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Article:The Road Map to the 2009 Men's Final Four

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2009 March Madness Road Map

The long road to Detroit and ultimately a national championship won’t be any easier this year. The tournament is loaded with teams which can blow up your bracket if they actually show up.

The selection committee actually did a great job overall for once. If Wisconsin was out and St. Mary’s was in, I’d have no major problems.

With that said it’s on to the bracket and bragging rights with your buddies.

'Midwest '

First Round

Now for the other big issue I have with the committee this year. Louisville as the overall number one seed might have to play Ohio State in Ohio in the second round, which is absurd.

Even playing virtually at home, Ohio State might not make it to Louisville.

Siena is a scrappy team and is looking to win a game in the tournament for the second year in a row. They have played hard against several teams in the field. They lost by 13 at Pittsburgh and by seven at Kansas.

The issue with the Saints is that they haven’t beaten anyone in the field. They lost by 14 to Tennessee at home and by 9 against Oklahoma State on a neutral court.

Both of these teams play similar in their ability to block shots and not foul very often. Both teams also shoot the ball well.

If Siena is to pull off an upset in this one, it will be because of their guard play, where they have a huge edge. Their ability to pressure while limiting turnovers themselves will keep them in the game against the Buckeyes.

When push comes to shove, I think the home court advantage is the only thing saving Ohio State from a first round out.

Arizona is going to be the “sexy” pick as the mandatory 12 seed to advance to the next round. They have good wins on their resume, highlighted by a wins at home against Gonzaga and Kansas.

They have also lost five of their last six and seem to once again be the underachieving team coming into the tournament.

Utah has also beaten Gonzaga at home and destroyed LSU by 30 at home. They are led by a 7’2” center, which is why I’m disappointed they won’t play UConn at some point in the tourney.

Both of these teams have the same major problem. They struggle away from home. Neither has any good win on the road all season. Utah at least won the conference tournament but didn’t have to play either BYU or UNLV to get the title.

Arizona is tempting because they are one of the most talented teams in the field, but they clearly aren’t being coached very well. Any team with F Chase Budinger, F Jordan Hill, and G Nic Wise has no excuse for playing this poorly. It’s clear their current coach is nothing more than a figurehead.

Utah shoots it better and defends it better. They move on.

Boston College is a team which can go on the road and beat North Carolina and then lose at home to Harvard. They beat Duke and FSU at home but lost at Saint Louis. They are very talented but come and go with PG Tyrese Rice.

USC is a tough team which has run into trouble this year because of their lack of an ability to blow people out. They have four very talented players on their team and can play very good team defense. They beat UCLA in L.A. in the Pac-10 tournament but lost early in the year at Seton Hall. They lost at Oklahoma by a point.

In a coin flip game, I’m going with the better shooting and better defending team. USC has the athleticism to slow down Rice, and with him go the Eagles out of the Big Dance.

Kansas is sliding a bit and now face a 14 seeded team named the Bison. The Jayhawks lost the last time they played Bison in the tourney but I think Kansas has enough talent to overcome an underrated North Dakota State team.

Cleveland State will give Wake Forest a good game as well but the loss of one of their starters will come back to haunt them against Wake’s athleticism.

First round winners: (1) Louisville, (8) Ohio State, (5) Utah, (4) Wake Forest, (6) West Virginia, (3) Kansas, (10) USC, (2) Michigan State

Second Round

Ohio State is getting practically a home game, so their fans can suffer just a little more when Louisville wipes the floor with them.

Wake Forest got off to a great start this season, but has fallen off significantly since mid-January. They won at BYU and Clemson and beat UNC and Duke at home.

Since mid-January, they’ve lost at Georgia Tech and North Carolina State. These are horrendous losses. Their vaunted defense has given up 101 to Duke and 88 to Clemson (to Wake’s credit, they won this game).

Their major problem is whenever they can’t get out on the open floor and get easy buckets off their athleticism. This team simply can’t shoot from the perimeter. Period.

