Preview: Tonight’s Sweet 16 matchups


Sportswriter David Embers takes a look at each of Friday’s games and predicts the winners.

Louisville vs. Oregon

Oregon is the best 12-seed in NCAA tournament history. The selection committee didn’t do Louisville any favors by seeding the Pac-12 tournament champion so high. Oregon plays balanced basketball, with seven guys averaging more than eight points per game. They are also very deep, which will allow them to avoid the fatigue that teams typically experience against Louisville’s press. With no superstar and an unfavorable seed, the Ducks have embraced the underdog role and will knock off the Cardinals in Indianapolis.

Kansas vs. Michigan

Don’t shoot the messenger, but guess what? Jeff Withey is the most impactful player in college basketball. Don’t believe me? Just look at his second round statistics against North Carolina, where he posted 16 rebounds, 16 points and five blocks. For all the talk about Michigan’s guards, they have nothing inside that can contain Withey. Furthermore, the Jayhawks boast a starting five that is the most experienced in college basketball. If the Wolverines aren’t hitting threes, the Jayhawks will roll to the Elite Eight.

Michigan State vs. Duke

The thing about Sweet 16 games is that they are all played in huge, spacious domes. The court is the same and the goal is still 10 feet tall, but the ability to calibrate your jump shot goes out the window. Duke relies so heavily on 3-pointers that, if they aren’t hitting, they are mediocre at best (see regular season game vs. Miami). Look for Michigan State to play tough, grind it out basketball and physically wear down the finesse game of Duke. They will rebound the basketball and force Duke’s Ryan Kelly to actually play defense instead of shoot jumpers and look like a badger. Tom Izzo and the Spartans will move on to the Elite Eigth without a hiccup.

Florida vs. Florida Gulf Coast

It was widely reported by ESPN that FGCU couldn’t even get a scrimmage with the Gators before the season started. Guess what? There’s a reason for that. Florida Gulf Coast is the ultimate Cinderella story, but the Gators are too big, too deep and too talented to be upset by “Dunk City.” Kenny Boynton, senior guard for Florida, has more than 2,000 career points and has been a steadying influence for the Gators throughout the tournament. His senior leadership, combined with sharpshooter Erik Murphy’s ability to create mismatches, will be enough to send FGCU packing. The Gators will move on to the Elite Eight.