The first weekend of March Madness 2011 is over, and the sixteen teams still standing get a four day break before reassembling again to whittle themselves down to the Final Four (to be played in Houston). This year’s NCAA tournament has had an unusual number of lower-ranked seeds to the later rounds. One 12 seed (Richmond), two 11 seeds (VCU and Marquette) and one 10 seed (Florida State) have made it through to the Sweet 16. See below for a preview, predictions and picks for the NCAA regional semifinals.
Preview of the NCAA Sweet 16
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(2) San Diego St
East Region Semifinal Preview
No. 1 Ohio State will meet No. 4 Kentucky in the first East region semifinal. This could be the best game of the weekend. The Wildcats are playing very good basketball right now, have quality players at every position, and they will give the Buckeyes a run for their money.
No. 2 seed North Carolina is a five point favorite in their contest with No. 11 Marquette, but if the Golden Eagles can keep playing lights-out defense the way they did against Syracuse in the round of 32 they have got more than a puncher’s chance in this game.
West Regional Semifinal Preview
No. 1 seed Duke got a scare against Michigan, squeaking out with a two point win. No .5 Arizona barely won in both of their March Madness match ups, a two point win against Memphis, and a controversial referee-aided one point win over Texas. Duke has better athletes and a deeper bench, but coach Sean Miller has got the Wildcats playing their best basketball of the year right now so anything is possible.
No. 3 seed Connecticut takes on No. 2 seed San Diego State in the early West region game. Kemba Walker is the leading scorer for the Huskies, and he has upped his game a notch in the Big Dance. But SDSU is a solid, very physical defensive team, and if the Aztecs can shut down Walker they have got a solid chance to win the game
Southwest Regional Semifinal Preview
No. 1 seed Kansas is matched up against the No. 12 Richmond Spiders in the earlier Southwest region semifinal. The Spiders are 10,5 point underdogs and are not getting a lot of respect. That could help motivate Richmond, but they will need their best game as Kansas and the Morris twins have simply overwhelmed the competition to date.
No. 11 seed Virginia Commonwealth takes on No. 10 seed Florida State in the Battle of the Cinderellas. Both of these teams are peaking at the right time and it is really hard to see a clear edge for one team or the other, but perhaps VCU beat a little tougher competition to get here. The Seminoles would prefer to see a more paced, defensive game, and the Rams prefer to push the ball so something has to give here.
Southeast Regional Semifinal Preview
No. 3 seed BYU takes on No. 2 seed Florida in the first Southeast regional contest. This could be a tough match up for the Cougars as Florida has plenty of big bodies to dominate BYU in the paint. Jimmer Fredette and teammates are going to need to hit a high percentage of their shots to win this game.
No. 8 seed Butler, a veteran Cinderella team, faces off against the No. 4 seed Wisconsin Badgers in the second Sweet 16 game Thursday evening. Look for this game to be physical contest as both teams like to play in your face defense and trigger the offense off of defensive plays.
Sweet 16 Picks and Predictions
For more on college basketball and the 2011 NCAA tournament see:
Sweet 16 Predictions & Preview – 2011 NCAA West – Duke vs Arizona
NCAA Tournament Results – 2011 March Madness Second Round Wrap Up
NCAA Tournament 2011 Scores – March Madness Results