NCAA: Devils Bounce LSU, 60-52
NCAA: Devils Dismiss Aztecs, 66-58
San Diego State
3/27/10, 2:30pm, FedEx Forum, Memphis, TN (ESPN)
The Roster: The Aztecs use a very tight roster of six, but it's one with a formidable array of shooters, shotblockers, ballhandlers and rebounders. Their attack starts with 5-9 senior guard Jene' Morris (a transfer from Cal), who averagd 17 ppg, 3 rpg, 3 apg and 3 spg while shooting 35% from three. She's been on a rampage in the postseason, averaging 30 ppg and shooting 60% from three. 5-10 senior wing Quenese Davis is averaging 13 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 5 apgand is shooting an impressive 42% from three. Her younger sister Coco is the team's other playmaker, averaging 6 ppg while dishing 4 apg. Up front is 6-4 junior Paris Johnson, who puts up 11 ppg, 6 rpg and 2 bpg. Next to her is 6-3 post Jessika Bradley (a Baylor transfer), who averages 7 ppg, 7 rpg and 2 bpg. Off the bench is wing/post Allison Duffy, who averages 8 ppg, 3.5 rpg and 31% from three.
The Skinny: This is the proverbial team that put it all together late in the season after suffering a number of puzzling losses earlier in the season. Playing in the underrated Mountain West conference, the Aztecs at one point lost four of five games. Earlier in the year, they dropped three straight tough non-conference games, including a disappointing beatdown by Oklahoma. A 2-point win against BYU turned things around, and SDS has since won 8 straight games, including a dominant road win against Texas on their home floor and another solid win against West Virginia, one of the best teams in the Big East. This is a very good defensive team (holding opponents to 58 ppg and 39% shooting) that doesn't do a lot of pressing, preferring to stay in their base defense.
The Match-Up: Like second round foe LSU, this is another team that resembles Duke a bit. They have one dominant scorer who is really on a roll right now. They have a solid wing scorer who can also really rebound. The Aztecs get rebounding from every position. Their front line can score and defend. The Aztecs have a few potential trouble spots. Despite their size, they're not a great rebounding team overall, giving up a lot of offensive rebounds. With the likes of Bridgette Mitchell, Karima Christmas, et al, the Devils will be in good shape to exploit this if their initial shots don't fall. San Diego State, in their losses, was often caught ball-watching Morris. When the team doesn't get balanced scoring, inside and out, they struggle. So instead of keying the defense to load up on Morris, I'd concentrate on stopping Q.Davis and Johnson. This will be up to Karima Christmas/Mitchell and Krystal Thomas first and foremost.
This will also be a game where Duke should probably concentrate on their man-to-man defense for much of the game. The Devils don't want to give Morris or Q.Davis open looks from three, especially when they get into any kind of rhythm. SDS doesn't get a lot of attempts at the foul line, other than their posts--and Johnson & Bradley are both sub-60% foul shooters. Keturah Jackson and Jasmine Thomas will take turns on Morris, with the 6-0 Jackson in a position to force Morris to shoot over her one-on-one. On offense, the Devils need to go right at Johnson and Morris, who have combined to foul out 7 times this season. With little depth to turn to, the Devils could get some separation in a close game if they can send any of SDS's top six to the bench. If Duke concentrates on attacking the basket and doesn't take a lot of a lot of outside shots, then their chances to win will be excellent. If they jack up shots and don't recover against SDS's shooters, things will be a bit more difficult--especially in an arena whose fans will have a vested interest in rooting against them.
Tidbits: SDS coach Beth Burns returned to the school after a failed stint at
Ohio State, and built her team back into a winner...She's built up her program
with in-state talent as well as transfers from Cal, Baylor and Arizona...the
Aztecs played Wake Forest earlier in the year and beat them by 1 point.
