Monday March 23rd, 2009

MORE RESETS: South | Midwest | East

Momentum: UConn. This is the only team in the tournament that didn't have to survive some kind of scare last week. People laughed when I said Chattanooga could give the Huskies a game, but I'm telling you, that was as good a 16-seed as you'll find, and the Huskies blitzed 'em by 56 points. A.J. Price has now passed the 20-point mark in three-straight games, the first time in his career he has done that, and Stanley Robinson has emerged as a vital component in the wake of Jerome Dyson's injury. With Hasheem Thabeet manning the middle, UConn's defense will always seem overwhelming (the Huskies lead the country in fewest fouls committed), but offensively it continues to improve and grow more confident with each game.

Best Matchup: UConn vs. Memphis. This is the game we all wanted to see as soon as the brackets came out, right? Of course, Memphis came frighteningly close to not getting out of the first round, but if the Tigers can get past Missouri they will give UConn all it can handle. It will be hard to beat this one for sheer entertainment value. Both teams are excellent defensively, and both love to get out and run.

Home cooking: Nobody. We've been saying all year that there were very few good teams out west; only five of the Sweet 16 teams are located west of the Mississippi. So naturally the West Regional is filled with foreigners. If you had to take one team, though, you'd have to say UConn, because both times the Huskies won the national championship (1999, 2004) they came out of the West.

Burning question: Is Tyreke Evans ready for his close up? John Calipari loves to point out that Memphis hasn't lost a game since he moved his 6-foot-5 freshman to point guard. But the question still has to nag: Did the switch work because it was a great move, or because it happened just as conference play was beginning? Evans looked shaky and passive in his first NCAA outing, but he was much more aggressive in the Tigers' throttling of Maryland in Round 2. We can talk all we want about the titillating possibility of a Memphis versus UConn regional final, but if Evans doesn't step on the court Thursday night believing he's the best player out there, then Memphis won't get past Missouri.

Difference maker: JaJuan Johnson, Purdue. If the Boilermakers are going to pull off the upset of the tournament, they'll need Johnson, their 6-10 sophomore center, to have the game of his life. Johnson was the difference in Purdue's second-round win over Washington, going for 22 points and four blocks, but needless to say the challenge will be bigger -- literally -- when he goes against Hasheem Thabeet.

The pick: Memphis. I went with the Tigers from the beginning so I might as well stick with them, but if they play UConn they will definitely be the underdog.

MORE RESETS: South | Midwest | East

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