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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

3/21/07 - Sweet 16 Preview

Since my bracket is already busted beyond repair, I decided to start fresh and make some predictions on the Round of 16. Of course we all miss the flavor that a true "Cinderella" brings to the table (1st time since 1999 no double-digit seed has made the Sweet 16), but with higher seeds advancing the games will hopefully be more entertaining. Here is my take on Thursday's slate:

Tennessee vs. Ohio State 8:57 PM

Whether it be inexperience or other flaws, the Buckeyes have displayed a habit this year of having trouble putting teams away. Earlier in the season that almost caused them a home loss versus these same Tennessee Volunteers. Of course that game was played without a healthy Greg Oden, and OSU is a much different team with the big man healthy and dominating the paint. After a huge scare in the 2nd round against Xavier, a game that honestly the Buckeyes should have lost, Ohio State is going to need to feed Oden early and often and take advantage of the weak Tennessee interior defense. Another key for OSU will be stopping Chris Lofton. The Vol's Lofton has scored 20-plus in each of Tennessee's wins this Tournament. He is a deadly shooter, probably the best in the game, and the Buckeyes let him get going early we could see the Big Ten's lone team in the Sweet 16 sent packing.
Prediction: Ohio State 75 Tennessee 71

Southern Illinois vs. Kansas 6:10 PM

Southern Illinois is one of the few mid-major teams left in this year's Tournament, and thanks to the Saluki's defense many think they have the best chance of the three mid-majors to advance. In their two victories, SIU is holding opponents to just 49.5 points per game. However, the Kansas offense they will face tonight is going to be a much tougher bunch to stop. Also, this Jayhawk defense is no slouch either. (Actually the best in the country, according to KenPom's defensive efficiency ratings.) Get ready for a low-scoring bruiser of a game!
Prediction: Kansas 64 Southern Illinois 55

Texas A&M vs. Memphis 6:27 PM

If you thought you knew the reasons for Texas A&M's success this season, you actually didn't. But don't worry, Ken Pomeroy lays it all out for you in his post from yesterday. Everything you ever wanted to know about the Aggies is right here. This looks to be one of the closest games of the evening, but the fact that Memphis' Chris Douglas-Roberts is at the very best not at full strength and with this game being played in San Antonio makes me lean towards the Aggies.
Prediction: Texas A&M 70 Memphis 67

Pittsburgh vs. UCLA 8:40 PM

All the talk surrounding this game is UCLA's coach Ben Howland going up against his former team. The Bruin's defense has been stellar in their two victories, holding a good Indiana offense under 50 points for only the 2nd time this season in the 2nd round. Pittsburgh should look to capitalize on their front court advantage against UCLA. The Panther's need a big game from big man Aaron Gray, both with scoring and also distributing the ball out of double teams to opening shooters.
Prediction: UCLA 60 Pittsburgh 56

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