Sweet 16 Preview: East Region
Jordan Taylor could be the key for Wisconsin against Syracuse. (Icon SMI)
By Ronak Patel
Wednesday, March 21, 2012
6. Cincinnati (26-10) vs. 2. Ohio St. (29-7)
Background: You would think that two tradition-rich programs stationed in the same state would meet up more than once in the last 50 years. But it hasn't happened.
Last time they met was in 2006, the Buckeyes won 72-50 over the Bearcats.
But now it will and there is nothing that Ohio State can do about it – the Buckeyes will have to face the Bearcats NOW after many years of avoiding them along with Dayton and Xavier, two other solid basketball programs in Ohio.
The Buckeyes, who defeated a determined Gonzaga team in the third round 73-66, comes into the contest looking to advance to the Elite 8 for the first time since 2007.
Cincinnati, who won their two titles in 1961 and 1962 over Ohio State, is in its first Sweet 16 since 2001.
Ohio State wins if….
Star sophomore Jared Sullinger and coming-of-age sophomore Deshaun Thomas continue their strong play. Sullinger has totaled 30 points and 15 rebounds in the first two tourney games. But it's been Thomas' play that helped steer OSU to the Sweet 16.
The 6-foot-7, 225-pound Thomas has scored 49 points in the first two tourney games. If Cincinnati can't matchup with him, the Bearcats, who play relentless defense, may be in trouble.
Cincinnati wins if….
If they continue their strong defensive play; the Bearcats have limited their last 12 opponents to under-50 percent shooting. If the Bearcats' guards, including lanky and athletic guard Sean Kilpatrick can limit Ohio State's point guard Aaron Craft's penetration into the lane, the Bearcats can play their aggressive perimeter defense, which has held opponents to shoot 32 percent from 3-point land. OSU shoots a tad under 33 percent from 3-point land. If they keep them around that percentage, they have a chance to win.
Player to watch:
Cincinnati junior guard Jaquon Carter. If the guard emulates his performance from the past two weeks, the Bearcats will have a chance to pull the upset.
Syracuse (33-2) vs. 4. Wisconsin (26-9)
Background: The Badgers were once again the annoying bracket-busting team that ruined a lot of people's brackets that had Vanderbilt making it far in the tournament. They play a style that is not pretty, but thoroughly effective. The Badgers have been a constant presence in the NCAA Tournament and are in their third Sweet 16 in the last six seasons.
They haven't gotten past the Sweet 16 hump in recent years. Wisconsin got to the Sweet 16 with a second round win over Montana (73-49) and Vanderbilt (60-57).
Syracuse, which everyone knows is without the services their starting center Fab Melo, survived a first-round encounter against No. 16 seed UNC Asheville 72-65; and played much better in their 75-59 win over Kansas State in the third round.
Syracuse wins if….
The Cuse seem to find their post-Melo "mojo" in the second half against KSU. By using a smaller lineup (which they did at times against UNC-Asheville) more prominently against KSU, the Orange got better movement of the ball on offense and the defense was better at the initial point of the attack in their well-noted zone. If they can continue to get the balance scoring (cue the obvious) and can hold Wisconsin swingman Ryan Evans (11.1 points per game, 6.8 rebounds), in check, they have a great chance to win.
Wisconsin wins if….
Star senior point guard Jordan Taylor (14.7 points) and Evans combine to score 30 plus points. They will need their scoring to offset Cuse's defense. Taylor struggled from the floor against Vandy, going 5-of-15. He will need to shoot closer to 45 percent for the Badgers to have a chance.
Also, everyone knows Wisconsin plays tough defense – they lead the country in fewest points allowed at a 53 point per game clip. If they dominate the boards with junior center Jared Berggren (5.0 rebounds per game), junior forward Mike Bruesewitz (5.2 rebounds) and their host of other rugged players down low, the Badgers will have a chance to pull the upset.
Player to Watch:
Berggren: The junior center has come into his own this season – his scoring average has jumped from 2.4 points per game to 10.3 – and can shoot the 3-pointer. If he has a solid inside-out game, Wisconsin will have its third scoring option on the court behind Taylor and Evans. For a team that is limited offensively, this will help tremendously.