Players to Watch in Thursday's Games
Louisville vs. Washington 7:10PM
Both of these teams play fast paced and the score of this game will definitely be in the 80's, if not higher. Washington plays a three guard set with Nate Robinson leading the attack. Although Robinson is a few inches short of six feet, his vertical is 43 inches, and he is as quick Earl Boykins. Robinson can shoot the 3, drive, and he makes things happen out on the floor. He almost left Washington last year after his sophomore year, but he decided to come back for one more year. Robinson will most likely enter the draft this year, and will continue to be the little pest that he is out on the court right now in the NBA.
Francisco Garcia is a player any college basketball fan has known about since his freshmen year. He is the type of player that coaches want to have the ball in their last possession. Garcia is great, because not only can he create his own shoot, but he also is smart enough to know when to drive and kick the ball to the open man. Garcia is also an excellent free throw shooter at 87 percent. Garcia was honored on Senior Day in Louisville, even though he is only a junior, because he is leaving after this year to go to the NBA. Oh, and by the way, in the two biggest games of the year Garcia had 27 points in the first round game against LA Lafayette, and then had 21 in the rout of Georgia Tech.
Wisconsin Milwaukee at Illinois 7:25PM
When you play the Panthers, you better be ready to defend the 3 point line. In their first round game against Alabama, the Panthers hit 12 three pointers, 10 of them in the first half in knocking out No. 5 seed Alabama. They followed that up in their second round game against BC, by hitting 11 three pointers, and sending a team that started the year 20-0 back home to Boston. Unfortunately, for the Panthers Illinois is much better than the two teams they have already faced. If the Panthers are going to have any shot, Ed McCants has to have a huge game. In both first round games he hit 4 three pointers, and the Panthers need some more of his magic touch in order to keep the Cinderella shoe on for another day.
How can you only mention one player from Illinois to direct your defensive effort towards? Answer: you can't. You can't mention Dee Brown, without mentioning the point guard who runs the show (Deron Williams), and the other backcourt mate, Luther Head. These three guards are almost unstoppable and they have lead Illinois to a 34-1 record this year. Dee Brown might be the most entertaining of the 3 guards simply for his speed, and his ability to change the game, either on offense or on defense. Against Michigan when Illinois was down late in the second half, Dee came up with 3 straight steals that lead to baskets to lead the Illini to victory and keep them unbeaten. He has an ultra quick release on his shot, and he has NBA range and then some. There is no way you can watch the Illini and not admire the type of player and effort that Dee gives.
West Virginia at Texas Tech 9:40
Who would have thought the Mountaineers would be in the sweet sixteen? I did pick them to win their first round game against Creighton, but I did not have the guts to pick them to beat Wake Forest. I don't imagine that many people did. This team has come almost out of nowhere, and up to this point, has won the most entertaining game in the tournament. This team does not have a player that averages more than 12 points a game, yet somehow they managed to put up 111 points on Wake Forest. If there is one player to watch in this game for UWV it is Mike Gansey. Gansey is a transfer from St. Bonaventure, and he was on the team a few years ago when they voted to forfeit their last two games of the regular season. Gansey scored 19 of his 29 points in the two overtimes in the win over Wake Forest. Gansey has a nose for the ball, and he always seems to be in the right place at the right time. This kid has instincts, and has basketball smarts that many players his age are lacking. If there is a loose ball in this game or a rebound that is important, look for Gansey to be in the mix.
Ronald Ross is a former walk-on at Texas Tech, and he is somebody that coach Bobby Knight has continually praised as one of the hardest working kids Knight has ever coached. Coming from a coach that has over 800 victories, that is no small feat. Ross is a guard that shines brightly in Bobby Knight's motion offense. Ross is a great 3 point shooter, and he is the leader and the go to guy for the Red Raiders. When Ross and Jarious Jackson play well, so do the Red Raiders. If these two guys are neutralized, UWV could be headed to the elite 8.
Arizona at Oklahoma State 9:55 PM
This is the game that I am looking forward to the most. I am a huge Arizona fan, and I am counting the hours until the game starts. Oklahoma State went to the Final Four a year ago, and brings in a very experienced team, but the one player that might be the X factor is the freshmen: JamesOn Curry. I first saw JamesOn play on February 7th against Oklahoma on Big Monday when he scored 22 points and looked like the diaper dandy that he was expected to be. Since that game he has scored in double figures 8 out of the past 11 games. In the first two games of the tournament, JamesOn scored 31 points, hit 5 of 6 three pointers, and was 12 of 14 from the free throw line. Other analysts might talk about how the Wildcats need to stop Joey Graham or John Lucas, but the X factor for the Cowboys is JamesOn Curry.
When you think of Arizona, you think of Salim Stoudamire. Everybody knows that the Wildcats will only go as far as Salim will take them. Salim has been the best outside shooter this year in college basketball, as he shot 51% on three pointers for the year. In the first round he hit 8 three pointers, and scored 45 points. If you give Salim enough room to breathe on the court, that is too much. If your playing defense on him, you must be up in his face, and force him to drive to the basket. That is easier said than done. He has such a quick release, and the Wildcats run all sorts of screens, and pick and rolls to get him open to launch a 3. And it doesn't matter where he gets the ball on the court, because he is always a threat to shoot it.
"When fellow senior and friend Channing Frye was asked about Stoudamire's range, he just laughed.
"Range? What range?" Frye said. "His range is forever."
Asked the same question, Stoudamire shrugs.
"I don't look where I am on the court," he said. "I just let it go."
Olson said Stoudamire and Steve Kerr are the best long-range shooters he's coached." link