By: Brian Dernulc
The South Regionals in Houston will make history this weekend as they play host to Duke, Purdue, Baylor, and the Australian national team in what is sure to be an interesting experience. Wait, what? The Australian Team is not in town? Oh my bad. That’s St Mary’s. I mean seriously, how do you get five Australians on your roster? Is there a campus over there or something? I don’t know how they do it or what brings Australians to the Bay Area but it doesn’t matter because it’s working out for them. Well done, Randy Bennett. Someone get some audio of their team dinners or something. I want to know what these guys talk about. On to the games…
#1 Duke v. #4 Purdue
I haven’t watched more than about three minutes of Duke’s games in this tournament for a couple reasons. First of all, I, like most other college basketball fans, hate Duke. Secondly, and more applicable to this piece, is that their games haven’t been remotely interesting and this hasn’t been even the least bit surprising. They have distanced themselves from their opponents early and haven’t looked back. When the brackets came out everyone talked about how easy Duke’s road to the Final Four was going to be and that they weren’t going to be challenged. This is still true. I don’t want to talk about Scheyer and Singler anymore or Coach Krzyzewski (no I didn’t have to look that up). I’m sick of all of them. I don’t know what else to say about Duke because I’ve barely watched them this tournament. They are what we think they are and until they face an inferior team they should keep winning.
So remember when I talked about how Purdue was done after their 11 point half performance in the Big Ten Tournament? Good, me neither. I have done such a 180 on them that despite picking them to lose to Siena in the first round I picked them in my Survivor pool on Sunday. I underestimated their ability to rally around each other in the absence of their best player. They still aren’t going to win anything significant but Matt Painter and his players deserve to be commended for their efforts thus far. They have veteran players with a lot of pride and that counts for something. Eric Kramer can defend other perimeter players with the best of them and if he gives Scheyer fits then Purdue can stick around. With Jajuan Johnson defending the paint and E’twaun Moore knocking down big shots, Purdue can make this game close, but I don’t think they can win. The Pick: Duke
#3 Baylor v. #10 St. Mary’s
I’ll say it again. I really like Baylor. I liked them going into the tournament and that hasn’t changed. I have become increasingly angrier with myself for not picking them to go to the Final Four. They haven’t run away from Sam Houston St. or Old Dominion, but that’s fine because I’ve never really felt like they were a threat to lose even when their games have stayed close longer than I thought they would. LaceDarius Dunn has proven to everyone who didn’t know who he was that he can play after putting up 26 points against ODU. Their defense is playing good enough right now too so they look like they can just continue to quietly roll along. If they keep playing like this, they’ll eventually get the respect they deserve.
Yo, Omar coming. St. Mary’s big man Omar Samhan has become a media favorite since the upset of Villanova last weekend. He’s got reporters at major websites fighting over interviews with him and anyone with a microphone or a pen is itching for a quote from him. He has shown his personality and his game since the tournament started and both are impressive. He’s been the most dominant force in the paint since the NCAA’s started shooting a high percentage and grabbing rebounds with ease. The best part is that he is far from a superior athlete and that’s being kind. He is just fundamentally sound with a great touch around the basket and a plethora of moves to get him there. Omar is really fun to watch. He isn’t alone though as the guards on St. Mary’s are providing enough firepower from the outside to keep Omar single covered. It isn’t fluky either. Mickey McConnell and Matthew Dellavedova are good players who have played well all season long. The problem for St. Mary’s though is that unlike their previous opponents, Baylor has a future NBA big man down low to guard Omar Samhan one on one and be successful doing so. I’m not saying he will shut down Samhan, but he will slow him down which will be good enough to keep Baylor’s athletic guards out of the paint and on the outside shooting combo of McConnell and Dellavedova. St. Mary’s has become a sexy upset pick to advance to the Elite 8, but I’m not buying in. Baylor is too much. The Pick: Baylor
As you know I originally picked Villanova to come out of this region. Baylor is my new pick. Mark it, Dude.
Stay Tuned for my final Midwest Region Sweet 16 Preview!