Sunday, March 28, 2010 – Elite NCAA Tourney Picks (Day 2)

March 28, 2010 on 9:19 pm | In College Basketball | No Comments

Here’s the update picks record before Sunday’s Elite Eight matchups with #6 Tennessee taking on #5 Michigan State, followed by #3 Baylor against #1 Duke . . .

26-6 in First Round
6-2 in Sweet 16
1-1 in Elite 8

 

#6 Tennessee vs. #5 Michigan State – 2:20 PM:  It’s rare that a #5 faces a #6 seed in a Regional Final, but that’s’ what we have in the Midwest Regional Final in St. Louis as the Tennessee Volunteers take on the Michigan State Spartans.  To get here, Tennessee knocked off #2 seed and Big Ten Tournament Champion Ohio State after beating double-digit seeds San Diego State and Ohio.  Michigan State, which lost to North Carolina in last year’s National Championship, is here without junior point guard Kalin Lucas, the Big Ten Player of the Year a season ago as a sophomore who is out with an Achilles injury.  The Spartans topped New Mexico State by three in the first round, beat Maryland by two at the buzzer courtesy of a three-pointer from Korie Lucious, and defeated Northern Iowa by seven in the Sweet Sixteen.  This is the first meeting between these two schools since 1994.  The Spartans are in the Elite Eight round for the seventh time since 1999.  Tom Izzo is 5-1 in Regional Finals as Michigan State’s Head Coach in his 15 seasons.  Coach Bruce Pearl guided Tennessee to the Sweet 16 for the third time in four years, and now they are in the Elite Eight for the first time in program history.

Three seniors are in the starting five for Tennessee providing leadership in Wayne Chism, J.P. Prince and Bobby Maze.  Chism, a dangerous 6-foot-9 inside-outside forward, scored 22 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in the regional semifinal against Ohio State.  He’s not only a force in the paint along with 6-foot-10 junior Brian Williams, but he also has hit 118 three-pointers in his career.   Prince added 14 points, six assists and two steals vs. the Buckeyes, and his length on defense was huge, especially on the blocked shot of OSU’s Evan Turner at the end to preserve a Vols victory.  As for Maze, he’s an underrated distributor, and along with 5-foot-11 junior Melvin Goins, it gives Pearl some different options in the backcourt.  Even though the perception is that Tennessee is a perimeter-oriented team, they did outscore Ohio St. 50-22 in the Points in the Paint category, and are a pretty solid rebounding team for the most part.

While Tennessee wants to push the tempo and excel in a high-scoring game where they can let it fly from behind the three-point arc, Michigan State is a little different because they’d prefer to have this game played in the half-court with their defense and in particular their rebounding set the tone.  Raymar Morgan, the lone senior starter currently in MSU’s starting five, has been the glue guy for this team.  Over his last 12 games he’s averaging close to 17 points and nine rebounds a game.  Durrell Summers, a 6-foot-4 junior swingman, is averaging 19.6 points per game in the NCAA Tourney, and in his last two contests has shot 10-for-17 from three-point range.  On the boards, Morgan, 6-foot-8 sophomore Delvon Roe and 6-foot-6 sophomore Draymond Green, who posted 12 boards in the opening round, are a handful.  Their ability to crash the glass will be crucial, especially second chance opportunities.  Being +11 in rebounds vs. Northern Iowa was a key to their success.

On defense, Michigan St. has to contain the slashing to the rim of Tennessee.  If they’re able to do that and continue to get good production from their bench, they have a great chance to win.  My thinking is Tennessee wins it close because they are a little bit better shooting from the outside, can match MSU’s intensity on the boards and they are just as deep.  Their shooters have a lot of confidence right now, and that shouldn’t change against a Spartans team that eventually will miss Lucas’ play-making at the point guard position.  Pick – Tennessee by 3.

