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Thursday, March 20, 2008

Possible 2nd Rounds Matchups for the Tigers - Preview of Mississippi State and Oregon

Mississippi State


by Joel Welser,

Last NCAA Appearance: 2005, Second Round Loss

Coach: Rick Stansbury

Probable Starters:

Barry Stewart, Sophomore, Guard,

Ben Hansbrough, Sophomore, Guard,

Jamont Gordon, Junior, Guard,

Jarvis Varnado, Sophomore, Forward,

Charles Rhodes, Senior, Forward,

Key Roleplayers:

Phil Turner, Freshman, Guard

Brian Johnson, Junior, Forward

Why They Can Surprise:

Mississippi State only allows their opponents to shoot 36.7 percent from the floor. That is second in the nation and an amazing number. The solid perimeter defense looks even better thanks to Jarvis Varnado. Varnado leads the nation in blocks with 4.9 per game. There is no scoring around the basket when Varnado is in the paint. Last year he was a decent shot blocker, but this year he has learned to block without fouling and that will keep him on the floor.

Charles Rhodes is no slouch in the shot blocking department either. But Rhodes brings an offensive game to the Bulldogs frontcourt. Rhodes averages 16.2 points per game. Most of Varnado’s baskets are on easy put backs, but Rhodes is a true post scorer. They both are also solid on the glass and it is a rare occasion when the opposition grabs an offensive rebound.

Why They Can Disappoint:

With all that scoring in the paint, Mississippi State will get plenty of open looks from outside. However, the squad is not a great shooting team by any means. While the three-point shooting has improved as the season has moved along, it is pretty much up to Ben Hansbrough to hit the long balls. He will knock down about two per game, but if his shot is not falling, there are not a lot of other options that consistently hit the three-point shot. The same can be said for free-throw shooting. Hansbrough hits over 80 percent of his attempts, but nobody else who sees major minutes shoots over 70 percent from the charity stripe.

Who To Watch:

Jamont Gordon does everything well and the 6-4 guard leads the team in points, assists and steals and even grabs over six rebounds per contest. He can handle the ball to help out the young backcourt and hit the glass to help the frontcourt. Most importantly, he averages 17.1 points per game and rarely fails to reach double digits. Gordon will hit the outside shot, but is not very consistent from beyond the arc. When the outside shot is falling and he continues to use his size to get to the basket, Gordon will easily eclipse the 20 point mark.

Oregon Ducks

Pac-10 (18-13, 9-9)

By Joel Welser,

Seed: #9

South Region

RPI: 58

Big Wins: 11/29 at Kansas State (80-77), 1/5 at Arizona (84-74), 1/13 Stanford (71-66)

Bad Losses: 12/15 at Nebraska (79-88), 12/22 vs Oakland (62-68), 1/17 at Washington (70-78)

Last NCAA Appearance: 2007, Elite Eight loss to Florida

Coach: Ernie Kent (6-5 in 5 NCAA appearances)

Probable Starters:

Tajuan Porter, Sophomore, Guard, 13.8 ppg, 2.4 apg

Bryce Taylor, Senior, Guard, 13.0 ppg, 3.7 rpg

Malik Hairston, Senior, Guard, 16.1 ppg, 4.8 rpg

Joevan Catron, Sophomoire, Forward, 9.0 ppg, 5.8 rpg

Marty Leunen, Senior, Forward, 15.2 ppg, 9.2 rpg, 2.8 apg

Key Roleplayers:

Kamyron Brown, Freshman, Guard, 4.4 ppg, 3.2 apg

LeKendric Longmire, Freshman, Guard, 3.8 ppg, 1.5 rpg

Chuchill Odia, Junior, Guard, 1.8 ppg, 1.4 rpg

Why They Can Surprise:

Oregon certainly does not lack in perimeter weapons. Malik Hairston is dangerous from anywhere on the floor and can approach the 30 point plateau on any given day. However, Hairston also disappears at times and has about a half dozen games in which he failed to score double-digits. Even when Hairston fails to score, it does not mean the Ducks are in trouble. Hairston will do more than score and there are plenty of other options who would be more than happy to take some of Hairston’s points.

The diminutive Tajuan Porter is not shooting anywhere close to what he was last year from behind the arc, but the sophomore is still a very dangerous outside shooter. At 5-6, Porter can sneak into the paint and score some points, but he will spend most of his time jacking up three’s, for better or for worse. Bryce Taylor is a lot like Hairston, but slightly less effective. He can hit the three-ball, grab some boards, get to the basket and put up tons of points in a hurry.

Why They Can Disappoint:

While the team has five players who can take over a game, the Ducks lack a true floor leader like they had last year with Aaron Brooks. In Brooks’ absence an already average defense has gotten worse and Oregon will not win any battle of intangibles. On paper, the Ducks still rarely commit turnovers and share the ball very well, but Brooks’ absence is felt in a multitude of other ways. When Brooks was around, Oregon was a great rebounding team despite playing four guards much of the time. Now they have a bigger, more traditional, lineup, but the rebounding numbers are down. It does not have to make sense, but this is a team that pulled together for a magnificent year last season and fell apart to reach mediocrity this season much of this season.

Who To Watch:

And that mediocrity has happened despite Maarty Leunen. The 6-9 senior has had a magnificent year, averaging 15.2 points and 9.2 rebounds. He hits nearly two three-pointers per game and knocks them down at almost 51 percent. Not everyday does a 6-9 forward who has over nine rebounds per game, hit over 50 percent from beyond the arc. Leunen even passes very well from inside and out. Oregon has the ability and talent to beat anybody on any given day. Yet, they can pretty much lose to anybody just as easily, especially away from the friendly confines of McArthur Court.

By the Numbers:

Scoring Offense: 76.8 (39th in nation, 2nd in conference)

Scoring Defense: 72.4 (254, 9)

Field-Goal Percentage: 48.5 (13, 1)

Field-Goal Defense: 44.3 (208, 6)

Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 8.7 (26, 1)

Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 40.1 (11, 1)

Free-Throw Percentage: 68.9 (167, 7)

Rebound Margin: 1.9 (115, 5)

Assists Per Game: 14.9 (76, 4)

Turnovers Per Game: 12.6 (43, 4)

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