so often part ways with their best players. However, the Yankees don't have that problem. Who was the last player to leave the yankees on his own accord to test the free agent waters? Anyone the Yankees have and still want, they keep. and no other team can say that.
Being able to spend gobs of cash on free agents doesn't hurt, but other clubs have tried that approach and it hasn't worked out so well (check out the Mets). The combination of a productive farm system and a huge payroll is practically unbeatable. We forget about the Yankees ability to grow prospects and either insert them into the lineup like Rivera, or flip them for players.
posted by Poseur 3/23/2004 01:41:00 PM
Instead of breaking it down by bracket, let's look at the Sweet 16 by seeding. So we'll start, of course, with:
Duke and St. Joe's
Like I said going in, on paper, Duke's the best team in the country. They are beginning to show it on the court. Unlike their fellow #1's, they had no problem with thier second round opponent, a thoroughly outmatched Seton Hall team. St. Joe's showed it could play with a team with a decent frontcourt, and at least made people shut up about their seed. Hey, they made it didn't they?
UConn and Oklahoma State
OSU is on cruise control. They thoroughly beat down a pretty good Memphis team to set up that dream matchup of OSU-Pitt. Right now, they have shown absoltuely no weaknesses. Maybe they should have had Stanford's #1? UConn's got to be throwing a party right now. Here's a team which struggles against the top tier (as noted in the preview, the only RPI top 10 with a losing record vs. the top 25), and now they won't have to play a single RPI top 25 team en route to the Final Four. Okafor didn't even have to show up to get the Huskies to advance, and now no team in the entire bracket has a better draw. Anything less than a Final Four at this point is a total and complete failure. Yes, they are lucky to have all of the top teamslose, but now they must take advantage of it.
Pitt, Georgia Tech, and Texas
If NC State doesn't compeltely collapse in the final three minutes against Vandy, we'd be looking at a perfect seed. All of the three seeds are great teams, and all look like they can make the Final Four. Pitt can't shoot very well, and they have a brutal region, but defense shows up every night. Georgia Tech finds themsleves as the highest seed remaining in their region, the worst showing for any region. Nevada's playing unbelievably well, but Tech has got to like thier draw right now. Texas has the look of a Final four team as well. Tough on the inside, good shooters, and a sprinkling of seniors. Duke looms on the horizon, but Texas made it through the extremely streaky UNC and does not have to worry about the extremely physical Mississippi State Bulldogs.
Kansas and Wake Forest
OK, I was completely wrong about Kansas. I thought they were a soft team ripe for a huge upset, and they just plowed through two double-digit seeds, even with an injury to Wayne Simien. They match up poorly with UAB, but better than Kentucky, eh? Wake's played two nail-biters, but it's better to play close and win at this point of the year. Now they get the huge unknown that is St. Joe's. Chris Paul, however, has made this tourney is coming out party, as his play has bee consistently spectacular. I'm lucky enough to live in ACC country and so I see him all the time, but it's nice to see him excelling on the national stage. He's been unbeleivable so far.
Illinois and Syracuse
The Illini got screwed in the seedings, and no one is talking about them as one of the hottest teams in the nation. Heck, Xavier gets more hype as a hot team, but Illinois is on fire right now. And they bitch-slapped Cincinnati pretty hard. Duke finally gets their huge test. Syracuse won in two different ways: once by an absurdly good game from McNamara and the second by seeing their defense completely shutdown a potent Terp offense. In their bracket, the only great shooting team is Vandy, and they are ont he opposite side. The Orange matchup great with whoever they play next.
The success of the three-seeds mean the sixes got waxed. Vandy's lucky to be here, as NC State completely collpased down the stretch, blowing a ten-point lead in less than three minutes. Hodge is good, but he ain't that good. Losing him shouldn't have doomed the Wolfpack. Vandy needs to shoot 50% to have any sort of chance to continue. Hey, why not?
Normally, being hot means nothing. Winning your conference tourney is not a good or bad omen of tourney success. It just is. But Xavier's been single-handedly keeping the theory of getting hot in March alive. Maybe they just figured out how to play without David West, but this team is rolling. They can shoot like mad, but lack the inside guy to match up with Texas.
Bama should've been this good all year. An infuriatingly inconsistent team, they have the playmakers to beat anyone in the country. Now, they have to learn how to beat syracuse's infamous 2-3 zone, but they do have a week to prepare for it. And Pettaway's got the skills to break down a zone by himself. In a decimated region, Bama has a pretty good shot at the Final Four. They've already done the heaviest lifting.
How bout them Blazers? Admit it, you missed the 40 minutes of hell. Yes, UAB lost a huge lead and needed a miracle to come back. but the thing is that they did come back, and nobody wants to play them right now. Mike Anderson invented the 40 minutes of hell and he's brought it to Birmingham. Enjoy it, UAB fans, because he won't be your coach for very much longer.
Snyder's been unbelievable. The real shock of Nevada's run has been the way they have beaten teams with vastly superior frontcourts. The Wolf Pack aren't an especially big team, but they have held their own on the inside while raining threes from the outside. They match up great with Georgia Tech, who also will play a guard-oriented game. Kansas would present huge matchup problems for them, but Nevada's got a pretty good draw the rest of the way.
posted by Poseur 3/22/2004 12:48:00 PM