Bryan Mauro- Contributing Writer (@threecolorbeard)
The first two rounds of the Midwest region presented some of the most excited basketball in this years tournament. This side of the bracket had some of the highest scoring games as well as some of the best shooting. Let delve right back in with a preview of the second weekend of games.
Kansas Vs Purdue: Thursday March 23rd, 9:39 EST:
This is a game that potentially everyone picked when filling out their brackets. The two styles of basketball these teams play is extremely different. However, Kansas can adapt to and play many different styles. Purdue led by Caleb Swanigan and Isaac Haas, like to throw the ball inside and grind you out for 40 minutes. Once Purdue gets the defense to suck in on their big men, they will kick the ball out to the perimeter to their sharpshooters Ryan Cline and The Midwestern Cowboy himself Dakota Mathias. Kansas is best suited to play in an open style in which both teams are going to run the floor. If you choose to play like that against Kansas, they will be harder to beat. Kansas is already hard to beat as they are a tradition rich program who can beat teams in many ways, but they like to score and get up and down the floor. Frank Mason and Josh Jackson are the two players who make Kansas go. Word of Advice: Bill Self has not always done very well in the round of 16. Purdue is capable and can shoot just enough to give Kansas a scare. Make sure you don’t underestimate Purdue’s ability. Score Prediction: Kansas 91- Purdue-79
Michigan vs Oregon: Thursday March 23rd, 7:09 Pm EST:
These two teams are so much fun to watch, that I think we are in for a real treat with this game. A recurring theme in games with Michigan in them is points. Michigan can score a lot of them and really fast. I have not seen many teams who can shoot the ball like the Wolverines can. Their head man John Beilein loves offense. He recruits it, coaches it, and refines it. Oregon also likes to spread teams out and shoot a lot of threes. Their guard Tyler Dorsey was a force against Rhode Island to get them this far. I look for him to lead the charge against the Wolverines as well. Dana Altman is the head man for Oregon and he has never beaten a Big Ten team in the round of 16. I think that continues this year. Word of Advice: Don’t count out the Wolverines, because of their lack of defense. Teams the shoot the ball as well as they do can beat anyone. Oregon is without their super big man Chris Boucher which could finally loom large in this game.
Score Prediction: Michigan 77- Oregon 75
Best One on One Matchup:
Caleb Swanigan/Isaac Haas vs. Carlton Bragg/Dwight Coleby:
I picked this matchup because it pits the best vs the worst. Purdue has the best big man in the entire tournament. Caleb Swanigan is a lottery pick in the NBA draft. He is a matchup nightmare for anyone, much less a team who does not have very good big men in Kansas. Kansas has so much talent, and Bill Self is such a good coach, that it is why it is so strange to see him lack a quality big man. Carlton Bragg was a big time recruit for Bill Self, but he has just never panned out. This matchup just like the others that Swanigan finds himself in, will be a win. If he continues to dominate and take over games like he has the first two rounds, Purdue may find themselves winners and headed to the Regional Final.
Players to Watch:
Frank Mason III.- Kansas: Many feel he is the front runner for College Basketball player of the year. Frank has been in the system at Kansas for 4 years. He runs their offense and is also their best offensive player. He teams up with true freshman Josh Jackson and they make quite an unstoppable duo. Frank Mason averages 20.3 Points, 5.2 Assists and 4.1 Rebounds per game. He also shoots nearly 50% from the three point line. Kansas is averaging 95 points a game in this tournament and Frank Mason is a huge reason why.
Caleb Swanigan- Purdue: The Big Ten Player of the year in many eyes. Swanigan is a match up nightmare for just about every team he plays against. Biggie as he is called is going to get a double-double in this game, because he gets a double-double in every game. If this is the first time you are watching Caleb play, you are in for a treat. It’s not every day that you see a player of Swanigan’s size and stature, move like he does. He can extend out and shoot the three as well. He is a rebounding machine. Swanigan averages 19 points, 13 rebounds, 3 assists. He shoots 43% from three and 79% from the foul line. At 6’9” and 250 pounds he can do a lot. He is one of the most exciting players to watch in this tournament because he can do everything. He will be a lottery pick in the draft.
Derek Walton Jr.- Michigan: If you notice that Michigan has been one of the hottest teams in the country over the past month. The play of their Point Guard Derek Walton Jr. is one of the reasons why they have been on a recent surge. However, it’s a pretty relative statement because when you shoot the ball as well as Michigan does hot and cold streaks will happen. If Derek Walton Jr. is distributing the ball and not turning the ball over, that makes Michigan so much harder to beat. Walton Jr. has really upped his level of play over the last month and a half. Michigan can score from anywhere on the floor and their offense if fast paced, well coached and beautiful to watch when rolling on all cylinders. Michigan will go as far Derek Walton takes them. It is looking like that could be all the way to the final four.
Dillon Brooks- Oregon: Dillon Brooks along with Tyler Dorsey are quite the 1-2 punch. Oregon needs Dillon Brooks to have a huge game for Oregon especially against a team like Michigan. Oregon’s big man Chris Boucher is out for the remainder of the season with an injury and Oregon has survived so far. Earlier this year when Brooks was out for Oregon, they looked out of sorts, unorganized and dropped some games they would have normally won. Now that Dillon Brooks is fully healthy, Oregon’s offense is a well-oiled machine. Dillon Brooks has hit some really big shots for Oregon this year, as well as last year’s buzzer beater in the tournament. He is seasoned and has the clutch gene. He averages 16 points, 4 rebounds per game. He shoots 40% from the three-point line and 74% from the Free Throw line.