The good and bad of the remaining 16
It's a love/hate relationship for Fran Fraschilla and Doug Gottlieb.
With the NCAA tournament down to the Sweet 16, it's time to look at the good and the bad for each contender.
Fraschilla breaks down what he likes about each team, while Gottlieb focuses on what he dislikes -- or at least what he thinks might prevent that team from winning it all.
ArizonaWhat I Like: Two lottery picks
While this season has been a soap opera for the Wildcats, there have been many reasons for their run to the Sweet 16, including the play of Chase Budinger and Jordan Hill. Both players could find themselves in next June's NBA draft lottery. And neither will be overmatched, no matter who the opponent is. Budinger would have been at least a mid-first round selection a year ago, but he came back for his junior season with coach Lute Olson. That did not pan out, but it hasn't stopped the Cats and Budinger from redeeming themselves in the tournament after an up-and-down regular season. Budinger's averaged about 18 points and six rebounds per game and has shown the ability to create his own shot and knock down 3-pointers (40 percent). And he quietly chipped in with 115 assists, as well.
Hill has been a monster in the Pac-10 this season, possessing a body that should be NBA-ready next year. He has scored 18 points a game and grabbed 11 rebounds, despite being Arizona's only inside muscle. He will be a handful for any opponent.
What I Don't Like: Depth, or lack thereof
Zona's big three have been amazing, but they have played huge minutes all season and they are matched against arguably the deepest team in the tourney in Louisville. Jordan Hill, Nic Wise and Chase Budinger each average between 36 and 38 minutes a game. Expect Rick Pitino to push the tempo and make Arizona work against a 10-deep team in an effort to wear out the top-heavy Cats.
What I Like: Rebounding
This is no surprise. I have always said I could go to 10 minutes of a team's practice and know what that coach emphasizes. Nobody in college basketball has focused on rebounding over the past two decades more than Jim Calhoun. In the Huskies' first two tournament games, they battered Chattanooga and Texas A&M on the glass by 19. Over the course of the season, they outrebounded opponents by almost nine a game.
Of course, it helps that both 7-foot-3 Hasheem Thabeet and 6-7 Jeff Adrien are averaging a double-double, and 6-9 Stanley Robinson grabs another five boards from the small forward spot. This monster front line is rebounding their own missed shots on the offensive end at a 40 percent rate. It's one way to make up for the missing perimeter scoring of the injured Jerome Dyson.
What I Don't Like: Can anyone other than A.J. Price hit a 3?
UConn looked fantastic in its first two rounds of NCAA play, but in the thick of the Big East season, the Huskies lost Jerome Dyson, who was a dual threat in that he was a tremendous on-ball defender and was willing to take and make perimeter jump shots.
In his absence, Stanley Robinson has played very well, but he is more of a power forward than a guard and thus his points generally come from 15 feet and in. With Kemba Walker more of a driver than a shooter and Craig Austrie athletically limited, the Huskies are wildly dependent on Price to bail them out as he has done time and again in his career. Can he do it four more times?
DukeWhat I Like: Three versatile scorers
Good coaches try to make teams play "left-handed." In other words, they try to take away the opponents' top one or two scorers and make someone else in the lineup, someone who is not used to stepping up, beat them. Or they take away a team's inside game at the expense of giving up the perimeter. That sounds good, but it is difficult to do when you play the Duke Blue Devils. Mike Krzyzewski has three versatile scorers -- Gerald Henderson, Kyle Singler and Jon Scheyer -- in a spread offense that is perfectly suited for them. All three can score in transition, shoot the ball from the perimeter and drive to the rim.
While Henderson makes just enough jump shots to keep teams honest, he also gets to the rim with ease. Scheyer and Singler shoot 40 percent and 39 percent, respectively, from deep, and all three use the offense to get to the rim, and consequently, the foul line at a high rate. The three have played in a combined 108 games this season, and they have combined to score in double figures 93 times. That kind of versatility and balance allows for an off night by one, and it makes it hard for an opponent to key its defense on stopping all three.
What I Don't Like: Dribble-penetration defense
With Nova's ability to beat you off the bounce, the Blue Devils face the type of foe that has killed them in the past -- one that can handle it, shoot it and is overall more athletic than them. While this Duke team is sounder at the point defensively with Elliott Williams and Nolan Smith, the Blue Devils struggled to guard a poor-shooting Texas team last weekend.
