No. 4 Wisconsin vs. No. 8 Butler; Thursday at 9:57 p.m. on TBS
The Southwest region is in flux after top seed Pittsburgh was eliminated by Butler in the craziest last two foul-ridden seconds of a basketball game these eyes have seen. Butler looks to stay on the right side of the nail-biter as it takes on Bo Ryan's suffocating Wisconsin Badger crew. The big question in this game is if the Bulldogs have enough perimeter playmakers to make Wisconsin guard honestly instead of the swarming team defensive squad that has taken down Belmont and Kansas State. Ronald Nored and Shelvin Mack will have to spread the floor against the Badgers with some help from the suddenly perimeter oriented Matt Howard or it could be a long night for both offenses. Vegas might be testing record lows on the under.
No. 2 Florida vs. No. 3 BYU; Thursday at 7:27 p.m. on TBS
BYU has found its mojo after losing star interior player Brandon Davies. Luckily for the Cougars, Noah Hartsock and Charles Abouo have picked up the slack on the glass and in the paint. Their contribution has allowed Jimmer to be Jimmer and the results have led to a spectacular run into the Sweet 16. Florida has to hope that Kenny Boynton's ankle is full strength, otherwise Chandler Parsons has to regain his earlier season form and step it up another notch from there. Tall order but this should be a close game.
Players to Watch
It all starts with Jimmer Fredette. He should have his way with a smallish Gator backcourt even if Boynton is fully healed. If I'm Donovan, I make sure that Jimmer has to guard on every possession so he expends energy on the defensive end. On the flip side, Chandler Parsons needs to come out of his tournament funk because he's one of the only true remaining small forwards left in the tournament and he can cause matchup nightmares for BYU. In the top half of the bracket, Wisconsin needs to make sure Nankivil or Leuer are tagging Matt Howard when he floats out to the perimeter. Check him out to beyond the arc or suffer the consequences.
Wisconsin's blue collar defense vs. Butler's ability to grind out one possession wins. If you like fundamental basketball, then bring your popcorn. The NCAA has to be pulling for BYU to keep it rolling so Jimmer Nation can tune in. The kid is a legit one man show while being a great team leader. It's a rare sight in college hoops and I have a feeling there are some huge boxscores left in his bag of tricks.
We've already seen plenty in the wild upsets in the Southwest region. When the seedings first came out, this one looked like a potential train wreck and this portion of your bracket is likely covered in red. It looked like any one of eight teams had a chance to make the run to Houston, and there are still four legit ones left. BYU would be an upset in seeding only because the Cougars are just as talented as the boys from Gainesville. I'd be surprised if the Butler vs. Wisconsin game was anything less than a 40 minute prize fight so either way it won't be an upset.