East Region Sweet Sixteen Game Breakdowns
In the previous round, the Virginia Cavaliers made a vital alteration to their substitution pattern. Against the Florida Gators in the Round of 32, such changes made no difference.
Florida was too quick defensively for UVA’s normal lineup. However, the Gators remained athletic enough to also stifle the Cavaliers’ all-guard lineup. Devin Robinson grabbed 11 rebounds from the wing, and the Gator defense held Virginia to 29.6 percent shooting from the field and 1-of-15 from three. The former completely smothered up the latter.
The 8-seed Badgers have a chance to keep this run going in the Sweet Sixteen. Everyone noticed that they felt under-seeded when the tournament began. The action on the court is bearing this out. With their March experience and name recognition, they will probably be favored by the time this game tips off despite being the lower seed again.
Florida has the bodies to hang with Wisconsin, but it needs a go-to scorer. KeVaughn Allen was just 2-of-10 against Virginia. He was even worse in round one, shooting 1-of-11 against ETSU. Each team’s defense can keep them close, but the Gators need to find an offensive fulcrum. We know Wisconsin has Hayes and Koenig, and Happ if he can stay on the court.
One of the final at-large teams to make the tournament has finally been eliminated, though it wasn’t easy. Southern California mounted another double-digit, second-half comeback in the Round of 32 but came up short in its attempt to knock off the Baylor Bears. As has been the case all tournament, Bennie Boatwright and Chimezie Metu were grand, but they didn’t have quite enough help in this one. Unlikely outputs from King McClure and Terry Maston on the Baylor side helped make up for Johnathan Motely fouling out. The Bears went small for portions of the second half and used multiple zone looks, though still comfortably won the rebounding battle. Free-throwing shooting helped seal the deal for Baylor.
Our final team from the East Region to advance to the Sweet Sixteen is South Carolina. This grouping of the bracket was supposed to play their games in the state of North Carolina before the site was moved to South Carolina. It is hard to know exactly what would have happened had the games stayed in NC, but the Gamecocks certainly preferred the course of action that took place. Defensive effort always travels. Shooting touch often doesn’t. South Carolina hit more than 50 percent of its shots in round one and a respectable 43 percent, including 84.4 percent from the line and 65 second-half points, against Duke. This team is formidable and perhaps unbeatable when its shots are falling. That is because of the defensive acumen. Duke turned the ball over 18 times, while Luke Kennard and Grayson Allen shot a combined 6-of-19.
The fact that Baylor could advance with Motely being relegated to the bench for much of crunch time has to give this team confidence in the Sweet Sixteen. The fact that the Bears will get to play South Carolina outside the state of South Carolina makes them feel even better. Carolina fed off the crowd through each round. Now, its performance will have to stand on its own. As said, defense travels, so expect the Gamecocks to remain stingy on that end. But advancement for the 7-seed will come down to hitting shots. It is hard to know how it will perform. After beating Duke, the following game gives off a “happy to be here” vibe.