 

#3 Baylor vs. #1 Duke – 5:05 PM:  Few would’ve expected that the last #1 seed standing would be the Duke Blue Devils of the ACC, who a year ago got bounced by 23 points in the Sweet 16 by Villanova.  But that’s the case as Kansas fell in the second round #9 seed Northern Iowa, Syracuse lost to #5 seed Butler in the Sweet 16 and the latest to lose was Kentucky to #2 seed West Virginia in last night’s Elite Eight.  Coach Mike Krzyzewski has Duke eying its 11th ever Final Four trip and first in six years.  In a down year for the ACC, Duke was the lone ACC team to make it to the Sweet 16 and did so with the trio of Kyle Singler (21PPG,  7.7RPG in the NCAA Tourney), Nolan Smith and Jon Scheyer leading the way.  Scheyer, struggling a bit in a shooting slump (just 2-for-17 from 3 distance the last two games), is the only senior among that threesome, whereas Singler and Smith are juniors. 

Baylor is enjoying one of the most successful seasons that they’ve ever had in basketball.  The Bears, under the direction of Scott Drew, are seeking their first Final Four trip since 1950.  Their only other appearance in the Final Four besides that one came in 1948 when the field had just eight teams.  This is Baylor’s third straight 20-pls win season and only their sixth in the 104-year history of the program.  Wins over Sam Houston State and Old Dominion in the first two rounds set the stage for the 72-49 blowout of St. Mary’s in which they shut them down in an all-around great performance where they had a double-digit lead for 32 of the game’s 40 minutes played.  Their zone defense forced St. Mary’s, a sharp shooting team for much of the tourney, into 6-of-22 from behind the arc.  It clearly isn’t the same Baylor team that lost 12 of 14 in a stretch last season that kept them from making the NCAA Tournament.

Duke has to be patient versus the Baylor zone, but can they defend Tweety Carter and LaceDarius Dunn (20.7PPG in NCAA Tourney) of the Bears?  They are two dynamic with explosive moves, whether it’s scoring on the drive, jumper or dishing the rock.  Dunn is shooting over 55% from the field in the tourney, and Carter is providing four steals a contest.  Both were atop the Big 12 in three-point shooting this year.  On the inside, some believe Duke can take advantage with Singler and Brian Zoubek, a serviceable center that has come on of late with 10.3 rebounds per game over the last three.  But Baylor counters with front-line featuring three players at 6-foot-10, 6-foot-10 and 7-foot-tall.  Ekpe Udoh transferred from Michigan where he led the Big Ten in shot blocking two years ago and this season has been even more of a scoring and rebounding factor at 12 points and 9.3 boards a contest in the tourney.  Josh Lomers can match Zoubek as he’s a very effective rebounder and shot blocker, too.  Quincy Acy adds 9PPG, 5RPG off the bench as well.

To me, the way Baylor played with their physicality and intensity it’s going to be hard for Duke, more of a finesse team, to match it and do so without scoring in the paint – - which they failed to do in the first half versus Purdue in the Sweet 16.  Physical teams with quick athletes give them fits, and unless the Blue Devils are just scorching hot shooting the ball from downtown, my feeling is Baylor will win this game with strong drives to the basket and transition points.  Pick – Baylor by 8.

Saturday, March 27, 2010 – Elite 8 NCAA Tourney Picks

March 27, 2010 on 11:22 pm | In College Basketball | 2 Comments

After a 6-2 mark in the Sweet 16 round – - including a perfect 4-0 on Friday night – - we take a look at the Elite Eight, beginning with Saturday night’s Regional Final matchups pitting #5 Butler against #2 Kansas State, followed by #2 West Virginia taking on #1 Kentucky . . .

 

#5 Butler vs. #2 Kansas State – 4:30 PM:  Both teams are enjoying arguably their best season ever.  Butler, riding a nation-long 23-game winning streak, hasn’t been beaten since a December 22nd road loss at UAB, and the Bulldogs are trying to make it to the Final Four for the first time ever.  As for Kansas State, the Wildcats outlasted Xavier 101-96 in a double-overtime thriller where their guards Jacob Pullen and Denis Clemente exchanged clutch shot after clutch shot with the Musketeers’ terrific sophomore backcourt duo of Jordan Crawford and Terrell Holloway.  Coach Frank Martin has the Wildcats in the Elite Eight for the first time since 1988 during the days of Lon Kruger guiding the team, and a win on Saturday would secure the school its first Final Four trip since 1964.