By the way, what happened to Greg Paulus? Two minutes against Texas? Seriously? I know Coach K wants better defense, but Paulus can give Duke an offensive spark.
GonzagaWhat I Like: A lot of scoring weapons
Coach Mark Few has six different players who are capable of getting 20 points or more on a given night, and there are usually four and often five on the floor at one time. So when an opponent puts together a scouting report, there's not one player to key on. In the blowout win over Saint Mary's in the WCC championship on March 9, six Zags players scored in double figures. And because Gonzaga shoots with equal effectiveness from both inside and out, it has a good answer for both man-to-man and zone defenses. All six top scorers shoot at least 36 percent from the 3-point line and three -- Austin Daye, Josh Heytvelt and Matt Bouldin -- shoot better than 40 percent.
What I Don't Like: Will the Zags guard anyone?
While the Zags are one of the top 10 teams in most every defensive statistical category, Gonzaga is not nearly as good defensively as the full season stats would lead you to believe. The Zags give up just 61 ppg normally, but the number spikes to 74 ppg against top-25 competition. Anyone remember Memphis jumping out to that 50-29 lead in Spokane? With UNC in the balance and Gonzaga wanting to play fast against the best-running team in college basketball, the thought that this Zags team likes to defend is, well, offensive.
KansasWhat I Like: Bill Self
Every team left in this tournament is very, very well coached, or it would not be here. Trust me. Plenty of coaches can screw up great talent. For Kansas to lose more than 80 percent of its scoring and rebound from last year's national champions and be back in the Sweet 16, it's taken special coaching from Bill Self. Last year, despite depth up front, he got 6-11 Cole Aldrich into every game, and that has paid dividends in a huge way this season. Aldrich has played like an All-American in large part because of Self's nurturing, and Aldrich's NBA potential is going off the charts.
Self also turned the baby Jayhawks over to point guard Sherron Collins and that, too, has paid off. Collins went to school on the great leadership handed down in recent seasons by Aaron Miles, Russell Robinson and Mario Chalmers and has inspired confidence in his young teammates. On more than one occasion this season, he has taken over a game when he's needed to. He's Self's alter-ego.
What I Don't Like: What if Collins is off?
As Sherron goes, so go the Jayhawks. Last time Kansas took on Michigan State, Sherron Collins had eight turnovers and Kalin Lucas lit him up for 22 points. In KU's stunning blowout loss to Texas Tech, Collins was 3-of-19 from the field. In the Jayhawks' Big 12 tournament loss to Baylor, he was 6-of-20. With a rematch against MSU in the Sweet 16, no one player's stats will be more telling in the final box score than those of Collins.
LouisvilleWhat I Like: Unique defensive system
Rick Pitino's defensive philosophy has always been about disrupting the opponent. He won a lot of NCAA tournament games at Providence and Kentucky, primarily with relentless full-court pressure defense. In recent years at Louisville, he has utilized the Cards' length and athleticism and has refined his system by adding more zone defense in the half court to compliment the presses. The theory is to use the press to force turnovers, take the ball out of the opponent's best ball handler's hands, speed the game up, create an uncomfortable tempo or make fatigue a factor that will affect outside shooting. At 6-9, Earl Clark has the perfect size and quickness at the point of the press. When the ball gets over the mid-court line and the shot clock has been milked, the Cards fall back into an aggressive 2-3 zone that is quick and long enough to cover ground, challenge shots on the perimeter and keep the ball out of the paint. It works. Pitino's team gives up only 31 percent beyond the arc and 43 percent inside of it, showing that it is hard to get easy baskets on his club.
What I Don't Like: Free throw shooting and no true point guard
Louisville seems to be getting a pass on the fact that it is the worst free throw shooting team left in the tournament. Additionally, unlike Pitt, whose worst free throw shooter is its center, Louisville's worst is Terrence Williams (55 percent), its best player and passer. With Preston Knowles at 46 percent and the team at just 64 percent, could free throws derail the Cards like they did Memphis at the end of last season's title game?
Also, Louisville has not had great point guard play against top-level competition throughout the year. That is not to say its guards are ineffective, but Earl Clark and Williams are far and away the Cardinals' two best passers and both are very turnover-prone.
