Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Madness Continues

Well the dust has cleared and then there was just 16 remaining. Five of them from the Big East. The tournament has gone as close to in order as you can get, with Arizona the only real "cinderella" left. All top 3 seeds in all four brackets are still alive. That doesn't mean there hasn't been some great games on this Sunday. Here are some of my thoughts from day four of watching nothing but College Basketball....

- Was there anything more disappointing in this tournament so far then the play of Arizona Sophomore James Harden? He struggled against in a win over Temple and again against Syracuse. Shooting 2-10 for 10 points, he combined in two games for 19 points (3-19 from the field), that is two point shy of his single game average throughout the season. What kinda puzzles me the most is that Arizona State plays nothing but a 2-3 / match up zone themselves. So wouldn't you think going against two primary zone teams he would have exploded? He sees the same style of defense in every practice.

- Well Pittsburgh didn't get upset but for the second straight game the were in a dog fight. This time it wasn't there fault. The Cowboys were on fire in the first half, hitting 5-7 from behind the arc and if it weren't for Sam Young's 23 (finished with 32) in the first half the Panthers would have been in a huge hole. As Oklahoma State cooled off back down to normal shooting percentages, DeJuan Blair woke from his slumber to score all 10 of his points and grab 6 of his 12 rebounds in the second half. Pittsburgh did allow OSU to shoot 48% overall from the field and only forced 8 turnovers (Pitt turned it over 14 times). They (Pitt) will have to get their defensive issues in order before they play Xavier.

- That being said, Xavier, along with Arizona have been the two most impressive and the most under the radar of anyone in the tourney. Except for UCONN, who has clearly been the best team in the tourney, But back to the Musketeers, who have dismissed both their first and second round opponents with ease. Xavier held Wisconsin to 28% shooting (16-56) and 15% from downtown (3-20), as they rolled past the Badgers 60-49. Sean Miller's teams love to slow down the game and make your life a living hell defensively. They can struggle to score at times, which has been there problem all year but if they get good shooting days from B.J. Raymond and Derrick Brown, they are a tough team to beat. Xavier is shaky at the point guards position so the Panthers should be able to expose them and win the game but that depends on which Pittsburgh defense shows up.

- Arizona has also handled both their first two opponents with what seems like ease so far. The Wildcats are upperclassmen loaded (as I have mentioned before) and if their three stars play at their top level they (Arizona) is more like a 4 seed then a 12. Which is why they are probably in the sweet 16 now. The trio of Wise, Hill, and Budinger have combined for 118 points and 41 rebounds in two games. Jordan Hill, the athletic big man, has been a beast in the middle. Putting up 17 points and 13 rebounds in round one and another 16 points and 9 rebounds in round two. Nic Wise has been their X-factor though. He has been the least consistent all year but when he plays at a high level, Arizona can beat anyone in the country. By the way in his two tournament games, Wise is averaging 25 points, 5 assists, and 3 rebounds a game.

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