When they can run, they’re one of the best teams in the country. When they can’t, anyone can beat them. It’s a sign of their youth as a team.

Wake is beatable against the Utes because they haven’t played a big man all year as good as Utah C Luke Nevill. If Utah can deter shots from close range, they’ll stay in it.

With that said, take Wake to advance as Utah has no quality road wins, and Wake Forest isn’t the super underachiever Arizona is.

West Virginia, minus their win at Madison Square Garden against Pitt, has no impressive wins away from home on its resume. The best road win in the regular season is the beat down they put on Ohio State. They beat Villanova at home, but Nova is also a relatively small team.

Kansas doesn’t have a ton of depth but they do have leadership in G Sherron Collins and a solid big man in C Cole Aldrich. They won at Oklahoma late in the year but lost earlier in the year at Arizona and at Michigan State. At home they beat Tennessee, Siena, Oklahoma State, Temple, Missouri, and Texas. They also beat Washington on a neutral court and lost in OT to Syracuse on a neutral court.

Kansas has typically lost to teams which they should easily have beaten. When they show up in the big games and are focused, they’re a tough out.

Since both teams have struggled on the road, I have to go with the team with more marquee wins. As long as Aldrich stays on the floor, Kansas has enough to move on.

Michigan State is a solid team which is not playing its best basketball at the end of the year. They have talent and are the best rebounding team in the nation.

However, I don’t like how F Raymar Morgan is playing since his comeback and the fact that they are primarily a half court team facing a Trojans team which is more athletic when you look at both teams across the board.

Michigan State has played several neutral court games. They were easily beaten by UNC and Maryland and barely beat Texas. All of these teams have multiple scoring threats, especially UNC and Texas. Multiple matchup problems can land Michigan State in hot water.

USC has that with F Taj Gibson, F DeMar DeRozan, G Dwight Lewis, and G Daniel Hackett.

Easy buckets in a half court grind it out game will decide this one. The Trojans will have more opportunities so I’ll take them in one of the bigger upsets in the tournament.

Second round winners: (1) Louisville, (4) Wake Forest, (3) Kansas, (10) USC

Sweet 16

Louisville can pressure better than Wake Forest and can match their athleticism. They can defend one-on-one with Wake as well.

The Demon Deacons will have to shoot their way into this game and that’s why they are going to have a hard time against Louisville.

Kansas is a very young team but is also a great defensive team. Unlike Michigan State, they went out and played people and played in a better conference. They are battle tested.

USC is a solid team but won’t be the sleeper Elite Eight team.

Sweet 16 winners: (1) Louisville, (3) Kansas

Midwest Final

Louisville’s depth allows them to get by. They have bench players who would be getting 30+ minutes a game at Kansas.

The Cardinals also have a young F/C in Samardo Samuels to go at Aldrich and have the balance between guards and forwards to get by the Jayhawk defense. F Terrence Williams and G/F Earl Clark are going to be too much to handle for Kansas.

Midwest winner: (1) Louisville



First Round

BYU is a quality team. They lost by just a point to Arizona State on a neutral court and lost by seven to Wake Forest at home.

They have a problem which many teams have. They don’t have many quality road wins.

The only good one they have is against San Diego State, who just beat them on a neutral court. They took Utah to OT but didn’t get the win. They also beat Utah State, but that’s another team with no power to do anything on the road.

Texas A&M is a team with two very talented players which has underachieved. Guards Josh Carter and Donald Sloan, when on, can play with anyone in the nation. Unfortunately, that hasn’t happened too often.

They did beat Arizona and LSU, but both of those were at home. In a solid Big XII conference, they have no good road wins. At home they beat Missouri and Texas.

In another toss-up game, I like the team which has been more consistent and has the better shooting. At least BYU beat who they were supposed to beat in conference on the road. They will advance.

