It’s been said all season, “The Cavs need to score”. Malcom Brogdon is their best scorer, but would be a second option on most other contenders. In the end, the whole team has to shoot well because of the Cyclones size. Perrantes must force the issue through penetration in hopes of getting the Iowa State frontcourt in foul trouble. If Tobey can give them any real rim protection on defense, they can exploit a lack of athleticism on the ISU squad.
ISU must shoot well and push tempo. They can outscore VA if ball keeps moving and doesn’t hit the floor a lot. Virginia has athletic guys who can close quickly on shooters and will scrap for rebounds and loose balls. The key will be if Nader, Morris & Niang can all bring it tonight. If two of the three plays to regular season form they’ll outpace the Cavs and render the Pack Line useless. On defense, the Cyclones need to use their offense to set themselves up for success. They don’t have the athletes to stay in front of Perrantes, Brogdon and the others but a 10-12 point lead might force some ill-advised outside shooting. A solid, not great, defensive night could be enough to hold UVA at bay.
Bottom Line: Tony Bennet’s squad got this far behind a hot hand each night and the ability to stop the other team’s best scorers. There will be too many scorers to cover tonight and the Cavs will be the first #1 to go down.
The Badgers rely on D and streaky shooting. If Koenig isn’t hot they’ll struggle. Success will come if they establish an inside presence that forces a foul-prone Zach Auguste to play physical. Wisconsin hopes to make Colson the best inside option for the Irish.
ND must keep Auguste on the floor and force tempo. Jackson is the X factor and when he finds that groove through penetration, shooting and drive-and-kick, Wisconsin can’t match up to him. On defense, Mike Brey will stay conservative and make adjustments based on who’s hot. This may mean a deficit for the Irish at the half with an early second half run. If Notre Dame struggles early shooting the ball, watch for a more aggressive defensive approach.
Bottom Line: Notre Dame will struggle early but find a way to push the ball and create transition match up problems for Wisconsin. Hayes will battle inside but the inability of the Badgers backcourt to get him the ball will prove too much.
Syracuse is lucky to be here. They don’t do anything extremely well but are opportunists who go with the hot hand. Cooney must shoot well and the team has to force Sabonis to defend the basket against penetration. If he gets in foul trouble the Zags interior advantage will diminish. That 2-3 zone will need to stretch to cover shooters which might open driving lanes, though that’s not really Gonzaga’s game.
Mark Few needs his team to be patient on offense and move the ball with as few dribbles as possible. The Orange will use it to protect their frontcourt against mobile, hot shooting forwards like Wiltjer. If Sabonis gets in early foul trouble watch for Gonzaga to go “small” with Wiltjer being their de facto five in a motion scheme.
Bottom Line: Gonzaga will be too deep and shoot too well for the Syracuse Zone to be effective. They’ll stretch the wings and open up passing lanes to the middle for Sabonis.
This has the potential to be the hottest game of the evening. Carolina comes in playing really well, but relying on quantity over quality. They play a lot of guys and Roy will try to keep everyone fresh, sometimes at the expense of the hot hand. The Heels have lived off the offensive glass and allowing opponents very few second chance points. If Bryce Johnson starts off hot and is able to exploit the Hoosiers lack of true big men, he’ll get a ton of confidence and feed off of it. However, the flip side is true as well. Johnson is an extremely emotional player and can sometimes allow those emotions to create mistakes and uncertainty. Marcus Paige has been the best leader on the team this year but his shooting touch is streaky at best. If Joel Berry heats up and plays with the swagger he’s been known to have, his talent will create problems for Indiana.
On the other hand, Tom Crean has his guys playing phenomenally and they are dismantling teams right now. They shot well the second half of the season and have continued to do so in the tournament. Their shooting percentage (#1 in effective FG%) will nullify UNC’s advantage on the defensive glass and also bring the Carolina Bigs out further than they like to play. The Hoosiers need that outside threat and to penetrate and go to the free throw line as much as they can. On defense, it will be important to force the Tarheel offense away from the basket. Carolina shoots the ball horribly and relies on interior scoring. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Indiana in a match-up zone or NBA-style zone, daring Paige, Britt and Berry to carry the offensive load. Indiana won’t be able to match up inside so expect double teams and some easy baskets to avoid foul trouble.
Bottom Line: Johnson and Paige are the 2 stars for Roy Williams and he will lean heavily on Johnson to put up points against a smaller Indiana team. As has happened all year, the moment Yogi Ferrell and his backcourt mates back off the three point line, Paige, Berry and Britt will start launching threes. If they drop, the Heels are on to the Elite 8. If not, the Hoosiers will frustrate an unbalanced team and pull the biggest upset of the Sweet Sixteen.