NCAA Sweet 16 Preview- Arizona vs Xavier and Purdue vs Kansas
NCAA Sweet 16 Preview
#2 Arizona Wildcats vs #11 Xavier Musketeers
Where: SAP Center in San Jose, California
When: Thursday, March 23, 2017 at 7:09 PM PT
TV Broadcast: TBS
In the NCAA Sweet 16, Arizona head coach Sean Miller meets a familiar foe in Xavier. He was an assistant at Xavier from 2001-2004 and the head coach from 2004-2009. Current Xavier coached Chris Mack worked under Miller and succeeded him as head coach. This will be the second time the two teams have faced each other in the Sweet 16. Arizona beat Xavier 68-60 two years ago.
Xavier has not had a great season. They finished seventh in the Big East with a conference record of 9-9 and went 23-13 overall. They lost six-straight games between February 11 to March 2, which begs the question: are they for real, or merely experiencing a little March Madness?
For whatever ups and downs the regular season brought, the Musketeers have looked good in this tournament. Xavier beat #6 Maryland 76-65 in the first round. They beat the Terps with a barrage of 3-pointers, connecting on 11-of-17 from downtown (64.7%) and shooting 55.6% from the field. They also dished out 20 assists, pulled down 36 rebounds, collected four steals and swatted away three balls. In the round of 32 they absolutely dominated 3-seed Florida State 91-66. It was a huge 25-point victory over a Seminoles squad that won 26 games and went 12-6 in the toughest conference in college basketball.
The Arizona Wildcats (32-4) advanced to the Sweet Sixteen by putting behind a rough first half of play against No. 7 St. Mary’s. The Wildcats were 10-of-29 from the field and 1-of-7 from behind the arc in a sluggish first 20 minutes of play. After a slow start, Lauri Markkanen was electric in the second half and finished with 16 points, 11 rebounds, two blocks and a steal. Teammate Allonzo Trier was 0-4 from the floor when the Wildcats went into halftime down 30-29, but scored 14 points in the second half to lead the team on an impressive comeback. They eventually pulled away for a 69-60 win over the Gaels to advance to the sweet 16.
My Take- The Wildcats are one of the country’s hottest teams winning 11 of its last 12 games, a stretch that includes victories over UCLA and Oregon who were both Top 5 teams. Xavier, meanwhile, shook off a six-game losing streak to squeak into the tournament. While they have had impressive wins so far in the tournament, Xavier has show they can implode. Xavier is not nearly as deep as Arizona and won’t be able to keep up.
#4 Purdue Boilermakers vs #1 Kansas Jayhawks
Where: Sprint Center in Kansas City, MO
When: March 23, 2017 at 6:39 PM PT
TV Broadcast: CBS
Purdue makes it back to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2010. They will face a powerhouse Kansas team that is basically playing a home game in Kansas City. Both teams won their regular-season outright conference titles by multiple games. Purdue (27-7) won the Big Ten by two games while Kansas (30-4) won the Big 12 by four games. Ironically, both teams reached the Sweet 16 by beating a team from their opponent’s conference. Purdue advanced with an 80-70 victory over Vermont and the Boilermakers squeaked out a win against Iowa State 80-76.
Purdue’s Caleb Swanigan has 36 points, 26 rebounds, 11 assists and four blocks in this tournament while teammate Vince Edwards has averaged 21 points. Purdue shoots 40.4% from three and it’s no secret that Swanigan’s post presence contributes to open shooters. Kansas will not have an answer for the 6-foot-9, 250-pound All-American Swanigan. Conversely, Swanigan has no chance to defend Kansas’ second-team All-American Josh Jackson. Jackson, Frank Mason and company makeup a Kansas team that has no problems scoring points. Kansas big man Landen Lucas will need to play smart and stay out of foul trouble if they hope to contend with a big Purdue team. Both teams are in the top ten in the nation in three-point shooting percentage, and both teams know how to put the offense into overdrive when needed.
My Take- Both teams are going to drop bombs and it’s going to be high energy and high scoring. My bracket has Kansas winning it all and Purdue hasn’t shown me anything to change my mind.
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