Published on March 23rd, 2012 | by Bryant West, Columnist0
NCAA Tournament Madness Analysis: Elite Eight, Day 1
The two Saturday matchups for the NCAA Tournament’s Elite Eight couldn’t be any different. On one end, you have a duel of No. 1 seeded Syracuse clashing with No. 2 seeded Ohio State in a heavily predicted matchup – but on the other, you have a duel of the upsets as No. 4 Louisville and No. 7 Florida will face off in Phoenix.
With two tickets to the Final Four on the line, who has the best shot at advancing to New Orleans? Let’s take a look.
No. 4 Louisville vs. No. 7 Florida – Thursday, 4:30 p.m. Eastern, 1:30 p.m. Pacific at the US Airways Center in Phoenix, Ariz. (CBS)
This matchup causes me great shame, as I predicted exactly the opposite would happen in my column on Thursday.
First off, I didn’t think Louisville had the firepower to stop Michigan State. I was wrong – they won 57-44, holding the Spartans to their second lowest point total of the season. I didn’t think the Cardinals had anyone who could stop Draymond Green – again, I was wrong, as Green was just 5-16 from the field and 1-7 from downtown.
Big man Gorgui Dieng dominanted the defensive end for the Cardinals, finishing with nine rebounds and seven blocks against the Spartans. Chane Behanan continued an impressive tournament run as he scored 15 points to go with nine boards.
Meanwhile, 7th seeded Florida knocked off 3rd seeded Marquette 68-58. In Thursday’s column, I praised Marquette’s defense and predicted that Florida’s offense, which had thrived in the first two rounds against less than stellar squads, would come to a screeching halt. I apparently failed to take into consideration Florida’s defense, which utterly shutdown the Golden Eagle’s previously dominant offense.
Bradley Beal, Florida’s stellar freshman, is having such a great tournament that he may well be propelling himself into the to one of the top selections in the NBA Draft come June. After scoring 21 points against the Golden Eagles, he’s averaging 16.3 points and an insane 8.6 rebounds in the tournament while shooting 65% from the field. All season he’d been exceptionally inconsistent offensively, but he’s saved his best for the tournament.
This matchup will go to whichever squad continues their red-hot defensive tenacity. Florida shut down a better scoring team in Marquette, but the Gators aren’t as talented scoring wise as Michigan State was either. The big question – can Bradley Beal keep up this dominating streak? Can the Gators continue to score from the perimeter, thus limiting Dieng’s defensive ability?
I’m putting money on Beal and the Gators.
Hit the jump for the rest of Bryant’s piece…
No. 1 Syracuse vs. No. 2 Ohio State – Saturday, 7:05 p.m. Eastern, 4:05 p.m. Pacific at the T.D. Gardens in Boston, Mass. (CBS)
Boy, everyone who predicted that Fab Melo’s suspension would kill the Oranges tournament hopes sure feels pretty silly right about now, huh?
Yes, I had Syracuse going down in the round of 32. And I predicted that Wisconsin would beat them. But at least I had company on the Syracuse doubter train.
The Orange won a hard-fought 64-63 victory over Wisconsin after Jordan Taylor’s three missed the mark. The Badgers shot 14-27 from three-point land, but Syracuse overcame their perimeter defense lack thanks to an athleticism that Wisconsin couldn’t match up with. C.J. Fair led the Orange with 15 points, seven rebounds and four steals.
But against Ohio State, Syracuse is really going to miss Fab Melo, and the whole left in the middle could very well cost them the game. What, you’ve heard that before? Well, I mean it this time!
Ohio State came into the tournament headlined by Jared Sullinger. Now, they’re headlined by Deshawn Thomas AND Jared Sullinger. Thomas continued his dominant tournament run with 26 points and seven rebounds against Cincinnatti, while Sullinger had 23 points and 11 rebounds.
Aaron Craft, the Buckeye’s electric point guard, had 11 points, five assists and six steals as Ohio State forced 18 turnovers from the Bearcats.
They most likely won’t be able to duplicate that feat against Syracuse – the Orange are very good with ball control, but again, it comes down to the play in the paint.
C.J. Fair and DeShawn Thomas is an excellent matchup, but can Rakeem Christmas hold off Sullinger? That’ll be the key if the Orange want to continue dancing.