Saturday, March 28, 2009

North Carolina-Oklahoma Prediction NCAA Elite 8

#1 North Carolina Tar Heels vs #2 Oklahoma Sooners
Sunday 5PM
Memphis, TN

North Carolina goes for their second straight Final Four appearance on Sunday, but Blake Griffin and the Oklahoma Sooners stand in their way. Expect this one to be a physical, fast paced game with the winner claiming the final spot in Detroit.


How They Got Here...
#1 North Carolina d. #16 Radford 101-58, d. #8 LSU 84-70, d. #4 Gonzaga 98-77
#2 Oklahoma d. #15 Morgan St 82-54, d. #10 Michigan 73-63, d. #3 Syracuse 84-71

Keys For A Oklahoma Win :

1. The Glass...Will It Still Be Griffin's Domain?

Everyone knows of Blake Griffin's rebounding ability grabbing an astonishing 14.4 per game. But the super soph has not faced many teams that can hit the glass like UNC can; the Tar Heels grab 15 of their own shots per contest.

The Sooners have done a pretty good job this season allowing just under 13 offensive boards from their opponents, a number somewhat inflated because of their defense on opposing teams. But can Griffin keep Tyler Hansbrough and Deon Thompson at bay in the paint?

2. Free Throws...Can Oklahoma Hit'em?

Oklahoma is hitting just 68 percent from the free throw line on the season. The much fouled Griffin is a hitting a paltry 59 percent from the charity stripe.

Meanwhile, UNC hit 76 percent on the season and has shot the ninth most free throws in the nation. In a close game with a lot of action in the post, this stat could loom large late in the game.


Keys For A North Carolina Win:

1. Will UNC Maintain The Hot Shooting Hand?

UNC is shooting 48 percent from the floor on the season including a 53 percent effort on Friday against Gonzaga. The Tar Heels also hit nearly 40 percent from three point range.

However, the Sooners defense allows opponents just 39.5 percent from the field. In all four of Carolina's losses, they shot under 45 percent each time.

2. Tempo...North Carolina Wants It Fast

The Tar Heels offense has their after burners back with Ty Lawson not showing any ill effects from a lingering toe injury in Friday's win. North Carolina barely missed their second straight 100 point game against a good Gonzaga team.

Oklahoma is no slow poke either averaging 79 per game. But the Sooners have to be comfortable with the tempo and not let it get too fast because no one can stay with the Tar Heels pace for long.



I do not expect Griffin and Hansbrough to be guarding each other much for fear of foul trouble on each. If North Carolina is hitting their shots, especially from long range, they are near impossible to beat. Lawson and Ellington will out play Oklahoma's less experienced guards and despite Griffin's monster game his Sooners come up just short.

Pick: North Carolina

Season: 45-29 SU through 3/28


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Friday, March 27, 2009

North Carolina-Gonzaga Prediction: NCAA Tournament Sweet 16

1. North Carolina Tar Heels vs 4. Gonzaga Bulldogs
Friday 9:57PM
Memphis, TN

If you like fast break basketball with a lot of scoring, this is the Sweet 16 game for you. Both North Carolina and Gonzaga like to push the ball up the court and why not when you have speedy point guards like UNC’s Ty Lawson and the Bulldogs’ Jeremy Pargo. When the game settles in the half court, we have an outstanding post match up with Tyler Hansbrough going head to head with Gonzaga’s Josh Heytvelt. Will someone step up outside the big four leading their team to the Elite 8?

How They Got Here…
#1 North Carolina d. #16 Radford 101-58, d. #8 LSU 84-70
#4 Gonzaga d. #13 Akron 77-64, d. #12 Western Kentucky 83-81

Keys To The Game:

1. Does Pargo=Lawson Kryptonite?
Jeremy Pargo is a scoring point guard who can go coast to coast in a hurry. His style is similar to that of Boston College’s Tyrese Rice and Wake Forest’s Jeff Teague; Teams North Carolina lost to in January to open the ACC season 0-2.

Lawson is the engine that makes the Tar Heel Train run. He did not show any serious effects of the toe injury last weekend, but it could flare up at any time.

2. Fast and Furious

North Carolina plays as fast as any team in the nation averaging over 90 points per game. Gonzaga likes up tempo basketball more often than their opponents, but they have to be careful to not play at a pace they don’t want to in this game. Some really good teams have tried to match UNC’s pace of play and got burned like Duke.

