BY THE MIDNIGHT MAN
The Sweet 16 begins tonight, and the Midnight Man is back to break down the best five games to watch.
5) Cincinnati v. Ohio State
In a battle to determine the best team in Ohio (sorry Ohio U and Xavier, you just aren’t), this matchup pins the co-Big Team regular season champ versus the continually underrated and Big East Tournament finalist Bearcats. Jared Sullinger is the key for Ohio State, but he is also surrounded by the solid core of Aaron Craft, William Buford and DeShaun Thomas. Dominate the glass and paint and the Buckeyes advance. But with Bearcats senior Yancy Gates guarding him, Sullinger will be given all he can handle. Gates is a beast in the paint and if he performs as well as he has this season, the Bearcats may be able to pull off the upset. In the end, the Buckeyes defense likely will force the Bearcats offense into an ugly shooting night, handing the Buckeyes a trip to the Elite Eight. Prediction: Ohio State, 76-59
4) Syracuse v. Wisconsin
Having the potential to be both the weekend’s most boring, but also its most exciting, this matchup pits the deepest team in the country in the Orangemen versus arguably the best coached team in the country in the Badgers. Led by seniors Kris Joseph and Scoop Jardine as well as sophomore Dion Waters, expect Syracuse to play an up-tempo style of basketball, using Jim Boeheim’s famed zone to force Wisconsin into turnovers that lead to fast break points. On the other hand, look for Wisconsin, under the leadership of underrated senior point guard Jordan Taylor, to slow down the pace of the game in its attempt to turn the game into a half-court battle. However, the Orangemen’s depth and overall superior talent will lead them to victory and onto the Elite Eight. Prediction: Syracuse, 72-63
3) Kentucky v. Indiana
The most anticipated game of the week, Kentucky versus Indiana is a re-match of this year’s most thrilling game (sorry Duke-UNC fans), in which Indiana handed Kentucky its only loss with a last second three-point buzzer beater. With John Calipari once again having his team of young stars clicking at the right time, Kentucky is the tournament’s team to beat. Anthony Davis is a defensive dynamo, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is a star in the making and Marquis Teague is playing as well as any point guard in the country over the past three weeks. Yet, Tom Crean’s Hoosiers will not lose quietly. With start freshman center Cody Zeller manning the paint and the versatile Christian Watford effectively working an inside-out game, Indiana will give Kentucky a run for the money. But at the end of the day, Kentucky’s talent and skill will overpower Indiana. Prediction: Kentucky, 80 – 68
2) Florida v. Marquette
In a game that promises to the fastest-paced of the Sweet 16, expect guard play to determine the winner. While the Golden Eagles best player may be Big East Player of the Year Jae Crowder, whether or not they win will depend on the performances of its three guards: Darius Johnson-Odom, Vander Blue and Junior Cadougan. If these three undersized guards are able to handle Florida’s up-tempo, three-point shooting barrage, Marquette will move on to the Elite Eight. However, I expect the Gators to chomp down on the Eagles. With impressive backcourt options in Kenny Boyton, Rutgers transfer Mike Rosario, Scottie Wilbekin, Erving Walker and future NBA star in Dwayne Wade-light Bradley Beal, Florida’s guard play will be too much for Eagles to handle. Prediction: Florida, 78-73
1) Michigan State v. Louisville
The game of the week, MSU v. Louisville will be long, slow battle between the tournament’s two hottest teams. Led by do-everything stud Draymond Green and NCAA coach extraordinaire Tom Izzo, the Spartans will hope to push the Cardinals around with their tough, rugged style of play. If Keith Appling can get hot from deep and Green avoids foul trouble, the Spartans will be one step closer to reaching their seventh Final Four in the past 14 years. However, Peyton Siva has arguably been the country’s best player over the past two week. His determination and will, combined with strong defensive play by Kyle Kuric and Gorgui Dieng, will push MSU to its breaking point. But when the game ends, expect Tom Izzo’s Spartans to once again be victorious. Prediction: Michigan State, 65-62.