Guest blogger Jason Osborne goes over his predictions in the NCAA basketball tournament’s South and East Regions.
Is Indiana a Player?
The most intriguing match up to me in the entire Sweet 16 is Kentucky vs. Indiana. The Hoosiers beat the Wildcats back in December, 73-72. Cody Zeller (Tyler Zeller’s younger brother) is shooting well over 60% on the season in a very tough Big10 basketball league. Backing him up is Christian Watford, a 6’9” very credible threat from downtown, forcing defenses to cover two solid scorers. Indiana’s Achilles Heel is their ability to move the rock. The Hoosiers rank 120th in the nation in assists. Rebounding has also been a consistent problem, as they are ranked 145th in the nation in that category. Indiana will need for the freshman Cody Zeller to step up and really grab some boards, along with putting some serious numbers up in the points category. In short, Cody will have to play like his brother Tyler in order to win this game against Kentucky, and I certainly think that they can. The online basketball betting sites have Kentucky -9, I think that is too many points.
Baylor should knock off Xavier. Not to discount the Musketeers, but Baylor played Mizzou with such intensity in the final game of the last Big12 tournament. I came away from the game thinking that either of those two teams, Baylor or Mizzou, would make good runs in this year’s NCAA tournament. Although Missouri was bounced by Norfolk State in the first round, Baylor has made a solid run. However, I think that either Indiana or Kentucky are too tough for the Bears, and look for the winner of the Indiana Kentucky game to take the South Region.
Florida vs. Marquette
Some people seem to forget that Billy Donovan won back to back NCAA Tournaments a few years ago. The problem for those people is that Billy Donovan has not forgotten that fact, and when the Gators almost beat Kentucky for an SEC title, it made people wake up. Erving Walker is an experienced player that can call an offense and move the ball. Additionally, he is not someone that you foul late in the game. Kenny Boynton is a credible offensive threat and every year he gets better from beyond the arc.
Marquette has seemed uninspiring in the games that I’ve watched them play, and I don’t think that their matchup against Florida will be any different. They do not have a stand up threat from downtown. Their only hope is that Jae Crowder and Jamil Wilson step up on defense. They have performed well all season on the other side of the court. However, those two are their only threats defensively, so look for Marquette to fall to Florida.
Tom Izzo in March
If Florida rolls on to victory, they will have to play Michigan State, who should handle Louisville. The Louisville Cardinals are the weakest Big East Champion in many years. Simply put, the Cardinals only averaged 68.8 points per game this year, which will hardly be enough to put away Tom Izzo and the Spartans. Izzo is always tough to play in March, and this year will be no different.
Florida’s run will end with Michigan State, as well. The Spartans have been well tested throughout the season, starting the year off with North Carolina and Duke, back to back. Both of those games amounted to loses, but gave the Spartans invaluable experience, which they translated into toughness and they played the regular season Big10 basketball schedule well, finishing off the year by beating both Wisconsin and Ohio State back to back. Michigan State ranks highly in all important offensive categories, as well as in defensive categories. This year, in a talent laden Big10, Michigan State only allowed 59.4 points per game. The Spartans will go on to the Final Four.
The Spartans and Big10 basketball are a great Segway into the East Region, where Syracuse matches up against Wisconsin. Syracuse is playing without Fab Melo, who was deemed academically ineligible. Syracuse is deep, but Wisconsin is strong as well, only allowing 52 points per game in Big10 play. Fortunately for Syracuse, Fab Melo was not exactly putting up great numbers (7.8ppg, 5.8rpg and a very sad assist to turnover ratio) on the offensive side, but was putting up some pretty respectable defensive stats. He will be a loss on defense, not offense. That leaves the door wide open for Wisconsin, who brings Jordan Taylor and Ryan Evans to the court. Unfortunately, their field goal percentage has not been great this season, but that may change without defensive threat Melo on the court. I like Syracuse here, because I think that they are deep enough to recover from the loss of Fab Melo.
Unfortunately for the Orange, that should put them in the East Regional Final against Ohio State, who should take care of Big East Champion Cincinnati fairly easily. The Bearcats looked great against Florida State, but I think Ohio State is too strong for them. Syracuse should be the first number one seed to fall and it will happen against Ohio State. When the bracket was announced, Syracuse stood out like a sore thumb, when compared against the other number one seeds.
Ohio State Has Luck with Them
Ohio State got some luck with Cincinnati topping off the ACC Champion Seminoles, and their luck will continue against Syracuse. It is one thing to have a single player shooting over 50% on the season, but the Buckeyes have two of them, and will be tough to defend against. Sullinger and Thomas are both solid shooters that will spread out a defense, and without Melo, Syracuse simply will not be able to handle them. Ohio State is going to the Final Four.