Friday, March 27, 2009

Friday's Sweet Sixteen Game Previews

Louisville vs. Arizona (7:07 PM): Will Arizona’s Cinderella run continue, or will Louisville take down the last non-top five seed remaining in the Tournament? Despite Arizona’s low seed, this game could be closer than expected. The Wildcats have plenty of talent at the key positions, and might have an advantage on the Cardinals in a few spots. Plus, Louisville’s pressure defense showed some holes against Siena, and Nic Wise has the ability to exploit that. Furthermore, will the Cardinals be able to stop Jordan Hill down low? The key for Arizona will be its ability to find a fourth scorer to complement Wise, Hill and Chase Budinger. On the other side, Louisville needs to get out to a quick start and not allow Arizona to think it can stay in the game. Samardo Samuels will have to come up big against Hill, at both ends. Additionally, Earl Clark could be poised for a big game. He is way too talented, quick and athletic for Jamelle Horne. Arizona’s defense in the Tournament has been predicated on its opponents missing three-pointers; if Louisville hits its threes, it will advance. Prediction: Louisville 81, Arizona 71

Oklahoma vs. Syracuse (7:27 PM):
Arguably the most intriguing of the Sweet Sixteen match-ups. Both teams play completely different styles and have entirely different sets of key personnel. For Oklahoma, it relies on the inside production of All-American Blake Griffin and his ability to take the defensive attention of the opposition. When he is scoring easily down low, it opens up the arc for the Sooners’ perimeter options to hit shots. Against the Syracuse 2-3 zone, Taylor Griffin could be a key in the foul line area. If he gets the ball there and forces the defense to collapse, there will be opportunities for Austin Johnson, Willie Warren and Tony Crocker. Defensively, Oklahoma needs to defend the three a lot better, especially against the Syracuse shooters. Syracuse has the advantage on the perimeter, with the way Andy Rautins and Eric Devendorf are shooting. If they are still hot from deep, the Orange could advance. Jonny Flynn could be a key at both ends of the floor. He is a fantastic point guard and needs to dictate tempo. Can Syracuse defend Blake Griffin down low? That will be the difference. Prediction: Oklahoma 74, Syracuse 71

Michigan State vs. Kansas (9:37 PM):
A rematch of a game back in January, which Michigan State won fairly handily. Of course, that was before the Jayhawks won the Big 12 regular-season title and looked poised for a deep run in the NCAA Tournament. This game will be different. For Kansas, Sherron Collins needs to dominate. He had eight turnovers in the first meeting and can’t have a repeat of that. He is too strong for Kalin Lucas and needs to get into the lane. Cole Aldrich also needs to make his presence known down low. Outside of those two, who will step up? Tyshawn Taylor? Brady Morningstar? Defensively, someone needs to guard Raymar Morgan. He is a very difficult match-up for any opponent. On the other side, Michigan State needs to play more consistently. The Spartans have as much talent as anyone, but they have had stretches where they don’t look very good at all. They can’t afford prolonged durations of time where they can’t score and struggle to defend. Offensively, they have to try to get Aldrich into foul trouble; the Spartans have plenty of interior depth to counter him. The perimeter shooters – Chris Allen, Durrell Summers – could be crucial for the Spartans as well. Prediction: Michigan State 73, Kansas 69

North Carolina vs. Gonzaga (9:57 PM): This game is going to be an NBA scout’s dream, with a cadre of talent on both teams. North Carolina gets all the attention, but Gonzaga has as much offensive talent as anyone in the country. If the Bulldogs are to pull the upset, Jeremy Pargo has to play like he did last year. He hasn’t asserted himself as much offensively this year, and needs to get into the lane at will. Austin Daye also needs to toughen up. If Deon Thompson pushes him around and takes him out of the game, Gonzaga will suffer. Defensively, the Bulldogs need to keep Ty Lawson out of the lane and be sure to get out on Wayne Ellington and Danny Green. For North Carolina, having a healthy Lawson would be a huge plus. He is expected to play and needs to perform like he did against LSU in the second half. Last season, when Gonzaga defeated North Carolina, Josh Heytvelt dominated Tyler Hansbrough – that can’t happen again. Holding Matt Bouldin in check is the key defensively; he is the best player Gonzaga has and creates for himself and his teammates. I expect an up-and-down game with not too much defense being played. North Carolina is just a little better and more consistent offensively; they will move on. Prediction: North Carolina 90, Gonzaga 84

1 comment:

  1. Great work, Jeff. Hard to argue with any of your picks. One thing - I think UNC and Gonzaga played two years ago. That's when Heytfelt dominated.