Friday, March 26, 2010

Friday's Sweet 16 Previews

Ohio State vs. Tennessee (7:07 PM): This could be an unpredictable game, as it remains to be seen if Ohio State’s lack of depth will ever catch up to them, while we never know which Tennessee team will show up. If Ohio State wants to continue its winning ways – the Buckeyes have won nine in a row and 15 of 16 – the Buckeyes need to keep doing what it has been. They have four perimeter scorers who can all come up with a big game, led by Player of the Year Evan Turner. Tennessee forces turnovers with its pressure defense in the half-court, so Turner will need to limit his turnovers; he has struggled with that in the NCAA Tournament. Moreover, Ohio State will need to find a way to get open three-point shots in order to create driving lanes for penetration. Defensively, the Buckeyes have to keep Tennessee out of the paint and need to force them to shoot jumpers. For the Volunteers, they obviously need to slow down Turner and force turnovers. If Tennessee can get transition points and constantly drive to the basket, it will have a chance to win. The Buckeyes struggle to guard three-pointers at times, so Tennessee has to knock down a few. In the end, Ohio State has the trump card that Tennessee lacks: Evan Turner. Prediction: Ohio State 76, Tennessee 65 

Baylor vs. Saint Mary’s (7:27 PM): There are intriguing personnel match-ups all over the court. At the guard spots, there is Mickey McConnell and Matthew Dellavedova vs. Tweety Carter and LaceDarius Dunn. Down low, you have Omar Samhan vs. Ekpe Udoh. Baylor is the favorite going into the game, but the Bears will not have an easy time with the Gaels. Offensively, Baylor needs to get into the lane for easy baskets around the rim. Despite Samhan’s presence down low, Saint Mary’s allows the highest percentage of two-pointers in the country. With Udoh and two other 6-10 players in the frontcourt, Baylor has the personnel to get points in the paint. Defensively, Baylor has to contain Dellavedova, McConnell, Ben Allen and the rest of the Gaels’ shooters. Samhan is going to get his no matter what, so Baylor needs to focus on the sidekicks. On the other side, Saint Mary’s has to be able to hit three-pointers. Baylor is vulnerable to hot shooting nights from opponents, and Saint Mary’s has the shooters to exploit that. Moreover, Samhan has to dominate again, but he will have trouble against shot-blocker extraordinaire Udoh and co. Defensively, the Gaels have to keep Baylor from getting second chances and also can’t allow Dunn and Carter to heat up. Baylor’s balance will be the difference. Prediction: Baylor 79, Saint Mary’s 70

Michigan State vs. Northern Iowa (9:37 PM): This might be the least enticing of the Friday contests. Northern Iowa pulled off the biggest upset of the tournament so far, defeating top-seeded Kansas, and the Panthers might be the favorite against Michgian State. The Spartans will be without starting point guard and leader Kalin Lucas, who is out the rest of the season after injuring his knee against Maryland. To overcome his loss and beat UNI, Michigan State has to rely on what has been its strength for years: rebounding and second chances. The Spartans, led by Draymond Green and Raymar Morgan up front, excel at getting points off of offensive rebounds. Without Lucas’ penetration, though, Korie Lucious and Durrell Summers will need to step up on the perimeter. On the defensive side, Michigan State needs to guard the perimeter and not allow first-weekend hero Ali Farokhmanesh to get open for threes. For Northern Iowa, the Panthers need to keep the game at a slow pace, providing them an opportunity to hit threes from the perimeter and get Jordan Eglseder involved down low. On the defensive side, it is imperative to keep Michigan State off the glass. When the Spartans are getting second-chance points, they are tough to beat. I think Northern Iowa prevails – Michigan State is a shell of itself without Lucas at the point. Prediction: Northern Iowa 64, Michigan State 61

Duke vs. Purdue (9:57 PM): Had these two teams faced off about a month ago, it might have been in the Final Four and would be a fantastic battle. Instead, Purdue struggled without Robbie Hummel – but might be getting back on track. The Boilermakers are nowhere near the same offensive team without Hummel, but they still play excellent defense and have players who can get points when necessary. In order to beat Duke, though, Purdue will need to get easy baskets somehow. Duke gives up a high percentage of two-point shots, and JaJuan Johnson will need to exploit that down low. He will need to control the boards at both ends. E’Twaun Moore is one of the few Purdue players who can create his own shot, but some role players will need to step up offensively. On defense, Purdue has to key on Duke’s trio of Jon Scheyer, Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler. Chris Kramer and Keaton Grant will need to come up big. Furthermore, Purdue has to defend the perimeter so Duke doesn’t get hot from outside. As for Duke, the Blue Devils have to exploit Purdue’s occasional struggles to defend the three-point shot. They also have to get second opportunities with Brian Zoubek for easy baskets. On defense, shutting down Moore is huge, while keeping Johnson from dominating down low would also help. Taking those two out of the equation makes Purdue easy to defend. If Hummel was around, he would be a perfect match-up for Singler. Without Hummel, though, Purdue has no one for him. Prediction: Duke 65, Purdue 55

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