Now that the original 64 college basketball teams have whittled down to a mere 16, the NCAA 2012 March Madness is starting to heat up. Each team knows it's sweet to still be around, but that doesn't mean they aren't striving for more. This week will see those 16 dwindle to a mere eight teams. Who will survive and how will your bracket fair? Check out The Christian Post's previews for everything you need to know before this Thursday and Friday's Sweet 16 match-ups.
In the East:
Syracuse (1) v. Wisconsin (4)
Game Time: 7:15 p.m. Thursday (March 22)
Where the Action Is: This is, perhaps, the game most prone for an upset. Syracuse is left with a hole in their line-up as they are missing big man Fab Melo, who is ineligible due to academics. On top of that, Syracuse isn't having the best tournament thus far. Sure, they're in the Sweet 16, but the Orange barely won in the first round game against 16th seed UNC-Ashville. Then, in their second round game, they gave up 14 turnovers. They are going to have to take care of the ball better than that on Thursday, as Wisconsin is known for their steady and tenacious defense. They routinely hold their opponents to just 30 percent shooting from the field.
Wisconsin's offense may prove dangerous as well. They have several sharp shooters who could shoot over Syracuse's standard two-three defense. If Syracuse wants to stop Wisconsin's long-range jumpers from adding up, they will have to really pressure the Badger guards.
Players to Watch: Keep an eye on Syracuse sophomore guard Dion Waiters. Although he comes off the bench as the team's sixth man, he is the Orange's second highest scorer. He averages 12.7 points per game. Waiters led Syracuse to last round's win over Kansas State with 19 points.
The Wisconsin Badgers have strong guards as well. In particular, senior guard Taylor Jordan is an electric player who's always fun to watch. He averages 14.7 points per game, and there's no doubt he will be trying to shoot over Syracuse's zone to rack up some points for the Badgers.
Christian Post Pick: Wisconsin Badgers. Now is the time to predict an underdog win. Although ranked lower, Wisconsin has been having a better tournament than Syracuse, and the Badger defense may well prove too much for Syracuse to handle.
Ohio State (2) v. Cincinnati (6)
Game Time: 9:45 p.m. Thursday (March 22)
Where the Action Is: Cincinnati's momentum is high, coming off an upset that knocked the three-seed Florida State out of the tournament. But can the Cincinnati Bearcats do it again?
If they can, it certainly won't be easy. The Ohio State Buckeyes boast point guard Aaron Craft, who was named the Big 10 defensive player of the year. His defensive prowess will spell trouble for Cincinnati and their point guard, Cashmere Wright. Wright has been struggling enough without being under the kind of pressure he will face Thursday night. Wright's shooting has been off all tournament, he made just seven of 26 attempts against Florida State. If Cincinnati plans to make to the Elite Eight, Wright has to find his shot, or stop taking so many attempts.
Players to Watch: Ohio State's Aaron Craft is also an offensive threat. In the round of 32, Craft earned a double-double, with 17 points and 10 assists. In the low court Buckeye sophomore forward Deshaun Thomas has been playing well. He's averaging 24.5 points and 9.5 rebounds in the tournament.
The Cincinnati Bearcats have some excellent players of their own. Senior big man Yancy Gates is averaging 12.5 points and 7.5 rebounds thus far in the tournament. He should give the Buckeyes some difficulty down low. The Bearcat's Dion Dixon is also playing well, and had a particularly great game in the upset victory over Florida State. He racked up 15 points, including a slam-dunk off a steal in the waning minutes of the game.
Christian Post Pick: Ohio State Buckeyes. The contest will be close, but predicting another upset for Cincinnati doesn't seem practical.