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March Madness 2012 Preview: The Sweet 16: East and West

Jae CrowderWhat a crazy first weekend of the NCAA basketball tournament. For the first time ever two 15 seeds on the same day upset #2 seeds. If that isn’t March Madness then I don’t know what is. 3 double digit seeds qualified for the Sweet 16, and the great state of Ohio has 4 schools in the 2nd week of the tournament. My beloved Seminoles fell to one of the Ohio schools and I am still not over that loss. With that being said let me give some of my analysis for the Thursday games in the round of 16.

Starting out in the East region, we have a game that features the Wisconsin Badgers v Syracuse Orange. Wisconsin, who ranks in the mid 330’s of all division one schools in offensive efficiency put on a clinic beating Montana by 25 in round 2 and got past a trendy Final Four pick in Vanderbilt by 3 in the 3rd round. If the old adage is true and defense wins championships, then the Badgers most certainly would be in the finals every year.

[adinserter block=”2″]The Badgers love to play at a snail’s pace making the opposing defense grind it out for 40 minutes. They do not give up any cheap baskets. Jordan Taylor may be the one getting all the love as the leader but they have a bunch of role players who come up big. The Orange struggled to a victory in round two against a very game UNC-Ashville.

Matter of fact, there were some questionable calls that went against UNC-Ashville. If those calls go in favor of UNC-Ashville they were going to be the first 16 seed to beat a #1 seed in tournament history. Syracuse seemed to put it together in the 3rd as they dominated the undermanned Kansas State Wildcats. Syracuse even without their 7 footer Fab Melo patrolling the center of their vaunted 2-3 zone, it is still a formidable defense. Syracuse is long which can create havoc for opposing teams. Offensively Scoop Jardine and Dion Waiters will shoulder the load. The big question in this matchup will be Wisconsin be able to shoot and make 3’s over the long armed defenders of Wisconsin. I think they will and Syracuse will be the first #1 seed this year to be eliminated from the tournament.

The East’s other matchup is an all Ohio affair as the University of Cincinnati takes on The Ohio State Buckeyes. The Bearcats opened up a huge lead against Texas only to nearly blowout in the 2nd round. In a previous blog I predicted that somebody would leave in a body bag in the FSU-Cincy game. That game was as physical as I have seen. The Bearcats came out on top to my dismay. Only one word can describe Bearcats big man Yancy Gates: BEAST. He might be the most imitating man in the tournament. Dion Dixon and Sean Kilpatrick hit some clutch shots in the victory over FSU. They love to dribble penetrate and dish inside to Gates.

Ohio State didn’t have much trouble in the second round with Loyola and played a pretty even game with Gonzaga in the third round. Aaron Craft is the leader of Ohio State. Jared Sullinger and William Buford will get all the publicity but Craft is the one that sparks the Buckeyes. Sullinger will be matched up against Gates on both ends of the floor. I will be very interested to see how Sullinger matches-up against a bigger and stronger guy in the post. If Buford and Craft are hitting their shots, it won’t matter because the Bearcats don’t have the type of team to come back from a large deficit. I like Ohio State in this game setting up an All Big 10 East region final. In the final these teams will meet for a 3rd time this year. Each team has won on each other’s home court this season. I think the team that executes the best when playing a team for the 3rd time will win. I believe that the Badgers will come out on top and win the East region and advance to the Final Four.

In the West region’s first game it will be the Louisville Cardinals v Michigan State Spartans. Louisville struggled to put away Davidson in their first game and beat a very game New Mexico in the 3rd round. Louisville will only go as far as Peyton Siva takes them. He is a good point guard but sometimes struggles with his decision making. Louisville would like to get out and press the pace with their full court pressure. They have a near 7 footer in Gorgui Dieng to block any shots if the other team happens to break the press. Michigan State is not ultra talented but have a superstar in Draymond Green recorded a triple-double in the Spartans win over LIU-Brooklyn in the 2nd round. They played a very game Saint Louis team on Sunday earning the win by 4. Green, also the team’s leading rebounder will be a tough matchup for the Cardinals, The best thing about the Spartans is that they can beat you in multiple ways. I don’t think that Louisville has enough talent to beat Sparty. I like Sparty to move on to the Elite 8.

The nightcap in Phoenix pits the Florida Gators v Marquette Golden Eagles. Nothing more would please me to see Florida get blown out in this game but Florida has been on a terror through the first 3 rounds. They destroyed Virginia and then took Norfolk State out to the woodshed. Florida is led by their backcourt of Kenny Boynton and Irving Walker. Guard play is crucial to the success of any team in the tournament. However, if anybody has the team to stop the Gators it is the Golden Eagles. No team plays harder than Marquette. They think every possession is their last. In their first game they put up 88 on BYU and then handed Murray State only their second loss on the season.

[adinserter block=”1″]Big East POY Jae Crowder is a difficult match up as he averages 17 pts and 9 boards a game. He can hit it from the perimeter or in the post. I love Marquette in this game. Marquette should be able to dictate tempo and get the Gators to play at their pace. This will setup an epic battle between Marquette and Michigan State. I have a feeling this game will be a slugfest. Michigan State can adapt to any style of game and be successful. However, I just love the way Marquette plays. Coach Buzz Williams reminds me of a young Tom Izzo. He gets the players to buy in and play as aggressive as possible. I will pick Marquette to beat Sparty and reach the Final Four.

I like the 2 Wisconsin teams to advance to the Final Four. I will be breaking down the other 2 regions tomorrow. Till next time, have a wonderful and prosperous day.

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