If North Carolina can force Gonzaga to play at a faster pace then they want, they gain a physical advantage here with their depth and overall talent.

3. Getting Offensive On The Boards

A big part of North Carolina’s scoring ability is their domination of the glass, especially on the offensive end. The Tar Heels put up a lot of shots and make 48 percent of them. But they also grab 15 offensive boards per game ranking eighth in the nation.

The Zags give up 11.9 second chances per game which ranks just 225th nationally. Post guys like Heytvelt and Austin Daye have to do a good job of sealing off on the block.


I said it in my Duke-Villanova preview…when you get to this point in the NCAA Tournament each game is more about the head to head match up than about the better team. North Carolina is the better team, but Gonzaga presents a tough match up for the Tar Heels because of Pargo’s speed and Heytvelt’s size and athleticism on the interior.

I see the combination of Pargo/Heytvelt equaling Lawson/Hansbrough. Where North Carolina has the advantage is in their next six players. I think guys like Danny Greene, Wayne Ellington, and an up and coming freshman Ed Davis step up allowing North Carolina to advance to the Elite 8.

North Carolina Wins By 4-9 Points

Season: 44-29 SU through 3/26


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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Duke-Villanova Prediction: NCAA Tournament Sweet 16

2. Duke Blue Devils vs 3. Villanova Wildcats
Thursday 9:57 PM

Duke and Villanova meet Thursday night in the most evenly matched Sweet 16 contest in the field. Both teams are undersized, but both manage to win the rebounding battle more often than not. Both teams finished near the top of the two best conferences.

NCAA Tournament Path:
Duke d #15 Binghamton 86-62, d #7 Texas 74-69
Villanova d #14 American 80-68, d #6 UCLA 89-69

Keys to the Game:

1. Dribble Penetration Defense

We saw Duke really struggle with Texas’ athleticism on the perimeter allowing the Longhorns to drive and dish to open shooters. Villanova has a similar style of offense with guards Scottie Reynolds and Reggie Redding leading the attack. Duke has to do a better job of man on ball defense than they did last week.

2. Three Point Defense

Duke’s bread and butter is the three point shot. Villanova is giving up 33 percent from beyond the arc on the season. But in their last loss in the Big East Tournament to Louisville, the Cardinals hit 13 of 28 from long range. Duke is hitting 36 percent on the season and Villanova opponents shoot 23 per game.

3. Turnovers

Duke turns the ball over less on offense and forced more turnovers from its defense to the tune of about 1 per game more than Villanova. The Blue Devils force 15.5 per game from opponents on average. In their last three losses, Villanova has turned the ball over at least 16 times.



This game could go either way. The Blue Devils are playing their best basketball of the year and will not be overpowered inside by a team of similar size. But Villanova is very good at dribble penetration, which Duke has struggled with as of late. If Duke is hitting their threes, they are very tough to beat.

However, I think Villanova’s style of play is a bad matchup for Duke’s defense; And matchups, not necessarily the best team, is what the NCAA Tournament is about.

Villanova Wins By 1-6 Points

Season: 43-29 SU through 3/25


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Saturday, March 21, 2009

Memphis-Maryland Prediction: Terps Talkin Smack

2. Memphis Tigers vs 10. Maryland Terrapins
Saturday 3PM
Kansas City, MO

After receiving a scare on Thursday, Memphis comes back Saturday looking for another Sweet 16 berth. Standing in their way is the Maryland Terrapins who knocked off Cal behind the outspoken Greivis Vasquez. Heading into Saturday's game, some Maryland players have made comments regarding Memphis' schedule compared to the ACC slate the Terps. No doubt Memphis was listening.

Season Record
Memphis 32-3
Maryland 21-13

Conference Record
Memphis 16-0
Maryland 7-9

vs RPI Top 50
Memphis 4-2
Maryland 5-8

Keys to the Game:

1. Vasquez Stands For Victory
The Maryland point guard is the engine that makes Maryland run. If the native of Venezuela has a great game like he did on Thursday and in the upset of North Carolina a few weeks back, it gives Maryland a chance for the upset. If he plays poorly, then I give Maryland little chance to win.

