The Madness, Day 1: What to Look For

The Madness, Day 1: What to Look For
Mar 15, 2007, 12:22 pm
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Midwest Game 1: (13) Davidson vs (3) Maryland -7

This one should be exciting for a little while at least, as both teams play at lightning fast paces. It will be interesting to see if Davidson can be successful in slowing the game down, as they certainly don’t have the horses to get into a race with the Terps. The interesting statistic here is Davidson’s tenacity on the defensive glass, and Maryland’s lack of it. If this tendency plays out, it could be a critical edge for Davidson.

Marquee Matchup: In terms of matchups, both teams have an outstanding freshman combo guard – Maryland’s Greivis Vasquez, and Davidson’s Stephan Curry. Both players have a tendency to run hot and cold, so this is a matchup that could affect the outcome.

East Game 1: (10) Texas Tech vs (7) Boston College -3

Don’t expect either of these teams to make a splash, with Boston College leveling off down the stretch and not doing well against Tourney teams even when they were hot, and Texas Tech not looking like much of a tourney team for most of the season. In this case, I have go with the General – he knows how to get his team prepared for the NCAA Tournament, and having a grizzled veteran guard like Jarrius Jackson around never hurt anybody. But both of these coaches have consistently won where the average coach would have failed, so it should be an interesting matchup in terms of X’s and O’s.

Marquee Matchup: Obviously this is Skinner vs Knight, but I am trying to stick to players here. Jared Dudley is the type of rugged interior scorer that could give the porous Red Raider interior defense fits. If Skinner is able to find a way to get Dudley easy opportunities near the basket, this game will take on a new dimension.

East Game 1: (11) Stanford vs Louisville -6

As a 6 seed in the Tournament’s most loaded middle-seed region, Louisville was screwed by the selection committee in terms of seed and draw. Stanford wasn’t an NCAA Tournament team by the numbers, but we know there is a reason the Cardinal were invited. The return of Anthony Goods makes this team very dangerous, and the Lopez twins could be a real problem for an overmatched David Padgett.

Marquee Matchup: Both coaches have an elite freshman center in their back pockets, and while Trent Johnson has gotten a lot more mileage out of Robin Lopez than Rick Pitino has from Derrick Caracter, but Caracter is one of the few big men capable of matching up with Stanford’s freshman twin towers. He’ll have to be in the right mindset and stay out of foul trouble, but this game could become a snoozer quite quickly if he could make an impact.

Midwest Game 1: (14) Oral Roberts vs (3) Washington State -7

Plenty are picking this as a potential upset, but Washington State hasn't been upset in a long time. They don't win games by a high margin, but if you've watched this team play you know they are good. Tony Bennett will have a great gameplan for containing Caleb Green, and a monster game from the senior is the only chance for the underdogs.

Marquee Matchup: Daven Harmeling isn't a big name, but you might know it by the end of the weekend. Washington State's scrapper doesn't exactly pass the look test, but has made numerous big plays for the Cougars this year. His ability to hit timely outside shots is one of the larger reasons for Washington State's success - if he can knock down three or four triples and neutralize Green, Washington State isn't going to lose this game.

Midwest Game 2: (5) Butler vs (12) Old Dominion -2 1/2

Butler is the most overseeded team in the tournament – either that, or Wright State is the most underseeded. I don’t think anybody knows what to expect from Butler, but it is fairly clear that everybody wanted to pick Old Dominion before everybody figured out that picking Old Dominion wasn’t even much of an upset. That makes me think Butler, as the Monarchs did not impress me one bit in the Colonial Tourney.

Marquee Matchup: Like it has many times this year with the Bulldogs, AJ Graves putting in a good volume scoring effort should lend a hand to Butler’s cause. This task could be up to eclectic lead guard Drew Willilamson.

East Game 3: (15) Belmont vs (2) Georgetown -17
South Game 2: (14) Penn vs (3) Texas A&M -13 1/2

Not much left up to chance in these two, so no comments or thoughts until Round 2.

(11) Virginia Commonwealth vs (6) Duke -6.5

The Rams attempt to take up the crown of the team they beat in the Colonial championship game (George Mason), and a win over Duke would certainly put the focus of the nation back on the mid-major. VCU certainly has a chance, with an outstanding group of guards and a balanced, potent offense. While the Rams shoot the ball at an outstanding clip and rarely turn it over, Duke extends the defense, locks up the 3-point line, and tries to force turnovers. The underdogs are good enough on the perimeter to operate against Duke’s atypically weak backcourt pressure, but can they force the Blue Devils to pay for leaving Josh McRoberts on an island?

Marquee Matchup Eric Maynor is suddenly everybody’s favorite mid-major hero after leading VCU to a comeback win in the conference championship game. Greg Paulus isn’t bad, but hasn’t lived up to expectations and is the type of player that everybody will jump on when down. The sophomore has actually bounced back quite nicely, emerging as a very dangerous perimeter shooter if not quite the ballhandler Duke fans were expecting him to be when he signed three years ago. If Paulus limits turnovers and knocks down the occasional outside shot, advantage Duke. If Maynor can get into the head of Paulus, VCU has a real chance here.

(9) Michigan State -2 ½ vs (8) Marquette

The 8/9 matchups all look fairly intriguing this year, and this one could be the best of the bunch. Nobody knows what to make of either team, with Marquette playing like a Final Four contender one night and an NIT team the next, and Drew Neitzel’s ability to get hot and take Michigan State to a higher level. Don’t think for a minute that the loss of Jerel McNeal isn’t going negatively impact the Golden Eagles.

Marquee Matchup: It is fairly obvious where everybody’s focus ought to be in this one, and that is on the short guy with the ball in his hands, and the short guy defending him. Marquette is a completely different team when Dominic James is shooting the ball well (less and less often as the season has gone on), and Neitzel has a tendency to run hot/cold as well. Neitzel would have been in a rough spot attempting to advance the ball against the hounding defense of McNeal, but now this is just another responsibility on James’ plate. Advantage Michigan State.

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