Washington is an up and coming young team with some great starters but not a lot off the bench. They lost to Kansas on a neutral court but beat Cleveland State, Oklahoma State, Portland State, and Morgan State at home.

In the Pac-10 they swept USC but lost at Arizona, at UCLA, and were swept by California. They won at Arizona State but just lost to them in the conference tournament.

The note to be taken here is that against teams who have a lot of good shooters, they struggled.

When they’re on, Mississippi State can be Cal with the best shot blocker in SEC history in C Jarvis Varnardo. The Bulldogs have some different pieces from a year ago, when they took Memphis to the brink. But they still have Varnardo, and his defensive ability makes this team very dangerous.

The Bulldogs have several good three point shooters who can make shots when they take smart shots and work inside-out with Varnardo. They have a freshman PG in Dee Bost who takes very good care of the ball for a freshman.

I like what Mississippi State brings to the table but I don’t like them in this matchup. The best way to go at a shot blocker is right through his body, and Huskies F Jon Brockman is basically the DeJuan Blair of the west coast. They have guards who are athletic enough to defend the Bulldogs and clamp down on the three pointers.

California is the best three point shooting team in the nation and is one of the best overall shooting teams around. They score through their guards and are undersized but have some forwards with great hustle and toughness.

They lost by three on a neutral court to FSU and were blown out by Missouri. They swept Arizona and Washington but were swept by UCLA and lost twice to USC. They play fine against offensive teams and struggle at times against tough defense.

Maryland is by far the biggest head case in this tournament. They are ranked 200th or worse in field goal percentage, three point field goal percentage, three point percentage defense, and rebound margin. Despite all these deficiencies, they managed to beat Michigan State, UNC, and Wake Forest. They’ve also lost to Morgan State and were decimated on a neutral court by Gonzaga and Georgetown.

In the end, Cal thrives against defenseless teams, and while Maryland can beat anyone (somehow) when they play well, they absolutely can’t be trusted.

First round winners: (1) Connecticut, (8) BYU, (5) Purdue, (4) Washington, (6) Marquette, (3) Missouri, (7) California, (2) Memphis

Second Round

UConn is susceptible to an upset, but BYU doesn’t have what it takes to get it done.

Memphis is the defensive team which will give Cal all kinds of trouble.

Marquette could have beaten Missouri with a healthy Dominic James. They have no chance now.

Purdue’s fate rests in the play of F Robbie Hummel. With a healthy Hummel on the floor, Purdue was able to beat Boston College on a neutral court and took Oklahoma to OT. Without him they were just another team in the mix in the Big Ten.

Washington played a lot of defensive teams in the Pac-10 and fared very well. They swept Oregon State, Washington State, USC, and Arizona State in the regular season.

The loss in the conference tournament was more of a wakeup call then anything else. The Huskies move on.

Second round winners: (1) Connecticut, (4) Washington, (3) Missouri, (2) Memphis

Sweet 16

Missouri is a terrific story this season. They are one of the most well balanced teams in the country in terms of offensive-defensive ability. If they were a four seed they would take UConn out in this spot.

For that matter if they were in the East or South (especially the South) they could have made it all the way to Detroit.

But they have to play Memphis, and these Tigers have experience and a major chip on their shoulder.

PG Tyreke Evans is the reason this team will continue to advance. In essence, Memphis is a better version of Missouri in a battle of pressure defensive teams.

UConn has beaten all kinds of teams, but has struggled to live up to their early season greatness without the services of Jerome Dyson. Without him they lack any perimeter scoring presence and rely too much on C Hasheem Thabeet and F Jeff Adrien for scoring. There’s a reason this team is just 4-3 since losing Dyson.

They are still one of the best teams in this field, but now they absolutely cannot afford to lose Thabeet to foul trouble. When Pitt beat UConn the first time, DeJuan Blair just outmanned him and bullied him. He went right at the shot blocker and put him on the bench.

In the second meeting Thabeet won the personal battle but F Sam Young scored 31.

