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Sully's Court: Previewing Sunday's NCAA Tournament games

Posted by Joe Sullivan, Globe Staff  March 17, 2012 12:02 PM

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Analysis of Sunday’s NCAA Tournament games

East Region
Florida State (25-9) vs. Cincinnati (25-10)
The winner advances to the TD Garden for the regional semifinals. Florida State is one of the best defensive teams in the country, pressuring closely on the perimeter with shot-blocker Bernard James guarding the rim. Saint Bonaventure had some success finessing the Seminoles before finally succumbing. There will be no finesse in this one. In many ways, these teams are similar, both physical, defensive-minded teams. I can’t imagine there will be a lot of points. Cincy has the best player on the court in Yancy Gates, who will sumo wrestle with James. The winner will be the one that overcomes offensive deficiencies.

Midwest Region
North Carolina (30-5) vs. Creighton (29-5)
I expect this to be an entertaining, high-scoring game. Both teams like to get up and down. Creighton is a highly skilled offensive team, notably Doug McDermott, but the Bluejays will find it difficult to match up with Carolina’s big guys. That’s especially true if Carolina’s John Henson, who has an injured wrist, is able to play. Carolina should win, probably hitting the 100-point mark.

South Florida (22-13) vs. Ohio (28-7)
A 12 seed vs. a 13 but I believe Ohio is better than its seed and they proved it by beating Michigan. South Florida is not a fun team to watch, the Bulls are not a good offensive team and they like to establish themselves physically on defense. They also have had the advantage of playing a subpar opponent in Cal in their first game and catching Temple playing one of its worst games of the season in their second game. Ohio is motivated and playing very well. If the Bobcats can force a fast pace, they’ll win.

Georgetown (24-8) vs. North Carolina State (23-12)
Georgetown was a trendy pick to be upset by Belmont in the first round but just like they have all year, the Hoyas took care of business. There’s no eye-popping talent on the roster but they stick to coach John Thompson’s plan and it works. NC State seems to be maturing into a top-notch club right before our eyes. The Wolfpack were clutch and mentally tough in winning their first game against San Diego State. This is a chance to continue to prove that.

Kansas (28-6) vs. Purdue (22-12)
The Jayhawks dispatched Detroit easily in their first game in an impressive effort that tells me they are very much a Final Four contender. They should win this one too but Purdue won’t go easily. The Boilermakers are fundamentally sound, good defenders, good shooters. A key matchup will be in the backcourt, Tyshawn Taylor of Kansas vs. Lewis Jackson of Purdue. Jackson was tremendous in the Boilers’ win over Saint Mary’s.

South Region
Xavier (22-12) vs. Lehigh (27-7)
What a gift for Xavier. Win a hard-fought contest over Notre Dame and then get Lehigh instead of Duke in the next round. Lehigh has a great player in C.J. McCollum and some nice complementary pieces but the Engineers are still overmatched physically. The X factor for X is guard Tu Holloway. More often than not, he’s a disinterested spectator. Then when he gets involved, he’s the best player on the floor. If he’s engaged from the beginning, X wins easily. If he decides to check out mentally, Lehigh has a chance.

West Region
Michigan State (28-7) vs. Saint Louis (26-7)
A meeting of two brilliant coaches. Of course, one could argue that Rick Majerus of Saint Louis coaches a boring game of basketball. That may be true at times but it can be effective. That’s the key here too. If Majerus’ Billikens can get Michigan State into a half-court game, where every possession is valuable, they can win. Michigan State’s job is to not let that happen.

Florida (24-10) vs. Norfolk State (26-9)
Just like Xavier, Florida is the beneficiary of a big upset in the first round and gets a matchup that should be an easy one. The Gators can’t possibly overlook Norfolk so they should be gunning the engines early with their array of good guards and run the Spartans out of the gym.

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