Louisville Cardinals

Sweet 16 Preview

After a great first two rounds of the NCAA tournament, we are now heading into the nitty gritty of the Big Dance. Before I get into my preview of what should be an entertaining Sweet 16, I want to recap some of my predictions from the earlier rounds. I did miss on a couple, like predicting the Hoyas to exit in the 1st round, but I was right about a few too. I said the BIG 12 was overrated, Iowa State, Kansas, Oklahoma State, and Baylor all losing in the first two rounds. I said the ACC was the best conference, 5 teams in the Sweet 16, most out of any conference. And I said that Nova had a tough matchup with NC-State, who is the only 8th seed in the Sweet 16. 

Midwest: #1 Kentucky v. #5 West Virginia, #3 Notre Dame v. #7 Wichita State 

Kentucky is only 4 games away from the record books but from here on out it's not going to be easy. Cincinnati gave them a tough challenge but they manage to still win by 15 even though they were out rebounded 43-35. Cincy couldn't hit their shots reason why they lost by 15 but they did irritate the Wildcats. I think the Mountaineers can do the same thing but they also might struggle to score against this great defensive team. The full court press of the mountaineers will keep them in the game but the size disadvantage in the paint will be the deciding factor for the Wildcats. Towns and Cauley-Stein could have a monster game against the undersized front court of the Mountaineers. If WVU can keep this game in the backcourt, along with knocking down 45% of their shots, they'll have a chance of shocking the world. 

The Battle of Kansas was won by the Shockers. not only is this a big win for the program but a big win for recruiting. (AP Photo) 

The Battle of Kansas was won by the Shockers. not only is this a big win for the program but a big win for recruiting. (AP Photo) 

Notre Dame defeated Northeastern and Butler by a combined 7 points, so their road has yet to be easy. Luckily for the Irish they are Tournament ready. They have their closer in Jerrian Grant and a great supporting cast. In both games, someone other than Jerrian Grant led the team in scoring. Zach Auguste scored 22 points against Northeastern and Steve Vasturia scored 20 points scored Butler. Wichita State will be another tough challenge for the Irish, mainly because of their experience. Not shocked at all that the Shockers beat Kansas because like I been saying all season, they were overrated. This is a tough game to pick because both sqauds are very even. I will give the edge to the Irish just because they have a POY candidate in Jerrian Grant, but I think it will be a instant classic. 

West: #1 Wisconsin v. #4 UNC, #6 Xavier v. #2 Arizona 

The Badgers had somewhat of a scare against Oregon, which I wasn't surprised by. Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker combined for 33 points while Joseph Young of Oregon dropped 30. The Badgers look like they are ready for another run to the Final Four and I'm sure they still remember how Kentucky ended their championship hopes. North Carolina could be a tough matchup depending on which Carolina team show up. Carolina is a very talented team but sometimes doesn't play up to their potential. If Marcus Paige and Brice Johnson can get into an early groove, I think they will be able to beat the Badgers. J.P. Tokoto will be the x-factor in this game, and to me, for the entire tournament. 

The funny thing about this region is that it could possibly be an Elite 8 rematch between Arizona and Wisconsin. Wisconsin defeated Zona in the West region Elite 8. TJ McConnell, Gabe York, Kaleb Tarczewski, and Rondae Hollis-Jeffereson all return from that 2013-14 Zona squad so I'm sure they are hoping for another crack at the Badgers. First they will have to go through Xavier who hasn't seen a caliber team like Arizona yet. I don't think the Musketeers has what it take to knock off the hungry Wildcats. 

East: #8 NC-State v. #4 Louisville, #3 Oklahoma v. #7 Michigan State 

I don't think anyone got this part of the bracket right. The only region without a #1 or #2 seed in the Sweet 16. I said along with the Midwest, this is the toughest region. The Wolfpack continue their Cinderella run, defeating LSU with a buzzer beater after being down 14 at halftime, then defeated the #1 seeded Villanova WIldcats by three. Next they have Lousiville who they already beat earlier this season, 74-65, while the Cards still had Chris Jones. I'm not really sure if they can knock off the cards again but it's not impossible. Louisville has had moments through out the season where, like Carolina, they don't play to their potential. It hasn't happened in the tournament so far but if it does, the Wolfpack could possible take another win from them. I do think the Cards will actually play well, especially Montrezl Harrell who only scored 7 points in that first matchup. 

