TOURNAMENT PREVIEW: HEADING SOUTH

Although every other organization is promoting the East region as the toughest, we at Hoops4U.com believe that the South is actually the most difficult. After all, this region boasts three members of last year’s Final Four. Headed by Michigan State, this region also features North Carolina, Florida and Oklahoma as its top seeds respectively. Not too shabby, eh?
Now on to the first round:

1 Michigan State v. 16 Alabama State
A 16 seed has never won a tournament game. Nothing changes here.

8 California v. 9 Fresno State
This is an excellent match-up (aren’t all 8/9’s good match-ups?). Bears have too much up front and should pull out a squeaker.

5 Virginia v. 12 Gonzaga
This is a very good Virginia team featuring point guard Donald Hand. The Cavaliers have the potential to make a run deep into the tournament. However, so do their first round opponents. Virginia will have a difficult time checking Gonzaga’s Casey Calvary. The Zags’ Dan Dickau will hold Hand down and the little team from the Northwest will move on.

4 Oklahoma v. 13 Indiana State
The champions of the Big 12 Tourney get to face the champions of the Missouri Valley. Indiana State probably deserves a higher seed. They’ll give the Sooners all they can handle but OU’s Nolan Johnson will prove to be too much for Kelyn Block and the Sycamores. OU wins.

6 Texas v. 11 Temple
Viewers will need to prepare for this game by watching this year’s Super Bowl Champions, the Baltimore Ravens. This one is going to be all about defense! It will be low scoring but Texas’ Darren Kelly and Maurice Evans will provide enough firepower from the perimeter to beat the Temple zone. Longhorns will advance.

3 Florida v. 14 Western Kentucky
The Hilltoppers come into this game on a roll. They’re hoping that they can do what Butler did last year to the Gators in the first round, knowing that Mike Miller is not there to save the day. Florida has too many weapons and WKU won’t slow the pace like Butler did last year. Florida rolls.

7 Penn State v. 10 Providence
Here’s another match-up between big-time conferences. The Nittany Lions have had a roller coaster ride this season. That can be expected of a team that relies so much on perimeter play. Providence’s John Linehan is an excellent defender on the perimeter and should give Penn State fits. Providence is a little more balanced and should walk away from this battle with a victory.

2 North Carolina v. 15 Princeton
Princeton has a long history of upsets and near-upsets in the Big Dance. But alas, this is not your father’s Princeton Tigers. Unfortunately for Tigers head coach, John Thompson III, it’s not his father’s Georgetown teams either. Carolina will be looking to show the world they’re not as bad as they looked against Duke in the ACC Final. Carolina will definitely make the Tigers blue.

Round two:

1 Michigan State v. 8 California
By this time, Tom Izzo will have his Spartans smelling blood. That’s spells trouble for Ben Braun’s Bears. This one will be close in the first half but look for MSU’s bench to wear down the Bears in the second half. Michigan State moves into the Sweet 16.

4 Oklahoma v. 12 Gonzaga
Gonzaga gets to this point via a major upset of a good Virginia team. Oklahoma is physically tougher, stronger and taller than Virginia. But this is where the Sooners find out how much they miss J.R. Raymond (dismissed from the team in February). Dickau and Stepp open things from the perimeter for Calvary inside. Gonzaga will make its third straight appearance in the Sweet 16. Do people believe now?

3 Florida v. 6 Texas
If the Longhorns have a weakness, it’s definitely ballhandling. They take care of the basketball pretty well in a half court setting but when Florida forces the tempo into high gear the Longhorns will be in trouble. Don’t miss the match-up between Florida’s Teddy Dupay and Texas back-up point guard Freddie Williams. It is the battle between the two biggest little pests in the game. The advantage goes to Dupay and the Gators get the victory.

2 North Carolina v. 10 Providence
Can Providence’s balance and excellent defense be enough to stop the Tar Heels? Probably not. You see, this is the round where Joseph Forte and Julius Peppers will step up their games. Forte goes off for some big numbers and Peppers controls the boards as Carolina advances.

Sweet 16:

1 Michigan State v. 12 Gonzaga
Can Gonzaga get by the mighty Spartans and move on to the Elite 8? No. Tom Izzo doesn’t believe in fairy tales and will show no mercy on everyone’s favorite Cinderella team. Charlie Bell will slow down Dickau, Calvary will have problems containing Randolph and the Zags don’t have anyone that can match-up with Jason Richardson. The Spartans’ mission to repeat moves on to the Elite 8.

2 North Carolina v. 3 Florida
This will be a great game. The Tar Heels have the inside strength but their Achilles heel is the turnover bug. That’s not a good thing when you’re playing the pressing Gators. The Gators are hungry for a rematch of last year’s Title Game. Billy Donovan will get the better of Matt Doherty on this day, in what could be a preview of same great battles between the two in the future.

Elite 8:

1 Michigan State v. 3 Florida
Everyone remembers last year’s Championship Game between these two. Many people forget that they met earlier this season. In that game, Michigan State won by a huge margin. But that game was in East Lansing and the Gators are much better. It won’t matter. Michigan State’s ability to play fast and slow will give them the edge over the Gators. Tom Izzo’s defense will make it difficult for Dupay and Nelson to get good looks at the basket. The Spartans are the team that makes the return trip to the Final Four.