Previews of second-round games for Saturday, March 22
(8) California vs. (1) Oklahoma
For the Sooners, it's all about the status of Hollis Price and his groin injury. They will be playing their fifth game in eight days, and the bottom line is that Price must be able to offset a physically tough California team that features a scoring wiz in Joe Shipp and a big guy who can put up points quickly in Amit Tamir.
Price and his backcourt mate, Quannas White, must have their A-game, and Ebe Ere must find his shot. The big question, though, is the physical condition of Price.
(5) UConn vs. (4) Stanford
When you look at this game UConn has the edge athletically, but Mike Montgomery has gotten the maximum all year out of his team. The definition of coaching is to get the most out of your people, and Montgomery has done that with this Stanford squad. Think about their victories over teams like Arizona, Florida and Xavier. Yes, the Cardinal plays tough on the defensive end, but it will need a big performance out of Julius Barnes on the perimeter, and Josh Childress, who went for 22 points and 11 rebounds in the first round, will have to be superb.
On the inside, Rob Little has to find a way to negate Connecticut's Emeka Okafor, who is to me one of the premier big men in America. For the Huskies, Ben Gordon must be Ben Gordon, explosive and a big scorer. And Taliek Brown cannot afford another 0-for-7 performance from the point guard slot. He must be able to direct and orchestrate Jim Calhoun's offensive system for UConn to move on. Something tells me Okafor will not let them lose on the inside and the athleticism will help the Huskies advance.
(13) Tulsa vs. (5) Wisconsin
Hey, Tulsa is hot right now! The Golden Hurricane has won eight in a row after struggling in the middle of the year. The win over a solid Dayton team was impressive, and Tulsa must be effective defensively to shut down the Big Ten champs and Kirk Penney on the perimeter. Penney had 21 in Game 1, and Bo Ryan's club defends, too.
The Badgers must find a way to stop Kevin Johnson and Jason Parker on the defensive end, and if they do Wisconsin should march on after a tough test against the Hurricane.
(6) Missouri vs. (3) Marquette
The key to this game is in the backcourts. I believe the team that wins the point guard battle between Missouri's Ricky Clemons and Marquette's Travis Diener will march on to the Sweet 16. The Tigers turned the ball over 23 times in it's first-round game and can't afford to to that against the Golden Eagles.
And the real Dwayne Wade must stand tall for Marquette and play like an All-American to offset Missouri's inside tandem of Ricky Paulding and Arthur Johnson.
(9) Gonzaga vs. (1) Arizona
The Wildcats have to get the All-American, Jason Gardner, to play like he capable of playing. He has really struggled, shooting 4-for 29 in his last two games, and that will not get it done if Arizona hopes to advance. Gardner has to return to his basic form and provide some punch from the perimeter.
Gonzaga will need a big performance out of Ronny Turiaf, who converted 16-of-22 free throw attempts in the first round. And Blake Stepp has to make some threes for Gonzaga to have a shot against the favored Wildcats.
(5) Notre Dame vs. (4) Illinois
The big question facing the Irish is whether or not they will have Matt Carroll. They need his jump shot against Illinois. The Illini needs another sensational performance out of energetic, sensational points guard Dee Brown. He had 16 points, eight rebounds and seven assists in a tough battle versus Western Kentucky. He will have an intersecting matchup with Notre Dame's super soph, Chris Thomas.
The Irish have to find a way defensively to negate the great play of Brian Cook, who is an inside-outside force. Torin Francis must play like he did in the first round and against Maryland and Texas early in the year for ND to advance to the Sweet 16.
(11) Central Michigan vs. (3) Duke
Central Michigan features a brilliant big man inside in Mike Manciel, who scored 29 points on the interior, and in Chris Kaman the Chippewas have a 7-footer who will make someone's roster at the next level. Jay Smith's club was brilliant against Creighton.
For Duke to win, J.J. Redick will have to knock down the 3-pointer and Dahntay Jones must stay out of foul trouble. I have a feeling the Dukies will respond against the Mid-American Conference champs, and get a solid team effort. It is very important that Casey Sanders give the Blue Devils a good defensive performance inside, and Shelden Williams must score in the low box. If they do that, Coach K will be in the Sweet 16 for the sixth time in seven years.
(10) Arizona State vs. (2) Kansas
Can Ike Diogu, the Sun Devils' sensational Diaper Dandy, carry ASU to an upset over the Jayhawks? Whey you think of Kansas, you think of the best 1-2 punch in America in Kirk Hinrich and Nick Collison. But let me tell you, my friends. Keith Langford can flat-out score. He is dynamite from the wing and loves the spotlight. Langford was brilliant off the bench in last year's Final Four run, and this year his 22 points were the difference in the first round against a tough Utah State team. Somehow, some way, Arizona State has to find a way to stop the explosiveness of Langford.
On the other side, Rob Evans' club must have a big-time performance from Curtis Millage, who posted a double-double in the impressive victory over Memphis. But something tells me that Roy Williams will work some magic after a tough opening game. The Jayhawks came back impressively after a struggle against Holy Cross last year, and I expect a big performance out of Hinrich, Collison and Williams as my gut feeling tells me they will move on to the Sweet 16.