Get inside March Madness with SI.com's Luke Winn in the Tourney Blog, a daily journal of college basketball commentary, on-site reporting and reader-driven discussions.
3/30/2008 12:14:00 AM
Day 19: An All-Chalk Final Four?
HOUSTON -- The blog went two-for-two in its Saturday Elite Eight picks ... without going out on a limb. Our number-cruncher at Vegas Watch says there's now a 48 percent chance that all No. 1 seeds will be headed to San Antonio, and our breakdowns below side with the other 52 percent ...
South Regional Final: No. 1 Memphis vs. No. 2 Texas
What you should care about:
• As tough as Memphis' non-conference schedule was this season -- with Oklahoma, UConn, USC, Georgetown, Gonzaga and Tennessee -- the Tigers have not faced a point guard like D.J. Augustin. His superb decision-making skills in the 'Horns' spread-out offense are the reason they have the lowest turnover percentage (14.2) of any team in the nation. As Memphis coach John Calipari said of Augustin on Saturday, "The ball is part of him and his hand. You're not taking the ball from him."
Our assistant coach's scouting report on Memphis (from Wednesday) discussed how much the Tigers are steal-obsessed: "They want the ball back so bad that they try to make steals [late in the shot clock] and get out of position. They feel like they can afford to gamble because they have shot blockers behind them. If you drive the ball, the key is to come to a jump stop, pump-fake, and if nothing is available, kick the ball back out and start over again." Augustin is sure-handed enough not to turn it over -- and savvy enough to make the right decisions in the paint. In his post-Katrina hometown of Houston, he should make the difference.
• Calipari would really like you to care about the crowd in Houston, which is heavily tinted with burnt orange. In his press conference after beating Michigan State, he said, "I'd just as soon play [Sunday's game] in Austin. Maybe if they give us a few thousand seats, maybe we can move the game there." Outside the Tigers' locker room, Calipari kept pounding home the we-may-be-a-No. 1-seed-but-we're-not-the-favorite angle by saying, "The pressure has shifted to [Texas] now. They're playing a home game." But as much as Reliant Stadium's crowd will be dominated by the UT contingent, I don't think the fans will have too big of an impact. The stands are sloped so gradually away from the raised court, rather than stacked on top if it like they would be in a normal college arena, and the ceiling is about 1,000 feet high. I was sitting in the second row and the noise never even came close to a deafening level on Friday. And as Tigers guard Chris Douglas-Roberts said, "It's not like the fans are out there making threes." Memphis won't get overwhelmed by the crowd, and will keep this one close.
The pick: Texas 81, Memphis 79. There has to be one non-No. 1 seed in the Final Four, right?
Midwest Regional Final: No. 1 Kansas vs. No. 10 Davidson
What you should care about:
• What Stephen Curry did to Wisconsin's Michael Flowers on Friday night -- scoring 33 points, including 22 in the second half while the Badgers had only 21 -- was the Son of Dell's most stunning performance of the tournament thus far. Even LeBron James, who asked Davidson for tickets and sat behind the team bench, was amazed, telling the Chicago Sun-Times, "[Curry]'s a very, very, very, very, very good basketball player. I don't know if he's coming out in the [NBA] draft this year. When he does, he has a spot.'' Friday's explosion proved, pretty much, that Curry can't be contained by one defender alone. It takes an entire corps of guards to keep Curry from getting open looks in transition. Good thing Kansas goes five deep in the backcourt.
• Wildcats point guard Jason Richards has been having a transcendent tournament as well, with an assist-to-turnover ratio of 6.8-to-1 and a 13-assist, zero-turnover game against Wisconsin on Friday. He's the guy who sets up most of Curry's threes, and how well he handles the harassment of KU's Mario Chalmers and Russell Robinson -- perhaps the best quick-hands duo in the country -- will probably decide the game. As Robinson said on Saturday, "Richards runs the team. He gets a lot of assists. So you take him out, then half the job on Curry is done."
The pick: Kansas 74, Davidson 69. Curry gets 20 in a hurry ... but the Jayhawks get a few too many transition buckets to let the mega-upset become a reality.
• Tourney Blog Pool update:Our 5,490-bracket competition on Facebook is heated heading into the final day of the Elite Eight. John Cramer of the U.S. District Courts network (on Facebook) is alone in the lead with 96 points, all of his Final Four teams alive, and North Carolina beating Texas in the title game. After that, our top Kansas bracket belongs to Greg Small of Baltimore (who's in second with 95 points), our top Memphis bracket belongs to David Jordan of UCF (in third with 94 points), our top Texas bracket belongs to Jeremy Loomis-Norris (also in third) and our top UCLA bracket belongs to Adam Hill, an alum of Indiana.
As for your blogger, I managed to drop from 160th on Saturday morning to 1,208th on Sunday morning. Not picking Carolina in my original Four Four: not smart.
• The Tourney Blog Playlist, curated by the folks at Dallas-based music blog Gorilla vs. Bear, rolls on, in hopes of loading up your iPod with free mp3s over the course of the NCAA tournament. Day 19's track is Amanaz's Khala My Friend, a track from a limited re-issue of what the Gorilla folks call "'70s Zambian hard-psych." It's an ultra-mellow jam that we highly recommend, with one warning: it will definitely not get you pumped up for a basketball game.
How many more years is the agreement between the ACC and the NCAA good for? You know, the deal where the ACC Champion doesn't have to leave North Carolina until the Final Four weekend except under extreme circumstances. Would the Tarheels resurgence of the past few years have even taken place if they had to travel like everybody else? NOBODY gets to stay in their home area like whoever represents the ACC that year.
I am sooo disappointed, Luke! You know Memphis has the better chance of winning, but the fact that there will be four #1's caused you to pick Texas. WIth that said, seeing you pick Texas gives me confidence that Memphis will win.
steve first off unc is a number one overall seed, they deserve the instate games. two do you think they really would have lost if they had played away? they coasted through the first three and still could have beat louisville anywhere. lastly the tar heels are undefeated on the road this year. stop complaining. maybe you should get your conference to make the same deal with the ncaa.
also I forgot to put that no matter where the heels go they have a fan base. at all the away games this year they had a large contingent of fans. neutral sites, like las vegas earlier in the year, where like home games even with local teams like byu.