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Thursday, March 28, 2013

Must See Sports - Fifth Weekend of March 2013

Last week's advantage/disadvantage record: 1-2
2013 Advantage/Disadvantage Record: 13-11 

Earlier this month, The Hat Trick presented its variation of Mike and Mike in The Morning’s “Sheet of Integrity”, NCAA Tournament bracket predictions. In the round of 64, the sheet of integrity was more like a shred of integrity. The Hat Trick’s projected winner was rubbed out by this year’s big Cinderella story, the Florida Gulf Coast University Eagles and coach Andy Enfield.

March is the time for basketball fever. The hardwood will dominate this week’s Must See. However, there is another pastime that is quietly making its return in the next week.

Thursday, March 28

NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament – Regional Semifinals

East Region

(2) Miami Hurricanes vs (3) Marquette Golden Eagles

So far: “Straight chalk, homie!” Four teams remain and those four teams are the top four seeds in the region. I personally thought Marquette was overrated coming into the tournament. I thought a last second tip-in win over 14th seeded Davidson validated that concern, but Marquette has made it to the round of 16 after outlasting Butler in the round of 32. It’s been all chalk so far and I expect that to continue in this game. “The U”, on the other hand, has performed as expected in its first two rounds: with convincing wins.

Advantage: Miami

"Straight chalk...!" 1
(1) Indiana Hosiers vs (4) Syracuse Orange

Sports media has tried to hype up this matchup as Syracuse Head Coach Jim Boeheim’s chance to exorcise ghosts of 1987. Boeheim’s Syracuse Orangemen lost in the championship game at the Superdome in New Orleans on a last second shot by Keith Smart of Indiana, then-coached by the legendary Bobby Knight. This year, the questions in this game revolve around whether Indiana and its high octane style of play can penetrate and outlast the Orange’s famed 2-3 zone defense.

On paper, this game looks like Indiana’s Waterloo. The matchups appear to favor the Orange with their smothering defense against a team that beats opponents by moving the ball quickly and setting up open shots. In addition, I have cracked on Indiana, calling them overrated a few times this year. However, Indiana has shown up big for their big games, win or lose. Syracuse has been fool’s gold, laying giant eggs in the regular season when the spotlight has been on.

It is with great hesitation that I pick the Orange in this contest. The Orange appear to have climbed back on the horse after vanishing late in the regular season. I would not bet the farm on this one, though.

Advantage: Syracuse

Boeheim and Syracuse went on to win a National Championship in 2003, ironically also in New Orleans. I think he's over it. Or is he?

West Region

(9) Wichita State Shockers vs (13) LaSalle Explorers 

LaSalle had to play its way into the field of 64 by beating Boise State in the First Four. They haven’t looked back, eerily similar to the run of Virginia Commonwealth University in 2011. Their backcourt of Ramon Galloway (17 PPG, 4 APG, 5 RPG) and Tyrone Garland (13 PPG) have carried the Explorers in the Big Dance.

Wichita State is a team that pounds and hammers teams in the paint with tough, smart defense and daunting post presence. Their 1-2 punch in the frontcourt of Cleanthony Early (14 PPG, 5 RPG) and Carl Hall (13 PPG, 7 RPG, 2 BlkPG) were key in the Shockers’ absolute trouncing of Pittsburgh in the second round and their overthrowing of top seeded Gonzaga in the third round. I expect the beat-downs to continue.

Advantage: Wichita State

(2) Ohio State Buckeyes vs (6) Arizona Wildcats

Solomon Hill (13 PPG, 5 RPG) and the Wildcats have had a smooth ride through their first two rounds of the tourney. I don’t think they have a shot against Deshaun Thomas (20 PPG, 6 RPG) and the Buckeyes. Ohio State is simply too loaded, too well coached by Thad Motta, and too good. In the post area, I expect the Buckeyes to club Arizona, a team that needs to score points to win. OSU’s defense is too much and Arizona, in my opinion, does not have the athletes to stop Ohio State.

Advantage: Ohio State

DeShaun Thomas...good luck Arizona! 2

Friday, March 29

Midwest Region

(1) Louisville Cardinals vs (12) Oregon Ducks

The NCAA Tournament Selection Committee received some media criticism for seeding Oregon so low, at a 12th seed. Thus far, the Ducks have proven the Committee wrong. The Duck stops here.

