By: David Kay
Syracuse looked like the team to beat in the West Regional despite playing their opening weekend games without starting center Arinze Onuaku. Do any of the remaining teams in the region have what it takes to knock the ‘Cuse off their path to the Final Four? David Kay is here to break down the Sweet 16 match-ups.
#1 Syracuse vs. #5 Butler
Thursday 7:07 EST
How they got here:
beat Vermont 79-56 in first round
beat Gonzaga 87-65 in second round
beat UTEP 77-59 in first round
beat Murray State 54-52 in second round
Key for Syracuse:
Arinze Onuaku did not play in the first two rounds and his status is still uncertain for this weekend. If Onuaku returns, he and Rick Jackson will combine to have a major size and strength advantage over Butler inside. ‘Cuse will need to feed their bigs which should open up looks for the likes of Wesley Johnson and Andy Rautins on the wing. Like they have shown all season long, getting out in transition will also keep the Orange attack on O’.
Key for Butler:
In their opening round game against UTEP, the Bulldogs hit 13 three-pointers and will need a similar showing against the ‘Cuse. A 2-3 zone usually leaves plenty of three ball opportunities, but with the Orange’s length on the perimeter of the zone, the looks won’t come easy for Butler. Matt Howard cannot afford to get into foul trouble which has been his Achilles heel this season against the Syracuse bigs since the ‘Dogs don’t have a whole lot of depth up-front. Getting back on defense will also be important as the ‘Cuse will look to run at every available opportunity.
Syracuse 78, Butler 64
#2 Kansas State vs. #6 Xavier
Thursday, 8:37 pm
How they got here:
beat North Texas 82-62 in first round
beat BYU 84-72 in second round
beat Minnesota 65-54 in first round
beat Pitt 71-68 in second round
Key for Kansas State:
Jacob Pullen and Denis Clemente have sparked the Wildcats all season long including combining for 55 points in their second round win against BYU. Thursday, K-State will need their supporting cast to play a bigger role. Forwards Curtis Kelly, Jamar Samuels, and Dominique Sutton will need to be on top of their game against a Xavier team that is physical down low especially if Pullen or Clemente are having an off shooting night.
Key for Xavier:
Jordan Crawford needs to go off. He has scored 55 points in their two tourney games and we saw in the second round against Pitt that when he gets in the zone, he can carry the team with his all-around ability to score the basketball or create for his teammates. The Indiana transfer will also need to show up on the defensive end as well to help limit the productivity of Pullen, who hit seven three-pointers against BYU.
Kansas State 70, Xavier 66