By Chris Carlson
#1 Duke vs. #4 Virginia Tech: Familiar ACC foes meet for a chance to move on to the Elite 8. The Hokies live and die by the 3-point shot while the Blue Devils can hit the broad side of a barn from outside. Zion has been a one-man wrecking crew but will the 2nd pick in the NBA draft RJ Barrett please stand up. Back in February Virginia Tech bested a Zion-less Dukies but with Williamson back in the fold and 5 days to prepare is complete a different story.
The Pick: Duke
#2 Michigan State vs. #3 LSU: The Cassius Winston led Spartans have been on absolute tear heading into this Sweet 16 matchup against LSU. 13 out the last 14 games Michigan State have been victorious the writing is on the wall for Izzo’s bunch to keep on dancing. The LSU Tigers are a bit of a lost cause with the F.B.I investigation surrounding the coach and program.
The Pick: Michigan State
The East Region Final Four Representative will be Michigan State
#1 Gonzaga vs. #4 Florida State: Gonzaga has been in a similar spot before as a number one seed and have the team to advance. But the Seminoles look the part of a program ready to take the next step. Leonard Hamilton is a solid coach who’s developed NBA talent and knocking on the door of a deep run. It won’t be easy and probably won’t be pretty but FSU gets the job done in the last few minutes.
The Pick: Florida State
#2 Michigan vs. #3 Texas Tech: Defense wins championships is how the saying goes and both of these teams are the crème de la crumb on ‘D’. This Wolverine club isn’t as proficient from three-point land as they have in the recent past. In fact the Red Raiders average 3 points-per-game more than Michigan and offense is Texas Tech’s only deficiency. In a back and forth gritty contest Texas Tech pulls it out on the free throw line.
The Pick: Texas Tech
The West Region Final Four Representative will be Texas Tech
#1 Virginia vs. #12 Oregon: Standing an intimidating 7’2 Oregon center Bol Bol will need to be a factor on both sides of the ball. The Cavaliers looked shook in the first round versus Gardner-Webb but managed to overcome. Virginia is the best defensive team in the country hands down but it’s difficult to fully trust them come tourney time. The Ducks are riding a 10-game winning streak and will likely be a tough out.
The Pick: Virginia
#2 Tennessee vs. #3 Purdue: The Boilermakers devoured Villanova in the round of 32, a bit of a surprise considering how they closed the season on a downer. Tennessee built a humongous lead on Iowa and damn near gave it all up. Purdue goes as the senior leader Carsen Edwards goes and he goes hard. The Volunteers need a little help from anyone not named Grant Williams or Admiral Schofield. Tennessee finds their groove just in the nick of time.
The Pick: Tennessee
The South Region Final Four Representative will be Virginia in an offense versus defense battle.
#1 North Carolina vs. #5 Auburn: The Tarheels are a team on a mission this year and are put together in a unique way for a Roy Williams club. Instead of forcing the ball down low to a variety of centers and forwards, UNC shoots lots of 3’s and can be outright deadly. Auburn dealt with some adversity this year which held them back to an extent. However, the Tigers haven’t tasted defeat in the month of March. In double overtime the Heels survive and advance.
The Pick: North Carolina
#2 Kentucky vs. #3 Houston: Plain and simple the outcome to this one here is 100 percent depending on the health of Wildcat stud P.J. Washington. If no Washington the Cougars will definitely win, as they did against LSU and Oregon in the non-conference. The big blue intimidation factor doesn’t exit and Kelvin Simpson will have his boys ready.
The Pick: Kentucky
The North Region Final Four Representative will be North Carolina because P.J. Washington won’t be the same guy.
Quick Hits & Sweet 16 Recap
-Zion Williamson is already a read deal celebrity and has backed up all the hype pouring 32 points out of Duke’s 76 in a nail-biting victory over a more than game Central Florida.
-Murray State’s Ja Morant collected the 9th triple-double in NCAA history in a thrashing of 5th seed Marquette.
-Iowa’s almost 25-point miracle comeback came up short falling 83-77 in overtime Tennessee.
-The Big Ten went 7-1 and SEC was 6-2 in the first slate of NCAA tourney games and 6 teams combined make up the Sweet 16.
-All 12 Top-3 seeds survived the first round of the tournament but many highly-ranked teams played sluggishly.
-Unfortunately all-time leading rebounder in Big Ten Gopher big man Jordan Murphy wasn’t able to perform in his last game a loss to Michigan State due to an injured back.
-LSU guard Tremont Waters drove past 3 Maryland defenders on his way to the basket, finishing the Terrapins off with a last second lay up 69-67.
Written by Chris Carlson Host of The College Ball Show Podcast available at blogtalkradio.com/ ropeadoperadio or Follow on Twitter @RopeADopeRadio