In the epic battle with Syracuse in the Big East tournament, Syracuse bullied Thabeet around all night. Thabeet is basically a defensive Roy Hibbert as he is soft most of the time.

Again, Brockman is the key player for the Huskies to advance. If he can go Blair on Thabeet and put him on the bench, the Huskies can match UConn man-to-man and force them into jumpers.

In a battle of who can make more contested shots, the Huskies are going to prevail in one of the upsets of the tourney.

Sweet 16 winners: (4) Washington, (2) Memphis

Midwest Final

Much like Missouri, a determined Tigers team which can create offense along with their tenacious defense will cause the Huskies undoing. Brockman will be matched by F Robert Dozier and F Shawn Taggart, and Memphis will use its physicality and size in the back court to outmaneuver the Huskies.

Memphis has simply been a different team since Evans was put at the point. They found their balance. And while Evans isn’t as natural at the point as Derrick Rose was a year ago, he has played just as well and is a better on-ball defender.

The team we saw whoop Gonzaga is the real Memphis. They are determined to get back to the Final Four after seeing the title snatched away from them. This supreme motivation made the experienced players on the team truly buy into playing defense. This has made them one of the supreme defensive teams in the country.

The Memphis defense carries them to Detroit.

Midwest winner: (2) Memphis


First Round

Oklahoma State appears to be playing its best basketball of the season.

Despite that, the only good win they have outside of the state of Oklahoma is a nine point neutral court win against Siena. The only road wins they have in the Big XII are at Nebraska in OT, at Texas Tech, and at Colorado.

They lost to Oklahoma twice but were able to edge them out in the conference tournament. All three games were decided by ten points or less. They played Missouri tough in the tournament but couldn’t pull out the win.

They have a formidable set of guards in Byron Eaton, James Anderson, and Obi Muonelo. They can all make plays. They also can’t defend very well.

Tennessee, to their credit, stacked their out of conference schedule.

Unfortunately, they didn’t do that great against it. They lost twice to Gonzaga, on a neutral court and then at home. They lost at Temple, at Kansas, and against Memphis by just two points.

They did beat Siena at Siena and Marquette in Nashville.

In the SEC they were all over the place with their inconsistent play. They don’t shoot the three very well but rely on it too much. They are too complacent and settle too often when they have the talent and athleticism to get to the rack.

If the good Tennessee shows up, they can easily win this game. They are the bigger team and will destroy the Cowboys on the offensive glass. If players like F Wayne Chism and F Tyler Smith actually play aggressively inside, they should beat up Okie State.

The Cowboys, because of their size, are a bad rebounding team. This game is a long way from Oklahoma.

While Tennessee isn’t a great road team either, at least they’ve left state lines a few times. The Vols just have a bit more potential, and in this tight matchup, that’s what I’m going with.

Xavier looked like a great team at the start of the season. They beat Missouri at home and beat Virginia Tech and Memphis on a neutral court in their first five games.

They were later handled on a neutral court against Duke and lost at home by nine to Butler.

The Musketeers also won at LSU by ten.

Lately they’ve been losing to everyone on the road. They lost at Duquesne, at Dayton, at Charlotte, at Richmond, and then to Temple in the conference tournament. They easily have the talent to win multiple games in the field but could also find the upset bug early on.

Portland State is a run and gun team which hasn’t played many good teams out of conference. They’ve fared surprisingly well when they have though, beating Gonzaga on the road by seven and losing by just a point to Washington at Washington.

Later on in the year they were dropped at Baylor.

They also dropped a bunch of games in conference but have won six in a road heading into this game.

The reason the Vikings can pull this off is their three point shooting. They make more threes then almost anyone in the nation and Xavier will allow you to shoot the three in order to protect the paint. Xavier is dedicated to the boards and doesn’t like to give up offensive rebounds so they sacrifice defending behind the arc.

