Previewing the Round of 32 (Part One)
By: Dylan Elder – Editor-in-Chief.
Well, how’s that for madness? After sixteen unequivocally amazing games that each made their own mark on the 2014 tournament, we look ahead to the eight match ups in the round of 32 that have already been set.
1. Florida vs. 9. Pittsburgh
Anyone who thought Colorado was a legitimate 8 seed got a much needed slap in the face right from the tip of the Pitt game. Before anyone could blink, the Panthers were up 13-0 at the 15:20 mark and the game was effectively sealed from there. The 46-18 halftime score either made Pitt look like a title contender or the Buffaloes look like an 8th grade CYO team, but I digress.
The problem for Pittsburgh is that they now run into an extremely balanced, deep, and cohesive Florida unit. Even though the Gator’s “only” won by 12 against Albany, and even struggled to maintain a lead at that, I still don’t believe Pitt stands much of a chance.
Despite a jump shot that makes you want to get out of your chair and dance, Lamar Patterson will be swallowed up by Scotty Wilbekin and company. Similarly, Panthers’ forward Talib Zanna (team high 18 pts against CO) will be able to walk all over Florida’s post players like he did to the Buffaloes. In fact, I believe Patrick Young will have a fantastic game on both ends of the floor against Zanna. Young is such a strong player at 250 lbs (20 lbs heavier than Zanna) and I believe he will use his body to just boss around his counterpart. The Verdict: Florida wins relatively easily.
11. Dayton vs 3. Syracuse
The first game of the day, Dayton vs Ohio State, set the tone for the hectic day to come. After Buckeye’s guard Aaron Craft hit a tough layup with 15 seconds left, Dayton’s Vee Sanford came down to the other end of the floor and hit just his fourth shot of the game, but it was a big one, as it won the Flyer’s the game.
However, I think the cinderella magic is already running out for Dayton. To the round of 32, they bring with them the same concerns that they had going into the tournament, being that they really don’t do anything exceptionally well.
Furthermore, upcoming opponent Syracuse looked like the world beaters that we thought they were back in January. Four of the five Orange starters scored double digit point in their absolute annihilation of Western Michigan. Against Dayton, ‘Cuse will bring out their impressive zone (which the Flyer’s haven’t seen all season) and will cause a serious degree of Mayhem. The Verdict: Syracuse wins by double digits.
12. Harvard vs 4. Michigan St
How about the Crimson? As I said in my East Region picks, I just don’t think Cincinnati had enough offensive talent to trade shots with Harvard. It turns out I was right, as the Bearcats put up a measly 57 points. Sure, Sean Kilpatrick is a stud, but no one else stepped up and helped. On the other hand, Harvard molested Cincy with their three guard lineup (Saunders, Chambers, Rivard) and I wouldn’t be surprised if they tried to do the same against MSU.
There is one big problem though: Adrien Payne. The PF put up 41 points (on just 15 shots!) for the Spartans in what turned out to be a dominating offensive performance for the team. The Crimson will have a hard time containing Payne and even if Kyle Casey can neutralize him, MSU has so many other options now that they’re healthy. Keith Appling and Gary Harris can beat you in a multitude of different ways; even Travis Trice put up 19 points today.
Both teams are extremely well coached and will be quite well versed as to what their opponent will try to run. Turnovers will be minimal and execution will be abundant, but talent is the trump card for Tom Izzo’s group. The Verdict: Michigan State wins by single digits.
7. Connecticut vs 2. Villanova
Both of these teams struggled at first in their respective games, but in the end they each emerged with a victory. Now the two rivals square off in what will almost certainly be a hotly contested game with lots of star power on both sides.
For Villanova, James Bell and Darrun Hillard III provide athleticism at guard that not many other teams can match. Their speed and quickness creates matchup problems all over the court and will be tough to handle for any opponent.
However, Connecticut will not only have the best player in this game, but they might have the best player in the whole tournament. Now I know that’s a relative stretch, but Shabazz Napier affects the game in so many different ways. Even on a poor shooting night against St. Joe’s (7/22 from the field) he still managed to will his team to victory by posting 24 points (including 8/8 from the charity stripe), 8 rebounds, 6 assists, and 3 steals. If that’s not clutch then I don’t know what is. I see Napier’s upward trend continuing against the Wildcats as the Huskies pull of the last second upset. The Verdict: Connecticut wins a close game.
