# 4 Wisconsin Badgers (26-9, 12-6 Big 10) vs.#1 Syracuse Orange (33-2, 17-1 Big East)
Line: Orange -3.5
The Good: Junior forward James Southerland has really stepped up in the absence of Fab Melo. Southerland is averaging 15 points per game (7.1 season average), 7 rebounds per game (3.2 season average), and shooting 79% from the floor (47% season average) during Syracuse’s two wins in the tournament. As a team, Syracuse is shooting over 53% on their two point field goal attempts in wins versus UNC Asheville and Kansas State.
The Badgers senior point guard Jordan Taylor continues to be the team’s most important player. In wins versus Montana and Vanderbilt, Taylor is averaging 15.5 points, 5 rebounds, 4.5 assists, and shooting 50% from the field. The Badgers are simply a better team when Taylor starts the game by looking for his start early. The Badgers held the Commodores to just 26% shooting beyond the arc.
The Bad: Senior forward Kris Joseph has struggled from the floor thus far in the NCAA tournament. Joseph is shooting a dismal 29% from the field (5-17), 13 percent below his season average. The Orange limited their three point shots versus Kansas State (6/9), based off their poor shooting effort versus UNC Asheville (21%).
The Badgers junior forward Jared Berggren rebounded from his poor opening round performance (22% from the field), to play much better against the Commodores in the second round (12 points 6 rebounds). The Commodores did outshoot the Badgers from the floor, as well as control the glass.
The Prediction: Berggren is the key for the Badgers to have a chance at pulling the upset. The Orange have more than capable guards in Scoop Jardine and Dion Waiters to try and negate Jordan Taylor. However, the Badgers are going to be hard pressed to match up with the front court of the Orange (especially if Berggren gets into foul trouble). If Syracuse can avoid falling in love with the three point shot, they should take this one.
Orange win, take the Orange minus 3.5
#4 Louisville Cardinals (28-9, 10-8 Big East)vs.#1 Michigan State Spartans (29-7, 13-5 Big 10)
Line: Spartans -5.5
The Good: Draymond Green continues to be one of the most versatile players in college basketball. Green is averaging 20 points, 12.5 rebounds, 8 assists, and 1.5 steals per game in wins versus Long Island and St. Louis. The Spartans front court has really been a factor in their two wins. Andreian Payne, Derrick Nix, and Draymond Green have accounted for over 50% of the Spartans scoring in their two wins (88 points of 154 scored). The Spartans are out-rebounding their opponents by an average 13.5 boards per game.
The Cardinals turned up the defensive intensity during the opening weekend of play. In wins versus Davidson and New Mexico, the Cardinals limited those teams to a combined 37% from the field. The Cardinals have played excellent perimeter defense. The Lobos and Wildcats both shot a paltry 21% from beyond the arc versus the Cardinals. As a matter of fact, when the Cardinals hit seven or more three pointers in game (which they did versus New Mexico) they are 11-2 on the season.
The Bad: It has to be a little bit disconcerting for Coach Izzo that his opponents are getting to the free throw line with such frequency. The Blackbirds and Billikens both went to the charity stripe 23 times versus the Spartans. Michigan State is only averaging 13 free throw attempts through the first two games. This is something to keep an eye on, especially as the Spartans start to face stiffer competition.
The Cardinals really struggled to keep the Lobos off the glass in their second round win. The Lobos collected 17 offensive rebounds, and out-rebounded the Spartans by a margin of 36-25. The Cardinals will need to make this a priority against a strong Spartans front court.
Prediction: Both of these teams are playing their best basketball at the right time. The Cardinals are going to have their hands full with Green, Nix, and Payne. However, the Cardinals are just a different team when they can consistently knock down the three point shot. The Spartans have yet to face a team as athletic as the Cardinals in the tournament, and that will certainly show tonight.
Cardinals win, take the Cardinals plus 5.5
#6 Cincinnati Bearcats (26-10, 12-6 Big East)vs.#2 Ohio State Buckeyes (29-7, 13-5 Big 10)
Line: Buckeyes -7
The Good: The Buckeyes DeShaun Thomas, Aaron Craft, William Buford, and Jared Sullinger are all averaging double figures through the team’s first two wins. Thomas has been especially impressive, averaging 24.5 points, 9.5 rebounds, and shooting 52.5% from the field. The Buckeyes limited the Greyhounds and Bulldogs to a combined 37% from the field.
Similar to the Buckeyes, the Bearcats have limited their opponents (Longhorns & Seminoles) to just 36.5% shooting from the field. Sophomore forward Sean Kilpatrick is connecting on nearly 50% of his shot attempts (48.5), and Yancy Gates has been effective when he can stay out of foul trouble (evident by his 15 point & 10 rebound performance versus Texas). The Bearcats are averaging 8.5 steals per game during their two wins.
The Bad: After out-rebounding the Greyhounds by 25, the Buckeyes were actually outrebounded by Gonzaga in the second round. The Buckeyes also committed double digit turnovers versus the Zags. The Buckeyes Sullinger and Thomas will be challenged again versus a very physical Bearcats frontcourt.
The Bearcats are shooting just 25% from beyond the arc in their wins versus Texas and Florida State. Junior guard JaQuon Parker is connecting on 32.5% of his shots during the tournament (8/23). That is nearly 10% below his season average of 41.7%. Although the Seminoles committed 17 turnovers themselves, the Bearcats would be wise to bring down their own turnover total from last game (15).
Prediction: The Gates versus Sullinger matchup will be fun to watch. As good as the Bearcats are defensively, they can struggle at times to score consistently. The Bearcats really need strong scoring efforts from Kirkpatrick, Parker and Dixon. The Buckeyes have no problem playing at the tempo the Bearcats want (they probably prefer it). In the end, look for Thad Matta’s experience in these big games to be the difference.
Buckeyes win, take the Bearcats plus 7
#7 Florida Gators (25-10, 10-6 SEC) vs. #3 Marquette Golden Eagles (27-7, 14-4 Big East)
Line: G0lden Eagles -2
The Good: The Golden Eagles Jae Crowder and Darius Johnson-Odom continue to be one of the most lethal scoring combos in the nation. Crowder and DJO have accounted for over 50% of the team’s scoring in wins versus BYU and Murray State (79 points total). Crowder has been one of the most impressive players in the tournament, averaging 21 points, 14.5 rebounds, and shooting 46% from the field. The Golden Eagles are forcing their opponents to commit 16.5 turnovers per game in the tournament.
The Gators were arguably the most impressive team during the opening weekend of the tournament. The Gators beat their opponents (Virginia & Norfolk St) by an average of 30 points per game. The Gators are outshooting their opponents by a combined 20 percent in the first two games (52.5%-Gators vs. 32%-Virginia and Norfolk State combined). The Gators have absolutely controlled the glass in both games, out-rebounding their opponents by 16.5 boards per game.
The Bad: The Golden Eagles are always going to struggle at times to keep their opponents off the offensive glass (due to their guard oriented line up). Murray State was able to pull down 13 offensive rebounds versus the Golden Eagles, a stat that led to 9 more shots for the Racers. The Golden Eagles will want to limit their turnovers as well, as they are averaging 14 per game during the tournament.
How to pinpoint anything bad about the Gators through two games.
Prediction: No doubt the Gators have looked impressive in wins versus Virginia and Norfolk State. However, the Golden Eagles are just a different beast. Jae Crowder might be the best player in the tournament. And although the Gators certainly have the backcourt to negate Johnson-Odom, they will have no answer for Crowder.
Golden Eagles win, take the Golden Eagles minus 2
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