CBKB: Sizing up the East
By J.P. Pelzman
The Record (Hackensack N.J.)
Kentucky. The oldest axiom in the NCAA tournament book is that great guard play wins in March (and now in April), and nobody is better than super freshman John Wall. Yes, he sometimes has clashed with coach John Calipari, and he sometimes plays a bit out of control, but few players can take over a game the way he can. And his star-studded supporting cast is pretty good, too.
Wisconsin. Senior guards also are huge in the NCAAs, and Wisconsin has a terrific pair in Trevon Hughes and Jason Bohannon. The Badgers also have the ability to grind out crucial late-game possessions on offense and defense, something very important at this time of year. Jon Leuer’s recent return from injury gives the Badgers’ frontcourt a boost.
New Mexico. The Lobos have shown their mettle by winning the Mountain West regular-season title, and also have knocked off California and Texas A&M. But the well-balanced Lobos could be in for a tough second-round game if they play sixth-seeded Marquette, which has an uncanny knack for making key plays with the game on the line. And if UNM gets past the Golden Eagles, another gritty and talented Big East team, West Virginia, could be waiting in the Sweet 16.
Temple vs. Cornell. Quite intriguing in that it features an Ivy League team against a higher seed that plays Ivy-like. No, Temple doesn’t use the Princeton offense, but the Owls can be very deliberate in the halfcourt, and they are very disciplined on defense under terrific coach Fran Dunphy. Cornell had trouble with Seton Hall’s speed in a loss to the Pirates, but Temple isn’t up-tempo.
Players to watch
John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Patrick Patterson, Kentucky; Darington Hobson, New Mexico; Da’Sean Butler, Devin Ebanks, West Virginia; Lavoy Allen, Ryan Brooks, Temple; Ryan Wittman, Cornell; Reggie Holmes, Morgan State; Quincy Pondexter, Isaiah Thomas, Washington; Lazar Hayward, Marquette.
Texas. Yes, the Longhorns have been hurt by injuries. But this was a No. 1-ranked team a couple of months ago, so there’s talent on the roster. Damion James is a double-double waiting to happen, and potential second-round opponent Kentucky sometimes has a habit of sleepwalking through portions of games.
Washington. The Huskies are on a roll, having won the Pac-10 tournament to secure an automatic bid. When their shots are falling, they can score points in bunches with their fast-paced offense. The San Jose site is a friendly one for a Pac-10 school, while Marquette will travel west after playing three games in Manhattan last week. Marquette sometimes falls in love with the three-pointer, and missed threes would feed UW’s fast break. Could be a close one.
On to the Sweet 16
Kentucky, Marquette, West Virginia, Wisconsin.