Brighton and Medford MA-
IT'S THE MOST WONDERFUL TIME OF THE YEAR! You know the Christmas tune and commercial that this is playing in your mind every year at this time! Well it is time to start the Madness as our College man Evan Levine will examine the top players, teams, sleepers and winners in each region and the old warhorse-me, will also give you my picks. Enjoy:
Players to Watch
1. Ty Lawson - North Carolina - The Tar heels are one of the deepest teams in the tournament and it seems on any given night someone can step up and be the star for the Tar heels. Contrary to what you believe the spark plug for this bunch is freshman point guard Ty Lawson. For a team with as many scorers as North Carolina has Lawson is the one who distributes the ball averaging over five assists per game. As the season has come along he has become their leader on the court and as he goes it seems the rest of the team follows. This is a team with Final Four potential and Ty Lawson will be the reason if they get to Atlanta.
2. Roy Hibbert - The Hoyas are known for having great centers, Patrick Ewing, Alonzo Mourning and Dikembe Mutombo all have jerseys that hang high in MCI Center. Now Roy Hibbert is trying to become the next great center and a way to get your jersey hung up is to win a national championship. Hibbert is a huge force in the middle averaging just under three blocks a game. There are extremely high expectations for Hibbert who at 7-2 has to be more of a presence on the offensive side of the ball as he averaged 12 points a game on the season. When it comes to the tournament he will need to have game where he is able to put up 20 points and I expect him to do so.
George Washington - The Colonials ran through the Atlantic 10 tournament defeating Rhode Island in the championship game to bring them back to March Madness for the second year in a row. At the moment they are playing excellent basketball and have one of the best guard combinations in the country with Maureece Rice and Carl Elliot. These two have been playing exceptional basketball combining for 30 of the Colonials 70 points a game. For George Washington they have a perfect match up against Vanderbilt a team who likes to push the ball and go on the fast break and that will work in the Colonials favor as they always want the ball to be in their guard's hands. This is the same team who was here last year and advanced to the second round so you can expect GW to advance to the second round and possibly further.
Georgetown - In my opinion there are four teams who could win this bracket, but with no disrespect to North Carolina, Washington State and Texas none of them have been as consistent as the Hoyas. Georgetown has won 15 of its last 16 games and that loss came to Syracuse at the Carrier Dome a game where the fans ran on to the court. There is no better defensive team in the country then Georgetown and that was demonstrated in the Big East Finals against the Pittsburgh Panthers who only scored 42 points. On the offensive end Jeff Green has become a star and has really grown as the season has come along becoming the leader of the Hoyas. As everyone knows those Hoyas have a great inside game but their outside game has improved as well Jonathan Wallace and Jessie Sapp has both become legitimate outside threats. The way I see it the Hoyas will be playing in Atlanta for the Final Four.
Players to Watch
1. Chris Lofton - Tennessee - One of the best scorers and shooters in the game Chris Lofton has the ability to put his team on his back against any team. He averages 20 points a game and if he shot more could probably average 30 a game. The Volunteers were sluggish without him going 3-5 and as soon as he came back were able to play great basketball averaging 25 points per game in victories over Arkansas, Kentucky and Florida all SEC teams who are in the tournament. The Volunteers will go as far as Lofton takes them and that should not be a problem as he wants the ball in his hands when the game is on the line.
2. Nick Fazekas - Nevada - With the exception being Kevin Durant, their might have not have been a player more dominant this season than the Wolf packs Nick Fazekas. He is an automatic double double averaging 20 points and 11 rebounds on the season. He is the leader of a team who has made it to the tournament before but has never played a major role. For Fazekas this is his last opportunity to make a statement in March as he will graduate and be a lottery pick this upcoming summer. Everyone knows he is a dominant player, but in sports winning is what counts and for Nevada to make a deep run Fazekas will be the man who takes them there.
Long Beach State - When it comes to all the number 12 seeds the 49ers are the scariest of all for the ability to score baskets. This is a team who averages 80 points a game and love to push the ball and shoot from the outside. They have Aaron Nixon who was Big West player of the year averaging 18 points a game as he has the ability to hit the big shot from any where on the court. The 49ers also have won six games in a row and have plenty of momentum going into the tournament. They draw Tennessee who is a perfect match up for them as both teams play the same type of game which lacks defense and promotes scoring to the highest extent. I look for the 49ers to make a strong run in the tournament and make it to the sweet 16.
Texas A&M - When looking at the tournament this is the toughest bracket with teams such as Memphis, Ohio State, Nevada, Louisville and Virginia who I all see as teams who can make the Final Four run. None of these teams have the best leader in the game Acie Law IV. Law is an All American who has taken big shot after big shot all season and is the best leader in the country. What I love about the Aggies is that not one team has blown them out all season their biggest defeat of the season was 12 points to LSU in December. They have proven they can beat the best teams in the country such as Texas and Kansas and have the heart of a champion playing multiple overtime games this season. Joseph Jones and Antanas Kavaliauskas have given the Aggies the inside presence they need to be a strong force to complement Law and shooting guard Josh Carter. Yes, the South Region is tough that's what I like the team with most experience the Aggies to make it to Atlanta.
RJM Picks: East-UNC, Marquette, USC, Texas, Vandy, Oral Roberts, BC, and Georgetown.
Quarters: UNC, Texas, BC and Vandy.
Semi's: UNC and BC
South-OSU, LBSU, UVA, Louisville, Texas A&M, Nevada and Memphis.
Quarters-OSU, UVA, Texas A&M and Nevada,
Semi's- UVA and Texas A&M.
Winner: Texas A&M
For the rest: