Talking Sweet Sixteen: Friday, Part II
Once again, if the early games turn out to be disappointing there is still plenty of hope for a great game at night. First, Michigan State and Kansas will meet in a great coaching match-up among other things, then North Carolina and Gonzaga will finish off the Sweet 16 games.
(3) Kansas vs. (2) Michigan State, 9:37 ET-
This is one of those times that it isn’t hard to break down how the teams match up, because they have played once already this year. Michigan State won that game by 13 points, which sounds closer than the game actually was. In fairness to Kansas, the Jayhawks were a different team back then and won 13 of 14 right after that contest.
For Kansas, it all starts with their sparkplug point guard Sherron Collins, averaging about 19 points per game while adding five assists per. The kid has been on the stage before and can really fill it up from anywhere when he’s on. Kansas can also hurt you from the inside with Cole Aldrich. The former super-sub is now putting up about 15 and 10 per game while altering shots inside on a regular basis.
Michigan State has a great point guard of their own in Kalin Lucas. The Big Ten POY sets the tone for the offense and it hasn’t taken him long to earn Izzo’s trust to run things. Lucas can really do it all, and he has a good cast around him. Raymar Morgan may end up being the difference in this game, one way or another. Morgan is the second leading scorer behind Lucas, and is a phenomonal player…sometimes. If Morgan is at his best, Kansas doesn’t stand much of a chance; if he isn’t, it will take a lot from guys like Chris Allen and Durrell Summers on the wings and Delvon Roe and Draymond Green on the block. Senior Goran Suton gives some experience, and with Roe and Green he is part of a barrage of bodies Izzo will throw at Aldrich.
The Jayhawks have been playing great and Michigan State has show that it is prone to letdown games, but I think the Spartans match up very well with Kansas. To beat MSU, you really have to come with a balanced attack, and I don’t see anyone other than Collins and Aldrich getting it done. MSU wins by six.
(4) Gonzaga vs. (1) North Carolina, 9:57 ET-
Gonzaga gave us one of the best games of the tournament last round and we can only hope this match-up proves to be as good. For all the Lawson toe coverage before last weekend’s games, I have heard nothing this week. I assume that’s good news for UNC, but I guess we’ll see.
Gonzaga has only lost one game in 2009 and it was to Memphis. If the Zags plan on keeping that whole thing going, they’ll need some help from one Austin Daye. The 6-11 sophomore has disappeared in the tournament as much as a giant like that possibly can. No big deal, it’s not like he has a good frontcourt to go against or anything. Of course, Josh Heytvelt will be there too, but the advantage even where the Bulldogs are excellent still goes to UNC with Hansbrough and Thompson. On the perimeter, one of my favorite players in the tournament, Jeremy Pargo, is lurking always ready to thunder down a dunk. Matt Bouldin has also emerged as a star and will need to keep it up to run with the Heels.
For North Carolina, their chances are very good if Ty Lawson is a go. When he decided to turn it on against LSU, the game was over and everyone knew it. Even without Lawson, North Carolina sports a roster of stars like Hansbrough, Ellington, and Danny Green. Look for Ed Davis off the bench too, the kid can play. The Tar Heels stumbled a bit in their last game against LSU though, and if they do it again, Gonzaga can really put a scare into them.
Whatever. North Carolina will methodically beat down Gonzaga and set up a sweet game in the Elite 8 against either Syracuse or Oklahoma.