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Where There’s Smoke, There’s More Sweet 16 Burning Questions!

March 27, 2015

More burning questions about Friday night’s East and South Regional games as I wonder whether the hotel Sam, Barles and Mars checked into was In The Annapolis or in Indianapolis …

(11) UCLA vs. (2) Gonzaga, South Region (4:15pm PST, CBS) – Has UCLA improved enough to get past a Gonzaga squad that beat them by 13 on December 13? More succinctly, has UCLA’s defense improved enough to overcome the best shooting team in the country – 1st overall in Field Goal Percentage (FG% .526), True Shooting Percentage (TS% .613, accounting for twos, threes and free throws) and Effective Field Goal Percentage (eFG% .592, factoring in that threes are worth 50% more points than twos) – and allow less than the .585 FG% Gonzaga had shot in the first game? Can Mark Few get the Sweet 16 monkey off his back, or will history repeat itself, with Gonzaga shedding tears just like the last time they played UCLA in the Sweet 16 in 2006? Does two straight Sweet 16 berths mean UCLA Head Coach Steve Alford has overachieved or underachieved? Will UCLA’s three guards find Kevon Looney and Tony Parker often enough or jack up the majority (Bryce Alford, Norman Powell and Isaac Hamilton take 56.2% of UCLA’s shots per game) as usual? Is Domantas Sabonis the best prospect on the floor in this game?

(8) North Carolina State vs. (4) Louisville, East Region (4:37pm PST, TBS) – Will Louisville get payback for a 9-point home loss on Valentine’s Day? Who wins the battle down low, Beejay or Mangok? Is North Caroline State the worst team remaining in the field, (or is it UCLA)? Can Trevor Lacy & Cat Barber control the game for the Wolfpack against Louisville’s 5th ranked defense (AdjD 89.5)? Can freshman Quentin Snyder continue the steady point guard play for the Cardinals since becoming the starter in place of the departed Chris Jones? Does the fact that Louisville moved into the ACC add or subtract intrigue from this game? Is this possibly Rick Pitino’s best coaching job in a long time? Or is he a vampire eternal, and this is only the beginning? Will Mark Gottfried be up for another selfie after this game?

(5) Utah vs. (1) Duke, South Region (6:45pm PST, CBS) – Can Utah’s big man rotation of Jakob Poeltl (Rhymes with Turtle) and Dallin Bachynski slow down future No. 1 overall draft pick Jahlil Okafor? Is Wooden Award Finalist Delon Wright the best guard Duke has faced all season? Does Duke’s Irresistible Force (AdjO of 122.2, 2nd in the country) or Utah’s Immovable Object (AdjD of 90.4, 7th in the country) prevail? Is the fact that the last time Houston hosted the South Regional in 2010, Duke won two games en route to a National Championship a harbinger or merely coincidence? Will Utah need better luck (81st in KenPom’s “Luck” metric)? Will Larry Krystkowiak burning sweet grass be enough, or could the Houston Fire Marshall nip that in the bud? When someone yells “Hey Coach K!”, who will turn their head first? What will be the answer on the website “Did Duke Win” after the game?

(7) Michigan State vs. (3) Oklahoma, East Region (7:07pm PST, TBS) – Has the NCAA committee learned their lesson in placing Virginia & Villanova the top 2 seeds in the East for the last two years, with neither making the Elite Eight in either year? Is this the most wide open region in years as a result, both East Regional games almost coin flips? How does Tom Izzo do it, year after year, leading Michigan State to their 7th Sweet 16 in the last 8 years and seeking his 7th Final Four? Or Lon Kruger for that matter, leading his 4th school to the Sweet 16 (Kansas State, Florida, UNLV and now Oklahoma)? Can Big 12 Player of the Year and native Bahamian Buddy Hield continue being the best player on the floor? Or will fellow Bahamian Lourawls “Tum Tum” Nairn, Jr – Leader in the clubhouse for best name in the NCAA Tournament now that Scoochie Smith has left the building – help Michigan State find the rhythm, the rhyme?

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