The NCAA tournament is down to its Sweet 16. We’ve seen Cinderella darling Florida Gulf Coast grab the headlines from the first weekend; with Georgetown, Gonzaga and New Mexico all underachieving and gone. LaSalle and Oregon join FGCU as the only double-digit seeds left in the Sweet 16. Brian Koziol, Sal Capaccio, Pat Malacaro and Dan Cave are back for some insight on who will make it through weekend and onto the Final Four.
Brian Koziol: Duke
Sal Capaccio: Louisville
Pat Malacaro: Louisville
Dan Cave: Duke
Koziol: “Louisville still looks like the #1-overall seed but in this wacky season of teams not being able to stay on top too long, they are due for a hiccup. Their guards still give them a great chance to win it all, but winning two games in this region is very tough. Duke has yet to play their best game and I think can knock off two good defensive teams, in Michigan State and Louisville with their outstanding perimeter shooting. Seth Curry and Ryan Kelly shoot the lights out and Coach K returns to the Final Four.
Capaccio: “What an incredible group of coaches in one regional. Coach K, Pitino, Izzo. Can't go wrong with any of them, really, but I picked Louisville to win the whole tournament before it started, so I won't look back now.”
Malacaro: “The Cardinals reached a lull in their season, which started with a loss to Syracuse at home, but have bounced back nicely. They blew through the Big East Tournament, and have not been tested yet in the NCAA Tourney. I expect to see Rick Pitino cutting down the nets in Indianapolis, on the way to Atlanta next weekend.”
Cave: “Maybe the matchup of the Sweet 16 takes place here between Duke and Michigan State. Maybe it's because Bobby Hurley will be coaching basketball across the street from this very station next winter, or maybe it's just because the Blue Devils are better...I like them to beat both the Spartans and Louisville to give Coach K a shot at another national title. Like he needs it.”WEST:
Brian Koziol: Ohio State
Sal Capaccio: Arizona
Pat Malacaro: Ohio State
Dan Cave: Ohio State
Koziol: “Ohio State dodged a bullet in their game against Iowa State. Arizona is too soft to handle a tough Buckeyes team that has the easiest path to Atlanta out of all the favorites. If Wichita State meets up with the Buckeyes, look for slugfest with two outstanding defensive teams with Ohio State’s experience being enough to advance.”
Capaccio: “Whoever wins the Sweet 16 game between Arizona and Ohio State will get to the Final Four. And as good as OSU is, they have to fly over 2200 miles out west to play Arizona in what will almost be a home game for the Wildcats.”
Malacaro: "Well, it seems my faith in Gonzaga was mistaken. Oh well. As much as it pains me to say this, I think Ohio State will top the region. The Wildcats can hang with Thad Matta's group, but once the Buckeyes get past the Elite Eight, it should be clear sailing past Wichita State."
Cave: “This seems way too obvious. America seems to love a Cinderella...until they actually reach the Final Four, and we realize there was a reason they were a Cinderella all along. Won't happen this year with the Shockers or Explorers. Ohio State will dispose of either one handily in the Elite Eight.”EAST:
Brian Koziol: Miami
Sal Capaccio: Indiana
Pat Malacaro: Indiana
Dan Cave: Miami
Koziol: “Miami is too athletic for Indiana and shoot better than Syracuse, so I like the Canes to continue their storied season. Being without leading rebounder Reggie Johnson could hurt the Canes, so they will really need their guards to step up. Syracuse can beat Indiana if they play well defensively and keep James Southerland out of foul trouble. When he sat in the Big East Final and in their game against Cal last round and it made both games turn in a negative direction both times.”
Capaccio: “I see the winner of the Syracuse/Indiana game getting to the Final Four. That said, I'd love to pick my Orange here, but Indiana has the two things that hurt Syracuse's 2-3 zone: terrific perimeter shooting and a big man who can handle the ball 10-15 feet away from the basket in Cody Zeller.”
Malacaro: “I still think IU is in the "elite" conversation. They play in the toughest conference in America this season, and the B1G could have three Final Four schools this year.”
Cave: “Each of the top four seeds in this bracket are still alive, but each struggled in their own way to get past their second-round opponents. Indiana looked very shaky against Temple, Marquette needed a comeback to squeak past Butler, Syracuse beat Cal despite an awful offensive performance, and Miami hung on against Illinois. Out of those four, I'll take the Hurricanes who are probably the strongest on-court and definitely the most fun off of it (see: Jim Larranaga's postgame speech). “SOUTH:
Brian Koziol: Michigan
Sal Capaccio: Michigan
Pat Malacaro: Michigan
Dan Cave: Kansas
Koziol: “Michigan is ready to return to the Final Four. Their up-tempo style is entertaining and individual skill gives them just enough to get by Kansas. Kansas could’ve lost last round had Carolina shot the ball well and they love to find ways to choke in this stage of the tournament. I’m be pulling hard for FGCU despite Florida playing very well so far, likely ending the best story of the tournament.”
Capaccio: “After a period of poor play last month, Michigan is playing terrific basketball again. The tourney is about guard play and controlling tempo, and Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway, Jr. are doing it as a pair as good or better than anyone right now. Matchups favor them no matter who they play this weekend.”
Malacaro: "I have liked the Wolverines ever since the draw came out on Selection Sunday. I think the selection committee did them a favor by sticking them in a region with Kansas, who is easily beatable. While I think FGCU will keep it close, I would expect a Gators-Wolverines Elite Eight showdown to be the game of the round."
Cave: “FGCU's miracle run comes to an end against the Gators while Kansas methodically rolls past Michigan, then UF to reach yet another Final Four. Move along folks, nothing to see here.”
There they are. Let us know if you agree or disagree:
@BrianWGR, @SalSports, @PatWGR, @DanCaveWGR
Enjoy the madness.