Thursday, March 25, 2010

Sweet Sixteen Preview

How does your bracket look? Thought so. Let's move forward.


Butler vs. Syracuse

Syracuse looked as good as anyone in the first two rounds. With Kansas ousted in the second round, the Orange have become the favorite to reach the title game from this half of the bracket. Butler is a solid team, but to win this game they might need to hit 15 or more three-pointers. Shelvin Mack has hit nine in the first two games, so anything is possible. I think Syracuse's zone defense and transition offense will be too much to handle.

Xavier vs. Kansas St.

Kansas State has a team built for the NCAA tournament. Jacob Pullen and Denis Clemente comprise one of the best backcourt duos in the nation. They have breezed by their first two opponents and look headed to an Elite Eight match-up with Syracuse. Xavier's only shot is that Jordan Crawford blows up for 30, which could happen. But I think the higher seeds will advance.

Players to Watch

Andy Rautins for Syracuse was on fire from beyond the arc against Gonzaga. With Arinze Onuaku still out, expect Rautins to lead the Orange past the Bulldogs.

Jacob Pullen of Kansas State is a big-time performer who has scored 49 points in the first two rounds. Xavier can't guard him, so I expect huge numbers.

Scariest-looking person left:

Kansas State coach Frank Martin


Washington vs. West Virginia

This is the Washington team picked to win the Pac-10. Quincy Pondexter and Isaiah Thomas have carried the Huskies to the Sweet Sixteen and are definitely the best double-digit seed left. West Virginia suffered a season-ending foot injury to guard Darryl Bryant. That shouldn't affect the Mountaineers too much since they have Joe Mazzulla back at the point. This game could come down to which player is more clutch: Pondexter or West Va.'s Da'Sean Butler.

Cornell vs. Kentucky

The Big Red have played great so far. They're probably the best Ivy League team ever and are the best three-point shooting team in the nation. That being said, they don't have the athleticism to keep up with Kentucky. Zero chance of winning. Zero.

Players to Watch

Kevin Jones of West Virginia has stepped up in the team's first two games, averaging 15 points per game. He will be important on offense and will be called upon to contain Pondexter.

Darius Miller of Kentucky will be a key for the Wildcats' success for the rest of this tournament. Miller had a career-high 20 points and was a major factor in pulling away from Wake Forest in their second-round game. If he is knocking down shots, Kentucky will not be beaten.


Tennessee vs. Ohio State

The Vols took care of business in the first two rounds but didn't look that great. Melvin Goins stepped up with 15 points in the three-point win over San Diego State, and their length and athleticism was too much for Ohio. Ohio State looked vulnerable when teams keyed in on Evan Turner. With Tennessee's size, other players will have to score.

Northern Iowa vs. Michigan State

Even with the Achilles injury to guard Kalin Lucas, I think Michigan State has enough firepower with Raymar Morgan, Durrell Summers and Maryland-slayer Korie Lucious to get past the Panthers. Northern Iowa's Ali Farokhmanesh has hit two game-winning shots, but I think the magic stops here.

Players to Watch

Jon Diebler for Ohio State will be a major factor. Georgia Tech was able to hang in the game with Deibler struggling. But when he got hot, his four three-pointers really opened the lead. He will be important in stretching Tennessee's defense to open lanes for Turner and David Lighty.

Jordan Eglseder is the 7-foot center for Northern Iowa. If the Panthers are to advance, he will have to dominate the undersized Spartans on the interior.


Saint Mary's vs. Baylor

Baylor looked shaky in both games but has the talent to reach a Final Four. LaceDarius Dunn and Tweety Carter kept the Bears alive. But to advance, Ekpe Udoh has to do a much better job of guarding Omar Samhan than Villanova and Richmond. Also, Mickey McConnell of Saint Mary's should have to call his next bank shot for it to count.

Purdue vs. Duke

The Blue Devils were given the easiest route of the 1-seeds but still have to play the games. They destroyed UAPB and California but are in for a dog fight with Purdue. Chris Kramer on Jon Scheyer will be a great match-up to watch. The Boilermakers have proven the critics wrong. I stuck with them up to this point but Duke has looked very impressive.

Players to Watch

Omar Samhan for Saint Mary's has been the most dominant player in the tournament so far. McConnell and Dellavedova kept feeding The Sandman in the post, and he turned that into 61 points. To advance, expect the same approach from the Gaels.

JaJuan Johnson of Purdue could be the key to hanging tough against Duke. The versatile center must take advantage of Zoubek on the inside. This would turn the game into more of a grind, which puts a lot of pressure on Duke's three S's (Smith, Scheyer, Singler) to hit shots from the outside.


West Region

Kansas State over Syracuse

East Region

Kentucky over West Virginia

Midwest Region

Tennessee over Michigan State

South Region

Duke over Saint Mary's

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