Submitted by Jim Hurley on Saturday, March 24, 2012 at 11:19 AM
So who's gonna go high-stepping into this year's NCAA Tournament Final Four? The first two berths will be won on this next-to-last Saturday in March and here are the Jim Sez game previews:
THE NCAA TOURNAMENT - ELITE 8 / SATURDAY'S PREVIEWS
NCAA TOURNAMENT WEST REGIONAL FINAL - US Airways Center - Phoenix, AZ
#7 FLORIDA (26-10) vs. #4 LOUISVILLE (29-9) - 4:30 p.m. ET, CBS
How the West will be won figures to rest on three things: Who shoots the three-ball better, who gets to the free-throw line more and what influence will U of L Cardinals big man Gorgui Dieng have here one game after he swatted away 7 shots to go with his 9 rebounds in the ugly-as-sin 57-44 Sweet 16 win against Michigan State?
Dieng was able to steer clear of foul trouble and wound up playing all 40 minutes in that Thursday game (the only player on either side to go the distance) and his presence in the middle was - according to M-State star Draymond Green (13 points and 16 rebounds) - clearly "disruptive" and now look for savvy 'Ville head coach Rick Pitino to employ the same strategy here and that's to funnel the Florida ball-handlers/shooters to the middle of the floor where Dieng will be setting up shop.
Naturally, much will be made of this pupil vs. mentor bit involving Gators boss-man Billy Donovan going up against Pitino and both love to have their teams airing out the 3's - note Louisville connected on 9-of-23 triples versus Sparty while Florida shot just 7-of-27 from the beyond the arc in its 68-58 Sweet 16 win against Marquette. All it may take here is one player to heat up from trey-land - who might that be?
Finally, note that Florida shot it 13-of-15 from the foul line against Marquette while Louisville was a horrid 6-of-11 from the charity stripe (and only two players went to the foul line) - tell us right here/right now those numbers get repeated in this West Final and the Gators will be the ones going to New Orleans.
FLORIDA'S NCAA TOURNAMENT GAMES
|3-16||Florida||- 3||Virginia||Florida 71-45|
|3-18||Florida||- 14||Norfolk State||Florida 84-50|
|3-22||Marquette||- 1.5||Florida||Florida 68-58|
LOUISVILLE'S NCAA TOURNAMENT GAMES
|3-15||Louisville||- 5.5||Davidson||Louisville 69-62|
|3-17||Louisville||- 2||New Mexico||Louisville 59-56|
|3-22||Michigan State||- 5.5||Louisville||Louisville 57-44|
NCAA TOURNAMENT EAST REGIONAL FINAL - TD Garden - Boston, MA
#2 OHIO STATE (30-7) vs. #1 SYRACUSE (34-2) - 7:05 p.m. ET, CBS
Okay, so we'll never know what the result of the Wisconsin-Syracuse game would have been had clueless Badgers boss Bo Ryan inserted big man Jared Berggren back into the game for that final possession in Thursday's 64-63 'Cuse win - instead Berggren (17 points in 25 minutes) sat idly at the scorer's table and that last possession by Wisky was awful execution ... think the Orange have more good fortune lying ahead here against yet another Big 10 team?
The fact is the Orange allowed Wisconsin to shoot 14-of-27 from beyond the arc in that clash and didn't clamp down from 3-land till six or seven minutes remained in that game but here Jim Boeheim's crew must be aware that O-State has multiple three-point shooters on the roster (the Buckeyes drained 8-of-17 triples in that 81-66 win against 7 ½-point Cincinnati in Sweet 16 action) and F Deshaun Thomas (26 points against Cincy) has proven he's a dead-eye shooter from the corner where he banged in three trifectas against the 'Cats.
It's a rarity here in that the #2 seed is the betting favorite over the #1 regional seed - Ohio State was a three-point fav at last glance - but that's because the 'Cuse is without the suspended Fab Melo (there are lots of folks who believe these teams would have flip-flopped the #1 and #2 seeds here anyway had the NCAA Tournament Committee folks knew the Melo suspension was coming down the pike) and you wonder if Melo's absence finally catches up to Syracuse here:
After all, Ohio State big man Jared Sullinger (23 points and 11 rebs against Cincinnati) was a monster when he had to be and there may not be enough fouls to give in handling Sullinger here.
Hey, the 'Cuse had a born-again game from lefty C.J. Fair (15 points and 7 boards against Wisconsin) and he could be a handful for a Buckeyes team that always seems to have a dip in their play at some point (see when Cincinnati surged to a 52-48 lead with 11-plus minutes left after trailing by a dozen points at halftime).
One real under-the-radar key here: Ohio State PG Aaron Craft - who collected six steals against Cincinnati - must get some help in disrupting the Orange's offensive flow here ... or else!
OHIO STATE'S NCAA TOURNAMENT GAMES
|3-15||Ohio State||- 17.5||Loyola-Md.||Ohio State 78-59|
|3-17||Ohio State||- 7.5||Gonzaga||Ohio State 73-66|
|3-22||Ohio State||- 7.5||Cincinnati||Ohio State 81-66|
SYRACUSE'S NCAA TOURNAMENT GAMES
|3-15||Syracuse||- 15.5||UNC-Asheville||Syracuse 72-65|
|3-17||Syracuse||- 5.5||Kansas State||Syracuse 75-59|
|3-22||Syracuse||- 3||Wisconsin||Syracuse 64-63|
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