MemphisWhat I Like: The nation's best defense
The numbers show this to be the Sweet 16's best defense. Memphis gives up .81 points per defensive possession, ranking it as the best in the latest kenpom.com stats. Anything below a point per possession is good, and anything under .90 is really good. Those who thought that John Calipari rolled out the ball last year -- or rolled it to Derrick Rose -- don't remember that it was Memphis' outstanding defense that was primarily responsible for a great run to the national championship game. It's no different this year as the Tigers' size and length, especially in the backcourt, has had an anaconda-like effect on their opponents. Antonio Anderson, at 6-6, can lock down just about every perimeter scorer in the country while freshman Tyreke Evans has the wingspan and anticipation to play passing lanes and block jump shots as well any guard in the country. The Tigers' 6-10 bookends, Robert Dozier and Shawn Taggart, anchor a defense inside which blocks a shot about once every six defensive possessions.
What I Don't Like: 3-point shooting
In its 17 games against nonconference opponents, Memphis has shot just 31.5 percent from the 3. The Tigers shot 44.7 percent from outside the arc in their first two tourney games, but can they keep it up? And let's remember this: Despite a noted uptick in their shooting since Tyreke Evans was moved to the point, that move also coincided with their move to conference play -- in other words, against far weaker competition. To beat Memphis, you must make the Tigers make jump shots and limit them to one shot.
Michigan StateWhat I Like: Tom Izzo's preparation
The million-dollars worth of video equipment and an experienced coaching staff breaking down film doesn't hurt, but it is the mystique of Tom Izzo's experience, preparation and attention to detail which can't be overlooked. This will be Izzo's eighth trip to the Sweet 16 in the past 12 years, and his teams are 13-2 in the second game of the weekend in the NCAA tournament. Izzo has a "football mentality." He utilizes film to break down opponents' strengths and weaknesses in a limited period of time. That goes back to the days when Indiana's Tom Crean and Dayton's Brian Gregory were on Izzo's staff and heavily involved with the game preparation. While most coaching staffs put in the same amount of time and effort, that mystique about Michigan State's preparation and the proven record of postseason success give Izzo's players a definite feeling of confidence going into the next round.
What I Don't Like: Will the stars come out against the best teams?
Kalin Lucas has an amazing assist-to-turnover ratio, but against top-25 teams, he has 26 assists and 20 turnovers. Translation? Lucas loads up his stats against weaker competition.
Additionally, Raymar Morgan, who is supposedly fully recovered from mono, has scored in double figures just once in his past five games. While USC played box-and-one and triangle-and-two, the same cannot be said for Morgan's Big Ten opponents, who limited his looks and added to his frustrating season. The Spartans need Morgan and Lucas to play well in order for Izzo to lead them home to Detroit.
MissouriWhat I Like: A low-turnover, high-assist team
While Mizzou gets a ton of credit for its pressure defense, the misconception is Mike Anderson's team plays at a frenzied offensive pace. Nothing could be further from the truth. Their 18.2 assists per game is the best in college basketball, and their 1.5:1 assist-to-turnover ratio is second best. So while the turnovers caused by the press account for 30 percent of the offense, the way they take care of the ball in the half court, with patient motion offense, gives them a lot more possessions per game. The two top scorers, 6-9 Leo Lyons and 6-8 DeMarre Carroll, are skilled players who can score inside or take less mobile players away from the basket. And nine different Mizzou players have 28 or more assists this season. What I Don't Like: The enigmatic Matt Lawrence
While Lawrence is a 41 percent 3-point shooter on the season, he shoots just 21 percent against top-25 competition. Additionally, Missouri is the team with the least amount of NCAA experience still playing (UConn had two players on its 2006 Elite Eight team). With a higher level of competition and their lack of a sniper in a big spot, the Tigers could come up short.
North CarolinaWhat I Like: The transition game
Transition basketball and Ty Lawson are basically interchangeable. Without the 5-11 junior, the Tar Heels don't have a dominant running game. UNC scored more than 90 points 15 times prior to Lawson's injury at the end of the ACC regular season, in large part because of his blinding coast-to-coast quickness. In the two ACC tournament games without Lawson, Roy Williams' club averaged 75 points a game, and in the loss to Florida State it had a season-low 64 possessions.
