As usual it has been a very wild and unpredictable March. From Gonzaga going down in the 3rd round to Florida Gulf Coast shocking the world beating Georgetown and San Diego State. So, what I’m going to do is try to predict what will happen from here on out, seeing as I, along with many of you, have already crumpled up my bracket in disgust and promptly thrown it out.
Midwest Region: This region has been fairly predictable with the top overall seed, Louisville, advancing with relative ease. However, their opponent is a very balanced Oregon team that many people felt deserved a higher seed. They wasted no time proving they belonged when they defeated the five seed Oklahoma St. and then the four seed St. Louis, which set them up to play Louisville. The way Louisville has been playing, especially from their guards, Peyton Siva and Russ Smith, I don’t know how well Oregon’s young guards can keep up.
The one thing Oregon does have going for them is how deep they go into their bench and they are playing very well at an even better time. Look for Louisville to continue their hot streak and knock off the Ducks in a close game, just as they all are in late March.
The other game in the Midwest features two teams that are very dangerous in March mostly because of they way they are coached. Michigan St. and Duke, which always means Coach Izzo and Coach K will be on the sidelines. Michigan St had no trouble getting to where they are now rolling over Valparaiso and Memphis. Duke, who also encountered little resistance on their way to the sweet 16, defeated Albany and then Creighton.
These two teams are playing as well as any team in the country at this point in the season and lucky for them. However, somebody has to emerge victorious and I like the Spartans from East Lansing to prevail in a tight battle with the Dukies. I like the combination of Adrian Payne and Derrick Nix down low, but watch out as Mason Plumlee and Ryan Kelly could steal the show. This game should come down to who takes care of the basketball and rebounds well.
West Region: This region may be the craziest of the four as we have a 9, 13, 6, and 2 seed all apart of the sweet 16. Wichita St found themselves in this position after a good win over a solid Pittsburgh team and then a shocking win over the one-seeded Gonzaga Bulldogs. The will take on the LaSalle Explorers who got to where they are by defeating the Kansas State Wildcats and then Marshall Henderson and the Ole Miss Rebels.
This game is going to come down to how LaSalle’s guards, Ramon Galloway and Tyrone Garland respond to the pressure that Wichita St will put on them and for Wichita St, they will rely heavily on the three-point shot of Ryan Baker and play in the paint from Carl Hall and CleAnthony Early. If Wichita St can set the pace like I think they will, expect the Shockers to move themselves into the Elite 8.
The other game in this region has Arizona and Ohio St slated to do battle. Arizona got past Belmont, an 11 seed, and the Harvard, a 14 seed. You could wonder if that hurts them in the long run. Ohio St slid right past Iona and then narrowly escaped against Iowa St thanks to a late Aaron Craft three-point basket.
For Arizona it will depend on how Mark Lyons responds to the pressure Aaron Craft will put on him and his ability to create and then on the other hand it will have to be another balanced attack for the Buckeyes and with the way Craft and company have been playing lately I don’t see Arizona taking this one away from them. Expect the Buckeyes to roll on into the Elite 8 to face the Shockers.
South Region: This region features the surprise of the tournament with the presence of the 15th seeded Florida Gulf Coast Eagles. Before I talk about whats being labeled “Dunk City” lets talk about the one versus four match-up that features the top seeded Jayhawks of Kansas and the Michigan Wolverines. Kansas slipped past Western Kentucky after trailing for a portion of that game and then edged out the Tarheels of North Carolina after trailing in that one as well.
Michigan took care of business against a pesky South Dakota St team and then ran the VCU Rams right out of the gym. With the way Michigan has been playing and the sudden emergence of Mitch McGary to go along with their stellar guard play, expect the Wolverines to spoil Kansas’ hopes of getting to the Final Four as the Wolverines should down the Jayhawks.
The Florida Gulf Coast Eagles have their hands full once again, but that hasn’t seemed to phase them at all as they’ve rolled Georgetown and San Diego St on their way to the Sweet 16 match-up with the Florida Gators who have defeated a very mediocre Northwestern St team and then a wildly inconsistent Minnesota team. This marks the third game in a row the Gators will play a double digit seeded team, but they have had little trouble with either team.
Florida Gulf Coast has captured the hearts of many around the country including myself and I like this athletic bunch from Fort Myers, Florida to continue to reek havoc in the south region. They’ve show they aren’t scared of anyone and they have the athleticism to hang around larger schools, expect them to come out with tons of energy and shock the world once again.
East Region: This region would be the only one that has actually played out to chalk. The top seed in the region, the Indiana Hoosiers, got past James Madison with no problems and then defeated Temple with the help of Victor Oladipo’s late three pointer that put the game out of reach for the Owls. Their opponent, the Syracuse Orange, have stifled the likes of Montana and California with that lethal 2-3 zone that Jim Boeheim brings to the table.
For Indiana it comes down to the ability to penetrate the holes of the zone and kick out to shooters and if Syracuse can once again baffle a team with that zone. I expect this game to be close, but I think that the Hoosiers’ ability to score the basketball will prevail and the Hoosiers will advance. Indiana wants this game in the 70’s or 80’s because given their recent track record, they do not fair well in low scoring games.
Marquette and Miami (FL) are the other teams set to do battle in the east. Miami coasted past Pacific before acquiring some resistance from Brandon Paul and the Illinois Fighting Illini, but the Hurricanes wound up victorious. Marquette barely squeaked past Davidson and then beat a fairly solid Butler team, but have won both games by a combined three points.
I think that if Marquette wishes to continue their lucky streak they’ll have to be able to defend the screen-roll game with Shane Larkin and Kenny Kadji. Given the athletes Marquette has in their front-court, I don’t think they be able to do this, so expect Miami to advance behind solid guard play from Larkin and Durand Scott.
All-in-all these games will probably go the exact opposite way of how I predicted them to go, but that’s what is fun about March, everything is unpredictable. Either way, its bound to be an exciting end to this wonderful and this crazy college basketball season.