Previewing the Sweet 16 (Part One)

By: Dylan Elder – Editor-in-Chief.

11. Dayton vs 10. Stanford

Raise your hand if you predicted this sweet 16 matchup. Now, please, put your hands down (in my best Ludacris voice). After knocking off Ohio State and Syracuse, Dayton showed that they are not just happy to be in the tournament, rather, they want to make some noise. But one thing still bothers me about the Flyers: they don’t rank in the top 40 in any major offensive or defensive efficiency categories.

That is to say, they just aren’t an elite basketball team, and certainly not one of the sixteen best in the nation.

In their two tournament games thus far, Dayton has had just 5 players score in double digits and have had negative assist/turnover ratios as well.

On the other hand, Stanford has the necessary size and girth to make an elite 8 run. Led by big men Dwight Powell, Josh Huestis, and Stefan Nastic, the Cardinal play an inside out game that relies heavily on post presence.

I doubt Stanford has the talent to make a final four or championship run, but they are most certainly capable of beating a completely flawed Dayton team. The Verdict: Stanford wins by single digits.

6. Baylor vs 2. Wisconsin

Not only does the name “Baylor Bears” behold beneficiary alliteration, but they have been playing like an absolute elite basketball team lately. After their 30 point shellacking of Creighton, many experts have already booked final four plane tickets for the Bears.

I’m here to put the brakes on those wild and crazy assumptions.

First of all, Baylor has tremendous size inside with Isaiah Austin patrolling the paint. His 7′ foot frame affects countless shots from slashers and drivers who hope to attack the basket. The Bears also have tremendous 3 point shooting as evidenced by their 61% mark from downtown against Creighton.

Yet even though Baylor has these incredibly important attributes, they struggle mightily when playing against offensive minded teams with a litany of weapons. Creighton’s only scoring option was Doug McDermott so they were easy to defend, but against high scoring teams like Oklahoma (2 losses), Kansas (2 losses), and Texas (2 losses) the Bears simply could not hang.

And guess what? Wisconsin can score points in bunches. Led by guard Traevon Jackson and forward Sam Dekker, this team can run up the score in a hurry. In fact, all five starters are averaging at least double digits in the tournament so far, and against a semi-lazy zone that Baylor employs which relies heavily on Isaiah Austin’s height inside, the Badgers will be able to easily exploit it. The Verdict: Wisconsin wins by single digits.

4. UCLA vs 1. Florida

Before the tournament began, UCLA did not get nearly the credit they deserved. Viewed by many as the third best 4 seed (behind MSU and Louisville, of course) the Bruins are now playing like they have something to prove.

Both of these teams have elite talent that will thrive at the next level, and it will be interesting to see how they match up against each other after tip off.

For the Bruins, Kyle Anderson’s size (6’9) is very intriguing for a guard and he poses a matchup nightmare for any opponent. Likewise, the scoring ability of guard Jordan Adams can make defenses cringe at the mere thought of an attack on the basket.

However, the overall number 1 seed Gators are a much more deep and tested basketball team. Seniors Scottie Wilbekin, Casey Prather, and Patric Young lead a balanced offensive attack for Florida. Their size, experience, and high basketball IQ will be enough to defeat a young (albeit promising) UCLA squad. The Verdict: Florida wins by single digits.

4. SDSU vs 1. Arizona

Save for maybe Dayton and Stanford, the Aztecs are the worst team left in this tournament, and frankly, it’s not really that close. Fellow 4 seeds Michigan state, Louisville, and UCLA have trounced each of their first two opponents while San Diego state barely squeaked by New Mexico state and needed a heroic performance from Xavier Thames to beat North Dakota state.

Now, just because they aren’t playing up to their abilities doesn’t mean they are a bad basketball team. But consider this: besides Thames, who as been arguably the tournaments’ best player so far (astutely predicted by Josh Wasserman on this very site), San Diego State doesn’t get much offense from anyone else. Forwards Dwayne Polee and Josh Davis are the only other players to score in double digits this tournament, and Davis isn’t even a reliable offensive threat. Their 70.6 ppg as a team this season is good for 192nd in the country.

Even though the Aztecs have a stifling defense, I just don’t see how they will be able to score enough  points against a ‘Zona defense that is even better than their own. With the way Aaron Gordon and Nick Johnson are playing together this tournament, the Wildcats will be mighty hard to beat. After all, these Wildcats are all in this together.

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