2. Memphis Statement Early
The Tigers played very flat against Cal State-Northridge on Thursday only putting the Matadors away in the final minutes. They may not have that luxury again going against a big conference team. The longer Maryland stays in this game, the more their already bubbling confidence grows.

3. Who Wins the Turnover Battle?
Both teams are adept at forcing turnovers from their opponent with each getting 15 per game on average. The offenses turn it over about 12 times a game. Both point guards, Vasquez and Memphis' Tyreke Evans will be facing something they are not used to - a tall defender.


I think Memphis' performance on Thursday was largely due to their lack of excitement about receiving a number two seed and not taking their opponent seriously. I think Maryland has the Tigers full attention and I fully expect John Calipari's club to come and ready to play. That intensity has spelled doom for most teams this year and I think it will for Maryland.

Pick: Memphis Wins By 10-16 Points

Season: 40-29 SU through 3/20


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Duke vs Texas Prediction For Sweet 16 Spot

2. Duke Blue Devils vs 7. Texas Longhorns
Saturday 8:15 PM
Greensboro, NC

Duke tangles with the Longhorns of Texas Saturday night with a berth in the Sweet 16 on the line. The Blue Devils put away Binghamton on Friday while Texas dispatched Minnesota. Texas head coach Rick Barnes used to coach in the ACC and had some success against Coach K going 4-5.

Season Records
Duke 29-6, Texas 23-11

Conference Records
Duke 11-5, Texas 9-7

vs RPI Top 50
Duke 7-5, Texas 7-6

Keys to the Game:

1. Duke's Inside Defense
Texas presents a very large problem for the Blue Devils in Dexter Pittman and Damion James in the post. The two combine for nearly 26 points per game on the interior. The Blue Devils will likely start out with Kyle Singler and Lance Thomas inside with Brian Zoubek coming off the bench. Zoubek needs to play like his seven foot frame.

2. Texas' Perimeter Defense
When you play Duke, you better know where the three point shooters are. In the ACC Championship Game, the Blue Devils hit 12 from outside the arc shooting a blistering 48 percent. The Longhorns are giving up 34 percent shooting on three pointers on the season. Duke's offense is pretty simple, drive and dish, but very hard to stop.

3. Free Throw Shooting
Texas has had their struggles at the free throw line this season shooting just 67 percent as a team. Duke normally is excellent from the line, but this season they are only slightly better than average in the ACC hitting 73 percent. If the Longhorns are to pull off the upset, they have to get to the line and hit their free throws.



Duke will have very close to a home crowd playing in Greensboro. The Longhorns have the inside and outside combination on offense to give Duke trouble on defense. But I think Duke gets enough defense from Zoubek and is able to hit outside shots against an average Texas defense.

Pick: Duke Wins By 5-12 Points

Season: 40-29 SU through 3/20


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North Carolina-LSU Prediction: The Lawson Effect

1. North Carolina Tar Heels vs 8. LSU Tigers
Saturday 5:45 PM

North Carolina will get its first test of the Tournament and it could come without ACC Player of the Year Ty Lawson. The Junior point guard will be a game time decision according to UNC coach Roy Williams for the second round tussle with the SEC regular season champs LSU.

Season Records-
UNC 29-4, LSU 27-7

UNC 13-3, LSU 13-3

vs RPI Top 50
UNC 5-2, LSU 2-3


Keys to the Game:

1. Lawson's Health
The Tar Heels offense with Lawson runs like a Porsche. Without him it runs more like your standard sedan; solid, but not at the highest level of performance. If Lawson can't go, then senior Bobby Frasor will step in. Frasor is an adequate point guard, but if he doesn't have the speed to run UNC's offense like Lawson. And the Tar Heels depend on that speed to get easy buckets.

2. Rebounding
Both of these teams are used to controlling the boards and getting their share of offensive rebounds. UNC gets about 15 a game while LSU snags 13.5 off their own missed shots. UNC was out rebounded by FSU in their last loss.

3. Shooting
Poor shooting doomed LSU in their last three losses hitting less than 37 percent in each game. In Carolina's four losses they have not hit more than 39 percent of their shots from the floor. Many think since UNC allows a lot of points that other teams shoot the ball well, but the Tar Heels are holding opponents to 41 percent.


