Memphis, UConn dominate early games

March, 21, 2009
A few observations from Saturday's early set of games in the NCAA tournament:

1. You can insult Conference USA all you want. Yes, Memphis didn't play a schedule as tough as the teams in the ACC or Big East, but the Tigers might be as talented as any team left in the NCAA tournament.

After a less-than-impressive 81-70 victory over No. 15 seed Cal State-Northridge in the first round of the West Region on Thursday, the No. 2-seeded Tigers steamrolled No. 10 seed Maryland 89-70 in the second round in Kansas City on Saturday.

We've seen these types of performances from Memphis before. They typically get off to a slow start in the tournament, before turning it up a few gears in the later rounds.

More than anything else, though, the Tigers understand their roles. Senior guard Antonio Anderson took only two shots in the game, but had 11 assists. Forward Robert Dozier scored 17 points and grabbed eight rebounds. Forward Shawn Taggart scored 14 points with 11 rebounds.

Point guard Tyreke Evans led Memphis with 19 points. At some point, you figure the pressure of playing in the NCAA tournament will catch up with the freshman. But it didn't affect then-Memphis freshman Derrick Rose too much last season.

And now that the Tigers have a semi-competition going for the fifth starting job, they're better than before. Two days after reserve Roburt Sallie scored 35 points against the Matadors, guard Doneal Mack made sure he'd keep his starting job by scoring 17 points against the Terrapins. Mack shot 5-for-7 on 3-pointers. Sullie proved his performance on Thursday wasn't a fluke, either, by scoring 13 points against Maryland. He's 13-for-19 on 3-pointers in his first two NCAA games.

The Tigers will play the winner of Sunday's game between No. 6 seed Marquette and No. 3 seed Missouri in Boise in next week's Sweet 16 in Glendale, Ariz. The Tigers play good enough defense to slow down the Tigers' frenetic pace, and they're talented enough in the frontcourt to take advantage of the Golden Eagles' guard-heavy lineup.

In fact, Memphis might be the only team talented and deep enough to knock off No. 1 seed Connecticut in the West.

2. Connecticut would obviously be a better team if junior guard Jerome Dyson hadn't suffered a season-ending knee injury, but the loss did force the Huskies to change the way they play.

Instead of relying on A.J. Price's perimeter shooting and Dyson's ability to cut to the basket, the Huskies are pounding the basketball inside. In the Huskies' 92-66 rout of No. 9 seed Texas A&M on Saturday, they worked the ball to Jeff Adrien. He scored 23 points on 11-for-16 shooting, and forward Stanley Robinson added 12 points.

But if the Huskies are going to reach the Final Four in Detroit, center Hasheem Thabeet will have to be more active on offense. He took only two shots from the floor against the Aggies and scored six points.



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