Pullen has really elevated his game to another level during the NCAA Tournament, averaging 25.7 points per game over the last three contests while shooting 15-for-30 from deep and committing only four turnovers.  Both he and Clemente are major reasons why they’ve won a school-record 29 games this year.  The guards can shoot it, are unselfish at times and know how to feed the post.  On the inside, the Wildcats are persistent and it has led to them attempting and making more free-throws than any other team in the country.  Curtis Kelly was really effective as the game progressed against Xavier and stepped up in overtime with 21 points, eight rebounds, four assists and five blocks.  Another effort like that where he really does damage late on the interior should be enough to help them move a step closer to a National Title. 

Butler forced 18 turnovers by Syracuse, including 13 steals that led to them getting chance at transition points in their surprising 63-59 upset of the top-seeded Orange.  Brad Stevens’ Bulldogs were patient attacking the 2-3 zone, but most importantly they dug in defensively when their offense went in a dry spell, scoring 15 points the first 16 minutes of the second half after scoring 31 points in the first 16 minutes of the first half.  Most teams wouldn’t be able to survive that against an opponent of Syracuse’s quality, but Butler did because their defense, headlined by guard Ronald Nored, didn’t give up any easy baskets and offensively they protected the basketball.  To be successful and reach the Final Four, they’ll need to be able to have similar results defensively, plus get strong offensive games from Gordon Hayward (17 vs. Syracuse), Shelvin Mack (only 1-of-10 from deep the last game) and Matt Howard, a key inside player who sometimes gets in foul trouble. 

While fatigue from the double-overtime classic could be an issue potentially for KSU, Butler is coming off a pretty emotional win themselves over Syracuse, and I’m not sure the Bulldogs have quite the amount of weapons or firepower offensively to keep up with the Wildcats provided the score gets above the 60’s like I anticipate.  Pick – Kansas State by 6

 

#2 West Virginia vs. #1 Kentucky – 7:05 PM:  John Calipari in year one at Kentucky has the Wildcats three wins away from their eighth National Championship and the program’s first since 1998.  Quickly and with a bunch of freshmen, he has put them back in the national spotlight with their average margin of victory in the NCAA Tournament by 25.3 points a game, and holding opponents under 35% shooting from the field.  For West Virginia, they are in the Elite Eight for the second time in six years.  In 2005 they lost to Louisville 93-85 in overtime.  Reserve the outcome this time around and it’ll mark their first trip to the Final Four since 1959.  Both teams won comfortably by double-digits in the Sweet 16 as Kentucky ended the Cinderella story of #12 seed Cornell, whereas West Virginia rallied from a half-time deficit to beat #11 seed and Pac-10 Tournament Champion Washington.

Kentucky’s team is stacked with potential NBA lottery picks in guard John Wall, big man DeMarcus Cousins and sharp shooter Eric Bledsoe.  Wall is putting up 13 points and 8.6 assists per game in the tourney; many believe he’ll be the first pick in the 2010 NBA Draft as this point guard may be the best player in the country and just as a freshman.  Cousins is a double-double threat at 13.3 points and 7.7 rebounds a game in the tourney.  As for Bledsoe, he’s drilling it from the outside at a 64.5% clip to go with his 15 points a game over the past three contests.  When this team rebounds, and most times they do, they’re even more dangerous.  The only areas where they aren’t really strong are outside shooting and foul shooting, but make no mistake about it, this team is close to impossible to beat when they are shooting a high percentage from both long distance and at the charity stripe.

