Checking Out Friday's Semifinals

Are you in to watching sensational individual matchups? Then you should check out the Battle of the Huskies (Connecticut vs. Washington) Friday night in a Sweet 16 game played in Washington, D.C.

If you are wondering if there is a Friday night Sweet 16 semifinal that will attract the attention of NBA scouting personnel more than any of the other three being played, wonder no longer.


The game in the Verizon Center between the Washington, D.C.'s No.'s 1 and 5 seeds – Connecticut and Washington – will have at least two matchups at all times that will draw focus from general managers, personnel directors and scouts from 30 NBA franchises, either within the arena or via the telecast.


And you can be sure that video of those matchups will also be studied time and again as the June 28 NBA Draft approaches.


*The Pacific 10 Conference's Player of the Year, Brandon Roy, is also one of three best man-to-man defenders in the conference, and will probably be guarding either the player most important to Connecticut's offense success, junior point guard Marcus Williams, or sophomore forward Rudy Gay, Coach Jim Calhoun's most "talented" player. Williams is playing better than any player at his position still in the tournament and Gay is projected by many NBA talent evaluators as a top five selection in the draft.


*Whichever of those two that Roy isn't checking for Coach Lorenzo Romar will be defended by 6-7 senior forward Bobby Jones, who did a solid job against Illinois guard Dee Brown during a second-round game in San Diego Saturday.


The other game in that region pits 7 (Wichita State) and 11 (George Mason) seeds, the first Sweet 16 game involving those caliber of seeds since Missouri (12) beat UCLA (8) in San Jose in 2002.


The Minneapolis Region is made up of two Big East (Villanova and Georgetown) clubs and one former Big East and now-Atlantic Coast team (Boston College), as well as the winner of the Southeastern Conference Tournament (Florida).


A closer look at Friday's semifinals:


WASHINGTON, D.C. REGION All-Americas: Rudy Gay (Connecticut, second team); Brandon Roy (Washington, first team).

Projected 2006 NBA Draft first-round selections: (if underclassmen enter draft pool) Rudy Gay, Marcus Williams, Hilton Armstrong and Josh Boone (all Connecticut); Brandon Roy (Washington). preseason ratings: Connecticut (2); Washington (23); Wichita State (unrated); George Mason (unrated).

Records vs. NCAA Tournament field: Connecticut (14-3); Washington (8-2); Wichita State (6-7); George Mason (4-1).


The games:

All times Eastern

No. 7 Wichita State (26-8) vs.  No. 11 George Mason (25-7), 7:27 p.m.

Things to consider: It's a rematch of a game played in Wichita on Feb. 18 and won by the visiting Patriots, 70-67, on a 3-pointer by Tony Skinn with 11 seconds remaining. George Mason hit 52 percent of it shots, including 11 of 23 pointers. The Shockers were at 41 percent from the field, including 10 of 27 behind the arc. Wichita State has lost just once (to the other Sweet 16 Missouri Valley Conference participant, Bradley) since. The Patriots have played some of the best defense in the tournament, holding Michigan State and North Carolina to a cumulative shooting percentage of .395.

Frank's Spin: Coach Jim Larranaga's team won on the Shockers' home floor five week ago and is playing this one virtually in its backyard. Also, the Patriots beat two tougher opponents than did Wichita State to get here. Do you see where this is going? George Mason survives this "Cinderella's Ball".


No. 1 Connecticut (29-3) vs. No. 5 Washington (26-6), 9:57 p.m. (est.)

Things to consider: Connecticut will probably run a multitude of defenders, from Marcus Williams to Rudy Gay to Denham Brown to Rashad Anderson, at Brandon Roy, who, more often than not, initiates Washington's half-court offense while also being his team's top scorer. When Hilton Armstrong and Josh Boone are in the lineup, Connecticut will have a two-to-three inch height advantage over Washington's post players (6-7 Jon Brockman, 6-8 Mike Jensen and 6-6 Jamaal Williams). Other than Villanova, Washington will have best transition offense Connecticut has faced this season. And the Pac 10 Huskies will apply every bit the defensive pressure that the Big East Huskies saw against Villanova, as well.

Frank's Spin: Assuming Connecticut tightens its transition defense and Washington can't keep Marcus Williams from getting into the lane and making plays, the Huskies – the ones coached by Jim Calhoun – will be just one more win away from the Final Four.


MINNEAPOLIS REGION All-Americas: Randy Foye (Villanova, first team); Allan Ray (Villanova, fourth team); Craig Smith (Boston College, fourth team).

Projected 2006 NBA Draft first-round selections: (if underclassmen enter draft pool) Randy Foye (Villanova); Joakim Noah and Al Horford (Florida); Roy Hibbert and Jeff Green (Georgetown). preseason ratings: Boston College (11); Villanova (15); Georgetown (20); Florida (unrated).

Records vs. NCAA Tournament field: Villanova (11-4); Boston College (5-4); Florida (9-4); Georgetown (6-7).


The games:

All times Eastern

No. 1 Villanova (27-4) vs. No. 4 Boston College (28-7), 7:10 pm.

Things to consider: The Eagles face the same dilemma as every team that has hooked up with Villanova this season has agonized over – what to do about the best set of guards in college basketball? But the Wildcats must cope with the same thing that Atlantic Coast Conference teams found so difficult – keeping Boston College forward Craig Smith and Jared Dudley from ruling the roost from 15-feet and in away from the basket. The Eagles should be able to exploit Villanova's defense along the baseline and inside the paint much more readily than could Arizona Sunday in Philadelphia.

Frank's Spin: A year after leaving the conference, Boston College picks up another "Big East" victory.


No. 3 Florida (29-6) vs. No. 7 Georgetown (23-9), 9:40 p.m. (est.)

Things to consider: Both teams played extremely well in their first two games, although the Hoyas (in Northern Iowa and Big Ten Conference regular-season champion Ohio State) faced the more formidable competition. All of Billy Donovan's sophomores, most notably Joakim Noah, have had exceptional seasons. But, if the Gators are to beat the Hoyas, they are going to have to do a much better job – and then some – defending Georgetown's half-court ("Princeton-style") offense than did Ohio State. Some of the Buckeyes may still have whiplash from getting beat backdoor so often. By the way, when will Hoyas' sophomore forward Jeff Green starting getting the national attention that is due him?

Frank's Spin: Georgetown advances to the Elite Eight – and Green gets some of that credit he deserves.


Inducted into the USBWA Hall of Fame last April, Frank Burlison is's national basketball expert and is also a columnist for the Long Beach (Calif.) Press-Telegram. He can be reached at Read more of Burlison's pieces at

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