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NCAA Tournament Preview

 


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/ Mar. 15, 2005

The 2005 NCAA Basketball Tournament promises to be as action-packed as fans have come to expect. The NCAA Tournament has four regions. Here's a preview of the Albuquerque region of competition. The teams in the "Who's looking sweet" section are predicted to reach the round of Sweet 16.

ALBUQUERQUE REGION SEEDINGS:

1. Washington
2. Wake Forest
3. Gonzaga
4. Louisville
5. Georgia Tech
6. Texas Tech
7. West Virginia
8. Pacific
9. Pittsburgh
10. Creighton
11. UCLA
12. George Washington
13. Louisiana-Lafayette
14. Winthrop
15. Chattanooga
16. Montana

Who to watch out for: Pittsburgh, UCLA

Who’s looking sweet: Wake Forest, Gonzaga, Georgia Tech, Pittsburgh

Washington a one seed? As outrageous as it sounded until Saturday night when the Huskies defeated Arizona for the Pac-10 crown, the Huskies are a worthy holder of a top seed in this year’s tournament. Washington features a star in 5’9” junior Nate Robinson, who plays as if he’s the biggest man on the court. The Huskies won the Pac-10 tournament, have huge wins over Alabama, Oklahoma, Utah, and won two of three battles with Arizona. That being said, they’ll have a tough time getting out of the Albuquerque region.

Waiting for them in round two will be Pittsburgh, who will pull off a mini-upset by downing eighth-seeded Pacific in the first round. The Panthers front line of Chevon Troutman and Chris Taft and the backcourt keyed by senior Carl Krauser will provide quite the challenge for the top-seeded Huskies. Whoever controls the tempo in this one wins the game. If it’s a methodical game in the 60s or 70s, the edge goes to the Panthers. If it’s a run-and-gun shootout, the Huskies move on. Heads says slow and methodical. Tails says shootout. I flipped heads. Pitt pulls the upset.

This region is pretty cut-and-dry from that point on. Louisville was given no respect by being dealt a four seed and then a potential second round match-up with Georgia Tech. The Cardinals won the Conference USA regular season and conference tournament, have won 18 of their last 19 games, and deserve at the very worst a three seed. Unfortunately for them they will run into a peaking Yellow Jacket squad, and won’t make it out of the second round. Georgia Tech will be waiting for Rick Pitino’s Louisville squad after surviving a game with 12-seed George Washington. GW was hot early this year with wins over Michigan State and Maryland, but faded before winning the Atlantic 10 tournament. They shouldn’t give Georgia Tech a big challenge, but I wouldn’t be able to forgive myself if I went a whole NCAA Tournament preview without mentioning the Colonial’s Pops Mensah-Bonsu. There’s not a better name in the game.

West Virginia versus Creighton is yet another intriguing 7/10 match-up that features two upstart teams. West Virginia was thisclose to shocking everyone and winning the Big East, and Creighton enters the tournament on an eight-game winning streak after emerging from the Missouri Valley Conference as tournament champion. West Virginia’s propensity to knock down the three will probably be the difference in this game. The coaching match-up might be the most interesting part of this contest, as West Virginia Coach John Beilein and Creighton Coach Dana Altman are two of the upcoming coaches in America.

UCLA’s ability to upset Texas Tech lays in the hands of their two stud freshmen Jordan Farmar and Arron Afflalo, and senior swingman Dijon Thompson. The three, especially Thompson, need to play excellent ball for UCLA to pull of the upset of Coach Bobby Knight’s Red Raiders, but the young and fun Bruins are very capable of doing just that. If they manage to get by Texas Tech, the Bruins will run into a brick wall in the form of the Gonzaga Bulldogs.

Is this the year that those Zags break through to the Final Four? They’ve definitely got a chance. The duo of Adam Morrison and Ronny Turiaf is as dynamic as there is in college basketball, and baby-faced point guard Derek Raivio runs the Bulldog offense to perfection. The emergence of J.P. Batista down low gives Gonzaga another threat in the low post other than Turiaf, something that they lacked last year when Turiaf got into foul trouble. Gonzaga won a very difficult West Coast Conference this year, and Coach Mark Few has his Bulldogs playing as hot as they’ve ever played entering the tournament.

After every match-up is dissected, and every possible upset exhausted, it will be Wake Forest moving on to St. Louis. They are the model team, with a headstrong, playmaking point guard in Chris Paul, senior leadership from Taron Downey, Jamaal Levy, and Vytas Danelius, and a slew of clutch performers such as Justin Gray, Paul, and Eric Williams. They looked like a top seed the entire season until Paul’s one-game suspension cost the Deacs in the ACC tournament. Their defense is the only question mark, but you can be sure that Coach Skip Prosser will have his kids dreaming of double-teams and ball pressure every night through game day. Wake Forest has been a dominating team all year long with a resume filled with impressive victories over top teams, and the Demon Deacons looked primed to make a run at the Final Four.

Predicted Region Champion: Wake Forest Demon Deacons







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