#4 Wisconsin vs. #1 Syracuse
With the loss of Fab Melo, many people wondered if the Orange would even beat 16 seed UNC Asheville. The Orange advanced after a tough fought game with the help of some questionable officiating. In the round of 32, the Wildcats of Kansas State put up a fight against the Orange but the depth of the Orange proved to be too much in the end, as Dion Waiters and James Southerland combined for 33 points off the bench. Despite these two victories, the Orange are still seen as the most vulnerable of the number one seeds. Tonight’s matchup against Wisconsin will be a true test for the Orange. The Badgers come into this game with the 4th ranked defense in the country and on paper, look to be a great matchup for Syracuse. Wisconsin is very stingy with the basketball, coming into this game averaging the second fewest turnovers per possession in the nation, and this will truly prevent the Orange from capitalizing on turnovers and getting easy buckets off of fast breaks. Syracuse will most likely have to score in their half-court offense which is not an easy task against the Badgers defense. Expect this game to be a low scoring game, with Syracuse only scoring 70 points or better 4 times in their last 13 games and the Badgers only giving up and average of 53 points in their first two tournament games.
Keys to Success:
For the Orange, Scoop Jardine and Kris Joseph are the two players that will need to step up if they are going to advance to the elite 8. Both of these experienced players have played in big games and know what it takes to win in the NCAA tournament. The Orange will be successful if they can produce good ball and player movement and not settle for jump shots, and their success starts from these two seniors.
For the Badgers, Jordan Taylor will have to have a big game and the defense will need to continue to be strong. Although Taylor has not been as productive this season as he was in his junior season, with a .402 field goal percentage, .359 three point percentage, and a .785 free-throw percentage, the Badgers are in the same position as they were one year ago, the Sweet Sixteen. If the Badgers continue to take care of the ball and keep the Orange’s offense in front of them, they will have a good chance of advancing to the Elite 8.
#4 Louisville vs. #1 Michigan State
The Big East Champion Louisville Cardinals will face their biggest test yet as they come up against Michigan State number one seed Michigan State in the Sweet Sixteen. The Spartans will enter the game minus an important role player in freshman guard Branden Dawson. Dawson has been huge in piling up hustle points for the Spartans and his loss will provide an advantage for the Cardinals. The player for the Spartans that has to step up in this game will be Draymond Green. Green is averaging 20 points, 12.5 rebounds, and 8 assists in the tournament, leading the tournament in scoring. The Spartans have been a second half team so far in the tournament shooting 64.2 percent in the second half in wins against LIU Brooklyn and Saint Louis, but the Cardinals may jump on the Spartans early if they get off to a slow start. For Louisville to win this game it is going to have to come from the defensive end. The Cardinals play as hard on defense as any team in the country with Gogui Deng being a force in the paint and great guard defense led by Peyton Siva. On the offensive side of the ball, Siva has been averaging 9.2 points per game and 5.5 assists per game. He will need to continue to get his team involved if the Cardinals are going to pull off the upset.
Prediction: Michigan State
#6 Cincinnati vs. #2 Ohio State
The Cincinnati Bearcats are coming off of a huge win over the ACC Tournament champion Florida State Seminoles and will need to continue with this momentum if they are going to upset Ohio State. With Fab Melo out, The Buckeyes have quickly become the favorite to reach the Final Four from the East Region. Cincinnati has played well as of late, reaching the finals in the Big East Tournament and defeating Texas and Florida State in the first two rounds of the tournament. One of the most intriguing matchups in this game is going to be the matchup between Yancy Gates and Jared Sullinger. Gates and Sullinger are averaging 9.2 and 9.3 rebounds per game respectively, and whoever wins this big man matchup is going to give their team a huge advantage to win the game. I would give the edge to Sullinger in this battle. Sullinger possesses a point scoring ability that Gates does not as he is leading his team and averaging 17.6 points per game. He has flown under the radar for much of this season and is much better than people are currently giving him credit for. Each of these teams has the chance to bring Ohio its first men’s basketball title since 1962.
Prediction: Ohio State
#7 Florida vs. #3 Marquette
In the round of 32, Marquette beat a very good Murray State team who did not get as much credit as they deserved. Darius Johnson-Odom and Jae Crowder is one of the best duos in the country and they have shown this throughout the tournament. Each of these players were finalists for the Big East player of the year, an award that Crowder won. A key to the game for the Golden Eagles is not Johnson Odom’s offense, rather his defense. Florida’s offense is run around ball screens and spacing along the three point line with very minimal post game. Florida shoots more three point shots than most and for Marquette to slow down their offense Johnson Odom has to come up big defensively. For Florida the key player is Kenny Boynton. He is averaging 16.3 points per game and has been Florida’s most consistent player all season. He will have to have a big offensive night if the Gators are going to beat Marquette. Florida’s defense will also be a huge factor in determining their success. The Gators have struggled at time this year when they were shooting poorly from behind the arc because they could not get stops or force turnovers. However, in their two NCAA tournament wins so far they allowed their opponents to a .71 and .77 points per possession. The Golden Eagles are very capable of scoring in bunches and the Gators will need to play tenacious defense once again to stay in this game.
Guest Writer: Matt Frags