This is one of the toughest early round games to evaluate since Xavier played Missouri and Memphis so early in the year. Both of those teams are markedly better then they were at the start of the year.

In the end, the Vikings have righted the ship while Xavier is sliding into the tournament. The double digit seed upsets have to show up somewhere and I’ve thought for a while Xavier is ripe for a first round shocker. Portland State’s performances early on against the Huskies and Bulldogs show they aren’t going to be outmatched by Xavier.

It’s a risky pick but not with too much risk, since neither team can beat the Seminoles in the next round.

First round winners: (1) Pittsburgh, (9) Tennessee, (5) Florida State, (13) Portland State, (6) UCLA, (3) Villanova, (7) Texas, (2) Duke


Second Round

Tennessee can give Pitt plenty of trouble, but their inconsistency and lack of desire at times will come back to bite them against the grittiest team in the field.

Florida State has the defense and size to ward off Portland State.

Texas has some players who can trouble Duke, but they’ve played way too inconsistent and are a lot like the Vols in their complacency throughout the year. Duke survives.

UCLA is a team which has fallen off from recent years but still has plenty of talent as a six seed. PG Darren Collison and F Josh Shipp give them two solid scorers when they’re on their game. They have a good supporting cast which could help them bust up the bracket.

Villanova will go as far as F Dante Cunningham takes them.

This game is very hard to call. Based on how they’ve performed this year, it’s hard to give the Bruins any shot.

Looking at the matchups, it’s hard not to like UCLA’s starters. Collison against Nova star G Scottie Reynolds will be one of the best one-on-one matchups in the tournament. F Alfred Aboya will give Cunningham a lot of trouble and could neutralize him.

Reynolds has been the most consistent player in this field. When he plays an opposing PG who can hang with him, he doesn’t score. Collison will limit him, so it’s up to Cunningham and the others to pick up the slack.

UCLA has been poor defensively against the three and from the field this year. That spells trouble against the Wildcats.

I really want to take the Bruins but they haven’t won a game like this away from L.A. all season. Nova is much more battle tested and will find a way to survive.

Playing in the Wachovia Center is as close to a home game as Villanova can legally play in. Home court advantage in college means a ton.

Second round winners: (1) Pittsburgh, (5) Florida State, (3) Villanova, (2) Duke

Sweet 16

Duke is a solid team which is improving in its defense but still has plenty of holes for Nova to exploit. Duke’s defensive problems allow teams which are not close to the same talent level as they are to hand around against them.

Villanova has gone toe-to-toe with the best of the Big East. They are experienced and unlike in the UCLA matchup, both Reynolds and Cunningham will come up large.

Duke has been absolutely victimized by its point guard play at several points this year. If G Jon Scheyer is playing the point in this game, Reynolds will destroy him. You need solid PG play to advance in the tourney and Duke doesn’t have it.

Pitt and Florida State will play in a rematch which really was the start of the emergence of the Seminoles. The Panthers shot just 33 percent from the field in that game but held FSU under 30 percent. Sam Young had to carry the offensive load, and if that happens again, the Panthers might be out.

FSU has played great this season but continued to come up short against Duke and UNC. Teams with enough offense and shooting can beat them, but Pitt doesn’t have that on their side.

The Panthers have been exposed. If you get star F DeJuan Blair in foul trouble, the Panthers are borderline horrible offensively. F Sam Young needs Blair to clog the paint for his game to be effective, and the Panthers guards aren’t good perimeter shooters.

FSU has arguably the best scoring PG in the field in Tony Douglas. He has carried this team all season and will continue to do so in this game.

The Seminoles kept it close at home in the first meeting and will keep it close again. But ultimately they don’t have enough scoring options in the paint to overpower Pitt’s top notch defensive intensity.

If the Noles were in the west, they would’ve been an Elite Eight team.

