2014 NCAA Tournament
West Region - Sweet 16
How are the picks so far? 11-2 SU, 10-3 ATS
No. 2 Wisconsin vs. No. 1 Arizona (-3)
- Who's Got Next? Video Preview of Wisconsin vs. Arizona
No team in this entire tournament has done anything more impressive than what Wisconsin did to Baylor.
The Bears were fantastic in their first two games, looking strong, athletic, tough, and intimidating, and then they didn't get the memo about what time to show up against the Badgers. It was over before anyone could blink.
The Badgers can't play defense this year, huh? Baylor did absolutely nothing in the first half scoring just 16 points. Bo Ryan's coaching clinic included great work on the boards, 31 defensive rebounds – Baylor almost never did anything off a miss – and moved the ball as well as it has all season long.
Arizona isn't Baylor.
It took a fight for the Wildcats to get by a nasty San Diego State defense, but they regrouped in time to pull out an emotional win late. That might have been the big, scary test for a team that struggles a bit from three and relies on the boards and interior to clean up any messes.
They pass well, they're smart with the ball, they're extremely well coached, and they play a suffocating brand of defense that could limit the mad bomber from Madison, but …
Fine, so who's going to win?: Wisconsin 75-67. The Badgers were terrific in the shootout with Oregon, able to withstand the haymakers coming from the Duck backcourt, and the schooled the Baylor interior time and again, led by a huge game from Frank Kaminsky. They're going to have to get gunning again – Arizona's Nick Johnson isn't going to get off to the brutally awful start like he did against San Diego State. The Wildcats aren't going to control the boards, and they're not going to force the turnovers needed or hit the threes in bunches, while the Badgers will shoot their way out of trouble.
No. 6 Baylor vs. No. 2 Wisconsin (-3)
- Who's Got Next? Video Preview of Baylor vs. Wisconsin
It got lost in the shuffle over the course of the weekend, but Wisconsin's 85-77 win over Oregon was one of the most fun, wild games of the tournament. Meanwhile, also flying under the radar is Baylor, who has been the most impressive team so far after embarrassing all of Nebraska with a 74-60 whacking of the Huskers before shutting down Doug McDermott and Creighton in a brutally ugly 85-55 blowout. And now it's a contrast in styles, but not in the way you might think.
Wisconsin for its slow, stodgy play and tough, hard-nosed defense, but this isn't your typical Bo Ryan Badgers. This version is all finesse, living and dying by the three on offense, while the defense is but a rumor against the teams with any semblance of talent. Against the high-flying Oregon Ducks, Bucky struggled early, and then the three started falling, the Milwaukee crowd went crazy, and it was on to the Sweet 16. And now it's time to deal with a very strong, very dangerous Baylor team that comes in winners of eight of its last nine games.
The Bears can get up and down the court, but it's their defense and activity on the boards that's making them look like a Final Four team. The scoring has been balanced, the three point shots are falling – hitting 11-of-18 against Creighton – and killing it on the defensive boards.
Fine, so who's going to win?: Baylor 82-78. This is a bad, bad matchup for the Badgers - Wisconsin just isn't good enough on the boards and in the interior. Frank Kaminsky is going to be erased on the offensive side, while the defense doesn't have a prayer stopping the Bears inside or out. Five players scored in double-figures against the Bluejays, and UW won't have an answer.
FINAL SCORE: Wisconsin 69-52
No. 4 San Diego State vs. No. 1 Arizona (-6.5)
- Who's Got Next? Video Preview of Dayton vs. Stanford
This should be one of the most spirited games of the Sweet 16 with both fan bases invading Anaheim in a rematch of a 69-60 Arizona win in November. The Aztecs have only lost three times since then, while the Wildcats have overcome the loss to UCLA in the Pac-12 championship to get by Weber State and toy with Gonzaga.
Which Arizona team will show up? Will it be the No. 1-looking squad that can score at when it gets hot, or will it be the one that goes through lulls and can't hit from three? With tremendous firepower, good ball movement, and a tight backcourt that doesn't give the ball away, the Wildcats have the ability to go on one big run that San Diego State won't be able to overcome.
But the Aztecs might not let that happen.
