SS Presents . . .
In my first blog for S.I.F.S., I take a journey where nobody has ever journeyed before....
Yes, I decided to be relatively...pedestrian...with my first blog, not venturing outside the realm of what is occuring in the sports world right now.
The West Region provided the excitement, controversy, and pure basketball that embodies this tournament, with the Texas A&M "no call" against UCLA, West Virginia shocking Duke, and the stunners in Tampa Bay. This region provided some of the most exciting basketball of the first weekend, and that should no doubt continue.
Texas A&M UCLA vs. Western Kentucky
This game has all the makings of a major blowout. Western Kentucky has not really beaten any teams with the caliber of players that UCLA has. Drake did not possess that physical post prescence that Kevin Love is. San Diego had good guard play, but they didn't have a Love-type player either. Western Kentucky has some depth on their bench when it comes to guarding Love, with 5 players over 6'8", but the one who plays the most, Jeremy Evans, is 190 pounds, which looks like a stick when he's being posted up by Love. If Western Kentucky is to have any shot at beating UCLA, they absolutely need to have a great game from their guards. Tyrone Brazelton has shown that he can put this team on his shoulders and lead them to victory, but he will need to shut down Darren Collison, which is no easy feat.
Prediction: UCLA- The Bruins win this game 72-65. They don't win pretty, but do they ever? They let the game play out sort of like the Texas A&M game, with the WKU guards controlling the game until about halfway through the second half, when UCLA starts to pound the ball down low to Love, drawing fouls and helping UCLA to pull away down the stretch.
Xavier vs. West Virginia
This game looks very good on paper, but then again so does every tournament game. The Musketeers have very good depth, with seven differen players who can score. Drew Lavender is definitely one of the better point guards in the country, and Josh Duncan has come on strong during the tourney. On the Mountaineer side of the ball, they aren't as deep, but their starting five is just as good. Joe Alexander has become one of the top players in the country, and has been one of the most outstanding players in this tournament. If West Virginia is to win this game, they need to control the guard play of Xavier, while making sure that Alexander is able to do his thing. Xavier needs to eliminate Alexander by get ting him in foul trouble and playing good defense on him. If Xavier can take Alexander out, the lack of depth that the Mounatineers have will come back to bite them.
Prediction: Xavier - Xavier wins 79-65. The Musketeers come out hot from the get-go, Duncan is dominant and Lavender shoots 4-4 from 3 in the first half. In the second half, the Mountaineers begin to inch closer, but the lead that Xavier had gotten out to in the first half stays strong, and as Alexander gets into foul trouble late in the game, the Musketeers begin to pull away.
UCLA vs. Xavier - The same as it was in the WKU-UCLA game, UCLA needs to pound the ball inside if they want to win this game, while Xavier needs their guards to play on a high level, like they have in the tournament so far, and they can't get behind in this game. If Xavier gets down by a considerable margin, it's game over. Even though Xavier has already overcome deficits to win, they can't count on that when they face UCLA.
Prediction: UCLA - The Bruins win 57-50 in a well played defensive gem. The Musketeers hold down Westbrook and Collison, but they can't stop Love, who turns in a spectacular game, hitting the key shots down the stretch to pull away from the Musketeers.
The East is the only region where all four of the top four seeds advanced, and none of them had easy paths, except UNC and Louisville. Tennessee had to beat probably the most underseeded team in the tournament in Butler, and Washington State had to get by a tough Notre Dame team.
North Carolina vs. Washington State - This is a prototype matchup of defense vs. offense. Washington State boasts the second best scoring defense in the country, while North Carolina has the second best scoring offense in the country. It's fairly simple as to what each team needs to do to win. Both teams need to control the pace of the game, if Wazzou gets into a fast-paced game, then they have no shot, but if UNC gets into a slow-down game, Wazzou takes the advantage.
Prediction: North Carolina - North Carolina wins 74-58. The Tar Heels are able to get the game into a fast paced game, and the Cougars can't run with the Heels. Tyler Hansbrough dominates in the low post, and the inside-out game of UNC completely destroys Washington State's defense.
Tennessee vs. Louisville - This game should be a fast-paced shootout between these teams. Tennessee can't win unless Chris Lofton steps up, something that he hasn't done yet this tourney. The Cardinals have a decided advantage in the post with David Padgett, and have a good inside-out game that they need to exploit to defeat the Volunteers. The Vols need to get good penetration from the guards and they need to control the post with Wayne Chism and Tyler Smith.