If Duke wins, they will face either:
Record: 32-2, 15-1 SEC
The Roster: This is a young (no seniors) but deep and huge team. While there's not a true superstar on the roster, there's great balance with five players averaging in double figures. The leading scorer is Angie Bjorklund, averaging 14 ppg and shooting a stellar 43%, while dishing out nearly 3 apg. The team's MVP has been guard Shekinna Stricklen, a 6-2 player who puts up 13 ppg, 6 rpg, 4 apg and 33% from three. She's played out of position at point but has done a great job this year of anchoring the team. 6-5 Kelley Cain, a huge player with soft hands, dominates the post with 10.5 ppg, 8 rpg and 3 bpg. 6-3 Alyssia Brewer is willowy, graceful and quick, putting up 10 ppg and 6 rpg. Alicia Manning is another forward who moves the ball around well, averaging nearly 3 apg to go with 5 ppg and 5 rpg.
Off the bench is 6-3 forward Glory Johnson, a remarkable athlete who averages 10 ppg, 8 rpg and leads the team with 159 free throws attempted. Coach Pat Summitt has gotten nice production from her two freshmen guards. 6-1 Taber Spani averages 6 ppg, 3 rpg and shoots 36% from three; that shooting has been a big plus for Tennessee when Bjorklund's been resting. Lastly, frosh point guard Kamiko Williams has been solid with 4 ppg and 1.5 apg.
The Skinny: No Lady Vol starter is shorter than 6-0. Summitt uses that advantage to the fullest, pounding opponents by 10 rebounds a game. The guards can all shoot and handle the ball, even without a true point guard. Cain is hard to guard and harder to score over, while Johnson is an offensive rebounding machine. The team's depth is imposing, especially up front. Their only losses were at the hands of Stanford and Georgia, as the very young Lady Vols whipped through their typically difficult schedule. That said, there are some points of vulnerability for Tennessee. This team has no seniors, and is roughly the same squad that got bounced in the first round of the NCAA tournament last season. It should be noted that Duke recruited Bjorklund, Cain, Johnson and Brewer.
This is a group that's learning to win on their own, with only Bjorklund remaining from their championship teams. Tennessee is not a great free-throw shooting team, with their posts especially erratic (Cain is a sub-50% foul shooter). Cain is also foul prone, having been disqualified from three games this season. This is not a team that forces a lot of turnovers, preferring to defend the rim and grab rebounds. As a result, Tennessee hasn't been a team that's blown out a lot of its opponents, but rather one that slowly throttles them. It's going to take a team that can force them into turnovers and bad shots that to challenge them, as well as one that can at least break even with them on the boards.
Record: 25-9, 9-7 Big XII
The Roster: Of course, 6-8 center Brittney Griner is the focal point of this team. She's the next evolutionary step of women's basketball: an agile, athletic and fearsome power player who happens to tower over all of her opponents. As a freshman, she's averaged 18 ppg, 9 rpg and 6 bpg. There's actually quite a bit of balance and depth on this squad, as forward Morghan Medlock averages 10 ppg and 8 rpg and guard Melissa Jones puts up 11 ppg and 7 rpg while shooting 36% from three. Kelli Griffin is the team's playmaker, averaging nearly 6 apg to go with 8 ppg. Frosh wing Shanay Washington averages 8 ppg and 3 rpg. Forward Ashley Field and guards Kimetria Hayden & Jordan Madden all average between and 5 & 6 ppg and about 3 rpg.
The Skinny: Griner has steadily improved as the season's progressed, and will be facing Tennessee in the Sweet Sixteen after playing them in her first college game. Griner's youth and temper have gotten the best of her in a number of games, including the well-publicized punching incident. Still, her upside is unlimited, as she's now working on her jump shot and free throws. This is a team that hasn't played with a lot of elegance or style and has struggled when Griner has struggled. Medlock and Jones are solid veterans but don't come close to matching the star power of Tennessee. Still, if Griner gets going and the role players maximize their potential, we could see quite a battle in the other half of this regional.
NCAA: Devils Bounce LSU, 60-52
NCAA: Devils Dismiss Aztecs, 66-58