Mar 24, 2013; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas Jayhawks guard Travis Releford (24) and guard Elijah Johnson (15) celebrate in the last seconds of the game as they get the win over the North Carolina Tar Heels during the third round of the NCAA basketball tournament at the Sprint Center. Kansas won 70-58. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Sweet Sixteen Preview (Part Two): KU Needs D, Dunk City Needs Dunks


Last night I was 2-for-4 on picks but 4-for-4 on analysis. Does that count? I’m going to count it.

While I was a pansy and couldn’t pull the trigger on Marquette, I did say “fate [was] on Marquette’s side” which should count for something. My other losing pick was Arizona and they were a possession away from winning so I feel a little bid of redemption there.

What I’m trying to say is I will likely go 0-for-4 tonight so you should consider wagering on the opposite of whatever I pick. I am nothing if not full of confidence.

March 23, 2013; San Jose, CA, USA; Oregon Ducks mascot and cheerleaders celebrate after the third round of the NCAA basketball tournament against the Saint Louis Billikens at HP Pavilion. Oregon defeated Saint Louis 74-57. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

12 OREGON VS. 1 LOUISVILLE

Time: 6:15 p.m.
TV: CBS
KenPom: Louisville over Oregon (86%)
Line: Louisville -10

The two largest favorites last night were Miami -6 over Marquette and Indiana -6 over Syracuse. Both of the favorites lost. It has been that kind of tournament this year, something we anticipated back before it ever began. As a result, we cannot take this Louisville-Oregon game lightly.

Oregon is very good on defense, ranking 10th in the nation according to KenPom’s numbers. They force a ton of turnovers and rebound very well. What has made them deadly in the tournament is they have managed to starting hitting shots. The Ducks shot just 33.2-percent from the field heading into the NCAA tournament but have hit 16 or 33 three’s in the first two rounds against good teams like Oklahoma State and Saint Louis.

If you had to find two weakness with Louisville it is that they do not rebound very well and they will get sloppy with the ball sometimes. If the Ducks can manage to take advantage of their strengths then they will be exploiting Louisville’s weaknesses as well, which may keep this game closer than what everyone is anticipating.

Prediction: The numbers say Louisville should win big, this tournament says otherwise. I think the gap will be just a little bit too much for Oregon to cover and Louisville will end up in the Elite Eight.

4 MICHIGAN VS. 1 KANSAS 

Time: 6:37 p.m.
TV: TBS
KenPom: Michigan over Kansas (51%)
Line: Kansas -2

Oh boy.

This game is going to end up being a blowout but I have no idea who is going to win it. Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr.‘s ability to hit threes may cause a lot of problems for Kansas (see: Iowa State) if the Jayhawks cannot respond in kind.

On the other hand, Kansas matches up very well against Michigan. One of the more underrated things about Kansas is their guards can defend very well. They switch and communicate well, pressure shots, and funnel all drives to the land of Withey where things generally end badly for the opponent. A lot of Burke’s game is based on his ability to drive but it hasn’t so how he responds to someone like Withey in the paint is going to be very interesting.

The other guard, Hardaway, will likely have to deal with Travis Releford all night. If Burke and Hardaway are limited in their production then a lot of pressure is going to fall on role players like Nik Staukas and Glenn Robinson to produce at a high level. That isn’t a position Michigan wants to be in.

In Big Ten play Michigan struggled agains the top teams: Indiana, Wisconsin, Michigan State, and Ohio State. Michigan was just 2-6 against those teams and managed to break 70 points just twice in regulation. Michigan is also a poor defensive team, something out of the ordinary for a top-rated Big Ten team, so Kansas will have some wiggle room to try to develop some kind of offensive rhythm.

Prediction: They key will be how Elijah Johnson and Releford defend. If Releford clamps down on Hardaway and Johnson can force Burke into tough shots on the perimeter and inside then Kansas should be able to win this game. If either of Hardaway or Burke goes off it is going to be a long night for KU. I’m going Kansas because I trust Vegas over KenPom right now.

Mar 22, 2013; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Duke Blue Devils forward Ryan Kelly (34) shoots a jump shot during the first half against the Albany Great Danes during the second round of the 2013 NCAA tournament at the Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

3 MICHIGAN STATE VS. 2 DUKE

Time: 8:45 p.m.
TV: CBS
KenPom: Duke over Michigan State (53%)
Line: Duke -2

Another great matchup without a real definitive answer.

The question here is what wins out: Michigan State’s three-point defense or Duke’s three-point shooting? Michigan is one of the top three-point defenders in the country, holding opponents to under 30-percent from three. Duke is one of the best three-point shooting teams in the country, hitting 40.3-percent of their three-point attempts.

The answer is going to be found in if MSU can defend Ryan Kelly. Who will have that job, I don’t know. The Spartans have the inside presence (Adreian Payne) and the guards to took give Mason Plumlee and Seth Curry a tough time but I don’t think they have a player who can lockdown on Kelly on the wing. Michigan State is going to have to do something schematically to pressure Kelly because their personnel doesn’t have an answer.

Prediction: Duke is going to hit too many threes for Michigan State to overcome. Duke wins.

Mar 24, 2013; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Florida Gulf Coast forward Chase Fieler (20) goes to the basket against San Diego State in the first half during the third round of the NCAA basketball tournament at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Eileen Blass-USA TODAY Sports

15 FLORIDA GULF COAST VS. 3 FLORIDA

Time: 9:07 p.m.
TV: TBS
KenPom: Florida over Florida Gulf Coast (95%)
Line: Florida -13

Here’s the thing: Dunk City can beat Florida.

One of my favorite stats of the season is that Florida has yet to win a game decided by 9 points or less. It is true. Florida has played six games all season decided by fewer than 10 points and they have lost all of them. If you punch Florida in the mouth, they’ll wobble. If you punch them in the mouth again, they’ll fall. Florida just does not perform well in tight, late game situations.

Dunk City plays a version of Florida’s game only they do it with more toughness. They shoot a ton of three (four guys have attempted over 100 threes this season) and they play a ton of players. Oh and they dunk. A ton.

Plus, Brett Comer is a Kansas City kid so you have to root for him.

But, ultimately, Florida is the better team. FGCU going to have to find a way to get Patric Young and Erik Murphy in foul trouble quickly if they want to have a shot at winning this game.

Prediction: Florida over Dunk City, but I’m rooting to be wrong.


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