Thursday, March 19, 2009

March Madness: West Region Part 1

No. 1 seed Connecticut Huskies:

Why they will win it all: The Huskies have a strong starting five led by senior guard A.J. Price and junior center Hasheem Thabeet. Price, Thabeet and senior forward Jeff Adrien all averaged at least 13 points a game. Also Thabeet and Adrien each averaged 10 rebounds a game. The big three are supplemented by freshman guard Kemba Walker and junior forward Stanley Robinson. Senior guard Craig Austrie gets significant time off the bench and can start against smaller opponents. Connecticut is a well rounded team that plays offense and defense with equal tenacity. Thabeet was among the nation's leaders in blocked shots averaging 4.6 per game. Two of their four losses came against fellow number 1 seed Pitt and another came in a dramatic six overtime loss to Syracuse in the Big East quarterfinals.

Why they won't win it all: Connecticut lost starting guard Jerome Dyson in mid-Feburary to an injury and haven't been the same team since. The Huskies are just 4-3 in Dyson's absence and are in the midst of a two game losing streak. Though they have a talented starting five, Connecticut lacks a quality bench. There is not much talent there behind Austrie and no real front court help. Thabeet can be one of the best big men in the country but he has some serious flaws in his game. He doesn't run the floor well and can be beat to the basket by quick athletic teams. Also, while Thabeet is an inside force above the rim, if backed away from the basket and forced into a jump shot Thabeet becomes a very ordinary big man.

Player to watch: A.J. Price. Thabeet may grab all the headlines but Price is the player that Connecticut needs the most out of. Without Dyson in the line-up Price stepped up to lead the team in scoring. Price is the team's best 3-point shooter and is a threat to score anytime he has the ball in his hands. He is a quick guard that can shut down an opposing team's best player. While not a great passer he still manages to set the offense up for the big men in the middle.

Prediction: Connecticut shouldn't have too much trouble advancing to the Elite Eight but will likely find their tournament over if they meet up with Memphis. Missouri is another team that that could give Connecticut trouble if they meet up with them in round of eight.

1st round upset: 10th seed Maryland over 7th seed California:
The Terps sneaked into the tournament with a late season win over UNC and a ACC semi-finals win over Wake Forest. Junior guard Greivis Vasquez is the key, if he's on he can take over a game. If the Golden Bears can't slow him down they will be looking at a first round exit.

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