The Sweet 16 marquee matchup will be between the Kentucky Wildcats and the Ohio State Buckeyes.
This will be a matchup of two great basketball programs facing off for the chance to move on to the Elite Eight.
The Buckeyes are the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament and are arguably one of the hottest teams in the tournament. The Wildcats are filled with talent and have a realistic shot of taking down the Buckeyes.
Here is a breakdown of the matchup for Friday night.
The latest March Madness odds for this game have the Buckeyes listed as six-point favorites over the Wildcats.
This comes as no surprise as the Buckeyes boast a more impressive resume coming into this showdown, but the Wildcats have what it takes to exploit the weaknesses of the Buckeyes.
The Buckeyes lost two games this year and they were both road games to Wisconsin and to Purdue. In the game against Wisconsin, the Badgers rallied from a deficit behind a strong scoring performance by Jordan Taylor.
The Wildcats have a very talented point guard in Brandon Knight that can carry the Wildcats, much like Taylor did in the victory over Ohio State. If strong guard play is a weakness of the Buckeyes, the Wildcats have it covered.
The Badgers also shared the scoring load. Mike Bruesewitz and Jon Leuer scored 12 points apiece, while freshman Josh Gasser added 11 for Wisconsin. The Wildcats can get scoring from anywhere on the floor and they have the ability to spread the ball around. This could be a winning recipe for taking down the Buckeyes.
Those losses for the Buckeyes could be forgotten, considering they were on the road against teams that had no losses at home and were in-conference.
Let’s move onto other reasons why the Wildcats could upset the Buckeyes.
The Buckeyes have a slew of talented players on the team, but the best player is easily Jared Sullinger. Sullinger is a monster in the post and can take over a game.
Unlike previous teams in the tournament, the Wildcats can match-up down low.
Josh Harrellson and Terrence Jones are huge forces down low that will be able to play sound defense on Sullinger. Harrellson can attack the rim and that could provide a challenge for Sullinger to stay out of foul trouble while trying to slow him down.
Harrellson had 30 points and 18 rebounds in the two tournament games and is arguably the hottest player not named Jimmer in the tournament.
The inside will be protected, but what about the outside? The Wildcats have an answer for that, too.
The Buckeyes have a terrific trio that can drain the three-ball in Jon Diebler, William Buford and David Lighty. These three players light up the scoreboard shooting a combined 47.4 percent from downtown. If Kentucky does not shut down this trio, or at least slow them down, it could be a very long night for the Wildcats.
The Wildcats counter with their own talented trio. Darius Miller, DeAndre Liggins and Brandon Knight are very quick and they have length that can disrupt the shots that the Buckeyes put up. That length could be all the difference in shutting down the Buckeyes outside threat.
If the Buckeyes do have a problem, it could easily be the depth on the team.
While the starting rotation is as talented as any team in the country, they lack depth and if this game is called tight by the officials, Kentucky will have the edge late in the game. Kentucky has the same issue, so this area of play could be called a draw—if either team gets into foul trouble, it will be an area of concern.
If this game is looked at with a sports betting twist, the latest trends favor the Wildcats.
The Wildcats thrive in the role as an underdog and are a perfect 4-0 against the spread when they are an underdog. They are 5-1 against the number in the last six games against non-conference opponents and they are 4-1 against the spread when playing the Big Ten.
The Buckeyes are 5-11 against the spread in their last 16 NCAA Tournament games as a favorite and 1-7 against the number in their last eight NCAA Tournament games as a favorite when the spread is between 0.5 and 6.5.
If these trends are any indication of the outcome of this game, it’s going to a close one.
Kentucky has a very good chance to win this game. They match up well in nearly every position and the current superstars are playing their best basketball.
They have an inside presence that can compete with Sullinger and they have the length on the outside to defend the perimeter. The Wildcats have overcome the problem of losing close games and are playing smart when the game is on the line.
Sweet 16 Prediction: Kentucky 74, Ohio State 70
Matt Regaw is a B/R Featured Columnist and the founder of BookieBlitz.com, your one-stop shop for sports articles, previews and predictions. Feel free to contact Matt at email@example.com.
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