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Columnists | Message Board  | Daily Dribble

By Jeff Fox

March 25th 2006


NCAA 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:


Atlanta Bracket


#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 the difference.


Oakland Bracket


#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.


Washington Bracket


#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 prevailed.


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.


Minneapolis Bracket


#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 undersized Cats.


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




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