With two No. 15 seeds rocking the basketball world last week–upsetting both Duke and Missouri in the first round–this year's Sweet Sixteen is anything but normal. Yet, the core of what many backetologists predicted advancing from here-on-out still holds strong.
In the East, Ohio State’s balanced offense and consistent defense will overcome Cincinnati’s sporadic play.
The Buckeyes have proved throughout the year that they are a big game team with clutch players like J.J. Sullinger, who is capable of rising to the occasion. Cincinnati is coming off their upset of Florida State and should be thankful they made it this far. Although they can put points on the board in a hurry, they won’t find the Ohio State defense quite so easy to exploit. Ohio State advances to the Elite Eight.
Ohio State’s competition will be Syracuse, who will squeeze out yet another close win over Wisconsin.
Even with Syracuse missing their center Fab Melo, and their lackluster first round win over UNC-Asheville, the Orange will come out on top. Syracuse has not only established their ability to win the close game all season, they are also a team that has proven its’ ability to take out top 25 competition; something Wisconsin has had a poor record with all year. The Badgers may have an impressive overall record, but against top tier teams it is mediocre at best. The Orange move on to face Ohio State.
In the Elite Eight it will be the Buckeyes advancing as Syracuse will finally run out of luck.
Their starting center and stagnant offensive flow will finally be put to the test from a worthy opponent. The Buckeyes ability to combine both talent and a well executed game plan will overcome Syracuse’s increasingly sloppy and unmotivated March play.
In the Midwest UNC will have their hands full with Ohio State, following their loss of starting point guard Kendall Marshall.
UNC will manage to pull off the win, but this will likely be the end of the line for the Tar Heels, who will face a hungry Kansas team after their defeat of NC State.
Kansas will beat NC State with the inside presence of Thomas Robinson and his 17 points per game and 12 rebounds per game. Kansas will then advance past UNC focusing on their consistently strong senior guard play from Tyshawn Talor who also goes for 17 points per game and 5 assists. The Kansas offense will be firing on all cylinders as the UNC offense looks for answers they no longer possess.
In the South it will be Kentucky squeezing past Indiana with their balanced offense with Anthony Davis, Doron Lamb, and Terrence Jones.
Baylor will top Xavier in impressive fashion as Xavier’s Tu Holloway will be shut down by Baylor’s speed on defense, and as the Xavier offense will have no answer for Baylor’s frontcourt athleticism.
This will lead to an epic Baylor vs. Kentucky showdown that could go either way. Both teams are incredibly athletic and love to get up and down the court. Kentucky will edge out Baylor though, as their guards are capable of winning games against both up-tempo teams like Louisville, and against balanced attacks like UNC.
In the West it will be Michigan State triumphing over Louisville if they can manage to slow the tempo of the game down and get into their half-court offense. This is the key to this matchup. Louisville takes the game if it turns into a track meet or if Louisville can manage to get the turnovers from intense defense. But Tom Izzo’s been here before and has the talent and the game plan to top Pitino’s one-sided attack.
Marquette will beat Florida State in a close game due to Jae Crowder’s hot hand. He has the ability to put Marquette on his shoulders and carry the load. His numbers of 17 points per game, 8 rebounds per game, and 2 assists per game, don’t accurately reflect his ability to not only get his shot whenever he wants it, but also take over the floor. Crowder will be too much for Florida who will fall to star power and matchups that don’t favor them.
Michigan State will then have their hands full with Marquette, but will survive in a war. It will be Crowder and Darius Johnson-Odom of Marquette against the team first approach of Michigan State. State will overcome leaving us with a Final Four of Michigan State, Kentucky, Ohio State, and Kansas.