(1)Ohio State vs (4)Kentucky
As expected, Ohio State has rolled through the early competition; a 75-46 victory over UTSA and a 98-66 beating of George Mason. David Lighty has been killing it from deep going 9-10 in the first two games. As for Kentucky, they narrowly escaped a loss to Princeton in the round of 64, as Brandon Knight's only bucket of the game sealed the deal for the Wildcats 59-57. In the next round, Kentucky was down 8 at half but they fought back against West Virgnia to win 71-63 as Knight dropped 30 on the Mountaineers.
It will be a very interesting matchup between Kentucky's Josh Harrellson(6'10 275lbs Senior) and Ohio State's Jared Sullinger(6'9 280lbs Freshman). Harrellson has a combined 30 points and 18 rebounds in the first two games while shooting 14 of 18. However, he is only 2 of 9 from the free throw line. Sullinger has 29 points and 17 rebounds on 12 of 17 shooting, 5 of 8 from the line.
Ohio State is clearly the favorite but if the Wildcats defend beyond the perimeter and force Lighty, Buford and Diebler to take contested shots, while Brandon Knight pushes the tempo, Kentucky does have the talent to upset the Buckeyes.
(2)North Carolina vs (11)Marquette
The Tar Heels easily beat Long Island in their first game scoring 102 points. Their next victory however, did not come so easily against Washington as they came from behind to win 86-83. Harrison Barnes(46points) and Tyler Zeller(55pointts) are leading this revival of the Tar Heels. Marquette has upset #6 Xavier(66-55) and #3 Syracuse (66-62) behind Darius Johnson-Odom's 7-13 from beyond the arc.
Marquette will need to continue to get to the free throw line (42 times in two games) while playing stingy defense(11 steals 35 forced turnovers) if they plan on being in this one in the final minutes. North Carolina has too many offensive weapons and are much too big for the Golden Eagles to handle.
(1)Duke vs (5)Arizona
After beating Hampton by nearly doubling their score, 87-45, Duke ran into a tough Wolverine team that hung around until the final buzzer, 73-71. Arizona has suprised me this tourny. They beat Memphis by only 2 points(77-75) and then upset the #4 seed Texas Longhorns 70-69, being outscored by 10 points in the second half.
Derrick Williams, a SUPER talent, is the only consistant player on this Wildcats team. 39 points and 17 rebounds in the first two games, Williams will need those numbers against the Blue Devils in order to win. Arizona has been lucky the first two round, but Duke and Coach K have too much talent, and senior leaders Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler are not ready to call it quits yet.
(2)San Diego State vs (3)Connecticut
San Diego State has only allowed 114 points in their first two games, and one of them went to double overtime! After cruising past Northern Colorado 68-50, the Temple Owls took the Aztecs to 2OT before falling 71-64. UConn has only allowed 110 points in their matchups with Bucknell(81-52) and Cincy(69-58).
It will be very interesting to see how these teams matchup. Obviously UConn has the advantage on offense with Junior Guard Kemba Walker dropping 51 points (20-20 from the line), but The Aztecs have done a great job spreading the offense and getting everyone involved. In both games, four players have attempted between 11-16 shots, with all four scoring at least 10 points. But Kawhi Leonard will have to prove he is an elite talent against UConn and take over if his team wants to advance to the Elite 8.
(1)Kansas vs (12)Richmond
Kansas has yet to face a challenge during this tournament with easy wins over Boston U(72-53) and Illinois(73-59). On the other hand, Richmond pulled off a Round of 64 upset over (6) Vanderbilt(69-66) with a late second half push, and followed that up with an easy victory over fellow bracket buster Morehead State(65-48).
Louisville Coach Rick Pitino has been praising Richmond on ESPN, claiming that they are the most underrated team in the nation. However, Kansas is just WAY to talented to allow the Spiders to crawl into the Elite 8. The Morris Twins have combined for 72 points and 41 rebounds while shooting 28-49. Guards Tyshawn Taylor and Brady Morningstar have tallied 19 assists and are shooting 50% from downtown(7-14). Richmond has made a name for themselves much like Butler did last season, but this is where it ends for them.
(10)Florida State vs (11)VCU
Florida State has upset both (7) Texas A&M and (2) Notre Dame by a combined score of 128-107. More impressively, they held the Fighting Irish to only 57 points. VCU was one of the First Four, and proved that the committee picked the right teams, while many claimed the Rams were not worthy of the pick. With wins over USC, Georgetown, and Purdue, VCU has picked up a lot of steam and are capable of beating the Seminioles.
Both teams rely on defense, so it will be interesting to see which team wants it more. If you watched VCU just man handle the Purdue Boilermakers, than you can understand why it is easy to pick them to win this game. They beat Purdue's press so easily, I was wondering why Purdue was even pressing late in the second half. Their half court offense was run beautifully by Senior Guard Joey Rodriquez. His drive and dish skills have lead to 23 assists in these first 3 rounds. He was privileged enough to learn from fellow Ram Eric Maynor, whose game has translated nicely into the NBA. Look for him to take control of this game and help the Rams advance to the Elite 8.
(4)Wisconsin vs (8)Butler
Wisconsin opened up with an easy win over the Belmont Bruins 72-58, and then just got by against Kansas State 70-65. Senior forward Jon Leuer has put the team on his back averaging 20.5 points and 7 boards in the first two games. Butler has continued their success from last years magic run to the finals with two dramatic victories in the final seconds. A tip in against Old Dominion, and clutch free throws against #1 Pittsburgh.
Butler's Senior F Matt Howard and Junior Guard Shelvin Mack return from last year and have been the difference makers this year. Mack has dropped 45 points in 2 games with only 6 free throw attempts, while Howard has won both games for the Bulldogs with his nonstop motor. If they want to upset the Badgers, Howard will have to stay out out of foul trouble and Shelvin Mack is going to have to match Jordan Taylor shot for shot.
(2)Florida vs (3)BYU
Florida has advanced to the Sweet 16 with a dominating performance over UC Santa Barbara(79-51) and Brooklyn's Finest, Junior Guard Erving Walker, had 21 points to help the Gators beat the Bruins of UCLA. Meanwhile, Jimmer Fredette and the Cougars have had zero trouble with their two matchups, beating Wofford and Gonzaga by a combined score of 163-133. Even without Davies, BYU continues to prove that they are a top team team in the nation.
Many "experts" said that Gonzaga was athletic enough to guard Fredette and that they should be able to handle BYU. Well obviously, NO ONE can guard Jimmer. It will be interesting to see what Billy Donovan and the Gators game plan is to stop him . Jimmer has gone off these early rounds with 66 points and 13 assists. Junior Forward Noah Hartsock has been clutch alongside Fredette as he is shooting a ridiculous 9 for 11(5 of 6 from downtown). Florida is clearly the deeper team with Chandler Parsons, Erving Walker, Vernon Maclin, Patric Young, Kenny Boynton, and more. But Jimmer and the Cougars are out to prove something and they will find a way to upset the Gators and advance to the Elite 8.
So that leaves us with the following Elite 8:
(1)Ohio State vs (2)North Carolina
(1)Duke vs (3)Connecticut
(1)Kansas vs (11)VCU
(3)BYU vs (4)Wisconsin
What was your originial Elite 8, and what does your NEW Elite 8 look like now?
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