2014 NCAA Tournament
South Region - Sweet 16
How are the picks so far? 9-6 SU, 10-5 ATS
No. 11 Dayton vs. No. 1 Florida (-10)
- Who's Got Next? Video Preview of Dayton vs. Stanford
Dayton has been on a terrific ride, and it's not like it's been cheap.
It seems like ten years ago now, but the Flyers were one Aaron Craft missed layup away from being knocked out of the tournament right away by Ohio State, but they made the most of the opportunity by getting past the vaunted Syracuse zone and, surprisingly, having no problems whatsoever with Stanford's size.
But if you want to get to Texas, Dayton, now you'll really have to earn it.
How's this for a fun stat? Florida has only lost twice all year, with the last defeat coming in early December. The two teams that tagged the Gators? Wisconsin in Madison – in Florida's second game of the year – and UConn in Storrs. It took two of the eight best teams in college basketball – on the road – to get to the nation's current No. 1 team.
Florida continues to get it done with a hard-nosed defense that attacks from all sides, and a tough presence on the boards that takes over games. The Gators outrebounded UCLA by ten and did a fantastic job of moving the ball around offensively.
But it's not like Dayton is going to be intimidated at this point.
Very deep and very good inside, the Flyers are able to stay fresh with waves of substitutions and with big contributions from several spots. The defense has stepped up its play in the tournament, and the guards – Khari Price, Jordan Sibert and Scoochie Smith – aren't making a slew of big mistakes.
Fine, so who's going to win?: Florida 82-70. Is it at all possible that Florida could be getting gassed? Scottie Wilbekin and Michal Frazier have played a LOT of minutes, and they're going to have to handle the deep Flyers. However, they're both too good, too strong and too active. These two will get to the basket without a problem, and while Dayton did a great job of handling Stanford inside, it won't be able to alter what the Gators want to do.
No. 11 Dayton vs. No. 10 Stanford (-3)
- Who's Got Next? Video Preview of Dayton vs. Stanford
Yippee. Lower seeds are playing each other.
Dayton proved it wasn't a Mercer by hanging on against a Syracuse team that couldn't hit a three point shot if it was sitting in the rim, and to go along with the win over Ohio State, it could be argued that no one has done more so far in the tournament. The Flyers are tough defensively, are hitting the boards hard, and they're getting just enough scoring from beyond the arc to move on. They hit 7-of-16 from three, while Syracuse was 0-of-10.
Stanford also struggled a wee bit from deep, missing all nine three-point attempts against Kansas, but they made Andrew Wiggins look silly while dominating the Joel Embiid-less Jayhawks from the interior. Big, this is a tough, active team that has the ability to give the Flyers problems on the boards, but they have to hit from the outside to win – the Kansas game was an aberration.
Fine, so who's going to win?: Stanford 67-62. Stanford is too careless with the ball and it doesn't generate enough points off of mistakes. It did a decent job against the shockingly befuddled Jayhawks, but Dayton is doing more with its defensive pressure, and it showed against the Syracuse done that getting inside wasn't going to be much of a problem. However it's not like Dayton did anything special against the Orange; Syracuse just couldn't buy a bucket from deep. The Cardinal will get just enough offensive rebounds to stay alive, and then it'll come down to free throws. Dayton can't make them; Stanford can.
FINAL SCORE: Dayton 82-72
No. 4 UCLA vs. No. 1 Florida (-5.5)
- Who's Got Next? Video Preview of UCLA vs. Florida
It's offense vs. defense with a UCLA team that moves the ball around extremely well and scores in bunches, while Florida puts the clamps down and is as active and annoying as and defense in the country.
After the Gators slogged their way through Albany in the first game, and then they showed up and they destroyed the Pitt offense that ripped up Milwaukee to shreds. The Panthers were held to just 4-of-17 shots from three and never, ever got to the line, attempting just six free throws. It's not like Florida's offense was hot when Scottie Wilbekin wasn't rolling, but they were fantastic on the offensive boards and they never let the game get interesting. Can the pressure bother a UCLA team that blasted through Stephen F. Austin like it was Stephen F. Austin?
Somewhat quietly, UCLA has played really, really well after not showing up in a blowout loss at Washington State, and now it's peaking at the right time with the backcourt blowing up with balances scoring and doing a fantastic job of getting to the rim. Florida isn't Stephen F. Austin, but it's possible the Bruin offense has just enough firepower to step the game up a bit.
