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NCAA East Region 2

March 12, 2002 Conference Notes No Comments

NCAA East Region 2

by Jason Drucker

Texas Tech (6) v. So. Illinois (11)
At 26-7, Southern Illinois managed to earn at outright bid despite losing to Creighton in the Missouri Valley Conference title game. Though the Salukis managed to beat Indiana by a dozen earlier this season, they did not have to battle against a skilled and seasoned coach in the likes of Bob Knight. Texas Tech, in its first year with the king of controversy, bounced back from a 9-19 season to go 23-8 in the Big 12 Conference. While both teams have skilled rebounders, the Red Raiders have Andy Ellis at 6-11, while the Salukis biggest player, at 6-9, is listed below 200 pounds.
Southern Illinois will have the choice, if playing man defense, of going with 6-8, 220-pound Jermaine Dearman, or Rolan Roberts listed at 6-6, 240 pounds. Either way, the only chance the Salukis have to win is by controlling the glass. They do not have the same talent as Knight’s team, and therefore cannot go toe-to-toe with them on shot-making abilities. They will have to out-hustle Texas Tech to win this battle, which is unlikely with Knight coaching.

Texas Tech 72, So. Illinois 58

Georgia (3) v. Murray State (14)
At 21-9, Georgia may have gotten a bit lucky with its seeding in the NCAA Tournament. Losing four of its final nine games, no player on this roster has the experience the Big Dance may warrant. With no seniors and only one junior on its roster, Georgia is young. However, the Bulldogs have a top coach in Jim Harrick and each player knows his role. Murray State looked like it was going nowhere earlier in the season, sitting on a 9-11 record with only nine players in uniform due to illness. Fortunately, the Racers found their stride and have won 10 of their last 11 games, including a one-point victory against heavily favored Tennessee Tech in the Ohio Valley Conference title game. If the Racers are going to advance to the next round, Justin Burdine is going to have to score high by making shots, not just taking a lot of them. When shooting over 40%, Murray State has won 19 of 23 games, while its eight losses have all come when shooting below 40% from the field. The Racers will also have to worry about foul trouble with so short a bench. While Murray State could pose a serious threat to Georgia, the Bulldogs should make it to the next round. However, do not be surprised if Georgia is the highest seed to get knocked off in the opening round.

Georgia 77, Murray State 73

NC State (7) v. Michigan State (10)
This game has the makings of a Classic Sports episode. NC State is one of the most exciting teams of the year, earning a stronger seed thanks to its victories against Virginia and Maryland only days ago, before losing to Duke in the ACC finals. Anthony Grundy, who is among the ACC leaders in almost every major category, has been compared to Juan Dixon, and heralded by Mike Krzyzewski as the ACC’s most valuable player (not necessarily the best though). With multiple players who can shoot from the outside, the Wolfpack is a constant threat to shoot from beyond the arc, which creates defensive difficulties for its opposition. However, Michigan State’s Tom Izzo is no ordinary coach. His players are likely to give 102% in every tournament game, and its strong interior will certainly be too much for NC State if the Wolfpack is not connecting on its 3-pointers. Marcus Taylor averaged 21 points per game over the last seven games of the season, and will likely be shooting a great deal in this opener. Even if he is not hitting, Adam Ballinger and Al Anagonye will be there to clean up the mess. While Michigan State certainly has the advantage of the big men, NC State may be too much from the perimeter. This game could go either way dependent upon many variables, which is why it could make for the most exciting first-rounder this year.

Michigan State 73, NC State 70

UConn (2) v. Hampton (15)
This game is likely to be a no-brainer, if not only for the seeding difference, for the fact that UConn may be the team to beat in the East. In Caron Butler, the Huskies offer a matchup nightmare for almost any opponent. Emeka Okafor provides the shot-blocking to keep other teams on the perimeter, while Ben Gordon, Tony Robertson, and Taliek Brown provide an excellent backcourt to make scoring from the perimeter difficult. With 26 wins, no one should take the Pirates lightly. After Hampton’s upset over Iowa State in last year’s NCAA Tournament (15 seed then, as well), Jim Calhoun is not going to allow his players to slack off in the first round. Tommy Adams provides sharp shooting from the perimeter, while the rest of the Pirates manage an excellent field goal percentage to complement. At 48.6 percent, the Pirates would look at this statistic as an advantage. However, UConn shot 48.1 percent from the field this season, and they are likely to post a tougher defense than one to which Hampton is accustomed. While the Pirates are a tough 15-seed, the Huskies are a tough 2-seed, making this matchup a quintessential first-rounder.

UConn 90, Hampton 67

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