Since my bracket is allllllll messed up, I might as well re-pick the field based on who is left. Either that or finish the Reader’s Notebook post that has been languishing for a few days.
To the games it is, then!
No. 11 Loyola-Chicago vs. No. 7 Nevada.
I’ve only caught bits of both teams’ games. In each case the good bits, too, as I saw Loyola win their two games at the buzzer and most of Nevada’s big comeback vs. Cincinnati. Nevada seems to have a higher level of talent while Loyola has Sister Jean on their side. Talent usually wins out in this round, so I’ll go with the Wolfpack.
No. 9 Kansas State vs. No. 5 Kentucky.
Wildcat on Wildcat crime! I’m sorry, really I am.
This seems like an easy pick to me. Kentucky is so much more talented than K-State and have been on a roll for the last 3–4 weeks. I want to go with a blowout UK win here. But if K-State plays smart, takes care of the ball, and most importantly if Dean Wade can play productive minutes, I think the Purples can stay in the game. Their best hope, though, is if UK falls in love with the 3 but can’t hit it. Blue Cats win.
No. 7 Texas A&M vs. No. 3 Michigan.
This one is tough. It’s easy to fall in love with blowout wins in March. The thing is the momentum they build doesn’t always carry over to the next game. See KU destroying Purdue in the last 10 minutes of their Sweet 16 game last year then never getting it going two nights later against Oregon. That makes me wary of picking A&M. They’ve been a bit of a mess all year, but seem to have gotten past their roster issues and are finally playing to their potential.
John Beilein is one of the best coaches in the game. When he gets his teams rolling, they are incredibly tough to beat. I’m leaning Michigan’s way because of their experience – they lost in the Sweet 16 by one point last year – and Beilein’s coaching. Although the Wolverines did not look good in the first two rounds, I think they pull out a tight win.
No. 9 Florida State vs. No. 4 Gonzaga.
I’m still not really sure how Florida State won that Xavier game last week. Gonzaga had its share of dicey moments in week one.
As long as Leonard Hamilton has been at FSU, it seems like he always has tons of athletic talent but is never sure how to put it all together. You see the pieces and expect something dazzling and are left with disappointment, even when they win.
I’m going with Mark Few and the Zags.
No. 5 West Virginia vs. No. 1 Villanova
Man, what a matchup! I wish it wasn’t on opposite the KU game because I would love to watch it.
As a Big 12 fan, I do not trust WVU. Yeah, they rolled through week one, but who did they play again? I don’t care how locked in Jevon Carter was last weekend, I’ve seen this team blow too many leads as their offense went to shit in the last five minutes of a game to trust them.
I say the Mountaineers have ’Nova on the ropes and blow it late.
No. 3 Texas Tech vs. No. 2 Purdue
Another fantastic matchup, although this one dulled a bit by Isaac Haas’ broken elbow. With Haas, I think it is a coin toss game that would come down to whether Tech’s hyper-athletic but smaller forwards could guard him on one end, and whether they could force to chase them on the other end.
Without Haas, I think Tech is just too athletic to be denied. And it’s too much to ask Matt Haarms to play 30 minutes against Tech’s front line. Oh, and Keenan Evans is healthy and playing like a beast again. Tech wins.
No. 5 Clemson vs. No. 1 Kansas
Clemson played maybe the best game in the history of the program last Sunday to advance. Do they have another big effort in them? They’ll need it against a healthy KU team in front of a heavy KU crowd.
I’ve seen Clemson compared to Virginia a little in how they slow the game down. That scares me a little given how KU often struggles on offense. Clemson also has athletic wings who can shoot it, similar to teams that have given KU fits this season. And they have an athletic shot blocker similar to Jordan Bell, who just abused KU at the rim in last year’s Elite 8.
If Udoka Azubuike is healthy and can play 25 minutes, KU wins easily. If not, KU will need all three perimeter players hitting to advance.
I think KU plays their best game of the tournament so far and makes it to the Elite 8 for the third-straight year.
No. 11 Syracuse vs. No. 2 Duke
Duke wins this one easy and by a large margin.
Kentucky over Nevada
Michigan over Gonzaga
Villanova over Texas Tech
Duke over Kansas