March Madness 2017: Previewing Sweet 16
After a wild first weekend in the NCAA Tournament, we’ve come to the Sweet 16. While many of the popular upset picks went down early, there are still some Cinderella hopefuls looking to make a run to the Final Four.
The Xavier Musketeers were a bubble team before winning a few games in the Big East Tournament, and now are riding high as a No. 11 seed in the West Region. With head coach Chris Mack leading the way, Xavier absolutely rolled through the Maryland Terrapins and Florida State Seminoles, beating the latter by 25 points in the second round.
Then there are the seventh-seeded Michigan Wolverines, another team that came into the dance on a high. Michigan was inconsistent throughout the season despite it’s ability to shoot early and often from the outside. The Wolverines got it together in March, though, winning the Big Ten tourney before knocking off the Oklahoma State Cowboys and Louisville Cardinals in the first two rounds of March Madness.
With the Sweet 16 upon us, let’s look at the four games being played on Thursday night…
No. 7 Michigan Wolverines at No. 3 Oregon Ducks
This is going to be a race to 100 points for Oregon and Michigan. Despite being without ones of its best players in Chris Boucher, Oregon is getting the job done, surviving the No. 11 Rhode Island Rams in the last matchup. The Ducks are led by Dillon Brooks, one of the more versatile and capable players in the country. On the other side, Michigan can beat you with the 3-ball but also has some size on the interior. If the Wolverines hit their shots from the jump, they are very difficult to beat.
No. 4 West Virginia Mountaineers vs. No. 1 Gonzaga Bulldogs
This is a fascinating matchup. Bob Huggins has his Mountaineers playing a very aggressive brand of basketball. No team in the nation presents a better defensive trap then West Virginia, which causes more turnovers per game than any other team in the nation. Gonzaga is a very deep, large team that can beat an opponent up on the inside. If the Bulldogs can get some easy buckets, they should be in the clear.
No. 4 Purdue Boilermakers vs. No. 1 Kansas Jayhawks
Purdue was the regular-season Big Ten champ, so this isn’t a team to take lightly. The Boilermakers are a tough group with the ability to both score and defend, giving the floor balance. Meanwhile, Kansas is the most talented team in the country. If senior guard Frank Mason Jr. and freshman sensation Josh Jackson are on their game, it’s likely onto the Elite Eight.
No. 11 Xavier Musketeers vs. No. 2 Arizona Wildcats
This game will come down to whether Xavier can defend Arizona, and if the outside shot is falling for the underdogs. So far, the Musketeers have been crushing teams with their offense, something that has been lacking for the team over much of the past six weeks. Arizona, coached by former Xavier man Sean Miller, is superior in talent, but this is a tricky game.