7:15 pm EDT (12) Oregon vs (1) Louisville - Here's a match-up that may not have happened, had Oregon been properly seeded (though they might have been a #4, setting up the same scenario). The Ducks have easily exceeded all expectations for a #12 seed, precisely because they should have been no worse than a five.
Oregon is on a nice roll after two straight losses in early March, including sweeping three games to win the PAC-12 tournament and easy wins over (5) Oklahoma State (68-55) and (4) St. Louis (74-57). That 15-point average margin of victory in the tourney compares favorably with Louisville which knocked over a #16 (NC A&T) by 31 and a #8 (Colorado State) by 24, for an average win margin of 27.5, the best in the tournament.
The Ducks may encounter issues with Louisville's press, because point guard Dominic Artis' assist-turnover ratio is 1.4, a number that does not inspire confidence. But, the Ducks score 71.7 points per game and grab 37.4 rebounds on average. Louisville checks in at 73.6 and 37.5 boards. Louisville knows better than to take the Ducks lightly, and this one should be closer than many imagine it will be.
9:45 pn EDT (3) Michigan State vs (2) Duke - The Blue Devils have not scored up to their seasonal average (78.3, sixth-best in the country) against either of their tournament opponents, despite beating Albany and Creighton by 12 and 16 points, respectively, and there's a good chance the Spartans will keep them in check as well.
Physically, Michigan State appears the more muscular of the two, and, under coach Tom Izzo, will have roughly the same level of discipline and motivation. The Spartans' game is predicated on defense and rebounding, and, if they can get out on the break and score or find a vulnerability in Duke's defense, they will be well-served here.
After dispatching Valparaiso in their opening game, 65-54, Michigan State dominated Memphis, 70-48. Both teams enter the game healthy and with soaring aspirations. Look for a close one, as neither Izzo nor coach K will allow his troops to fall far behind without adjustments, though Michigan Stat ehas the kind of team that could dominate.
7:37 pm EDT (4) Michigan vs (1) Kansas - Possibly the most talented team in the tournament, Michigan should get plenty of open looks as no player on the Kansas squad has the ability to contain point guard Trey Burke, a player of the year candidate who is well-deserving. On the other side, the Jayhawks really don't have a point guard, meaning the Wolverines may be able to turn them over repeatedly for easy baskets.
For Kansas to be successful, center Jeff Withey needs to stay out of foul trouble and dominate the interior because the Wolverines don't really have a match-up for him. Michigan could counter with a zone defense to minimized Withey's effectiveness.
Kansas represents the last chance for the Big 12, which sent six teams to the tourney, but has won only three games. Strictly from a conference perspective, Michigan stands a good chance to advance and join Ohio State (and possibly Michigan State) as Big Ten teams in the Elite 8.
9:57 pm EDT (15) Florida Gulf Coast vs (3) Florida - the FGCU Eagles, the darlings of the tournament after besting #2 Georgetown in their opener and San Diego State after that, will prove to be a solid opponent for the Gators, who cruised through a weak SEC schedule and arrive here with easy wins over Northwest State and Minnesota.
Florida Gulf Coast may actually be a more balanced team than the Gators, and they certainly are more entertaining. In terms of athleticism, the Eagles have it all over the Gators, but they are in uncharted territory, as the first #15 seed to ever reach the Sweet 16.
They'll have fan support, which will definitely be a plus, as their players seem to feed on it, A Florida win is a possibility, but by no means guaranteed, Despite the disparity in seedings, these two teams are a close statistical match.
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