It's clear that the odds of North Carolina winning it all improve with Lawson back in the lineup. He has become a more dangerous outside shooter (47 percent on 3s), gets to the rim and finishes at a 57 percent rate inside the arc and is responsible for more than one-third of the team's assists when he is on the floor.
What I Don't Like: Ty Lawson and the overuse of depth
If Lawson is not healthy, this team's chances of advancing become much slighter. Quite simply, Lawson is the straw that stirs the drink. Additionally, Roy Williams has a tendency to over-sub his players and under-utilize timeouts. If you can capitalize on a weak lineup against UNC, the Tar Heels can surrender momentum like they did when they blew a 16-point lead against Maryland. The depth, however, allows the Heels to make more shots late due to their much fresher legs or so they say.
OklahomaWhat I Like: The tournament's dominant player
Having Blake Griffin as a teammate is like going into a back-alley brawl with Chuck Norris on your side. It's a comforting feeling. Griffin has been the best player in college basketball from the beginning of the season and will likely be the first pick in the NBA draft. His combination of speed, strength, power, agility and basketball I.Q. has made him difficult to guard with even two or three players this season, which causes a lot of muggings. In addition, he is the only player in the country who consistently rebounds above the rim. He also runs the floor like Karl Malone in his prime.
Griffin is, essentially, the Sooners' point center because the attention he receives from opponents directly affects how easy OU's perimeter shooting becomes. Guards Austin Johnson, Willie Warren and Tony Crocker have feasted on open shots all year because of Griffin's deft passing out of double-teams.
What I Don't Like: 3-point shooting
Well, Oklahoma can ill afford to let Blake Griffin get into foul trouble, and that turnover margin of -1.2 is still a wee bit troublesome (that ranks 244th nationally and is worse than only Xavier among Sweet 16 teams). But more importantly, the Sooners have to make perimeter shots. Syracuse's zone will force the Sooners to launch some 3s and if the Sooners go cold -- as they have the potential to do -- then they could be headed for trouble. In addition to not being able to hold on to the ball in some of its late-season losses, OU couldn't seem to hit a 3, either. The Sooners were 4-of-18 in a loss to Missouri and 3-of-19 in a loss to rival Oklahoma State.
PittsburghWhat I Like: Sam Young
Levance Fields is playing on one healthy leg and DeJuan Blair has been a solid, sometimes dominant, force all season. But if the 30-4 Panthers are to get through to Detroit and into their first Final Four, it will be on the shoulders of the tournament's most versatile player, Sam Young. Coaches love guys who improve and expand their game over four years because it rarely happens. Young has gone from an athletic tweener/role player who shot 19 percent from behind the arc as a freshman to a guy who can dominate a game offensively from both inside and out. Along with Singler, Damion James and James Johnson, Young is a "hybrid forward" who is equally comfortable muscling in the paint or playing away from the basket. It's a mismatch issue that Panthers opponents will have to deal with.
What I Don't Like: Can they play without DeJuan Blair?
As the season has gone along, teams have found the flaws in Pitt's defense and teams will continue to challenge Blair in an attempt to get him into foul trouble. When Blair is out, the Panthers are dramatically less effective on the boards. Additionally, one coach who was in the Dayton Regional told me that Pitt looked visibly "tight," a true sign that the pressure of a 1-seed and super-high expectations seem to be hurting this team's production early in the Dance.
PurdueWhat I Like: Chemistry
The Boilermakers are clearly not the most talented team left in the Sweet 16, but they're the classic example of a team whose whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Purdue has great chemistry, it plays well together, and everyone understands what the coach wants out of each possession: unselfishness on offense and intensity on defense. Junior Chris Kramer, one of the country's best defenders, mirrors that intensity perfectly for coach Matt Painter, and it rubs off on his teammates on that end of the floor. Purdue's motion offense involves every player on every trip up the floor. While former AAU teammates Robbie Hummel, E'twaun Moore and JaJuan Johnson are the focal points of the scoring, it comes within Painter's team concept. It's an offensive philosophy that dates back to his mentor and former coach at Purdue, Gene Keady, and it still works with great effectiveness.
