Forget about silly leads – let’s get into it.
(Rankings refer to seeding)
No. 4 Kentucky vs. No. 1 Ohio State
The key matchup to look at is in the post with Buckeye freshman Jared Sullinger against Kentucky’s Josh Harrelson. If Harrelson can neutralize one of the nation’s toughest post threats, Kentucky can put more pressure on the deadly Ohio State perimeter game.
Unfortunately for the Wildcats, that feat is easier said than done. Kentucky isn’t deep down low, so it might be overmatched if the Wildcats get in foul trouble.
Ohio State might just be too deep, too experienced and too good. Expert pick: Ohio State.
No. 11 Marquette vs. No. 2 North Carolina
Talk about polar opposites in the world of college basketball. The Tar Heels feature a hall of fame coach in Roy Williams who rotates six or seven McDonald All-Americans in and out of his lineup, compared to Marquette and Buzz Williams who boast a handful of guys picked out of the junior college ranks.
On paper this is a mismatch. Marquette’s quick but small guards love to penetrate the lane where North Carolina will have bigs waiting to swat away shots. The Tar Heels’ Tyler Zeller and Jon Henson will give the inexperienced Marquette frontcourt loads of trouble in the post.
North Carolina has too much talent, too much size and Harrison Barnes. Expert pick: North Carolina
5 Arizona vs. #1 Duke
At first it appeared Duke might be headed back to the Final Four with Kyrie Irving back in the rotation, but on Saturday afternoon Michigan may have provided a look into how to beat the Blue Devils with its stingy 1-3-1 zone.
But even if Arizona can recreate the defensive success Michigan had, it might have a really tough time scoring against one of the most aggressive defenses in the country.
Head coach Mike Krzyewski can scout offenses with the best of them, and is probably salivating at the chance to play Arizona, which will run set plays out of the half court most of the time.
This game will be close because national player of the year candidate Derrick Williams is good enough to keep his team afloat, but look for the experience of the Dukies to prevail. Expert pick: Duke
No. 3 Connecticut vs. No. 2 San Diego State
Connecticut hasn’t lost a game in a month and the Huskies sport one of the best scorers in the country in Kemba Walker, but they might meet their maker in the Sweet 16 against the Aztecs.
San Diego State is extremely strong in the post with Kawhi Leonard and Malcolm Thomas, which should give a generously average Connecticut frontcourt fits. If Thomas and Leonard have nice games and D.J. Gay, San Diego State’s veteran point guard, can quell the offensive storm that is Walker, Connecticut is going to have big problems.
It’s going to be close, but the bigs of San Diego State will be too much to overcome. Expert pick: San Diego State.
No. 12 Richmond vs. No. 1 Kansas
Richmond loves to run the patented “Princeton Cuts” that give many defenses a lot of trouble. The Spiders also run a matchup-zone defense, which is basically a man-to-man defense that switches to a zone and can be tough to read for teams that haven’t seen it before.
Aside from Ohio State, Kansas might be the most complete team left in the tournament. However, if the Jayhawks have one weakness, it’s their lack of a true point guard. Richmond’s defense can create turnovers and if it turns the game into a track meet, Kansas might be vulnerable.
It’ll be close, but Richmond’s Justin Harper is a standout talent and this will be his coming-out party. Expert pick: Richmond.
No. 11 VCU vs. No. 10 Florida State
It’s the most surprising Sweet 16 matchup of the tournament, as it wasn’t expected that either would even make it in the first place.
The reason Florida State looks scary is because it was forced to play a large portion of their season without its best player in Chris Singleton. After learning how to play well without him, the Seminoles get him back for the tournament and the result is a dangerous team.
VCU can draw scoring from several sources, which is all facilitated by its impressive senior point guard, Joey Rodriguez.
Both teams have deep benches and don’t rely on any one guy for their offense. It’s a tough one to call, but if Florida State shoots the way it did against Notre Dame, look for the ‘Noles in the next round. Expert pick: Florida State.
No. 8 Butler vs. No. 4 Wisconsin
Even though it seems Wisconsin always gets this far, it’s Butler with the more recent late-round tournament experience this year. There’s no one way to describe Butler, as it appears the Bulldogs morph into a different team every week.
Old Dominion was supposed to be the best rebounding team in the nation and Butler out-hustled the Monarchs; Pittsburgh was supposed to be a more battle-tested team and Butler outsmarted the Panthers (sort of) late in the game.
But Butler faces a team that, when it shoots well, can do anything the Bulldogs can, but better. Wisconsin is the most efficient team left in the tournament with Jordan Taylor at the helm, and Bo Ryan’s swing offense is really difficult to defend.
This game, like all Badger games, is pretty simple to break down: If the Badgers shoot well from behind the three-point line, they are going to win. Expert pick: Wisconsin
No. 3 BYU vs. No. 2 Florida
Can anyone shut down Jimmer Fredette? He’s the last player in the field who can drop 50 points on you in the blink of an eye. If he does that, Florida doesn’t stand a chance.
BYU, especially without Brandon Davies, is going to struggle against the bigs of Florida, but that deficiency down low might just be a wash, as Florida doesn’t really matchup well in the backcourt with BYU’s Fredette.
If Fredette goes off for 40-45-plus points, give it to BYU. Expert pick: BYU.