In the 1987 regional semi-final game, Bob Knight's Indiana Hoosiers were down by double digits against the LSU Tigers with just 5 minutes to play. The Hoosiers would go on to edge out the Tigers in a dramatic win that eventually led to a National Championship. After the game a reporter asked Knight if he was worried about being down such a large deficit with little time remaining. Knight replied, "I was very worried, until I looked down at the other bench and saw Dale Brown. Then I felt better again."
Scott Sutton's success at ORU is sobering.
While you might find a coach or two in this region with ethics similar to Dale Brown, you won't find any of Brown's coaching ineptness in this bracket. In fact you'll find quite the contrary. In this region you've got established tournament tested coaches in John Calipari, Rick Barnes, and Tom Crean. You also have up and coming tacticians in Billy Gillespie, Jamie Dixon, Frank Haith, and Scott Sutton. And solid, established coaches like Trent Johnson and Ernie Kent. This region is probably the best coached of any in the tourney.
And the teams themselves are balanced from top to bottom. I think the committee did its best seeding job in the South and the result will be some terrific games and matchups.
One of the more interesting scenarios is 2 seed Texas getting to play close to home in the regionals, in the comfortable confines of Houston's Reliant Stadium. Is that fair to the higher seeded Tigers? Perhaps not, but for some teams what goes around comes around.
12 Temple vs. 5 Michigan State. The tournament is for guard play and Temple has more of it than anyone in their opening round bracket. Senior Mark Tyndale is a hot shooting assist man and Junior guard Dionte Christmas is a stout inside/outside scorer. He might be the best player on the floor in any of their opening weekend games. This duo would probably be one of the best if not the best backcourt if they played in the Big East. MSU's plodding style is certainly susceptible to great guard play if Temple can rebound at all. I love the Owls backcourt matched up with Nietzel and Lucas/Walton and I don't think Suton and Morgan can make up for the backcourt deficiency. Couple that with Izzo's stubborness to get out of his man and the Spartans are ripe for the upset.
Let's start at the top the bracket where the powerful Memphis Tigers coming off a 1 loss season start their bloodletting with Texas-Arlington. Their next game against the 8/9 combo will be an intriguing matchup as the Tigers could get one of two teams with completely different styles. The up and down attack of Ernie Kent's Oregon Ducks or the grinding half court minded play of Mississippi State led by all-everything wing Jamont Gordon. I think the Ducks ability to get dribble penetration from a variety of positions in slashers Malik Hairston, Tajuan Porter, and Bryce Taylor will be able to solve the Bulldogs stingy halfcourt defense. Even 4 man Marty Luuenen has been known to slash to the goal. The perimeter strength of Oregon should control tempo and force the Bulldogs to play a style they're not accustomed to.
In the second round, Memphis' length and size should prove too much for the Ducks and the Tigers will march on with relative ease.
In the other quadrant, I really expect Temple to expose Michigan State's lack of offensive punch, hitting them with superior guard play and shooting. I think Pitt gets a huge scare from Oral Roberts who has athletes to compete and shoots the ball much better than Pitt. In the end, Scott Sutton's group will be worn down by the constant bludgeoning of the Panthers' frontcourt. Officiating will play a huge role here, especially if the game is called tightly. But in the end, the Panthers move on. Rinse and Repeat for the upstart Owls, as Pitt is too physical inside.
In the round of 16 game, the Panthers' lack of guard play will be exposed by the perimeter athletes of Memphis. Fields and Ramon are a decent backcourt, but not anywhere the caliber of player needed to stay within striking distance of the mighty Tigers. The teams will combine to shoot 11 out of 35 from the foul line, but Memphis prevails convincingly in its first game in Reliant.
On the bottom side of the bracket, I fully expect Texas to handle the Governors of Austin Peay and move on to face Frank Haith's Miami Hurricanes. The 'Canes have too much power inside for a Gael's frontcourt that has struggled with bigger, physical teams. Texas should be able to match the athleticism of Miami's inside players and exploit the problems the 'Canes have taking care of the basketball. Texas will limit turnovers and get 7-8 more possessions out of the valuing the basketball differential. Combine that with the fact Texas is a better shooting team, and you have a convincing double digit win.
In Anaheim, I think Stanford and Marquette play accoding to seed and move on to face each other. The teams' styles mix like oil and water, and it will come down to how the Stanford guards handle Marquette's pressure. If Johnson and company can control tempo on offense and take care of the basketball they'll likely win. On defense, the Cardinal must chase James and the other Warriors (f' PC) off of jumpers and funnel everything to the Lopez twins forcing midrange jumpers. Al Mcguire always said, when you're in a bar fight, don't worry about the guy that takes off his jacket, worry about the guy that takes off his watch. Accordingly, I think Marquette can force tempo and find shots much more easily with a dwindling shot clock. Marquette pulls away late.
Which leaves us Texas vs. Marquette. Texas on the other hand is perfectly suited for Marquette's 3 guard offense, and can handle anything the Golden Eagles throw at them on the perimeter. Texas has a big advantage in the frontcourt, and should be able to find paint players and finish at the rim on undersized Marquette. Texas wins convincingly in front of 20,000 screaming Texas fans.
Texas vs. Memphis is another favorable matchup for Texas from a personnel standpoint, and it doesn't hurt that this will be a glorified home game. On defense, I think Texas can handle the Dribble Drive Motion and I'll get into that more when I do a piece on Memphis' offense. Offensively, Memphis hasn't faced a team as diversified as Texas. Texas will throw 4 guys on the floor that can shoot it from deep. I like Texas to shoot it better than the Tigers in front of the raucous crowd, holding on for a win in one of the most entertaining games of the year. I'll have a more in depth preview of Memphis and how to stop them later.
So Texas on to the final four. Surprising, isn't it?