Sunday, March 21, 2010
Previewing Sunday in Milwaukee
By Eamonn Brennan
MILWAUKEE -- We're down to the final two games of what has been a fairly well-played -- and certainly well-organized -- regional this weekend. Sure, it lacked the first-round insanity experienced in other parts of the country, but there's still plenty of time. Let's run it down:
Midwest Region: Ohio State (2) vs. Georgia Tech (10), 2:20 p.m. ET
Key to the game: Can Ohio State stop Georgia Tech's size? In a way, Ohio State is a much better, more talented version of the Oklahoma State Cowboys, who Georgia Tech was able to outlast on Friday. The Jackets' strategy was never a mystery. Paul Hewitt wants his team to get the ball down low to forwards Gani Lawal and Derrick Favors -- preferably Lawal, if it's a back-to-the-basket situation -- where the Jackets hold a size-plus-talent advantage over just about anyone in the country. Oklahoma State was a guard-oriented team without the size to really stop Georgia Tech down low. The same goes for Ohio State, which, while much more talented on the perimeter, really only ever plays one center at a time and ignores its bench for huge stretches of most games. Does Ohio State change what it's done successfully thus far? Or do the Buckeyes counter the Jackets' size with their offensive versatility on the other end, daring the Jackets to keep up with the likes of Evan Turner, David Lighty, William Buford, and Jon Diebler all at once?
Player to watch: Turner is the obvious choice here. He struggled in the Buckeyes' easy win over UCSB Friday night. Georgia Tech shut down a similarly talented guard in Oklahoma State's James Anderson Friday. Do the Jackets get the best of Turner? Or does the guard rebound with a Turner-esque performance?
Who has the edge: It's a little easy to make too much of Georgia Tech's size, which does present matchup problems for the Buckeyes, but it's also important to remember why Georgia Tech struggled for so much of the season: Size doesn't equal cohesion. The Buckeyes should prove to be too complete for Hewitt's sporadic team.
West Region: Pittsburgh (3) vs. Xavier (6), 4:50 p.m.
Key to the game: Team defense. Pittsburgh doesn't have any bonafide stars, but they do play a balanced style that forces their opponents to defend all five players at any given time; there are few opportunities to cheat in help-side against the Panthers. Xavier will have to submit a complete, comprehensive defensive performance to keep Pittsburgh from getting too many open, settled looks. The reverse of that is that Pittsburgh will likewise have to play good team defense against Xavier, whose efficient offense starts with Jordan Crawford, but can just as easily end with Terrell Holloway or Jason Love. Xavier wants to push the pace; Pittsburgh wants to slow it down. When Xavier does run, Pitt will have to pick up Crawford in the secondary break immediately, or they'll be on their heels trying to defend a player whose offensive creativity makes that very difficult to do.
Player to watch:As with Turner above, Crawford is the obvious pick here. As he goes, so goes the Xavier offense. Also keep an eye on Pittsburgh leading scorer Ashton Gibbs. Pitt had six scorers in double figures against Oakland Friday; Gibbs was not one of them.
Who has the edge:Pittsburgh, but only barely. The Panthers are a good enough defensive team to stall Crawford and prevent other players from beating them, and their willingness to control the pace of the game should be enough to slow down Chris Mack's team. But if Crawford gets hot, look out. This one could go either way.