One of the greatest weekends of the sports year is finally upon us. The Regional semifinals and finals will be played at the four regional sites in the next four days. By Sunday night, the Final Four will be set. This weekend is filled with great match-ups, so we’ll break it down now.
Thursday Night: East Region
#3 Marquette vs. #2 Miami (FL), 6:15, CBS
In what may be one of the most enticing games of the Sweet 16, the Golden Eagles, led by Vander Blue, will try to continue their magical run in the tournament after barely surviving the first two games. Miami has played very well in both the ACC and NCAA Tournaments this postseason and provides depth that even Marquette won’t be able to keep up with.
Prediction: Miami (FL)
#4 Syracuse vs. #1 Indiana, 8:45, CBS
Syracuse is peaking at the right time of the year. The Orange set the record for biggest first round win by a non-1 or 2 seed with their 81-34 romp of Montana. Michael Carter-Williams and James Southerland have performed very well for ‘Cuse in the tournament. Indiana barely survived Temple in the last weekend and will look to leaders Cody Zeller and Victor Oladipo to carry them into the Elite Eight.
Thursday Night: West Region
#6 Arizona vs. #2 Ohio State, 6:47, TBS
The Wildcats haven’t been tested at all in their first two wins over Belmont and Harvard, but ‘Zona has a great chance to upset the Buckeyes playing so close to home in Los Angeles. Ohio State is a much better team on paper, but this match-up will come down to a head-to-head battle between Solomon Hill and DeShaun Thomas. Look for Aaron Craft to lead the Buckeyes to Saturday.
Prediction: Ohio State
#13 LaSalle vs. #9 Wichita State, 9:17, TBS
In what is far and away the most boring game of the Sweet 16, there will probably be a very small crowd in the Staples Center. The Shockers first dominated Pittsburgh and then knocked off #1 seed Gonzaga in the second round. With a deep team and great coaching from Gregg Marshall, Wichita State should be able to finally end LaSalle’s Cinderella run.
Prediction: Wichita State
Friday Night: Midwest Region
#12 Oregon vs. #1 Louisville, 6:15, CBS
Although there is a huge difference in seeding, this game should be very entertaining. The Ducks are almost as athletic and quick as their football team and the play of Damyean Dotson in the NCAA Tournament has led Oregon to the Sweet 16. However, Louisville is playing better than anyone in the nation right now and will have a huge crowd in Indianapolis. Due to their depth and athleticism to match Oregon’s, the Cardinals should advance.
#3 Michigan State vs. #2 Duke, 8:45, CBS
Talk about a heavyweight battle. The Spartans and Tom Izzo always play well in March and Mike Krzyzewski always has Duke ready to play. This game will be a true battle, with Adreian Payne and Derrick Nix going toe-to-toe with Mason Plumlee and Ryan Kelly inside. If Michigan State can play strong perimeter defense, the Spartans should roll on.
Prediction: Michigan State
Friday Night: South Region
#4 Michigan vs. #1 Kansas, 6:37, TBS
Michigan has played as well as anybody in this tournament thus far, in large part due to the play of Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Mitch McGary. Kansas is playing better defense than anyone in the nation at the moment, so this one will be a true battle. The big match-up should come between Ben McLemore of Kansas and Hardaway. If Michigan is able to score with multiple players, the Wolverines could pull the upset.
#15 Florida Gulf Coast vs. #3 Florida, 8:57, TBS
The amazing run by the Eagles has been nothing short of spectacular, but the strength of the two sides will be fully exposed in this one. Florida has talent and speed Florida Gulf Coast haven’t seen all year. With four players who average double figures, the Gators can hit you in many ways. Florida is a complete team, and they should be able to handle FGCU fairly easily.
With my predictions for the Sweet 16, the match-ups in the Elite Eight would be as followed: #9 Wichita State vs. #2 Ohio State in the West, #2 Miami (FL) vs. #1 Indiana in the East, #3 Michigan State vs. #1 Louisville in the Midwest and #4 Michigan vs. #3 Florida in the South. My picks to advance to Atlanta are Ohio State, Miami (FL), Louisville and Florida.
The action is sure to be fantastic this weekend and I’ll be back next week with a recap of the action. Enjoy the hoops!