NCAA Bracket 2011: Previewing Thursday's Sweet 16 Matchups
On Thursday night, four more teams will be eliminated and four more teams will advance in the NCAA Tournament. Tonight's matchups will be in the West Region (San Diego State vs. Connecticut, Duke vs. Arizona) and from the Southeast Region (Florida vs. BYU, Butler vs. Wisconsin).
Here are previews for each of Thursday night's games.
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No. 2 San Diego State vs. No. 3 Connecticut
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Kemba Walker has carried the Connecticut Huskies to this point, but his run will end in the Sweet 16. Although Walker has done a better job in recent games of getting teammates involved in the offense, Connecticut still desperately needs a big game from Walker in order to move on in the NCAA Tournament.
San Diego State is a strong defensive team. The Aztecs have many players who are long enough to really bother Walker.
Without Walker being as strong of an offensive presence as he has been during Connecticut's recent hot stretch, the Huskies will not be able to take home another win.
However, the Huskies are still talented enough to stay in the game the whole way.
My pick: San Diego State 67, Connecticut 63
No. 1 Duke vs. No. 5 Arizona
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No. 1 Duke vs. No. 5 Arizona
Arizona pulled off a small upset against Texas in the third round, and the Wildcats will look to pull off another upset over No. 1 seed Duke on Thursday.
Duke definitely has more talent than Arizona. All around, the Blue Devils could be the most talented squad in all of college basketball. With a stacked starting lineup, they can give Arizona trouble.
However, Duke will have struggle in one of the key aspects of its game.
The Blue Devils heavily rely on the three-point shot and Arizona has one of the best three-point defenses in the nation.
Duke shoots 37.4 percent from beyond the arc and makes over eight three-pointers per game. Arizona opponents shoot under 30 percent from beyond the arc.
Without being able to make its share of three-pointers, Duke is not quite the same team. In their losses this year, the Blue Devils have shot 26-for-108 (24.1) percent from three-point range. The Blue Devils have trouble winning without the three-point shot.
Duke's superior talent will allow the Blue Devils to stay in the game throughout, but Arizona will be able to pull off the upset on Thursday night.
My pick: Arizona 72, Duke 70
No. 2 Florida vs. No. 3 BYU
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Florida and BYU meet in the NCAA Tournament for the second straight year. Last year's game was a thriller, and this game could follow a similar path.
Between BYU's Jimmer Fredette and Florida's dynamic duo of Erving Walker and Kenny Boynton, this will most likely be the highest-scoring matchup on Thursday.
Fredette has been playing great in the 2011 NCAA Tournament, but the Sweet 16 looks like it will be his exit.
Walker and Boynton have been playing well in the NCAA Tournament and Florida is one of the best teams in the nation when those two players are on their game.
In addition, Vernon Macklin has been solid for Florida in the first two NCAA Tournament games. With the help of Alex Tyus, he has the potential to shut down BYU's post game.
Although Fredette has the talent to take over a game, he will not be enough for BYU to upset Florida. The Gators' have too much firepower between Walker, Boynton, Macklin and Parsons.
My pick: Florida 81, BYU 76
No. 4 Wisconsin vs. No. 8 Butler
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This is another game that could be decided from beyond the arc. Both Wisconsin and Butler are strong three-point shooting teams. For the most part, both teams need three-pointers to have at least some role in their offense in order to win.
Between the two teams, Butler is the better defensive team on the perimeter and could give Wisconsin some problems.
In addition, Butler has to find a way to control Jon Leuer. Leuer has a big body and the ability to dominate the game.
Matt Howard has the ability to defend Leuer, but he will have to stay out of foul trouble. In many games this year, Howard has been in foul trouble and it has really hurt Butler. As long as Howard does not get into foul trouble, Butler is in good shape to win.
My pick: Butler 62, Wisconsin 59