2011 NCAA Tournament: Bracket Breakdown - Final Four
2011 NCAA Tournament: Semi-Finals
No. 1E Ohio State vs. No. 1W Duke How the Buckeyes Win:
The Dukies are long and athletic inside but lack the physicality to handle Jared Sullinger in the paint or even Dallas Lauderdale, so the Buckeyes will hold a major advantage in the paint. In their overtime win against Michigan in the Big Ten Tournament, they fed Sullinger possession after possession, and he either muscled his way to the hole, or got fouled and went to the free throw line. They should feed him time and time again.
Ohio State is also a very solid defensive team. Nolan Smith has been the maestro of the Duke offense but will have his hands full trying to get past Ohio State freshman guard Aaron Craft, who is a relentless defender, or the long William Buford. David Lighty figures to matchup on Kyle Singler, and Lighty is one of the best, most versatile defenders in college basketball. If they can someone neutralize Smith and Singler and make guys like Andrew Dawkins, Seth Curry and the Plumlee brothers try to beat them, the Buckeyes will be in position to advance to the Final Four.
How the Blue Devils Win:
A few factors will be key: getting Jared Sullinger in foul trouble, containing Jon Diebler and knocking down outside shots. In Duke's four losses this season, they struggled handling more athletic teams, which is not a strength for the Buckeyes. If they play their game, take good shots and get All-American performances from Smith and/or Singler, the Blue Devils could be playing for a back-to-back title.
It would also be interesting to see if heralded freshman point guard Kyrie Irving would be given the OK to play as he continues to rehab his injured toe. Irving could be a huge x-factor for Duke.
2011 NCAA Tournament Pick: No. 1E Ohio State
No. 1SW Kansas vs. No. 1SE Pittsburgh How the Jayhawks Win:
Establishing the Morris twins and Thomas Robinson will be a key component against a tough, physical, but not very tall Pitt team especially if Gary McGhee gets into foul trouble which has been known to happen this season. Rock, Chalk leads the nation in field goal percentage with an impressive 51.4 percent and that starts with their trio of bigs. It will also be vital for Kansas to keep a hand in Ashton Gibbs' face all night long. The Panthers are a balanced offensive team, but Gibbs is certainly their spark plug with his ability to stroke it from deep.
How the Panthers Win:
Kansas often goes with a three-guard lineup rotating in Tyshawn Taylor, Brady Morningstar, Tyrel Reed, Josh Selby and Elijah Johnson. I am not sure how those players will be able to handle a hard-nosed Brad Wanamaker, who can hurt you inside or outside, or Gilbert Brown who is long and athletic. Pitt will have to impose its will and keep the Jayhawks from getting easy transition buckets. Never underestimate Jamie Dixon as he is one of the best coaches around.
2011 NCAA Tournament Pick: No. 1SW Kansas
2011 NCAA Tournament: Championship
No. 1E Ohio State vs. No. 1SW Kansas How the Buckeyes Win:
This will be the toughest matchup of Jared Sullinger's career as he will have to deal with the Morris twins/Robinson trio who are all physical and athletic. This game will have to be the time where one of the top players in the country asserts himself as so. He will not be able to do it by himself though. The veteran backcourt of Buford, Diebler and Lighty will have to excel at their roles which they have been able to do all season long. Dallas Lauderdale has been relegated to the seventh man in the rotation even though he is the starter. I would expect him to see more minutes than usual due to the Jayhawks' size inside and he will need to bring his physicality to the paint to limit Kansas' effectiveness in the paint and ability to get easy looks.
How the Jayhawks Win:
The Morris twins take over and Robinson plays like the potential lottery pick that many are projecting him to be. Ohio State does not have the depth up front that Kansas does and might have to play a bigger lineup than the four-guard look they have put on the floor so often this season with Aaron Craft running the point.
Josh Selby could be an x-factor in the tourney as his production has drastically dipped compared to when he made his debut for the Jayhawks. He has not scored in double digits since the first of February, but will have to play a bigger role for Kansas to cut down the nets.