March 25th 2006
Tournament: Elite Eight Preview
The fact that a mid-major
squad is in the Elite Eight this season shouldn’t come as much of a shock.
The fact that that team is the George Mason Patriots is the jaw dropper. In
a tournament that has seen more than its share of dramatic finishes and
upsets, it is also not surprising that instead of four #1 seeds and four #2
seeds making it into the field of 8, instead we have three #1s, two #2s, a
#3, a #4 and a #11. Here is how the final eight match up:
#2 Texas Longhorns vs. #4
LSU Tigers – Saturday – 4:40 pm EST
It is no shock that Texas is
in this game; having watched LSU play thus far in the tourney it shouldn’t
be a shock that they are here either. The Tigers proved they are a legit
title contender this year by dismantling overall #1 Duke in the Sweet
Sixteen. Their smothering D on J.J. Redick and athletic big men allowed
them to survive with their top two bigs, Glen Davis & Tyrus Thomas, on the
bench with foul trouble during stretches of both halves. The Longhorns,
meanwhile, needed a last second bomb by Kenton Paulino to get past a scrappy
West Virginia squad.
The Longhorns LaMarcus
Aldridge, P.J. Tucker & Brad Buckman should match up well with Davis, Thomas
& Tasmin Mitchell. The difference though could come down to the guard play
– whichever backcourt gets the job done could put their team over the top.
Prediction: Texas, but it
should be close. Texas’ more experienced players and the possibility of LSU
feeling an emotional letdown after their upset victory over Duke could be
#1 Memphis Tigers vs. #2
UCLA Bruins – Saturday - 7:05pm EST
Finally a bracket that went
the way it was supposed to! The top 2 seeds will battle it out in Oakland
to determine who will go the Final 4. Memphis has had a fairly easy go of
it so far in the tournament, winning each of their first 3 games by a
16-point margin each time. On the other side, UCLA has had a couple of nail
biters in their last 2 matches – a 3 point squeaker over Alabama and a 2
point win over Gonzaga after the Bulldogs’ colossal collapse.
Both teams are young,
athletic and have lockdown defenses. The difference is the Tigers can put
up points on the board also. Memphis is the only team to score more than 80
points on the Bruins this season, when the Tigers beat them in November.
Prediction: Memphis – due to
their tough D and equally tough O.
#1 Connecticut Huskies Vs.
#11 George Mason Patriots – Sunday - 2:40pm EST
The Patriots of the CAA have
already knocked off half of last year’s Final Four participants – Michigan
State & North Carolina. They have made it this far by locking teams down on
the defensive end. They are also shooting lights out on the other end of
the floor. Folarin Campbell has been stellar for George Mason so far,
averaging 17.3ppg, 5.7rpg & 3.0apg. UConn needed last second heroics by
Rashad Anderson to push Washington into overtime, where UConn eventually
UConn hasn’t played up to
their potential this tournament yet, but point guard Marcus Williams is
playing the best ball of his career. The Huskies have also shown that they
are a very deep squad.
Prediction: Connecticut –
in what could be a blowout. The Huskies are too talented, too deep and too
experienced to become the latest victim of George Mason.
#1 Villanova Wildcats vs. #3
Florida Gators – Sunday - 5:05pm EST
The road to the Elite Eight
wasn’t an easy one for the Wildcats. Their past two victories have been
tight affairs – first a 4 point win over Arizona and finally a hard fought
overtime win over Boston College (a game that B.C. led the majority of).
Randy Foye has put ‘Nova on his back, averaging 23.3ppg, 7.0rpg & 2.7apg.
The Gators had an easy go of it their first two games – 20 plus point wins
in each – before having to work hard to knock off upstart Georgetown.
This game will be a match up
of youth (Florida) vs. experience (Villanova). The Gators big, mobile post
players (Joakim Noah & Al Horford) could be the X factor versus the
Prediction: Florida –
‘Nova will have trouble with the big men and the Gators guards will be able
to hold their own against the ‘Nova 4 guard offense