Sweet 16 weekend is upon us and it’s time to start breaking down what some key players need to do to give their team the best shot of winning and making it to next weekend.
Louisville – Russ Smith will be Russ Smith, but how he handles the control aspect will go a long way to whether Louisville lets Oregon hang around with a chance in this game. Gorgui Dieng should find plenty of opportunities to find scoring against Oregon’s mismashed frontcourt. Peyton Siva will need to set the tempo on the defensive end, looking to create scoring chances when possible. Chane Behanan, Luke Hancock and Wayne Blackshear need to be patient and find scoring in the gaps.
Oregon – A balanced attack has been Oregon’s M.O. all season, but they need someone to step up as they look to take a deeper run. The prime candidates are freshmen Damyean Dotson and Dominic Artis. Artis is getting closer to 100% after an injury and Dotson’s explosiveness can play at Louisville’s tempo. Big men Arsalan Kazemi, Tony Woods, and Waverly Austin will need to play much more physical than they are used to, and they will need to make sure and keep the Cardinals from crashing the boards. EJ Singler provides a steady influence, and he may need to step in if things start to get away from the Ducks.
Kansas – Jeff Withey has been having an excellent tournament so far, but he could be in for a major test with a lot of the high screening action Michigan is likely to throw his way to try and lure him from the basket. Ben McLemore has taken a lot of criticism for his tendency to disappear at times for long stretches. That can change tonight against Oregon’s perimeter defense. Travis Releford will have his hands full with multiple assignments on the defensive end. Elijah Johnson needs to control the game on both ends of the floor for the Jayhawks and try to not let Michigan get into a rhythm.
Michigan – Trey Burke will likely keep the Michigan offense running well, but he will not be able to do this alone. Tim Hardaway Jr. needs to continue his good play of late, and freshmen Nik Stauskas and Glenn Robinson III will need to be aggressive and not settle early on. Mitch McGary will need to try different things to keep Withey occupied and hope to keep him away from protecting the rim.
Duke – The senior trio of Mason Plumlee, Ryan Kelly, and Seth Curry will need to make their mark early on in this game. Plumlee will need to contend with the physical play of Derrick Nix. The Spartans may not have a true answer for Kelly, so he needs to look to get into a rhythm early on. Curry needs to pick his spots, and with a little patience, he will find them. Quinn Cook has done a very good job keeping the offense running and he will need to make sure he deals with the screens well on the defensive end. Rasheed Sulaimon was aggressive against Creighton, but the same opportunities may not be there. Pick and choose your spots.
Michigan State – Keith Appling has had his struggles this season, but there is no time for it now. Get the Spartans into their offense quickly and get the ball to guys where they can make plays. Adreian Payne will need to look and establish himself early around the basket before he looks to make plays on the perimeter. Derrick Nix will have to push Plumlee away from the basket on the defensive end, while looking to go right at him on offense to try and get the big man in foul trouble. Gary Harris may be the difference if he can get good looks early and get his confidence up.
Florida – Can Kenny Boynton control himself? Shot-selection is key and his history has not been great. If he picks the right spots, he should find some easy points. Patric Young and Erik Murphy can dominate the lane area on offense, but they need to pay attention to constant movement of Florida Gulf Coast on the defensive end. Scotty Wilbekin has played good defense this season, but he has to be aware of big gaps FGCU will create and make sure he doesn’t get caught without help.
Florida Gulf Coast – Just enjoy the ride!
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