24 March 2015

2015 NCAA Tournament: Sweet Sixteen Predictions

March Madness continues to roll on as we have reached the Regional Semifinals, more commonly known as the Sweet Sixteen. As you would suspect, only 16 teams remain in the race to get to Indianapolis for the 2015 Final Four. You have got the favorites like Kentucky and Duke as well as your underdogs in UCLA, North Carolina State, Wichita State among others.

Who will survive and advance to the Elite Eight? Here are my predictions for the Thursday and Friday action.

Thursday, March 26th
3 Notre Dame vs. 7 Wichita State - Midwest - CBS, 7:10
The Fighting Irish had to gut out a tough win against Butler in overtime last Saturday in Pittsburgh to get here. They were able to get key shots down the stretch from their key contributors and after their run to the ACC Tournament title, this is a team peaking at the right time. They also are playing with heavy hearts as coach Mike Brey's mother passed away on Saturday. However, I like the Shockers. They are more balanced and they have the experience that their opponents lack, and they always seem to do well when under-the-radar like in 2013.
Pick: Wichita State

1 Wisconsin vs. 4 North Carolina - West - TBS, 7:47
Wisconsin may be getting guard Traevon Jackson back in time for the North Carolina contest and he will be huge to get back, even in limited minutes. That's not to say the Badgers are limited without him, they are just even more dangerous with him. The Tar Heels certainly have the talent to pull the upset but I still have the Badgers getting through.
Pick: Wisconsin

1 Kentucky vs. 5 West Virginia - Midwest - CBS, 9:40
This is going to be a fun contest for simply how West Virginia plays. Bob Huggins has employed a fearsome press that is hard to prepare for, and they also play 13 guys. This is a massive shift from the style of play that Kentucky saw from Cincinnati on Saturday afternoon. Kentucky will win but it will certainly not be easy in the end.
Pick: Kentucky

2 Arizona vs. 6 Xavier - West - TBS, 10:17
Xavier coach Chris Mack really did not seem to be excited to face off with his former boss Sean Miller here. And ultimately, it will be a very tall task for the Musketeers as they are inferior on both ends of the court. Also, the Wildcats have been playing some tremendous basketball the last month or so. Color me shocked if Xavier pulls off the upset.
Pick: Arizona

Friday, March 27th
2 Gonzaga vs. 11 UCLA - South - CBS, 7:15
The Bruins are another one of those teams that, despite not being deserving of receiving of an at-large bid, are making a little run to the second weekend. Now that they have made it to Houston, they'll get to face off in a rematch of that epic Heartbreak City Sweet Sixteen showdown from 2006. Ultimately, Gonzaga is clearly the better team, on both ends of the court in my opinion, and I think they will get by UCLA with relative ease.
Pick: Gonzaga

4 Louisville vs. 8 NC State - East - TBS, 7:27
These two ACC programs really have been all over the place this season as Louisville's offense has been downright miserable at times and NC State has been very hit-or-miss. Don't forget, they were only able to get past LSU in their first game thanks to a nice collapse by the Tigers. I don't think we will see a repeat performance from the Cardinals offensively that we saw on Sunday night but I think their defense will be what powers them to Sunday.
Pick: Louisville

1 Duke vs. 5 Utah - South - CBS, 9:40
The Utes are a quality club on both sides of the court and freshman big Jakob Poeltl is sensational. However, they do lack the offensive firepower that the Blue Devils have with freshman sensation Jahlil Okafor inside and Tyus Jones and Quinn Cook on the outside with Justise Winslow running the show. Too much for the Utes in my opinion.
Pick: Duke

3 Oklahoma vs. 7 Michigan State - East - TBS, 9:57
Since Tom Izzo's and Michigan State's track record come March is pretty well-known at this point and considering their impressive wins over Georgia and Virginia, some are thinking they are the favorite to get out of Syracuse to get to Indy. However, I like Oklahoma. The Sooners are sound on both sides of the court, they feature a star in guard Buddy Hield and they excel at shooting the three. I think they will get the win.
Pick: Oklahoma

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