The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

    Let the madness begin

    Photos by MCT

    In the world of sports, most would agree that March is the most exciting month. College basketball takes over the minds of college students. Studying for midterms takes a back seat to upsets and buzzer beaters. Some of The Spectator gurus put their thoughts on paper in a series of questions about this year’s tournament.

    The George Mason award for this year’s Cinderella team:

    Nick Halter (sports editor): It’s hard to imagine something like that happening again, but a team to watch for is Winthrop. Remember when everyone complained that George Mason even got into the tournament last year? That put a chip on its shoulder. This year everyone is saying Winthrop doesn’t deserve a seed as high as 11. Watch out, because Winthrop may have the same attitude in a weak Midwest region.

    Matt Hankey (sports edior): It seems this year’s sexy pick with the national pundits to cause some headaches is Winthrop. I agree. Granted, it was before Christmas, but Winthrop hung close against Wisconsin, North Carolina, and Maryland. It hasn’t defeated a ranked team all season but do not worry. It will when it plays Notre Dame this Friday.

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    Mark Schaaf (editor in chief): It’s hard to pick any of the “automatic bid” teams to make it to the Final Four, but I would keep an eye out for Holy Cross and Winthrop. And also watch Nevada. They are easily the 7-seed mostly likely to beat a 2.

    Andy Weise (staff writer): Winthrop – this team is built for this tournament. Notre Dame will actually be a tough first-round opponent, but if the Eagles can win this game expect them to beat the winner of Oregon and Miami (Ohio). The Eagles have four losses this season and you’ll gain so much more respect for this team when you know who it lost to.

    The last time this team lost was Jan. 2 to Texas A&M by 20 points. Earlier in the season they had an 11-point loss to Maryland, but the two losses that stand out for the Eagles are a loss to North Carolina by seven points and Wisconsin by three. And all four of these losses were on the road. We could definitely see a Winthrop-Wisconsin rematch in the Sweet 16, and I would put my money on Winthrop this time around.

    Jake McCormick (editorial editor): Arizona. In a tough Pac-10 conference, the Wildcats have slipped under the radar for the first time in a long time. With Lute Olson’s experience and a team full of experience and talent, Arizona has the potential to take out Florida and wreck anyone’s bracket.

    Rob Peterson (copy editor): UNLV. Yes, the Running Rebels are a No. 7 seed (George Mason was seeded No. 11), but they’re still scary – so much so that I’m actually picking them to knock off my Badgers in the second round. If they get past Wisconsin, I can see the Rebels going at least to the Elite Eight.

    Who will have a better tournament: Kevin Durant or Greg Oden?

    NH: Based on their respective brackets, Greg Oden will have a better tournament. The East region is the strongest in the tournament, whereas the South is a walk in the park. I see Texas going to the Elite Eight, but Kevin Durant will probably have to face Georgetown if he is to make it to the Final Four.

    MH: Durant will have better individual statistics, but Oden’s team will advance farther. So, which is better? Durant is obviously the workhorse for the Longhorns, whereas Oden receives more scoring help from his perimeter shooters.

    MS: Oden, because Ohio State will make it farther than Texas. If the Buckeyes can avoid an early upset, look for Oden to eat opponents alive. Durant may score 30 a game, but he won’t see the Sweet 16.

    AW: Oden. While Durant is the better overall player between the two based on skill, Oden changes the game like no one else in college basketball. Don’t believe me? Compare Shaquille O’Neal in the NBA to Oden in the NCAA. These two players might not always score the most points or be the focal point of the offense, but their mere presence underneath is enough to decide the outcome of the game. Oden is a rebounding machine on offense and defense. Oden still has a lot to work offensively, but again, his defensive abilities (3.5 blocks a game) are what make him such a great player right now.

    JM: Durant performs better statistically and Texas will go as far as he takes the Longhorns. So far this season, no one has shown a way to stop him from dominating at key points in a game whereas Oden has been shut down in more than a few games this year. Durant’s impact can be compared to that of Carmelo Anthony at Syracuse.

    RP: Durant is playing out of his mind right now – he put up 37 points and 10 rebounds against a No. 1 seed in Kansas. Meanwhile, Oden got into foul trouble early against Wisconsin on Sunday and seemed to merely occupy space, something that doesn’t get into the stat sheets. Oden may block shots and alter his opponents’ game plans, but Durant will be shooting the lights out come Thursday.

    How far will Wisconsin go?

    NH: Wisconsin is a tricky team. The Badgers are capable of beating any team in the field, but could also lose to any team because they tend to play up or down to their competition. They have losses to teams such as Michigan State and Missouri State but also have wins against Pittsburgh and Ohio State. I expect a shaky start, but a trip to the Elite Eight.

    MH: This year’s Wisconsin team was looking like an Elite Eight less than two weeks ago. But, it lost its big man Brian Butch for the tournament and forgot how to score with any consistency. The Badgers need huge games from Alando Tucker and Kammron Taylor and will also need one of the role players to go on a 2- to 3-game run where he plays the best basketball of his life. Look for Marcus Landry to be that guy.

    MS: The Badgers still struggle mightily against a zone and just aren’t a good enough shooting team to beat any of the top seeds. However, I love the fact they are flying under the radar and everyone is jumping off the bandwagon. I have them in the Elite Eight, and if Florida gets upset, Bucky just might make it through the region.

    AW: Wisconsin has proved all season it is a good basketball team, but the loss of Brian Butch has hurt the team a lot more than I thought it would. Ohio State exposed the Badgers in the Big Ten tournament and showed that any team with size from here on out is going to be a tough test for the Badgers. Wisconsin could get upset in the second or third round, but the Badgers have no shot at the Final Four if they run into Florida.

    JM: It’s impossible to predict how the Badgers with fair in the tournament, but considering they have played very well against non-conference opponents this year and Bo Ryan knows what he’s doing after taking less talented teams farther than one and done, I would say they could make a run to the Elite Eight. It won’t be easy, but it is definitely possible if Tucker and Taylor play like they did throughout the Big Ten Tournament.

    RP: The Badgers are struggling right now. Their shot selection is poor, Tucker has no reliable No. 2 option on the court and Butch is missed more than initially thought. I hate to say it, but I’m picking UNLV to upset them in the round of 32.

    Who cuts down the nets when it’s all said and done?

    NH: Georgetown. Too much inside presence. The Hoyas have won 15 of their past 16 with five of those wins coming against ranked teams. Remember the last time a guy named John Thompson coached a guy named Patrick Ewing? After 23 years Georgetown will do it again.

    MH: I have Florida and North Carolina in the championship. Which would you choose? North Carolina you say? All right, good answer.

    MS: The trendy pick is Georgetown, so the Hoyas are out. UCLA looks appealing, but the Bruins are too inconsistent to put together six wins in a row. That leaves Florida. The question – was the Gators’ little mini-slump in February the exception or the rule? I think it was the former. Florida will repeat.

    AW: I really like Ohio State and have followed them all year, so I am hoping for an Ohio State-Florida rematch. However, I don’t see the Buckeyes winning. Florida’s experience is going to help this team become the first team since Duke in 1992 to repeat as National Champions.

    The Gators have the depth and have come on strong after struggling recently. Florida is the only team that has multiple big men they can send at Oden and try to take the Buckeyes out of the game. Plus, they have the perimeter defenders to stop the Ohio State three-point shooters that no one else seems to be able to do.

    JM: North Carolina.

    RP: Georgetown. The No. 2-seeded Hoyas won’t face a tough opponent until North Carolina in the Elite Eight and they’re firing on all cylinders right now. They have the size to combat Ohio State and the scoring to go bucket for bucket against Florida.

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