- Myron Medcalf, ESPN Staff Writer
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Let’s try this again.
The last time I offered a bunch of bold predictions, this happened.
I tried to explain my reasoning in this follow-up. Maybe it helped. Maybe it just made things worse.
But I’m back again for another round of bold predictions for the Sweet 16. Let’s see what happens:
Florida Gulf Coast over Florida -- Given the Cinderella story that Andy Enfield’s program has penned thus far, this is not that bold. The Eagles have shattered every bracket in America. Dunk City is real. First, the Eagles defeated Georgetown, then they advanced to the Sweet 16 with a victory over San Diego State. But Florida is a different beast. Every win this season (28) was by double digits. The Gators are in the top three in adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency per Ken Pomeroy. But they’ve been vulnerable in close games. And the Eagles can keep things tight against the Gators. San Diego State was the first team to shoot better than 42 percent against the Eagles since Feb. 28. If FGCU maintains this defensive prowess, it will have a legit chance against the Gators. And let’s be honest: Destiny seems to be on the Eagles’ side. Enjoy the Elite Eight, fellas.
Oregon-Louisville won’t be decided until the final minute -- The formula is simple on paper. The Ducks turn the ball over a lot. They led the Pac-12 in turnovers this season. In its third-round victory against Saint Louis, Oregon committed 18 turnovers. Louisville forces turnovers on 28 percent of its opponents’ possessions, second in the country, per Ken Pomeroy. An Oregon team that plays fast and reckless against a Louisville squad that feasts on similar foes? Clearly, the Cardinals have the edge. And that's a gigantic advantage. There’s really no debate for that. The amazing thing is that Oregon committed 36 turnovers and still defeated both Oklahoma State and Saint Louis by double digits. Numbers alone don’t tell the true story of Oregon basketball right now. The Ducks are dangerous. They’re a high-flying attack that makes mistakes but scores a bunch of points in the process. So even though Louisville is still my pick to win the national title, the Cardinals are going to play a nail-biter against the Ducks. And they won’t secure the win until the final seconds. Tough game for Rick Pitino’s team.
Michigan to the Final Four -- I’ve learned my lesson about the Wolverines. My original predictions stated that John Beilein’s program would miss the Sweet 16. And then, the Wolverines were the most impressive team -- other than Louisville -- in the field in the first two rounds of the Big Dance. Plus, freshman Mitch McGary impressed and seemingly expanded the dimensions of Michigan’s potential. This is a Michigan team that has to be disrupted on some level to be defeated. And that’s not an easy task for a team that possesses the lowest turnover rate in the country. Just ask VCU. Kansas forced few turnovers against Western Kentucky and North Carolina. And it played three lukewarm halves in its two wins. The Jayhawks who advanced to the Sweet 16 resemble the same squad that lost to TCU and got crushed by Baylor. This is still a very talented squad. And that 19-5 run against the Tar Heels proved as much. But the Jayhawks have played too much average basketball in the tournament. That inconsistency will cost the Jayhawks against a Wolverines team that will beat KU, then knock off Florida Gulf Coast in the Elite Eight.
Miami, too -- Entering the NCAA tournament, the knock against the Hurricanes was their lack of NCAA tournament experience. I think their game experience, however, was overlooked. This is a team with nine upperclassmen. It also helps that Jim Larranaga is a true coaching veteran. There was certainly controversy in the final minutes of the Canes' win over Illinois on Sunday. But Miami neutralized the Illini’s greatest weapon (Illinois went 7-for-27 from the 3-point line). I believe the Hurricanes will beat Marquette and Indiana will knock off Syracuse. That will set up a meeting with a Miami squad that hasn’t lost since early March. There will be so much pressure on the Hoosiers in that game. Tom Crean has been credited with the program’s revival. He has earned it. But now, Indiana enters the second weekend of the tournament and it's supposed to win two games. That’s the bar now. The Hoosiers have never faced those circumstances under Crean. The Hurricanes are not playing with that pressure. They have the length and talent (see Shane Larkin) to match Indiana. And I just think they’ll be the more relaxed squad, too. That will help in a game they'll win. Next stop: Atlanta.
Ohio State will win both games in L.A. by 10 points or more -- The Los Angeles Regional is not exactly the field most anticipated once the pairings were announced on Selection Sunday. La Salle versus Wichita State and Ohio State versus Arizona can’t be what that city anticipated a few weeks ago. There’s certainly a sense of intrigue, however, with the fact the Explorers or Shockers will earn a shot at the Final Four. But I just think the Buckeyes are two steps above the remaining teams in the West Region. Check the stats. Ohio State has been the Big Ten’s best team overall for more than a month. It has the leadership of Aaron Craft and Deshaun Thomas. The Buckeyes aren't a two-man show, though. LaQuinton Ross, Shannon Scott and others have been crucial contributors, too. The Buckeyes are playing solid defense. And they’ve been one of America’s toughest teams for a lengthy stretch. Ohio State won’t have many struggles at Staples Center. It'll beat Arizona and the winner of La Salle-Wichita State by 10 or more points.