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Saturday’s Sweet Sixteen Predictions

This should be a fun weekend

Syracuse v West Virginia
INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA - MARCH 21: Buddy Boeheim #35 and Marek Dolezaj #21 of the Syracuse Orange celebrate their win over the West Virginia Mountaineers in their second round game of the 2021 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on March 21, 2021 in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

The Sweet Sixteen means we’re down to brass tacks and facts, as the Cockneys say. There are some surprising teams left of course but even so, the power conferences have 10 of the 16 spots. And of the other six, one goes to Gonzaga of the Big West, a program that can go toe to toe with any in the country. Loyola is sort of trending in Gonzaga’s direction although not nearly as far along, while Houston has a spectacular tradition including Elvin Hayes and Phi Slamma Jamma.

The only team you’d look at and think, how’d they get there? is Oral Roberts, and they certainly are a deserving team that belongs.

Action resumes Saturday with eight teams in action: Oregon State takes on Loyola, and if we can amend the previous statement, they’re a surprise too. The Beavers were a big surprise just to make the field and getting to the Sweet Sixteen is a major accomplishment. Wayne Tinkle has coached the hell out of his team and props to them for buying in.

However, we’re going with Loyola here. It took a while for this to register, but you know who Loyola’s style somewhat reminds us of? Utah under Rick Majerus. His teams always played a clean style and by that we don’t mean just that they weren’t dirty. Utah was exceptionally smart when he coached there and his teams played hard. They were really tough to shake and if you were in a close game, well, Utah won most of those, didn’t they?

If that’s not enough, then consider Sister Jean and also the coolest nickname in the field. How can you pull against Ramblers? If you’re wondering why they’re the Ramblers it’s because their football team played all over the place before they quit playing in 1930.

Jay Wright is a tremendous coach and he’s shown that again having gone this far without his starting point guard who’s done for the year. So far though Villanova, a #5 seed, has played the #12 and #13 seeds in the South beating Winthrop by 10 points and North Texas by 13.

Needless to say, Baylor is a different story and the the Bears thrive on forcing turnovers. As much as we admire what Villanova has done so far under difficult circumstances, we see Baylor moving on here. A point guard with just a a few games under his belt as a starter will have a very tough day against Baylor’s perimeter defense. His name, if you missed it, is Chris Arcidiacono and his brother, Ryan, was the guy who set up this play to knock off UNC in the championship game in 2016. On behalf of all Dukedom: thank you, Ryan and good luck, Chris.

Arkansas and Oral Roberts played earlier and ORU had the Hogs down by 16. That should give them a lot of confidence but Arkansas has improved tremendously since then so it’s hard to argue for Oral Roberts. We’ll have to go with the Razorbacks here.

Finally, Houston and Syracuse tangle in the nightcap. Buddy Boeheim has emerged as a brilliant shooter, perhaps the most dangerous three point shooter since JJ Redick at Duke. We saw a picture of Boeheim pulling up from the logo in one of the earlier games and to say it was a deep shot is wildly understating it.

He’s hitting those too.

The thing that makes Syracuse tough to guard is that if you focus on Boeheim, there are at least three other guys who can nail threes - Joe Girard, Allan Griffin and Quincy Guerrier. Syracuse can really open up the court for drives and Marek Dolezaj has become very important because he keeps the ball moving and fills in the seams around the others about as well as anyone could do.

Then there’s Jim Boeheim’s zone defense which is really tough to deal with if you haven’t seen it.

And keep this in mind too. In his last three games, Griffin has averaged just 12.6 mpg and has scored just six points total. He is so due for a big game and with Houston desperate to shut down Boeheim, he has a chance to really go off.

So for those reasons, we’ll go with Syracuse.