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Westsider Rider

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Final Four!!!!

Yeah, I know it's the NIT, I just needed something to get excited over and this is it. The basketball team took care of business and punched their return trip to MSG where they'll face Old Dominion who went into Hofstra and defeated the Pride. On the other side of the bracket Louisville advanced where they will face the winner of the Cincinnati-South Carolina game. These could provide for some interesting final matchups as it could be Amaker vs. Pitino, the coach that many wanted when Amaker was hired but he turned us down because his wife liked the state of Kentucky better. Or it could match the Wolverines and the Gamecocks which would pit the last two NIT champions against each other, I know it's not that compelling but I'm trying here.

Onto the big tourney where the Sweet 16 teams are playing tonight and tomorrow, here's my picks for today's games.

LSU-Duke - I like LSU in the upset here, partially because I think they're a very good team and partially because I hate Duke so much there aren't many other teams I have greater joy in watching lose. I think Big Baby Glen Davis will be too much to handle and although LSU is still young they do have a lot of experience this year playing tough games on the road as well. They won at West Virginia and lost a close game to UConn at Storrs. This team doesn't not have the pressure that Duke does and I think they'll advance onto the Elite Eight.

West Virginia-Texas - These two teams played earlier in the year and Texas came away with a one point victory. I like Texas again to pick up the W as I think they are too balanced and too talented for West Virginia to take over. 3 players for the Longhorns in Gibson, Aldridge and Tucker average 13 points or more and 2 others average over 9.5 points a game. But it won't be a walk in the park as Pittsnogle and Gansey lead a very good WVU team that almost won in Austin and did win at Westwood against UCLA earlier this year and have the experience from their Elite Eight run last year. But in the end I think LaMarcus Aldridge will take over and be too much for the Mountaineers to overcome.

Bradley - Memphis - I still don't think Memphis is all that great, Oral Roberts gave them a game for a while as did Bucknell, who I did pick to upset the Tigers. Memphis now faces the giant killer that is Bradley who defeated Kansas and Pittsburgh to reach Oakland. I really think Bradley can pull the upset but I'm going to say the run ends here for the Cinderella team from the Missouri Valley Conference. I think Memphis will put out too many athletes for Bradley to handle and I think the big stage might get to the Braves. I really want to say Bradley and I will be rooting for them as well as their +250 money line but I'm going with Memphis.

Gonzaga-UCLA - this is the marquee matchup in Oakland as the #2 and 3 seeds, as well as the two best basketball programs on the West Coast today, matchup for a trip to the Elite Eight. I picked UCLA before the tourney started to get to the Final Four and I'm sticking with them. I think this LA backcourt is too good and the frontline for the Bruins is playing much better as of late. Combine that with Adam Morrison's health, even though he says he is fine considering he is a diabetic I believe it will have some impact on the game, and I think the Bruins advance to the Elite Eight.

The Lakers picked up a big win against the Sacramento Queens to take over 7th spot in the West. Ideally I'd love to see them close the season on a tear to get to the #6 spot but with 12 games to play and behind by 3.5 games I doubt it will happen. Getting in as the 7 would be terrible considering the lack of success the Lakers have had against the Suns all year long. Combine that with the fact that Amare Stoudamire is very close to coming back that all spells trouble. It'd be better to make it as the 8 to place either Dallas or San Antonio because we have shown some success against those teams, Dallas especially since Kobe owns them. Next up is Milwaukee tomorrow at home. Making the playoffs takes on greater importance this year because the Lakers still owe Boston a first round pick from the Chris Mihm-Gary Payton deal which is still lottery protected, or at least top 10 I think. This is very big considering this is an weak draft and I'd rather give up a mid to late first round pick this year and we still have a 1st round pick from the Shaq trade so it wouldn't be that big of a loss. 12 games left, 9 at home, we must close strong to keep our playoff spot since there's so many teams bunched down there now.


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