This game will come down to Lawson's effectiveness, if he even plays. If he does and is effective I think North Carolina puts LSU away in the final five minutes. If he does not play then LSU has the athleticism and size to give North Carolina fits for 40 minutes. The thought the UNC could win even if he does not play puts UNC over the hump in my book.

Pick: North Carolina Wins By 5-11 points

Season: 40-29 SU through 3/20


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Friday, March 20, 2009

Florida State-Wisconsin Highlights Friday NCAA Tournament Action

Three more games tip off today for ACC teams who will be trying to follow up on a 3-1 start on Thursday. The SEC’s lone first round game pits Tennessee and Oklahoma State.

ACC Games

Florida State and Wisconsin could be a very interesting game between power conferences. A lot of people have FSU has a Sweet 16 or even Elite 8 team largely because of Toney Douglas. I am not buying into FSU as much because I don’t really like their point guard play and their big men disappear at times. Wisconsin had a really bad stretch during the middle of the year losing six or seven in a row, but was pretty solid otherwise. The Badgers style of defense is going to make Douglas give the ball up more than he wants. This could be one of those yearly 5 vs 12 upsets.

I saw some books with a money line on the Wake Forest-Cleveland State game. The Deacons have a coach in his first NCAA Tournament but I am guessing Cleveland State does too. 13 seeds rarely beat 4 seeds. Last year was the exception, but is interesting where the money line is on this one.

Even as the 7 seed, Boston College is a small underdog to Pac 10 Tournament Champion USC. The Trojans coach Tim Floyd has a losing record all time in the NCAA Tournament at just 6-7. The Trojans are a very talented team that suffered chemistry issues some during the season. If you like guard play, this one will be a great one to watch with BC’s Tyrese Rice going up against Daniel Hackett of USC.

SEC Games

The Volunteers will try to make it two SEC teams into the second round with a win over Oklahoma State. Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl has been out spoken this week about his seed and the seeds of his conference brethren, but that is just the type of coach he is; I don’t think it will have any lingering effect on his team. Pearl is one of my favorite coaches in college basketball, but that story is for another time. Vegas has the Vols as a slight favorite.

Other Games of Note

Arizona vs Utah – Many thought Arizona should not even be in the Tournament, but many of those same people are picking the Wildcats over the Utes oddly enough. This game has gone back and forth with Utah opening as the underdog, but then becoming a one point favorite yesterday. Arizona has not won any game of significance away from home. I say flip a coin on this game.

Kansas vs North Dakota State – If there is going to be a major first round upset, this is where I would pick it. The Bison will have thousands of fans in nearby Minneapolis for their first Tournament game ever. Kansas is a young team that seemed to turn the intensity on and off this year. I don’t like that in tournament play.

Marquette vs Utah State – Marquette has struggled since losing Dominic James to a season ending injury albeit against stiff Big East competition. This Utah State team beat Utah earlier this year and ran through their conference with relative ease. Also, Utah State will be playing in a game they are familiar with in Boise while Marquette has to travel out west.

Ohio State vs Siena – I thought the committee only protected the top four seeds with home court? The Buckeyes get to play Siena in Dayton, Ohio just about an hour away from Columbus. Siena beat Vanderbilt in the first round last year as a 13 seed and the fact they are 9 seed this year speaks to their season. Still, it will tough to win what amounts to a road game.

NCAA Tournament Records
ACC: 3-1
SEC: 1-1


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Thursday, March 19, 2009

Thursday NCAA Tournament Games: ACC and SEC Thoughts

In case you have been living under a rock, the NCAA Tournament starts today. I will start doing some individual game previews for the second round. Just too many games for the first round and honestly I have not watched Cal or Oklahoma State play more than five minutes this year.

But here are some things to watch out for in the first round that I picked up from the game lines and game locations.

ACC Games on Thursday

North Carolina will not be playing Ty Lawson. Doesn’t matter. Easy win over Radford.

Duke will win easily too and PTI’s Tony Kornheiser will cry about Duke getting all the calls on Friday’s show.

Clemson and Michigan is the best first round match up, even better than the 8 vs 9 games. Michigan plays a 1-3-1 zone so Clemson’s Terrance Ogelsby needs to get hot from outside. John Beilein did pretty good in the NCAA Tournament at West Virginia. Oliver Purnell is looking for his first Tournament win. Vegas likes the Tigers.

