by Thomas Conroy Contributor Written on March 15, 2010
Bracketology became reality when the NCAA tournament field was unveiled. So let the commentators over-analyzed and tell us how poor the at-large field is in this year’s tournament. Hold on; don’t think it will be a cake walk to winning your office pool. The uncertainty on how well some teams will play could make your decisions regretful. Hey, it’s not easy to handicap the NCAA tournament.
Let’s take a look at some contenders that could be playing in Indianapolis at the Final Four:
West Virginia Mountaineers
It was a very emotional week for the Mountaineers at the Big East tournament, as senior De’Sean Butler hit a couple game-winning shots on their way to the school’s first conference tournament championship. Their starting lineup is comprised of players from the New York City area, and they all have the mindset of doing whatever it takes to win. Head coach Bob Huggins cannot allow his team to get into a fast-paced contest with another school, as West Virginia has difficulty in their transition game. The Mountaineers have received too many non-productive nights from their subs; their bench has only averaged 13.9 points and 8.4 rebounds this season.
Head coach John Calipari wanted his talented freshman class (DeMarcus Cousins, John Wall, and Eric Bledsoe) to learn how to win in a tournament atmosphere at the SEC championship last weekend in preparation for the NCAA tourney. He continually lectures his young, inexperienced team that they cannot allow their opponents to play harder or tougher on the court. To win a national championship, you must have the ability to keep a good team down by playing good defense and forcing turnovers. No other team in the tournament can extend a lead with their defense and fast-break points like Kentucky. The only question for them is: Are they prepared for the challenge ahead of them?
It’s a nice story, as it has been 60 years since the Bears last recorded a tournament victory. They must be patient in running their offense and cannot allow their opponents to get off to a good starts offensively. Senior leadership must come from PG Tweety Carter to keep instilling to play as one, as they’re playing for their tournament life each night. The shot-blocking ability of C Ekpe Udoh must limit the amount of interior scoring coming from their opponents. And hope is that the shooting stroke of G LaceDarius Dunn is on target from beyond the three-point arc.
Prior to the last Saturday of the regular season, the Orange was the best team in the nation. Then they lost to Louisville in their last game at Freedom Hall and followed that with a quarterfinal lost to Georgetown in the Big East tournament. But their biggest lost could be C Arinze Onuaku, who went down with a quad injury against the Hoyas and isn’t expected to play until the second round of the NCAA tournament. Still Syracuse’s zone defense will be difficult for any team trying to penetrate it for the first time. Head coach Jim Boeheim needs F Wesley Johnson to return to playing at a high level in order for his Orange to be once again a difficult team to beat.