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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 Austin region of competition. The teams in the "Who's looking sweet" section are predicted to reach the round of Sweet 16.

AUSTIN REGION SEEDINGS:

1. Duke
2. Kentucky
3. Oklahoma
4. Syracuse
5. Michigan State
6. Utah
7. Cincinnati
8. Stanford
9. Mississippi State
10. Iowa
11. Texas El-Paso
12. Old Dominion
13. Vermont
14. Niagara
15. Eastern Kentucky
16. Delaware State

Who to watch out for: Cincinnati, UTEP, Old Dominion

Who’s looking sweet: Duke, Oklahoma, Syracuse, Cincinnati

Out of all of the regions, this one looks like the one most up for grabs. While Duke boasts a great starting- five and the ACC tournament trophy, the Blue Devils don’t have the same air of invincibility surrounding their team, like most Coach K top-seeded teams have had. A number of teams from this region can punch their ticket for St. Louis, and that might make this region the most entertaining to watch in the entire tournament.

As long as J.J. Redick, Shelden Williams, and Daniel Ewing are on the floor at the same time for Duke, they’ll have a shot to win. But the foul trouble bug has caught the Devils on occasion this year, and all it takes is one of those games to ruin the Devils’ chances. Redick and Williams form an incredible inside-outside combination. Redick led the ACC in scoring at 22.7 points per game, and Williams averaged a double-double (15.6 points per game, 11.1 rebounds) on the season. If for some reason one should falter, then the senior guard Ewing and his 15.1 points per game can pick up the slack. This team defends well, and has relied on the trio of stars to carry them thus far. Even though they lack the depth a coach would love to be able to fall back on, the Blue Devils are a legitimate threat, as usual.

Oklahoma is an interesting three-seed. They won the regular season title in the Big 12 and have stars such as Taj Gray, Terrell Everett, and Kevin Bookout. They have a slew of quality wins, including over UConn, Kansas, Oklahoma State, and Texas, and only have one bad loss, a 68-65 loss at Missouri. They face an upset-ready and senior-laden Niagara team in the first round keyed by senior forward Juan Mendez (23.6 points per game, 10.5 rebounds) and senior guard David Brooks (17.1 points per game). Should the Sooners get past Niagara, there’s no reason to believe they can’t make it all the way to the Elite Eight.

To do this, they’ll have to get by Cincinnati who will upset Kentucky in the round of 32. Bold call? Maybe. But Kentucky has had a recent history of underachieving in the tournament, and as witnessed in the SEC tournament, they are very capable of being beaten. While they might play as hard as anyone in the country, an off-night of outside shooting by Patrick Sparks could spell disaster for the Wildcats who will have a tough time holding down the Bearcats’ front line of Jason Maxiell and Eric Hicks. UTEP returns to the NCAA Tournament for the second straight year, and carries over their two most important players from the team that almost upset Maryland in the first round last year. Omar Thomas (20.4 points per game) and Filiberto Rivera (13.6 points per game, 7.3 assists) are senior leaders that can lead the Miners over Utah and national player of the year candidate Andrew Bogut. Old Dominion is another intriguing 12-seed. They won the Colonial Athletic Association title, won 28 games against just five losses, and have one of those players that looks like he could become a household name after the first round or two of the tournament in junior forward Alex Loughton. He scored 28 points in the conference title game, and on the season averaged almost 14 points per game to go along with 8.1 rebounds. If Michigan State isn’t prepared, the Monarchs of Old Dominion will take a step in becoming the nation’s new sweetheart.

Syracuse faces a tough team coming out of the 13- slot in the Vermont Catamounts in the first round. If you’ve been watching college basketball, the name Taylor Coppenrath should no longer be new to you. He is a star, and he, along with guard T.J. Sorrentine must be contained in order to beat Vermont. Syracuse will have no problem in doing this. The Orange’s famous zone defense will do the job in shutting down the America East champions, and further competition down the line. Hakim Warrick and Gerry McNamara will combine their leadership and experience along with their combined 37.4 points per game to carry the Orange, as they’ve done all year. Syracuse can win this region if the sophomore trio of Darryl Watkins, Louie McCroskey, and Terrence Roberts steps up like it did in the Big East tourney to complement the two stars, and if Josh Pace plays like the senior leader he’s capable of being. Jim Boeheim has his Orange playing extremely well and team-oriented, and he’s ready to take his team back to the forefront of college basketball in the Final Four.

Predicted Region Champion: This region is a true tossup. It's easier to just pick Duke. But, the team that could come out when its all said and done is the Syracuse Orange







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