Cal and Maryland should be another really good one. Vegas has Cal as a slight favorite. They are coached by former Stanford coach Mike Montgomery whose teams never seemed to live up their lofty seedings come Tournament time. But then again Stanford has never really lived up to their hype in March.

SEC Games Thursday

I thought Mississippi State got a raw deal at 13 seed. Georgia was a 14 seed last year with a much worse record. Miss State could be very dangerous for a Pac 10 regular season champ Washington, but the game is in Portland so the Huskies will have a big home crowd advantage.

LSU and Butler will be a game of contrasting styles. The Tigers can physically hang with any team in the Tournament, but Butler will force them to slow the tempo down. Vegas likes LSU.

Other Games of Note

Illinois vs Western Kentucky could be one of those 12 over 5 upsets. Illinois is without their starting point guard and the Hilltoppers made it to the Sweet 16 last year and almost defeated UCLA in that round.

Many are picking VCU over UCLA first round. The travel for the Bruins does scare me having to go cross country, but I think VCU is a little over hyped. They beat a floundering Duke team a few years ago in the first round and people are still talking about it today. UCLA is one of the most efficient offenses in the nation. I like the Bruins.


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Monday, March 16, 2009

2009 NCAA Tournament Facts

Thought I would pass along some interesting tidbits about the NCAA Tournament. The three week spectacle has even the curious college basketball fan trying to figure how to win their office pool.

Mike Krzyzewski leads active coaches in winning percentage with at least 10 Tournament games (69-21 .767). Billy Donovan, Rick Pitino, Roy Williams, and Tom Izzo round out the top 5. Temple's Fran Dunphy has a 1-10 all time record.
Active Coaches Tournament Records

Wikipedia has all you could ever want to know about the Tournament. Wonder how #1 ranked Louisville will fare? Just six teams have entered the Tournament ranked #1 and won the championship with the most recent being Florida in 2007.

The Championship Game has matched #1 seeds only six times, but has done so three of the past four years.

At least one #1 seed has made the Final 4 except 1980 and 2006 (George Mason's run).

The teams with the higher seeds usually win. The #7 seed has beaten the #10 seed 62% but the #8 seed has only beaten the #9 seed 46%.
Wikipedia NCAA Tournament Page

The Big East leads all conferences in all time bids (including all current members all time bids) with 355. The ACC is second with 223. The SEC is fifth with 200.

Kentucky leads all schools with 50 bids, followed by UCLA with 43 and North Carolina with 41. Binghamton, Stephen F Austin, Morgan State, and North Dakota State are making their first bid ever in 2009.
Bids by School

Duke has the best all time winning percentage at .748 followed closely by UCLA at .736. North Carolina checks in at .711 and relative newcomer Florida is .707 all time. Kentucky has played the most games all time with 145 winning 100.
All Time Record By School

UCLA has the most Final 4 appearances all time with 18 followed by North Carolina's 17 and Duke's 14. The three teams with the most Tournament appearances all time without a Final 4 are in this year's field. BYU (24), Missouri (22), and Xavier (20).
Final 4 Triumph and Futility

Bubbles Teams like St. Mary's, Auburn, Creighton, and Penn State are feeling the sting of being left out. The Gaels tied for the most wins all time without a bid at 26. Utah State in 2005 had just 3 losses but was left out of the field. And Davidson in 2005 missed out on the field after a perfect conference record because they tripped up in their conference Tournament.
Biggest Bubble Burstings

So there is just about every fact that you would want to know about the NCAA Tournament. Not that any of it will help you in your bracket. Just pick the teams with the best colors.

Season: 40-29 SU through 3/15


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Sunday, March 15, 2009

How Duke Won Another ACC Tournament Championship

Duke won the 2009 ACC Tournament Championship, their eighth in the last 11 seasons, because they out shot and out hustled Florida State. Lets take a look at how the Blue Devils did it.

In my game preview
, I thought a big key to a Duke victory was hitting their three pointers. Did Duke deliver on that one or what! The Blue Devils hit 12 three pointers making 46 percent of their shots from beyond the arc. We have seen this before from Duke when left open, but the difficulty of their made shots was incredible. It seemed Gerald Henderson never had a clean look from the outside all day.

