The Starting Five Sweet Sixteen Preview

Jerold Wells Jr. gives us a TSF Sweet Sixteen look.

The first weekend of the NCAA Tournament bestowed on us all of the drama that we’ve come to expect this time of year. Upset after upset showed us why we tune in to enjoy March Madness. In staying with the theme of the first week, here are some Sweet Sixteen matches that you do not want to miss.

Duke Blue Devils vs. Villanova Wildcats

This may be the best matchup within the round of 16. Both teams look to spread the floor on offense, allowing dribble drive opportunities and timely three point chances. Villanova’s guard play has been spectacular all year behind the consistent performance of Scottie Reynolds and sixth man Corey Stokes. The Blue Devils will counter with sharp shooter Jon Scheyer as well as do it all forwards Kyle Singler and Gerald Henderson.

I believe the real difference maker will be Villanova forward Dante Cunningham. I don’t see an individual defender that can deal with him on Duke’s roster; look for the Wildcats to go inside to him early and often. If Cunnigham is able to score consistently then Duke’s stifling man to man pressure will be held at bay. The Blue Devils are a decidedly less effective team when they are converting turnovers into easy buckets and transition three pointers.

The depth of Villanova should ultimately decide this game. When you have a closely contested and physical match up like the one I’m anticipating, the team that has the most playmakers usually wins. I think that team is Villanova.

Syracuse Orange vs. Oklahoma Sooners

On paper, the match up to watch is Player of the Year candidate Blake Griffin going up against Syracuse’s 2-3 zone. While I do believe Griffin has a battle on his hands, I don’t believe that is what’s going to decide this game.

Oklahoma relies on guards in Austin Johnson, Willie Warren and Tony Crocker to control tempo, limit turnovers and capitalize on the opportunities that Griffin offers them. How well are they going to decipher the zone? How are they going to deal with Andy Rautins, Eric Devendorf and, most importantly, Jonny Flynn on the defensive end? When Syracuse’s guards play well this team is very hard to beat because they also facilitate as well as score the basketball. I just don’t see Blake Griffin getting 30 and 15 in this game. Can Oklahoma’s backcourt come up big? If they don’t then the Sooner’s season ends here.

Missouri Tigers vs. Memphis Tigers

This is going to be a surefire thriller. Expect a track meet in sneakers. Both teams love to push tempo on offense and play good pressure defense. The guard play, quality depth, and decisive intangibles of both teams will be gravely tested. Let’s take a look at those particular entities.

When you pressure in the college game, especially full or 3/4 court the object is to speed the game up. This challenges the decision making of the opposing teams ball-handlers and and also take precious time off of the shot clock. Every play then becomes a crucial one. Good guards limit turnovers and keep the offense running smoothly, even when pressured. That will be key during this contest. Quality depth will be imperative in this game because as the coaches start to look down their bench, they will not want a let down in execution, poise or performance. The 7th and 8th man will be just as important in this game as the first five. When we mention intangibles we’re talking about things like foul trouble and mental toughness.

Can the guards of both teams pressure consistently without fouling? Can the front court players challenge shots without sending the opponent to the free throw line? Which team will be able to play as precisely in minute 35 as they did in minute 5? Which team will have an offensive rebounding edge? Who will take charges and force jump balls?

7 Responses to “The Starting Five Sweet Sixteen Preview”

  1. michelle says:

    Come on Wildcats!

  2. Temple3 says:

    Is the Pitt-Xavier game tonite?

  3. Mizzo says:

    This is from the Sweet Sixteen Rankings from earlier in the week:

    East and West games played on March 26. Games start at 7:27 and 9:57 pm in East and staggered twenty minutes later in West.

    Midwest and South games played on March 27. Games start at 7:07 and 9:37 pm in Midwest and staggered twenty minutes later in South.

    East Region in Boston, Massachusetts

    #1 seed Pittsburgh Panthers vs. #4 seed Xavier Musketeers, followed by # 2 seed Duke Blue Devils vs. #3 seed Villanova Wildcats.

    West Region in Glendale, Arizona

    #1 seed Connecticut Huskies vs. #5 seed Purdue Boilermakers followed by #2 seed Memphis Tigers vs. #3 seed Missouri Tigers.

    Midwest Region in Indianapolis, Indiana

    #1 seed (overall) Louisville Cardinals vs. # 12 seed Arizona Wildcats, followed by the #2 seed Michigan State Spartans vs # 3 seed Kansas Jayhawks (defending champs).

    South Region in Memphis, Tennessee

    #1 seed North Carolina Tarheels vs. #4 Gonzaga Bulldogs, followed by #2 seed Oklahoma Sooners vs. #3 seed Syracuse Orangemen.

  4. Temple3 says:

    Thanks, Mizz.

    So, what’s the TSF pick for Xavier – Pitt? That’s sure to be a great, physical game.

  5. Jerold Wells Jr. says:

    I figured the above four games would be the most interesting, so I gave a little recap. As for the other four games:

    Gimme Pitt over Xavier

    Temple is right, this should be a pretty physical match up. Xavier has beaten some pretty good teams this year (Memphis, Missouri, Virginia Tech, Auburn). I think they’ll more than hold thier own here but Pittsburgh just brings so much with Sam Young, Dejuan Blair, Jermaine Dixon and LeVance Fields in terms of experience, poise and defensive intensity.

    Louisville over Arizona

    I don’t think Arizona plays enough guys to deal with Louisville’s pressure. After the starters the drop off is substantial. This one should be entertaining up until about the 30 minute mark, lol.

    Michigan State over Kansas

    This game will be the JV version of Pitt-Xavier. Very physical, tough minded basketball. Izzo and Self are defensive minded guys so don’t look for alot of fireworks. The Jayhawks are really a two man team with Collins and Aldrich providing the firepower. Tom Izzo wouldn’t be a HOFer if he let either of those two guys beat him in this matchup.

    UConn over Purdue

    Purdue will bring the fight to UConn here. I think the Huskies are up to the challenge though. They have athletes across the frontline and Purdue hasn’t dealt well with such a problem this season. Losses to Oklahoma (albeit in OT), Duke and Michigan St. kind of prove that they have a little trouble with guys that are physical in the paint. Sure Thabeet is really tall. He’s also woefully inconsistent. Jeff Adrien and Stanley Robinson are the real reason UConn is a nightmare to matchup with along the frontline.

  6. Temple3 says:

    What about Gonzaga and North Carolina?

  7. Jerold Wells Jr. says:

    North Carolina vs. Gonzaga

    Conventional thought would suggest that North Carolina is the heavy favorite. I contend that these are two evenly matched teams. Like the Tar Heels, Gonzaga boasts a starting line up that can score the ball at every position. Neither team is particularly stout defensively so this should be a shoot out. North Carolina has also shown a propensity to stuggle against aggressive, playmaking guards. Gonzaga point guard Jeremy Pargo certainly fits the bill.

    Both teams boast quality backcourts so I figure the difference makers in this game will reside in the frontcourt. North Carolina is deeper there with freshman duo Ed Davis and Tyler Zeller backing up starters Tyler Hansborough and Dion Thompson. Add in rugged forward Danny Green, and the numbers game should carry North Carolina into the Elite Eight.