by Eduardo Maisonet, III / @edthesportsfan
I put together my thoughts on the Saturday games that would happen under the roof of the HP Pavilion in San Jose immediately following the games on Thursday. Let’s recap those thoughts quickly, acknowledging the fact that I made some silly-ass predictions:
Early gut-feeling on Saint Louis vs Oregon: I can’t see Saint Louis playing as poorly for 40 minutes (even if the Billikens did sleepwalk through the first half versus NM State) as Oklahoma State did on Thursday vs Oregon, and I’m not sure Oregon can count on the ball bouncing their way as much as it did on Thursday, either. Physically, the Ducks matchup well with the Billikens, but Saint Louis has earned their 4-seed, and I think they’ll advance to the Sweet 16. SLU 69, Ducks 65.
Early gut-feeling on California vs Syracuse: I’ve talked to a scout about Cal’s Allen Crabbe and the word on the street is that folks think he isn’t assertive enough. Sure, Crabbe put up his usually strong numbers on Thursday, but seeing how he is the best shooter on the squad, they might need him to get 30+ points against Syracuse’s stifling zone defense. Some people say “zone is for cowards,” which is something I generally agree with, but unless you have the proper chess pieces to beat a zone, its hard to checkmate Syracuse. I’m not sure Cal’s got those pieces. Cuse 81, Cal 71.
A couple of things I’ve learned. One, stop making silly-ass predictions. They never end well. Two:
I. Thoughts on what transpired in San Jose in day two:
Oregon’s Clearly No 12-seed, Prove Their Quality vs Saint Louis
Here’s what I’m not going to do. I’m not going to sit here and feel bad for Oklahoma State and Saint Louis because they faced a team that may not have been properly seeded and then lost. Unless you believe that the Oregon Ducks deserved to be a 4-5 seed or higher (which, if you did, I’d question your sanity) then the conclusion to these games are fair ones. That conclusion is a simple one. Oregon was a better team than Oklahoma State, and in Oregon’s 74-57 win over Saint Louis, they proved that they once again were the better team.
Oregon was led by Damyean Dotson once again, as his 23 points helped set the pace for the Ducks team that shot 53 percent from the field for the game. Along with their shooting efficiency, the Ducks owned the boards as Arsalan Kazemi grabbed 16 (7 offensive) of them on the smallish Billiken frontcourt. Being unable to grab key rebounds and by putting up a 3-for-21 shooting performance from three-point range doomed Saint Louis. The Billikens went on a 10-plus minute scoring draught at the end of the first half by scoring just 4 points, the Ducks scored 18 in the same time period and were up 16 at halftime.
It’s understandable that for some, losing in the Sweet 16 is different than losing in the first, second and third rounds, but Oregon’s won these games by 17 and 13 points, respectively. Oregon belongs, and now they have a Sweet 16 clash with the No. 1 overall seed Louisville in front of them. Well done.
Random: Arsalan Kazemi is awesome to watch. He’s not particularly athletic, but he busts his ass on the court. He rebounds like his life is on the line, and he’s an extremely heady. Kazemi isn’t a glue guy, he’s a craftsman, and he makes any situation work for him and his team.
Syracuse Zones Out Cal, Head Back To The Sweet 16
“That damned 2-3 zone.”
That’s what one of the California Bears fans in my earshot said when Cal kept bricking three after three after three. Cal’s inability to bust Syracuse’s zone proved costly, as their long-range shooting went south and their inability to penetrate and find quality looks at the rim muddled their quality effort against an elite foe in a 66-60 loss in the third round.
The Orange were led by CJ Fair and James Southerland, as the duo combined for 32 points and will now have the chance to set the world on fire in a potential Sweet 16 matchup with 1-seed Indiana.
Head coach Jim Boeheim’s club finished the season with a 27-9 record, but eight of those losses came against the conference foes. Everyone knows what Syracuse is going to do on defense; they run that 2-3 zone that Boeheim’s been throwing out there for years. In round 1, Montana looked absolutely dumbfounded on how to handle it, and in round 2 it took Cal about midway through the second half to start effectively finding ways to score.
This ‘Cuse team is really good, but they’re super young. They don’t play consistently for 40 minutes, but for four-minute stretches they look unbeatable. If Indiana takes care of business versus Temple (if Khaliff Wyatt is healthy, this will be a must-watch game) then Syracuse vs Indiana could be epic. Too bad it would be in the Sweet 16 instead of in the national title game, you know…like that one game where that Smart guy hit that shot 25 years ago? Yeah, that one.
Random: This tweet from legendary SLAM scribe Lang Whitaker made me chuckle.
“@langwhitaker: Michael Carter-Williams is the best 13-year-old in the Tournament.”
The baby-faced assassin is real, and he’s the biggest difference-maker on that roster.
Eddie Maisonet has been a contributor to SLAM since 2010. He is the Editor-In-Chief of The Sportsfan Journal, contributor to Complex’s Sneaker Report and loves women who wear big hoop earrings. Follow him on Twitter to keep up with more of his shenanigans and tomfoolery.