Surprised that Oklahoma actually made it this far. I thought the committee was a little too generous with their #3 seed but they are making the committee look right about that decision. Now they have to deal with a totally different beast than #14 Albany and #11 Dayton with the Michigan State Spartans. Three things are for certain in this world, Death, Taxes, and Tom Izzo in the tournament. You can never count out a Michigan State team whenever Tom Izzo is on the sideline. I like the Spartans in this match-up just because I think the Big 12 is overrated and Tom Izzo is on the sideline. 

South#1 Duke v. #5 Utah, #11 UCLA vs #2 Gonzaga 

I said this region would have the most upsets and I was wrong on that prediction, only 1 major upset UAB over Iowa State. I do still think it is the weakest especially when you look at who the two top teams have to play to advance to the elite 8. Duke has Utah, who isn't a bad team, and could possibly give Duke a good run but I don't think they have enough to keep up with the Dukies. Delon Wright is a big guard who score some points but so far in the tournament he is 4-14. The Utes also have a freshman 7'0 center in Jakob Poeltl from Australia, so they could match the size in the paint but I don't if they can match the production, and who is going to stop Tyus Jones. 

I said that this may be the best Gonzaga team in awhile and they're proving me right, scoring 173 points in the first two games, most out of all remaining teams. UCLA is proving to everyone that they do in fact belong in the tournament but that will end when they step on the court against Gonzaga. 

Fan-I Bracketology: East Region

The East region is more top heavy than any of the other regions, I don't see any bracket busters. #1 Villanova doesn't have an easy road though, possibly a harder one than Kentucky. Next to the Midwest, I think this is the 2nd toughest region in the tournament mainly because of the higher seeds. 

If Nova can make it to the Elite 8, I would be surprised. Nova won 32 games this season, so they are deserving of a number 1 seed, but I'm not sure if they are good enough to run through this region. The #8-#9 match-up between LSU and NC-State is probably the best out of all four regions. I think NC-State will be the ones advancing, giving Nova a tough third round match-up. The Wolfpack has some big wins against Duke, North Carolina, and Louisville, also taking Notre Dame to overtime. And if Nova do make it pass them, they will more than likely face the winner of Northern Iowa and Louisville in the Sweet 16. 

Northern Iowa and Louisville should be a fun game to watch. Both like to run up-and-down the court and can put up some points. I actually picked Louisville to be one of my final four teams before the season began but so much has happened in that span, that I'm not sure anymore. Of course the Chris Jones situation is one of the main reason, but the Cardinals have some tough losses on their schedule where they don't look that good. Terry Rozier Jr. sometimes can go cold and Wayne Blackshear sometimes disappears. You always wonder what Louisville team you're going to get. but if they are playing at a high level, and those shots are dropping, they're one of the best teams in the country. 

Unfortunately for Northern Iowa, they can't walk into this tournament as sleepers anymore. Whenever you win 30 games, people don't sleep on you anymore. I don't think the Panthers have played anyone on the level of Louisville or seen a player like Montrezl Harrell. Harrell is a beast and if your big man isn't ready to bang or gets intimidated, you're going to be in for a long game.   

The bottom half of the bracket looks to be a favorable road for the #2 Seed Virginia Cavaliers. To me, their biggest challenge is Michigan State, only because you can never count out a Tom Izzo team. They will play hard and make things uncomfortable for you. The thing about the Cavs though is they do the same thing with stifling defense. They also have one of their stars back, Justin Anderson, which gives them another scoring option and better guard play. #3 seed Oklahoma doesn't impress me much. They have 10 losses, 6 coming against tournament teams. Once again, another example of the committee giving the Big 12 too much love. 

