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Take a look at the EE Sports World Sweet 16 preview from Brandon Berg and Andy Erickson.
1. Ohio State vs. 4. Kentucky – 3/25 9:45 EST
Berg: Ohio St. has gone through by pure domination so far this tournament. I don’t see any reason for it to end now. They are easily the most well-rounded team in the nation. Kentucky is led by John Calipari, who is trying to lead his 3rd team to a final four, a feat that has only been done by none other than Rick Pitino. Better luck next year coach.
Pick: Ohio State
Andy: Ohio St. absolutely demolished an upset-minded George Mason team by 32 points and hasn’t had a tough task so far in the tournament. Kentucky on the other hand has had a couple tough battles. In order for Kentucky to keep this one close they will need to pressure the Buckeyes into making mistakes and capitalizing on their own fast-break opportunities. If they try to slow the game down it will definitely favor Ohio State
Pick: Ohio State
1. North Carolina vs. 11. Marquette – 3/25 7:15 EST
Berg: North Carolina was on a tear to finish off the season and they’ve picked up where they left off. Kendall Marshall has done wonders at the point and Barnes, Benson and Zeller are averaging 23.2 points and 11.2 rebounds combined. As a team, they’re averaging over 92 points in the tourney so far. Marquette did a good job against Xavier and even more impressive against Syracuse, controlling the game and playing how they want to play, but UNC pushes the ball too and probably will dispose of the Golden Eagles fairly easily.
Pick: North Carolina
Andy: This could be the game to watch if you’re looking for a major upset. Marquette is one of just two Big East schools remaining and has a lot to prove for their team and conference in this game. The key to this game for the Golden Eagles is rebounding. UNC is the best rebounding team and if Marquette can keep the edge about even they will keep it close down to the end. For the Tar Heels, they need their bench to step-up. Washington’s bench outscored UNC’s 41-5 on Sunday. This should be a pretty good game and I can’t imagine a double-digit win either way unless it comes down to free-throws at the end, which UNC is pretty darn good at.
Pick: North Carolina
1. Duke vs. 5. Arizona – 3/24 9:45 EST
Berg: Kyrie Irving has returned to Duke, Nolan Smith is on fire and they have the reigning Final 4 Most Outstanding Player in Kyle Singler. Need I say more? The main deciding factor is how well the Plumlee brothers and Ryan Kelly do down low. If they can get Derrick Williams into foul trouble like Williams has been in, they should play well enough to win. Arizona, on the other hand, has played very well taking out Texas and Memphis to get to this point. Derrick Williams’ draft stock is soaring, but do they have enough support to take out the one seeded Blue Devils? Probably not.
Andy: To say Arizona has skimmed out their two wins to get to this point is an understatement. In the first-round it was a blocked shot at the Buzzer against Memphis, and in the second it was a 5-second call on Texas that gave Arizona a chance that they took advantage of. Arizona’s Derrick Williams made some huge plays at the end of both games and will need to be a force inside against Duke for his team to advance. Duke will need a much better performance from Kyrie Irving who made just one shot from the field against Michigan. Duke just has too much depth from the outside for Arizona to be able to handle.
3. Connecticut vs. 2. San Diego State – 3/24 7:15 EST
Berg: Kemba Walker has been doing it all for the Uconn Huskies. He’s been carrying them on his back to this point. Against the Cincinnati Bearcats, Uconn managed to contain impressive center Yancy Gates and win the rebound battle while winning by 11. Chalk that one up as an impressive victory. San Diego State, on the other hand, wound up fighting to the death with the Temple Owls as their game went into double overtime. We’re about to see how lethal the trio of Kawhi Leonard, Billy White and Malcolm Thomas really are.
Andy: To be honest, if I’m a UConn fan, I am really not all that worried about this game. Kemba Walker has been on a roll and looks nearly unstoppable. He was only two rebounds shy of a triple-double in UConn’s 81-52 win over Bucknell in the first round. Then he had a huge 33-point performance in the Huskies 11 point win over Big East rival Cincy. The Aztecs obviously know they have to slow down Walker in order to advance. Fortunately I think SDSU just might be good enough defensively to hold him in check. With a defense ranked 7th in the nation in scoring defense at 58.8 points allowed a game and 13th in field-goal percentage defense. I think San Diego State has an athletic enough defense that they can slow down Walker.