Fine, so who's going to win?: UCLA 74-71. Yeah, yeah, yeah, defense always beats offense, but UCLA has the right mix and the right makeup to pull off the upset. The guards don't turn the ball over, they hit their free throws, and they can play a little bit of defense, too. Getting physical won't be a problem, and in the end, it'll come down to free throws. UCLA hits 75%, while Florida makes just 66% of its shots.
FINAL SCORE: Florida 79-68
No. 2 Kansas (-5.5) vs. No. 10 Stanford
- Who's Got Next? Video Preview of Kansas vs. Stanford
The Jayhawks had to fight for their NCAA Tournament lives in the second round. That could be trouble for Stanford.
Eastern Kentucky gave Kansas a ride before being the superior size and athleticism took over to send the Colonels home. The Jayhawks continued a trend that sees Bill Self's squad sleepwalk on the court at times and allow teams to hang around a little longer than expected – they need to wake up early against the Cardinal.
Don't look for Stanford to get that same treatment after turning in a mild upset by beating New Mexico 58-53 thanks to its size inside and a hot shooting night from the perimeter. Head coach Johnny Dawkins is blessed with an athletic scorer on the perimeter in guard Chasson Randle, a tireless shooter who can also help on the boards. Guard Anthony Brown brings versatility to the backcourt and takes some pressure off Randle, while center Stefan Nastic and forward Josh Huestis will create issues for the Jayhawks inside with their size, especially since KU will still be without starting center Joel Embiid in this one.
That means Andrew Wiggins will again take center stage for Kansas, and Self is just fine with that. Wiggins is a spectacular talent who has a lightning-fast first step and can finish at the rim, and now he's starting to shine. Perry Ellis and Jamari Traylor combined for 27 rebounds between the two of them against EKU, and if Kansas can get anywhere near the same type of performance from them vs. Stanford, it'll be enough to move on. The key for Kansas will be to simply be ready to go from the opening tip.
Prediction: Kansas 75-70. This isn't a great Kansas defense, and it's far worse without Embiid. It won't matter. Wiggins will go off.
FINAL SCORE: Stanford 60-57
No. 4 UCLA vs. No. 12 Stephen F. Austin
- Who's Got Next? Video Preview of UCLA vs. 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.
FINAL SCORE: UCLA 77-60
No. 1 Florida
(-5) vs. No. 9 Pittsburgh
Who's Got Next? Video Preview of Florida vs. Pitt
Both the Gators and Panthers rolled to blowout wins in the second round Thursday afternoon, and now bring drastically different styles in what should be a fascinating third round showdown. The Panthers are at their best when they're working in the half-court game, using their precise offense to break teams down. The O can push the tempo at times, but it prefers a slower pace that allows it to take advantage of its athleticism. Florida is willing to play a little slower, as well, but it's balanced on offense and boast enough athleticism attack in spurts when needed.
Pitt guard Lamar Patterson will challenge Florida's backcourt with his quickness off the dribble, and he knows how to get to the free-throw line with good vision and a knack for getting to the rim to go along with his ability to knock down the open jumper. Senior Talib Zanna brings size and experience to the floor, giving the Panthers a talented inside player who boasts an array of moves and hammers the boards hard - his defense on Florida's Patric Young on the paint will be key. The Panthers don't boast a lot of depth offensively, but Cameron Wright brings a boost to the perimeter.
Florida's lineup is filled with athletes, and guard Scottie Wilbekin sets the tone. He can score off the dribble or knock down the open three while providing the Gators with a rudder on the floor. Casey Prather is a man among boys inside and will wear down the Panthers in the paint. Dorian Finney-Smith will help on the glass, and Young is tough to stop on the low block. Florida's defense and rebounding may be too much for the Panthers to overcome.
Prediction: Florida 72-64. The Gators overcome their opening game sluggishness to start looking like the No. 1 team in the country again. The D will turn things up a notch.
FINAL SCORE: Florida 61-45
No. 3 Syracuse (-7) vs. No. 11 Dayton
- Who's Got Next? Video Preview of Syracuse vs. Dayton
Dayton pulled off a second-round upset over Ohio State to earn headlines on the first day of the tournament, but it won't sneak up on anyone Saturday. Syracuse, meanwhile, is trying to find its groove, and a blowout win over Western Michigan might help.
Syracuse relies on its duo of forward C.J. Fair and guard Tyler Ennis to do the bulk of the damage on the offensive end, and Ennis' ability to break opponents down off the dribble will be tough for Dayton to handle. The Flyers weren't great defensively this year, but they were solid and will play good help defense to keep Ennis pinned to the perimeter.
