Previewing Thursday’s Sweet 16 Games

Posted: 03/28/2013 by levcohen in NCAA

Tonight the sweet 16 starts, and by tomorrow there will be just 12 teams left. The sweet 16 has four games tonight and another four tomorrow. The games tomorrow might have more marquee names (Florida, Louisville, Duke, Michigan State, Kansas, Michigan, Oregon, and yes, Florida Gulf Coast), but it looks as if these four games are going to be very close.

At 7:15 the East Region starts us off with Miami and Marquette, a matchup between #2 and #3 seeds. These two teams won by a combined six points in the round of 32, with Miami controversially defeating Illinois 63-59  and Marquette beating Butler 74-72 after Butler had a chance to win it at the end. Neither team has looked invincible this season, and that has been backed up in the tournament. This might be a matchup between the weakest #2 seed left against the weakest #3 seed still in. Miami is favored in this game by five and a half points, and I think that’s about the right number. The key matchup might be Shane Larkin of Miami versus Vander Blue of Marquette. Both can either facilitate or score, and I think the guy who plays better will be on the winning team. While the rosters of these teams are pretty even, the X factor could be Miami’s Kenny Kadji. Kadji is a big man (6 foot 11, 240 pounds), but he has great athleticism for a big man. He averages 13 points and seven rebounds, but has struggled since the ACC tournament started. In the five games since, he has shot 15 for 43. That’s less than 35%, an awful number, especially for a big man. Miami needs Kadji to play well if they want to advance.

Pick: Miami wins 72-68
Spread pick: Marquette covers the spread.

At 7:47 the West Region kicks off with Ohio State (#2) and Arizona (#6). This is an intriguing matchup, because, after struggling for much of the regular season, Arizona has looked invincible thus far in the tourney (yes, they played Belmont and Harvard. But still). For the Wildcats, Mark Lyons has scored 50 points in two games. They beat Belmont by 17 and Harvard by 23. Ohio State barely beat a very good Iowa State team by a score of 78-75. This was yet another game with a controversial call, and if the call had gone the other way, Iowa State would likely have won. The Buckeyes have just one player averaging more than 10 points per game: Deshaun Thomas. Thomas is averaging 20 points per game, but make no mistake- this is no one man team. Aaron Craft is a lock down defender, averaging more than two steals per game, and knocked down the game winning three point shot against Iowa State, even though he is just a 30% three point shooter. Craft has eight steals in the two tournament games. The Buckeyes also have two guys who can bring instant offense in Sam Thompson (40% three point shooter, not to mention thunderous dunker) and LaQuinton Ross (eight points per game in 17 minutes per game). The Buckeyes are favored by three points in this game. Again, the key matchup might be between the point guards. Lyons is the best scorer Arizona has, and he’ll be pitted against Craft, the best defender in college basketball. If Lyons can exploit Craft, Arizona will win this game. If Craft can keep Lyons in check, the Buckeyes will win. The Buckeyes are favored by three in this game, and I’ll keep rolling with the team I favored to make the final four.

Pick: Ohio State wins 68-62Spread pick: Ohio State covers the spread

The 9:45 game (an East Region match-up between Syracuse and Indiana) might be the best of the night. Indiana is favored by five and a half, but they barely got by Temple (58-52) in a game that was even closer than the final score indicated. Similarly, Syracuse won by just six against a lesser team in California, although they won in different fashion. The Cuse let Cal back into the game at the end, and didn’t look dominant in their win. Indiana is led by the best 1-2 combo in college basketball in Cody Zeller and Victor Oladipo. Both players are a handful to guard, both were among the best players in basketball this year, and both should be lottery picks. Syracuse doesn’t have the star power that the Hoosiers have, but they do have four scorers in double figures. The key match-up in this one isn’t between two players. It’s the Hoosiers dynamic offense against Syracuse’s vaunted zone. The Orange hasn’t faced an offense like Indiana’s, but Indiana also doesn’t have experience against the zone. The X factor is probably Orange forward C.J. Fair. Fair, the leading scorer, needs to score a lot if Syracuse is going to have a chance to win. Syracuse has played seven games against teams that are seeded #3 or better in the tournament. In those games, they are 1-6 and have averaged 56 points per game in those games. That’s why I’m going with Indiana.

Pick: Indiana wins 70-61
Spread pick: Indiana covers the spread

The last game of the night is back to the West, with Wichita State facing off against La Salle. This is a match-up between potential cinderella stories, and we are now assured of a #9 seed or worse in the Elite 8. The Shockers are favored in this game by four and a half points, and that seems just about right. Even with La Salle’s big man Steve Zack cleared to play, Wichita State has a huge size upgrade. Their top two scorers are both big men, Cleanthony Early and Carl Hall. They are also a terrific three point shooting team. La Salle is also a good shooting team, and they are one of the quickest teams in college basketball. Sam Mills, Tyrone Garland, Tyreke Duren, and Ramon Galloway are all very fast and can get out on the break. The key match-up is Jerrell Wright and Zack against Early and Hall. If the Explorers can somehow shut down even one of the two dynamic big men, they should have a chance. If Early and Hall go wild, it could be a long game. This looks to be a pretty close game.

Pick: La Salle wins 76-74
Spread pick: La Salle covers the spread

  1. philabundant says:

    I think at least one of these four games will be a 15 or more point margin. I hope I am wrong, but my guess is either Miami or Wichita State wins pretty easily.

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