West Virginia counters the speed, strength, talent and size of Kentucky with interchangeable parts and a tough 1-3-1 zone defense.  Over their last six games the Mountaineers have held each opponent under 60 points.  Like Kentucky, West Virginia has not been a terrific outside shooting team, but also like the Wildcats, they crash the glass, particularly on offense to get their points.  West Virginia out-rebounded Washington by 16 and had 19 offensive boards.  They’ll look to the long 6-foot-9 wingspan of Devin Ebanks, their point forward, to try and disrupt Wall, and Da’Sean Butler is an all-around performer that fills the stat sheet and has seen his scoring responsibility increase in postseason play.  The point guard play has not been overly consistent in a good way for West Virginia, and they can’t afford costly turnovers if they want to beat the Wildcats.  They committed 23 of them against Washington, though the expected return of Darryl ‘Truck’ Bryant should help.  Coach Bob Huggins knows in order to take his alma mater to the Final Four, they have to be able to keep Kentucky’s lethal transition game in check.

My personal feeling is that the winner of this game will go on to win the National Championship.  That was my thought when the brackets first came out, and I still stand by that thought.  Kentucky is the most talented team in America, even with their youth and inexperience.  That being said, anything less than an A-level performance could keep them from getting to the Final Four.  Personally, I feel that Kentucky is playing a little bit better than West Virginia going into this matchup, though I’ll stick with my original pick before the tournament began of the Mountaineers to win the title.  Pick – West Virginia by 1

Friday, March 26, 2010 – Sweet 16 NCAA Tourney Picks (Day 2)

March 27, 2010 on 12:57 am | In College Basketball | No Comments

Welcome back to our second Sweet 16 BLOG Entry after a 2-2 night yesterday, which included Butler’s upset of Syracuse and a double-overtime thriller between Kansas State and Xavier, won by the Wildcats 101-96.  In case some of you might’ve missed it, my Full Bracket is at the link below – - I went 26-6 in the first round, but have fared considerably worse as the tourney has progressed.  Only one of my Final Four teams – - West Virginia, coincidentally my National Champion pick – - is still alive. 

Hatfield Sports Bracket

After Friday night, only eight will be standing and the Elite Eight will be set – - who will join Kentucky, West Virginia, Butler and Kansas State?  Let’s take a look at Friday night’s games . . .

 

#6 Tennessee vs. #2 Ohio State – 7:07 PM:  It’ll be the three-point bombs of Tennessee versus the Evan Turner show for Ohio State.  As great as Turner has been this season, a National Player of the Year candidate and threat for a triple-double on any given night, his tourney performer thus far hasn’t matched his spectacular play from the regular season or in the Big Ten Tournament.  In the first round against UC Santa Barbara, he shot only 2-for-14 from the field and finished with nine points, 10 boards and five assists.  His next game against Georgia Tech was much better with 24 points, nine rebounds and nine assists, although he did commit nine turnovers. Look for Tennessee to constantly pressure and harass this do-everything player that is expected to be one of the top picks in the upcoming NBA Draft.  That said, OSU has gotten lifts from Jon Diebler (11-22 3’s in the NCAA Tourney), William Buford and crafty senior David Lighty.  Bruce Pearl has the Volunteers in the Sweet 16 for the third time in four years, and amazingly they are here without last year’s leading scorer at 17.4 points per game in Tyler Smith, dismissed from the team earlier this season.  In his absence, senior Wayne Chism, a 6-foot-9 senior forward with the ability to knock it down from the outside has really stepped it up.  So have others, like Melvin Goins, who had 15 points and shot 4-of-5 from long distance in the Vols’ 62-59 opening round victory over San Diego State, brings explosiveness and will be one of three guys they likely throw at Turner alongside lengthy 6-foot-7 senior J.P. Prince and 6-foot-3 senior Bobby Maze.  Remember, the Vols are the underdog in this game, but they did upset both Kansas and Kentucky this season.  Pick – Tennessee by 2

 

