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All you need to know about the opening rounds is that a 15-seed is in the round of 16 for the first time ever. Well, maybe not all you need to know, here are some other neat tidbits:
1) Duke beat Michigan State in the 1999 Final Four. Michigan State beat Duke in the 2005 Sweet 16. Early last season at a neutral site, Duke won 74-69. And oh yeah, Jabari Parker picked Duke over MSU just a few months ago. This could be the best game of the entire weekend considering the coaching pedigree and level of the programs.
2) At least five first-round picks will be playing in the Michigan-Kansas game. What’s more important are the values that Trey Burke and Jeff Withey have for their respective teams.
3) Miami Center Reggie Johnson will not be playing against Marquette. When they didn’t have him earlier in the season, they lost to Arizona… and Indiana State.
4) Wichita State vs. LaSalle… really?
5) Georgetown has one NCAA tourney win in the past four years.
6) No. 1 seed Gonzaga failed to reach the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2009.
7) Again, how was Oregon a 12-seed and Bucknell an 11? Or UCLA a six?
PLAYERS ON THE RISE STILL PLAYING
Gary Harris (Freshman G, Michigan State)
The freshman flashed his potential against Memphis scoring 23 points with four threes made. He also was 7-for-8 from the foul line and impressed with several different moves. With another strong game against Duke, he will be touted as an easy first-round prospect if he decides to come out after his first year. Adreian Payne has shown flashes as well and the versatile player can look like the best player on his team when he is playing to his potential.
Russ Smith (Senior G, Louisville)
Louisville and Florida are a little similar in NBA draft talent, with no clear cut best player right now. Smith is close, though, as he has already scored 50 points in two tourney games including 18 points in the first half against Colorado State. The Brooklyn native averaged 30 points in high school and if he can do anything, it’s score the rock. While he is small in stature, he makes up for it with his strong play in the press and ability to score in bunches.
Jeff Withey (Senior C, Kansas)
The fifth-year senior has really elevated his play this season. All you need to know is that opponents are shooting under 39 percent from inside the paint against the Jayhawks. Withey has blocked over 280 shots the past two seasons and flashed his pro upside with 16 points, 16 rebounds and five blocks against the Tar Heels.
Shane Larkin (Sophomore G, Miami)
The son of Hall-of-Fame shortstop Barry Larkin has seen his draft skyrocket this season due to the play of the Hurricanes. Leading up to the tourney, he scored 20, 23 and 28 points. Even though his shooting percentage has been down so far, he is averaging seven assists, four threes and shooting 90 percent from the charity stripe.
Ramon Galloway (Senior G, La Salle)
Everyone wants to talk about the heroics of FGCU but LaSalle has been another double-digit seed making nose already winning three games. One of the key pieces has been Galloway averaging 21.3 points and knocking down 12 threes over that span. He also has at least four rebounds, one steal and one block in each of those games, as well.
Michael-Carter Williams (Syracuse)
Cleanthony Early (Wichita State)
Patric Young (Florida)
Vander Blue (Marquette)
Seth Curry (Duke)
Others who were knocked out:
Khalif Wyatt (Temple)
DJ Stephens (Memphis)
Andre Hollins (Minnesota)
MOST LIKELY SWEET 16 UPSETS
Arizona over Ohio State
The six-seeded Wildcats have advanced further than No. 1 seed Gonzaga and No. 3 seed New Mexico. Let’s not forget Arizona has wins against Florida and Miami who also advanced to Sweet 16. The Wildcats beat Belmont by 17 and dismantled Harvard by 24 after opening the game on a 30-9 run.
Senior Mark Lyons has scored 50 points with six three-pointers in the two games. Senior forward Solomon Hill registered 13 points, 10 rebounds and hit two three-pointers in his last game. Senior forward Kevin Parrom will be an X-factor as he will be one of the players that will be tasked to defend Deshaun Thomas.
If Arizona can shoot over 56 percent from the field and 50 percent from downtown like they have done so far, it will be a huge advantage. The Buckeyes squeaked by Iowa State last game and were outrebounded by 15 against a smaller team. Their problem has been the inconsistency to score, but the trio of Thomas, Aaron Craft and LaQuinton Ross can put up numbers. Arizona coach Sean Miller knows Ohio State coach Thad Matta well at previous stops working together.
Others to think about:
Michigan over Kansas
Kansas has played one great half while the other three have not been as stellar. They have been inconsistent and have shown how vulnerable they can be against lesser competition. Michigan has the talent and momentum to advance to the Elite Eight. The Jayhawks cannot turn the ball over 22 times like they did in the last game. While Kansas has four seniors starting, the play of Trey Burke, Mitch McGary (stock has risen), Tim Hardaway Jr. and Glen Robinson III is tough to contain. The Wolverines now have the second best offense in the nation per 100 possessions.
Also, will the real Ben McLemore please stand up? He went 0-for-9 from the field in the last game against North Carolina. Withey can contain the paint, but the end result could come down to the defense of Michigan. Will they have enough to stop Withey down low and McLemore outside?
Syracuse over Indiana
Plain and simple, if the Cuse zone can contain Cody Zeller in the post, then they have a serious chance of winning this game. Indiana had a hard time against Temple in the last round and cannot have the same kind of effort again. When the zone works properly, it limits good shooting teams to just average. As we saw in the last game, California shot 39 percent from the field and 4-of-19 (19 percent) from behind the arc. Syracuse also scored 20 points off turnovers and had 18 second-chance points. The game before they put a beat down on Montana winning by 47 points.
This game could come down to Jordan Hulls and Christian Watford hitting their shots from outside, or of course, whether Zeller can dominate or not in the paint.