Breaking Down the Brackets: Sweet 16 Thursday Games

M. S.Correspondent IMarch 26, 2009

GLENDALE, AZ - MARCH 26:  Center Hasheem Thabeet #34 of the Connenticut Huskies grabs a rebound against the Purdue Boilermakers in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament at the University of Phoenix Stadium on March 26, 2009 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
In my actual bracket, I picked 11 of the Sweet 16 teams correctly. In my predictions, however, I was spot on, going 16 for 16.
With eight games on the table over the next two days, I’ll try to give some insight on what I see going down from here on out. First up are the Thursday's games; they'll be followed by Friday’s action tomorrow.

West No. 1 Connecticut vs. West No. 5 Purdue

Just as it would be for any team playing Connecticut, Purdue has had a much harder path to get to the Sweet 16 than the Huskies. Close wins over Northern Iowa and Washington put the Boilermakers in a position to take on UConn, who defeated Chatanooga and Texas A&M by an average of 41 points and have looked the best out of any team in the nation thus far.

I like Connecticut in this game (and every game) because of the pace the Huskies play at. They are much faster than Purdue but have the presence inside with Thabeet and Adrien to slow it down if they have to.

Defensively, I like for another stifling performance from the Huskies that will shut down Purdue’s star in the making, JuJuan Johnson. A.J. Price should have a good game offensively, as he has in every game of the tournament up to this point, and I think UConn will roll.

Final: Connecticut 77, Purdue 67


High-flying Sam Young has been excellent in the NCAA Tournament so far, averaging 23 points per contest.

High-flying Sam Young has been excellent in the NCAA Tournament so far, averaging 23 points per contest.

East No. 1 Pittsburgh vs. East No. 4 Xavier

A battle of the bigs awaits us in these semis, with DeJuan Blair squaring off with B.J. Raymond. While Raymond is just 6'6", he plays much bigger and will cause problems for the Pitt defense, which has struggled all tournament.

Key to the Panthers' success will be Sam Young, who carried the team in the first two rounds while averaging 23 points. Look for Levance Fields to have a great game against a bigger but slower back court in Xavier.

This one will go down to the wire, but in the end, Pitt’s experience and talent will get it done as the Big East gets their second team into the Elite Eight.

Final: Pittsburgh 82, Xavier 78


West No. 2 Memphis vs. West No. 3 Missouri

Memphis probably got rid of their "overrated" label when they defeated Maryland 89-70 in the second round, and it will be forgotten altogether if they can knock off Missouri tonight. Tyreke Evans is establishing himself as an early candidate for Most Outstanding Player of the tournament and Roburt Sallie, who averaged 5.7 points per game in the regular season, has 48 points in two tournament games to spark the Tigers of Memphis.

The other Tigers will look to get Demarre Carroll and Leo Lyons involved and will hope that their guards can do just enough to get by against a very tough Memphis team.

In the end, Memphis takes this one by a hair.

Final: Memphis 72, Missouri 70


East No. 2 Duke vs. East No. 3 Villanova

In what looks to be the most exciting game of the day, the red-hot Wildcats will look to shoot their way past the defensive-minded Blue Devils. Villanova looked terrible in their first-round win over American but more than made up for it in their crushing win over UCLA. Everyone got involved (six players reached double figures), and when that happens, they are tough to beat.

Duke will counter with the poised attack of Jon Scheyer, Gerald Henderson, and Kyle Singler.

This contest will come down to whether or not Villanova can find their three-point shot, which is something they have yet to do in the tournament. But I have them in the Final Four, so I have to stick with them: Villanova takes this one.

Final: Villanova 85, Duke 79