Monday, March 12, 2007

Bracket Breakdown: East

Thank God Kevin Durant turned down the Heels or else they would be even more loaded. They shoot 50% from the floor. They have six McDonald's All-Americans. Their average margin of victory is 19.7 points. They average more possessions than anyone in the nation, 2nd in assists, 2nd in rebounding, and 10th in assist to turnover ratio. But you don't need me to tell you that the Heels can ball.

So what's the problem? The team is so loaded, even Roy Williams is complaining about chemistry. It's March and he hasn't figured out his rotation yet. And while I'm not the kind of guy to really buy the whole chemistry argument, as its usually a cover to a load of BS, there may be something to it here. UNC's smallest margin of victory is five. When the game is close, the Heels lose. That could just be a function of great teams winning by blowout, but it could be a function that UNC lacks a go-to guy. And no one really believes the Heels are going to get through the bracket without playing a close game, especially with Texas and Georgetown lurking. Hell, Michigan St is a tough out lurking in the round of 32.

The dream matchup is the talented waves of blue going against Durant in the Sweet Sixteen. Texas is a one-man show (actually a two-man show with Augustin running the point). Unlike the Heels, everyone knows exactly who is getting the ball in a close game. The question is, can Texas keep it close?

Georgetown is just sitting there, lurking. Since January 13th, they have lost exactly one game. They didn't just beat up on the Big East, they killed it. They shoot just as well as Carolina (50% from the field), only they play a lot better defense. Jeff Green is also one of the official bad asses in this tourney. Sure, Durant is a better scorer, but Green is a better defender and a more polished player. OK, Durant is better, but Green might be the only player in the country who can shut him down at least a little bit.

Nothing personal to other teams in the bottom half, but it'll take the Hoyas having the off night of off nights, which doesn't seem likely, to prevent a showdown with UNC or Texas in the Elite Eight. Washington St is a nice story, but they are a tough, defense-oriented halfcourt team which Georgetown can absolutely physically dominate. You want to go halfcourt against the Hoyas? Vanderbilt can shoot the three, but they lack size and openly admit they lack athleticism to compete. Boston College isn't the same team without Sean Williams.

I'll quote coach Tim Floyd on his USC team, "We're an NIT team." How does a bubble team have essentially one good week and get a five-seed? They start a guy who skipped his senior year of high school at point. Pruitt missed a third of the year due to academic troubles and doesn't look like the same player. And guard play is a team strength. This team is beyond flawed.

Arkansas has size in spades. It's a team that uses its size to bully offenses. And considering USC big weakness is its inability rebound, Arkansas is perhaps the last team they wanted to face. The Hogs took about the whole season off, but once Stan Heath's job was on the line, they started winning. Honestly, the Hogs are the better team. The question is whether they will decide to show up. This is the best shot for a 12-seed.

Arkansas ran out of gas in the SEC tourney, but they are a strong defensive club with lots of depth. Not only can they knock off USC, but they are a threat to Texas as well, as SEC Defensive Player of the Year Steven Hill (who is 7'1") will draw the Durant assignment. George Washington is more athletic than Vanderbilt, and their zone forces tons of bad turnovers and destroys bad shooting teams. While Georgetown is a great shooting team, Washington St is not. GW is a real threat to make the Sweet 16.

Oral Roberts is an interesting upset pick. First off, they beat Kansas though they did lose to powers Tulsa and Oakland. Tutt and Green are senior studs, both of whom have scored 2000 points apiece. Tutt can drain the three and is a really good player, but Caleb Green is the real stud. He's a three-time conference player of the year, and he's a stud power forward who is 0.7 rebounds away from averaging a double-double. How often does a 14-seed have the two best players on the floor when they go up against a 3-seed? I'm guessing never.

There are three great teams in the bracket, and that means one of them gets to wait for the other two to play. That's just a massive advantage. But here's the thing: Georgetown is better than Texas and UNC anyway. They don't need the added advantage, but they got it anyway. Texas is too much of a one-man show, and they often descend into just watching Durant. Well, except for Augustin who makes plays in between boatloads of turnovers. Texas' two starting guards are both under six-feet, I'm sure that won't matter against a physical team like Georgetown. Well, if they can beat UNC, who has more talent than they know what to do with. Quite literally.

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