We are down to 16 teams in the NCAA Tournament. Some big names schools have been sent packing early (North Carolina Tar Heels, Arizona Wildcats and Virginia Cavaliers to name a few) by some party crashers like Loyola-Chicago Ramblers, Nevada Wolf Pack and Syracuse Orange. This is what makes March Madness. The chaos continues!
(11) Loyola-Chicago Ramblers vs (7) Nevada Wolf Pack
Something will have to give, the secret is out on both teams, no more surprises. Will Loyola-Chicago’s Sister Jean Dolores-Schmidt’s prayers produce another divine buzzer beater or will Nevada super fan Mariah Musselman’s (coach Eric Musselman’s daughter) cuteness be enough for another victory? That’s why they play the game.
Loyola-Chicago has been very effective on offense, especially closing games out. Good and timely three point shooting has been key as well. They have struggled from the free-throw line, which could come back to bite them. The Ramblers depend on a committee of players to score so they want a slow pace to control the tempo. Because of this, Loyola-Chicago has really taken care of the ball (20 turnovers in two games).
Nevada, like their opponent, has been efficient on offense. There not as good from three-point range but slightly better from the free throw line. The Wolf Pack are led by the Martin twins, Caleb and Cody but have plenty of help. They want the pace to be fast to create turnovers and get easy transition baskets.
Deciding Factor: The team that gets their pace/tempo will win.
Who Advances: Nevada
(9) Kansas State Wildcats vs (5) Kentucky Wildcats
The battle of the Wildcats is set. It seems like Kentucky’s path to the Final Four was paved with all the upsets of the top four seeds been in this region. Kentucky coach John Calipari won’t let his team relax or look past a tough Kansas State team.
Kansas State could get a huge boost if 6’10” forward and leading scorer Dean Wade can play. He’s been out with a foot injury. If not, the scoring burden will fall on guard Barry Brown and forward Xavier Sneed. They’ve been good on offense but it’s their defense that will determine their fate. Hitting some three-pointers will help open up the court.
Kentucky comes into this game flying high after dismantling a hot Buffalo Bulls team. They seem to have figured out some things defensively that they struggled with early in the season, especially guarding the three point line. Offensively, they are scary with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Kevin Knox, Hamidou Diallo and PJ Washington clicking, creating a huge challenge for any opponent.
Deciding Factor: Can Kansas State score enough to keep up or be able to slow down Kentucky?
Who Advances: Kentucky
(9) Florida State Seminoles vs (4) Gonzaga Bulldogs
Florida State has overachieved this tournament, which included taking out the top seed Xavier Muskateers. The Seminoles are out for respect and a win on Gonzaga would get that. Gonzaga has teetered with disaster both games but still managed to win. Winning the title is the only acceptable ending after making it to the final game last season.
The Seminoles have been hot and cold from three-point range and the free throw line. They also have won the turnover battle both games. Florida State is very athletic with interchangeable parts and a deep rotation. Although their bench has played great, they will need to play solid on defense and gang rebound. They will also need to be efficient from three-point range.
Gonzaga has the personel to play a low scoring game or a track meet. Versatility is a strength with multiple players doing a little bit of everything. Johnathan Williams, Killian Tillie and Rui Hachimurs makes up a skilled frontcourt. The backcourt is carried by Silas Melson, Josh Perkins and Zach Norvell Jr. This is a complete team and Florida State will have their hands full.
Deciding Factor: Florida State has the players to compete but which team will show up?
Who Advances: Gonzaga
(7) Texas A&M Aggies vs (3) Michigan Wolverines
The Aggies come into this contest streaking after an impressive blowout win against the North Carolina Tarheels. The one consistent issue has been inconsistency. The talent has always been there but can they put it together? The Wolverines are on a roll themselves after winning the Big Ten title and escaping against the Houston Cougars with a buzzer beater.
Texas A&M is s classic Jekyl and Hyde team. They tease you with flashes of brilliance and you think they have turned the corner. Then they have you scratching your head with uninspired, sloppy play. The Aggies frontline is big and ferocious with 6’9” D.J. Hogg, 6’10” Robert Williams and 6’10” Tyler Davis. They rebound and defend the rim at a high level. The backcourt is solid with T.J. Starks and Admon Gilder.
Michigan likes to spread the floor for either layups or three pointers. They play small with three guards, a wing and one big. They will have to rebound against a much bigger opponent. Guards Charles Matthews and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman will need to make some outside shots. Although Moritz Wagner can step away from the basket, he will need to give the Wolverines an inside presence. An x-factor off the bench will be Duncan Robinson, who can offer size and shooting.
Deciding Factor: Can Michigan hit enough threes and stay relatively close in the rebounding department to win?
Who Advances: Texas A&M