Thursday, March 25, 2010

Thursday's Sweet 16 Previews

Syracuse vs. Butler (7:07 PM): This might be the least enticing game on Thursday, despite the fact that it features the lowest combined seed of any game. Syracuse might just be too good for Butler. However, if the Bulldogs are going to pull the upset, they have a better shot now that Syracuse center Arinze Onuaku will miss Thursday’s game. Without him in the lineup, the Orange are far less physical and imposing in the paint. The key stat could be rebounding. Syracuse is an excellent offensive rebounding team, while Butler excels on the defensive glass. On the other side, ‘Cuse struggles on the defensive glass, and Butler will need to get second chances. Against the ‘Cuse zone, Butler will need to get inside the teeth of the defense to draw fouls and finish around the rim. Syracuse doesn’t have too many weaknesses, but Butler will need to force the Orange’s inconsistent point guards into turnovers and bad decisions. If Syracuse is able to get its transition game going and get easy baskets on offense, this game will be over quickly. The Orange simply do too many things well for Butler to win. Prediction: Syracuse 74, Butler 63

West Virginia vs. Washington (7:27 PM): This could be a fun game to watch, as there is plenty of talent on both sides of the ball. For West Virginia, the loss of starting point guard Darryl Bryant for the rest of the NCAA Tournament is a lot more damaging on the surface than it actually will be. Bryant’s minutes have been steadily decreasing and he has totaled only 14 points in the last six games. Joe Mazzulla will need to handle the Washington pressure defense, and forwards Da’Sean Butler and Devin Ebanks will also need to take care of the ball effectively. Washington can force turnovers and create havoc for the Mountaineers, who have struggled with turnovers this season. However, the Huskies will also need to keep West Virginia off the offensive glass. The Mountaineers are dominant on the boards and have a litany of talented forwards to get baskets around the rim. West Virginia has also struggled at times with dribble penetration; it will have to keep Isaiah Thomas out of the lane. The tempo battle will also be key. West Virginia would prefer to make it a half-court affair where its size will have more of an impact. Washington wants to get out and run. Prediction: West Virginia 80, Washington 70

Kansas State vs. Xavier (9:37 PM): A rematch of a game earlier this season in which Kansas State defeated Xavier by 15. Don’t expect the same margin of defeat, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the Wildcats came out on top again. If the Musketeers want to avoid a repeat, they will need to slow down Denis Clemente and Jacob Pullen. The Kansas State backcourt duo is capable of getting hot and carrying the Wildcats. Furthermore, Xavier has struggled to contain points around the rim; it has to keep Clemente and Pullen out of the lane. Offensively, someone besides Jordan Crawford needs to step up. Kansas State commits too many fouls and is susceptible on the glass; Xavier needs to take advantage. As for Kansas State, it simply needs to do what it’s been doing in the NCAA Tournament, and all season for that matter. If Pullen and Clemente and hitting their threes, this team is tough to beat. Curtis Kelly and Jamar Samuels need to provide points and boards inside, though. Additionally, Xavier takes great care of the ball, but Kansas State needs to try and force some turnovers to get its transition game going. Prediction: Kansas State 73, Xavier 67

Kentucky vs. Cornell (9:57 PM): There are storylines galore in the game. Of course, the major ones that the media is jumping on are the “athletes vs. academics” and “GPA vs. NBA” angles. Clever, I know. Don’t simply dismiss Cornell as a team lucky to be in the Sweet 16. The Big Red put on a tremendous offensive performance in the first weekend, and will scare the daylights out of Kentucky if they are hitting on all cylinders again. The main thing for Cornell is to hit its shots, especially from beyond the arc. Kentucky guards the ball very well, but it can be vulnerable to hot shooting nights. The Big Red also need to control tempo; they can’t get in a running match with the athletes of Kentucky. Defensively, Cornell has to take care of business on the defensive glass and now allow DeMarcus Cousins and co. to get second chances down low. On the other side, Kentucky has to guard the perimeter. Cornell has a long list of guys who can knock down the three with consistency, and Kentucky can’t let them get hot from deep. Offensively, knocking down a few three-pointers would help. Cornell isn’t that effective at defending the perimeter. If Kentucky can take care of the ball and Cornell isn’t hitting everything again, the Wildcats will prevail. Prediction: Kentucky 77, Cornell 68

1 comment:

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