#10 St. Mary’s vs. #3 Baylor – 7:27 PM:  One of the Cinderella darlings of this NCAA Tournament has been the #10 seed St. Mary’s Gaels, which beat a Villanova team in the second round that reached the Final Four a year ago.  Perhaps no player has been more dominating or burst onto the scene more the past couple weeks than their big man Omar Samhan, a force on the inside with 30.5 points, 9.5 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game to this point in the NCAA Tournament, not to mention he’s shooting 75% from the field and over 72% at the foul line.  Some never heard of him and associated St. Mary’s with current Portland Trail Blazers rookie Patty Mills, their flashy guard from a year ago that led them in scoring.  To go with Samhan, Mickey McConnell has been the three-point ace to spark them from outside with eight triples in this tourney so far.  On the boards, they’ve been terrific, out-rebounding Richmond by 23 in the first round.  While St. Mary’s comes in considered to be the better outside shooting team, don’t be fooled and think Baylor is unequipped to strike from deep.  They made 8-of-20 long range tries in their second round victory over Old Dominion, a game where Tweety Carter dished out eight assists, Josh Lomers gave them an unexpected punch in the middle with 14 points, eight boards, three blocks and four steals, and LaceDarius Dunn was outstanding with 26 points.  From a physical standpoint, few are as tough as the Bears too, who got 20 points, 13 rebounds and five assists from Ekpe Udoh in the first round win over Sam Houston State.  In that game, Baylor had to really and did so with solid perimeter defense, limiting Sam Houston to 6-for-31 shooting from three-point land.  If Baylor limits St. Mary’s from getting second chance opportunities and the Gaels aren’t hot shooting the basketball from the outside like they have been, the Bears have a great chance to not only win this game, but do so by double-figures.

Pick – Baylor by 13

 

#9 Northern Iowa vs. #5 Michigan State – 9:37 PM:  The most stunning upset of the NCAA Tournament through two rounds was delivered by the ninth-seeded Northern Iowa Panthers coached by Ben Jacobson, who knocked off top-seeded Kansas 69-67 in the second round in a game where they practically led from start to finish.  Coming through in the clutch for the second straight time was senior guard Ali Farokhmanesh, whose triple with 35 seconds left against the Jayhawks put his team up four and made the Jayhawks the first #1 seed to lose in the second round since Kentucky fell to UAB in 2004.  Farokhmanesh has the green light though as we saw in the first round win over UNLV when he uncorked a deep three-pointer with the shot clock winding down to break a 66-all tie.  Needless to say, if this game is close, everyone will know who Northern Iowa will be going to down the stretch for a big shot.  What makes this Northern Iowa team no fluke is the play inside of 7-foot-1, 290-pound senior center Jordan Eglseder, who neutralized Cole Aldrich, the All-American big man for Kansas, in the second round with 14 points and five rebounds.  Missouri Valley Player of the Year Adam Koch and his younger brother, freshman Adam Koch, are factors as well, both at 6-foot-8 or taller and able to crash the boards.  That’s where Michigan State really excels, attacking the glass and they’ll have to do it even better than ever before with senior guard and big shot maker Kalin Lucas, out for the rest of the tournament with an Achilles injury.  In the second round win over Maryland by a count of 85-83, the Spartans got a game-winning triple at the buzzer from guard Korie Lucious, and he wasn’t the only reserve that provided a significant contribution.  Draymond Green, coming off a 14-rebound performance in the first round against New Mexico, had nine points, eight boards and five dimes, and the MSU bench as a whole put up 30 points, 18 rebounds and 10 assists.  Durrell Summers and Raymar Morgan are starters that have come through when Head Coach Tom Izzo has needed them to, and I see MSU getting the win being too deep, too much on the boards and too athletic here for Northern Iowa to keep their magical run going.  Pick – Michigan St. by 6

 