Prediction: Louisville - Louisville wins 78-70. The Cardinals are able to run the floor well enough to keep up with the quick guards of Tennessee, and Chris Lofton doesn't break out of his slump, allowing Louisville to key on JaJuan Smith, shutting down the guards for Tennesssee, while playing a very good offensive game, with Padgett dominating down low.
North Carolina vs. Louisville - In this matchup, the Cardinals cannot let Tyler Hansbrough dominate in the paint. They just can't do it. They need that 2-3 zone to be effective and can't let North Carolina just cut and slash through it. North Carolina can't be affected by the Louisville pressure and get out of sync, losing focus and giving up large amounts of turnovers. This game will be won and lost in the post, as both teams have very good guards who can penetrate and create.
Prediction: North Carolina - The best team in the country proves why they deserve that honor, winning a very tight game 85-83 in OT. Padgett is able to slow down Hansbrough until late in the game, and North Carolina's guards take over the game in overtime, propelling the Tar Heels to the close victory.
The Midwest Regional has had two of the most prominent Cinderella stories of this year's tournament in Davidson and Villanova. The two top seeds left in Wisconsin and Kansas are each still very good teams, hoping to shake their repuatations as chokers in the tournament.
Kansas vs. Villanova - The Wildcats have been led to this point bey excellent guard play, while the Jayhawks have shown their incredibly good depth. The Wildcats need to control the post in this game, much like many of the other teams in the Sweet 16, but Dante Cunningham and the other post players need to have the game of their life, not letting Darrell Arthur and Sasha Kaun dominate down low, which is the key for Kansas. They need to control the paint.
Prediction: Kansas - The Wildcats' Cinderella run comes to an end as the Jayhawks win handily, 77-64. Kaun and Arthur do what they needed to to win the game, embarrassing the Villanova team down low, and Brandon Rush is able to control the guard play, leaving Kansas in complete control of the game from start to finish.
Wisconsin vs. Davidson - Everybody's favorite (or least favorite, depending on how far you had Georgetown going) Cinderella team has to face one of the best defensive teams in the country, with the matchup to watch being Stephen Curry vs. Michael Flowers. The Badgers cannot let Curry control the game, or they will end up like Georgetown, instead, they need to get Stiemsma and Butch involved in the block, where Davidson is very thin. Davidson can't get into foul trouble with Lovedale, or they will have serious issues handling the Wisconsin big men.
Prediction: Wisconsin - In a close victory where the magic runs out when the clock strikes 0.0, the Badgers win 76-75 after Curry hits a supposed three to tie the game, when replay shows his foot was on the line, and the Badgers win the game. The Badgers dominate the first half, but Curry comes out on fire in the second half, socring 32 in the second half, but coming up short in the end, while the Wisconsin big men dominate in the post, causing foul trouble for the Wildcats.
Kansas vs. Wisconsin - This is a great matchup. Kansas is very deep, and Wisconsin plays great defense, and this will be won in the post. Both teams have great post players, and the guards are very equal. Rush needs to control the game up top and Arthur down low, while on the Wisconsin side, Butch and Stiemsma need to control the post and Trevon Hughes needs to shut down Rush for the Badgers to have a shot.
Prediction: Wisconsin - In probably the biggest shocker of the weekend, the Badgers win 75-70. Wisconsin completely dominates the post, getting Arthur and Kaun in foul trouble, while Flowers, Hughes, and Bohannon
control the perimeter, knocking down threes while controlling the clock.
The South boasts the only 5 seed to survive the first weekend, as well as the two of the best guards in the tournament with Derrick Rose and D.J. Augustin. Brook and Robin Lopez provide the best big man pair in the tournament, and Drew Neitzel may be the most clutch player in the regional.
Memphis vs. Michigan State - The Spartans have to do one thing well in this game to win. They have to control Memphis's guards. Raymar Morgan, Drew Neitzel, and Kalin Lucas can't let Rose, Douglas-Roberts, and Antonio Anderson control the game, and vice versa. Simply put, the best guards will win the game.
Prediction: Memphis - The Tigers have the better guards, and prevail 76-60. The Tigers play an up-tempo game, and they don't let the Spartans catch up, and not letting Neitzel hit from distance. The free-throw shooting doesn't become a key aspect in the outcome of the game, and the Tigers just completely dominate all aspects of this game.
