Sweet 16 weekend is upon us and it’s time to start breaking down what some key players need to do to give their team the best shot of winning and making it to next weekend. First up are the Thursday games in the East and West regions. Tomorrow I will preview the South and Midwest.
Miami – With the loss of Reggie Johnson, Miami will need the Julian Gamble and Kenny Kadji to not only handle his post scoring/defensive duties, but they need to use their bodies to create the space that the guards need to get to the basket. Maybe even more important, Shane Larkin needs to not look to take on more than he already does with the loss of Johnson. Stick to the game plan and the usual scoring opportunities should be available.
Marquette – Vander Blue has been the major story through the 1st 2 rounds, including the game-winner against Davidson and 29 points against Butler. Miami has had a few days to prepare, so look for them to be creative in defending Blue. This means Junior Cadougan needs to look to establish other options early and make sure to get Blue involved, but in the natural flow of the game.
Arizona – Ohio State may be the most methodical team that Arizona has seen this season, and this will likely give them a lot of problems. The Wildcats are just not a fundamentally sound group of players. Mark Lyons and Nick Johnson can do a lot to help alleviate this by finding opportunities to play their pace. The battle will be physical in the lane, which also doesn’t work to Arizona’s advantage, so somehow the Wildcats will need to establish their game plan first and hope it sticks.
Ohio State – This is all about Aaron Craft. Craft’s biggest asset is his ability to control the game on both ends of the floor. He can’t let Arizona try to force him away from the team’s gameplan. Deshaun Thomas should have a tough matchup with Solomon Hill, but Thomas finds ways to get his points. Who will be the 3rd player to step up for the Buckeyes?
Indiana – The length of the Syracuse zone could be a problem, but Indiana has the weapons to handle it. Victor Oladipo and Yogi Ferrell should look to find their way into the middle of the zone to create opportunities on the perimeter or for Cody Zeller down low. Zeller will need to step up and crash the offensive boards at every opportunity. The zone will give them plenty of gaps. Also, any of the Indiana forwards can find some space in the high post and look to work some high-low with Zeller or other baseline cutters.
Syracuse – Michael Carter-Williams has had a good NCAA Tournament so far, but his control issues may be challenged here by Oladipo’s defense. Brandon Triche needs to revert back to his 1st half of the season form and become almost a 2nd point guard out there. James Southerland will have his opportunities for the 3-point shot, but he can’t force it. CJ Fair needs to be aggressive and find gaps quickly to get to the basket.
La Salle – The guard trio of Ramon Galloway, Tyreek Duren and Tyrone Garland needs to avoid getting sucked into the physical guard play of Wichita State. Push the ball when they have the opportunities, but don’t force the issue. Steve Zack may get some minutes and his size and his ability to facilitate on offense should help give them the openings they need to get to the basket.
Wichita State – Cleanthony Early has continued to improve throughout the season, and it will be tough for La Salle to matchup with his athleticism at his size. Carl Hall has to go out and play his normal physical game in the lane, and allow Early and Malcolm Armstead to get to the basket. Move the ball quickly and find the 3-point opportunities when they present themselves.
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