Saturday, March 29, 2008

Regional Finals: East, West Predictions

West Region

(1) UCLA -6 (3) Xavier
6:40 pm ET - The Bruins have thus far sent a loud and clear message: to win the national championship, you'll have to stop Kevin Love. The freshman center has been spot on in all three of UCLA's wins, virtually unstoppable simply because no team has been able to supply a good matchup for the big man inside. Xavier's no different, relying more on guard and perimeter play to win games than inside heft.

The only remaining question is whether Darren Collison and Russell Westbrook can penetrate on Xavier's Lavender and Burrell enough to get love open looks. The answer is that they'll likely be able to do it often enough to use Love's size advantage and distance themselves from the upset-minded Musketeers. The Bruins should win by 8 or more.

East Region

(1) UNC -5 1/2 (3) Louisville
9:05 pm ET - Any time you have a matchup of this magnitude, you look to the bench and see who's coaching. Hmmm... Rick Pitino and Roy Williams. Not much separating those two veterans of many tournaments, so the game is going to be won where? Inside? Doubtful. The Cardinals have David Padgett, Earl Clark and Derrick Caracter to go up against UNC's Tyler Hansbrough. Outside? A little different story. Nobody can match the speed of Ty Lawson, and when Danny Green gets in the game, the Tar Heels have a huge backcourt advantage. Given Wayne Ellington and Marcus Ginyard on the wings, the Cardinals will be unlikely to keep up with Carolina's offensive juggernaut and may have to opt for a three-guard look.

All of this spells trouble for Louisville, but remember, Pitino's over there on the Cardinal's bench and he won't let things get out of hand. Look for Louisville to try to post up and get Hansbrough in foul trouble.

In the end, it looks certain that Carolina will prevail by a solid margin, though it's tough to see how they could win by more than 8 or 9. Slight edge to the Heels.

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