But where Duke really sealed this game was on the glass. The Blue Devils out rebounded the much taller Seminoles 35 to 34. Duke grabbed 14 offensive rebounds to Florida State's five. Center Brian Zoubek finally played like his seven foot frame grabbing six boards in only nine minutes. Duke did a fantastic job of keeping the ball alive on the offensive hand by just getting a hand on the ball. That effort allowed another Duke player to come and grab the ball. Again, hustle was a big reason Duke had this game wrapped up with five minutes to go.


I thought FSU had to get to the free throw line, which they did pretty well at, but it was not enough to make up the deficit built early. Toney Douglas had a good game, but got zero help from his big guys. FSU's Solomon Alabi and Uche Echefu played just 33 minutes combined and had 10 points - all by Alabi. Duke forced Florida State to play like the Blue Devils wanted and that made FSU Coach Leonard Hamilton play a smaller lineup to help guard the perimeter.

What does this win mean for Duke? The Blue Devils will likely grab a #2 seed, possibly in Louisville or Pittsburgh's bracket. This Duke team is more athletic and experienced than the previous two that fell flat on their face come NCAA Tournament time. I think we will see Coach K and the Blue Devils in the second weekend this year.

Season: 40-29 SU through 3/15

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SEC Tournament Championship: Tennessee vs Miss State

1 East - Tennessee Volunteers vs 3 West - Mississippi State Bulldogs
Sunday 1:00 PM

We have an East vs West battle for the SEC Championship in Tampa, Florida, but it is probably not the team from the West most expected. The Bulldogs of Mississippi State need this win to get an NCAA berth while their opponent, Tennessee, has already locked up a bid. The Volunteers are looking for their first SEC Tournament title since 1979. Miss State is hoping for its third all time and first since 2002.

Season Meetings:
Tennessee 81 Mississippi State 76 Feb 25 Knoxville
The Volunteers forced 17 turnovers and won the rebounding battle 38 to 31 en route to a five point home win just a few weeks ago. Wayne Chism and Tyler Smith were able to limit Miss State's James Varnado to just 8 points and 4 field goal attempts. But the Bulldogs 11 three pointers kept them in the game until the very end.

Tennessee Volunteers Keys to Victory:

1. Stay Hot Shooting
In their wins this weekend, Tennessee has shot over 50 percent on average; the Vols barely broke 46 percent on the season. And they have been doing this by pounding it inside to Chism and Smith who have 87 points combined in the two wins.

2. Control the Boards
The Volunteers have won the rebound battle all year but stepped up big time in yesterday's win over Auburn. Miss State on average loses the glass 43 to 41.


Mississippi State Keys to Victory:

1. Three Point Shooting
The Bulldogs are hitting a blistering 37 percent from beyond the arc this season led by Ravern Johnson who hits nearly 42 percent on 195 attempts. Vol opponents make a respectable 34 percent on the season so watch for Miss State to try and attack here.

2. Lock Down Defense
The Bulldogs held South Carolina to under 36 percent shooting and LSU hit only 31 percent. The Volunteers have been red hot shooting so something has to give. Miss State's smaller lineup will need big man James Varnado to play well on the inside.

The aforementioned Varnado is a big question mark for this game. Can he improve on his eight point game in the last meeting. Can he slow down Tennessee's bigs inside. If those answers are yes then Miss State wins this one. If not, I still think Rick Stansbury's club has a shot because of their three point shooting.

Pick: Mississippi State

Season: 38-29 SU through 3/14

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ACC Championship: Duke vs Florida State Prediction

3. Duke Blue Devils vs 4. Florida State Seminoles
Sunday 1PM
TV: Raycom/ESPN

Duke and Florida State meet to decide who will win the ACC Tournament Championship for 2009. The Blue Devils have knocked off the Seminoles twice this season and will be looking for their eighth ACC Tournament title in 11 years. FSU on the other hand is in the Championship Game for the first time since joining the ACC back in the early 90s.

Season Meetings:
Duke 66 FSU 58 Jan10 Tallahassee
In the first meeting of the season, the teams had a combined 33 points at half time. FSU was held to 31 percent shooting for the game, but was able to control the boards 43 to 34. Where Duke won the game was at the free throw line making 25 to FSU's 11.

