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Surprising Sweet 16
It might sound cliché, but who doesn’t enjoy rooting for the underdog? Unless you have a connection to one of the schools still involved or your bracket still has a chance at winning, who doesn’t want to see Northern Iowa, Cornell, or St. Mary’s College push deeper into the tournament?
As the Sweet 16 begins on Thursday there are still 11 conferences being represented (only 7 conferences represented in the Sweet 16 last year). Duke vs. Purdue is the only matchup pitting the two highest possible seeds against one another. My guess is that at least one surprise team will earn themselves a ticket to the Elite 8.
Let’s do a quick rundown of the games with some predictions. Post yours below in the comments section.
#9 UNI vs. #5 Michigan State: The magical run for Northern Iowa continues. Panthers coach Ben Jacobson was rewarded today with a big raise as part of a new 10-year contract. There is a great chance for the magical run to continue as Michigan State will be without junior guard Kalin Lucas who ruptured his Achilles tendon and underwent surgery.
#6 Tennessee vs. #2 Ohio State: Ohio State’s Evan Turner, a potential top-3 pick in this year’s NBA draft, turned in a great performance against Georgia Tech. An upset is unlikely, but the Buckeyes will have to improve their poor ball control given Tennessee’s aggressive defense.
#1 Syracuse vs. #5 Butler: The Syracuse Orangemen will still be without forward Arinze Onuaku, who was injured during the Big East tournament. Onuaku might be back in time for the Elite 8. I still expect to see Syracuse push through to the next round without him.
#6 Xavier vs. #2 Kansas State: Kansas State is a deep team that forces turnovers. Xavier is an experienced team, but they have a tendency not to capitalize on the mistakes of their opponents, allowing the score to remain close. The edge goes to Kansas State.
#1 UK vs. #12 Cornell: Cornell was the trendy #12 over a #5 upset pick and followed through in defeating Temple. The win over #4 Wisconsin was impressive as Cornell dominated throughout. Kentucky is a steep challenge for any team. This would be on par with Northern Iowa’s defeat of Kansas.
#11 Washington vs. #2 West Virginia: Washington is playing great basketball, leading to questions of whether they deserved higher than a #11 seed. West Virginia will be playing without starting point guard Darryl “Truck” Bryant after it was announced that he has broken a bone in his foot. Bryant and Joe Mazzulla have been splitting the point guard duties for the Mountaineers. Unfortunately the West Virginia’s size will be a matchup problem for the Huskies.
#1 Duke vs. #4 Purdue: Having seen Kansas defeated, Duke is salivating at the thought of one less tough opponent standing between them a national championship. Despite playing without Robbie Hummel, Purdue is putting together a solid tournament. Unfortunately this is where it will end.
#3 Baylor vs. #10 St. Mary’s College: Baylor has not played as well as they are capable of, but are winning games nonetheless. St. Mary’s will have a difficult time keeping up with the more athletic Baylor squad.
PHOTO: Purdue guard Chris Kramer (with ball) shoots winning basket in overtime against Texas A&M during their second round NCAA Division I men’s basketball game in Spokane, Washington, March 21, 2010. REUTERS/Steve Dipaola