Sweet 16 Preview: Southwest
VCU vs. Florida State
After VCU and Florida State just waxed their opponents off the floor, they'll have the opportunity to go head to head for a chance at playing in the Elite 8.
Florida State is a defensive-minded team that relies on suffocating pressure to lockdown the perimeter. The other night they made the Fighting Irish look peaceful, forcing them to shoot just 23% from downtown (7-30) and an abysmal 30% from the floor. On the season, the Seminoles hold opponents to 30.1% shooting from downtown (10th in the nation), and just 39.9% on two-point field goals, which is good for tops in the country.
Unfortunately, they shoot just 43% from the floor and only 33% from downtown, so that 9-19 three point shooting performance the other night was about as rare as a laugh during Live With Jimmy Fallon. Chris Singleton is still not likely to contribute a full game's worth of action, meaning the Seminoles will need guards Derwin Kitchen, Michael Snaer and forward Bernard James to continue putting points on the board.
Virginia Commonwealth on the other hand seems to enjoy winning with offense, as they did against Purdue when they poured in 94 on six players in double figures. The Rams sport a balanced attack, finishing with a different leading scorer in each of their three wins so far. They won their first three games by a combined margin of 49, led by point guard Joey Rodriguez, who has turned the ball over only three times in the team's three contests.
Florida State will need that same hot shooting they got against Notre Dame to keep a leg up on VCU. They struggled in their first round matchup with Texas A&M, shooting just 4-15 from downtown, but only gave up 50 points which negated their uninspiring offensive efforts. VCU's attack looks fast, dynamic and relentless, and should present a tougher challenge than their seeding might suggest.
I'm going with VCU, with the idea that the Seminoles are due for an off shooting night, as history says they might be.
Top Matchup: Joey Rodriguez vs. Derwin Kitchen
If Rodriguez can effectively penetrate and make plays the way he did against Purdue, (11 assists, 0 turnovers) the Ram's offense becomes a lot tougher to slow down. Unfortunately for Rodriguez, he's playing against one of the most impenetrable perimeter defense's in the country.
Kitchen is Florida State's second leading scorer behind Chris Singleton, and will most likely have to shoot better than the 2-7 he shot against Notre Dame. He's had an up and down senior year, throwing up a stinker for every two games he's productive. In fact, he hasn't scored in double figures in three consecutive games all season long. He scored 15 against Texas A&M and 10 against Notre dame, making Friday his last opportunity at pulling off the turkey.
Kansas vs. Richmond
The Morris twins are my favorite set of twins since Danny DeVito and Arnold Schwarzenegger.
When you have two guys at 6'9 and 6'10 that can shoot the ball, post up and defend the rim the way Markeiff and Marcus can, it makes it difficult for the opposition to match up. And when you surround these mismatches with steady, mistake-free veterans who can shoot and handle the ball, it makes it even harder to match up with Kansas as a whole. They get high percentage looks, which can explain why they lead the country in FG% inside the arch.
Richmond is rollin'. The Spiders are coming off a conference tournament championship, a first round upset over 5th seeded Vanderbilt and a second round blowout over Kenneth Faried and Morehead State. They're led by seniors Kevin Anderson and Justin Harper, who combine to average 34.5 of the team's 70 points per game. Harper's ability to play outside forces opposing bigs away from the rim, which should benefit the Spiders half court offense.
Kansas will probably see it's first real test this Friday against Richmond, but it's a test they'll likely ace. They Jayhawks have too much depth, and too many Morrises.
Top Matchup: Marcus Morris vs. Justin Harper
The two most skilled players on the floor should go head to head Friday night. Harper is a bit more prolific on the perimeter, with impressive footwork and mobility that allow him to rise and fire over defenders. Morris should have his way with Harper inside, boasting the rare combination of strength, versatility and touch in the paint. With Morris' ability to spot up from three and operate out of the post, he's got the advantage on the offensive end. If Harper can hang with him and continue playing at a high level, it should be a boost for both the Spiders and his NBA draft stock.
Final Four Prediction:
Kansas had an easy path to begin with. Now, they should be able to moonwalk into the Final Four with only Richmond, and either VCU or Florida State in their way.