Boston is the host for the East Region quarterfinal and semifinal games this weekend, better known as the Sweet 16 and the Elite 8. The quarterfinal games tip off tonight.
To see my ranking from 1-8 of all the Sweet 16 matchups, click here.
Could we have an all-Big Ten Elite 8 in the East Region? Can Syracuse overcome the injury of Fab Melo in yet another tournament game? Who will win the unexpected battle of Ohio? Let’s find out.
East Regional Info
- Arena: TD Garden
- City: Boston, MA
- Tickets: Session 1 – March 22rd
- Tickets: Session 2 – March 24th
- Tickets: Both session
#1 Syracuse v #4 Wisconsin
- Syracuse-Wisconsin Date: Thursday, 3/22
- Syracuse-Wisconsin Tip Time: 7:15 ET
- Syracuse-Wisconsin TV: CBS
- Syracuse-Wisconsin Announcers: Verne Lundquist and Bill Raftery
- Syracuse-Wisconsin Point Spread: Syracuse -4
What’s your pick?
#2 Ohio State v #6 Cincinnati
- Ohio State-Cincinnati Date: Thursday, 3/22
- Ohio State-Cincinnati Tip Time: 9:45 ET
- Ohio State-Cincinnati TV: CBS
- Ohio State-Cincinnati Announcers: Verne Lundquist and Bill Raftery
- Ohio State-Cincinnati Point Spread: Ohio State -7.5
What’s your pick?
Syracuse-Wisconsin Preview, Prediction, and Team Info
It should be a great matchup when Syracuse and Wisconsin square off in Boston on Thursday, as both teams rank inside the Top 20 in both offensive and defensive efficiency.
The Orange advanced to the Sweet Sixteen by outscoring Kansas State 50-35 in the second half to win by sixteen. Dion Waiters led the way with 18 points, while Scoop Jardine added 16 points and eight assists.
The Badgers held off a late Vanderbilt rally to win by three points, as five players scored in double figures. Wisconsin took 33 of its 55 shots from beyond the arc and hit 10 triples for the game.
Syracuse-Wisconsin By The Numbers
Syracuse’s much-maligned defensive rebounding catches a bit of a break since the Badgers rank 225th in offensive rebounding percentage at just 30.7 percent. But while the Orange’s defensive weakness may be neutralized, so will their greatest strength. Syracuse ranks in the Top 10 in turnover rate, but the Badgers boast the second-lowest turnover rate in the nation at 15.1 percent. Don’t expect many free throws for Wisconsin, who ranks outside of the Top 300 in free throw rate, particularly because the Orange do a great job of keeping their opponents off the stripe.
The key for Wisconsin offensively will be three-point shooting. While the fact that the Badgers took 60 percent of their shots from beyond the arc on Saturday was extreme, they have taken 41 percent of their shots from long range for the season. Wisconsin hits 36.2 percent from deep, but Syracuse is among the best three-point defense in the country, ranking 26th at 30.7 percent. The vaunted Orange 2-3 zone invites teams to take long threes, and the Badgers will certainly oblige. It’s just a matter of whether guys like Ben Brust, Josh Gasser, Rob Wilson, and Jordan Taylor can get hot from long range.
On the other end, don’t count on many turnovers or free throws from Syracuse. The Badgers simply don’t force many miscues, while the Orange are in the Top 10 in turnover rate. However, Wisconsin has a low opponents’ free throw rate, and Syracuse rank outside of the Top 250 in that area.
Consequently, the things to watch will be offensive rebounds and two-point shooting. The Badgers have a high defensive rebounding percentage at 72.3, but Syracuse has grabbed 36.6 percent of its misses this year. Obviously the loss of Fab Melo hurts in that area, but they posted offensive rebounding percentages of 40.5 and 36.0 in their first two NCAA Tournament games this year.
