Looking At Four Sweet Storylines
Ben Howland
Ben Howland
Scout National Basketball Columnist
Posted Mar 21, 2007


Eight teams founds their way to San Jose and San Antonio. Two of those are just two wins away from discovering the way to Atlanta. And the Bruins and Aggies didn't suffer from jet lag after getting to where they're playing Thursday.

What’s on tap in NCAA Sweet 16 action Thursday night?

 

*Memphis gets to demonstrate that all of those Conference USA blowouts actually were an indication of how strong the Tigers are.

 

*We’ll get to see who has improved more in a little more than two months, Ohio State or Tennessee.

 

*A stingy defensive team with a high-octane offense will try to hold off a team a club with an equally stout defense but more methodical offense?

 

*Ben Howland of UCLA and Jamie Dixon of Pittsburgh get to quit answering questions about their friendship and put their teams on the floor against one another for the opportunity to move a step closer to a trip to Atlanta.

 

Fire up!

 

All tip-offs are Eastern Time

SOUTH REGIONAL

At San Antonio

No. 2 Memphis (32-3) vs. No. 3 Texas A&M (27-6), 7:15 p.m.

How they got here: Memphis (North Texas, 73-58; Nevada, 78-62); Texas A&M (Penn, 68-52; Louisville, 72-69)

Records vs. tournament field: Memphis 5-3, Texas A&M 5-4

Keys for Memphis: What kind of shape will Chris Douglas-Robert’s ankle be in? How many turnovers can the Tigers force against an Acie Law-led team that is so steady with the basketball against all types of pressure?

Keys for Texas A&M: Can the Aggies’ contain the Tigers’ transition offense? Can they wall off the board-crashing Tigers?

Frank Says: Coach John Calipari’s team has reeled off 24 wins in a row but beat just one NCAA Tournament team (Gonzaga) over the final 22 of those games in the regular season. The Aggies are the best team they have played this season. And there is just too much Law for Memphis to circumvent in order to advance to Saturday’s final.

 

No. 1 Ohio State (32-3) vs. No. 5 Tennessee (24-10), 9:45 p.m.

How they got here: Ohio State (Central Connecticut, 78-57; Xavier, 78-71, OT); Tennessee (Long Beach State, 121-86; Virginia, 77-74)

Records vs. tournament field: Ohio State 13-3, Tennessee 8-6

Keys for Ohio State: The Buckeyes have to immediately focus on making Greg Oden the focal point of their half-court offensive attack, even if it means that some players will have to pass on “early” jump shot opportunities. And they have to do a much better job with their half court defense than they did against Xavier.

Keys for Tennessee: The Vols must do everything they can to keep the ball out of OSU point guard Mike Conley’s hands in both full- and half-court situations. And they have to be aggressive and attack Oden and not let him roam, float and become a help-side shot blocker.

Frank Says: The Buckeyes were fortunate to pull out the game against the Musketeers in Lexington on Saturday. If they don’t play much better in this one, at both ends of the floor, the Volunteers will play against Aggies in the title game on Saturday.

 

WEST REGIONAL

At San Jose

No. 1 Kansas (32-4) vs. No. 4 Southern Illinois (29-6), 7 p.m.

How they got here: Kansas (Niagara, 107-67; Kentucky, 88-76); Southern Illinois (Holy Cross, 61-51; Virginia Tech, 63-48)

Records vs. tournament field: Kansas 7-3, Southern Illinois 6-3

Keys for Kansas: Trying to create as many transition opportunities as possible against a team that is as difficult to score against in the half court as any club in the tournament. Staying disciplined on defense when the Salukis occupy the ball for long stretches of the shot clock

Keys for Southern Illinois: Protecting the ball and not allowing the Jayhawks easy opportunities off of turnovers. Finding a way to generate some offense inside the lane if 6-7 Matt Shaw still can’t go or has limited effectiveness because of the ankle he sprained against Holy Cross.

Frank Says: If we were confident enough the Salukis could generate enough offense of their own, we would like their chances of scoring what would be a stunner in most eyes. Look for Kansas to hang on despite barely (if at all) cracking the 70-point barrier.

 

No. 2 UCLA (28-5) vs. No. 3 Pittsburgh (29-7), 9:30 p.m.

How they got here: UCLA (Weber State, 70-42; Indiana, 54-49); Pittsburgh (Wright State, 79-58; VCU, 84-79, OT)

Records vs. tournament field: UCLA 15-2, Pittsburgh 7-6

Keys for UCLA: That’s simple – scoring points. Other than in the first-round blowout of Weber State, the Bruins’ perimeter threats, Arron Afflalo, Darren Collison and Josh Shipp, have struggled with their jump shots of late, while forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute hasn’t finished as consistently inside the lane.

Keys for Pittsburgh: Seeing Aaron Gray react well when he’s double-teamed by either finishing quickly or pitching the ball out before the defense can rotate to whichever of his teammates have been helped off of.

Frank Says: The Bruins are slightly better, defensively, with the Panthers getting a narrow edge on offense. Going on the assumption that Afflalo is due for a breakout shooting performance, UCLA gets to the Elite Eight.



 

Inducted into the USBWA Hall of Fame in April, 2005, Frank Burlison is Scout.com’s national basketball expert and is also a columnist for the Long Beach (Calif.) Press-Telegram. He can be reached at frank.burlison@presstelegram.com. Read more of Burlison’s pieces at www.frankhoops.com



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