Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Oakland Regional: The Kids Are Alright

1. Memphis - I have to give John Calipari's team credit. They've managed to stay out of the police blotter all season long. Color me surprised and impressed. The Tigers are supremely talented and athletic, but I don't know if I trust them in a tight, possession-by-possession game. They've played an awful lot of blowouts in Conference USA.

2. UCLA - With Jordan Farmar and Arron Afflalo, the Bruins have that most important of qualities come tourney time: a solid backcourt. Combine that with the tough-nosed defense Ben Howland preaches, and the Bruins could be a darkhorse. The ghost of John Wooden is stirring.

3. Gonzaga - I love Gonzaga's story. Their rise from nowhere has been well-documented and a blast to follow. And Adam Morrison is simply fun to watch. That said, I have little faith in the Zags. Their defense is atrocious and their knack for playing down to opponents will cost them. They should be done by the end of the opening weekend.

4. Kansas - Bill Self has the kiddies peaking at the right time. The Jayhawks will be awesone next year, but may just make a trip to Indy in a few weeks as a precursor.

5. Pittsburgh
- With Carl Krauser at the point and Aaron Gray a formidable inside presence, the Panthers can hang with anyone. But old age may be catching up to Krauser at this late point in the season. Arthritis and a leaky bladder are slowing him down.

6. Indiana - Having played much improved ball since Mike Davis announced his resignation, the Hoosiers could develop into one of the big stories should they advance deep. Maybe coaches should announce their resignation midseason more often. Of course, the Hoosiers have been prone to inconsistent play. They could reach the Sweet Sixteen or they could lose to San Diego St. and it wouldn't be all that surprising either way.

7. Marquette
- Tom Crean is proving that Dwyane Wade wasn't his meal ticket. The Golden Eagles - shouldn't they still be called the Warriors? - could be dangerous if Steve Novak heats up. Dominic James is arguably the best freshman guard in the nation.

8. Arkansas - The Razorbacks loom large in the second round for Memphis in what could be a great game, not to mention a possible upset. Arkansas has been superb in the second half of the season. Stan Heath is quietly doing a great job, having improved the Razorbacks win total in each of his four seasons. Is Nolan Richardson still somewhere bitching up a storm?

9. Bucknell
- The Bison will sneak up on nobody after beating Kansas last year. Should give Arkansas all it can handle.

10. Alabama - The Tide is not the same team without the injured Chuck Davis, their leading scorer and rebunder. A second round appearance would be quite an accomplishment.

11. San Diego State - So, what are the chances that Michigan fires Tommy Amaker and brings back Steve Fisher? OK, that isn't happening, but it really wouldn't be a bad move. Fisher has proven he was more than just the Fab Five while at Michigan by making a once moribund Aztecs program a factor in the Mountain West. Brandon Heath will shoot from anywhere and Marcus Slaughter is one of the more colorful players you'll come across, not to mention a big inside presence. Dude was cracking me up during the MWC tourney. Aztecs could push Indiana.

12. Kent State - No Antonio Gates means no crazy run to the Elite Eight a la 2001.

13. Bradley - The Braves had been scorchng hot for the past several weeks before a dreadful performance against Southern Illinois in the MVC title game. If Marcellus Sommerville and Patrick O'Bryant are both on, they could be troublesome. Coach Jim Les looks uncannily like Dave Foley of Kids in the Hall and NewsRadio fame.

14. Xavier - No respect. How does Xavier, one of the most consistent programs in the nation, warrant only a 14 seed? Ridiculous. Compounded with the disservice done to GW, I have all kinds of gripes if I'm the commissioner of the Atlantic 10, which oddly enough, I am. The Musketeers are hot at the right time, having won four straight in the A-10 tourney. Should cause all sorts of problems for Conzaga.

15. Belmont - Unless it involves betting on horses, I don't care about Belmont.

16. Oral Roberts
- Oral. Oral. That is all.

First round upset:
Xavier over Gonzaga

Final Four: Kansas over UCLA


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