- Kentucky v Louisville
This is the big one this weekend. This game probably won’t end up being the highest scoring game, may not be the closest at the end of the game, and it is not the highest rated game by KenPom’s FanMatch statistic that rates games on their watchability, but this is the game you want to watch this weekend. Any time the previous two national champions match up against each other it’s a must watch game for any college basetball fan. Then you add that it’s a tournament win or go home game. Then you add that its Kentucky, a team that had the best recruiting class in decades. Then you add that its Louisville, and Russ Smith the best remaining college player in the tournament. Then you add that its Louisville versus Kentucky and it’s the one of the best rivalries in all of college basketball. And that’s how you get the biggest game of the College Basketball season so far.
The biggest matchup of the game is Louisville’s pressure defense against Andrew Harrison, Kentucky’s top rated point guard. All year, Harrison has been having turnover problems, with his 23.8 TOrate – which ranks the worst on the Kentucky team and is in the bottom 10% of remaining players in the NCAA tournament. Meanwhile, Louisville’s famed press defense has forced the 2nd most turnovers in the country at a 25.2% TOrate, barely behind Shaka Smart’s Havoc defense. How Harrison handles the press has a very good chance of being a deciding factor in this game.
Other fun things to watch in this matchup include Russ Smith doing Russ Smith things, Julius Randle proving why he should be a top 5 pick in the upcoming draft, and the matchup between experienced vets in Louisville, where all but one of their players who get any playing time played on the National Championship team last year against the killer recruits of Kentucky. This is the game of the Sweet 16 you can not miss.
- Shabazz Napier
Shabazz has been balling all year, but not too many people got to watch the American Conference this year, and he has been relatively under the radar. However, he was the best player of the first weekend, putting up 24/6/7 against St. Joe’s and then throwing up 25/5/3 in an upset win versus Villanova while shooting 100% from 2 and 50% from 3. So, next up in Shabazz’s path is Iowa State, a team that is not only known for not playing much defense, but for playing extremely up-tempo, averaging 71.5 possessions a game. In comparison, Arizona, who is the median team (in terms of tempo) of remaining teams in the tournament, averages 64.6 possessions per game, a full 7 possessions less. This equals the potential for a ridiculous statline from Shabazz on Friday, and an extremely enjoyable game to watch.
- Dayton’s Luck v Stanford’s Luck
So far in the tournament, Dayton has won their two games by a combined 3 points. Stanford has won by a combined 8 points. What’s in store for these two lucky teams when they play against each other? I personally would love to see another Dayton 1 point win, putting them at 3 wins by a combined 4 points, which would probably be an NCAA record.
by Robert Garcia, Northwestern University