Illinois v Miami

Ranking the Watchability of the Sweet Sixteen matchups


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I’m going to do this countdown style, starting with the eighth-most-watchable game and finishing up with el numero uno.

8.  (3) Marquette vs. (2) Miami (CBS): Someone had to be the eight seed here. This game will be tough to watch because Marquette went through a couple of point-guard deficient mid-majors to get to the Sweet 16, and they’re about to get exposed. Shane Larkin has proved himself equal to the pressure of the national tournament, and the Hurricanes may well turn this into a laugher. Also, the eyeball impact of Marquette’s road unis and Miami’s highlighter-pen-inspired shoes will be devastating. One thing that might push this one higher in the end: the possibility of another brilliant Julian Gamble photobomb.

7. (13) La Salle vs. (9) Wichita State (TBS): Two very inspiring teams, but probably not the most telegenic basketball. Points had to be deducted when Carl Hall shaved off his visually dynamic dreadlocks, though some more were added back on for the braids of Tyrone Garland, which sway in most pleasing fashion when he lofts up the “Southwest Philly Floater”.

6. (6) Arizona vs. (2) Ohio State (TBS): It may be painful to watch Arizona’s guard-based attack attempt to battle past Aaron Craft only to run into the Buckeyes’ star big man DeShaun Thomas. Neither team has been associated with the term “win pretty” this season, so whichever way it goes, it could be a slog. If there’s another dramatic game-winner, this one will be much more interesting.

5. (4) Michigan vs. (1) Kansas (TBS): We’re sort of at the tipping point here. If the Kansas backcourt shows up in this one, it could be far better than I’m predicting. A Trey Burke/Tim Hardaway, Jr. vs. Elijah Johnson/Ben McLemore backcourt battle could be spectacular if the latter pair break out of the slump they inhabited in the first two games of the tourney. The emergence of Mitch McGary as a possible foil to the excellent Jeff Withey is a subplot to watch, as well.

4. (12) Oregon vs. (1) Louisville (CBS): I honestly could have flip-flopped this one with the No. 5 matchup without losing any sleep. Oregon has been dynamic and fun to watch thus far, but Louisville is such a meat grinder on defense, with a strong guard corps, that they might slow the Ducks down to an unwatchable pace. Louisville’s Gorgui Dieng setting up to reject anyone who gets inside could be fun, but not if we end up with a blowout.

3. (3) Michigan State vs. (2) Duke (CBS): It bothered me that I was more excited about the coaching matchup here than the actual styles of play, but there’s no doubt that this will be an epic showdown between two programs who have become synonymous with big tournament moments. There’s a lot of size and experience inside, so this could be one of the better big man games we’ll see in the Sweet Sixteen.

2. (4) Syracuse vs. (1) Indiana (CBS): Based on the sheer blue-chip athleticism that will be on display, I had to bump this one over the MSU-Duke game. You’ve got Michael Carter-Williams and C.J. Fair on one side, and Victor Oladipo and Cody Zeller on the other. If you’ve watched any college hoops this season, you probably got a buzz just remembering some of the highlight-reel plays those four players have put up this year. Plus, the seeding works to our advantage, because the Hoosiers will be wearing their classic home jerseys and the Orange will be in… well, orange.

1. (15) Florida Gulf Coast vs. (3) Florida (TBS): If the Eagles played any other style, this would be a terrible game to watch, but the running, gunning, high-flying Dunk City underdog is great television, win or lose. I love the FGCU uniforms, and nobody can deny that coach Andy Enfield and his family burnish the school’s visual image as well. I’m including the Gators in this, of course, it’s not all about the Eagles. Florida gets a rather sizable 40 percent of their points from three-pointers, and they are the most perfectly balanced tourney team in terms of offensive and defensive prowess. Florida has serious hair game as well, from Billy Donovan’s distinctive widow’s peak to Will Yeguete’s puffy Fro-hawk.

