Well, if you read my predictions for the second and third round games, you might just want to stop reading here; considering only three came true and only one other is still in play. I nailed Khalif Wyatt scoring over 30 points in the second round against North Carolina State (Wyatt scored 31 points). In addition, I got Temple beating North Carolina State (if you want to call that an upset) and Cal beating UNLV (ahh, the dreaded 12/5 upset). Anyways, with the NCAA Tournament finally continuing tonight, I will give you my eight Sweet 16 predictions, one from each game, some being bold and some being not so bold.
8. Ben McLemore will finally break out of his recent slump against Michigan. It has to happen eventually right? With the talent that McLemore has, his shots will begin to fall and he will get into the groove he was in for most of the season. McLemore admitted that the NCAA Tournament lights shined a little brighter and got inside his head during the second and third rounds against Western Kentucky and North Carolina, respectively. Although Kansas will be playing in one of the biggest stadiums in America, I think McLemore will find his game and we will all see his smooth jump shots start to fall again.
7. Florida will beat Florida Gulf Coast by at least 20 points. I am all for FGCU and their story. I love watching the Eagles entertaining, Los Angeles Clippers-esque style of play. What Andy Enfield has gotten his team to do in the past week is incredible and I tip my cap to them for that. I wish I could see them celebrate in the locker room again, but I just don’t see it happening. Billy Donovan is one of the greatest coaches in the country and in my opinion you can’t give him an entire week to prepare and expect his team not to show up. In addition, with the media hype that has surrounded FGCU this week, I think they will shy away from the bright lights of Jerry World.
6. Indiana’s Victor Oladipo will prove why he should win NPOY against Syracuse. Oladipo has been one of my favorite players to watch this entire college basketball season. While he is one of a handful of National Player of the Year candidates, I think this game against Syracuse will be his “one shining moment.” Oladipo carried the Hoosiers to victory against Temple in the third round, hitting a three with about 15 seconds to go to get Indiana the win. Look for Oladipo to have a 20 point, 8 assist type game and for Indiana to win.
5. Miami will beat Marquette comfortably. I know that Reggie Johnson isn’t playing. Now, when I say “comfortably” I mean by about 8-10 points. I believe this for two separate reasons. One being I am not sold on Marquette, at all. They were outplayed in their first two games of the tournament and squeaked out close wins. Also, I think Shane Larkin and Miami are very good. Even without Johnson they still have Larkin along with Durand Scott in the backcourt. Plus, who doesn’t want to see Jim Larranaga dance again?
4. Louisville will continue to look like the best team in the country against Oregon. I think we can all agree that Rick Pitino’s team has been the most impressive team thus far in the tournament. After doing what a 1-seed should do to a 16-seed by winning by 31 and then beating a solid team in Colorado State by 26, they have looked very impressive with their full-court defense. I don’t think this is going to stop against Oregon. I like Louisville by 14.
3. Michigan State vs. Duke will be one of the most memorable games of the tournament. We have had a handful exciting games and finishes from this tournament (Iowa State/Ohio State, Gonzaga/Wichita State, Temple/Indiana, Kansas State/La Salle, Ole Miss/La Salle). However, I think we are still waiting for that one game that really captures the eyes of college basketball fans across the country. What better game to watch than Michigan State vs. Duke? You have two coaches that, combined, are just short of 1400 wins in their careers. With two prestigious college basketball programs like this in the NCAA Tournament, I think it is destined to be a great game. Maybe we will see our first buzzer-beater or first overtime game of the tournament. We can only hope so. I like Michigan State in a close one.
2. La Salle will beat Wichita State. We all saw this coming, right? La Salle against Wichita State in the Sweet 16? Well, not exactly. After winning three games in two different cities last week, the La Salle Explorers will live up to their name and explore more land west as they make their way to Los Angeles. In the first half of their second round game against Kansas State, La Salle looked like one of the greatest teams in the country. Making it seem like every shot they put up was going in, as they ended up going into the half with an 18 point lead. You can credit most of this to their senior guard, Roman Galloway. Galloway is averaging 21.3 for the Explorers in their three tournament games. Also, Wichita State was on NBA Jam “fire” mode in the last five minutes against Gonzaga, I don’t think this will continue. La Salle will move on to the Elite 8.
1. Mark Lyons and Nick Johnson will give Aaron Craft problems but Ohio State will win. Aaron Craft played in the Big Ten all year, the toughest conference in the nation. In addition, the Big Ten is home to some of the country’s greatest guards (Victor Oladipo, Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr., Keith Appling). However, when you look at Ohio State’s non-conference schedule, Craft has struggled against good teams that aren’t from the Big Ten. These teams include Duke (3-15 shooting, 1-4 3-point shooting, 0 steals) and Kansas (2-9 shooting, 2-6 3-point shooting, 1 steal). Also, Craft missed a few key free throws that almost cost the Buckeyes the game in their third round game against Iowa State. Yes, he did end up hitting the game-winning shot, but Ohio State should have never been in that situation. I expect Lyons and Johnson, who are both extremely athletic, to give Craft some issues but I think Ohio State’s frontcourt will dominate Arizona’s and give the Buckeyes the victory.
Enjoy the games tonight! Hit me up on Twitter and tell me how smart (or stupid) I am. @TiVo91