The NCAA Tournament has been exciting to say the least. Only one number one seed advanced to the Final Four and the road has been paved with upsets. The championship game isn't far away now and the last four teams standing are vying for a chance to take home the trophy. Below is Silver Chips Online's analysis of the upcoming games as well as a look at the best of the Elite Eight.
Elite Eight awards
Best team performance: Marquette's win over Kentucky was very impressive. The Golden Eagles dominated the Wildcats and ripped the team's 26 game winning streak to shreds.
MVP: Dwyane Wade had the kind of night a lot of players in the NBA could only dream of. He came up with a triple-double in points (29), rebounds (11), and assists (11) against what was thought to be the best defensive team in the nation.
Final Four preview
West #2 Kansas vs. Midwest #3 Marquette
Kansas and Marquette have both looked very impressive during the NCAA Tournament. The Golden Eagles and Jayhawks knocked off favorites Kentucky and Arizona respectively to get to the Final Four.
Kansas had to go through Duke before facing the Wildcats. The Jayhawks' Nick Collison dominated the inside game and his presence was the difference. Collison's 33 points accounted for nearly half of his team's points and he had a game-high 19 rebounds. He cooled off against Arizona though and scored a near season low eight points on two for seven shooting. Kirk Heinrich on the other hand mustered just two points against Duke but got fired up against Arizona and scored 28. This bodes well for Kansas because it means even when one of its stars isn't playing up to par, another one can pick up the slack.
Still, the Jayhawks may be distracted by the recent "resignation" of North Carolina head coach, Matt Doherty. His departure leaves the job open for Roy Williams, the Kansas coach. Williams' ties to the school are evident. He graduated and was an assistant coach at North Carolina. His son also played for the Tarheels. He has turned down the job once before, but he's given no assurances that he'll do the same this time around. Of course this must all be playing on the minds of Williams' players not to mention on his own. It'll be tough for him to remain focused on the game with so many questions from reporters about the possibility of leaving Kansas.
Marquette is attending its first Final Four since 1977 when it won the whole thing. The Golden Eagles must have more confidence than any of the other three teams having ripped through the tournament favorite, Kentucky and having defeated two seed Pittsburgh. With the competition Marquette has faced thus far, Kansas is almost a step down.
By far the biggest success story for Marquette has been its junior guard, Dwyane Wade. He's averaging 22.5 points per game for the tournament and doesn't look like he's done doing damage. The threat the Golden Eagles represent is compounded by the play of senior forward Robert Jackson. He's playing his best basketball of the season after starting the tournament off slow. He scored 24 points and grabbed 15 rebounds in the team's last game.
Though the Jayhawks have played well without their injured starting power forward, Wayne Simien, they could really use him out on the court against Marquette just to provide another set of legs. Kansas does have the senior leadership that Marquette lacks, but so far that hasn't mattered much to the streaking Golden Eagles.
Projected outcome: Marquette wins
South #1 Texas vs. East #3 Syracuse
This year's Elite Eight featured all four number one seeds, but only one, Texas, survived to see the Final Four. For a school that focuses on football, the Texas basketball program has come a long way. Led by its 5-10 sophomore, T.J. Ford, the Longhorns have reached the Final Four for just the second time in school history. Ford has had a great tournament thus far, averaging over 15 points and 9 rebounds. His sense of the court is excellent. Even when he's double teamed, he seems to find an opening somewhere.
Though Ford is the big man on campus, the Longhorns are by no means a one-player team. Juniors Brandon Mouton and James Thomas have each been big contributors as well. Mouton, cousin of former Maryland star Byron Mouton, had a breakout game against Connecticut in the Sweet 16, scoring 27 points and shooting four for seven from beyond the arc. Thomas struggled against Michigan St., but has still played well in the tournament. He's a monster on the boards and managed to outmuscle Connecticut's talented big man Emeka Okafor and grab 15 rebounds two rounds ago.
Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim has been to the Final Four before, but he's never won the national championship before. This year is his best bet to do it before his freshman star, Carmelo Anthony, leaves for the NBA. The Orangemen's success can be attributed to Anthony's play this year. He's a great ball handler and as a result can create his own shots. Not only that, Anthony is a rebounding force; he's averaging 9.8 boards per game for the season.
During the tournament, none of Syracuse's players have been hitting their season averages in any categories for the most part. It's possible this means the Orangemen are slumping because they're playing tougher competition, but it seems more likely that they're just getting warmed up. Look for Hakim Warrick to step up his game and bang the ball inside. He hasn't had many rebounds this March, but his numbers indicate he's improved each of the four rounds so he may be getting close to having a big night.
Syracuse will need to take away the passing lanes and play tough defense to stop Ford from setting his teammates up with high percentage shots. Though Ford has matched his season average in points during the tournament, his shooting hasn't been great. He's hitting less than a third of his shots and because his team will get a tougher challenge on the boards than it's used to, he won't get as many looks at the basket. The Orangemen should be able to weather the Longhorns and come away with the upset.
Projected outcome: Syracuse wins
KC Costanzo. Keith "KC" Costanzo is one of the brand-spanking-new editors-in-chief of <i>Silver Chips Online</i>. His responsibilities include maintaining the journalistic integrity of the paper and making sure no one spontaneously combusts due to the stress of deadlines. KC enjoys late night frisbee games and long hours … More »