Sweet 16/Elite 8 Primer

And… we’re back! The NCAA Tournament continues this week with great match-ups in the Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight. A lot of the favorites may be knocked out of the Tourney, but that doesn’t mean we can’t remember their successful madness from the past. See: Mario Chalmers v. Derrick Rose in 2008…

The Schedule – 

Thursday:

  • South: Stanford (10-seed) v. Dayton (11-seed) – CBS – 7:15pm (Prediction: Stanford)
  • West: Wisconsin (2-seed) v. Baylor (6-seed) – TBS – 7:47pm (Prediction: Wisconsin)
  • South: Florida (1-seed) v. UCLA (4-seed) – CBS – 9:45pm (Prediction: Florida)
  • West: Arizona (1-seed) v. San Diego State – TBS – 10:17pm (Prediction: San Diego State)

Friday: Sweet Sixteen

  • Midwest: Tennessee (11-seed) v. Michigan (2-seed) – CBS – 7:15pm (Prediction: Michigan)
  • East: UConn (7-seed) v. Iowa State (3-seed) – TNT – 7:47pm (Prediction: UConn)
  • Midwest: Kentucky (8-seed) v. Louisville (4-seed) – CBS – 9:45pm (Prediction: Kentucky)
  • East: Virginia (1-seed) v. Michigan State (4-seed) – TNT – 10:17pm (Prediction: Michigan State)

Saturday: Elite Eight

  • South: TBA
  • West: TBA

Sunday: Elite Eight

  • Midwest: TBA
  • East: TBA

The Favorites –

Florida – Florida is the #1 team in the country and played like it thus far in the tournament. They’ve got an experienced squad led by seniors and a Coach who’s done this before. In fact, it wasn’t too long ago when Coach Billy Donovan won back-to-back titles with Florida in 2006 and 2007. This year’s team has been a dominating force in the tourney, especially with the play of senior guard Scottie Wilbekin. What should we expect from Florida? They’ll be tested, but unless there’s a shocking upset, expect the Final Four — this team is built to win the whole thing. 

Michigan State –  Timing, luck, hard work, good health — It’s a beautiful thing when everything comes together at the right time. And that is what appears to be happening for Michigan State. After a season of injuries, tough opponents and adversity, everything seems to be going right for Michigan State. Under the leadership of Coach Tom Izzo and the play of Adreian Payne and Gary Harris, Michigan State seems primed to bring another National Championship back to East Lansing. What should we expect from Michigan State? If they can get past Virginia in the Sweet 16 (and we think they will), expect them to ease past the Elite Eight and off to Dallas for the Final Four.  

The Contenders –

Virginia – Maybe it’s time we give Virginia a little more respect. The #1 seed in the East is a great team, but no one seems to think of them that way. They  dominated the ACC, and have performed well (on both sides of the court) in the tournament so far and yet we’re not really talking about them as the favorites. They are well coached by Tony Bennett, and they have tough leaders in Joe Harris and Malcolm Brogdon and very well could make it to the Final Four. What should we expect from Virginia? Virginia is good, but I’m not sure they’re good enough to beat a healthy and strong Michigan State team. Toughness might not be enough to overcome inexperience. 

Arizona – Remember that time the media said Arizona was done after the loss of Brandon Ashley? Well, Arizona didn’t listen. Don’t get me wrong, they miss Brandon Ashley, but they are doing just fine without him. After two strong opening games in the tournament, Coach Sean Miller and Nick Johnson and freshman Aaron Gordon look poised to lead their team onward into the Madness. What should we expect from Arizona? Maybe we’re bold, but the San Diego match-up is going to be closer than most think. Close enough, that they might just lose.

Wisconsin – Wisconsin is another Big Ten team doing well in March so far. They’ve been pretty solid all season and arguably deserved a 1-seed in this year’s tournament. After two fairly easy wins over two pretty decent teams, Wisconsin really hasn’t been tested which is exactly what the Sweet Sixteen is all about. Coach Bo Ryan, is pacing this team faster than usual on offense and they remain their standard strong selves on defense especially with Frank Kiminsky down low in the paint. What should we expect from Wisconsin? They’re playing a tough squad in Baylor, but they should advance to at least the Elite Eight.

Michigan – Just like last year, Michigan is back in the Sweet 16. And although they might look different, they are nonetheless using last year’s tournament experience and this year’s regular season play to propel them forward. They’ve got a star in Nik Stauskis and a great coach in John Beilein and look poised to continue to make a run in the post-season. What should expect from Michigan? Look, Michigan is good — they won the Big Ten and they are talented, but Tennessee is a tough match-up and appears to be on a mission. Let’s hope they’re ready…  

San Diego State – San Diego State is good, y’all. The West Coast teams may not necessarily get all the attention in the world, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t as good. After a strong season in the Mountain West, veteran Coach Steve Fischer (once upon at time with the Runnin’ Rebels) and star player Xavier Thames look to lead the Aztecs to the Elite Eight. What should we expect from San Diego State? They will face a great defensive team in Arizona, but if they can get Xavier Thames going, they could definitely pull off the upset.

