NCAA Tournament Friday Night Sweet 16 Picks – March 25, 2016

March 25, 2016 on 11:53 pm | In College Basketball | No Comments

We’re back for our second blog entry of this Sweet 16 for the 2016 NCAA Basketball Tournament.  Our picks went 3-1 on Thursday night with the lone blemish being Miami falling to Villanova, although I don’t feel too bad about it since the Hurricanes became the first team in the history of the tourney to shoot over 50% from the field and lose by more than 20.  Villanova was just that good, shooting lights out the whole night.

Nova, like the other three winners – Oklahoma, Kansas and Oregon – prevailed by double-digits as the drama was pretty much kept to a minimum on Thursday compared to the action-packed Round of 32 games played on Sunday.

Let’s go through Friday night’s picks now . . .

Hat’s Friday Night Picks:

#1 Virginia (28-7) vs. #4 Iowa State (23-11) . . . The Cavaliers are looking to get to the Elite Eight for the first time in 21 years and they are well positioned to do it, though they have to hold off an Iowa State team that can score it in bunches.  Against Iona in the first round, the Cyclones put up 94 points and then got held to 78 in the second round by Little Rock, though Monte Morris locked up scoring sensation Josh Hagins.  UVA counters with the #2 ranked defense in the nation – behind only Wichita State – and they are led by Malcolm Brogdon, who scored 22 points against Butler and was the ACC Defensive Player of the Year.  Tony Bennett’s Cavs must be able to contain Georges Niang, who’s coming off back-to-back 28-point efforts.  Not only do the Cyclones have to worry about Brogdon, but also 6′8″ South Carolina transfer Anthony Gill in the front-court and guard London Perrantes, due for a breakout game, in the backcourt.  Pick – UVA 66-63.

#6 Notre Dame (23-11) vs. #7 Wisconsin (22-12) . . . Some didn’t see either of these two teams getting to the Round of 32.  Even fewer had them squaring off in the Sweet 16.  But Wisconsin is here after seeing their top scorers in Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker graduate from a season ago, while Notre Dame found its way to this point, despite the departures of Jerian Grant and Pat Connaughton.  Grant and Connaughton combined for 29PPG a season ago.  The key in this game to me will be whether or not Wisconsin’s front-line duo of senior Nigel Hayes and freshman Ethan Happ can keep Zach Auguste, who has 21 double-doubles on the year, from dominating in the paint.  Notre Dame has shown a bit more explosiveness offensively, and if the Badgers don’t get another stellar outside shooting performance from guard Bronson Koenig (the guy that was 6-12 from 3 against Xavier and hit the game-winner), it’ll be a tall order for them to reach their third straight Elite eight.  Pick – Notre Dame 72-65.

#10 Syracuse (21-13) vs. #11 Gonzaga (28-7) … It’s the first Sweet 16 appearance for Syracuse since 2013, whereas Gonzaga believe it or not ranks up there with the best when it comes to getting this far in the tourney as Mark Few’s bunch is making its seventh Sweet 16 since 1999.  Jim Boeheim’s Orange got here by beating #7 seed Dayton and then #15 seed Middle Tennessee, the most surprising Round of 32 team after its shocker of Michigan State.  So much has been made of the vaunted 2-3 Syracuse zone defense and rightfully so as they have great length and versatility to bottle up most any offense out there.  However, what is being undersold a bit in my opinion is the Gonzaga defense, which held both Utah and Seton Hall – two teams with plenty of firepower – below 60 points in this NCAA Tournament.  So while most will be focused on how that Syracuse defense contains Domantas Sabonis, Kyle Wiltjer (an ex-Kentucky forward), Eric McClellan (an ex-Vanderbilt guard) and the rest of the Zags, to me this comes down to what Syracuse’s offense does.  Michael Gibinije and 6′6″ freshman Malachi Richmond will dictate what type of success the Orange have on that end.  Pick – Gonzaga 73-70 (OT)

#1 North Carolina (30-6) vs. #5 Indiana (27-7) . . . This game is fascinating on so many levels.  Some feel it might even get into the high 80’s or low 90’s with the score since both are so potent offensively.  UNC handled a Providence team with a potential lottery pick in Kris Dunn in the second round, whereas Indiana took down a Kentucky team that is annually chock full of pros these days under John Calipari.  Brice Johnson has been a stud all year long for the Tar Heels, registering 21 double-doubles and powering a strong front-court.  Indiana’s isn’t quite as formidable up front, but freshman Thomas Bryant was tremendous against Kentucky and flashed his pro potential.  If he duplicates that effort, the Hoosiers have a great chance.  The Heels must be able to contain Indiana’s three-point shooting game and hope that the guard match between Yogi Ferrell and Marcus Paige turns out to be a wash.  The Heels aren’t as dependent on 3’s falling to win a high-scoring affair as the Hoosiers and that could be the difference.  Pick – UNC 82-76

More on the UNC/Indiana game with my thoughts included on Tar Heel Illustrated here..

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