Actually McD, the Anchorman references will be alright. I think it just makes me Veronica Corningstone. I’m not quite sure how I feel about that. OK, I’m posting the Friday installment of my Super Sweet 16 Preview before Thursday’s games even start because I actually have to work all night. If only I didn’t need money…
Life would be much simpler. I could just live blog Mel Kiper’s hair. Anyway, this may also save my credibility once all my picks prove to be wrong. Might as well get them up all at once and maybe nobody will notice.
Once again, all times are Eastern and all games are on CBS. If you don’t know that by now, well, you are no friend of mine. Unfortunately, I won’t get to watch much of these games due to engagements that will force me away from television. Fortunately, I don’t have to see promos for Big Brother or listen to Billy Packer. I call it a push.
Game 1: No. 3 Wisconsin vs. No. 10 Davidson (7:10)
How they got here: Do I even need to tell you how Davidson got this far? I hope not. But in the name of full disclosure, the Wildcats upset No. 7 Gonzaga in the first round behind 40 points from Stephen Curry then stunned No. 2 Georgetown thanks to 30 more points from Curry. I’ll bet you’ll read more about that Curry guy in a few seconds. The ever-boring but always successful Wisconsin Badgers cruised past No. 14 Cal State-Fullerton then knocked out Michael Beasley’s Kansas State team in the second round.
Wisconsin will win if: It does the same thing to Stephen Curry that it did to Michael Beasley. To be fair, Beasley scored 23 points and grabbed 12 rebounds in K-State’s 17-point loss to Wiscy in the the second round. Fellow freshman Bill Walker also chipped in 18 points. But Wisconsin has the ultimate bend-but-don’t-break defense. You can’t totally shut down great players, you can only hope to contain them. With Beasley, 23 and 12 is contained. If the Badgers can do something similar with Curry, they win.
Davidson will win if: Curry gets loose and/or the some supporting cast member really plays out of his mind. Wisconsin is so well disciplined on both ends by head coach Bo Ryan I have a hard time believing its going to let Curry go off like he did in his previous two games. But maybe, just maybe a guy like Jason Richards or Andrew Lovedale has a big game and the next thing you know Curry is getting his, too. Now that would be the recipe for another upset.
Matchup to watch: Wisconsin’s Michael Flowers against Curry. Flowers has been touted as the best on-ball defender the Big Ten has to offer (what is that really saying?). Curry is the ultimate run-you-around-20-picks guard. He also has an uber-quick release on his jump shot. Flowers has his work cut out for him, but if he keeps Curry under control it’s game over for Davidson.
The Bottom Line: Wisconsin is a really, really difficult matchup for any team — especially a mid-major. Yes, Davidson knocked off Georgetown. The Battlin’ Bo Ryans are different. They’re more disciplined and that flex offense is really hard to defend when you never see it. And the Badgers are bigger all across the board. Rebounding will likely tell the story in the end. I like the Badgers 71-62.
Game 2: No. 2 Texas vs. No. 3 Stanford (7:27)
How they got here: Texas just cruised through its first round game, blowing out No. 15 Austin Peay just like its supposed to, then held off furious comeback by No. 7 Miami for a three-point win. Save the comeback by The U and both games were pretty ho-hum. The Longhorns just took care of business. Stanford pounded No. 14 Cornell into oblivion in the first round. In the second round Brook Lopez made a tough baseline turn-around shot with just over one second left in overtime to send Marquette packing.
Texas will win if: D.J. Augustin dominates the tempo and makes plays in the paint. Augustin is perhaps the best point guard in the country (sorry, Ty Lawson) based on talent alone. Based on importance to his team he might be THE best. When he gets into the paint things happen for Texas — whether it be a floater he makes, a kick out to A.J. Abrams or a quick dish to Damion James. It’s all good for the Longhorns. If Augustin is in command, they win.
Stanford will win if: Trent Johnson doesn’t get his ass tossed. Psyche. Stanford wins if the pace is slow and the Lopez twins control the game flow. This is really a game of opposites. Texas wants to win with its speed and quickness on the perimeter. The Cardinal wants to win with its sheer size in the paint. I guess if I had two highly skilled 7-footers in my lineup that’s how I’d want to play as well. It’s really a matter of which group is playing better; the Stanford bigs or the Texas guards. If the advantage there is in favor of Brook and Robin Lopez, Stanford plays on. Oh, and, how has Stanford cornered the market on 7-foot twins? Just think about that.