#4 Purdue vs. #1 Duke – 9:57 PM:  This game really intrigues me the most of the Sweet 16 matchups on Friday night and for a few reasons.  For one, Duke is trying to get back to the Elite Eight and a regional Final for the first time since 2004.  It’s hard to believe it has been that long for the Blue Devils, a Final Four fixture it has seemed at times under Head Coach Mike Krzyzewski.  Duke’s trio of Kyle Singler, Nolan Smith and Jon Scheyer rivals just about any in the country in terms of productivity, particularly in the scoring department.  Singler is averaging 19.5 points and 7.5 rebounds per game in the NCAA Tourney, Smith is putting up 15PPG in the tourney and Scheyer is a dangerous shooter from the perimeter, but was only 1-for-11 from the field against Cal in the second round.  They can’t afford to have one of those main three have an off night and hope to beat Purdue.  In order to get to the Elite Eight, Purdue will have to do it without one of their main ingredients, junior forward Robbie Hummel.  How valuable was Hummel to Purdue?  Well, let’s just say he scored 29 points in the first half alone of a game this season against fellow Final Four hopeful Ohio State.  To say he was a big part of their success would be an understatement.  The Boilermakers outlasted Texas A&M in overtime in the second round.  Matt Painter’s Boilermakers have a lot of balance, as shown when all five starters scored eight points or more and dished out two assists or more in the opening round victory over Siena, led by the 23 points, 15 rebounds and three blocks that game from JaJuan Johnson.  Senior Chris Kramer brings that grit, toughness and fearlessness to the backcourt, and junior E’Twaun Moore is a smooth performer on the wing.  My opinion is that even without Hummel, Purdue will make this a much harder game for Duke than most pundits are predicting.  Pick – Duke by 5

Thursday, March 25, 2010 – Sweet 16 NCAA Tourney Picks

March 26, 2010 on 12:42 am | In College Basketball | No Comments

#5 Butler vs. #1 Syracuse – 7:07 PM:  Few teams have been as impressive as Syracuse in this NCAA Tournament, and this for an Orange squad that closed the regular season with consecutive losses.  Jim Boeheim’s team plays their 2-3 zone defense outstanding, and look for them to make it difficult on the Butler offense to function for the duration of the game.  Andy Rautins, who had 24 versus Gonzaga and is 8-for-16 from three-point land in the tourney, and Big East Player of the Year Wes Johnson (31 points, 14 rebounds in the quarterfinals) are quite a tandem.  Butler has plenty of balance and Brad Stevens’ group doesn’t rely on any one individual to have to do a lot with Matt Howard, Ronald Nored, Gordon Hayward, Shelvin Mack and Willie Veasley among their main cast, plus the defense is able to keep the score relatively low.  But the Bulldogs in my opinion were really fortunate to get to this point given that they were down seven in the second half to Murray State before rallying in the second round.  Their offensive ball movement is very solid and they execute well, though there are times when they go through droughts and struggle to score, and against a team clicking like Syracuse is right now, they could eventually spell trouble.  I think Butler’s nation-long 22-game win streak ends here.  Pick – Syracuse by 7


#11 Washington vs. #2 West Virginia – 7:27 PM: 
Lorenzo Romar’s Huskies of Washington were 3-5 in Pac-10 play at one point before finishing the season strong, winning the league tournament and then beating Marquette and New Mexico to make it to the Sweet 16 for the fourth time in school history.  Winners of nine straight, the Huskies have gotten superb play from 6-foot-6 senior forward Quincy Pondexter and 5-foot-8 sophomore guard Isaiah Thomas.  Pondexter, who holds the school record for games played at UW, helped lead the rally from 15 points down in the second half to beat Marquette and hit the game-winning shot.  Thomas was a force against New Mexico with 12 of his 15 points coming from behind the three-point arc, and he also dished out seven assists.  West Virginia counters the quickness of Thomas and experience of Pondexter with a 1-3-1 zone defense that’s tricky to solve, and pretty good athleticism as well as offensive versatility despite up-and-down play out of the point guard position.  Can Washington match them defensively and on the boards?  Da’Sean Butler, the #3 all-time scorer in West Virginia history, was stellar against an ultra-aggressive Missouri team as he scored 28 points, and Devin Ebanks, playing kind of the role of a point forward, brings 16PPG and 10RPG so far in the tournament.  Even with starting point guard Darryl ‘Truck’ Bryant sitting out with a broken foot, the Mountaineers have enough depth and talent to advance.  Pick – West VA by 8


