Cleat Geeks

Elite Eight Preview

Unfortunately, most of the Sweet 16 games did not live up to their potentials, with the exceptions of late thrillers in Wisconsin-Notre Dame and Gonzaga-Syracuse.  However, the Elite Eight shouldn’t disappoint, with all four one seeds competing for chances to advance to Houston.  Note that, with last night’s victories, the entire right side of the bracket is ACC teams, which lets the conference make two statements: 1.) The ACC is undoubtedly the best conference in the nation; and 2.) With four teams left, the ACC is basically prolonging its own conference tournament to ensure that it sends its best squad to face off for the National Championship.  Now, let’s break down the games.

1 Kansas vs 2 Villanova

LandenLucasKUUndoubtedly the best matchup of the weekend, both KU and Nova come into the day scorching hot, with the Jayhawks on a 2-month winning streak and the Wildcats defeating its last three opponents by an average of 24 points while scoring over 85 in each of those games, something that hasn’t been done in twenty years.  Landen Lucas is averaging a double-double throughout the tournament for KU, and he will play a huge part in tonight’s match-up if Self’s squad wants to advance to the Final Four for the first time since 2012. Likewise, Perry Ellis needs to maintain his hot streak after putting up 27 against Maryland. On the other hand, Nova’s Kris Jenkins is averaging almost 18 points in postseason play, plus he hit five long-rangers against Miami. Even as a one seed, Kansas is fighting an uphill battle in this one and will need to put up massive points to stay with the Wildcats; Miami shot 53% from the field and was still blown out. However, note that the Jayhawks are 2-0 against common opponents and 12-3 against the AP Top 25 teams this season; the Wildcats are 0-1 and 3-3, respectively.  In an offensive thriller, I think the Jayhawks survive.  Rock Chalk. Well, being 1 for 2 is not bad as Villanova knocks off Kansas 64-59.

1 Oregon vs 2 Oklahoma

BuddyHieldHere’s another great match-up for those of you who love scoring and small play.  These schools haven’t met in over 75 years, yet they play almost identical basketball.  Once again, experience will play a huge factor, as 4 Sooners will start their 104th consecutive game together.  They’re also shooting 42.6% from behind the arc, good for second in the nation.  Dillon Brooks and the rest of the Ducks are just as athletic as OU’s players, and will love to match the tempo-driven, high-paced play that presents itself tonight.  Like I’ll always say, OU goes as far as Hield and its long ball.  VCU exploited those strengths in the first half, but every other minute of tournament play has been dominated by each.  If Oregon wants a chance at this game, they’ll need to both shut down Hield and cut off his other options, especially Ryan Spangler.  This is an RPI #1 vs. RPI #2 game that should live up to its hype.  Don’t blink because this game will be played fast.  I’ve got the Sooners. And they did win 80-68.

1 North Carolina vs 6 Notre Dame

MarcusPaigeNCUFor pretty much the first time this season, Marcus Paige is finding his rhythm.  He knocked down his first four three point shots in the opening minutes against Indiana to jump out to a double digit lead, something they never lost.  As a team, the Heels shot 55% from behind the arc against the Hoosiers en route to scoring triple digits.  The Heels as a team are playing their best basketball, with their defense even looking somewhat decent recently.  Brice Johnson, Justin Jackson, and Kennedy Meeks continue to be forces down low, with high tempo Joel Berry helping to conduct one of the nation’s top offenses.  On the other side, the Fightin’ Irish will be looking to do just a little better defensively than their ACC Semifinal match-up, when UNC routed ND by 31.  Each of the Irish’s last three games have been close calls, surviving Michigan with late threes, SFA with a tip-in, and Wisconsin with late steals and no-calls.  Zach Auguste looks as good as ever, and he’ll create an awesome match-up if he plays Johnson down low.  Paige and Demetrius Jackson are another match-up to watch, as each guard is an awesome defender who can help slow down the other’s tempo.  However, I don’t expect the Irish to slow down my Heels.  North Carolina in another rout.

1 Virginia vs 10 Syracuse

virginiaShould Syracuse have even made the field of 64? They looked below average during the season and failed to win an ACC tournament game as an eight seed. However, none of that matters because not only did they get in, but they’re now competing for a trip to Houston. All fans of defense must watch this game, as the nation’s #2 scoring defense matches up against Jim Boeheim’s meticulous zone, which forced 17 turnovers against the normally ball-secure Zags. Virginia dominated its own game against Iowa State last night, jumping out to a huge lead that the Cylcones just could never trim.  The Cavs looked awesome in their ability to get easy layups after ISU switched to zone play, so UVA is fresh against Boeheim’s defense.  Whereas Virginia has held onto strong leads this March, the Orange found victory against the Zags by simply hanging around until late, where missed Kyle Wiltjer jumpers and offensive rebounds propelled Syracuse to a lead and ultimately, the win.  Watch as UVA will looked to dismantle Syracuse’s zone from the inside out, mixing it up with layups and deep threes.  If the Cavs don’t get anxious around the zone, they’ll head to Houston.  I’ve got UVA.

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