Friday, March 19, 2010
Previewing Friday in Jacksonville
By Brian Bennett
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Previewing Friday's action at Jacksonville Memorial Arena:
Temple (5) vs. Cornell (12), 12:30 p.m.
This promises to be one of the more fascinating first-round matches of the tournament. Both teams appear criminally underseeded -- Cornell is one of the best Ivy League teams in years, while Temple won both the Atlantic 10 regular season and tournament title. The game features a contrast of styles: The Big Red led the country in 3-point shooting (43.4 percent), while the Owls have the fourth best 3-point percentage defense (27.8 percent). Hard as it is to believe, the Ivy Leaguers want to push the pace, but Temple prefers a more controlled tempo.
And then you have the side story on the coaches, as Cornell's Steve Donahue spent 10 years as an assistant to Temple's Fran Dunphy at Penn. "There are so many emotions that go on in this tournament, and I'd rather not have the extra layer of emotion of competing against a guy that you were hoping to root for," Dunphy said. No one will want to play the survivor of this confrontation.
Wisconsin (4) vs. Wofford (13), 2:50 p.m.
In its first-ever trip to the NCAA Tournament, Wofford had the misfortune of drawing the Badgers and their suffocating style of play. The Terriers know that they're facing a tall order -- or do they? "It would be a huge upset if we were to beat them; let's be honest" Wofford coach Mike Young said. "But I can tell you this: I know my team. They're a little crazy in a great way, in a wonderful way. They are convinced that they're going to come in here and play well and give themselves a chance to win."
The biggest obstacle will be dealing with Wisconsin's size. The Terriers like to go inside first, but they play a three-guard lineup with two 6-foot-6 forwards. The Badgers counter with 6-foot-10 center Jon Leuer and 6-8 Keaton Nankivil fronting Bo Ryan's typically stingy defense, which allowed just 56.2 points per game this season. Wisconsin had one of the worst shooting days imaginable against Illinois in the Big Ten tournament and still almost found a way to win. A lot more will probably have to go wrong for Ryan's team if Wofford is to pull the upset.
Duke (1) vs. Arkansas-Pine Bluff (16), 7:25 p.m.
Arkansas Pine-Bluff has already won one game in the school's first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance -- beating Winthrop on Tuesday night in Dayton -- and that will almost certainly have to suffice for the Golden Lions. They don't shoot the ball well -- making just 36.8 from the field and 31.8 percent from the 3-point line on the season -- and they have only one player taller than 6-foot-7. That doesn't sound like the profile of a team that can topple Duke, which has both size and shooters. But guard Terrance Calvin is trying to stay optimistic. "They're a very big team and we're going to have a small lineup, so we're going to try to use our speed against them," he said. More realistically, the Blue Devils will have far too much firepower for this to be close.
California (8) vs. Louisville (9), 9:45 p.m.
Both teams are a bit of a mystery. Cal won the Pac-10 and had a great RPI but lacks any marquee wins. Louisville was good enough to beat Syracuse twice but bad enough to get hammered by Marquette, St. John's and Western Carolina. Each team boasts some very streaky shooters, especially the Golden Bears' Jerome Randle, who can score in bunches.
If Louisville wants to press and play up tempo, Cal says bring it on. "The faster the better," coach Mike Montgomery said. But Montgomery has to worry about the paint, especially with starting power forward Omondi Amoke not making the trip because of a suspension. The Cardinals say they want to feed big man Samardo Samuels early and often. "I feel like he's the key for us in this tournament," Louisville point guard Edgar Sosa said.