Texas vs. Stanford - Both teams have opposite goals in this game. Texas can't let the Lopezes control the inside game, and the Cardinal can't let the Texas guards penetrate and create. Stanford showed a weakness towards that in their last game against Marquette, so the Longhorns should be able to exploit that, while Texas has had a weakness in the post, so the Cardinal should exploit that.
Prediction: Texas - In a game where both of the weaknesses are exploited, the Longhorns do a better job, and win the game 78-70. Brook and Robin play a very good game, but the guard play of Stanford is sub-par, and Texas plays well enough down low to overcome Stanford.
Memphis vs. Texas - This is a battle of exceptional guards, with Rose vs. Augustin and Douglas-Roberts vs. Abrams. Joey Dorsey, Robert Dozier, and Connor Atchley become pivotal for their respective teams, and the low post will determine the winner of these teams who like to run.
Prediction: Texas - Texas wins 75-70. The Longhorns guards play even to the Tigers' and the low post guys beat each other up, but the added dimension of bringing Atchley to the perimeter to drag Dorsey away from the basket allows Augustin to control the entire floor, and when the game comes down to free throws, Memphis can't convert, but Texas can, lifting them to victory.
North Carolina Tar Heels
He was a little bit off but anyways - snaps for SS!
Okay, whatever, anyways . . .
Your Leader Presents . . .
Normally, we see sports as entertainment. Rarely do we look to them as part of a healing process. In reality, there are many cases where that is the situation. Sports, whether you're watching them or playing them, can help to deal with the most painful of times.
North Carolina and Duke, considered by many to be the best NCAA Basketball rivalry. Best friends will stop talking, neighbors will spray paint the opposing logo on lawns, and, of course, there is the trash talk. However, this past year, it meant so much more. Just days before the big game, North Carolina student body president, Eve Carson, was murdered. Any such tragedy is just that, tragic. There is no way to completely overcome something like that.
North Carolina and Duke are only seperated by five miles, so this not only affected North Carolina students, but Duke students and the communities around both schools as well. People now had to be more careful when they went places. They were thrown into a state of fear and needed something to turn to that could take their minds off of their pain and worries. What better way to do that, then to play the greatest rivalry in NCAA Basketball?
The game was held on Duke's homecourt, Cameron Indoor Stadium. We all know about the famed Cameron Crazies, but they, along with everyone else in that building, held a moment of silence in remembrance of Eve Carson. Bitter enemies to the end, everyone in that building knew how important that long moment was for the healing process of the entire community. The game was then played. Normally fueled by hate and pride, that night, for North Carolina, was fueled by student body president Eve Carson. North Carolina ended up winning the game but much more important then that, they helped the fans and students to take their minds off of a terrible tragedy.
I don't know about you, but even the mention of the date, September 11, 2001, brings pain to my heart. Sitting in my seventh grade math class and watching those planes crash into the World Trade Center buildings was the most gut wrenching experience I've ever had. Nothing I've experienced has even compared to how I felt that day. I'm sure that most of you feel the same way about this. Most of you can remember where you were when it happened. This is not easy to write about and looking at the images of baseball's return, causes tears to well up in my eyes.
September 17, 2001 - Baseball returns.
After taking a week off, baseball makes a return. People were packed into the ball parks and were cheering their teams on with more passion then they had before. Ceremonies honoring our fallen heroes were held in every ballpark in the country. People cried, even our sometimes Godlike athlets showed their emotions. Everyone was affected by that black day in American history and needed somewhere to turn to for comfort. What is a better option then America's Pastime?
The American public needed a way to take our minds off of the blackest day in our history. There had never been an attack that brought us to our knees and made us feel this hopeless. An attack on the civilians of a country is inexcusable and we all knew it and had that empty feeling in our stomach. Baseball was really the only way for us to block out our worries and fears, if only for a few hours. The parks were packed with people and the players all knew how important it was for them to show class and give the people what they wanted, just a normal baseball game. No feuds, no revenge tactics, and nothing to degrade the great game.
The Yankees and Mets both were playing away series at the time of baseball's return, but when they came back, it was the same as with other parks. There was not a spare seat to be found. These two teams were the biggest part of this healing process. New Yorkers were affected more then the rest of the country. Other people around the country were obviously affected and lost loved ones, but the epicenter was in New York. I'm sure that many people in Yankee and Shea stadium had lost loved ones and needed to be in those buildings to take their minds off of their horrible loss. America's Pastime was a huge part of the healing process of a country.
Snaps for Your Leader ! . . . uh . . . okay, dumb idea.
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