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What’s That Burning Sensation? It’s Only The Return of Sweet 16 Burning Questions!

March 26, 2015

So many questions about tonight’s Sweet 16 action in the Midwest and West Regionals, I have to cast them out into the world. Some are rhetorical, some are cogent, some are silly, but all are for you to answer for yourselves as you watch the games.

(7) Wichita State vs. (3) Notre Dame, Midwest Region (4:15pm PST, CBS) – Pardon the lame pun, but is anyone really “shocked” that Wichita State is in the Sweet 16? Will this be the closest game of the night, as FiveThirtyEight, Ed Feng’s The Power Rank and the gambling establishments in Las Vegas suggest? Can Notre Dame reach their first Elite Eight since 1979 and pose any real Final Four threat with a defensive efficiency ranked 103rd overall (AdjD of 99.4), or will the 3rd most efficient offense (AdjO 121.3) be enough? Can Wichita State keep their eyes on the prize tonight with the probable opportunity to return the favor for a Kentucky squad that sent them home as a No. 1 seed last year? Which law firm wins in this court, Baker, Cotton & VanVleet, or Auguste, Connaughton Grant & Jackson? Has Mike Brey vaulted to the “Leader in the Clubhouse” to replace Mike Krzyzewski at Duke, or has he already forged his defining career path in South Bend? Could any of us have compartmentalized as well as Brey did last Saturday in coaching his Fighting Irish over Butler on the afternoon his mother died? Will Gregg Marshall’s blunt honesty about potential job offers be a distraction? Or does anyone need to sugarcoat the fact that $3M might not be enough to lure a good coach to a football-mad program like Alabama?

(4) North Carolina vs. (1) Wisconsin, West Region (4:47pm PST, TBS) – Will the first team to 80 win? Or will it be 90? Does Wisconsin feel at home in Los Angeles with their déjà vu path – Possibly Arizona again, with another war against Kentucky likely in the Final Four – to the National Championship laid out in front of them? Is tonight the night that North Carolina’s 11-game Sweet 16 winning streak comes to an end? Which team will be able to assert their preferred tempo, Wisconsin’s glacial pace (AdjT of 59.0, slowest tempo left in the Sweet 16) or North Carolina’s track meet (AdjT of 69.8, fastest in the Sweet 16)? Does Carolina have an answer for Frank “The Tank” Kaminsky if Kennedy Meeks can’t go? Will Treveon Jackson return from his foot injury to play a meaningful role going forward, or does Bo Ryan not want to mess with a good thing and continue with Bronson Koenig as his backcourt quarterback?

(5) West Virginia vs. (1) Kentucky, Midwest Region (6:45pm PST, CBS) – Does it really matter tonight that Cincinnati’s Bob Huggins has an 8-2 coaching records against Kentucky’s John Calipari? Did West Virginia’s Daxter Miles, Jr become the anti-Joe Nameth with his 36-1 prediction for Kentucky after their game? Honestly, there aren’t too many questions about this game, Kentucky isn’t going to be slowed down by a rugged, deep (10 players averaging 12 or more minutes per game) and fast (AdjT of 68.3, 29th overall and 2nd fastest in the Sweet 16) West Virginia squad … Right?

(6) Xavier vs. (2) Arizona, West Region, (7:17pm PST, TBS) – Sean Miller continue his winning ways against his magical mystery coaching reunion tour, just having beaten his mentor Thad Matta’s Ohio State, only to face the school he left for Arizona (with the potential to avenge last year’s Elite Eight loss to Wisconsin looming)? Who will Xavier fans wish was their head coach after the game, Miller or his replacement Chris Mack? Has Xavier hit their ceiling, reaching their fifth Sweet 16 in the last eight years, or can they push on through to their third Elite Eight since 2004? Does Xavier have the depth to stay with Arizona for 40 minutes? How much will Xavier rely on their 1-3-1 zone defense against an Arizona team that has struggled for stretches of games with various zone defenses employed by fellow NCAA Tournament teams Gonzaga, UCLA and Ohio State? Or, will Arizona figure that zone out eventually like they did in those wins? Can Dee Davis slow down the T.J. McConnell express? Will Rondae Hollis-Jefferson repeat his triple-double feat from the Texas Southern game of amassing double figures in points, rebounds and shimmies? Can Xavier altogether avoid Skid Row unlike their own Stainbrook brothers (Matt and Tim) did on a surreptitious walkabout in downtown LA?




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