Friday's Sweet-16 Previews
2-1 Thursday Night - Winning Shocker of the Year With Marquette Dominating Miami-Fla, Wichita State beating LaSalle, and losing with Indiana.
THERE'S MORE SWEET 16 ACTION ON TAP HERE IN TODAY'S JIM SEZ!
WE ANALYZE/DISSECT FRIDAY'S NCAA TOURNAMENT GAMES BOTH IN INDY & ARLINGTON
By Jim Hurley:
Just how stacked with national championship trophies is tonight's NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 field?
Well, if you add up the four national titles won by Duke's Mike Krzyzewski to the pair of crowns copped by Florida's Billy Donovan and than chuck in the single championships won by Louisville's Rick Pitino (while at Kentucky), Michigan State's Tom Izzo and Kansas' Bill Self than you come away with nine shiny trophies in all - as compared to the one-and-only national championship won by Thursday's participating Sweet 16 teams (see Syracuse's Jim Boeheim).
Whether you wish to call the NCAA Tournament's Midwest Regional Semifinals the "legends bracket" as some folks at ESPN have referred to this foursome in Indianapolis or maybe you like to call this South Regional Semis "three monsters and Cinderella (see #1 Kansas, #3 Florida, #4 Michigan and, of course, #15 Florida Gulf Coast) there's plenty of excellent storylines to go around and keep in mind both Oregon and Florida Gulf Coast are double-digit dogs here and so there's a shot we get another "shining moment" or two from these long-shots.
NCAA SWEET-16 PARLAY OF THE YEAR
2012: Ohio U (+10) North Carolina WON 65-73
2011: Kentucky (+6) Ohio State WON 62-60
Marquette (+4.5) North Carolina Lost 63-81
2010: Tennessee (+4.5) Ohio State WON 76-73
Duke (-8.5) Purdue WON 70-57
Tonight's action features Oregon-Louisville, Michigan-Kansas, Michigan State-Duke, and Fla Gulf Coast-Florida.
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Okay, let's get the ball rollin' first with another look at our annual Jim Sez NCAA Tournament Conference-by-Conference Pointspread Breakdown Chart but notice here we're including only the conferences/leagues that are still alive in Sweet 16 action while heading into Thursday's tilts:
NCAA TOURNAMENT CONFERENCE-BY-CONFERENCE POINTSPREAD BREAKDOWN CHART
NCAA TOURNAMENT - FRIDAY'S SWEET 16 GAMES
MIDWEST REGIONAL SEMIFINALS - At Lucas Oil Stadium - Indianapolis, IN
#12 OREGON (28-8) vs. #1 LOUISVILLE (31-5) -- 7:15 p.m. ET
Lost amidst all the hoopla surrounding the NCAA Tournament favorites to "win it all" is the fact the Louisville Cardinals enter this affair on a 12-game winning streak and haven't lost a game since that five-OT tilt at Notre Dame way back on February 9th.
In other words, the Redbirds are playing - and by far - their best ball of the year and did you happen to notice that the 'Ville has yielded a per-game average of only 52.2 points a game in these dozen consecutive wins?
Now, that strangulating press-and-trap defense starring guards Russ Smith (27 points in last Saturday's rollicking 82-56 win against Colorado State) and PG Peyton Siva likely will have to deal with a Ducks team that opts for two point guards on the floor at the same time - but does that necessarily mean Dominic Artis and Johnathan Loyd will be able to handle things and set up teammates for easy scores? Stay tuned.
Big factor for Oregon here is just how many triples can Dana Altman's guys drain here?
Note that Oregon shot a highly efficient 8-of-11 from beyond the arc in last Saturday's 74-57 upset win against Saint Louis with G Damyean Dotson nailing 5-of-6 trifectas in all - now let's see how many "clean looks" Dotson gets here from beyond the arc.
#2 DUKE (29-5) vs. #3 MICHIGAN STATE (27-8) - approximately 9:45 p.m. ET
Two of college basketball's true heavyweights bang heads here and there are two legitimate questions that must be posed:
Is Michigan State point guard Keith Appling close to being 100 percent after suffering a right shoulder injury in last weekend's 70-48 runaway win against Memphis and can Duke's tandem of Mason Plumlee and Ryan Kelly steer clear of foul trouble - or does aforementioned Coach K have to "spoon-feed" them their minutes here as was the case in last Sunday night's rough-and-tumble 66-50 over Creighton?
No doubt you noticed that Plumlee was dislodged from his low-post spot time after time by Creighton's goggled Gregory Echenique and this physical M-State front wall will do its best to root Plumlee out of his comfort zone here and so odds are the Dookies will need their perimeter people - namely guards Seth Curry and Rasheed Sulaimon (a combined 38 points versus the Creighton Bluejays) -- to get hot here plus Izzo's guys surely need to shoot it better than those Creighton kids who netted just 16-of-53 field-goal attempts.