Duke 84 FSU 81 Mar3 Durham
On March 3, Toney Douglas' 27 was not enough for the road win for FSU. Once again, Duke hit 22 from the line to the 'Noles 13. The Blue Devils had just 7 turnovers and closed the rebounding gap to just 39-36 in FSU's favor. Freshman Elliot Williams, who played sparingly in game one, scored 14 off the bench.

Florida State Seminoles Keys to Victory:

1. Use Inside Size Advantage
Unless Duke's Brian Zoubek channels Christian Laettner, his size inside is a non-factor. FSU has a clear size advantage inside and needs to pound it in on offense, intimidate on defense, and control the glass.

2. Toney Douglas Gets Hot
The best scorer in the ACC needs to be hot from the outside for FSU to pull off the upset. Also, Douglas needs to slash to the goal and pick up some fouls to even up the likely free throw disparity.

Duke Blue Devils Keys to Victory:

1. Hit 3's
Nearly half of their field goals made in beating FSU and then BC and Maryland in the ACC Tournament were from three point range. This will help draw out FSU's bigger defenders where they are not as comfortable.

2. Get to the Free Throw Line
The best Duke can do with the size disparity inside is to try and get the big guys into foul trouble. Outside of the three point shots, FSU can block anything inside 15 feet from Duke. The Blue Devils need to be able to drive to the basket with success and get to the free throw line.

I think this one is going to be back and forth all second half. One the one hand, it will be tough for Duke to beat FSU three times in a year. They did it to Maryland, but the 'Noles are better than the Terps. But Duke is so good in this ACC Tournament winning seven of the last eight times they were in the finals.

Pick: Duke

Season: 38-29 SU through 3/14

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Saturday, March 14, 2009

SEC Tournament: Tennessee-Auburn Prediction

1 East - Tennessee Volunteers vs 2 West - Auburn Tigers
Saturday 3:30 PM
TV: Raycom

My SEC Tournament winning streak had to come an end sometimes and Auburn did that with their win over Florida. But I will take 7-1 and keep on truckin. The Vols are in the Tournament but Auburn could use one more quality win to solidify their position though I think they should be in based on their current resume.

Tennessee and Auburn met just once this season with the Tigers prevailing 78-77 in Auburn. That game sparked an Auburn streak winning streak of eight of their last nine in the regular season. On February 7th, both teams shot the ball very well hitting over 53 percent for each team. Where the Tigers won this game is on the glass where they out rebounded Bruce Pearl's club 34 to 21 including 14 to 4 on the offensive glass. That should be surprising considering Auburn's tallest player is only 6'7".

For Tennessee to move on to the SEC finals, they have to hit some shots early from the perimeter. Auburn is the best defensive team in the conference in terms of defensive shooting percentage. For Auburn, they have to bring that same defensive intensity that has carried them in the second half of the season. It will be tough for the Tigers due to their late ending on Friday and earlier start on Saturday. I like Tennessee to advance because of their renewed defensive intensity shown down the stretch of the regular season.

Pick: Tennessee

Season: 35-28 SU through 3/13

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ACC Tournament: Duke-Maryland Prediction

3. Duke Blue Devils vs 7. Maryland Terrapins
Saturday 3:30 PM
TV: Raycom/ESPN

Duke and Maryland dance for a third time this season and if Maryland is able to pull off the upset then they will punch their ticket to the Big Dance (if they have not already). The Blue Devils are looking to get back to the ACC Finals after a short drought of two years. Can Duke beat Maryland for a third time this season or will the Terps continue their run to the finals?

In the teams first meeting of the season, Duke dominated Maryland 85-44 giving Gary Williams his worst loss as Terps coach. Maryland team leader Greivis Vasquez made comments to the effect of Cameron Indoor being "his house". The junior from Venezuela had just four points in the loss. Fast forward to February and Maryland needs a home win over Duke. But the Blue Devils stymied the Terps hitting big threes late for the win.

To pull off the upset, Maryland has to slow down Duke from the outside where the Devils hit eight from long range in the last meeting. For Duke, they need to keep Vasquez out of the flow of the game. The more he is involved, the more he has the ball in his hands, the better the Terrapins offense runs.

It is very tough to beat a quality team three times in a season, but Duke is also very good in the ACC Tournament winning five straight not too long ago. It will be tough for Duke to come back from such a late game the previous night, but Maryland will be playing their third game in three days. I like Duke to advance to the finals.

Pick: Duke

Season: 35-28 SU through 3/13

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