Advantage: Louisville

The Oregon Ducks can expect a similar fate as Daffy Duck. 3

(2) Duke Blue Devils vs (3) Michigan State Spartans

The Friday games offer two of the most “Must See” of the Must See games and this is one of them. Two college coaching legends – Mike Krzyzewski of Duke and Tom Izzo of Michigan State…. Marquis players – senior guard Seth Curry (17 PPG), and senior forwards Ryan Kelly (13 PPG, 5 RPG, 2 BlkPG) and Mason Plumlee (17 PPG, 10 RPG, 2 BlkPG) of Duke squaring off against point guard Keith Appling (13 PPG, 3 APG, 4 RPG), senior forward Derrick Nix (10 PPG, 7 RPG) and freshman guard Gary Harris (13 PPG), who, with 23 points (6/9 FG, 4/7 3-PT, 7/8 FT), appeared to single-handedly squash the Memphis Tigers in the third round….

Let me start by saying that Duke is very, veryVERY good. But their kryptonite is post presence. If the right team with the right personnel can neutralize Plumlee down low and in the paint, the Blue Devils have to take and make high percentage shots to win. They can do that, but so can the Spartans, if forced to (see Gary Harris’ performance against Memphis).

Appling hurt his knee late in the Memphis game, but will play tomorrow. His recovery is key in this game and only he and a few others know how up-to-speed that recovery is. I have been of the opinion that in a single elimination game, the scales tip to fundamentals and high percentage play – shooting, rebounding, passing. I think the Spartans have the slightest edge. Regardless, I expect the winner to advance to the final Four in Atlanta.

Advantage: Michigan State

Nix (left) and Harris (right) can propel the Spartans past Duke. 4
South Region

(1) Kansas Jayhawks vs (4) Michigan Wolverines

Kansas will win if: Senior Jeff Withey (13 PPG, 9 RPG, 4 BlkPG) dominates in the paint and does not turn the ball over excessively.

Kansas will lose if: Freshman guard Ben McLemore (16 PPG, 5 APG) vanishes like he did against North Carolina (2 pts., 0/9 FG, 0/6 3-pt.) and nobody steps up to compensate.

Michigan will win if: They move the ball quickly and take higher percentage shots from the wings and the perimeter.

Michigan will lose if: They try to live by the three, but end up dying by it. Guards Trey Burke (19 PPG, 7 APG, 2 StlPG) and Tim Hardaway, Jr. (15 PPG, 5 RPG) must be smart with the basketball and cannot fall into the trap of jacking up every open three pointer, especially if they fall behind early.

Advantage: Michigan

Tim Hardaway, Jr. could help give the Final Four a heavy Michigan and Midwestern flavor. 5
(3) Florida Gators vs (15) Florida Gulf Coast University Eagles

Cinderella: meet midnight.

Advantage: Florida

Amanda Marcum Enfield, wife of FGCU coach Andy Enfield. I'm gonna miss her. 6

Saturday, March 30

NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament – Regional Finals

East Region

Expected matchup: (2) Miami Hurricanes vs (4) Syracuse Orange Advantage: Miami

West Region

Expected matchup: (2) Ohio State Buckeyes vs (9) Wichita State Shockers Advantage: Ohio State

Sunday, March 31

NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament – Regional Finals

Midwest Region

Expected matchup: (1) Louisville Cardinals vs (3) Michigan State Spartans Advantage: Michigan State

South Region

Expected matchup: (3) Florida Gators vs (4) Michigan Wolverines Advantage: Florida

Monday, April 1

Major League Baseball

Boston Red Sox at New York Yankees
Jon Lester, Red Sox vs C.C. Sabathia, Yankees

Major League Baseball is back! I find it fitting that the first matchup on April Fools Day is a matchup of A.L. East fool’s gold. The Red Sox, contrary to what many of their loyal fans may think, have a long way to go before returning to serious contention. The Yankees have so much age and offseason baggage that I just don’t see how they make a deep playoff run, if they make the playoffs at all in 2013.

Adavatages – Game: Yankees, Series: Yankees

America is looking forward to looking at (someone like her looking at) America's Pastime. 7

San Francisco Giants at Los Angeles Dodgers
Matt Cain, Giants vs Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers

Magic Johnson and the Dodgers’ ownership group spent a ton of money over the past year to buy the N.L. West for the Dodgers. Failure is not an opinion. In their way are the defending World Series champion Giants. A schedule including baseball’s greatest west coast rivalry is a fitting way to start the season. This game, and series, are a coin toss.

Advantages – Game: Giants, Series: Dodgers

Magic put his money where his mouth is. 8
Tuesday, April 2


New York Knicks at Miami Heat

Once streak endeth; a new streak beginneth, especially with the Heat playing at home.

Advantage: Miami  

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