Reid Fischer's World of Rants

Looking at the sports world through orange colored glasses

Thoughts on the Sweet 16

Posted by mizzou1028 on March 26, 2009

So far I’ve actually done better in my NCAA tournament pool than normal.  I was actually in first place after round one with 28 of 32 first round games correct (I missed on Arizona, Dayton, UCLA and Wisconsin).  I didn’t fare near as well in the second round however, although I got 12 of 16 teams still remaining in the field (I had Utah, West Virginia, Florida State and Texas moving on past the second round).  Someone in our office pool at work got all 16 second round games right, which I have never seen before.  Needless to say that person is way out in front now.  I think this year’s tournament is still shaping up to be as wide open as ever, and while I stick to my original Final Four of Pitt, North Carolina, Memphis and Louisville, with Memphis winning it all, I offer some thoughts on the matchups to come this weekend.

East Region:

– Pittsburgh vs. Xavier: I have to admit that I am surprised to see the Musketeers still alive and kicking, since I had them losing to Florida State in the second round.  Thing is. the Seminoles didn’t make it that far, and Xavier gave a very impressive performance against Wisconsin in the second round.  Pitt struggled big time in round one against 16 seed East Tennessee State and also needed to hold off a charge from Oklahoma State in round two, so this could be interesting.  Pitt looks to be most vulnerable of the number one seeds heading into the regional semifinal, but I also think they lucked out in their matchup with Xavier.  Pitt has size inside especially with DeJuan Blair, and they are well used to physical play in the Big East.  Xavier has good guard play but does not have the size or depth inside to contain Blair and company.  I like Pitt, and I don’t necessarily expect this to be close.  

– Duke vs. Villanova: The Blue Devils nearly gave one away to Texas in the second round, benefiting from several Longhorn mistakes down the stretch.  Villanova got a big scare from American University in round one, needing to rally from a 14-point deficit to win, but then destroyed UCLA in round two.  I still think Duke has been too reliant on the three this season, and as hot as the Wildcats are coming in to this one, I don’t like the odds for the Blue Devils here.  This should be a great game, but I think Scottie Reynolds steps up big and wins this game for Villanova.  

I still like Pitt to beat Villanova in the regional final in a Big East rematch.  

South Region:

– North Carolina vs. Gonzaga: The Tar Heels showed how talented they are with two easy first round wins, although LSU kept it close for awhile in the second round.  Ty Lawson is healthy now to give North Carolina an even bigger talent edge.  Gonzaga has won two tough games against fellow mid-majors, and needed a last second shot to beat Western Kentucky in round two.  I like the Tar Heels to win this one easily.  Their athleticism will just be too much for the Zags.  

– Oklahoma vs. Syracuse: This should be a terrific game.  Blake Griffin has been phenomenal for OU in their two wins so far, while Syracuse has shown no ill effects whatsoever from all their overtimes in the Big East tournament.  Jim Boeheim’s 2-3 zone flabbergasted Arizona State in round two, and I expect it will do the same to the Sooners.  Oklahoma needs a monster game from Griffin inside, but they’ll also need to knock down the threes against the zone, something that is not one of their strengths.  Syracuse has one of the best penetrating guards in the country in Jonny Flynn, and he won’t be afraid to attack Griffin and company on the offensive end.  I think the defense of the Orange will be the difference, and I see them squeaking out a close one against Oklahoma.

Whether they end up playing the Sooners or the Orange, I like North Carolina in the regional final.  The Tar Heels have way too much talent not to make the Final Four.  

West Region: 

– UConn vs. Purdue: The Huskies have arguably been the most impressive team in the tournament so far, especially with the way they ran a red hot Texas A&M team out of the gym in the second round.  Purdue has been quietly solid, having won a close one against a good Washington team in the second round.  Still, as good as the Boilermakers are playing right now, it won’t be near enough.  Purdue doesn’t have anyone who can guard Hashim Thabeet.  UConn wins easily.  

– Memphis vs. Missouri: This will be entertaining.  Both teams play a fast paced style and like to play pressure defense.  Memphis easily handled Maryland in round two after struggling in their first round game against 15 seed Cal State Northridge, while Missouri nearly blew a big lead to Marquette in round two and rallied to win.  Both teams rely on forcing turnovers and creating easy buckets in transition, so I think both teams will be successful in that area.  I like Memphis in this game (even though I’m a Missouri alum) because of their ability to score in the half court, and their overall defensive ability.  This will be close, but I think Memphis prevails.  As a Missouri alum, I plea to Mike Anderson to say in Columbia and not be tempted by the Alabama job.  You’ve got a good thing going Mike, let’s keep it that way. 

I think Memphis-UConn would be a fantastic game.  I think while UConn has been dominant in this tournament, I still have a hunch that Memphis’ defense will be able to help turn the game in their favor.  That is a matchup I would definitely pay money to see.  In the event that Missouri upsets Memphis, I would take UConn against the Tigers.  

Midwest Region:

– Louisville vs. Arizona: The Wildcats easily got through Utah and Cleveland State as a 12 seed.  I honestly thought they would lose to Utah, but Arizona has shown that they have talent to win if they get the right matchup.  However, Louisville is not it.  While Louisville did struggle with a good Siena team in round two, they’re still as complete as any team in the country.  A Rick Pitino team with several days to prepare is usually bad news for opponents.  I like Louisville to win, although Arizona might keep it close early.

– Michigan State vs. Kansas: These teams met in January, with the Spartans blowing out the Jayhawks in East Lansing.  This will be on a neutral court, and Kansas is much improved since that meeting.  Both teams looked solid in their winning their first two tournament games, so I expect this to be competitive.  If Kansas can get another good game inside from Cole Aldrich, this should be very interesting indeed.  In the end though, I think the Spartans are the better defensive team and that will come through in the end.  I do however have to admit that I did pick North Dakota State to beat the Jayhawks in one of my pools simply because I can’t stand Kansas, so take that with a grain of salt.  Still, I like Michigan State to win a close game here.  

I think Louisville win the regional final regardless if the opponent is Michigan State or Kansas.  The Cardinals are too athletic at both ends of the floor for either team.  

I still like my Final Four that I picked before the tournament started.  I still like Memphis to stifle Lousiville in one national semifinal, and I like North Carolina to beat Pitt in the other.  In the end, I still pick Memphis to win it all because of their defense.  Regardless, this is a round of 16 that I am looking forward to like no other in recent years.


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