A respectable 6-2 mark yesterday–I mean, I’m no Barack Obama–leaves me at 27-13 for the Tournament. Remember, my original picks (before they were messed up Friday) are in parentheses.
No. 3 Syracuse v. No. 6 Arizona State (Syracuse over Temple)
As a Syracuse fan, this game worries me. If you drew up the perfect player to stick at the foul line against a 2-3 zone, it would look a lot like James Harden. Harden can hit the jumper, drive, or dish down to Jeff Pendergraph or the Sun Devils’ three shooters around the perimeter. It wouldn’t stun me if the Orange had to abandon the zone at some point, as it did in 2003′s second round against Oklahoma State, en route to the NCAA title.
At the same time, Syracuse rarely loses in the second round because it’s tough to prepare for them in so short a time period. The Orange hasn’t lost in round two since 2001, and I think it adapts enough to slow Harden and the Sun Devil offense. ‘Cuse, 71-63.
No. 1 Pittsburgh v. No. 8 Oklahoma State (Pitt over Tennessee)
The Cowboys possess the perimeter players a la Providence to give the Panthers a run in the second round. But, maybe the worst thing to happen to Oklahoma State was East Tennessee State’s performance against Pitt in the first round. Expect the Panthers to come out much crisper on offense, to build an early lead and to withstand a Cowboy rally in the second half. Pitt marches on, 74-63.
No. 12 Arizona v. No. 13 Cleveland State (Wake Forest over Utah)
I’m not gonna lie…I just dislike Arizona. This pick is personal. Cleveland State remains unbeaten all-time in the second round, 83-80.
No. 3 Kansas v. No. 11 Dayton (West Virginia over North Dakota State)
I was really surprised how well Dayton played Friday while Kansas survived Ben Woodside and the Bison of North Dakota State. With the physical Mountaineers out of their way, the Jayhawks look to have a nice setup in the bottom half of this region. The Flyers play excellent defense, but Sherron Collins can create on the perimeter for Cole Aldrich down low. K-U, 73-61.
No. 4 Xavier v. No. 12 Wisconsin (Florida State over Xavier)
The Musketeers are just too athletic for the Badgers on the perimeter. And it’s more of a skilled (and Tournament experienced) athleticism than Florida State’s. B.J. Raymond and Derrick Brown are terrific wing players (despite what they showed in December against Duke), and the X-Men advance to their second straight Sweet 16, 69-55.
No. 2 Michigan State v. No. 10 USC (USC over Michigan State)
The Trojans have won four consecutive games against NCAA Tournament teams. The key to pulling off the upset and making it five is Daniel Hackett’s ability to slow Big Ten Player of the Year Kalin Lucas. If Lucas can’t get in the lane and create for the Spartans, I like USC’s chances with Taj Gibson and DeMar DeRozan on offense. And come on, all four No. 2 seeds surviving the second round? That’s unheard of. The Trojans win this battle with the Spartans, 69-65.
No. 1 Louisville v. No. 9 Siena (Louisville over Siena)
The Saints won the most dramatic game of the first round, and they have enough guards where they should be able to handle Louisville’s pressure. Siena does not, however, have the defense to handle Terrence Williams and Earl Clark. Unless the Saints shoot unconsciously from beyond the arc–always a possibility–a win’s not in the Cards for them. The ‘Ville, 82-67.
No. 3 Missouri v. No. 6 Marquette (Marquette over Mizzou)
How about the news that Dominic James was cleared to play? That makes my putting the Golden Eagles in the Elite 8 feel a little better. James likely won’t have much of an impact today–he was just cleared to practice yesterday, so he’s rusty and has no endurance. That said, he can give the team an emotional lift and probably make Jerel McNeal, who’s really pressed since James went down, more comfortable within the offense. The big advantage Marquette has is in experience; the Golden Eagles have two excellent senior guards who have spent four years against Big East competition. Even Missouri’s success this year in the Big 12 comes in a down and inexperienced year for the conference. Marquette won an overtime thriller against the Tigers in the second round en route to the Final Four in 2003; the Golden Eagles win another tight one today, 74-71.