2016-NCAAB-March Madness-Elite 8 games preview
West Region – Anaheim, CA – Honda Center
#1 Oregon (PK, 151) vs. #2 Oklahoma – 6:09 PM ET, CBS
The Ducks and Sooners have held up as the top seeds in the West, dominating games due to their ball movement and shot-making skills. Both are averaging over 80 points per game in this NCAA Tournament and have won comfortably, albeit a combined 3-3 against the spread. That may be one reason oddsmakers have placed pick’em status on this one, leaving it up to the betting public to decide whether they’re backing the least-respected No. 1 seed or a Buddy Hield-led squad that has been in the spotlight for the last few months. There’s no question both are playing well, but it wouldn’t necessarily be a surprise to see Oklahoma bet into a favorite position between now and tip-off.
On the floor, these are teams with similar strengths, but Oregon certainly has the size advantage. Center Chris Boucher is the nation’s second-leading shot-blocker and is a factor on the offensive end because he’s versatile enough to step out and knock down a jump shot. Dillon Brooks, who had his national coming-out party on Thursday night despite the fact he was First Team All-Pac-12, scored 25 points last round, the last three of which drew the ire of Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski. He’s incredibly mature for the college level, consistently hunting his shot but playing with a very composed demeanor. Elgin Cook, a versatile forward who scored 16 points and grabbed a team-high nine rebounds against the Blue Devils, can similarly beat you inside and out. 6-foot-9 sophomore Jordan Bell comes off the bench and adds even more depth.
The way Oklahoma can defeat the Ducks is to continue shooting the lights out the way they did against a Texas A&M team that typically stifles opponents but had no question for the arsenal surrounding Buddy Hield, who actually had a rough start in the round of 16, often seeing as many as three bodies around him. Hield ended up with 10 boards and 17 points, but it was Jordan Woodard who led five double-digit scorers in the win over the Aggies, scoring 22 and making five of his six 3-point shots. The Sooners shot 49.2 percent.
The Sooners shot 11-for-25 (44 pct) from beyond the arc and will undoubtedly shoot it with impunity here. Hield hit just two of his seven 3-point attempts. This is Oklahoma’s first Elite 8 appearance since 2009. Oregon, the 1939 NCAA Tournament champ (inaugural edition), hasn’t been back to the Final Four since. They’ve won 10 consecutive games, winning the Pac-12′s regular-season and tournament titles and setting a new record for single-season wins. Dana Altman is in the Elite Eight for the first time in his 26-season head coaching career. Counterpart Lon Kruger is here with his third team, having reached this stage with Kansas State and Florida. The Sooners are looking to get back to the Final Four for the first time in 14 seasons. The ‘under’ has prevailed in 11 of the last 13 Oklahoma games and has come through in Oregon’s last two games.
South Region – Louisville, KY – KFC Yum! Center
#1 Kansas (-2.5, 145.5) vs. #2 Villanova – 8:45 PM ET, CBS
The top teams in this region have been impressive in each of their victories in this NCAA Tournament, perhaps more than any other teams in this tournament. Combined, they’re 6-0 against the number. If the Wildcats hadn’t lost in the Big East Tournament final to Seton Hall, there’s little doubt that the earliest these teams would’ve met would’ve been a national semifinal, since ‘Nova would have earned a No. 1 seed if not for stumbling. Both teams were amazing on Thursday night. Villanova forced a bunch of turnovers, but it was its offense that opened eyes, as Miami could do nothing with them in a 92-69 loss that sounds even more impressive when you consider the Hurricanes were the No. 3 seed and looked more overmatched than they were in any ACC game besides a road loss at North Carolina.
Ryan Arcidiacono and Kris Jenkins each scored 21 points and the team as a whole shot 62.7 percent from the field. The Wildcats hit 10-of-15 3-pointers and were 18-for-19 at the free-throw line. They outrebounded Miami 27-17 and consistently beat the Hurricanes to loose balls, something that Kansas head coach Bill Self will undoubtedly point out when his team views film.
Fortunately, the Jayhawks hit the boards hard and came up big against Maryland as a result, winning that battle 43-28. Landan Lucas had 11 rebounds, while Perry Ellis scored 27 points to key the frontcourt effort. Lucas has seemingly been the key for Kansas during this 17-game winning streak. He doesn’t need the ball on the offensive end and dominates on the boards and on intangibles, setting screens and making himself a factor on the defensive end.
Guard play will be pivotal here, as both teams employ a two-point guard look. Villanova’s Arcidiacono and Jalen Brunson will tangle with Kansas’ Frank Mason and Devonte Graham, so expect ball-handling and 3-point shooting to be a key factor. The Wildcats have won 15 of 17 have seen the ‘over’ come in 10 of the last 12 times. The Jayhawks are 14-3 ATS over their last 17 and have seen the ‘under’ prevail in their last two outings. Villanova has only been an underdog in one game this season, losing to Virginia.