No. 2 in the nation in scoring defense and allowing teams to hit just 38% from the field, the Aztecs are killers in the interior and they attack. Xavier Thames went off on North Dakota State for 30, but the easy win came from a defense that allowed the Bison to just hit 2-of-11 from three and did nothing on the boards.
Fine, so who's going to win?: Arizona 68-64. Don't expect much high-flying, up-and-down scoring runs, but the defense will be terrific and each team will have to battle for everything it can get. Neither team can hit a free throw, but with more offensive balance and more options, the Wildcats will get by. It's not going to be pretty, but it'll be gripping.
FINAL SCORE: Arizona 70-64
No. 1 Arizona
(-6.5) vs. No. 8 Gonzaga
- Who's Got Next? Video Preview of Gonzaga vs. Arizona
Gonzaga winning in the NCAA Tournament isn't news anymore, but it would be a really, really big deal if it made the Sweet 16. Meanwhile, Arizona, the top seed in the West Region, stands in Gonzaga's way, hoping to use their length and superior athleticism to roll to another victory. Both teams cruised to relatively easy wins in the second-round of the NCAA Tournament with Gonzaga taking control early to score an 85-77 win over Oklahoma State, and Arizona was never seriously challenged by Weber State.
The Wildcats will be challenged by Gonzaga forward Sam Dower, a 6-9, 243 pounder who can create issues inside vs. Arizona's thinner front line. Dower is a double-double machine, looking to draw some early fouls on the Wildcats to take advantage of their lack of depth. Guard Kevin Pangos and Garry Bell, Jr., will push the tempo for the Bulldogs.
That sped-up style will suit Arizona just fine. Sean Miller's team loves to run, and guard Nick Johnson will be more than happy to go up and down the floor to give him a chance to stretch his legs. Johnson is a quality scorer who is great going to the bucket.
Forward Aaron Gordon brings size and athleticism to the floor, as well, and big Kaleb Tarczewski will be tasked with helping to control Dower on the low block.
Arizona is the better defensive club, which means Gonzaga is going to have to play a crisp, mistake-free game to knock off what is actually an improving Wildcat team.
Prediction: Arizona 75-68. The Wildcats will come up with enough defense to keep Gonzaga in check for just long enough to take control of the game in the second half. The backcourt will be just good enough to be better than the Bulldog front line.
FINAL SCORE: Arizona 84-61
No. 3 Creighton
(-3.5) vs. No. 6 Baylor
- Who's Got Next? Video Preview of Creighton vs. Baylor
Creighton is experienced, efficient and is as disciplined a team as any in college basketball. Now head coach Gregg McDermott has to find a way to deal with his team's lack of athleticism.
The Bluejays were pushed by Louisiana-Lafayette, with the Ragin' Cajun quickness creating havoc on the floor and forcing Creighton to work as hard as it has at any point this season to find an open shot. Look for Baylor to bring the same kind of heat.
The Bears rolled past Nebraska to advance to the round of 32 by dominating the boards and pushing the tempo to take advantage of the Cornhuskers' lack of depth. Creighton is far from the deepest team around, but it won't be easy for Bears' guard Kenny Chery to force the Bluejays to speed up. Creighton really can't go fast- it doesn't have the speed or quickness to pull it off.
Creighton does have Doug McDermott, and the Bluejays' ability to get him open will wear down Baylor mentally. If McBuckets gets support from forward Ethan Wragge and Austin Chapman from the perimeter, Baylor could get outgunned.
The Bears turn to Chery to do the bulk of the scoring on the perimeter, but guard Brady Heslip can knock down shots, and forwards Cory Jefferson and Royce O'Neale can be dominant inside to help balance the floor. Baylor's ability to go deep into its bench will keep fresh legs on the floor in an effort to wear down Creighton by pressuring the ball.
The Bluejays' discipline and ball movement might be enough to overcome Baylor's pressure, but this one will be close.
Prediction: Baylor 68-64. The Bears will be too athletic and too active, stopping the Bluejays from getting open looks. McDermott will get his 25, but the supporting cast will be shut down.
FINAL SCORE: Baylor 85-55
No. 4 UCLA (-9) vs. No. 12 Stephen F. Austin
In order to extend a winning streak, sometimes a team has to get a little luck. Stephen F. Austin did just that vs. VCU, and it might have to rub the rabbit's foot again to beat UCLA.
