Sweet Emotions: Part II

Well, we can all breath a sigh of relief. At least two of those unbearable B1G teams can’t hurt our eyes anymore.

Thankfully, yesterday saw Syracuse pull out a close one over Wisconsin and those filthy Cards mercy-killed Michigan State. Now we’re left with an Ohio State team that does at least try to score and… Indiana. I feel better, don’t you?

Some sweet hot mama with a face like a gent
Said my get up and go musta got up and went
Well I got good news, she’s a real good liar
Cause the backstage boogie’ll set your pants on fire

Mr. Tyler is talking to you, UNC and UK fans. I think. Let’s move on to today’s games:

10 Xavier vs. 3 Baylor
This would seem like a match-up nightmare on paper for the X-Men. Baylor has a plethora of athletic lottery picks and dead-eye Brady Heslip, who can’t seem to miss when it matters. Thankfully for Xavier, games aren’t played on paper. While Baylor has top 3 talent, they seem to have a bottom 3 motor at times. When the Bears have lost, it’s been to tougher teams that have weathered the storm and delivered the kill shot. Xavier is a team that has been hammered by distractions and disappointments, and has seemed to come out stronger for it. Look for this game to be a lot closer than you might think.

The hat doesn't help, Steven.

13 Ohio vs. 1 UNC
With Wrist-Gate still in full force for the Heels, they must still feel kind of fortunate to draw an over-matched Ohio squad in the round of 16. Even without KM, UNC has an enormous talent advantage at nearly every position. Don’t get me wrong, Ohio is a good team, who has had a great run. There’s just no conceivable reason they should beat North Carolina. You could have said that about VCU and Kansas last year too, though…

4 Indiana vs. 1 Kentucky
As you all know, Indiana delivered the Wildcats one of their two losses on the season in dramatic, buzzer-beater fashion in Bloomington. The shot has been played over and over (and over and over) on ESPN all season long. While Indiana fans might cling to that game as proof that they will arise victorious once again, reality suggests this might be a bloodbath.  Anthony Davis, who played his fewest minutes of the season against IU, has grown into the (likely) player of the year. Marquis Teague, who started the season as a turn-over waiting to happen, has been molded into the poised floor leader that Calipari’s offense thrives on. Outside of the SEC tournament, Kentucky has looked nigh invincible. If teams focus on clogging the middle, then they shoot over them and beat them by double-digits. If opponents play them straight up, the Wildcats dish and dunk to double-digit wins. Add to that the revenge factor that Kentucky players have openly discussed, and you have to like their chances on a neutral floor.

11 NC State vs. 2 Kansas
The Wolfpack is back, or so it would seem. Mark Gottfried, who used to play a coach on TV, has ignited NC State from the last team in to a Sweet 16 success story. Just as admirable, Bill Self has taken a squad with little expectations going into the season and transformed them into a legit Final Four threat. From the outside, this game appears to be a strength on strength match-up of C.J. Leslie and Richard Howell versus Thomas Robinson and Jeff Withey. If that equates to anything close to a stale-mate, look for the guards to be the difference, as Tyshawn Taylor and Elijah Johnson use their new-found assertiveness to put away the Pack.

While not quite as sweet as yesterday’s match-ups, there’s still plenty to watch for with the  ultimate national champion probably emerging from this group.

Sweet Emotions

Well, ladies and gents, things are about to get real. With the fun and excitement of the first weekend behind us, we are now left with serious games with serious implications and emotions in the Sweet 16. As Steven Tyler put it:

I pulled into town in a police car
Your daddy said I took you just a little too far
You’re telling me things but your girlfriend lied
You can’t catch me ’cause the rabbit done died
Yes it did

I’ll just let that sink in for a minute. While we wait, here are my thoughts on today’s Sweet 16 matchups:

4 Wisconsin vs. 1 Syracuse
I’m not going to lie. Any game featuring Wisconsin has the potential to make you want to stab your eyes out. That said, their combination of quality guard play and tough defense should make this game very competitive. The Syracuse zone forces teams to hit outside shots to win, something Wisconsin has shown it can do on occasion. There is potential for an upset, but here’s hoping Syracuse uses their superior size and athleticism to spare us another round of “Bo Ball”.

Living proof that stage presence can overcome a lot of ugly.

4 Louisville vs. 1 Michigan State
Based on the season thus far, this seems to be a match-up of similar teams on similar paths. Both teams play suffocating defense at times, both teams struggle to score, and both teams overcame mid-to-early season set-backs to win their conference tournament. While Michigan State is the higher seed, all but one of the personnel match-ups seem to favor a finally healthy Louisville roster. The problem is that one match-up happens to be Draymond Green, who can and has put his team on his back. If Louisville can somehow convert a high percentage of transition baskets, look for the Cardinals to advance.

6 Cincinnati vs. 2 Ohio State
While the Cardinals and Spartans might feel like they’re looking in the mirror at one another, the Bearcats and Buckeyes couldn’t be more different. Cincinnati seemed to switch gears from mediocre also-ran to true Final Four contender heading up to the tournament, while pre-season Final Four favorite Ohio State has gone the other direction. The Buckeyes will have the clear talent advantage and they should be able to force their tempo on a Bearcat attack that sometimes resembles a team from the Rec League Final Four. Still, I can’t help but wonder if the Buckeyes will be able to return to form this late in the season.

7 Florida vs. 3 Marquette
On paper, this pairing would seem to favor the Golden Eagles. According to KenPom, Marquette has a balanced, efficient attack with the nation’s #28 offense and #16 defense. The Gators trend toward the scoring side with the #3 offense and #73 defense. Marquette seems to be the tougher, more consistent team and with dynamite scoring from Darius Johnson-Odom and Big East POY Jae Crowder we could see them pull away. However, you can never under-estimate guard play in the NCAA tournament and Florida’s can be unmatched at times. If the Gators are hitting outside shots, this could go down to the wire.

As we all pretend to be interested in what they’re paying us to do, lets keep our fingers crossed that 4 potentially great match-ups all materialize tonight. See you tomorrow.