Their number one seed the Duke Blue Devils leads the Austin bracket, however they are not the favorites to win Austin and make the Final Four despite the fact that Duke is arguably the best-coached team in the tournament.
Coach Mike Krzyzewski has done an excellent job considering how this Duke team does not the fit the traditional Duke mold. The traditional Duke molded team requires a stellar player, one of the best in the country and a solid supporting cast. This year's team is basically just an extremely talented supporting cast featuring sharp shooters junior J.J Redick. Redick is leading Duke in scoring however last year he was just supposed to be a threat beyond the arc in case others could not create their own opportunities.
Regardless of the changes in their team, the end result is very similar to previous Blue Devil teams as they won the Atlantic Coastal Conference (ACC) tournament and are ranked number one.
The top four seeds of this bracket are very strong and are all legit contenders to make the final four. The way the Austin bracket is laid out, Duke will have a difficult match-up against the Orangeman of Syracuse in the Sweet 16. The Orange are a team that deserve to be ranked higher than number four after winning the Big East.
The Orange have one of the best coaches in college basketball to lead them, Jim Boeheim. Just last month, Boeheim was nominated to the Hall of Fame class of 2005 and won the 700th game of his career joining elite company. Moreover, Syracuse is even more talented than Duke and can match-up quite well.
Senior Hakim Warrick is making his third consecutive NCAA tournament appearance. Warrick and junior Gerry McNamara are the two star remaining players from Syracuse's title run two years ago with Carmelo Anthony. Warrick has improved as a player since his sophomore year he now averages 21.4 points a game, nearly seven points more. He stands 6' 8" and uses his athleticism to his advantage in the paint, bringing down 8.5 rebounds an outing.
McNamara is Syracuse's form of Redick. They both are shooters of the three ball and when in rhythm are capable to shoot the lights out. McNamara's numbers are not nearly as stellar as Redick or his past but he does not have to lead the Orange. He has become a better passer, averaging five assists along with his 16 points. His three point percentage is nowhere near the ridiculous 41.7 percent of Redick but he is accurate a modest 34.4 percent of the time.
Syracuse without Warrick and Duke would be perfectly matched. However the presence of Warrick will give the advantage to the Orange in this highly anticipated sweet 16 game.
The other sweet 16 game will be between the number two and three seeds, the Oklahoma Sooners and Kentucky Wildcats. The Sooners are led by two juniors who are junior college transfers, Taj Gray and Terrell Everett. As one of the nation's most coveted junior college recruits, Gray chose Oklahoma over a list of other suitors. At Oklahoma, Gray, a 6' 9" power forward, averages 14.5 points and 7.8 boards a game. Everett is a dangerous, versatile team leader. At 6' 4" he can play the one, two or three positions because of his shot, ability to penetrate and drive the lane and his passing. His line is well rounded with 12.6 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 5.1 assists.
The Kentucky Wildcats have the potential to advance far in the Austin bracket and at the end they should win it to make the Final Four. The Wildcats are inconsistent but when they are playing their best game will be a worthy and difficult opponent. While their forwards have been relatively consistent performers, their backcourt needs to shoot, penetrate and distribute the ball well. Their junior guard Patrick Sparks averages 11.5 points a game with 3.8 assists but the number Kentucky fans are concerned about is the 37 shot percentage beyond the arc. When he is making three pointers with regularity, the Wildcats have a chance to win every game.
Coach Tubby Smith has faced too many early tournament upsets in early years and will be extra motivated to succeed this year. Smith uses his deep bench to his advantage to wear out his opponents while his team remains relatively fresh. This team should finally make it past the early rounds of the tournament and once they start winning, the other teams of the Austin bracket, whether it be Oklahoma, Syracuse or Duke, will have a hard time stopping them.
Adith Sekaran. Adith Sekaran is finally a senior at Blair. Adith is a man who is a big time sports fan and can spend any day to its' entirety watching sports or ESPN. Football season is his favorite, which he spends cheering on his ‘Skins to no … More »