Regional Overview: East Rutherford

By Brian Litvack,

Pittsburgh coach Jamie Dixon has his team ready for a NCAA run.

Pittsburgh coach Jamie Dixon has his team ready for a NCAA run.

March 17, 2004

Here we have a tale of two brackets as the bottom half is stacked with the likes of Oklahoma St., Pittsburgh, Wisconsin and Memphis. On the top St. Joseph's has a favorable draw (most critics might point out the St. Joe's has had a favorable draw all season long).

The Hawks will likely face Wake Forest in an interesting sweet 16 match-up that will showcase Jameer Nelson and Wake's Chris Paul, the two most electrifying point guards in college basketball. This is the kind of test that people have wanted to see St. Joe's pass all season long.

The bottom half could have some great battles. Pittsburgh, Wisconsin and Memphis all got hosed by the committee and should be seeded higher. Potential second round games between Wisconsin-Pitt and Memphis-Oklahoma State will be some of the most competitive and well-played basketball in the second round.

Pittsburgh will defeat St. Joseph's to survive the East. The Panthers will make a trip to the final four after a few disappointing tournaments in years past. There run to San Antonio will turn charismatic first year coach Jamie Dixon into a star.

No. 1 - St. Joseph's
St. Joe's Logo At some point during this magical season the national media turned on the Hawks. St. Joe's went from the darling Cinderella to a team that was untested and over-hyped with an obnoxious coach. That's what happens when a team is so good that it reaches the No. 1 ranking... and has an obnoxious coach.

Take away all the hype and you have a special backcourt that is a joy to watch. Jameer Nelson and Delonte West play together with a fluidity and grace that is easy to watch and admire. They don't have much help up front, and we will soon find out how far a backcourt can carry a team.

No. 12 - Manhattan
Manhattan Logo Bobby Gonzalez's Jaspers are primed for an upset after playing defending national champion Syracuse tough in the first round last year. Luis Flores is a scoring machine that can't be shut down. Florida is a perennial tournament underachiever and it doesn't help that starting shooting guard Matt Walsh has nasty feet problems, and their small forward of a month ago, Christian Driejer (aka the Danish Deserter), sold out to go play in Europe. Florida plays lackadaisical defense and doesn't crash the boards. All the ingredients are in place for Manhattan to upend the Gators.

Jameer Nelson (St. Joseph's) vs. Chris Paul (Wake Forest)
Jameer Nelson Yes, these players have teammates but they might as well go one on one against each other all night long if Wake Forest meets St. Joe's in the Sweet 16. Nelson is the most accomplished point guard in college basketball. He has strength, explosiveness, and unlimited range. Paul is on the cusp of being a special player and his improvement can be seen each week. Paul is still a teenager physically and will have a full platter of muscle on his plate if he faces Nelson. Chris Paul

Andre Emmett, Texas Tech
Emmett Emmett constantly puts up big numbers and is the main reason Bobby Knight is still getting endorsement deals. Emmett might not be a sharpshooter, but he is a pure scorer who can put the ball in the basket as effectively as any player in the nation. He averages 22 points on 53% shooting, and is as smooth around the hoop as any player in the tournament. If Emmett's teammates give him some support and make defenses stay honest he will put up big numbers.

Sean Banks, Memphis
Sean Banks Banks may be the best freshman in the nation. He also may be of the one and done variety so you better get a glimpse of him in college while you still can. Banks is averaging over 24 points a game during the last month of the season. He combines a smooth outside shot with a high-flying inside attack. Banks has become the Tigers main scoring threat and has the ability to carry Memphis into the second week of the tournament.

Related Stories