2009 NCAA Tournament: South Regional Sweet 16 Preview
It may be appropriate that the South regional is in a building that is named for a company – FedEx – where deliveries are the objective.
There should be a lot of those when the South regional starts Friday in Memphis. All four teams in North Carolina, Gonzaga, Oklahoma and Syracuse have been delivering a lot of wins and points for their fans. The teams have combined for nearly 30 wins apiece and have great players to lead them.
Oklahoma has the likely national player of the year in Blake Griffin. North Carolina has the ACC’s all-time leading scorer in Tyler Hansbrough. Syracuse has arguably the most conditioned player in the country in Jonny Flynn. Gonzaga has one of the most underrated players in the country in Josh Heytvelt.
Put that all together and fans should have some fun this weekend watching four very athletic teams fight to get to Detroit.
South Regional @ FedEx Forum, Memphis
No. 2 Oklahoma (29-5) vs. No. 3 Syracuse (28-9)
Time/Day/TV: 7:27 EDT/Friday/CBS
Oklahoma Road to the Final Four: D. No. 15 Morgan State, 82-54 D. No. 10 Michigan, 73-63
Syracuse Road to the Final Four: D. No. 14 Stephen F. Austin, 59-44 D. No. 6 Arizona State, 78-67
Oklahoma leading scorers: Blake Griffin 22.5, Willie Warren 14.7
Oklahoma Moment of Truth: When Michigan cut the Sooners’ lead to 58-55 with 6:02 to play, the Sooners outscored them, 15-8 to end the game.
Syracuse leading scorers: Jonny Flynn 17.3, Eric Devendorf 15.9, Paul Harris 12.2
Syracuse Moment of Truth: The Orangemen have pretty much been in control of both of their games thus far. They controlled the pace and received great play from Flynn.
Key Matchup: Syracuse zone vs. Griffin. The famous Orangemen’s zone will pack it in against Griffin to try and deny him as many touches as possible. That will put pressure on the Oklahoma guards in Warren, Austin Johnson and Tony Crocker to be shot makers. If they do that, then the Sooners can win.
Who Wins and Why: Syracuse. The Orangemen are playing very well and Flynn is playing great basketball. The zone will frustrate Griffin to the point where he won’t get his usual 20 points and 15 rebounds. He’ll probably get another double double but not with the numbers fans expect. Watch for Syracuse 3-point specialist Andy Rautins to make an impact. Make no mistake that this is one of the top matchups in the Sweet 16.
South Regional @ FedEx Forum, Memphis
No. 1 North Carolina (30-4) vs. No. 4 Gonzaga (28-5)
Time/Day/TV: 9:57 EDT/Friday/CBS
North Carolina Road to the Final Four: D. No. 16 Radford, 101-58 D. No. 8 LSU, 84-70
Gonzaga Road to the Final Four: D. No. 13 Akron, 77-64 D. No. 12 Western Kentucky, 83-81
North Carolina Moment of Truth: Ty Lawson appears to be healthy after dealing with a right toe injury.
North Carolina Leading Scorers: Tyler Hansbrough 21.2, Ty Lawson 16.1, Wayne Ellington 15.7
Gonzaga Moment of Truth: Demetri Goodson’s layup with 0.9 seconds to play lifted the Zags past Western Kentucky and into the Sweet 16 for the fifth time in the last 11 years.
Gonzaga Leading Scorers: Josh Heytvelt 14.9, Matt Bouldin 13.8, Austin Daye 12.8
Key Matchup: Battle of backcourts. It should be a lot of fun to see both teams play their up-tempo style and see who will run the other off the floor. Lawson and Ellington are special. Bouldin and Jeremy Pargo can break opponents down.
Who Wins and Why: North Carolina. With a healthy Lawson, the Tar Heels are the best team in the country. If they can play a little better defensively, there’s no reason to think why this team will not win four more games.
By Kevin Lonnquist
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