NCAA Basketball Tournament 2013: Predicting Friday's Sweet 16 Matchups

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NCAA Basketball Tournament 2013: Predicting Friday's Sweet 16 Matchups
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Friday's Sweet 16 matchups will be full of pure madness.

Half the Elite Eight is set and ahead are 2013 NCAA tournament picks for the rest of the Sweet 16.

And what a slate college basketball provides everyone with on Friday evening.

Major programs such as Michigan State and Duke square off, whereas a new in-state rivalry is brewing between Florida Gulf Coast and Florida.

Who would have thought we'd see a No. 15 seed two victories away from the Final Four?

In addition, the surging Oregon Ducks take on overall No. 1 seed Louisville to tip off the action. Also, don't sleep on the Michigan-Kansas matchup. It's going to be quite an exciting contest between two high-powered offenses.

Enough scratching the surface, let's dive in and check out who's moving on this weekend.

 

Oregon (12) vs. Louisville (1)

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The Ducks caught fire NBA Jam style and have wrecked through the tournament thus far. Each victory came by an average of 15 points and clearly faced a tougher road to this point than Louisville has.

That said, the Cardinals earned their No. 1 seeding and blasted through each of their opponents by an average of 28.5 points. What gives confidence to coach Rick Pitino's squad is not edging by like its fellow top seeds.

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Offensively it's basically a wash. Each school is virtually an exact replica when it comes to scoring efficiently. So, the major distinction comes down to defense.

Louisville possesses the advantage here, because they force turnovers at a greater rate. The Cardinals also don't commit as many turnovers either and present the talent capable of matching Oregon's personnel.

Whether it's in transition, suffocating with the full-court press or tightening up in the half court, the Cardinals defense gradually propels their offense ahead of the Ducks.

Louisville over Oregon


Michigan (4) vs. Kansas (1)

Kansas vs Michigan: Sweet 16 Preview

The Wolverines have displayed why the Big Ten has impressive top-heavy depth. In two games Michigan has allowed fewer than 60 points in each contest. By contrast, the Kansas Jayhawks had to eek by No. 16-seeded Western Kentucky and took a while to pull away from North Carolina.

Here, the Jayhawks must find a way to create turnovers as the Wolverines will equal them offensively.

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Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway can score at will and Michigan as a team averages only 9.3 turnovers per contest (fewest committed, ranked No. 1). Altogether the Wolverines possess a 48.4 field-goal percentage, but Kansas is No. 1 in opponent's shooting percentage (35.7).

Considering that the Jayhawks have the offense and rebounding to push Michigan out of the paint, the Wolverines need a slower game pace. Kansas hasn't quite found a rhythm yet in the tournament and Michigan's complete effort at both ends and minimizing turnovers is to its advantage.

Michigan over Kansas


Michigan State (3) vs. Duke (2)

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Easily the most anticipated game of the Sweet 16, Michigan State and Duke features two big name coaches in Tom Izzo and Mike Krzyzewski.

Despite two colossal programs and coaches dueling it's a battle of polarizing philosophies.

Michigan State is clearly better defensively, but Duke has the offensive prowess to push the tempo and connect from anywhere. Plus the Blue Devils rarely cough up the rock and the Spartans don't generate an incredible number of turnovers.

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Coach K's squad is also closer than they are given credit for when regarding opponent's shooting percentage—Spartans allow 39.4, Blue Devils allow 41.3.

An edge to coach Izzo's crew, though, will be in the paint as Michigan State averages 37.3 boards to Duke's 33.8.

Obviously there's little give-and-take between the disparities of these teams. One distinction to watch for is Michigan State's toughness in slowing down explosive opponents. The Spartans accomplished this in wins over Kansas and Michigan, and then they nearly upset Indiana twice.

The ACC simply doesn't offer the complete depth we've seen from the Big Ten in 2012-13.

Michigan State over Duke


Florida Gulf Coast (15) vs. Florida (3)

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Although this isn't a duel between two big time rivals, count on this Florida Gulf Coast-Florida showdown to be rather intense. The Eagles are the biggest Cinderella in tournament history, as they are the first No. 15 seed to reach the Sweet 16.

And since Florida Gulf Coast defeated the Miami Hurricanes earlier this year, a victory here makes it the best college basketball team in the state for this season.

However, don't expect coach Billy Donovan and the Gators to just flop.

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Florida blew past a strong defensive team in Minnesota and did the same to Wisconsin at the beginning of the campaign. At the same time, the Gators court one of the best defenses around.

As a result, expect the Eagles to crank up the pace even more.

Florida Gulf Coast has hit over 70 points in its previous five games and the Gators were ousted by Ole Miss and Kentucky prior to the tournament.

The downside for the Eagles is Florida's ability to limit open looks. The Gators rank No. 3 in defensive efficiency and only give up a 37.8 shooting percentage.

Florida over Florida Gulf Coast

 

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