Stephen F. Austin rallied from a 10-point deficit with 3:30 to play to force overtime and eventually beat VCU in the second round, highlighted by an all-timer of a four-point play that helped the Lumberjacks get to OT came things to some good fortune and smart basketball. The defensive run leading up to the shot, however, had nothing to do with luck at all.
The Lumberjacks turn up the pressure on defense and excel in creating turnovers in the halfcourt by being aggressive and using their quick hands to tip passes. Those skills will come in handy vs. a Bruins team that's blessed with athleticism in the backcourt but can occasionally be a bit careless with the ball. UCLA guard Jordan Adams is a fantastic scorer, but he can cough up the ball in critical spots and must play with discipline vs. the Lumberjacks.
The same goes for point forward Kyle Anderson, who averages 6.6 assists, but commits 3.1 turnovers a game and can be a bit lazy with his passes. Anderson's ability to run the floor will put pressure on the Lumberjacks when he is under control, as will his length. Guards Norman Powell and Zach LaVine also can fill it up in a hurry.
Stephen F. Austin will counter with the duo of Desmond Haymon and Thomas Walkup, two guards who play well off each other and do a good job of moving without the ball to make themselves available for jumpers. Haymon also can get to the rim with his quickness, which could create issues if he gets isolated on the slower Anderson. Forward Jacob Parker is a solid rebounder and outside shooter whose versatility could help the Lumberjacks spread the floor.
Prediction: UCLA 70-59. The Bruins will turn up the defensive pressure and won't gag away the game with a bad late foul.
No. 2 Wisconsin
(-5) vs. No. 7 Oregon
Who's Got Next? Video Preview of Wisconsin vs. Oregon
The Ducks might fly, but these Badgers can move, too.
The two teams each rolled to second-round wins in the NCAA Tournament with the Badgers dispatching American 75-35 while the Ducks took out BYU 87-68, and now these two should put on a fantastic show.
This isn't the same old Bo Ryan Wisconsin team – this was has more offensive pop than normal and isn't the slowdown, sluggish bunch that ground games to a crawl. But dealing with the high-octane Ducks should ramp up the pace to another level.
Oregon pushes the tempo averaging 81.8 points a game on the way to wins in nine of its last 10 games, giving head coach Dana Altman's team a look of confidence as it's playing well at just the right time. The Ducks use a three-guard lineup to run at every opportunity led by Joseph Young, the team's catalyst. He can score going at the rim or by knocking down the long jumper, and key to a game like this, he's a fantastic free-throw shooter who wants the ball when the game is on the line.
Johnathan Loyd and Damyean Dotson join Young in the backcourt, with Loyd the primary ball handler whose speed makes him tough to contain. His quickness could create problems for UW's backcourt of Ben Brust and Traevon Jackson, two players who are skilled positional defenders but don't boast a ton of athleticism. They both can score, however, and their precision on offense will magnify every defensive mistake Oregon will make. Watch out for Oregon's X factor, Jason Calliste, who can shoot the lights out while creating scoring opportunities with his quickness.
Wisconsin will have an edge up front thanks to its skilled forwards. Frank Kaminsky is a quality post player who can also stretch the floor, and Sam Dekker is a do-everything guy who will battle with everyone on the floor. Nigel Hayes comes off the bench for some instant offense, and his athleticism will be key vs. Oregon's bigs. The Ducks look to Mike Moser to hold down the paint and do the dirty work on the glass, but he is a stretch 4 who will open the lane for his teammates. Elgin Cook had 23 points off the bench in the second-round win, and the Ducks need the same type of contribution in this one to pull off the upset.
Prediction: Wisconsin 84-78. Get ready for a wild and crazy shootout with plenty of wild swings and scoring runs. The Badgers' three point shooting will be the difference down the stretch.
FINAL SCORE: Wisconsin 85-77
No. 4 San Diego State (-3) vs. No. 12 North Dakota State
- Who's Got Next? Video Preview of San Diego State vs. North Dakota State
Both teams tried to give away their respective Thursday games, but they each fought through the adversity to keep moving on. And now they're battle tested.
North Dakota State blew a good halftime lead before roaring in overtime to pull off the upset over No. 5 Oklahoma, but it wasn't really that big a shocker considering it was a nearly perfect matchup. The Bison's shooting and ability to get on the glass proved to be the difference, but will it be enough to deal with the San Diego State defense? Against the Sooners, NDSU got killed on the defensive glass, especially in the second half, but free throws and timely interior plays helped withstand the storm. There won't be any such worries about a big offensive run from the Aztecs.
