Saturday, March 27, 2010

As if the tourney can any better, the regional finals present great matchups

(1)Duke vs. (3) Baylor -When the brackets were announced my pundits believed Duke had the easiest path to Indianapolis, even before the wrath of the upsets. Now the Devils are in position to make prophets out of them as only Baylor stands in their way with every intension of shaking up people’s brackets even more. Ironically, Duke’s victory over the “Hummeless” Boilermakers was their first over a team ranked higher than 5 since 2004, coincidentally their last appearance in the Elite 8. On the flipside, Baylor has got to be the most disrespected 28-win, 3 seed, in the past decade, The Big-12 has earned plenty of ‘street cred’ in this tournament placing two team in the final 8, and Baylor finished second to only Kansas (may they rest in piece), so they’re used to tough competition and we think they’re going to surprise Duke.

(5) Michigan State vs. (6) Tennessee – Now it’s official that both participants on one side of the final four will be at least a 5 seed, and these are not “George Masons” as the Spartans are the only Final Four team from last year that’s still dancing this year, and Tennessee has overcome numerous adversity, much of which was their own doing, but baring that hiatus where they certainly would have won more games during the regular season and they still won 28. Obviously, both teams come in riding a lot of momentum but have had their lapses in the tournament as well, as the Vols busted brackets with an upset over second-seeded Ohio State, hard to believe the way they barley beat a very mediocre San Diego State team by 3 in their first game. Meanwhile State had to overcome a 7-point halftime deficit against a very disciplined UNI team. This game’s tough to call as there not as polarizing as the other matchups in regards to a consensus favorite. We look for this one come down to the final possessions but think Tennessee might be a little light after they go to the bench and like State’s tournament experience to come through as they win a close one.

(2)Kansas State vs. (5)Butler – Coming off the game of the tournament, a double-overtime thriller against Xavier the only question here is how much gas will they have left in the tank. The advantage for the Cats is that Butler isn’t an up-n-down fast breaking team that will pressure them 94 by 50. However the BDogs have shown they can create problems of a different sort when their outside game is working. Very underrated for their balance, if Butler can build a lead they take KState out of their game but we like the Wildcats because of their multiple scoring threats and tenacity on the boards.

(2)West Virginia vs. (1)Kentucky – The only 1 vs. 2 matchup in any of the regional finals also looks like the best game. The question going into the tournament was how would the youth of Kentucky handle the pressure of the tournament, particularly when they faced adversity of found themselves down by double digits or in crunch time. Well to this point no one has been able to put them in either of those positions but the Mounties may be the team to do it. They have both the size to match UK and the leadership to pull them through down the stretch. Once again, they will only go as far as their guard play will take them and unfortunately the loss of Daryll Bryant will be very evident in this one. We like Kentucky.

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