Sweet 16 winners: (1) Pittsburgh, (3) Villanova

East Final

It’s another rematch for Pitt. Nova beat them by ten at home earlier in the year. They were able to get Blair in foul trouble, allowing Cunningham to have a great game. For the Wildcats to have any chance to pull it off again, they will need this to happen.

If Blair can stay on the court, he should dominate this game. His presence inside would allow F Sam Young to also play well and piggyback the Panthers into the Final Four.

Ultimately, Reynolds is going to struggle but he could get to the rim and put Blair on the bench.

In the end Nova hasn’t beaten any defensive oriented teams since the Pitt win. When in doubt, take the team which won’t rely on three pointers.

East winner: (1) Pittsburgh



First Round

LSU is a balanced team which doesn’t do anything extremely well but is solid in all facets of the game. They can defend, shoot the three, block shots, and create turnovers. They have one of the most athletic starting lineups you’ll see in the tournament.

They have also lost three of four and played one of the weakest out of conference schedules of anyone in the field. They lost to the three good teams they played out of conference: at Texas A&M by 11, at Utah by 30, and against Xavier by ten.

They did beat Tennessee and Mississippi State on the road and seemed to have put things together until recently.

Butler is a solid team which relies on shot selection and defensive discipline. They are always a tough team to play against.

They lost by three at Ohio State and beat Xavier by nine.

However, they struggled in conference to put away teams which were inferior to them, which came back to bite them in the Horizon final against a Cleveland State team which outhustled them.

With Butler being untested against many quality teams, I have to go with what’s out there on the court. In that case, LSU should be able to shoot right over Butler’s defense.

Illinois scored 33 points in a home loss to Penn State, so it’s possible they won’t score for ten minutes against Western Kentucky. It’s possible, but not likely.

Western Kentucky can shoot the ball and rebound effectively, but that’s about it. They won a weak conference and have been hurt by the losses of their top two players from a year ago.

They did beat Louisville back when it seemed every mid major was doing so. They also lost on a neutral court to Florida State and were blown out at Mississippi State and at Evansville.

They have to be on point from behind the arc and it might still not be enough to beat the Illini.

The size difference is just too much as Illinois should be able to just outmuscle the Hilltoppers.

Arizona State is hard to figure out. On one hand, they beat BYU on a neutral court and swept UCLA and Arizona. On the other hand, they were swept by Washington in the regular season, as well as Washington State.

To the Sun Devils credit, they avenged their losses against the Huskies in the conference tournament.

When the Sun Devils are on their game, they are a well balanced team. They defend it well but struggle at times against quality defense.

Sun Devils star G James Harden is one of the best players in the country when he wants to be. He’s too unselfish at times.

Temple is an inconsistent team which can put up a good fight when everyone besides G Dionte Christmas shows up. They gave Clemson all they could handle on a neutral court and beat Tennessee at home rather easily.

When they go cold, it doesn’t end well. They were blown out at Villanova and lost by 12 at Kansas.

This is an interesting matchup which either team could win. When push comes to shove, good defense has typically won out against the Owls, so I’ll take Arizona State.

Michigan is a team with a litany of focus issues. This team split with Duke, losing on a neutral court and beating them at home. They beat UCLA, lost by just five at Maryland, and lost by just eight at UConn.

They also needed overtime to beat arguably the two worst teams on its schedule: Savannah State and Indiana.

The fact that they actually try against good teams and falter against bad ones is a lack of focus, which their numbers reflect. They are horrible shooting the ball and defending it but can stop the three point shot and don’t turn the ball over. They can beat a lot of teams when they put it all together, but that doesn’t happen very often.

Clemson once again got off to a smoking start but has since stumbled all over the place.

They beat Temple on a neutral court and won at Illinois. They slaughtered Duke but lost the next game to FSU at home. They were swept by Wake Forest and had an inexcusable loss at Virginia.

The interesting thing about Clemson is that it seems they play better away from home at times, as they took care of their business on the road all year with the exception of Virginia. They’re not as good as FSU, Wake Forest, and North Carolina, but took care of teams like Boston College, Miami, Virginia Tech, and Maryland on the road.