San Diego State pressures and forces mistakes, making New Mexico State give it up 13 times, but it had a hard time on the boards against a big, active team that got help from all sides. NDSU might have struggled against the athletic Sooners, and there could be big issues is guard Xavier Thames is getting to the line like he did against the Aggies. NMSU shot surprisingly well in the fun overtime loss, but it couldn't hit free throws and it didn't get quite enough inside when Tshilidzi Nephawe got into foul trouble.
How do you bust through the Aztec defense, and how do you negate the tremendous quickness? You shoot right over the top of it. Meanwhile, the Bison defense doesn't force a slew of big mistakes and could get bogged down in what SDSU likes to do. The West bracket appears to be the most unpredictable of the four, and now it comes down to the better offense vs. the top shelf D. And it'll be …
Prediction: San Diego State 65-60. The defense actually did do a great job against New Mexico State, but it's not going to get the same breaks on free throws two games in a row – the Aggies hit just 12-of-20. The Bison nailed 20-of-22 tries from the strip against Oklahoma, but this time around, they're not going to hit 53% of their shots from the field.
No. 1 Arizona vs. No. 16 Weber State
Line: Arizona –20.5
Why To Pick Weber State: Did UCLA provide a blueprint to hang around with the loaded Wildcats? Keep Arizona from running, and you have a shot. Weber State might not be a high-powered scoring team, but they hit the boards and they're good offensively both inside and out.
Why To Pick Arizona: The Wildcats – the Weber State version – don't force enough mistakes and they don't come up with steals. Arizona is way too active on the boards and moves the bball around way too well. EKU might be able to get on the glass, but they're not going to create easy baskets.
The Pick: Arizona 84-62. Sean Miller's team will bear down enough defensively to keep Weber State from doing what it does best on the outside. Forget about any second chance points.
FINAL SCORE: Arizona 68-59
No. 8 Gonzaga vs. No. 9 Oklahoma State
Line: Oklahoma State -3
Why To Pick Gonzaga: The program that's so used to NCAA Tournament success likes to run and get moving, and it has the style to match Oklahoma State's pace. The big key could be on the boards with a few second chance points possibly the difference. The Bulldogs can get red hot shooting the ball and might not have a problem going on runs.
Why To Pick Oklahoma State: Gonzaga likes to run, but Oklahoma State does it better. The Cowboy backcourt doesn't turn the ball over, with Marcus Smart the type of diffence-maker who can lead the way through a round or two by himself. Yes, the Bulldogs can shoot, but the Cowboys defend well all over the floor.
The Pick: Oklahoma State 87-81. Get your popcorn ready, because this is going to be a wild one. The Cowboys appear to be well past their brutal February losing streak, showing off the firepower to hang with anyone now that Smart is back full force.
FINAL SCORE:Gonzaga 85-77
No. 5 Oklahoma vs. No. 12 North Dakota State
Line: Oklahoma -4.5
Why To Pick North Dakota State: It's a dangerous team hot at the right time, shooting well and doing a great job on the boards. Oklahoma doesn't have enough of an interior presence, and that could be a huge problem against the active Bison that gets to the rim. This is a good OU defensive team, but not an elite one – NDSU can score inside and out.
Why To Pick Oklahoma: NDSU can hit shots inside, but Oklahoma can bomb away from deep with three-point shooters who can turn games around in a hurry. The Sooners don't make a slew of big mistakes, while NDSU doesn't do enough to move the ball around. A good free throw shooting team, it should be able to hold onto a lead late.
The Pick: North Dakota State 83-79. Expect a wild up-and-down game that ends up turning late to the hot Bison. Oklahoma's defense won't be able to come up with a key stop late.
FINAL SCORE: North Dakota State 80-75 OT
No. 4 San Diego State vs. No. 13 New Mexico State
- 60-Second Video Analysis On Each Team
Line: San Diego State -7.5
Why To Pick New Mexico State: This isn't a high-powered San Diego State offense. It doesn't move the ball around well and it doesn't hit from three. New Mexico State has the scoring punch and ability inside to battle on the boards and slug it out in what should be a tough, physical game.
