Breaking Down the Brackets: Sweet 16 Thursday Games
In my actual bracket, I picked 11 of 16 teams correct to advance past the first weekend. In my predictions, however, I was spot on going 16 for 16. With eight games on the table over the next two days, I’ll try to give some insight on what I see going down from here on out. First up are the Thursday games followed by Friday’s action, broken down tomorrow.
1. Connecticut vs. 5. Purdue
Just as it would be for any team playing Connecticut, Purdue has had a much harder path to get to the Sweet 16. Close wins over Northern Iowa and Washington puts the Boilermakers in a potition to take on the Huskies of Conecticut, who defeated Chatanooga and Texas A&M by an average of 41 points, and have looked the best out of any team in the nation thus far. I like Connecticut in this game (and every game) because of the pace the Huskies will play at. They are much faster than Purdue but have the presence inside with Thabeet and Adrien to slow it down if they have to. Defensively, I like for another stifling performance from the Huskies that will shut down Purdue’s star in the making, JuJuan Johnson. A.J. Price should have a good game offensively as he has done in the tournament up to this point and I think UConn rolls in this one. Connecticut 77, Purdue 67
1. Pittsburgh vs. 4. Xavier
A battle of the bigs awaits us in the East semi-finals, with DeJuan Blair and B.J. Raymond. While Raymond is just 6 feet 6 inches, he plays much bigger and will cause problems for the Pitt defense who has struggled all tournament on the defensive end. Key to the Panthers success will be Sam Young, who carried the team in the first two rounds, averaging 23 points. Look for Levance Fields to have a great game against a bigger but slower back court in Xavier. This one will go down to the wire, but in the end Pitt’s experience and talent will get it done as the Big East gets their second team into the Elite Eight. Pittsburgh 82, Xavier 78
2. Memphis vs. 3. Missouri
Memphis probably got rid of their overrated label when they defeated Maryland 89-70 in the second round, and you can bet they will get rid of it if they can knock off Missouri tonight. Tyreke Evans is establishing himself as an early candidate for Most Outstanding Player of the tournament and Roburt Sallie, who averaged 5.7 points per game in the regular season, has 48 points in two tournament games to spark the Tigers of Memphis. The other Tigers, from Missouri, will look to get Demarre Carroll and Leo Lyons involved and hope that the Mizzou guards can do just enough to get by against a very tough Memphis team. In the end, Memphis takes this one by a hair. Memphis 72, Missouri 70
2. Duke vs. 3. Villanova
In what looks to be the most exciting game of the day, the red-hot Wildcats will look to shoot their way past the defensive-minded Blue Devils. Villanova looked terrible in their first round win over American but more than made up for it in their crushing win over UCLA. Everyone got involved with six players in double figures, and when that happens they are tough to beat. Duke will counter with a poised attack of Jon Scheyer, Gerald Henderson, and Kyle Singler. The difference will come down to whether or not Villanova can find their three-point shot, something they have yet to do in the tournament. I have them in the Final Four so I have to stick with them: Villanova takes this one. Villanova 85, Duke 79
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