They did lose in the conference tournament to Georgia Tech, and even though it was effectually a road game, it’s a pretty bad loss. There’s a reason they’re a seven seed.

With both teams unsure as to who will want to play in this game, I’m going with the team that can afford a bad game from one of its key pieces. Clemson.

First round winners: (1) North Carolina, (8) LSU, (5) Illinois, (4) Gonzaga, (6) Arizona State, (3) Syracuse, (7) Clemson, (2) Oklahoma


Second Round

Syracuse proved they had the heart of a champion in the Big East tournament but ultimately came up short. In all honesty they are the most overrated team seed-wise in the field, as they would have been a five seed at best if not for UConn’s inability to put them away in each of the first five overtimes.

With that said, the Orange is a solid team. They have arguably the most balanced starting five in the tournament as the makeup of their starting lineup has more of an NBA feel to it.

They don’t have a lot of depth behind those guys, especially at guard. If PG Jonny Flynn or G Eric Devandorf gets into foul trouble, it could spell doom for the Orange.

The Orange has some solid wins on its resume. They beat Kansas in OT on a neutral court and beat Memphis at Memphis earlier in the year.

In the Big East an interesting trend developed. The great defensive teams which could be physical with Syracuse won out. They lost at Pitt and were swept by the full strength UConn and Louisville. They lost at Georgetown and needed OT to beat the Hoyas at home.

Teams with great guard play also gave Syracuse issues. They were swept by Villanova and needed OT to beat a Marquette team without G Dominic James.

The signs indicate that if Arizona State brings its best defensive effort, they will stay with Syracuse until the very end.

Syracuse at times has lapsed on the defensive end, as shown by giving up 100 at Providence and 102 in a virtual home game for Villanova.

The key matchup in this one is F Arinze Onuaku against F Jeff Pendergraph. If Onuaku stays on the floor, he’ll get the better of that one and put Pendergraph in foul trouble.

Syracuse is going to have to win in the clutch. That’s one thing they definitely have over the Sun Devils.

Oklahoma is another overrated team as they and Missouri should be switched around. They are obviously centered around F Blake Griffin, who is probably the best player in the game. They use him as a focal point to the point where it hurts the rest of the Sooners.

When he went down against Texas, the supporting cast nearly beat Texas on their home floor. Then against Kansas at home the supporting cast couldn’t hold serve but played valiantly. The Sooners actually have some solid pieces around Blake Griffin but are suffocating them by force feeding it into Blake.

What this has done is allowed teams which they should be blowing out by 20 points to hang around. They won by just eight at Oklahoma State, ten at Iowa State, six against Texas A&M, five against Colorado, and then four against Oklahoma State in their last regular season game.

Then they lost out by a point to the Cowboys in the Big XII tournament.

The Sooners seem to be mirroring the Kevin Durant Texas team, the O.J. Mayo USC team, and the Michael Beasley Kansas State team in that they don’t look like a team which will advance far in the tournament.

Clemson at its best is a frenetic, pressing team with very good athletes in the frontcourt which give you fits.

In the Big XII that would be Missouri. The Sooners played at Missouri and lost by nine.

In the non conference schedule the Sooners beat up a lot of the good mid majors like VCU and Utah.

They almost lost to Davidson, needed OT to beat Purdue on a neutral court and beat USC by just a point at home. In the case of USC, it’s another example of how a team with an athletic frontcourt which can play defense gives the Sooners trouble.

Clemson loves to attack the rim, and if they’re willing to take on the beast in Griffin, they should find some success. With F Trevor Booker and C Raymond Sykes they have two to go at Griffin.

Clemson’s supporting cast is ultimately better than Oklahoma’s because they have stepped up in the past.

Clemson has a solid, experienced head coach and the ACC tournament loss to Georgia Tech might have been the spark plug they needed to refocus.

