Friday, March 26, 2010
Previewing Sweet 16 games in St. Louis
By Pat Forde
ST. LOUIS -- Quick previews of the Sweet 16 games here tonight:
Tennessee-Ohio State storylines
• How will J.P. Prince do checking Evan Turner? That’s the marquee individual matchup in a rematch of a thrilling Sweet 16 game three years ago between the Volunteers and Buckeyes. At 6-foot-7, Prince has the length to hinder Turner's passing lanes and shooting looks -- but does he have the mentality for the matchup? Prince has been an up-and-down, hot-and-cold player for four years -- but he played great in the first two rounds of the tourney, averaging 16 points and playing excellent defense against San Diego State and Ohio. But this is Ohio STATE, not Ohio.
• Turner gets the attention for Ohio State -- but that helps guard Jon Diebler get the open shots, and he's been killing it lately. Diebler has made 29 of 61 3-point shots the last six games, and is averaging 21 ppg over the past three games. Diebler's scoring has become progressively more important to Ohio State as the season has gone along. He's scored in double figures in 10 of the Buckeyes' last 11 games, and their record in that time is 10-1.
“Diebler is a guy that you have to respect,” Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl said. “You have to fear. If he can see it, he can make it. So you’ve got to know where he is on the floor.”
• Will Tennessee be able to force a tempo that wears down the Buckeyes? Ohio State has played a very short rotation all season -- essentially just six guys -- and the Volunteers prefer to play at a frantic pace. Ohio State’s core group of players obviously is in great shape, but this could be their most difficult stamina challenge.
Northern Iowa-Michigan State storylines
• Northern Iowa's team got a congratulatory phone call from UNI alum Kurt Warner after beating Kansas. Both Warner and the Panthers know a thing or two about success in St. Louis. UNI has won six straight games here in the Missouri Valley Conference tournament over the last two years, and Warner was the quarterback who led the Rams to their only Super Bowl victory.
“When I got that call and passed it along to the guys, they lit up about as much as they did following that basketball game,” coach Ben Jacobson said. “I mean, it had a real impact on our guys.”
• Is Michigan State now an underdog against Northern Iowa, without leading scorer Kalin Lucas, who will miss the rest of the season with a torn Achilles tendon? If so, that's fine with the Spartans. Said forward Draymond Green: "I'm pretty sure if Kalin was in this game we wouldn't be the underdog. But with Kalin going down, a lot of people think we can't do it. And we know we can. So we're going to come out and play like it."
• Both the Spartans and Panthers are well-versed in playing physical, half-court basketball. But Michigan State has traditionally had an underrated fast break, and that concerns a UNI team that much prefers a slower pace.
“The biggest thing will be to stop their initial break,” guard Ali Farokhmanesh said. “That’s what they’re really good at. They get into their sets quick. And they get the ball off the rim and go. So we’re definitely going to have to be ready on the defensive end to get back in transition and be ready to block them off and set up a wall.”