Syracuse will count on Fair to be aggressive with the ball, and his ability to score inside or make things happen when facing the basket keep Dayton on its heels. Guard Trevor Cooney brings a perimeter threat to the floor, and if he's making shots, the Flyers are going to have to fight to stay in the game. Forward Jerami Grant has stepped up his game of late, and his knack for turning up his game when the spotlights come on could make the Orange back to its dominant self.
Dayton hopes to use the same formula it brought to the floor vs. Ohio State. The team doesn't seem to mind trading baskets, and in a game like this, it might be just looking to hang around to turn the game into a five-minute battle – like it did against the Buckeyes. Guard Jordan Seibert and forward Devin Oliver are the Flyers' main scorers, and Oliver is a quality rebounder whose all-around game could give the Orange trouble. Dyshawn Pierre and Vee Sanford bring balance to the floor and will force Syracuse's 2-3 zone to scramble a bit.
The Flyers can't hesitate on offense when attacking the zone. They must be decisive and attack before Syracuse can recover to have a shot at the upset.
Prediction: Syracuse 75-70. It'll be a tight battle throughout, but when the Orange needs to clamp down, it will just before they pull away late. The defense will force just enough mistakes to stop the Flyers in key spots.
FINAL SCORE: Dayton 55-53
No. 1 Florida vs. No. 16 Albany
Line: Florida -21.5
Why To Pick
Albany: Could it be possible that the Albany defense can hold down the Gator
offense? The Great Danes found a little bit of scoring punch at the right time
to get out of the first round against Mt. St. Mary's, but it'll have to be the
defense that keeps this close - it it's at all possible.
Why To Pick
Florida: The Albany defense is good, but the No. 1 team in the nation has the
better D and should shut thing sdown cold. The work on the glass should be
enough to make up for any early mistakes, but getting to the rim won't be an
ussie. The Florida guards can turn up the pressure and create easy baskets.
Florida 81-55. One big early run will set the tone that will carry out to an
easy walk in the park. The Gators will look like they're on a mission.
FINAL SCORE: Florida 67-55
No. 8 Colorado vs. No. 9 Pitt
Line: Pitt -5.5
Why To Pick Colorado: It's one of the few teams able to go rebound for rebound with the tough Panthers. This isn't a good Pitt team from three, and if it's not on from the outside, it'll be one and done off the glass – Pitt lives at times off of second chance points. If they can get inside, Josh Scott and the Buffs should be able to score.
Why To Pick Pitt: Colorado doesn't do enough of the little things right. The backcourt is going to have a hard time with a Pitt team that's great at taking the ball away and doesn't make mistakes. The Buffs aren't efficient or effective with the ball, while Pitt won't have too many wasted possessions.
The Pick: Pitt 69-60. When Colorado gets cold, things get really, really ugly. There isn't enough scoring pop to keep up if the Panthers get on a roll early.
FINAL SCORE: Pitt 77-48
No. 5 VCU vs. No. 12 Stephen F. Austin
Line: VCU -6
Why To Pick VCU: This might not quite be a Final Four-worthy team, but it has the aggressiveness and the ability to screw up someone's tournament just be bringing the tough defense. The three point shooting should be enough to get the Rams up, but it'll be the pressure and the forced errors that should be the difference.
Why To Pick Stephen F. Austin: This is a good, sound team that doesn't turn the ball over like VCU needs it to. Great at forcing steals and mistakes, they could give the Rams a dose of their own medicine. They can gun when they need to, and they can match Shaka's team three for three.
The Pick: VCU 78-73. Stephen F. Austin can play, but it hasn't exactly faced a killer slate. It'll give VCU all it can handle, but the offense will fall flat late. It's tournament time - the Rams know what they're doing.
FINAL SCORE: SFA 77-76
No. 4 UCLA vs. No. 13 Tulsa
Line: UCLA -9
Why To Pick UCLA: The defense should be able to clamp down on a Tulsa team that doesn't move the ball well enough. The Bruins can bomb away from three, the Golden Hurricane can't, and that could be the difference early on. Can the Bruins bomb their way out of the gate to put the game away early? It's possible. Tulsa might play decent defense, but the O won't keep up the pace.
Why To Pick Tulsa: Danny Manning's team isn't all that good on the inside, but it has the backcourt to hold up against the UCLA pressure. Careful with the ball, they don't make a slew of big mistakes and won't let the Bruins do much in transition. Strangely inconsistent late in the year, could UCLA be caught looking ahead?
