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Previewing the Sweet 16: East Region

by Photo of Geoff Hutchinson

The NCAA Tournament continues on Thursday with an action-packed East Region

Previewing the Sweet 16: East Region

After a couple of days of inaction, the NCAA Tournament picks back up play today starting with the Sweet Sixteen. In the East Region, there are two very compelling matchups that will determine who will play on Saturday evening for a chance to represent the East Region in the Final Four.

#1 Syracuse vs. #4 Wisconsin

Summary:

The first game of the Sweet 16 will be a matchup of two contrasting styles. The #4-seeded Badgers are interested in controlling the pace of the game through their slow-tempo swing offense, while the #1-seeded Orange want to use their zone to force turnovers and get points in transition. Syracuse has been forced to make major adjustments to their lineups due to center Fab Melo being declared academically ineligible for the tournament. His void in the middle has created issues for the Orange, as evident in their opening round matchup against UNC-Asheville. However, in their Round of 32 game against Kansas State, the team did a better job of figuring out how to play without Melo, especially in the second half as they went on to rout the Wildcats. As for Wisconsin, they blitzed their opening round opponent, Montana, before winning probably the best game thus far in this region against Vanderbilt.

Key Matchup: Wisconsin's Swing Offense versus Syracuse's 2-3 zone defense

The most important matchup of tonight's game will be how Wisconsin is able to generate offense against Syracuse's athletic and lengthy 2-3 zone. Bo Ryan's swing offense is predicated on "milking the clock" in hopes of getting the defense out of position and getting a great shot late in the clock. Syracuse's main goal on defense is to force turnover to start their fast break. Wisconsin is one of the best in the nation at protecting the ball, turning it over on 15.1% of its possessions, while Syracuse forces turnovers on 25% of its opponents' possessions this season. Whichever team wins this battle will end up winning the game tonight. One thing to note, however, is that Wisconsin has struggled this season against zones. This was most evident in their game against Vanderbilt, where the Commodores switched to a 2-3 zone and stifled the Badgers. The Badgers did not attempt any 2-pointers for the last 7 minutes of the matchup.

Winner: Syracuse

Even without center Fab Melo, Wisconsin's struggles against zone defenses this season will continue this evening.

#2 Ohio State vs. #6 Cincinnati

Summary:

The nightcap in Boston will be a battle of supremacy for the state of Ohio. The #2-seeded Buckeyes will look to impose its supremacy against the upstart #6-seeded Bearcats. To get to this point, Ohio State survived a tough matchup against #7-seeded Gonzaga, while Cincinnati upset #3-seeded Florida State. Cincinnati might be the hottest team in this region, winning 8 of their last 10, including victories over the likes of Syracuse, Marquette, and Louisville, all teams still in the tournament. The Bearcats trot out a 4 guard lineup that does a great job of protecting the ball, and forcing other teams to turn it over, while the Buckeyes will try to control the glass with Jared Sullinger and DeShaun Thomas.

Key Matchup: Cincinnati's Yancy Gates vs. Ohio State's Jared Sullinger

If Cincinnati has any chance of winning against Ohio State, it will need a standout performance from its enigmatic big man. Everyone knows the abilities of Sullinger, and his ability to dominate a game in the post. However, it will be up to Gates to try and neutralize Sullinger's impact on the offensive end of the court by making him have to defend on the other end of the court. On the season, Gates is averaging 12 points and 9 rebounds, so he has the ability to make life difficult for Sullinger tonight. The question is will he be up to the task? Throughout his 4 years at Cincinnati, there have been constant concerns about his effort, and tonight would be the chance to silence all his doubters with a strong performance.

Winner: Ohio State

In the end, Ohio State has too many weapons for Cincinnati to defend. Expect a game in the high 60's with the Buckeyes coming out victorious tonight.

Let CHARGED.fm get you tickets to the NCAA Tournament Final Four in New Orleans, LA.


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