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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Thursday's Sweet 16 Preview

March Madness continues tomorrow with 4 more games to decide who will advance to the Elite 8.

Marquette vs Miami (FL)

Top Prospects: Shane Larkin (59), Kenny Kadji (89), Durand Scott (90), Vander Blue (121)

Marquette remains standing after coming out on top in two of the most exciting games of the tournament - vs Butler and Davidson. Vander Blue has been beyond clutch in each of the games and has drawn a deeper focus from NBA scouts. He's basically living off the tournament hype though, and considering he's shooting below 50% and has 6 turnovers to only 2 assists in this two game stretch, this "breakout performance" isn't even that impressive. Yes he has been clutch and Blue is a guy who can make even the toughest of baskets, but he has a lot of other issues to overcome. He struggles to find and create easy shots and his efficiency has suffered. He's also not a very good shooter, only showing signs of improvement this year. And an undersized scoring two guard who can't shoot tends to have an uphill battle to climb.

Blue will continue to try to climb up that hill against Miami and will likely draw the defensive attention of Durand Scott in this one. Scott is another undersized two guard who makes some impressive plays and hits tough shots, but struggles to be efficient and make simple plays. He has proven to be an intense defender this season though, and should provide Blue some trouble with his physical tools. Those tools make Scott the more intriguing prospect as he projects better as a defender and a finisher at the rim.

Arizona vs Ohio State

Top Prospects: Shannon Scott (49), Deshaun Thomas (55), LaQuinton Ross (69), Kaleb Tarczewski (70), Brandon Ashley (74), Solomon Hill (79), Aaron Craft (85), Nick Johnson (120)

This game features a lot of young prospects who could eventually find themselves in the first round, but are currently ranked rather low in rankings because the are viewed to be at least a year away. Two of the more NBA ready prospects in this game will be Deshaun Thomas and Solomon Hill, who could end up battling head to head for much of the game.

Arizona has been playing their best basketball as of late in large part because of a shift towards a smaller lineup. Solomon Hill has been playing a lot more PF - a position he played a lot last year when he averaged almost 8 rebounds per game and shot over 50% from the field. It will be interesting to see if he will look to attack Thomas in isolation situations. Hill has a very solid all-around game and has improved an area of his game each year. This year he's been a much better slasher than in years past. Thomas is more of a one dimensional player, but is great at the one thing he does - shoot. And he shoots often and in any situation. He's played tougher this season and it will be interesting to see who has the edge when it comes to rebounding and banging inside.

LaQuinton Ross had a big game against Iowa State, but he's still got a lot to learn. His defense stops him from getting more minutes and he takes too many uncalled for jumpers. But he's certainly one to watch and may have more potential than anyone in this game.

Syracuse vs Indiana

Top Prospects: Victor Oladipo (5), Cody Zeller, (7), Michael Carter-Williams (26), CJ Fair (43), James Southerland (117), Christian Watford (124), Will Sheehey (126)

Cody Zeller will face tons of length and bodies against the zone inside which is the exact kind of situations he's struggled with this season. Zeller tends to try to go right at shotblockers - which is what you are coached to do - but he just doesn't have the strength yet to finish with the contact. Zeller could excel in another spot against the zone though and that is at the foul line. We saw what Otto Porter and Gorgui Dieng could do in this spot and Zeller is another guy with a high IQ who can hit the jumper and pass from this spot. Zeller may be more aggressive than either of them when it comes to putting the ball on the floor and he could create open looks that way too. Zeller is a very good passer off the dribble, almost like a guard.

Watching Oladipo against the zone will be interesting too. He'll be asked to operate more in the halfcourt offense and his athleticism will be taken away from him against the zone. Oladipo will need to show the ability to get himself in the right spots to score and the skillset to be able to breakdown the zone. This game will be more of a chess match than he is used to, but he's a smart player. This game gives him a chance to showcase that.

CJ Fair has had a solid tournament for Syracuse and continues to be their most consistent offensive player. His perimeter game has developed a lot this year and he's extended his range to beyond the 3-pt line. Fair has always been able to shoot though and his small sample size from deep shouldn't be a reason to dismiss his shooting ability. Another big development in his game has been his off the dribble game. Thanks to a nice floater, his mid-range game has always been solid, but now he is willing to do more than simply just take one dribble and shoot a floater. He's getting more comfortable dribbling the ball and the next step for him is to be able to make plays for others. He'll have a big opportunity as "the guy" next year if he does come back to take yet another step in his development. He's an intriguing prospect who looks like an early second rounder at the moment.

LaSalle vs Wichita State

Top Prospects: None

No top prospects in this one, but Ill take the Shockers to advance to the Elite Eight.

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