Syracuse (33-2) vs. Wisconsin (26-9)
On paper, this is a mismatch. The Orange are loaded with talented players who can run up and down the court and score points in bunches. They will play a 2-3 zone that will make it difficult for Wisconsin to run its so-called swing offense. Wisconsin, on the other hand, will try to control the pace and beat up Syracuse physically. I don’t think the strategy will work. Syracuse seems to have adjusted to the absence of center Fab Melo, who’s academically ineligible. It will just need one big first-half spurt to take a lead. Wisconsin won’t be able to catch up.
Ohio State (29-7) vs. Cincinnati (26-10)
Most times, Ohio State center Jared Sullinger (6 feet 9 inches, 280 pounds) can overpower opponents. That won’t be the case when he faces Cincy’s Yancy Gates (6-9, 260). It should be a battle royale and could go a long way to deciding this game. Neither can afford to get in foul trouble. Ohio State has more offensive skill than Cincinnati and that probably will be the difference. The Cincinnati guards will be hounded by the Buckeyes’ ace defender Adam Craft, too. The Bearcats rely on karate-chop defense and sheer grittiness. They’ve probably reached the point at which that is no longer enough.
Michigan State (29-7) vs. Louisville (28-9)
If you read Bob Ryan’s New England basketball journal Wednesday, including the section on Louisville playing at Providence, you’d have to wonder how the Cardinals even got to this point. They’ve done it in workmanlike fashion, beating an inferior team in Davidson and then taking it to New Mexico early and often. The Lobos weren’t mentally tough enough to respond. Michigan State will respond, however, led by its great forward Draymond Green, who should be the national player of the year. The Cardinals won’t have an answer for the cerebral, mobile Green but they will force the Spartans to make outside shots. That’s been a problem for Michigan State. The Spartans should be able to handle Louisville’s pressure and take advantage of it to get easier shots. Sparty also plays good defense, which should force Louisville into mistakes.
Marquette (27-7) vs. Florida (25-10)
The Marquette-Murray State game was the best game of the tournament and a tremendous victory for the Golden Eagles. A repeat of that effort and Marquette will advance. The key for the Eagles will be defending the perimeter against Florida’s army of good guards, Erving Walker, Bradley Beal, Mike Rosario, and Kenny Boynton. It won’t be easy but if they succeed, they’ll win what should be a highly entertaining game. Marquette’s Jae Crowder is one of the best inside-outside players in the country.
- Michael Vega
- Mark Blaudschun
- Nancy Marrapese-Burrell