Matchup to watch: Abrams and Augustin against Stanford’s perimeter defense. Abrams is second only to Curry in terms of quick release on a deadly accurate jump shot. The kid can flat shoot. Stanford’s field goal percentage defense is very good and as a team they rebound well. But Mitch Johnson and Co. aren’t the most athletic group of guards you’ll ever see. If Augustin is able to penetrate and kick to Abrams for open jumpers it could be a long night for Stanford. Then again, if Abrams is missing Stanford rebounds well enough to keep them to one shot.
The Bottom Line: To me, this game is a coin flip. I think overall Texas is playing a tick better, though, and I like Augustin’s ability to get into the paint and make things happen. Talk about beating a dead horse on the whole penetrate into the paint thing. You watch though. Texas’ quickness over Stanford’s brawn. Longhorns move on 77-71.
Game 3: No. 1 Kansas vs. No. 12 Villanova (9:40)
How they got here: Kansas dominated both No. 16 Portland State (of course) and No. 8 UNLV after a close first half. Both of these games were yawners and, despite the close half time score in the UNLV game, were never in doubt. Perhaps the Jayhawks are peaking at the right time. Villanova “upset” No. 5 Clemson in the first round then pounded on No. 13 Siena in the second round to punch its ticket to the Sweet 16. Upset is in quotes because a Big East team never really upsets anyone. The seeding doesn’t matter.
Kansas will win if: All team members make it, in good health, to the game. Hell, they don’t even need all team members, just the top six or so will do. Villanova isn’t a traditional underdog being from the Big East and all, but they have nowhere near the talent or depth of Kansas. There’s just too much talent and the Jayhawks are peaking at the right time. I don’t think anything stands between them and the Final Four that they can’t beat. I’m pretty sure I could’ve copied and pasted what I said about North Carolina yesterday right here.
Villanova will win if: Scottie Reynolds scores about 65 points. Nova’s supporting cast has been playing great in the tournament so far or they certainly wouldn’t have advanced to this point, but there’s just not enough to compete with the Jayhawks’ excessive amount of talent. Scottie boy is going to have to go nuts. Not gonna happen. I’ll tell you why right…now.
Matchup to watch: Scottie Reynolds against whoever guards him. I’m not really sure who will. It could be Mario Chalmers, Russell Robinson or Brandon Rush. Most likely it’ll be a combination of the three. Either way, Reynolds is going to have a hard time getting shots against an experienced, athletic back court like this one. If he struggles, Nova has no chance.
The Bottom line: As if you don’t know already. Kansas by double digits. 83-72. And it won’t really even be as close as the score indicates.
Game 4: No. 1 Memphis vs. No. 5 Michigan State (9:57)
How they got here: Memphis did what every other top seed always does to No. 16 seeds: Pound the crap out of them. Then the Tigers scraped by No. 8 Mississippi State by three points. Who says they can’t shoot free throws? Michigan State did what it always does: grind. Last weekend started with an 11-point win over No. 12 St. Joseph’s that was never really that close and ended with a 40-minute slug fest of a win against No. 4 Pittsburgh.
Memphis will win if: It makes free throws. Just kidding. I, like Coach Cal, am not worried about Memphis’ free throw shooting until they play a team against which it will actually matter. The Tigers will win if they don’t settle for jumpers. I can about guarantee that’s Tom Izzo’s plan. You’ll recall against Tennessee the Tigers fell in love with their jumpers and it ended up being fool’s gold once the shots stopped falling in the second half. The Spartans would be smart to pack it in and make Memphis consistently bury jumpers. If the Tigers stay patient with their slashing, free-wheeling offense they should be able to get by.
Michigan State will win if: Drew Neitzel matches Memphis shot-for-shot. This isn’t the kind of game or the kind of opponent where Neitzel can suddenly forget how to make shots from deep. He has to be hitting for them to win, and he has to be hitting a lot. He can get away with off nights against Big Ten teams only slightly more athletic than North Central High School on a down year, but he can’t do that against an uber-athletic Memphis team.
Matchup to watch: State’s Goran Suton against Memphis big man Joey Dorsey. Suton flies a little bit under the radar, but he’s pretty crafty in the paint and can make his jump shots too. He’s about as rugged a player as Izzo has. Unfortunately for Izzo, Dorsey is more a man than Chuck Norris. If Dorsey dominates the paint on defense in terms of blocked shots and rebounding Memphis could turn this into a rout.
The Bottom Line: If Memphis stepped into the Big Ten it would be the most athletic team by a long shot. Sparty hasn’t seen anything like this yet and won’t have any answers for Derrick Rose and Chris Douglas-Roberts. This could be a blowout, but Michigan State is good at staying in these kind of things. I say…Memphis 75-69. And the Tigers might just ice the game at the charity stripe for good measure.