Second round winners: (1) North Carolina, (4) Gonzaga, (3) Syracuse, (7) Clemson


Sweet 16

If PG Ty Lawson isn’t 100 percent, the Tar Heels have no chance against Gonzaga.

With a healthy Lawson, UNC has enough polish in their game along to ultimately win out against Gonzaga.

Gonzaga might be playing with its best team ever but they just didn’t win the luck of the draw. They would’ve won the East.

Syracuse has one major quality the Tigers lack: composure. They are starting to take up the makeup of Flynn and it is getting them by.

They benefit from the luck of the draw as much as Gonzaga was slighted by it.

Syracuse may have reached the Elite eight in the East and West but they would’ve had a lot more trouble.

Sweet 16 winners: (1) North Carolina, (3) Syracuse

South Final

In a game where both teams have terrific guard play, only one team has a “Psycho T” to go to inside.

The more fluid Tar Heels are like last year’s Kansas team in that their sole purpose is to get back to the Final Four. Like their counterpart a year ago, they will do so as long as their floor general has two good wheels.

South winner: (1) North Carolina

Final Four

Louisville and Memphis are playing to be the national champion. Whoever wins this game will cut down the nets.

Louisville is absolutely staunch in how they go about their defense. Their issue throughout the year is their struggle at times on offense, which is a bit hard to understand.

All of their losses except the beat down the healthy UConn gave them were against teams which had no business on the same floor: Western Kentucky by 14, Minnesota by six on a neutral court, UNLV by one, and at Notre Dame by 33.

Since mid February this team hasn’t lost but didn’t have to play Pitt or UConn. They are playing better but still not up to their ability. A B-level Cardinals team won the Big East regular and post-season crowns. If this team plays up to its full potential, their run in this tournament is going to be downright scary.

Memphis hasn’t lost since December, but with the exception of games at Tennessee and Gonzaga, they haven’t played anyone since December.

It’s also interesting in that Memphis has lost to the two Big East teams it’s faced: Syracuse by seven at home and Georgetown by nine in OT.

Tyreke Evans at the point has been magic for Memphis in their terrific run. Unlike Louisville, Memphis has found their A-game and has left a path of destruction against most of the teams it’s played.

In a game destined to become an instant classic, the only place I truly see an advantage is low post scoring. The Tigers get a lot of their points inside on offensive rebounds and hustle plays, while Louisville has players in the frontcourt like Earl Clark and Samardo Samuels who can create offense for themselves in a half court set.

That gives the slightest of edges to Louisville.

In the other semifinal, it’s a complete contrast in philosophies.

Pittsburgh is the Rottweiler which smells blood and wants to rip you limb for limb while North Carolina is the winner of the Westminster Dog Show.

In this game Pitt’s fatal flaw emerges. They don’t get enough scoring out of their guards and don’t have any reliable shooting game to speak of. This makes it even more imperative that DeJuan Blair stay out of foul trouble.

And there in lies the problem. With the aggressiveness of Ty Lawson and Tyler Hansbrough it’s almost a foregone conclusion for Blair to get stuck on the bench.

With him a nonfactor the Panthers simply don’t have the firepower to hang with the Tar Heels.

Advancing to the final: Louisville, North Carolina

National Championship

Louisville can provide the defense while having the balanced scoring threats all over the floor to take down the Tar Heels. Earl Clark and F Terrence Williams are going to have a field day against G/F Danny Green and G Wayne Ellington.

Hansbrough will have a big game himself in his last as a college player but UNC will still come up a bit short.

The North Carolina team which started the season may have won this one. The injury to Marcus Ginyard killed their backcourt depth off the bench.

Louisville’s depth in the backcourt will net them a national championship.

In a way, since UNC is the team where everyone returned to get the title, this game will be what should’ve happened in last year’s final.

Louisville is playing as Memphis and this time a three pointer at the end won’t make any difference.

2009 National Champion: Louisville

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