It should be an incredibly watchable game on all fronts, but most especially because of the possibilities it represents. Florida would be in the Elite Eight for the third time in as many years if they prevail, and Florida Gulf Coast would be building on their incredibly improbable tournament resume. If the Eagles make an Elite Eight, can you really afford to be the person who was watching Letterman instead?

Eric Angevine is the editor of Storming the Floor. He tweets @stfhoops.

Louisville backcourt struggles in first scrimmage

Quentin Snider, Jerian Grant
Associated Press
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While a few teams did manage to hold special events for the official start of practice this weekend, most simply went about their business with drills and conditioning. One team that was the exception to all of this was Louisville, which held the first of its two intersquad scrimmages on Saturday. The Cardinals had a head start of sorts on the season, as they played six exhibition games in Puerto Rico this summer.

One hope heading into Saturday’s scrimmage was that guards Trey Lewis and Quentin Snider would have better chemistry than they did in Puerto Rico. But according to Jeff Greer of the Louisville Courier-Journal, that remains a work in progress for the Cleveland State transfer (Lewis) and rising sophomore (Snider).

They struggled in Puerto Rico, and they struggled again in Saturday’s Red-White scrimmage, the first public intrasquad practice since August. They played one half of the game together, paired with the presumed starting lineup with Mangok Mathiang out with an eye injury, a group that also included Damion Lee, Jaylen Johnson and Chinanu Onuaku.

That team lost the first half by 13 points to a younger group of Louisville players, and Lewis and Snider combined for eight points on 3-of-12 shooting, five turnovers, five steals, four assists and three rebounds.

“I thought (Snider) and (Lewis) did not play well together,” U of L coach Rick Pitino said. “They’ve got to get used to that. Neither guy made other guys better. That’s what they need to learn to do.”

As Greer also noted in his story the Cardinals have in recent years employed backcourt tandems in which both guards are capable of making plays for themselves and others. On the 2013 national champion team Peyton Siva and Russ Smith led the way, with Smith being joined by Terry Rozier or Chris Jones the following season and Rozier/Jones being the grouping last season before the latter was dismissed from the team.

Once Jones was dismissed Snider saw more time on the court, and his development was one of the keys for a Louisville team that fell one win short of the Final Four. Louisville needs him to take another step forward heading into the 2015-16 season, because even with Lewis’ experience at the Division I level Snider has more experience playing in Pitino’s system.

But while Saturday’s scrimmage didn’t go as well as anyone involved hoped, there’s still plenty of time for Louisville to work out the kinks before they open the season November 13 against Samford.

Knee injury sidelines Memphis assistant

Toronto Raptors vs Charlotte Hornets
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With practices beginning this weekend, not only are players looking to avoid the injury bug but their coaches are as well. And in the case of Memphis, the Tigers won’t have one of their assistants on the court for a little while due to a knee injury.

Assistant coach Damon Stoudamire, who returned to Josh Pastner’s staff this summer after a two-year stint at Arizona, suffered the injury during a recent workout according to L. Jason Smith of the Memphis Commercial-Appeal. And Stoudamire will require surgery, which will put him on the shelf for a little bit.

“He was working out himself and I think he thought he was in his rookie year,” Pastner said. “We think he’s got a torn meniscus, which will require surgery and put him out for a couple of days.”

Stoudamire isn’t the only assistant coach working through pain either. Syracuse’s Mike Hopkins, who is also Jim Boeheim’s heir apparent as head coach, suffered a neck injury body surfing during a family vacation last month. Hopkins spent some time in a neck brace while putting players through workouts as a result of the injury.

As for the Tigers, they’ll have a mixture of experience on the perimeter and youth in the front court as they look to get back to the NCAA tournament after missing out last season. Among the newcomers are talented forwards Dedric and K.J. Lawson, with experienced guards such as Kedren Johnson, Trahson Burrell and Ricky Tarrant (grad transfer from Alabama) expected to be key contributors on the perimeter.