What a crazy opening weekend for March Madness. Most of us say this every year but this is arguably been the craziest and hardest to predict year for the March Madness tourney. Today, I will be previewing what to look forward to in the Sweet 16.
Loyola Chicago vs Oregon State
Loyola and Sister Jean are in prime position to make another final four run while Oregon State, a team that was a few games away from not even making the tourney, has a big opportunity to continue their Cinderella run in this years tourney.
Loyola played great defense in their huge upset victory over Illinois holding them to 58 points on 44% field goal shooting and just 28.6% from the three point line, while forcing 17 turnovers. Loyola has also shot the ball effectively from all parts of the court in both victories. They are shooting about 49% from the field and 40% from the three point line. Loyola exposed the Illinois defense as their defense never looked comfortable. The Ramblers rank 8th in the nation for assists. Oregon State had 20 turnovers in their upset win over Oklahoma State but against a team like Loyola that doesn’t waste a lot of possessions, these turnovers could prove costly.
Oregon State is another team this tourney that has been shooting lights out. Against Tennessee, they shot 48.2% from the field and 47.6% from the three-point line while against Oregon State they shot 41.2% from the field and 30% from the three. What makes their victory against Oklahoma State impressive is that they lost the turnover battle by 12 but outrebounded the Cowboys by 20 and held them to just 28% shooting from the field. The Beavers are great at getting to the free-throw line and were 32-35 in their last game.
Overall, in both games in the tourney, the Beavers have lost the turnover battle and that cannot happen against Loyola. I am giving the slight edge to Loyola and they will pull out a late victory and end the Cinderella run of the beavers.
Oregon State 56 – 63 Loyola Chicago
Baylor vs Villanova
Villanova has surprised a lot of people this tournament as many people had them pegged as a first round exit due to the loss of star point guard Collin Gillespie. Baylor ran into some trouble against Wisconsin, but pulled out a late victory.
Villanova lives and dies by the three-ball. Villanova is 9-1 when making 10 or more threes and 8-5 when they don’t They are also 2-5 when they shot less than 32% from the field. Villanova shot exactly 32 percent from the field in their 10 point win over Winthrop and 50 percent in their 23 points win over North Texas. Villanova also takes very good care of the basketball as they lead the nation in the fewest turnovers.
However, Baylor has forced a lot of turnovers this tournament. They forced 24 out of Hartford and 14 against Wisconsin. In their two games, they are +24 in the turnover column. Baylor has only allowed teams to hit 10 or more threes four times this season, and they won all four games. Baylor shot 47.1% from three in their last game ad 45.5% from the field. Baylor is also great at getting to the free throw line. Against Wisconsin, they shot 23 free throws while Wisconsin shot just 7. ‘
In all, as long as Baylor can hold Villanova to below 13 threes, I think they win this game easily. The guard combo of Jared Butler and Davion Mitchell will be to much for Villanova to handle.
Baylor 75 – 60 Villanova
Arkansas vs Oral Roberts
Oral Roberts is the first 15 seed since FGCU to make the sweet 16 and they look to continue to make history against a stingy Arkansas team.
Oral Roberts has shot 65 threes in the tourney and made just around 32% of them. Despite this, they have managed to win close games against both Florida and Ohio State. The reoccurring theme that we can come to is WINNING THE TURNOVER BATTLE. Oral Roberts is +18 this tournament and has held opponents to 21.7% and 31.8% from three. Oral Roberts showed fight against Florida as they battled back from an 11 point deficit with just under 9 minutes remaning in the second half. One thing that does worry is that Oral Roberts has been out rebounded by 17 and 13 in both games.
Arkansas won a very close game against Texas Tech. Arkansas is a very gritty team. We saw it in their first game when they ended the half on a 17-0 run vs Colgate and although Tech made a big run late to make the game close, Arkansas made key plays when needed. Arkansas has the 5th most efficient defense and the 42nd most efficient offense and they have a clear size advantage over Oral Roberts which should allow them plenty of second chance opportunties as they rank 37th in second chance points on the season. They also have done a great job controlling the tempo which should limit Oral Roberts fast breaks.
If Arkansas can dominate the glass and take advantage of post play, I do not see a way in which Oral Roberts can beat this team.
Arkansas 86 – 65 Oral Roberts
Syracuse vs Houston
Syracuse is a team that always comes to play in March while Houston seems primed to make another run after they lost to Kentucky in their prior sweet 16 matchup.
Syracuses 2-3 zone is unbeatable it seems like. San Diego State shot 35.8% from the field with a 27.5% from three while West Virginia shot 37.1% from the field and 42.4% from the three. Syracuse shot themselves sin the foot against West Virginia and yet they still couldn’t pull out a victory. Syracuse is an elite three point shooting team with all 5 players on the court being able to let it fly. Buddy Boehim and Girard look like the next coming of Curry and Klay the way they have been shooting the ball in the tournament.
For all the credit Syracuse gets defensively, Houston deserves just as much praise. Against Rutgers, they closed the game on a 14-2 run in the final in the final 5 minutes. Houston has faced the 2-3 zone in both games this tourney and did just fine in both games. They moved the ball around, screened the guards at the top of the zone and kept rotating players through the high post. Not to mention in both games, they won the rebound battle.
If Houston can shoot around their season average, 44%, then Syracuse is in trouble but in the tournament, Arkansas has struggled. Not to mention, Houston hasn’t fared well against teams that play at a slow tempo. In the end, Syracuse’s ability to light it up from three and the Boeheim 2-3 zone will end Houstons run.
Syracuse 72 – 65 Houston