In terms of two-point shooting, the Orange made 60.6 percent in their game versus UNC-Asheville but just 47.2 percent against Kansas State, and for the season, they are shooting 52.1 percent inside the arc. However, the Badgers rank 5th in two-point defense at 41.6 percent. Obviously these two items tie closely together, as offensive rebounds lead to easy shot attempts inside.
Expect a slow-paced, tight game in Boston between these two teams. I’m giving the Badgers the slight edge based on their defensive ability and how well they take care of the basketball.
The fact that the Syracuse defense is going to force Wisconsin to take three-pointers doesn’t matter much since that’s what the Badgers want to do anyway.
I also like how Ryan Evans has played of late and think he could give Syracuse some trouble on the offensive glass.
Predicted Winner: Wisconsin
Ohio Sate-Cincinnati Preview, Prediction, and Team Info
Four teams from the state of Ohio made it to the Sweet Sixteen, and two of them will face one another in Boston.
On Saturday, Ohio State won a close game against Gonzaga to advance. Sophomore Deshaun Thomas came up huge for the Buckeyes with 18 points and seven rebounds, while fellow soph Aaron Craft had 17 points and dished out 10 assists.
Cincinnati grabbed the final spot in the Sweet Sixteen by beating Florida State in a defensive matchup on Sunday night. Sean Kilpatrick led three double-digit scorers with 18 points, while Dion Dixon had 15 and made a huge steal in the final minutes.
Ohio State-Cincinnati By The Numbers
This matchup will feature two of the nation’s 25 most efficient defenses. Ohio State ranks first in adjusted efficiency and will provide a tough challenge for Cincinnati’s offense. The Bearcats don’t shoot the ball particularly well, but they have a low turnover rate and do a solid job of crashing the offensive glass. The Buckeyes have an impressive defensive turnover rate, but I don’t see them forcing a ton of miscues in this one. They do, however, boast the nation’s second-ranked defensive rebounding percentage, which obviously isn’t great news for a Cincinnati team that counts on second chance points as a key part of its offense.
Don’t expect Cincinnati to shoot many free throws though, as the Bearcats have one of the lowest free throw rates in the country, while the Buckeyes do a terrific job of keeping their opponents off the stripe. Overall, it’s tough to feel all that confident about the Cincinnati offense.
That being said, their stingy defense should allow them to keep it close. Overall, the Bearcats rank inside the Top 25 in defensive efficiency and are in the Top 10 in opponents’ free throw rate. Ohio State doesn’t have a particularly high free throw rate in the first place, so don’t count on the Buckeyes parading to the line.
Unlike last season, Ohio State has struggled with its long-range shooting this year, but they have done well inside the arc with a gaudy 53.7 percent success rate on two-pointers. The Bearcats have shown strong defense against twos and threes this year, and they’ll need to keep that up against Jared Sullinger inside.
One area where Ohio State appears to have a substantial advantage is on the offensive glass. The Buckeyes have grabbed 36 percent of their misses this season, and they rank inside the Top 40 nationally. On the other side, Cincinnati has struggled to prevent second chance points, and the Bearcats rank outside of the Top 250 in defensive rebounding percentage. If they want to spring the upset, Cincinnati has to find a way to keep Sullinger, Thomas, and even Evan Ravenel off the glass.
Ohio State-Cincinnati Prediction
The obvious matchup to watch here is between Sullinger and Cincinnati big man Yancy Gates inside. Neither team can really afford foul trouble for their key post players, so that definitely bears watching.
I’m equally intrigued by the backcourt matchups involving OSU’s Aaron Craft and William Buford and Cincinnati’s trio of Dion Dixon, Cashmere Wright, and Sean Kilpatrick. Craft and Wright are among the national leaders in steal percentage, so I can’t wait to see them get into each other defensively.
Cincinnati’s defense is terrific, and the team has played extremely well down the stretch, but I’m just not sure how they can score enough points to win this game.
Look for Ohio State to get after it on the offensive glass, and as has been the case many times for Ohio State lately, Deshaun Thomas will be the difference-maker.
Predicted Winner: Ohio State
Click to continue reading Andy’s Tournament capsules for each team.