The Pick: UCLA 84-73. It'll be a good back-and-forth game for a while, but the Bruins will pull away late. They have way too much firepower.
FINAL SCORE: UCLA 76-59
No. 6 Ohio State vs. No. 11 Dayton
Line: Ohio State -6
Why To Pick Dayton: Everyone is motivated by the NCAA Tournament, but Dayton will be really, really fired up to get a shot at picking off the big school just an hour away. The Flyers can move, have the abilty to bomb from three, and they can hit the glass hard – they're relentless. The Buckeye struggle to score, but they might have to be ready for a firefight.
Why To Pick Ohio State: The defense can make life impossible for sloppy backcourts – Dayton is okay when it comes to turnovers and mistakes, but they're not great. The Flyers don't force errors, and if there's no real pressure on Aaron Craft, there will be problems.
The Pick: Ohio State 72-70. The Buckeyes are going to get tagged badly at some point, but they'll move on after getting all they can handle from the fired up Flyers.
FINAL SCORE: Dayton 60-59
No. 3 Syracuse vs. No. 14 Western Michigan
Line: Syracuse -13
Why To Pick Western Michigan: The Broncos could catch the Orange napping. It's been a struggle for Syracuse to generate consistent points over the second half of the season with little to no pop from three and not enough ball movement. Everyone tries to make things happen on their own, and the O bogs down too earily.
Why To Pick Syracuse: This is an awful, AWFUL matchup for Western Michigan. The Broncos make way too many mistakes and turn the ball over way too earily. If you're not perfect against the Syracuse zone, forget about it. SU might not push the ball around well, but things really, really stall with the WMU half court attack.
The Pick: Syracuse 81-65. It's time for Syracuse to start looking like the No. 1 team in the country again. Get ready for a different-looking squad.
FINAL SCORE: Syracuse 77-53
No. 7 New Mexico vs. No. 10 Stanford
Line: New Mexico -3.5
Why To Pick Stanford: New Mexico might have done a great job of clamping down when needed to witn the Mountain West title, but can the defense handle the Cardinal O if it's working? Stanford might have been flaky over the last few weeks, but they've occasionally gotten red hot – blowing away Arizona State and getting by UCLA within the last month.
Why To Pick New Mexico: Will the Stanford that didn't show up in the Pac-12 tournament loss to UCLA struggle against the Lobo pressure? The New Mexico interior might be too tough for the Cardinal to deal with. If Stanford's shots aren't falling early, this could be ugly.
The Pick: New Mexico 67-62. The Cardinal will suffocate against the Lobo defense that will overcome a few long droughts. It'll be a streaky, low-scoring game.
FINAL SCORE: Stanford 58-53
No. 2 Kansas vs. No. 15 Eastern Kentucky
Line: Kansas -15
Why To Pick Eastern Kentucky: The Colonels might not have the talent to compete with Kansas, but they'll be very, very pesky. They're fantastic at forcing mistakes and ramping up the pressure, and they're full of sharpshooters from the outside. It's a dangerous enough team to keep this close and give Bill Self's team a massive scare.
Why To Pick Kansas: There's absolutely no Eastern Kentucky interior presence whatsoever. If there was ever a team to play against without Joel Embiid, EKU is it. Kansas is sixth in the nation in shooting percentage – granted, Embiid has a lot to do with that – and EKU is 333rd in field goal percentage defense. Uh oh.
The Pick: Kansas 84-60. It'll take a little while, but one big run from the Jayhawks will end the threat midway through the second half.
FINAL SCORE: Kansas 80-69
No. 16 Albany vs. No. 16 Mount St. Mary's
Line: Albany -2
Why To Pick Albany: The Great Danes have the defense to match up well with a Mount St. Mary's team that can score in bunches. While Albany might not have a high-powered scoring attack, it's tough enough on the boards to get enough second chance points to get by.
Why To Pick Mount St. Mary's: A big early run could end it. Albany doesn't have any firepower from three and doesn't have the ability to come back if down big. The Mountaineers generate enough pressure and force enough turnovers to get a few easy buckets, and if that doesn't happen, it's bombs away.
The Pick: Albany 67-64. Mount St. Mary's will get dragged down into the Albany muck and tempo. The experience in the tournament, and a better game on the boards, will be enough to get through to deal with Florida.
FINAL SCORE: Albany 71-64