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ATR: Sweet 16 overview …

A week into the Madness.  Time for the Sweet 16.  Other than Arizona, not a lot of surprises this year.  In fact, the top three seeds in all four regions are represented.  Take out the aforementioned Wildcats and chalk has largely ruled the tournament after two rounds.  That in mind, here’s my Sweet 16 breakdown …

WEST REGION

Connecticut vs. Purdue – The Boilermakers are playing some of their best basketball, largely because they’re healthy.  But for Purdue to pull an upset the Boilers will have to have an explosive night from beyond the arc.  Remember, the Huskies also play in-your-face defense, and generally don’t foul.  UConn also appears very motivated and focused on both ends.  Pick: Connecticut.

Missouri vs. Memphis – An interesting game that seems destined for scrambling, wild plays, big runs, and lots of free-throws.  How will Memphis handle the 40 minutes of pressure?  Can Missouri get quality shots against a tough Memphis D?  It probably comes down to turnovers.  If Mizzou forces Tyreke Evans into a lot of mistakes, the lower-seeded Tigers can win.  My bet?  Memphis makes enough plays to get the job done.  Pick: Memphis.

EAST REGION

Pittsburgh vs. Xavier – Sean Miller vs. his alma mater.  The bottom line is this: Xavier has no answer for Pitt’s size, especially DeJuan Blair.  XU also has a freshman point guard.  Then again, East Tennessee State beats the Panthers if it makes free-throws.  How will Pitt handle the continued pressure of not getting past the Sweet 16?  It may very well be up to Sam Young.  If he makes shots, Pitt will post enough offense to win.  Pick: Pittsburgh.

Villanova vs. Duke – Thursday’s best game – or at least should be.  Both teams are like mirror images – spread the floor, attack the basket, play tough defense, and shoot treys.  So who does it better?  My guess is that Coach K finds a wrinkle or two that makes a difference.  Pick: Duke.

MIDWEST

Arizona vs. Louisville – If there’s an obvious double-digit victor in the Sweet 16 it’s Louisville.  Arizona has three quality offensive players, but isn’t real solid defensively.  Louisville will force the Wildcats into mistakes and has more athletes on the floor to attack the basket.  This one might be high scoring, but that also favors the top-seeded Cardinals.  Pick: Louisville.

Kansas vs. Michigan State – When these teams played in December, Michigan State won going away.  That said, the Jayhawks improved during January.  Will it be enough?  I picked West Virginia to be in this spot, so my faith that Sherron Collins and Cole Aldrich can carry KU to the Elite 8 is questionable.  Expect a close game, but for MSU to advance.  The Spartans are solid at the line and will force KU to make jump shots.  Pick: Michigan State.

SOUTH REGION

North Carolina vs. Gonzaga – Unless Ty Lawson re-injures his toe, Carolina won’t have a problem finding good shots.  Defense remains a big question mark for the Bulldogs who were “lit-up” by Western Kentucky’s guards.  Expect an up-tempo game which further favors UNC.  Gonzaga has some offensive weapons, but isn’t as deep as the Tar Heels.  Pick: North Carolina.

Syracuse vs. Oklahoma – Blake Griffin will get his points, but not easily against a long and tall Orange zone.  Ultimately, the Sooners’ young guards will have to make shots.  I’m not confident they’ll handle the ‘Cuse zone or be able to dial up consistent treys.  Expect the game to be close, but for Syracuse to score more easily. That’s the difference.  Pick: Syracuse.

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