NCAA Tournament Preview
The 2005 NCAA Basketball Tournament promises to be as action-packed as fans have come to expect. Here's a preview of the NCAA Tournament's Chicago region of competition. The teams in the "Who's looking sweet" section are predicted to reach the round of Sweet 16.
CHICAGO REGION SEEDINGS:
2. Oklahoma State
4. Boston College
7. Southern Illinois
10. St. Mary’s
14. Utah State
15. SE Louisiana
16. Fairleigh Dickinson
Who to watch out for: St. Mary’s, Wisconsin-Milwaukee, LSU
Who’s looking sweet: Illinois, Oklahoma State, Arizona,
This is the toughest region for the middle range of
seeds. There is not that much that separates the seven
through 12-seeded teams, and a load of first round upsets is
not out of the picture. Those middle range teams won’t have
much effect on the outcome of the Chicago region, though, as
it is very top-heavy, with Illinois, Oklahoma State, and
Arizona ranking among the best teams in the country.
Illinois is the team to beat, as they have been all
year, but they won’t have an easy road to St. Louis.
Oklahoma State and Arizona are more than capable of pulling
off the upset. Both teams feature senior stars with talent
and experience. Arizona revolves around shooter-extraordinaire Salim Stoudamire, and center Channing Frye.
The two stars are complemented by the high-flying Hassan
Adams, point guard Mustafa Shakur, and forward Ivan
Radenovic. This team has yet to experience the glory
expected from them in the past few years, and is hungry to
give Coach Lute Olson his first winner since Mike Bibby and
Miles Simon lead the Wildcats to the national championship
Oklahoma State returns virtually everyone from its
Final Four team from a year ago, and is fresh off its second
straight Big 12 tournament championship. Freshman JamesOn
Curry is a great complement to John Lucas in the backcourt,
and Joey Graham is a versatile threat who can take over a
game. This much talented experience is quite the asset in
the NCAA Tournament.
Another storyline in this region is what will happen
with last year’s tourney darling, Nevada. Their front line
is anchored by Nick Fazekas, one of the premier big men in
the country who gets next to zero press coverage. Freshman
guard Ramon Sessions and senior Kevinn Pinkney are very good
supporting players, and Pinkney has the experience from last
year’s run to help will the team to victories. It’ll be
tough for the Wolf Pack to provide as many sparks as last
year, though, because if they get by Texas in the first
round they’d go head-to-head with the Illini.
The St. Mary’s Gaels are a team to watch. They come
from the West Coast Conference, like Gonzaga, and have two
stars that could have a breakout tournament. Junior Daniel
Kickert and senior Paul Marigney both average around 17
points a game and can be lethal from beyond the arc. If the
perimeter offense is clicking, the Gaels are capable of
pulling off an upset or two.
Wisconsin-Milwaukee is dangerous as a 12 seed. Head
Coach Bruce Pearl is among the new crop of coaches waiting
to go to an elite program, and he runs a great show behind
the play of senior guard Ed McCants (17.4 points a game).
The Panthers are 17-1 in their last 18 games, and 5th-seeded
Alabama should be put on notice that they have no cakewalk
in the first round.
Boston College’s struggle for national respect
suffered a huge blow when the Eagles went 4-4 in their last
eight games. This might work to the Eagles’ advantage,
though, as Coach Al Skinner will have his players motivated
to play in the underdog role, where they excel the most.
Craig Smith, Jared Dudley, and Co. are capable of shocking
Illinois in the Sweet 16 should they make it there. The
Eagles have the low-post player in Smith that Illinois has
trouble playing against, and if the Eagles can defend the
perimeter, unlike how they defended in losses to Notre Dame
in the regular season and West Virginia in the Big East
tournament, the game is theirs.
With all that being said, Illinois has the advantage
of playing in front of an Illini crowd in each stop all the
way to St. Louis. Much like Syracuse did in 2003, Illinois
will be playing in arenas within close driving distance to
home, and the Illini’s opponents will have to deal with the
crowd in addition to stopping the top team in the land. The
three-headed guard monster known as Lutheeron Hebrilliams
(aka Luther Head, Dee Brown, and Deron Williams) will prove
to be too much to contain, just like they have all year,
James Augustine will continue his solid play down low, and
they’ll have the corks popping in Champaign-Urbana.
Prediction of Region Champion: Illinois Fighting Illini