I bet those who turned in their brackets Monday are regretting being the early worm after the information that came out the last couple of days. But, for those of you who’ve waited patiently and want the winning formula I will now give you my Sweet 16 with a small explanation of why for every team.
Ohio St.: George Mason or Villanova is very capable of beating the Bucks, but they have shown throughout the year that they can take on all comers. The inside-outside game between Diebler and Sullinger is simple to run, very difficult to defend. Neither the Patriots nor the Wildcats have anyone who can defend Sullinger 1 on 1 and the Buckeyes outside shooting should push them through.
Kentucky: This young Wildcat squad is finding its own groove right when it is mattering most. By blowing out Florida in the SEC title game I thought, along with quite a few others, that Kentucky would be at least a #3 seed but somehow they find themselves on the #4 line. I think they cruise to the Sweet 16 and should give Ohio St. all they can handle.
Syracuse: 3 for 3 as far as chalk is concerned, but I like the way this Syracuse team has grown up throughout the year and that zone looks to be strong again. Fab Melo played his best basketball of the year in the Big East Tournament and if he can continue to play at that level the Orange have 5 legitimate scorers who can go off on any given night.
Washington: Finally, a little upheaval! Yes, I hate the Pac 10, but if you look over my earlier blog posts you’ll see that this is the only team I had (and still have) respect for. They have nine guys that play 15 minutes or more, they have an elite scorer at the point in Isaiah Thomas, and a shut down defender in Justin Holliday, all this will be key in their upset of UNC in the second round.
Duke: So tempted to put Tennessee in this spot but alas, I can not go against the defending champs. I think that even without Kyrie Irving the Blue Devils would have advanced to this point but, if he comes back and plays in the first two rounds and returns to near his early season form, there is no reason the Dukies can’t repeat.
Texas: One thing about this team I will say that scares me is that for the first time in a while the Longhorns seemed to lose their hearts a little in that first half against Kansas. Really the first time we’ve seen that since their early December loss to USC, but I think they regained a little confidence in the second half, Kansas is just too good to give that kind of a lead. They play great defense when they want to and can get high double digits from three different guys, and I think this is another team who feels disrespected with their seed and that will provide some motivation.
Connecticut: I’m a little nervous of Kemba’s Club because teams that make runs like the one they did in the Big East means they may have already peaked. There just isn’t another team in this pod that I remotely like. Missouri can’t play away from home. I don’t think Cincinnati is that great, but that would be the 6th Big East game in a week and a half for the Huskies. Nope, Yancy Gates, Marcus Denmon, and the Bucknell Bison have nothing on Kemba and his better than you think supporting cast.
San Diego St.: This is about as perfect of a draw as SDSU could ask for. Neither Temple or Penn St. will intimidate the Aztecs like some other 7 (UCLA and Texas A&M) or 10’s (Michigan St., Washington) would and they should cruise to the regional semi’s.
Pittsburgh: This wasn’t as tough as a call for me after seeing what Pitt will face in their first round game. The game should be over at half. ODU is tempting, but I think they may loose some wind in what should be a physical game with Butler.
Utah St.: Haha, Mormons are silly. But that doesn’t mean they can’t ball. Veteran team with tournament experience who dominated their conference play and won conference tournament, doesn’t that just sound like what a Cinderella should be made of come March? Sold myself.
Gonzaga: Hear me out, no really, hear me out. Did the committee just decide lets see if we can make Gonzaga a darling again, remember how much fun that was. So the Zags get St. John’s without DJ Kennedy and then potentially a game against BYU who still isn’t recovered from Nookie-gate? Sold myself again.
Florida: I debated about Michigan St. It just feels like a place they could start another run, but I think Billy Donovan is hungry. He has an experienced team with a leader who is a very intelligent player in Chandler Parsons. This is Billy’s best chance to make a run since the second National Championship team and I think he finds a way.
Kansas: RRRRRROOOOOOCCCCKKKKK CCCCHHHHAAAALLLLKKKK, they should absolutely cruise to this round, although we thought that a year ago didn’t we?
Louisville: Fun team to watch because they play so many guys and can have a breakout scoring night from any of five guys. And of course they need to at least make it to the Sweet 16 for the Rick Pitino movie.
Purdue: This is tough because we have no idea what the suspension of Barlow will be like for this team and also no idea what Chris Wright will be like when he comes back. I still like Purdue even without their best perimeter defender because of the speed of Tyson Jackson, the scoring ability of Moore, and the inside presence at both ends of the floor in Johnson. This team stuck around to make a run and I think they will be focused.
Texas A&M: This is a case of the Aggies beating Notre Dame at there own game in grinding the game out, only A&M will do it with better athletes. This isn’t as much as liking the A&M as it is not liking Notre Dame, the Irish’s lack of athletic perimeter players and the ability of the Aggies in defending driving lanes is why they move on to San Antonio.
I really moved away from Austin a bit too soon. Should’ve given it another year if only to be able to watch Texas all year long, road trip to San Antonio (it’s gorgeous this time of year there) for the SW regional finals, and then go to Houston for the final four. Damn. They also have this SXSW thing going on right now, don’t know if you’ve heard of it, but it’s pretty big.
So there’s my Sweet 16, will give you my Final Four and National Champ late tonight.