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March 27, 2008

NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 viewer's guide

MORE: NCAA Tourney Central


No. 1 Memphis vs. No. 5 Michigan State
WHERE: Houston
WHEN: 9:57 p.m., Friday
ANNOUNCERS: Jim Nantz and Billy Packer
RECORDS: Memphis 35-1, Michigan State 27-8.
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Memphis d. No. 16 UT Arlington 87-63, d. No. 8 Mississippi State 77-74; Michigan State d. No. 12 Temple 72-61, d. No. 4 Pitt 65-54.
THE BUZZ: Expect to see a lot of defense. Both teams are deep and athletic. Michigan State has a lot of big bodies to throw at Memphis, so there should be a lot of physical play in the low post. It'll be a nice matchup of freshman point guards in Memphis' Derrick Rose and Michigan State's Kalin Lucas. Lucas, backcourt mate Drew Neitzel and backup guard Travis Walton have been steady with the ball, but the Spartans' big men can be turnover-prone. The Spartans typically hammer foes on the boards but the same can be said for Memphis. While Memphis prefers a fast pace, look for the Spartans to try to keep this one in the low 70s. It would help their cause if Neitzel and athletic forward Raymar Morgan play well. Neitzel is the Spartans' only real 3-point threat, while Morgan is the most athletic of the Spartans' big men. As for Memphis, despite what coach John Calipari says, free-throw shooting eventually is going to be important. Michigan State won't be shy about putting Memphis on the line, especially the Tigers' big guys. Michigan State also needs to make sure to keep Rose out of the lane.
THE LINE: Memphis by 5.
HUGUENIN'S PICK: Memphis by 3.
McCLELLAN'S PICK PICK: Memphis by 2.
SKWARA'S PICK: Memphis by 10.
No. 2 Texas vs. No. 3 Stanford
WHERE: Houston
WHEN: 7:27 p.m., Friday
ANNOUNCERS: Jim Nantz and Billy Packer
RECORDS: Texas 29-6, Stanford 28-7.
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Texas d. No. 15 Austin Peay 74-54, d. No. 7 Miami 75-72; Stanford d. No. 14 Cornell 77-53, d. No. 6 Marquette 82-81 (OT).
THE BUZZ: A super-intriguing matchup of a team that relies on its big guys (Stanford) against a team with a superb backcourt (Texas). Thing is, Texas' frontcourt is better than Stanford's backcourt and this essentially is a home game for the Longhorns. Stanford needs big games literally and figuratively from the Lopez twins. Brook is a dangerous scorer in the low post and has greatly improved his offensive arsenal this season. He's also a good rebounder and shot-blocker. Robin is an even better defender, though his rebounding and offense lag behind his brother's. Still, Robin can be effective offensively because he has become more active on that end. While Stanford pounds foes on the glass and plays good defense, the Cardinal are mediocre from 3-point range, lack athleticism and can be pressed into mistakes. Guard A.J. Abrams has scored 26 points in each NCAA game for Texas, and he and D.J. Augustin are going to pose all sorts of problems for Stanford because of their quickness. Damion James has done yeoman work on the boards all season, but at 6 feet 7, he's 5 inches shorter than the Lopez twins; can he keep up on the boards? Center Connor Atchley's perimeter shooting could end up being huge for the Longhorns. Texas will look to push the tempo at every opportunity. One reason is the Longhorns are good when it's a fast pace; another is that they'll need to score when the Lopezes aren't clogging the lane.
THE LINE: Texas by 1.5.
HUGUENIN'S PICK: Texas by 2.
SKWARA'S PICK: Texas by 3.
No. 1 Kansas vs. No. 12 Villanova
WHERE: Detroit
WHEN: 9:40 p.m., Friday
ANNOUNCERS: Gus Johnson and Len Elmore.
RECORDS: Kansas 32-3, Villanova 22-12.
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Kansas d. No. 16 Portland State 85-61, d. No. 8 UNLV 75-56; Villanova d. No. 5 Clemson 75-69, d. No. 13 Siena 84-72.
THE BUZZ: How many times have you heard this: "Villanova should just be happy to be here"? Well, it's true. At the same time, the Wildcats could make this interesting for a while if they're hitting their 3-pointers. Villanova is 14-1 when it makes at least eight 3-pointers in a game. Kansas allows 7.2 made 3-pointers per game, but foes shoot just 33.7 percent from beyond the arc. Trust us: It's a lot easier to score outside on the Jayhawks than it is to score in the lane. Villanova played much better defensively in the second half of the season, but Kansas has so many weapons. There are three guards who can handle the ball (Mario Chalmers, Sherron Collins and Russell Robinson), a talented swingman in Brandon Rush and two guys in the low post (Darrell Arthur and Darnell Jackson) who are savvy scorers and rugged rebounders. All six of those guys are capable of being the leading scorer on a given night. Villanova needs a big game from junior forward Dante Cunningham, especially on the boards. But Cunningham is foul-prone, and if he is sitting, Villanova will be in trouble. Kansas' defense is underrated, and KU forces 16 turnovers per game. Bad news for Villanova: The Wildcats have more turnovers than assists this season.
THE LINE: Kansas by 11.5.
HUGUENIN'S PICK: Kansas by 10.
McCLELLAN'S PICK PICK: Kansas by 12.
SKWARA'S PICK: Kansas by 17.
No. 3 Wisconsin vs. No. 10 Davidson
WHERE: Detroit
WHEN: 7:10 p.m., Friday
ANNOUNCERS: Gus Johnson and Len Elmore.
RECORDS: Wisconsin 31-4, Davidson 27-6.
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Wisconsin d. No. 14 Cal State Fullerton 71-56, d. No. 11 Kansas State 72-55; Davidson d. No. 7 Gonzaga 82-76, d. No. 2 Georgetown 74-70.
THE BUZZ: Davidson is one of the best stories of this tournament, but don't think the Wildcats are done pulling upsets. If sophomore guard Stephen Curry is hot again, Davidson can (will?) win again. Curry has scored 70 points in two NCAA Tournament games, including 30 against a Georgetown team that led the nation in field-goal percentage defense. It doesn't get much easier for Davidson, as Wisconsin is third in that category. While Wisconsin has more beef underneath than Georgetown, the Hoyas are more athletic than the Badgers. Curry is a perpetual-motion machine on offense. He has phenomenal range, a hair-trigger release and can get into the lane. In short, he can flat-out take over games offensively. Davidson point guard Jason Richards leads the nation in assists and also has 3-point capability. None of Davidson's big men are stars, but they are tough and more than serviceable on offense and the boards. Wisconsin is solid from 3-point range, with Michael Flowers who almost certainly will spend a lot of time guarding Curry and Jason Bohannon the main weapons. It's hard to overstate how much space Wisconsin's big men take up in the low post; plus, each can hit a mid-range jumper (though if Greg Stiemsma leaves his feet on his "jumper," his vertical can be measured in millimeters). Davidson wants a fast pace, while Wisconsin would prefer a game in the 60s. Wisconsin allowed more than 66 points three times this season; the Badgers lost all three games. The flipside: Wisconsin has allowed more than 60 points just once in its past 11 games. Davidson runs a lot of motion offense, so the Wildcats won't be bothered if they have to hold the ball deep into possessions.
THE LINE: Wisconsin by 4.5.
HUGUENIN'S PICK: Davidson by 2.
McCLELLAN'S PICK PICK: Wisconsin by 4.
SKWARA'S PICK: Wisconsin by 10.

MORE: NCAA Tourney Central

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