Pick: San Diego State
1. Kansas vs. 12. Richmond – 3/25 7:27 EST
Berg: Kansas has gotten off to a slow start in each of their tournament games so far. They can’t let that happen against Richmond. Against Boston and Illinois, they started slowly, but picked up speed and crushed the opponent by the end of the game. Richmond likes to come out of the gates early and firing. If Kansas lets Richmond get ahead early, it could be doomsday for KU. Richmond has enough leadership and firepower to hold the lead through the end of the game. I’m not saying Richmond is going to win, but this may be an upset in the making.
Andy: Like Brandon said, this game has upset written all over it. Kansas needed over a half in both of their tournament games to get in a groove, and against a team like Richmond, they could find themselves in a deep hole by then. Once the Spiders get on a roll, they don’t stop, so the last thing the Jayhawks need is this Richmond team’s confidence to build as the game goes on. Richmond held Morehead St. to 37% shooting from the field on Saturday. Kenneth Faried had a solid outing with 11 points and 13 rebounds. Justin Harper will need to repeat his salty 19 point, six rebound performance to keep Richmond throwing punches in this one. The Jayhawks haven’t hit their stride yet, and they are bound to choke soon.
11. Virginia Commonwealth vs. 10. Florida State
Berg: First off, I know very little about both of these teams except Florida St. is the best defensive team in the nation and VCU isn’t supposed to belong here. The Florida St. fact holds true as evidenced by their ownage of Notre Dame. The VCU opinion proves to be no more than opinion. That opinion has also gone away. I do not hear the same screams I was hearing five days ago. In the end, defense wins championships.VCU has a very balanced attack on offense that really helped in the pummeling of Purdue. However, as well as Florida St. plays defense, I have a hard time seeing them struggle to game plan for VCU.
Pick: Florida State
Andy: Florida State’s defense was stellar in their upset win over Notre Dame, forcing the Irish into taking 30 three point attempts. The big thing about the Seminoles is that four players scored in double-figures against the Irish. They will need that type of team effort to advance. VCU has obviously proven they belonged in the tournament after thrashing Purdue. They had six players in double figures which may just be the best overall team performance of the tournament thus far. Granted, it will be tougher to score on FSU, but as long as VCU can stay balanced on offense, they have a great chance of beating the Seminoles.
8. Butler vs. 4. Wisconsin – 3/24 9:57 EST
Berg: Call me arrogant, but I’m still not quite buying into Butler’s hype. They won by a last second basket in each of their first two games and I had Pitt busting early for a quick exit anyways. Now we have a team in Wisconsin that I picked to reach the Elite Eight, and I can see them simply overpowering Butler. Matt Howard and company are going to fall short in another upset bid in this one.
Andy: In my regional preview, I said Butler didn’t have near the talent to make a run deep into the tournament like they did last year. Boy have they proven me wrong. Granted they only won with last second baskets, it is that kind of a performance in the clutch that sends the other team home. Wisconsin’s defense just isn’t good enough to contain Shelvin Mack and Matt Howard.
3. BYU vs. 2. Florida – 3/24 7:27 EST
Berg: I’ve been saying it for a while now, and I’ll repeat it again. BYU isn’t going far without Davies in the lineup. I figured they would beat Wofford considering Wofford’s tallest player is 6’6”, then planned on them playing St. Johns, but we all know that didn’t happen, so I wasn’t surprised one bit to see them take out the lesser Gonzaga team. Now they go up against the Gators who man a dominant trio in the middle, Alex Tyus, Chandler Parsons and Vernon Macklin. Jimmer Fredette is indeed very super, but he really can only take this team so far.
Andy: Jimmer Fredette did it once again against the Zags on Sunday, torching Gonzaga for 34 points as he led his team to a blow-out win. This is BYU’s first Sweet Sixteen appearance since 1981, and a sweet one it could be at that. The Cougars had a great performance from Jackson Emory who is starting to prove he can be just as effective as his Fredette counter-part. On the other side is Florida whose defense had a great performance against an upset minded UCLA team. The Gators held the Bruins to less than 42 percent shooting from the field and only allowed 23.1 percent from beyond the arc. This game is going to come down to the one, the only…..Jackson Emory. We know Fredette will be a “Studette” like always, but it is going to be his sidekick that will have the final say on whether or not the Cougars advance.