Summing up the Sweet Sixteen
Wow, I only got 10 of 16 correct. Bobo the Chimp or a drunk guy throwing darts could’ve done that. But, who really thought Northern Iowa would advance? Or St. Mary’s, for that matter? I know Villanova was considered a weak 2 seed, but St. Mary’s? Omar Samhan has looked like Ralph Sampson – simply dominant. It will be interesting to see how he does against the uber-athletic Baylor Bears. I predict not so well. I still think Baylor wins this region. Duke will be too much for the under-manned Boilermakers but Baylor’s athletes eventually get it done against the Dukies.
In the Midwest, I wrote earlier to watch out for Northern Iowa and Tennessee. Georgetown’s no-show really helped the Vols and now they are one tough win against Ohio State away from the Elite Eight. I think Tennessee continues to surprise as Coach Bruce Pearl keeps getting the most out of his guys. In the other match-up, Michigan State is clearly the better team, but they will be without star Kalin Lucas. The Spartans have struggled in the past without him on the court and the Panthers of Northern Iowa seem to have that ‘it’ factor. Let’s pick the Panthers in an upset here, but I say they fall to the Vols in the Regional Finals.
In the West, Syracuse looks absolutely dominant, even without Arinze Onuaku. Wesley Johnson is sensational and Andy Rautins is as good a college guard as there is in the country. Good defense, good shooter, and takes care of the ball. The ‘Cuse should have no trouble with Butler, easily advancing to the Regional Finals. My prediction is they will face the Muskateers of Xavier. This program has quietly been one of the nation’s best over the past 20 or so years. Only two team, Xavier and Michigan State, have made the Sweet Sixteen in each of the past 3 seasons. Look for Jordan Crawford to continue his brilliant play and end Coach Frank Martin’s Kansas State Wildcats’ run. In the Regional Finals, Syracuse (with or without Onuaku) blows past Xavier into the Final Four.
And finally the East – As much as there is to like about Cornell, I just can’t see any way they beat Kentucky. At some point, pure athleticism takes over, and UK is in a different galaxy than the Big Red athletically. The only way Cornell can even keep it close is due to experience…they feature 8 seniors while Kentucky starts 3 freshmen. But I don’t think it matters – Kentucky is the pick, they can pick their score. The other matchup promises to be up-tempo and fun to watch. However, West Virginia’s stout defense should prove to be too tough for the Huskies – Mountaineers advance to face Kentucky. And this very well might be the game of the tournament. But at the end of the day, I think Butler and Co. find a way, again.
Final Four predictions (updated) – Tennessee, Baylor, Syracuse, West Virginia – I like Syracuse over the Vols in the all-orange matchup, and West Virginia over Baylor on the other side. National Champs – West Virginia!
Tags: Duke, March Madness, NCAA Tourney, Ohio State