Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Sweet 16 Match-ups Part One: The Battle of the Tigers

So as I sit and twiddle my thumbs in the doldrums that make up the days that pass by between each round of March Madness, I can't help but think about some of the match-ups on display in this year's Sweet Sixteen. We will see a match-up of run-and-gun teams, a display of recent and historical powerhouses, legendary coaches, and special players.

By far the most exciting match-up to watch should be the game between Memphis and Missouri. When the seedings came out, and I saw that the Mizzou Tigers were a three seed, I was stunned. I had been keeping an eye on them all year. I saw them beat Kansas and Oklahoma at home, but I also saw them get flattened by the very same Jayhawks a month later. Nonetheless, they have come out of the gate ready to play and have not disappointed. As for Memphis, I was surprised that they were not given a number one seed, though my guess is that the commitee decided UConn's strength of schedule gave them a better argument than Memphis' in-conference wins. This game will feature two teams that utilize the "40 minutes of hell" tempo on both sides of the ball, so we should see scores in at least the high 70's. Ultimately the keys will be these to determine the winner:
  1. Can Missouri keep up with Memphis in the first half?
  2. Can either team's full-court trap defense be succesful?
  3. Can Memphis hold off Missouri's strong second-half surges?
If Missouri can keep up with Memphis in terms of first-half scoring, you have to like Missouri's chances. Mizzou's main trouble has been their first-half of basketball games, and it is usually where they dig themselves into a hole. Key number two is important because both teams have full-court defenses that thrive off of traps and forcing turnovers, and if one team's defense is more succesful than the other team's, look out. The third key is important assuming Memphis does not go into halftime up by 20 points. Missouri on the season has averaged close to 60 points in the second-half of their games. Coach John Calipari will make sure his Memphis team is aware of that heading into the game, and will surely remind them of it at halftime. If Memphis gets a little too lackadaisical in the second-half, thinking that their lead is secure, then they will blink and will not make the Elite Eight.

Ultimately, I think Memphis will win this game. This is no knock on the lovable Missouri Tigers, but I do not think that they have a defensive answer for freshman phenom Tyreke Evans, or for Memphis' staggering depth in the front-court. Missouri has two main scoring outlets in Demarre Carroll and Leo Lyons, both of whom have played very well all year, but unless they get help from everyone else, I don't think Mizzou will pull out a win. I think Missouri will make it more of an entertaining game than most people think it will be, but barring any Memphis meltdowns, Missouri will be heading home after Thursday's game.

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