Commentary

Insider Intel: Sweet indicators

Watch closely for early warning signs about which way Sweet 16 games are headed

Originally Published: March 24, 2009
By John Carroll | Scouts Inc.

You can tell a lot from the first five minutes of a basketball game, especially in the Sweet 16, when coaches have had four or five days to prepare for their opponents. The way each team attacks and defends out of the gate should offer strong clues as to how the rest of a game will progress. With that in mind, here are the key factors to watch during the opening minutes of the Sweet 16 games in the East and West regions. To read about the South and Midwest, click here

EAST REGION

Pittsburgh (1) vs. Xavier (4)

• Will Xavier target DeJuan Blair, looking to get him into foul trouble? You'll be able to tell right away. That strategy has been a huge factor in Pitt's losses before, so see whether Xavier goes at him early with hard post-ups, drives and pick-and-rolls. Blair is very aggressive in his pick-and-roll defense; be alert as to whether Xavier's guards try to generate contact on those plays to pick up an extra foul or two.

[+] EnlargeDeJuan Blair
Elsa/Getty ImagesIf DeJuan Blair can handle Xavier's double-teams, Pittsburgh should be in good shape.

• When Pittsburgh has the ball, pay attention to Xavier's initial strategy on Blair and how he plans to counter. Will the Musketeers double him early, perhaps helping off a weak perimeter shooter? If so, Blair's response likely could decide the game. If he appears frustrated, the Panthers could be in trouble. But if Blair seems poised and the Panthers flow into set plays out of the double-teams, that's a good sign. Watch for Pittsburgh to swing the ball out of the double-team and either repost Blair or attack off the dribble as Xavier attempts to close out.

To find out about 'Nova vs. Duke, UConn vs. Purdue and Memphis vs. Mizzou, please sign in to ESPN Insider (or register with the service). Insider

To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

John Carroll

Scouts, Basketball Recruiting
John Carroll joined Scouts Inc. after nine years as an NBA coach, including a seven-year tenure with the Boston Celtics that concluded with a four-month stint as interim head coach in 2003-04. Before joining the NBA, Carroll spent six years as head coach at Duquesne University and seven years at Seton Hall as an assistant to head coach P.J. Carlesimo.