#6 Xavier vs. #2 Kansas State – 9:37 PM: 
Predicted by most in the preseason not even to finish in the Top 5 in the Big 12, the Kansas State Wildcats have been somewhat of a surprise in the nation this year with legitimate Final Four aspirations behind the top-notch backcourt play of Jacob Pullen and Denis Clemente (18PPG, 4.5APG in the NCAA Tourney).  Pullen put forth a wonderful performance in the second round vs. BYU as he scored 34 points, connected on all 11 of his free-throw tries, shot 7-of-12 from three-point range and added four steals.  Freshman Wally Judge has come off the bench and been serviceable up front with 14 points and 14 boards in the tourney.  Quietly, the Xavier Musketeers are finding a way to make the Sweet 16 annually it seems.  Xavier does a really nice job of taking care of the basketball, committing only 13 total turnovers through two games in this tourney against the likes of Minnesota and Pittsburgh, two rather solid defensive teams.  Their star performer has been 6-foot-4 sophomore guard Jordan Crawford, no longer know just for his YouTube video sensation where he dunked on LeBron James.  Crawford followed up a 28-point performance in the first round by scoring 27 points two days later in the second round.  He’s also shooting 9-of-18 from long distance.  This should be an entertaining, high-scoring game that goes down to the wire, perhaps not being decided until overtime.  Having played in a few of these close games in the tourney the past couple years, even one in the second round vs. Pitt, that should bode well for the Musketeers in an effort of pulling the upset.  Pick – Xavier by 3 (OT)


#12 Cornell vs. #1 Kentucky – 9:57 PM: 
There probably isn’t a much intriguing contrast of styles in this entire Sweet 16 round than Cornell vs. Kentucky.  Cornell is a group of experienced upperclassmen and seniors, while Kentucky under Head Coach John Calipari boasts a bunch of talented, likely one-and-done freshmen bound soon for the NBA in point guard John Wall, big man DeMarcus Cousins and shooting guard Eric Bledsoe (75% from deep in the NCAA Tourney).  What’s fascinating about this matchup is that on paper with the talent, one would think Kentucky absolutely clobbers Cornell, but there are some experts out there predicting this to be close to the very end with the Big Red having a shot to pull the upset.  Kentucky wants to push the pace and make it about transition and up-tempo.  We’ll find out about their maturity in this game, and they really need to be able to turn over a Cornell team that’s as effective and executes about as well as anyone in the country in their half-court set.  For Cornell, a team that shot 27-of-48 from the field in the opening round vs. Temple and 33-for-54 against Wisconsin in the second round, two highly thought of defensive teams, they must continue to control tempo and keep the Wildcats out of the open court.  They have a nice trio in forward Ryan Wittman, point guard Louis Dale and 7-foot-tall center Jeff Foote to be able to keep putting the biscuit in the basket.  Will they be able to defend the high-octane Kentucky attack though?  Wall is a special kind of guard like probably no other in the tourney, currently averaging 15.5 points and nine assists per game in the NCAA Tourney.  If the Cats get significant contributions from sophomore 6-foot-7 swingman Darius Miller and 6-foot-9 junior power forward Patrick Patterson, KY will be in good shape to move a step closer to the Final Four.  Pick – Kentucky by 15

Hatfield Sports NCAA Tournament Bracket 2010!

March 25, 2010 on 5:34 pm | In College Basketball | No Comments

Here is my NCAA Men’s College Basketball BRACKET for 2010 – I have West Virginia, Kansas, Villanova and Syracuse reaching the Final Four with the Mountaineers from WVA winning the title!  Of course, this bracket will likely be blown up by the start of the second round . . . keep an eye on my upset ’sleepers’ Murray State, UTEP, Utah State and Cornell to advance a round or two as double-digit seeds.

Hatfield Sports Bracket

Welcome to the NEW MatthewHatfield.com – Wednesday, March 24, 2010

March 25, 2010 on 5:34 pm | In Uncategorized | No Comments

Welcome to the NEW MatthewHatfield.com BLOG presented by WordPress through Yahoo!   The old MatthewHatfield.com site isn’t completely gone – - check out the Archived material from August of 2004 through January of 2010 at www.matthewhatfield.com/index.html.  That will have all the links to all that material there.  For now, enjoy the NEW BLOG site and your feedback is appreciated by e-mailing me at webmaster@matthewhatfield.com.

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