Sweet 16 Match Ups (West Region)

Mar 22, 2011 No Comments

 

It’s been a glutton filled extravaganza of college basketball with March Madness taking center stage last week.  After 52 hard-fought games on Tuesday through Sunday, we are now left with 16 teams fighting for the ultimate prize; a national championship.  Lets take a look at the 16 teams remaining, beginning with the West Region:

March 24th (Anaheim, California)

# 3 Connecticut Huskies (28-9, 9-9 Big East) vs. # 2 San Diego St. Aztecs (34-2, 14-2 MWC) (+1.0)

Offensive Averages (National Rank/Conference Rank)

  • Connecticut Huskies: 73.5 PPG (58th/6th) 13.2 APG (146th/13th) 39.7 RPG (9th/2nd) 43.4 FG% (182nd/11th)
  • San Diego St. Aztecs: 72.0 PPG (81st/3rd) 13.5 APG (124th/6th) 37.8 RPG (37th/2nd) 46.4 FG% (42nd/ 3rd)

Defensive Averages (National Rank/ Conference Rank)

  • Connecticut Huskies: 65.8 PA (103rd/10th) 39.9 FGA% (103rd/10th)
  • San Diego St. Aztecs: 58.8 PA (6th/1st) 39.3 FGA% (11th/1st)

ATS (Against the Spread)

  • Connecticut Huskies: 20-10-1
  • San Diego St. Huskies: 22-12

Key Match Up:

  • Connecticut Guard Kemba Walker vs. San Diego St. Guard D.J. Gay

Connecticut Outlook:

So much for being tired. The Huskies have arguably looked like the best team in the tournament through the first week of action, beating their opponents (#14 Bucknell & # 6 Cincinnati) by an average of 20 points per game. The Huskies held Bucknell (31.4 FG%) and Cincinnati (40.0 FG%) to a combined 35.7% from the field. They were an impressive plus 26 on the boards through the first two games against the Bison and Bearcats. I really thought that the Huskies couldn’t produce a deep run in this years tournament without developing a consistent secondary scorer alongside Kemba Walker. Freshman guard Jeremy Lamb seems to have taken on that role two games into the Big Dance. Lamb is averaging 15 PPG thus far (nearly 5 more than his season average), and has been a big reason for the Huskies success up until this point. Kemba has been Kemba. Walker is averaging 25.5 PPG 7.0 RPG and 8.5 APG in the two wins.

San Diego St. Outlook:

Billy White might be asked to cover Kemba Walker on Thursday. Photo by: SD Dirk

The Aztecs survived a big time scare from the seventh seeded Temple Owls on Saturday, escaping with a 71-64 win in double overtime. The Aztecs just couldn’t seem to shake the Owls for most of the afternoon, and seemed to have mental lapses (countless bad passes & ill-advised shots) throughout regulation and overtime. However, one constant remained in tact during the Aztecs thrilling win on Saturday, team defense. The Aztecs front court of Billy White, Malcolm Thomas, and Kawhi Leonard all came up with memorable defensive plays (White & Thomas had key blocked shots, Leonard the game clinching steal) in the second overtime to propel the Aztecs to victory. The Aztecs have held their first two opponents (#15 Northern Colorado & # 7 Temple) to a combined 35.1% from the field. The Aztecs are plus 19 on the boards through the first two match ups. Four players have scored in double figures in each of the wins against the Bears and Owls.

Prediction:

Kemba Walker has been nothing short of remarkable the last three weeks of the season for coach Calhoun and the Huskies. The Huskies seem to be riding a momentum that has sparked increased confidence for this group. It will be interesting to see what type of looks Coach Fisher throws at Walker to try to slow him down. I am sure D.J. Gay and Chase Tapley will see the majority of minutes covering Walker, but don’t be surprised to see coach Fisher switch it up and have Billy White and Kawhi Leonard cover Walker for spurts throughout the game. If nothing else, White and Leonard’s length and athleticism might pose problems for Walker in stretches. In my opinion, this game comes down to the front court of the Aztecs. I believe Leonard, Thomas, and White have a huge advantage over the Huskies front court (Oriakhi must stay out of foul trouble for the Huskies). As we’ve mentioned before, the Aztecs front court might be the best defensive unit in all of college basketball. Walker might have another huge game left in him, however I don’t think it will be enough to overcome the defensive tenacity of the Aztecs. With this game being in the Aztecs backyard (Anaheim, CA), we like coach Fisher and company to inch even closer toward a date with Houston, Texas on April 2.

