Lots of intrigue in this region, between title favorite North Carolina, Blake Griffin and Oklahoma, the overtime-heavy squad of Syracuse and an experienced Gonzaga squad. Fun stuff if you ask me.
No. 4 Gonzaga vs. No. 1 North Carolina
The Bulldogs might be one of the more tournament-experienced teams in the field, but they needed Jeremy Pargo to do his best impersonation of Tyus Edney to survive Western Kentucky and make this round. However, Gonzaga is tough being long, athletic Austin Daye, sharpshooter Matt Bouldin and the speedy Pargo.
North Carolina’s fortunes are based on how much defense it wants to play. The Tar Heels can score any day of the week, especially with Ty Lawson looking good, but their defensive intensity wanes and leaves them vulnerable during the course of 40 minutes. I’d expect Gonzaga to exploit this and even take a lead into the final 10 minutes before succumbing to UNC’s abundance of talent.
Pick: North Carolina
No. 3 Syracuse vs. No. 2 Oklahoma
This might be the toughest game to call in the Sweet 16. On one hand you have a Syracuse team that can score in a variety of ways – off the drive (Jonny Flynn), on the catch and shoot (Eric Devendorf and Andy Rautins) and inside (Paul Harris and Arinze Onuaku). Add in a tough matchup 2-3 zone and the Orange are tough.
Oklahoma, however, has the most dominant player of the tournament in sophomore Blake Griffin. Griffin is a physical specimen and can eat up the Orange down low. However, the Sooner guards have to hit 3s to loosen up the Syracuse zone so they can drive with Willie Warren and hook up Griffin in the post. That’s easier said than done though. I like Syracuse’s overall balance to win out here.