Friday, March 27, 2009

Sweet 16 Preview for Friday Night's Games

It's OK, it's OK. Don't cry about Memphis destroying a piece of your bracket, life's too short. Missouri's 102-91 thrashing of the Memphis Tigers, last night was a shock to many, considering that Memphis had the nation's number one defense through the regular season. Still there are more games to be played, and possibly more upsets in the making.

Oklahoma vs. Syracuse: A lot of people are riding the Syracuse bandwagon right now, because of the team's successful run in the Big East tournament. The play of Johnny Flynn has been amazing. He has scored 27 points in the NCAA tournament, while Eric Devendorf lit up Arizona St. for 21 points last week. Even Paul Harris has had a big tournament with 23 rebounds thus far.

Still, the Orange will have their hands full against a very tall and physical Oklahoma team, led by one of the best all around players in the country, Blake Griffin. Griffin leads the Sooners in four statistical categories: points per game, field goal percentage, rebounds, and blocks. It will take a team effort to knock off the pesky Orange, however. The Sooners have not been playing as well lately, having lost four of their last eight games. Against Michigan the Sooners were lucky to survive, storming back to outlast the Wolverines in the final minutes.

This will be a test of everyone's will: PICK: OKLAHOMA 82, SYRACUSE 80.

Arizona vs. Louisville: Be careful not to overlook the Wild Cats of Arizona. They shocked Utah in round one, and rolled over Cleveland State in the second round. The Wild Cats are playing the disrespect card, and usually those types of teams are very dangerous. However, Arizona didn't play a team like Louisville.

The Cardinals have been hot, winners of their last 12 games, and champions of the Big East Tournament. They have been lead by Earl Clark in points per game and rebounds, and Samardo Samuels in field goal percentage. That is a pretty deadly combination for Cardinal opponents. Louisville did struggle against a tough and feisty Sienna team last weekend, but they pulled away in the closing seconds 79-72. This could be another game where Louisville struggles to hold off tough opposition, but don't bet on it. PICK: LOUISVILLE 93, ARIZONA 78.

Kansas vs. Michigan State: The most overlooked game of the Sweet 16. Nobody takes Kansas seriously right now, because they are not the same team that won it all last year, and everyone expects Michigan State to be less of a threat to any team from the Big East. Still, this game has big bracket implications.

For Michigan State, Kalin Lucas has been the overall leader of the team. He leads the Spartans in points per game (14.6) and is the second best free throw shooter on the team at (81 percent). Kansas is a nice young team. Sherron Collins leads the team in scoring and Cole Aldrich is an accurate shooter (60.3 percent), but it won't be enough to beat the Spartans. PICK: MICHIGAN STATE 69, KANSAS 59.

North Carolina vs. Gonzaga: If Ty Lawson were to miss this game, then I would definitely pick Gonzaga to pull off the upset. It could still happen, but with a healthy Lawson, along with Tyler Hansbourgh, it is not likely to happen. Lawson, in his return to the lineup against LSU on Sunday, scored 23 points, 21 of which came in the second half. He is ready to go for tonight's game against Gonzaga, in spite of his injured toe. Hansbourgh is the teams leading scorer, averaging 21.2 points a game and Patrick Moody is the best shooter on the Tar Heels with a 58.3 shooting percentage.

Gonzaga is always tough. They are 28-5 for a reason, having not lost a game since a 68-50 loss on February 7 to Memphis. But, all of the teams Gonzaga has beaten since that time are not exactly of high quality. North Carolina is the first quality opponent Gonzaga has faced in almost two months. Plus, they have to fly across the country to play this game. PICK: NORTH CAROLINA 91, GONZAGA 84.

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