So, clearly my predictions have not all been correct. I think that’s an understatement. In that spirit, I wanted to make some predictions for games that will ACTUALLY happen. Perhaps I’m just a glutton for punishment, or maybe just desperate for a little redemption after the last two days. Anyway, here are predictions for the games I got wrong today. I’ll do another round for Sunday’s games later on.
(6) Arizona v. (14) Harvard
As the Ivy League champs proved on Thursday, Harvard can be a dangerously efficient team. They shut down Mountain West champion New Mexico, getting a huge performance out of Laurent Rivard. Wesley Saunders had a big game, too. The Lobos out-rebounded the Crimson, but ultimately poor shooting was New Mexico’s demise. This rebounding difference could be exploited by Arizona, who absolutely destroyed Belmont on the boards, grabbing 42 to the Bruins’ 15. This could prove to be the big difference in the game. Arizona was dominant from the field against Belmont as well, shooting nearly 57%, making over half of their three-pointers. The Wildcats don’t like seeing 15 turnovers from their players – and their rebounding advantage over Harvard won’t be quite as disparate as the Belmont game – but they shouldn’t have a whole lot to worry about against the Crimson. Although… that’s what New Mexico thought. Still, I think Sean Miller will have his team ready for this game, and Mark Lyons is a floor general. I’ll be rooting for Siyani Chambers, Saunders, Rivard, and the rest of the Cambridge Cranium Crew, but I think Arizona’s frontcourt is going to be too much for Harvard. Prediction: Arizona 71, Harvard 59
(4) Saint Louis v. (12) Oregon
Like the Belmont-Arizona game, I severely underestimated how well a Pac-12 team would rebound. The Ducks killed Oklahoma State on the boards, and the Cowboys never got their offense going in a coherent way that allowed them to make a serious run. Arsalan Kazemi had 17 rebounds to go along with 11 points, and Oregon ended up with a 44-30 advantage overall. They survived 18 turnovers and a 39% shooting day to still win by 13 points over a really talented Big 12 team. Saint Louis, on the other hand, handled their business like I expected them to do, shutting down New Mexico State with a 20-point victory. Dwayne Evans was solid, but the Billikens should be a little worried about the fact that they were out-rebounded by the Aggies, 41-30, allowing NMSU to grab 21 offensive boards. This is exactly what killed Oklahoma State early against Oregon, and the Ducks will look to exploit this again. Evans will need another big game for Saint Louis’ season to continue. This game is also in San Jose, a clear geographical advantage for the Ducks. I think the 12-seed breaks into the Sweet 16 with another strong rebounding performance and some scoring production out of Daymean Dotson and Dominic Artis. Prediction: Oregon 66, Saint Louis 61
(4) Syracuse v. (12) California
Well, I think I really overestimated the challenge that Montana would pose for Syracuse. Instead, there was no challenge, just a massacre. The Orange won, 81-34, and looked great doing it. They took care of the ball, shot well, rebounded, passed extremely well (21 assists on 27 field goals), and just owned the entire game. Michael Carter-Williams abandoned the idea of a big scoring night early, ending with just four points on 2-of-3 shooting. Instead, the point guard focused on distributing the ball to the tune of nine assists, while also pulling down eight rebounds. In the other game in this pod, Cal upset UNLV, staving off a Rebels run to secure this meeting with the Orange. Cal rebounded with UNLV, Allen Crabbe was a stud – 19 points, nine rebounds, and four assists – and Mike Montgomery has a chance to get back to the Sweet 16. This will be a pretty good game, but I think that Syracuse has the defensive edge in this matchup. It will take another big performance from Crabbe and at least one other major contribution from a player like Justin Cobbs or David Kravish to pull of another upset. I think Jim Boeheim’s boys will find their way to Washington for a matchup with the winner of Indiana and Temple. Prediction: Syracuse 69, California 59
One of the things all three of my winners have in common is experienced coaching. Sean Miller had success with Xavier before coming to Arizona, where he’s been solid, Dana Altman similarly excelled with Creighton throughout the 2000s, and Jim Boeheim’s record speaks for itself. Between coaching experience and rebounding skill, I think these three teams have the edge. Although, this theory clearly doesn’t extend to Bo Ryan and his strong Wisconsin team, which lost to a red-hot Ole Miss team. More on that in the next update.