Look out for Louisville (cont.)
Posted: Monday March 24, 2008 12:25PM; Updated: Monday March 24, 2008 1:54PM
Confidence-level: Shaky. A truly dominant No. 1 seed doesn't let Mississippi State take it to the wire. Derrick Rose was sensational (17 points, nine rebounds, seven assists), but Memphis' biggest rub, its free-throw shooting, is exactly what allowed the Bulldogs to mount a comeback. The Tigers made just 15 of 32 attempts, with last-second misses by Rose and Chris Douglas-Roberts opening the door for Jamont Gordon's game-tying three-point attempt at the buzzer.
Remaining draw: Tough. Texas came awfully close itself to landing a No. 1 seed, and the 'Horns played like it most of the weekend before nearly allowing Miami to erase a 16-point deficit in the final 4:15 on Sunday. Stanford showed tremendous poise in fending off Marquette with ejected coach Trent Johnson in the locker room, and Michigan State coach Tom Izzo has won his last five Sweet 16 games.
Biggest threat: Texas. The 'Horns are one of the few teams in the tournament that possess a point guard, D.J. Augustin, who can hold his own against Memphis' Rose. They're also far more battle-tested than the Tigers, having beaten three remaining tourney teams, UCLA, Tennessee and Kansas. They'll have their hands full with Stanford, however, before they can get a crack at Memphis.
Confidence-level: Holding steady. The Bruins' 53-49 second-round escape against Texas A&M would be more troubling if not for the fact UCLA has had at least one similar game each of the past two years and reached the Final Four both times. If anything, the game may serve as a confidence-builder for stars Kevin Love and Darren Collison, who scored 40 of their team's 53 points and showed yet again they can take over a game down the stretch.
Remaining draw: Light. The West was already considered the easiest draw coming into the tournament and now the No. 2 (Duke), No. 4 (Connecticut) and No. 5 seeds (Drake) are gone. Xavier remains dangerous due to its senior leadership and balanced scoring but has struggled against defensive-oriented teams like the Bruins. West Virginia certainly proved its worth against Arizona and Duke but will go only as far as its star, Joe Alexander, takes it.
Biggest threat: West Virginia. Xavier is the better team, but the Mountaineers would be the tougher matchup. They're more comfortable in the type of half-court game that UCLA prefers and Alexander is the same kind of versatile forward as Love. Plus, after hearing an interview Bob Huggins did with Steve Lavin, I got the feeling he's still miffed about his 2002 tourney loss to Lavin's Bruins when his Cincinnati team was a No. 1 seed.
The revised picks: UCLA, Kansas, Louisville and Texas
At the start of the tournament, they were North Carolina, UCLA, Memphis and (ahem) USC. I've seen no reason to change my opinion about the Bruins, and there's no logical reason to pick against Kansas at this point.
I'm changing my tune on the Tar Heels, due in part to the fact that it's now evident the Tar Heels spent much of the season playing in a highly mediocre ACC. But I'm changing my tune more so because of just how well Louisville has been playing since the beginning of February (11-2). The Cards are the new pick in the East, with Texas taking down Memphis in the South.
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