Just how far is the East from the West tonight? The East Regional features each of the top four seeds advancing, even though it took some miraculous work for Marquette to get there. The West Region, meanwhile, has seen the most upsets, with only Ohio State still remaining among the five highest seeds in the group.
#2 Miami vs. #3 Marquette: Reggie Johnson is out for this round of games, taking away one of the big bodies that could hurt Marquette. The story about Marquette was a determined team short on outside shooting; then they made three in a row late to rally against Davidson. Fantastic matchup between Junior Cadougan and Vander Blue versus Shane Larkin and Durand Scott. Marquette has been vulnerable in allowing second chance points, while getting offensive boards themselves. It will fall to Miami’s remaining big men, Kenny Kadji and Julian Gamble, to swing the game there.
#1 Indiana vs. #4 Syracuse: Is this the kind of matchup where Indiana can take advantage of Syracuse’s renowned zone? Indiana has prolific shooters against the zone, and also can get on the offensive glass, particularly with an athletic player like Oladipo working in the spaces. It will likely be the other end where Syracuse must emerge to pull the upset, getting contribution from Michael Carter-Williams so that James Southerland is not the only outside scoring option.
#2 Ohio State vs. #6 Arizona: Arizona went through some struggles mid-year, but this should be a game featuring athletes and defense getting after it. Expect the team that controls the boards and limits shot attempts outside the paint to prevail. Which of Lenzelle Smith or Sam Thompson will step up for Ohio State?
#9 Wichita State vs. #13 La Salle: Seven years ago, Wichita State had a Sweet Sixteen matchup against George Mason in a showdown of teams that pulled upsets. They lost. They try to advance further this time, coming off a performance for the ages from three point range late. Wichita State has not been a prolific outside shooting team; the m.o has been defense and controlling the glass. The return of Ron Baker has sparked this team and its offensive options though (Baker missed 21 games). On the other side, La Salle is hoping for a spark with the return of Steve Zack. The guard-oriented Explorers have been very limited in their front line rotations, so if Zack can play effectively tonight in his first game back from a foot sprain, it can help with some lineup versatility in trying to combat the Wichita State advantage inside.
[photo via USA Today Sports Images]