One X-factor here: Michigan State could put a bigger/physical body on Curry and try to wear him down by game's end. If the strategy works, Duke may be looking elsewhere for someone to deliver the crunch-time baskets.
#4 MICHIGAN (28-7) vs. #1 KANSAS (31-5) - 7:35 p.m. ET
Both the Kansas Jayhawks and Michigan Wolverines spent brief moments as the nation's #1-ranked team this year and no doubt both squads exhibited super-power strengths in last weekend's Round of 32 games.
Heck, the 49-28 second-half that Kansas posted on North Carolina was a thing of beauty in that 70-58 win as the Big 12 champs really got out and ran with C Jeff Withey (16 points, 16 rebounds and 5 blocked shots) often igniting a devastating fast break.
Note that KU easily won the board battle 47-to-30 in that third-round game but will Self's guys own the boards here or will Michigan's Mitch McGary (21 points and a whopping 14 rebounds in that stellar 78-53 win against VCU) and mates make life tough on Withey and friends here when it comes to "cleaning the glass"?
Michigan's savvy head coach John Beilein would love yet another well-balanced scoring deal here after four maize-and-blue guys scored 14-or-more points against the VCU Rams but keep a particularly close eye on Glenn Robinson III who shot 8-of-9 from the floor in a 71-56 win/cover against South Dakota State in a second-round NCAA Tourney game and than followed that up with a efficient 7-of-10 FG game against VCU. If Robinson gets 7 or 8 open shots here - and it could happen if/when the Jayhawks "double" PG Trey Burke - than small dog Michigan could be the one movin' on.
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#15 FLORIDA GULF COAST (26-10) vs. #3 FLORIDA (28-7) - approximately 10:05 p.m. ET
Are the darlings of this year's NCAA Tournament gonna have life right into Easter Sunday ... or is this where the road ends for the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles who've wowed everyone in the nation with a dunk-a-thon pair of wins against favorites Georgetown and San Diego State?
Well, one thing for sure is FGCU head coach Andy Enfield swears his guys will continue to play "loose" with PG Brett Comer inferring he has some payback in mind after Florida head coach Donovan failed to recruit him a few years back - now Comer is hoping to dazzle the country with some lob passes to the hoop here but the Gators' game plan is to have defensive whiz G Scottie Wilbekin (12 points and 6 assists in last Sunday's 78-64 win/cover against Minnesota) stay up-close and personal with Comer and see who wins that mano-to-mano deal.
No question that Florida - the largest Sweet 16 betting favorite at minus 13 points - is best when working the ball inside-out and letting both F Erik Murphy (15 points in 24 foul-plagued minutes against Minny) and G Mike Rosario (team-high 25 points against the Gophers) get equal touches but if you're looking for a sleeper player here it's reserve F Will Yeguete who posted modest enough stats against Minnesota but made his presence felt with defense/hustle plays that could make the difference here.
THE BIG DANCE ROLLS ON - NOW HERE ARE SATURDAY'S NCAA TOURNAMENT ELITE 8 GAME PREVIEWS BETWEEN MARQUETTE- SYRACUSE IN THE EAST AND WICHITA STATE-OHIO STATE IN THE WEST
By Jm Hurley:
The stage is set in the nation's capital and out in Hollywood too - a pair of NCAA Tournament Elite 8 games that figures to be riveting stuff. Here's what is on the Saturday college hoops menu ...
THE NCAA TOURNAMENT EAST REGIONAL FINAL
Verizon Center - Washington, D.C.
#4 SYRACUSE (29-9) vs. #3 MARQUETTE (26-8) - 4:30 p.m. ET, CBS
It's not often a pair of Sweet 16 underdog sides dominate their favored foes but that's what happened on Thursday night in D.C.
Okay, so maybe that famed 2-3 Syracuse zone was just too much to handle for a smaller Indiana backcourt that seemed intimidated at nearly every turn - plus the Hoosiers front court was pretty timid too as the Big 10 gang committed 19 turnovers and had 10 shots blocked (it only seemed as if it were more!) but how does anyone explain Marquette's rousing 71-61 triumph over 5 ½-point fav Miami - our Sweet-16 Shocker of the Year!
Yes, it was discovered publicly that Miami PG Shane Larkin was sick to his stomach but the Hurricanes played truly uninspiring offense in the Sweet 16 affair and now the 'Cuse wants its athletic group to go hard to the hoop and hope that PG Michael Carter-Williams (game-high 24 points against Indiana) keeps hitting his 15-foot jumpers while the Orange needs sharpshooter James Southerland to heat up after going a strangely silent 1-of-3 from the floor against Indiana.