Louisville – Don’t look now, but last year’s champs are back. More than that, Louisville is gunning for their third straight final four and their second straight national championship. They are led by Coach Rick Pitino and three veteran players from last year’s title team including: Russ Smith, Luke Hancock and Montrezl Harrell. Although they might have been in a weak conference this year, they look poised and ready to compete once again for a national championship. What should we expect from Louisville? These guys know how to win and they’ve been in high-pressure situations before. With that said, they face a peaking Kentucky team in the Sweet Sixteen. Did we mention that Kentucky is their biggest rival? So yeah, anything could happen… from losing their next game, to winning the whole thing.

The Underdogs –

UCLA – It’s no surprise that UCLA made the Sweet Sixteen, but that doesn’t mean they are going to win the whole thing. They have a good coach in former Indiana legend Steve Alford and a great offense lead by the talented Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams. What should we expect from UCLA? It’s not that they can’t beat Florida on any given night, it’s just that Florida is a better team and we don’t think this will be their night.

Baylor – Once upon a time, there was talk that the Big 12 was the best conference in this year’s NCAA. After the end of the first weekend in the tournament, we were only left with two teams from that conference. That doesn’t mean that Baylor isn’t a good team, but it does mean the Big 12 might have been slightly overrated. Baylor has looked strong, especially after they dominated Creighton in their third round game, but there’s no telling that will be enough to carry them further into the Elite Eight. What should expect from Baylor? Isiah Austin and the entire team have looked strong, but they face a tough test in a steady Wisconsin team that is ready to get in their way.

Kentucky – Talk about peaking at the right time. After beginning the pre-season as #1, Kentucky went through what many young teams go through: growing pains. The thing is, growing pains are not exactly acceptable in Big Blue Nation. Luckily, the Wildcats are surging at the right time. With all-star playing by freshman Julius Randle and solid playing by the Harrison twins, Kentucky is back in the fold and looking to get Coach John Calipari his second National Championship. After defeating Wichita State, they look like they could do it. What should we expect from Kentucky? They face their biggest rival in Louisville in the Sweet Sixteen, but if they can get past them, then all cards are on the table.

Connecticut – UConn is more than a one man show, but one talented player stands above the rest. Shabazz Napier is really really good. Coach Kevin Ollie has done a good job with his squad, and Napier has put the team on his back. With that said, they still have a long road ahead. What should we expect from Connecticut? They face another good team (Iowa State), with a great player in DeAndre Kane, and it’s quite possible this game could come down to who can carry his team the farthest.

Iowa State – Iowa State was one of the best teams in the Big 12, and proved it when they knocked off Kansas in the conference tournament and went onto to win the title. They faced a tough break when they lost Georges Niang to a season ending injury but under the amazing play of DeAndre Kane and Melvin Ejim. What should we expect from Iowa State? After a comeback win over UNC in the third round, Iowa State proved they can be resilient under pressure. Will that be enough to go onward in the tournament? Time will tell.

The Cinder(f)ellas –

Stanford – When people think of Stanford, they generally think of great football and women’s hoops, and good overall athletics. So where does that leave men’s hoops? Well, let’s just say people are starting to talk. They’ve got a good coach in Johnny Dawkins, a great player in Dwight Powell, and are built around a wise, upperclassmen-led big team that plays gritty defense. They’ve surprised us all after beating New Mexico and Kansas in their opening games, and look ready to continue the ride. What should we expect from Stanford? They’ve got a good shot at winning in the Sweet Sixteen when they take on another Cinderella in Dayton. If they get past Dayton, they will have to play Florida or UCLA next which would without a doubt be tough. 

Dayton – Don’t believe in Dayton? Don’t worry, they believe in themselves. After defeating in-state rival Ohio State and then upsetting Syracuse in their first 2 games, Dayton doesn’t look to be slowing down anytime soon. A true Cinderella, they’ve been playing great basketball as of late but whether this magic is sustainable is the key question. What should we expect from Dayton? Although it’s not a given they can beat Stanford, if they can overcome their size. After that, they will need some serious glass slippers with a strong heel if they have to face Florida or UCLA.

Tennessee – After reviewing the scores of Tennessee’s first round games, it seems weird to call them a Cinderella. The thing is… while UMass and Mercer have talent, and while Tennessee is playing well, they still have a lot to prove. What should we expect from Tennessee? They are playing like a team on a mission and it’s definitely possible that they could take down Michigan, but it won’t be easy and they will have to show up prepared.

 

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