NCAA men’s basketball tournament Friday and the Sweet Sixteen

NCAA men’s basketball tournament

Friday and the Sweet Sixteen

I will be glued to my television Friday afternoon and evening.  These 4 games of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament all have the possibility of being highly contested.

The day begins with Louisville and Oregon.  Louisville is ranked number 2, and Oregon number 25.  The Cardinals defense allows opponents under 58 points a game, and Oregon averages just under 78.

Number 3 Kansas plays number 10 Michigan.  Kansas had a strong senior influence, but Michigan has been on a roll.  Guard Trey Burke is averaging 19 points a game for the Wolverines, and is a good floor general.

Probably the best matchup is Duke and Michigan State, ranked number 2 and number 3.  The Blue Devils success is dependent upon Mason Plumlee and Seth Curry.  The Spartans rely on a relentless defense and a core of experienced players who destroyed Memphis.  Part of the fun of this game is Mike Krzyzewski vs. Tom Izzo.  Different coaching styles, but both have great success getting the most out of their players.  (Tom Izzo’s son picked Duke to win.)

For me, the game that will be most interesting is to see how FGCU fares against Florida.  It doesn’t make sense to call Florida Gulf Coast University a “Cinderella” team.  It’s just that no one knew much about them, they are too new to division 1 basketball.  Florida is a better match for the Eagles than was San Diego State.  They will take advantage of their fearless style of play which often gives up turnovers.  But Florida will have to contend with FGCU challenging every pass, every shot, and every dribble.

So, here’s where I stick my neck out again.  The winners are in the “elite eight”, and these 4 games have no clear favorite, keeping with the predominance of regular season play.

The easiest is Louisville and Oregon.  Pitino’s Cardinals should put an end to a great season for the Ducks.  One of the best and most experienced programs in college basketball will be in the final 8.

I’m split on Kansas and Michigan.  Kansas has yet to make me a true believer.  Last week vs. North Carolina, they had 12 turnovers in the first half.  The second half saw them move away and dominate the game.  Michigan has stuttered along the way this season, but I think they will pull it all together Friday and find themselves in the elite group of 8.

Duke and Michigan State cannot be called, at least by me.  So, I’m betting on “Coach K” who is always tournament ready.  He will get the most out of his Blue Devil bench and send Michigan State home.

If you believe that there is any way I would bet against FGCU, you haven’t read your sports history.  It is not as uncommon as you might think for an un-heralded team to reach the “elite eight”.  They believe in themselves, and that does count.  The advantage Florida has is looking back at Georgetown and San Diego State and realizing they are not facing a true Cinderella team.  I like the Eagles chances of reaching the Final Four.

The only bad thing about March Madness is that it’s over all too soon.

James Turnage

Columnist-The Guardian Express

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