Hey, did you notice - that as well as Syracuse played - Jim Boeheim's club registered a mere four assists on 21 made field goals on Thursday night? Hmmm.
But back to Marquette:
The Golden Eagles here need to get the majority of those "50-50 balls" that hoarse head coach Buzz Williams is always talkin' about and it sure would help if someone like Jamil Wilson (16 points and 8 boards in the blowout win against Miami) stepped it up to give G Vander Blue some help but here's two tips for the crew from Milwaukee:
Send everyone hard to the hoop - the 10 offensive rebounds against Miami was okay but count us among the folks that believe Marquette needs 15-to-20 "gimme points" here off offensive misses, etc. - or else!
Finally, in that 74-71 regular-season home win against the Orange back on February 25th, Marquette had a huge advantage from the foul line as the Golden Eagles connected on 29-of-35 FTs while the Orange nailed just 5-of-7 FTs - to think things will be lopsided in Marquette's favor again here from the charity stripe is silly, right?
Not if Blue, Junior Cadougan and mates are "making" the officials call fouls on aggressive drives through the zone and into the lane. Stay tuned.
SYRACUSE'S NCAA TOURNAMENT GAMES
|3-21||Syracuse||- 13.5||Montana||Syracuse 81-34|
|3-23||Syracuse||- 7||California||Syracuse 66-60|
|3-22||Indiana||- 5||Syracuse||Syracuse 61-50|
MARQUETTE'S NCAA TOURNAMENT GAMES
|3-21||Marquette||- 3||Davidson||Marquette 59-58|
|3-23||Marquette||- 1.5||Butler||Marquette 74-72|
|3-28||Miami||- 5.5||Marquette||Marquette 71-61|
NCAA TOURNAMENT WEST REGIONAL FINAL
Staples Center - Los Angeles, CA
#9 WICHITA STATE (29-8) vs. #2 OHIO STATE (29-7) - 7:05 p.m. ET, CBS
Now that the O-State Buckeyes are making it an NCAA Tourney habit of winning games with late perimeter jumpers - first it was PG Aaron Craft in last Sunday's near buzzer-beater win against Iowa State and than in the Sweet 16 tilt it was kid LaQuinton Ross who nailed the sweet wing jump shot - you get the feeling that Thad Matta's guys may be playing with fire.
Is that gonna cost 'em here against a rough-and-tumble Wichita State team that has won its three NCAA Tournament games by a per-game margin of 12.6 points?
The Shockers buried LaSalle 72-58 and really mashed the Explorers on the boards - did you know Wichita State won the first-half glass battle 25-8 en route to a 47-to-28 backboard advantage? - but maybe the first order of business for this Missouri Valley Conference club is to "check" the aforementioned Ross who registered 14 of his 17 points against Arizona in the second half and that aggressiveness to his game that was lacking back in January/February is now a major part of the Buckeyes' scene and game plan.
Let's not forget the chap who dished it off for the Ross game-winner on Thursday night in LA-LA land and that was - of course -- PG Aaron Craft (13 points, 5 assists and 5 rebs against 'Zona) but the reality here is Craft may not even be the top point guard on the floor for this West Regional Final.
Wichita State's do-it-all PG Malcolm Armstead (18 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists against LaSalle) continues to make a major name for himself in this year's tourney and here look for Armstead to joust with Craft the full 94-feet while the Shockers' guard looks to get open looks for the likes of veteran F Carl Hall (16 points versus LaSalle) and frosh G Ron Baker - still something tells us Wichita State needs to drain more than a handful of triples here because Ohio State will "pack it in" at times and challenge that beefy W-State front court.
Tell us right now if Ohio State's Deshaun Thomas is good for 20-or-more points and we'll tell you who's going to the Final Four. It might be that simple, folks.
WICHITA STATE'S NCAA TOURNAMENT GAMES
|3-21||Pittsburgh||- 4.5||Wichita State||Wichita State 73-55|
|3-23||Gonzaga||- 6.5||Wichita State||Wichita State 76-70|
|3-28||Wichita State||- 4.5||La Salle||Wichita State 72-58|
OHIO STATE'S NCAA TOURNAMENT GAMES
|3-22||Ohio State||- 14.5||Iona||Ohio State 95-70|
|3-24||Ohio State||- 7.5||Iowa State||Ohio State 78-75|
|3-28||Ohio State||- 3.5||Arizona||Ohio State 73-70|
NOTE: Catch Sunday's NCAA Tournament Elite 8 Previews in the next edition of Jim Sez.
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