Thursday, March 28, 2013

NCAA Tourney: Sweet 16 Thursday Previews; East, West Regions

East Region

7:15 pm EDT: (2) Miami Hurricanes vs. (3) Marquette Golden Eagles - The total of the seeds here - 5 - is tied for the lowest with Kansas vs. Michigan in the South region, Duke vs. Michigan State in the Midwest and Inianda and Syraucse in the East, meaning this should be one of the more competitive games of the tournament.

Miami relies heavily upon its defense, holding its last two opponents (Pacific and Illinois) to 49 and 59 points, respectively, and on the duo of point guard Shane Larkin and the inside-outside play of Kenny Kadji.

Marquette will counter with their own pressure, relentless ball hawking and accuracy from the field (.467), due to taking mostly good shots after lots of passes in the offensive zone. The Golden Eagles have won their last two games by a combined three points, against high level competition - Davidson and Butler. Jamil Wilson and Vander Blue have been clutch down the stretch. This one may not be very pretty, as both teams contest everything, but it should be highly entertaining.

9:45 pm EDT, (1) Indiana Hoosiers vs. (4) Syracuse Orange - Syracuse has been sporadic, sometimes looking world-beating, but often sluggish and without any offensive direction. Of course, they have one of the best in the business, coach Jim Boeheim, on the bench, so they are able to change on the fly.

The Hoosiers showed plenty of heart in their last win, a 58-52 victory over Temple. Indiana boasts nice stats: 3rd nationally in scoring (80 ppg), 7th in FG% (.486) and 24th in rebounds (38.6). Cody Zeller will have plenty of company on the boards and in the paint, as the Orange are long and tall up front. Victor Oladipo is the real wild card here. If he can slice and dice Syracuse's 2-3 zone, the Hoosiers will advance. If not, Syracuse stands a chance at the upset.

West Region

7:47 pm EDT, (2) Ohio State Buckeyes vs. (6) Arizona Wildcats - Arizona has shot 55% from the field through its first two games, the best mark in the remaining tournament field, but they did it against so-so competition (Belmont, Harvard), so they should not expect shots to be as easy to come by against the Buckeyes.

Deshaun Thomas will provide most of the offense, and Aaron Kraft is a pesky defender with quick hands and a special knack for the big play, be it a three-pointer like the one he delivered against Iowa State to win the game or a pass to an open teammate.

The buckeyes are riding a 10-game winning streak, currently the longest in the nation, which is a very big plus at this juncture.

10:17 pm EDT, (13) La Salle Explorers versus (9) Wichita State Shockers - This piece of the bracket was busted when LaSalle took out #4 seed Kansas State and in the next round, as the Shockers dumped #1 Gonzaga.

Both teams are playing their best basketball of the season at the right time and each represent the last stand for their conferences - LaSalle from the Atlantic 10; Wichita State from the Missouri Valley. Nice to see two teams from mid-majors advance this far. Besides them, the only other team remaining in the field not from a Big Six conference is Florida Gulf Coast.

Look for plenty of tempo as both teams can light it up. La Salle averages 72.4 ppg, Wichita State, 69.4. The Shockers' Cleanthony Early, if he gets it going early on, can really light it up and take over a game.

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