Last night, Cinderella’s glass slipper was shattered as all of the higher seeds were able to hold on and win. If you want to root for an upset, you’ll have to root for Florida who won back-to-back national championships just five years ago. Both Florida and Louisville have proven to be better than I thought they would be and the game features the Anakin-Luke Skywalker battle of Rick Pitino and Billy Donovan – who made their own Final Four run together with Providence as a six-seed back in 1987 (where they were beaten by Syracuse). Pitino was the coach and Donvan was the plucky point guard.
The match up in Boston should be good as well. While Thad Matta is not from the Jim Boeheim line of coaching, there will be plenty of stars on display. Both Big East teams playing on Saturday do not feature a go-to scorer – at least in the starting lineup, so Jousters will need to be extra careful when choosing their lineups. I hope to help a bit with that.
4. Louisville vs. 7. Florida (West Region, Phoenix, 4:30 PM – All time Eastern)
These teams are not only coached by a mentor-student, but they are similar in roster makeup and style of play. The Gators have more star power and are more offensively oriented. Lately, the top star has been freshman Bradley Beal ($181,000). He had a fantastic game against Marquette with 21 points on 8-for-10 shooting. He has been in a nice groove since the SEC tournament. He may be slightly overpriced, but I’d guess he will score right around 18 points. While Beal was hitting,
Erik Murphy ($130,000) was missing against the Golden Eagles who left him open fairly often. Murphy simply couldn’t get his jumpers from the corner to fall through the hoop. He is unlikely to have more success against the Cardinals, who likely will not leave him open. Kenny Boynton’s ($124,000) late season slide continued against Marquette. He scored just 11 points on 2-for-10 shooting. Over his last six games, Boynton has only made 31% (18-for-58) of his shots. Erving Walker ($110,000) played quite well against Marquette and handled the on-ball pressure nicely. He should see more of the same from Louisville and could get open for some easy baskets. The senior has scored 26 points in his last two games. The center battle between Patric Young ($107,000) and Gorgui Dieng ($90,000) should be a stalemate. Both players are defensively oriented in that neither has much finesse. I’d look to the other game for a pivotman.
The Cardinals show how much they lack a go-to scorer by their salaries. No one on the team will cost more than Kyle Kuric ($121,000). Louisville has not topped 69 points in their last five games and have managed to win all five, including their run to the Big East tournament championship. Kuric has not topped 13 points in his last five games and was held to seven points in the win over Michigan State. He still gets a consistent number of shots and should score in double digits. Chane Behanan ($108,000) has played very well in the NCAA tournament. He has averaged 13.0 points in the wins over Davidson, New Mexico, and Michigan State. He has the kind of hard-nosed play that could cause Florida troubles. Peyton Siva ($107,000) may give Walker some issues with his defense. Siva has not been calling his own number much in the last two games. He has only scored ten points, but he could get free for a few easy baskets or tough forays to the basket.
Chris Smith ($98,000) hit three three-points to account for his nine points against the Spartans. The Manhattan transfer has been starting, but hasn’t not contributed to the Cardinal offense in the tournament with just 21 points.
1. Syracuse vs. 2. Ohio State (East Region, Boston, 7:05 PM)
I have been publicly been a doubter of both Syracuse and Florida (as well as Louisville via guilt by Big East association), they keep winning. Like Louisville, the Orange have been very egalitarian with the offense. They have great depth and that has allowed their best scorer, Dion Waiters ($187,000), to come off the bench. The sophomore has scored at least 12 points in his last six games and should be able to maneuver around the Buckeye defense. Guard Scoop Jardine ($122,000) has scored very well in the NCAA tournament with three straight double-digit scoring games for the first time this season. In his last two games, Jardine has gone 5-for-6 on threes and was able to penetrate the center of the Wisconsin defense for some nice floaters.
Kris Joseph ($110,000), meanwhile, has been in a relative funk and has not topped 12 points in his last six games. He was held to seven points against he Badgers and has not made more than 37.5% of his field goals in his last five games. James Southerland ($109,000) barely got off the bench against the Badgers. He scored 15 points in the first two tournament games, but only saw four minutes of scoreless action against Wisconsin. He should get more playing time against Ohio State. C.J. Fair ($105,000) had one of his best games of the season against Wisconsin. He was 7-for-9 from the field on his way to 15 points. Fair’s playing time is not guaranteed, so I’d stay away after the big game. I have always liked Brandon Triche ($88,000) and he put in 11 against Wisconsin. If you need a moderately priced guard, Triche could be a nice value.
Ohio State under Thad Matta has never been a team that boasted much depth. They rely on their stars and that has sometimes meant that they peter out in the NCAA tournament when their stars get tired. I picked them to beat the Orange (or Vanderbilt) prior to the tournament, but I am no longer so sure. It will be very interesting to see how Deshaun Thomas ($227,000) and
Jared Sullinger ($204,000). I think Sullinger will struggle against the packed in zone even though he has shown a willingness to attempt three-pointers (4-for-7 in his last four games). Sullinger will also try to force the ball into the zone and may create open threes for his teammates. One of whom will be Thomas. The 6-foot-7 sophomore can score inside and outside, and has at least 18 points in all three tournament games. For the Buckeyes to win, they will need more from William Buford ($123,000). He has gone just 6-for-16 (37.5%) on threes in the tournament and was held to four points against Cincinnati. Buford is able to score 20 points or more, but he hasn’t shown that ability in the last six games. Aaron Craft ($111,000) has shown more willingness to slash to the basket and get fouled of late. He has scored 28 points in his last two games and equaled his season high with 17 points against Gonzaga. He will likely try to push the tempo to prevent the Orange from setting up their zone. Sophomore Lenzelle Smith, Jr ($91,000) had 15 points against Cincinnati, but only scored ten points in his two previous games.