Aztecs win, take the Aztecs plus 1.0

# 1 Duke Blue Devils (32-4, 13-3 ACC) vs. # 5 Arizona Wildcats (29-7, 14-4 Pac 10) (+8.5)

Offensive Averages (National Rank/Conference Rank)

  • Duke Blue Devils: 81.0 PPG (9th/1st) 14.4 APG (65th/4th) 38.1 RPG (30th/4th) 47.2 FG% (21st/1st)
  • Arizona Wildcats: 76.4 PPG (24th/2nd) 14.1 APG (85th/5th) 34.4 RPG (195th/5th) 47.0 FG% (28th/1st)

Defensive Averages (National Rank/ Conference Rank)

  • Duke Blue Devils: 63.9 PA (62nd/3rd) 40.1 FGA% (29th/2nd)
  • Arizona Wildcats: 69.7 PA (169th/7th) 44.5 FGA% (247th/6th)

ATS (Against the Spread)

  • Duke Blue Devils: 20-15
  • Arizona Wildcats: 17-17

Key Match Up:

  • Duke Front Court vs. Arizona Forward Derrick Williams

Duke Outlook:

Which Kyle Singler will show up on Thursday evening for Duke? Photo by: Helena Bowman

Coach K had to be relieved to outlast coach Beilein and the eighth seeded Michigan Wolverines on Sunday afternoon. Duke really seemed to struggle with the Wolverines 1-3-1 defense in the games closing minutes. Having said that, the Blue Devils still managed to shoot 51% from the field on Sunday against Michigan. Nolan Smith’s 10 unanswered points in the second half ultimately proved to be the biggest difference in the Blue Devil’s win. Kyle Singler continues to be the biggest question mark for Duke. There were times on Sunday where he looked terrific (aggressive drives to the hoop), and other instances where he appeared to have mental lapses (three straight missed free throws, two forced air balls). Singler will need to avoid those mistakes on Thursday evening against the Wildcats. The Blue Devils have now reached the Sweet 16 for the 10th time since 2000.

Arizona Outlook:

Talk about giving your fan base a nervous ulcer, the Wildcats have advanced to the field of 16 thanks to wins over Memphis and Texas by a combined three points. Even though the Tigers and Longhorns out shot the Wildcats in both games(Both teams shot over 45% from the field), coach Sean Miller’s team found different ways to win. Against Memphis, the Wildcats were plus nine from the charity stripe. Sophomore Derrick Williams was a perfect 9-9 from the free throw line in the win. Williams leads the nation this year in free throw attempts (313), and ranks fifth in free throws made (233). Against Texas, the Wildcats were able to knock down 57% (8-14) of their three point field goals. The 57% was nearly 20% higher than their season average of 39.9%. The Wildcats got huge contributions from reserve freshman guard Jordin Mayes and sophomore forward Solomon Hill. The two combined to score 32 points (they averaged 12 points between them in the regular season) and account for more than 45% of the Wildcats offense on Sunday. Both will need to contribute in a similar fashion against a high-octane Duke offense on Thursday evening.

Prediction:

Duke will look to take Arizona out of their offensive sets early with immense ball pressure on the perimeter. Duke will have to find a way to force more turnovers against Arizona then it did against Michigan on Sunday. Duke was only able to force seven turnovers against Michigan, nearly eight below their season average (14.8 forced turnovers a game). Coach K will likely throw at least four different players at Williams in hopes of slowing him down (Plumee brothers, Singler, and possibly Ryan Kelly). Williams is so effective at drawing fouls(as well as just being more physically gifted than the Blue Devils front court), I doubt Coach K will have the luxury of playing Williams straight up. At some point during the game, Coach K will have to bring a double team on Williams to try to contain him. He is that good of a player.

Derrick Williams will pose problems for Coach K come Thursday evening. Photo by: Aaron Lavinsky

For Arizona, they really struggled to contain the Longhorns J’Covan Brown towards the end of the game on Sunday. Brown seemed to get into the paint area at will in the closing minutes by beating Arizona’s guards off the dribble. That was the biggest red flag for me while watching the Wildcats victory against Texas. The Wildcats will now face a couple guards in Nolan Smith and Kyrie Erving who can also beat their defenders off the dribble rather easily. Irving, especially, will probably have the ball in his hands late in Duke possessions with the opportunity for dribble penetration. Arizona will probably need to switch to a similar zone scheme that Michigan incorporated to try to prevent Irving and Smith from getting isolated match ups. I just don’t see Arizona’s guards of Kyle Fogg and Lamont Jones being able to stay in front of Smith and Irving.

Duke just has too many weapons now that Kyrie Irving is back in the mix. I expect the Blue Devils to turn up the heat defensively against the Wildcats and force at least 13-15 turnovers on Thursday evening. As mentioned earlier, as good as Smith and Irving are, Singler is really the key to the Blue Devils success. If he can play an effective 30-35 minutes for the Blue Devils, they shouldn’t have any problems with the Wildcats. No doubt Derrick Williams is a special player for Arizona, however the Blue Devils backcourt is just too talented to be denied in this one. I like Duke to march onto the Elite Eight.

Duke wins, take Duke minus 8.5

Check back tomorrow for our Southeast Region Sweet 16 Preview

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