Why To Pick San Diego State: The defense will be a factor from the start on the slashing Aggie guards. Can the Aztecs handle the NMSU bulk up front? Absolutely, as long as everyone is hitting the glass. The SDSU guards don't make a slew of mistakes and they challenge everything. This should be the type of game that fits the team's style.
The Pick: San Diego State 68-63. Don't expect a high-flying, high scoring game. NMSU will want to set things up to get the ball inside, while San Diego State will play a little defense of its own, handling things inside to get by in a grinder.
FINAL SCORE: San Diego State 73-69
No. 6 Baylor vs. No. 11 Nebraska
- 60-Second Video Analysis On Each Team
Line: Baylor -3.5
Why To Pick Baylor: This is a long, lean, active team that's fantastic on the boards and great at generating second chance points. Nebraska doesn't rebound, and it doesn't move the ball around well enough to get by the Bears' aggressive D. The Huskers are plucky, but they don't have the scoring punch.
Why To Pick Nebraska: Is there any team in the tournament more excited to be in it? Nebraska defies logic – it's not very good at playing college basketball. However, it fights and battles for everything, the defense can be nasty, and there's a chance to force several mistakes against an occasionally sloppy Baylor backcourt.
The Pick: Baylor 70-65. Who doesn't wanto to see Nebraska-Creighton in the next round? It's not going to happen. Nebraska will want to keep the game slow, and it should, but Baylor is way too good on the boards. The Huskers will get outrebounded, and badly.
FINAL SCORE: Baylor 74-50
No. 3 Creighton vs. No. 14 Louisiana-Lafayette
- 60-Second Video Analysis On Each Team
Line: Creighton -14
Why To Pick Louisiana-Lafayette: Do the Ragin' Cajuns have the defense to handle Mr. McDermott and the high-octane Bluejays? Not really, but they have the firepower to keep up the pace both inside and out with good shooters who can bomb away when needed and also get to the basket. They have a puncher's chance to win in a shootout.
Why To Pick Creighton: Louisiana-Lafayette doesn't have the defense on the perimeter. It's a disruptive team that makes a lot of big defensive plays, but it gives up lots of streaky scoring runs and could get run out of the gym if this is the up-and-down game it should be. Creighton doesn't make the mistames ULL will need.
The Pick: Creighton 86-74. The Ragin' Cajuns will keep up the pace for a while, but Doug McDermott will have 35 walking off the bus. This could be among the more fun early games.
FINAL SCORE: Creighton 76-66
No. 7 Oregon vs. No. 10 BYU
- 60-Second Video Analysis On Each Team
Line: Oregon -6
Why To Pick BYU: The Cougars will battle on the boards and they won't make too many errors. An active team, it's good at coming up with steals and it gets the ball moving around well enough to keep Oregon on its toes. Offensively, the firepower is there to keep up with a Duck team that likes to run, run, run. If this game comes down to second chance points, the Cougars should win.
Why To Pick Oregon: BYU scores, and averages more points per game than Oregon, but it doesn't play a lick of defense for long stretches. The Ducks can shoot from three, and the Cougars can't, and if this comes down to free throws, it's over – Oregon is far better on the line.
The Pick: Oregon 86-78. Be really, really disappointed if this isn't the highest scoring game in the first weekend. The two teams can fill up the bucket, with defense a bit of an afterthought, but Oregon is the more talented, more explosive team inside and out.
FINAL SCORE: Oregon 87-58
No. 2 Wisconsin vs. No. 15 American
- 60-Second Video Analysis On Each Team
Line: Wisconsin -14
Why To Pick American: This is just the type of sluggish team that could play around with a Badger team that has no problems bogging down and getting into the half court game. Wisconsin doesn't move the ball around quite as well as you'd think, and it doesn't create a slew of turnovers. If the Eagles can control the clock, and if they're careful with the ball and hit their threes, they could make this interesting.
Why To Pick Wisconsin: The Badgers are better and more explosive offensively than you might think. American doesn't have any offense whatsoever when it's not bombing away, and while it's ultra-efficient shooting the ball, it'll be one-and-done on the boards.
The Pick: Wisconsin 70-55. American will keep the score and the game slow and go, and then the Badgers will go on a second half run the Eagles won't be able to answer for.
FINAL SCORE: Wisconsin 75-35