Personally, I’m tired of people undervaluing the Orange in their sweet 16 power rankings. In particular, the analysts of ESPN.
Although I do have to think that Kentucky and Ohio State look to be the most formidable teams at this point, it always vexes me come tournament time when so-called experts make some picks that seem to be based more on the overall basketball pedigree of each particular university than they do on what each individual team brings to that game at that time.
So, without further adieu, here is my Sweet 16 Breakdown:
(Bracket, courtesy of Hooters...)
Kentucky vs Indiana- Its trendy to pick UK to dominate this team, however, I am expecting a close one. Indiana wants to prove they can match Kentucky as badly as Kentucky wants to show their OT loss to IU was a fluke. I want to see IU advance in a shocker, but I think UK will pull it out in OT. Expect Zeller and Davis to have an epic big man battle, but expect Kidd-Gilchrist to be the difference maker in the clutch.
Baylor vs Xavier- I’ve thought the Big 12 [other than Kansas] was overrated for some time, but this is not the game that proves it. Baylor’s athleticism overpowers Xavier in the end, expect a 10 point win.
Michigan St vs Louisville- I love Michigan State b/c they recruited me out of high school for academics and journalism. Of course, this very fact makes me wonder about their competence. Two GREAT tournament coaches square off here. I’m picking Pitino on this one. MSU may have better overall talent, but I think Pitino gets into his players heads better than anyone in the country and ALWAYS coaches his teams to be a tough out. This is my first big upset of the Sweet 16 and will be a shocker to anyone who has not seen the way Louisville has come together in the last 2.5 weeks. Also, I'm expecting this to be the game that shows why the Big East really does stand alone as the best basketball conference in America (for the time being).
Marquette vs Florida- Syracuse is my common denominator here. And though the SEC is the only football conference that matters, in basketball they are weak and overrated. Marquette by a dozen based solely on the way each stacked up against the Orange. For deeper analysis, I think Marquette and Ladarius Johnson-Odom are on a mission, and will make the Final 4. Buzz Williams is an up and coming coach. Watch his show on SNY one time and tell me you would not be a little scared to coach against him, even if you have won back-to-back titles.
Syracuse vs Wisconsin- The trendy national pick to fall flat on its face will march on simply because of that. I expect the game to begin slowly, but I expect Syracuse to wear down the Badgers over 40 minutes with their rough play and stingy defense. More importantly, because this is a game that I think SU loses on paper in most breakdowns, I expect the Orange to come out firing on all cylinders and look like a serious title contender who has learned a lot from their tourney exits the last 3 years. Of course… if the drone team of zombies shows up, forget it. But, I have to pick SU. For now. And for further boldness, I am banking on this game as a showcase for our depth, versatility and ferocity. But... we'll see how it actually plays out, and hope that no new scandal breaks out between now and Thurs.
Ohio St vs Cincinnati- As much as I want to give Cincinnati a chance here, I believe that what will start off as a very close game will get opened up in the second half by a team with much more pro caliber talent, and expect OSU to win handily.
UNC vs Ohio- Ohio teams are going 1-4 in the Sweet 16, but not for lack of effort. This game will be closer than it should as UNC gets used to playing without its PG. If Harrison Barnes finally decides that he is a lottery pick, expect a blow out. If Henderson and Zeller have to carry the load, expect a rough game with lots of fouls and UNC prevailing b/c of free throws, points in the paint and second and third chance baskets off of really bad misses.
Kansas vs NC State- This is the toughest game (other than SU vs Wisconsin) for me to pick. If NC State’s CJ Leslie brings his A-Game, this could be a real upset. However, in order to do that, he is going to have to summon a great performance from his teammates to beat Kansas to the boards and to open shots while simultaneously shutting down their deceptively efficient offense. As much as I want to pick NC State here, I can not see Kansas losing this one unless it is close and they are in serious foul trouble.
For the title, I say right now the game comes down to UK and OSU, but reserve the right to say something completely different once the Thur/Fri slate of games is complete! If you are keeping track, I have 3 of the Elite 8 coming from the Big East, 2 Big 12, 1 SEC, 1 ACC and 1 Big 10. I'll be sure to tally the results in the next post!
And if SU flames out and gets their butts kicked b/c Scoop, Triche and K-Jo play too sloppy to win, you will get a sincere breakdown of the loss here first, before anything else!!!