Tuesday, March 18, 2014
2014 March Madness - South Region (First Weekend)
The Lumberjacks of Stephen F. Austin have the longest winning streak of any team in the NCAA Tournament, having won 28 games in a row. VCU has gone from the Cinderella to being a five seed in back to back years in the NCAA Tournament and now trying to fend off Cinderellas. The Lumberjacks win streak is impressive but some would argue that the level of competition they have played has a lot to do with their success. That could be the case but going 18-0 in your conference and then winning the conference tournament is nothing to sneeze at. The Lumberjacks are very good offensively, ranking 45th in the country in points per game, and feature a balanced offensive attack. Guard Desmond Haymon and forward Jacob Parker each average over 14 points per game, while guards Thomas Walkup and Deshaunt Walker each average 12 points per game. One major area of weakness for the Lumberjacks is their lack of size and rebounding. While they are one of the worst ranked rebounding teams in the nation, VCU thrives on attacking the glass. The Rams all everything player is guard Treveon Graham who averages 15 points, 7 boards, and 2 assists per game. Forward Juvonte Reddic provides the Rams with a defensive toughness and presence, especially allowing the Rams to unleash their "Havoc" press. The intrigue in this game will be seeing how the Lumberjacks play against some top flight competition. For them to win they will have to find a way to not allow the Rams press to take over their offensive efforts. If they start having trouble hitting shots, they don't have the size to rebound, and this game could get away from them quickly. But if their speedy guards can force the issue and get the Rams off balance on defense, then the Lumberjacks winning ways should continue.
Player to Watch: Syracuse guard Tyler Ennis
Freshman guard Tyler Ennis was the biggest reason why the Orange got off to a 25-0 start. While Syracuse faltered down the stretch, Ennis remains one of the most exciting guards in college basketball. What is most impressive about the freshman is his decision making ability. He averaged over 5 assists per game and just 1.7 turnovers. He has great court awareness and the ability to find the open man at a level you won't often find with a freshman. Ohio State guard Aaron Craft might be the better known player, but the most exciting player in the South region is definitely Ennis.
Best Potential Game: #3 Syracuse vs. #6 Ohio State
An ACC/Big Ten battle between the Orange and Buckeyes would be a hell of a game in the Third Round. Each team started off their seasons very hot, with the Orange being 25-0 before losing a game, and the Buckeyes starting 15-0 before a loss. Both teams slid a bit as the season wore on, but they are still teams capable of making deep runs in the tournament. Craft vs. Ennis alone would make this game a must watch. Throw in each team's leading scorers, the Orange's senior forward C.J. Fair and the Buckeyes junior forward LaQuinton Ross and you have some excellent matchups in personnel. This game would likely be a back and forth battle, decided in the final few moments.
Lowest Seed to Make It Through the Weekend: #6 Ohio State
The Buckeyes haven't played their best basketball as of late, but I think games against Dayton and then potentially Syracuse would line up well for Ohio State. Craft is one of those players that I believe will close out his career in style in the NCAA Tournament, and that means getting the Buckeyes to the second weekend of the tournament.
#16 Mt. St. Mary's over #16 Albany
#1 Florida over #16 Mt. St. Mary's
#9 Pittsburgh over #8 Colorado
#12 Stephen F. Austin over #5 VCU
#4 UCLA over #13 Tulsa
#6 Ohio State over #11 Dayton
#3 Syracuse over #14 Western Michigan
#7 New Mexico over #10 Stanford
#2 Kansas over #15 Eastern Kentucky
#1 Florida over #9 Pittsburgh
#4 UCLA over #12 Stephen F. Austin
#6 Ohio State over #3 Syracuse
#2 Kansas over #7 New Mexico