Two victories stand between 16 teams and Detroit

Corey Marine

The sports world is officially in a state of March Madness. Some teams imposed their will on other teams. Others had their tournament hopes shattered with buzzer beaters. Major upsets wreaked havoc on brackets across the nation. Now, the pool of 65 teams has been narrowed down to 16, and the stakes are much higher. Here is a look at some of the upcoming Sweet 16 matchups as we get ready to crown a new NCAA champion.

(2) Michigan State Spartans vs.

(3) Kansas Jayhawks

Despite losing a lot of talent to the pros, Kansas is in the Sweet 16 again. Solid team play is the reason why. Junior guard Sherron Collins has been a reliable offensive player for the Jayhawks all season long, and sophomore center Cole Aldrich is emerging as a solid option in the post. Aldrich – coming off of a triple double performance of 13 points, 20 rebounds and 10 blocks – is known for his big body and defensive presence, both of which will be needed against a Michigan State team that can score. He will have to make the Spartan guards think twice before driving into the lane.

Prediction: Michigan State 64, Kansas 61

(1) Louisville Cardinals vs.

(12) Arizona Wildcats

Once thought undeserving of a tournament spot, Arizona has made the Sweet 16 and is this year’s Cinderella story. But the clock should be striking midnight when they face the Cardinals. After giving up 72 points to Siena, look for Rick Pitino to have his troops firing on all cylinders as they try to claim their place in the Elite Eight.

Prediction: Louisville 84, Arizona 60

(1) Connecticut Huskies vs.

(5) Purdue Boilermakers

The Huskies steamrolled over Texas A&M. Seniors A.J. Price and Jeff Adrien went for a combined 55 points, while the entire A&M squad went for a total of 66 points. Junior center Hasheem Thabeet was quiet on the offensive end, and that was actually a plus for the Huskies. If they can be that dominant with their center Thabeet only scoring six points, they can be a very troublesome team to deal with. The Purdue Boilermakers will have their hands full dealing with a UConn team loaded with talent. Purdue managed to squeak past Washington, and sophomore forward Jajuan Johnson was a major part of the victory. Johnson needs to have a great performance against Jim Calhoun’s squad if the Boilermakers want to make it into the next round.

Prediction: Connecticut 74, Purdue 53

(2) Memphis Tigers vs.

(3) Missouri Tigers

The key to Missouri’s win over Marquette was a balanced offensive performance with a high field goal percentage. The Tigers have five players scoring double figures and are shooting at 48 percent from the field. They will have to have an equally impressive offensive outing if they want to make the Elite 8. The Memphis Tigers have not lost since freshman phenomenon Tyreke Evans took the reins at point guard. The Memphis Tigers may have too much firepower for the Missouri Tigers to be able to compete with.

Prediction: Memphis 85, Missouri 70

(1) Pittsburgh Panthers vs.

(4) Xavier Musketeers

The Xavier Musketeers have become a defensive force over the season, which was obvious as they held the Wisconsin Badgers to under 30 percent from the field. However, the Musketeers did not exactly have a great game offensively either. Junior forward Derrick Brown and junior guard B.J. Raymond will have to carry the offensive workload if Xavier wants to knock off the top-seeded Pittsburgh Panthers. Pitt has one of the best starting lineups in the country. Dejuan Blair has been great down low in the post and has proven he can play with some of the better big men in the country, including UConn’s Thabeet. Senior guard Sam Young can light it up on any given night, exploding for 32 points against Oklahoma State. Pitt may prove to be too talented on both ends of the floor for the Musketeers to handle.

Prediction: Pittsburgh 73, Xavier 57

(2) Duke Blue Devils vs.

(3) Villanova Wildcats

This is one of the more interesting matchups in this round of the tournament. On one side, there are the Duke Blue Devils, a team who lives and dies by the 3-pointer. Smart play has been the strongpoint for Head Coach Mike Krzyzewski’s team all season and was enough to get them past a desperate Texas Longhorns team. Junior Gerald Henderson has developed into an offensive force throughout the season and a capable scorer during critical points of games. On the other end, there is a Villanova Wildcats team that could do no wrong against the UCLA Bruins. ‘Nova’s Big East physicality proved to be too much for the Pac-10 team. The Wildcats got ahead early and never let the Bruins back into the game. They had great ball movement and point distribution (six players ended in double digits). If Villanova comes out with the same game-long intensity, the Wildcats can be a very difficult team to beat.

Prediction: Villanova 75, Duke 67

(1) North Carolina Tar Heels vs.

(4) Gonzaga Bulldogs

Gonzaga narrowly avoided an upset in its win against No. 12-seeded Western Kentucky. Junior guard Matt Bouldin played a great game for the Bulldogs, and they needed it. The major story of this matchup will be the impact of ACC Player of the Year Ty Lawson on the Tar Heels’ overall game. He seemed to shake off the rust in the second half of the game against LSU. If his lingering toe injury does not stop him, North Carolina may very well be the best team in the nation. Along with the former ACC Player of the Year and the ACC’s all time leading scorer senior forward Tyler Hansbrough, the team in the powder blue should be able to impose its will on Gonzaga and take the victory.

Prediction: North Carolina 87, Gonzaga 65

(2) Oklahoma Sooners vs.

(3) Syracuse Orange

It seems that the Big East tournament was just the spark plug that the Syracuse Orange needed. They are playing their best basketball of the season at the perfect time. Sophomore guard Jonny Flynn has been great for the Orange, as have fellow guards junior Andy Rautins and junior Eric Devendorf. The key to a Syracuse win will be containing Oklahoma’s perimeter players. If they do that, they will limit the number of touches that the Sooner’s sophomore forward Blake Griffin gets. Syracuse does not have anyone who can match up one-on-one with Griffin, which means that the Syracuse’s zone defense must be at full strength. Oklahoma struggled when Griffin was out of the lineup, so look for ‘Cuse to try to make the Sooners’ role players beat them.

Prediction: Oklahoma 75, Syracuse 71