Sleepers

  • Michigan State Spartans, 23-11, lost in the BIG 10 Finals - The Spartans limped into the tournament, going 4-3 in their last 7 games. Tom Izzo always make sure his team is ready for any tournament, reason why they made it to the BIG 10 Finals, taking the Badgers into overtime. 

Players to Watch 

Potential Matchups

  • #1 Villanova v. #8 NC-State, Third round - This game will include a few players from the DMV and Baltimore area, Josh Hart, Kris Jenkins, and Phil Booth of Nova, and BJ Anya for the Wolfpack. 
  • #5 Northern Iowa v. #4 Louisville, Third round - I would say this is the most intriguing #4-#5 matchup out of all the regions, should be a fun one to watch. 
  • #1 Villanova v. #4 Louisville, Sweet 16 - A few individual matchups in this game that will be fun to watch, Rozier v. Hillard, Pinkston v. Harrell, Blackshear v. Hart. 
  • #1 Villanova v. #2 Virginia, Elite 8 - I actually think Lousiville will be in this spot, but I wouldn't mind seeing the Wildcats and Cavaliers go at for a spot in the Final Four. 

College Hoops Fan-i 12: Week 2

Welcome to the 2nd week of the Fan-i 12, where we rank the 12 best college basketball teams in the country. We decided to rank 12 teams because, one, it's a lot more convenient and quicker than 25, and two, this is an indication of who we think will be the top seeds come tourney time. So lets get the ranking.

Here is the AP rankings so you can compare the two. 

(courtesy of NCAA.com)

(courtesy of NCAA.com)

Fan-I 12 

  1. Kentucky (22-0) LW 1 - The Wildcats went through the week 2-0, defeating Georgia and Florida. The Gators gave the Wildcats problems, fighting to the finish, but the Wildcats pulled it out 68-61. 

  2. Virginia (21-1) LW 2 - The Cavaliers went 2-0 last week, defeating Louisville and North Carolina. UVA might have the best defense in the country, similar to last season. Against Louisville, they held the Cardinals scoreless for the final 10 minutes of the first half, Cards only scoring a total 13 points in the half. 

  3. Gonzaga (24-1) LW 3 - Not much competition for the Zags last week, defeating Santa Clara and San Francisco, both of whom are under .500 ball. 

  4. Duke (21-3) LW 4 - Duke finished the week 3-0 defeating Georgia Tech, Notre Dame, and Florida State Monday night. Their 30-point victory over Notre Dame was most impressive, redeeming their loss to the Irish January 28th. Justice Winslow and Jahlil Okafor combined for 49 points and 21 rebounds.

  5. Wisconsin (21-2) LW 5 - The Badgers continues to be one of the more consistent teams in the country. They defeated Indiana and Northwestern by large margins. 

  6. Villanova (21-2) LW 6 - Nova finished last week 2-0, defeating Marquette and Georgetown, both at home. Their victory over Georgetown revenged a 20-point loss to Georgetown January 19th. 

  7. Louisville (19-4) LW 8 - The Cards went 1-1 last week, defeating Miami and losing to UVA, both games on the road. Prior to their loss to UVA, Cardinals were on a 4 game win streak. 

  8. Arizona (20-3) LW 7 - In their only game this past week, the Wildcats loss to rival Arizona State on the road for the 2nd straight year. 

  9. Kansas (19-4) LW 10 - The Jayhawks moved ahead of Notre Dame, despite going 1-1 last week, defeating Iowa State and up-setted by Oklahoma State on the road.

  10. Notre Dame (21-4) LW 9 - The Irish went 1-1 last week, defeating Boston College and losing to Duke. The 30-point to Duke loss is one of the worst in school history. 

  11. Northern Iowa (22-2) LW 12 - The Panthers go 2-0 last week, moving up in the rankings due to West Virginia going 0-2. 

  12. Oklahoma (17-7) - The Sooners enters the 12 as one of the hottest teams right now, going 3-0 this past week, defeating two teams in the top 15, Iowa State and West Virginia. 

With West Virginia on a two game losing streak, it opened up a spot for another Big 12 team. Big 12 has 5 teams ranked in the top ten, not including Kansas, creating a log jam for 2nd place in the conference.