Thoughts and predictions for tonight’s Sweet Sixteen matchups:
BYU vs Florida
Many were down on the chances of both Florida and BYU. Most thought BYU was prime for an upset without Brandon Davies and thought the Gators were way over-seeded (myself included). However, both teams took care of business. Florida demolished UCSB in their first round game and took out UCLA in the second. No more University of California schools for them to play. Jimmer was excellent in his first two games scoring over 30 in each game. Wofford hung with them for a little bit before the Cougars pulled away. A second round destruction of Gonzaga was surprising and impressive. With Pitt being eliminated, the winner of this game will be the favorite to be the Final Four team in the region. I expect this one to be close.
Connecticut vs San Diego State
As the rest of the Big East teams embarrassed themselves, only Connecticut and Marquette made it through the first weekend. Of the two, Connecticut was truly the most impressive. I got to see them in person at the Verizon Center as they easily beat a solid Bucknell team. In the second round, they had a hard fought game with Cincinnati, but Kemba Walker took over in the end. Walker has been downright unstoppable during both the Big East tourney and March Madness. San Diego State had to go to double overtime to take out Temple in the second round. They are solid defensively and are a good rebounding team, but I look for Kemba to be too much in this game. Connecticut by double digits.
Butler vs Wisconsin
Wisconsin was another team I was flat out wrong on. I may have even taken a couple cheap shots at their inability to score during the Big Ten season. I guess I have to stop the Wisconsin can’t score jokes. Regardless, they quieted the doubters by easily beating Belmont and earning a hard fought win over a veteran Kansas State team. Butler’s road was as exciting and hectic as any team. It took a Matt Howard put-back at the buzzer just to win it’s opening game against Old Dominion. Then, of course, they beat Pittsburgh in one of the wildest finishes the tourney has ever seen (I was lucky to see this one in person too). This will be a great coaching matchup between Brad Stevens and Bo Ryan, two coaches who continue to succeed with less talent. If Shelvin Mack scores 30 again, he might be enough to top the Badgers just on his own. C’mon I couldn’t resist, Butler in a close one.
Duke vs Arizona
Duke had to sweat it out to beat Michigan in the second round. One of the mysteries remains how much production they can get from Kyrie Irving. He got his fair share of minutes, but only scored one basket against Michigan. Of course, that bucket turned out to be the game-winner. Another week of rest combined with some gametime last week, and I expect huge improvements in his game. If this is the case and his explosiveness is back, then Duke will be too tough for Arizona. The Wildcats survived a controversial finish with Texas. Derrick Williams should be able to have his way with the Duke front-court. For a team that relies so heavily on one player, the rest of the team did a good job of stepping up when Williams had a tough time against Texas. Arizona will need Williams to be at his best tonight against Duke and will probably need a lot of help from his supporting cast too. I don’t see how they can score with Duke. Easy win for the Dukies.