Wednesday, March 16, 2011

A Brief NCAA Tournament Preview

Time for a quick Bucky Channel NCAA tournament preview. Barring a Packers Superbowl, this is the most exciting sports time of the year. When else to you get to watch sports at work? 48 games in 4 days! Oh, and I'm purposefully omitting the bastard-child "First Four". Tomorrow is the beginning of the tournament and the 1st Round.

Let's take a quick look at the chances of our two state teams.

Wisconsin - Damn, everyone is sweating Belmont. I'm interested to see the national picking percentages between Wisconsin and Belmont. 5 of the 6 Sports Illustrated college b-ball writers picked Belmont to beat the Badgers, while the one who had Wisconsin winning had them going to the Final Four. Interesting, but I think that Badgers, like many teams this year, could go to the Final Four or lose in the first round. Despite my pessimism during much of the season, I see the Badgers as a good team. The have an inside and outside game, protect the ball supremely, and have a great free throw percentage. These are three markers for success in the NCAA tournament.

Lots of people are talking about how Belmont plays a very fast up-tempo game, plays 11 players, and presses the ball whenever possible. I don't think this will be the problem for Wisconsin. We have played up-tempo teams before and come out fine. The problem will be if this up-tempo, pressing style leads to open shots for Belmont. That has been the undoing of Badger teams in 2 of the previous 3 tournament losses (Davidson and Cornell). They can't allow that early shooting momentum to build this time.

People are also talking about momentum being a factor as Wisconsin has played beyond poorly in their last two games, but that will be a non-issue. Bo Ryan will have these boys ready. In the end tomorrow's game and the tournament will come down to the things the rest of the season has: Can they get Jon Leuer going on the block (thus opening up the 3 pointers)? Can they find a third scorer? A yes to these questions will propel Bucky to the second weekend.

Marquette - I think Marquette and Xavier have been under seeded. I'm sure Marquette would rather face any of the other 6 seeds, but unfortunately, they are all from the Big East. Xavier always brings it in March, but Marquette has a chance to be last year's Washington. They have played with the big boys - beating several top seeded teams - Syracuse, Notre Dame, Uconn, and West Virginia. The problem with Marquette is you know what you are going to get - slashing, fast tempo, lots of three pointers. Xavier should be able to force MU into a half court game, but if the 3's are raining and the Big Men Gardener and Otule are playing well, Marquette can advance.

A few other thoughts:
- I really have no clue how to fill out the brackets this year. Anything can happen. Just look at the 4 seeds - Kentucky, Louisville, Wisconsin, and Texas. Any of these teams could make the Final Four or lose in the first round.

- A few potential match ups which immediately caught my eye: Notre Dame/Purdue (Sweet 16), Texas/Arizona (2nd Round), BYU/St. John's or Gonzaga (2nd Round), Villanova/ George Mason, Old Dominion/Butler

- How 'bout those UAB Blazers?

- Florida a 2 seed?

- Glad to have truTV HD.

Enjoy the next few days folks.

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