Over the next few days we’ll be previewing the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament. It will involve less Georgetown talk than we were hoping for, but hey… what can you do? Find the South preview here.
So a couple of weeks ago, I previewed the West region and made a few surprising calls; namely, that New Mexico would make the Final Four, Murray State would lose first round and Davidson had a chance to beat Louisville. As it stands now? New Mexico lost to Louisville, who squeaked by Davidson in the first round, and Murray State handled Colorado State. But although I was entirely incorrect, here’s why you should still listen to me: I’m not in last place in my March Madness pool. So some of you still have something to gain by listening to me. And away we go.
No. 1 Michigan State vs. No. 4 Louisville
The Spartans had no trouble in the first round against Long Island and edged St. Louis two days later. Meanwhile, Louisville eked out a win over New Mexico in the most exciting game of the region that didn’t involve Missouri. MSU is looking for its fourth Final Four appearance in four seasons – a testament to Tom Izzo’s abilities to prepare his team for March. The Cardinals face two major and entirely related problems in this game: Containing Draymond Green – who is averaging 20 points, 12.5 rebounds and 8 assists in the tournament – and finding consistent offensive weapons. Kyle Kuric has the ability to put up 20 points, but if he’s off his game, Louisville needs to rely on Gorgui Dieng and Peyton Siva to create opportunities. Perhaps their best chance of putting up points lies with Russ Smith, who has the ability to create his own shot. But I don’t see Louisville containing Green, and if this game gets into the 60s, it starts to lean heavily in MSU’s favor.
No. 3 Marquette vs. No. 7 Florida
Marquette is one of the most popular Final Four picks from this region. The Golden Eagles have the Big East Player of the Year in Jae Crowder and one of the most explosive offenses in the country. The defense has started to pick up as well, as Marquette held Murray State to just 53 points on 31.2% shooting. Florida, on the other hand, seems to be a beneficiary of good matchups, facing a slumping Virginia team in the first round before making Norfolk State look like, well, Norfolk State. But consider this: Billy Donovan and his Gators’ team is 17-2 – that’s right, 17-2 – in the NCAA tournament since the 2005-06 season. And if anybody has the ability to run the floor with Marquette, it’s Florida. In fact, maybe it’s Marquette who will have trouble matching up with the fast-paced offense of Florida. The Gators are coming off of back-to-back blowouts and will win another one here to advance to the Elite Eight.
Final Four Pick:
The matchup between MSU and Florida will be intriguing, as these squads play different styles of basketball but (as previously noted) boast two of the best tournament coaches in Tom Izzo and Billy Donovan. I see the Gators finally finding a response to Green and winning a high-scoring up-and-down game.
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