The first three rounds of the 2013 NCAA Tournament have been filled with excitement, fantastic finishes, and shocking upsets. While the tournament has been surprising in some regions, in the East region the top teams have handled their business. The top 4 seeds, Indiana, Miami, Marquette, and Syracuse have all made their way into the Sweet 16. The two games will take place on Thursday, March 28 at the Verizon Center in Washington D.C.
1 Indiana vs. 4 Syracuse
Indiana breezed by their first round match-up against James Madison and than survived a big scare from Temple. Indiana’s defense finally figured out how to stop Khalif Wyatt and the Hoosiers scored the final 10 points of the game for a come-from-behind victory. Victor Oladipo hit a clutch three-pointer with under a minute left that sealed the game. Indiana brings a potent offense that can get points from any position on the floor. Indiana is third in the nation in scoring and 3-point FG pct, and 6th in field goal pct (.486).
Syracuse has been brilliant in the first two rounds, starting with their monstrous win over Montana, 81-34. The Oranges set a program record with points allowed in the victory. In the round of 32, Cuse defeated Cal 66-60 and was in complete control for the entire game. Coach Boeheim has won his 50th game in the NCAA Tournament which puts him in 4th place all-time. Syracuse is also making their three-point shots which makes them very tough to beat. When they struggled in the final month of the season they were unable to knock down the three-point shot. The last time these two historic programs met in the Tournament was in the 1987 championship game in which the Hoosiers won on Keith Smart’s last second shot.
Who wins: Indiana has two POY candidates in Zeller and Oladipo. If one of these players struggle they have fire power from all over the court to back them up especially with Watford and Hulls. Zeller will have to play strong and not get pushed around by a physical Syracuse team. Syracuse needs to have a big game from their senior Brandon Triche, who has struggled shooting the ball recently. Michael Carter-Williams must protect the ball and be the best player on the floor and find James Southerland who has to knock down threes. This game will display a lot of talent and show off some impressive athletes. Indiana is too good inside and out and will find a way to break the Syracuse 2-3 zone. Indiana marches on to the Elite 8.
2 Miami vs. 3 Marquette
Miami is in the Sweet 16 for their second time in school history. Miami defeated Pacific with ease in the first round and edged out a tough victory against Illinois in the second round. Shane Larkin continued his great play and made crucial plays down the stretch to put Illinois away. Rion Brown had a big night hitting five three’s and scoring 21 points. The last time Coach Larranaga was in an NCAA Tournament game at the Verizon Center he took the Cinderella George Mason team to the Final Four. Miami is a deep and experienced basketball team. Defensively is where Miami thrives because they have athletic guards and a huge frontcourt protecting the rim. They hold opponents to poor field goal percentages, block a lot of shots, and rebound very well.
Marquette is getting used to the Sweet 16 as this is their 3rd straight year getting there. The Golden Eagles have worked extremely hard to get to this point as they pulled off two come-from-behind victories in the first two rounds. Their two wins are by a total of only 3 points. Despite bad shooting and trailing their games in the first half, Marquette has played tough have not allowed themselves to lose. Vander Blue is a huge part of their comebacks as he’s made big shots in the final seconds against both Davidson and Butler to avoid being upset. Marquette is a great second half team and they are very deep. Minutes are spread out across the roster for this team and they all contribute. Marquette is a great free throw shooting team and they shoot a high two point field goal pct.
Who wins: It’s very hard to count out Marquette because they simply don’t back down and always fight back. Plus Vander Blue has been playing great and he’s been terrific in the clutch. Marquette cannot afford to struggle offensively against Miami the way they did the first two games. They need to apply heavy guard pressure so Larkin and Scott don’t have penetration in the paint where they thrive. Davante Gardner needs to have a big game on the glass and get Miami’s bigs into foul trouble. Miami has an emerging superstar in Shane Larkin. The POY candidate is a special player who can do it all at the point guard position. Combine his skills with the veteran Durand Scott who is a lock down defender and talented scorer and Kenny Kadji who is one of the most versatile big men in the country, Miami is built for success. Miami will see a comeback by Marquette at some point (that’s what they do) but Miami is too talented and will not crumble. Miami to the Elite 8.
Regional Finals Prediction:
The finals match-up between Miami and Indiana is a match-up of two of the most talented teams in the country. Both teams have POY candidates, versatile bigs (Zeller and Kadji), lock down defenders (Oladipo and Scott). Both teams have enough talent where they don’t have to rely on their star player because role players have the ability to take over a game. They have great balance offensively. Miami has an advantage down low with their physical play. Miami can beat up on Zeller and make him uncomfortable. Another big advantage is at the most important position on the floor, point guard. Larkin is playing terrific and can carry this basketball team against anyone. It will be a close game with a lot of lead changes and high scoring. Miami’s Coach Jim Larranaga has made this team believe and his determination is contagious in that locker room which ultimately will lead to the Hurricanes making it to the Final Four.
John Cavaliere is a Scout and Correspondent for NetScouts Basketball.