#1 UConn v. #5 Purdue
From laptops, to suspensions, to torn ACLs, to MOP of the West Region? Could happen.
A day after the news of an alleged recruiting violation hits the airwaves, UConn must step onto the court for a crucial showdown against Purdue, who is no pushover now that they are finally healthy. The Boilers will need to make up for their size and rebounding gap (UConn has a +8.3 rpg margin while Purdue has a -0.3 margin) with good decision making and shooting.
Keys to Victory for UConn
1. Outphysical (not a word) Purdue and pound them on the boards
2. Alter shots and force the Boilers to settle on the perimeter
3. Get JaJuan Johnson and Nemanja Calasan into early foul trouble
Keys to Victory for Purdue
1. Hit mid- and long-range jump shots early to pull Thabeet away from the basket (a la Notre Dame)
2. Protect the ball (+3.5 turnover margin per game)
3. Have Chris Kramer glove AJ Price
Prediction: UConn, 67-62
#2 Memphis v. #3 Missouri
To date, Memphis has not met a team who likes to play the Tigers at their own game. That changes tonight. In Missouri, you have a team that averages 18.5 assists per contest and has two ball handlers who have an assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.5 or better. In Memphis, you have a team that defends among the best in recent college basketball memory (opponents shoot 36% and 29% from three-point range).
Keys to Victory for Memphis
1. Put their stamp on the game via defensive will
2. Collect offensive rebounds en route to 2nd-chance points
3. Defend the perimeter
Keys to Victory for Missouri
1. Put pressure on Tyreke Evans
2. Hit 3-point shots early and set the press
3. Attack Memphis’s bigs
Prediction: Missouri, 67-61
#1 Pittsburgh v. #4 Xavier
This matchup pits two of the best rebounding teams in the nation. Pitt and Xavier have rebounding margins of +9.8 and +8.4 per game, respectively. While Xavier does not want a street fight, they are not afraid of one like most of Pitt’s competition. One final key stat to think about: Pitt’s assist-to-turnover ratio is 1.5 while Xavier’s is 0.9.
Keys to Victory for Pittsburgh
1. 2nd-chance points
2. Domination at the point → easy opportunities in the low post
3. Keep DeJuan Blair and Sam Young out of foul trouble
Keys to Victory for Xavier
1. Use slashing cuts
2. Hit (39.9% as a team) & defend (33.2% against) the trifecta
3. Get DeJuan Blair into foul trouble
Prediction: Pittsburgh, 74-65
#2 Duke v. #3 Villanova
Assuming Dante Cunningham is the constant, which of the countless Villanova role players will take their turn and step up for Jay Wright's Cats?
Credit: Yahoo! Sports
Credit: Yahoo! Sports
This is another strength versus strength matchup in the East Region. Both teams have multiple good ball handlers and both teams average 8 or more steals per game.
Keys to Victory for Duke
1. Covet the ball
2. Provide help-side defense on dribble drives
3. Singler/Henderson must stay out of foul trouble
Keys to Victory for Villanova
1. Get to the charity stripe early & often
2. Get the Coreys going
3. Force Duke to settle for deep shots
Prediction: 71-67, Villanova