What I Don't Like: The lack of top-level athletes
Purdue is a high-caliber team in terms of coaching and efficiency at both ends. The Boilermakers' execution of their game plan is generally second to none. But with the adage that at least two NBA first-round picks are needed to win a national title, Purdue is more good than great and its lack of a "Big Dog" Robinson is the reason why. If E'twaun Moore and Robbie Hummel struggled in the second half against Washington, imagine what the length of UConn will do to their offense.
SyracuseWhat I Like: Jonny Flynn
Jonny Flynn may be the most competitive player in the most competitive league in the country. If you doubt that, just pull out tape of the six-overtime win over UConn in the Big East quarterfinals. He scored 34 points, played 67 of the 70 minutes and buried all 15 of his free throws, as well. Flynn is a fearless, great athlete who is a coach on the floor and the team's leader -- and sometimes psychologist who keeps the diverse personalities of his teammates in check. Although he shoots only 32 percent from behind the arc, he'll make the clutch ones. His ability to get a piece of the paint with his dribble penetration sets up two of college basketball's best 3-point shooters, Eric Devendorf and Andy Rautins, who combined to make 179 shots from deep on 38 percent shooting, in large part because of Flynn.
What I Don't Like: Will turnovers come back to bite them?
Jonny Flynn is one of the most electric players in the game, but he, like his backcourt mate Eric Devendorf, is a high-turnover guy. Matter of fact, the backcourt combination of Andy Rautins, Flynn, Devo and Paul Harris averages 10 turnovers per game, far and away the highest of any remaining backcourt foursome in the tournament. While the Cuse is extremely effective in transition and at the free throw line, turnovers might be the downfall of the Orange in a close game.
VillanovaWhat I Like: Great role players
The term role player can take on a negative connotation because it often implies that someone is a less-talented player. That's not the case at Villanova. Coach Jay Wright has a team full of highly recruited, talented, tough-minded players who understand their roles and have checked their egos at the door of the locker room. Dante Cunningham has grown over four years into a legitimate go-to scorer and a likely first-round pick. Dwayne Anderson was diving on the floor late in the blowout win over UCLA. Scottie Reynolds is capable of getting 40 points on a given night if it's needed. Corey Stokes, whose shooting range is unrivaled by most in college basketball, and Reggie Redding were prolific high scorers who have become solid perimeter defenders. And Corey Fisher, a McDonald's All-American, has become a not-so-silent assassin off the bench.
This Villanova team has grown immensely through the past two years of hand-to-hand combat in the Big East. To beat it, you can't just stop one or two players. So far, that hasn't been easy to do.
What I Don't Like: Shot selection
Jay Wright has lived and died with perimeter play throughout his tenure as head coach, and with the advantages of playing three of four guards comes the need for offensive freedom and, at times, poor shot selection. With the exception of Dante Cunningham, no Villanova starter shoots close to 50 percent from the field and the Wildcats are prone to wild shot selection when teams shut off their driving lanes. If you can slow the Cats down and not turn the ball over, they have been prone to shoot themselves out of games.
XavierWhat I Like: Frontcourt depth
Sean Miller has a future NBA first-round pick coming off the bench in 7-foot freshman Kenny Frease. That tells you all you need to know about the Musketeers' weapons up front. Xavier has a long tradition of outstanding front-court play in the NCAA tournament (Brian Grant, Tyrone Hill, Aaron Williams and NBA All-Star David West come to mind). This season, Miller has the luxury of rotating much improved defensive specialist Jason Love, the high-flying Derrick Brown, Frease and Tulsa transfer Jamel McLean in the paint. In addition, 6-5 senior C.J. Anderson may be Xavier's best inside scorer and slasher from the small forward spot.
With its size and Miller's coaching, the Muskies have the requisite toughness and rebounding. Those are good weapons to have in the Sweet 16.
What I Don't Like: Point guard play
In an attempt to beat arguably the best pure point guard in the tournament (Pitt's Levance Fields), Xavier will turn to two lightweights in what figures to be a heavyweight duel. Simply put, Terrell Holloway and Dante Jackson are not the strength of the Musketeers. In fact, they appear to be X's biggest weakness. They will have to play out of this world to knock off a 1-seed. And I'm just not seeing it.
Fran Fraschilla and Doug Gottlieb are college basketball analysts for ESPN and regular contributors to ESPN.com. You can hear the latter on "The Doug Gottlieb Show" weeknights from 4 to 7 p.m. ET on ESPN Radio and ESPNRadio.com.
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