Sweet Sixteen Picks

The good news is, seven of my Elite Eight teams from my original picks list are still alive.  The bad news is I suspect one of them will be packing their bags after this round. 

Thursday's Games

West

(5) Purdue vs. (1) Connecticut - The Boilermakers, led by the Adrenaline Brorhers, Chris Kramer and Robbie Hummel, and an in-form JaJuan Johnson, have gritted out close wins to get this far.  The A.J. Price-paced Huskies, meanwhile, look very much like the strongest team left, even with Hasheem Thabeet's limited role in Saturday's second round win.  If they aren't distracted by the allegations around the recruiting of Nate Miles, they should make it through easily.  UConn remains my pick.

(3) Missouri vs. (2) Memphis - When Mike Anderson was in charge at UAB, Memphis managed to lose the occasional C-USA game.  In order for his Mizzou Tigers to get to victory, they'll have to be far more consistent than they were in the second half against Marquette on Sunday, especially on the defensive end.  I'm sure Tyreke Evans, Doneal Mack, and Robert Dozier all noticed the box score from that game, featuring 30 points from Jerel McNeal and 24 from Wesley Matthews.  Memphis still wants to prove they should have been the fourth one seed, so they're on a mission.  They remain my pick.

East

(4) Xavier vs. (1) Pittsburgh The Iron City-Drinking Surrender Monkeys - I'll make a deal with you, Panthers.  Win this game, and I will again refer to you by your given name, since you will have finally defeated a team seeded higher than 6th.  The Monkeys are currently the shakiest one seed.  I know that the Musketeers will play the defense necessary to win this one.  The real question is, will they have enough offense?  I originally picked FSU to get this far and win, so I must make a new pick here.  Until they prove me wrong (and their current form leads me to think they won't), I can't go with the ICDSMs.  Xavier is my pick.

(3) Villanova vs. (2) Duke - Once again, the Blue Devils face an opponent in the tournament who can potentially outshoot them.  While Dwayne Anderson and Dante Cunningham led the way against American (with 24 apiece), six Wildcats hit double figures against UCLA on Saturday.  Duke did a great job of forcing Texas into turnovers on Saturday, but the Longhorns still shot 50% for the game.  The only thing that saved Duke was Texas's 64% performance from the charity stripe.  If this game comes down to foul shots, it could mean trouble for the Blue Devils, as Nova is just a bit better in this department.  Since this game will be a shooting contest, I'm sticking with Nova as my pick.

Friday's Games

Midwest

(12) Arizona vs. (1) Louisville - The Wildcats are potentially the luckiest 12 seed in the history of this tournament.  The recipe from them squeaking into the field and making it here was fortuitous:  beat a Utah team who may have been a bit overseeded, then defeat a Cleveland State team who suddenly forgot everything that got them to the second round.  Now, U of A faces a Cardinal squad who didn't quite look like the number one overall seed in their first two games.  In the end, I think U of L will have too much defense for the Wildcats, and the advantage they'll get by playing in Indy (as much as is possible in a dome where the court is placed at the center of the building) will push them through.  Louisville remains my pick.

(3) Kansas vs. (2) Michigan State - I originally took the Spartans to win this one, but I am changing my pick to the Jayhawks.  MSU doesn't look like a well-oiled machine at the moment.  They're still turnover prone, aren't getting consistent performances out of Raymar Morgan and Goran Suton, and - worst of all - they're going to be playing a team who both shoots well and defends well.  I'm now picking Kansas to take this one.

South

(3) Syracuse vs. (2) Oklahoma - The boys over at Searching for Billy Edelin think that the Orange are one of the two most impressive teams to come out of the first weekend.  Now you all probably think that since I'm a Syracuse fan, I'm absolutely Pollyanna-ish about their chances.  Not quite.  If you take a look at the pro teams that I follow, you will see that a positive outlook on the teams I love isn't something I necessarily possess.  So, while Jonny Flynn may be playing his best ball of the season and Eric Devendorf and Andy Rautins are lighting it up, I'm not convinced that Arinze Onuaku and Rick Jackson will quite be able to handle Blake Griffin.  While I'll be pleased if they do, I'm still sticking with Oklahoma as my pick.

(4) Gonzaga vs. (1) North Carolina - I originally picked the Bulldogs to upset the Tar Heels because of their strong offense (5th in the country in FG% offense) and defense (1st in FG% defense).  But that was before the Western Kentucky game happened.  If the Hilltoppers had shot just a bit better than the 36% they managed from the line, Demetri Goodson would still be a relatively anonymous Bulldog bench player.  If the Tar Heels get Gonzaga off their game early, this one won't end up being much of a contest.  I think this will happen, so my pick is now UNC.

There will be open threads for the regional semis, as I'll be watching the non-local game online, making a liveblog problematic.  Feel free to stop by during the games to share your thoughts.

 

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