GREG GAMBLE’S 2008-09 HARDWOOD Picks: 97-78 ats…56%
NBA 63-58 - NCAA 27-16 - Teasers 7-4 - Church League 69-0
XAVIER MATCHES-UP WELL WITH PITT’S SUPERSTARS
Of all the teams left in the tourney, the Musketeers have the potential to keep DeJuan Blair & Sam Young somewhat in-check. And after that, I actually believe Sean Miller’s squad has more depth and scoring options. The 6-7 265 lb DeJuan Blair (16 ppg, 12 rpg, 60-fg%) has been a monster all season when not in foul trouble, but on Thursday, he’ll be banging with the lunch-pale trio of 6-9 255 lb Jason Love (7 ppg, 6 rpg, 54-fg%), 7-0 265 lb Kenny Frease (last 4 gms: 15 mpg, 5 ppg, 4 rpg), and 6-8 240 lb Jamel McLean (last 3 games: 18 mpg, 5 ppg, 6 rpg), enabling 6-8 Sr. F Derrick Brown (14 ppg, 6 rpg, 51-fg%, 44-3pt%) to stay out of foul trouble & concentrate on offense.
As for the most underrated wing in country Sam Young (19 ppg, 6 rpg, 50-fg%, 37-3pt%), the 6-6 Sr. will probably receive a heavy dose of 6-6 Sr. stopper B.J. Raymond (14 ppg, 4 ppg, 42-3pt%) and 6-6 Sr. workhorse C.J. Anderson (10 ppg, 5 rpg)…not to mention, Young will be working his azz off on the other end. After that, Pitt’s only other legitimate scorer is the overrated 5-10 point Levance Fields (11 ppg, 8 apg…but only 40-fg% & 34-3pt%), and he’ll be dealing w/ the length of 6-5 So. Dante Jackson & the speed of 6-0 Fr. Terrell Holloway.
Overall, while Young & Blair will definitely be the best ballers on the hardwood Thursday, I think they both need to be flawless for the Panthers to pull off a victory. For Blair, he’s shown a propensity to get in foul trouble so I fully expect the Coach Miller and his diverse frontcourt options to attack the fat-cat all night. As for Young, while his development at Pitt is an awesome story, in all honesty, I’d rather have the combo of Raymond & Anderson if my ATS dollars were on the line. And because of this, I’m rolling with Xavier in Sweet Sixteen and I’m not just talking spread here Homeboys...I'm talking straight up victory!
BAYLOR BEARS (+3.5) @ AUBURN TIGERS
Before we get into the players, let’s take a look at the numbers:
(22-14) Baylor - RPI: 47, Strength of Schedule: 13
(24-11) Auburn - RPI: 53, Strength of Schedule: 62
While some would say the home-court advantage for the Tigers makes the RPI null in void, in addition to the lopsided SOS difference, the Bears were 6-2 against teams with a RPI ranking between 51-100 while the Tigers were only 4-5. Sorry if that info confused you more than Paris Hilton at a Museum, but trust me, the numbers prove the Bears are just a better team. Throw-in that the majority of Baylor’s losses came during a horrific mid-season stretch (2-10 before finishing on a 5-1 run) where their confidence was lower than Jennifer Aniston after another botched boyfriend, and I actually believe their RPI doesn’t give them the justice they deserve.
As for the specific match-ups, in all honesty these teams are perfect matches for each other as both teams usually sport a line-up with four guards and a PF on the floor. But the biggest difference, just about every player for the Bears is slightly better and shoots a higher percentage. Listed below are the top four scorers for each squad and their probably match-ups when not in a zone:
Baylor: 6-1 Sr Curtis Jerrells 16 ppg, 5 apg, 5 rpg, 43-fg% 38-3pt%
Auburn: 6-1 Jr DeWayne Reed 13 ppg, 4 apg, 3 rpg, 38-fg% 33-3pt%
Baylor: 6-4 So LaceDarius Dunn 15 ppg, 5 rpg, 44-fg%, 37-3pt%
Auburn: 6-5 Sr Rasheem Barrett 10 ppg, 4 rpg, 43-fg%, 31-3pt%
Baylor: 5-11 Jr Tweety Carter 11 ppg, 3 apg, 42-fg%, 39-3pt%
Auburn: 6-2 Jr Tay Waller 12 ppg, 3 rpg, 40-fg%, 31-3pt%
Baylor: 6-9 250 lbs. Sr Kevin Rodgers 13 ppg, 8 rpg, 55 fg%
Auburn: 6-7 225 lbs. Sr Korvotney Barber 13 ppg, 10 rpg, 55 fg%
Throw-in the Bears other Sr. guard averaging double-digits off the bench (Henry Dugat), a 7-foot Jr. that has recently emerged as a legit contributor (Josh Lomers), and the fact that Auburn played in the biggest conference disappointment of the year (SEC), and I expect the Baylor to roll into Alabama and control this game from start to finish!
BEARS BY 6-12 POINTS
The Jazz always get a few shots on Yao when they're playing in Salt Lake City...TOUCH ME HERE FOR MORE INFO!
HOUSTON ROCKETS @ UTAH JAZZ (-5)
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HOUSTON ROCKETS @ UTAH JAZZ (-5)
With the Rockets only 2.5 games ahead of the Jazz and the realistic potential of these two squaring off in Round One, this should be a classic regular season battle w/ some playoff panache. The only major differences, Utah is more rested (haven’t played since Friday) and are ridiculous at home (29-6), while Houston had an emotional victory against Timmy D Sunday & sport a pedestrian (18-17) road record.
In addition, the injury to PF Carl Landry is especially detrimental with the plethora of active bodies underneath for the Jazz (Boozer, Millsap, & AK-47), while C Mehmet Okur has always caused match-up problems for Yao Ming with his ability on the perimeter. Sure Yao will do his damage on the block, but knowing the style of the bad-azz Sloan, he’ll have plenty of active defenders doubling-down all night. On the perimeter, D-Will should have a nice advantage against the undersized Aaron Brooks & newcomer Kyle Lowry, while the rotation of Ronnie Brewer, C.J. Miles, Matt Harping, & Kyle Korver should provide plenty of different options against Ron-Ron the Tru Warrior & Shane Battier. As a result, the Jazz keep a 4-8 point lead for three quarters before pulling away late…UTAH BY 8-14 POINTS