12. North Dakota St vs 4. San Diego St
In one of the most exciting games of the afternoon, North Dakota St pulled off the major upset against the Oklahoma Sooners. Behind a huge night from Lawrence Alexander (28 points) and timely scoring from Carlin Dupree, the Bison got their first ever NCAA tournament win. And I have a feeling they will double that total this weekend.
San Diego State really struggled with the size of New Mexico State in their first round game. Although they pulled out a win, it wasn’t pretty by any standards. Xavier Thames, one of Josh Wasserman’s “BMOC” to watch during the tournament, was really the only player that could be relied upon down the stretch for the Aztecs. Their defense was stifling in the first half against the Aggies (just 20 points allowed at halftime) but completely let up after intermission by giving up 49 in the 2nd half and over time.
This all smells like a recipe for success for the Bison, as they can take advantage of each one of the aforementioned weaknesses. Big men Marshall Bjorklund and TrayVonn Wright absolutely manhandled the Sooners’ post players, and there is good reason to believe they will do the same thing against the Aztecs. Also, the Bison’s leading scorer Taylor Braun really struggled tonight (just 3-11 from the field) and managed just 11 points. If Braun can pick it up next game and attack during mental lapses in the SDSU defense, North Dakota State will make the Sweet 16. The Verdict: North Dakota State wins by single digits.
7. Oregon vs 2. Wisconsin
For the countless people trashing the Badgers before the tournament began, Wisconsin tried to shut them up quickly. Their 40 point margin of victory of American was the largest of the day and it proves that Bo Ryan’s squad is clicking on all cylinders, especially on offense.
At the same time, no one can count out Oregon just yet. After letting BYU hang around for much too long, the Ducks finally turned on the jets and ran them out of the gym by the time the final buzzer sounded. It was only a matter of time, and now Oregon is 22-4 since inserting guard Jonathan Lloyd into the starting lineup.
This game will resemble more of an up-and-down track meet rather than an actual basketball contest, but it should be entertaining nonetheless. In the end, Sam Dekker, Ben Brust, and Traevon Jackson will be too much to handle for a mediocre Ducks defense. Oregon will have to trade shots with the Badgers if they want to stay in this game but that’s a very dangerous way to live by. The Verdict: Wisconsin wins by double digits.
5. Saint Louis vs 4. Louisville
Both of these teams survived credible upset scares in the first round, but both move on with their heads held high. Saint Louis needed to employ a lame hack-a-shaq technique in order to beat N.C. State; however, criticism is not in order because it worked quite well. Louisville also almost lost control of their own game against a Manhattan team that played very similar to the Cardinals. Rick Pittino’s squad just overpowered the Jasper’s with their talent in the end.
For the upcoming game, I don’t see a whole lot of scenarios that could play out. The most practical one is that the Louisville team gets a fire lit under their ass by Pittino and starts to play better basketball while St Louis plays like they did for the first 36 minutes today: like crap. The Billikens just don’t have enough consistent scoring threats to be relevant in this game. I envision the Cardinals’ press to wear out Jordairr Jett and restrict and all ready restricted offense to the point of no return. The Verdict: Louisville wins by double digits.
7. Texas vs 2. Michigan
While other two seeds struggled to get their footing early (Villanova, Wisconsin), the Wolverines came out like gangbusters from the very beginning today. Even though Nova and Wisco eventually won by 20+, Michigan’s start to finish win might have been the most impressive.
Texas meanwhile showed us a lot tonight. They struggle to defend (85 points to Arizona St.) but boy can they score. In fact, all five starts had double digit points, including a hard earned 17 by center Cameron Ridley, who also made the game winning shot.
However, despite their interior size and talented starting 5, Michigan will be too much to handle for the Longhorns, especially on the defensive side of the ball. I just don’t think they can shut down Nik Stauskas or Glen Robinson III to the point of ineffectiveness, and that’s why the Wolverines will continue dancing into the elite 8. The Verdict: Michigan wins by single digits.