Friday's Southwest Sweet 16 Games
No. 1 Kansas vs. No. 12 Richmond, No. 10 Florida State vs. No. 11 Virginia Commonwealth
If you enjoy having your bracket decimated by upsets and bloodied by red ink, then the Southwest region is for you. Left standing as we dance to the Sweet 16 are three mind-boggling surprises in double digit seeds Richmond, Florida State, and VCU and one tournament heavy, the Kansas Jayhawks.
If you had to pick a theme for the two remaining ballgames in this region it would be offense vs. defense. The Jayhawks like to get up and down the floor for bushel loads of buckets while Richmond butters their bread on the defensive end. The same holds true for game two. Florida State is the top ranked defensive team in America and they absolutely lockdown most offenses they face.
On the flipside, VCU shoots more three-pointers than any team in the tournament and when they're hitting an upset is not only possible but likely.
Players to Watch
Let's start with Morris twins, the cornerstones of the Jayhawks tournament hopes. Markieff and Marcus have been dominant paint players since the day the stepped foot on campus, but they've added a perimeter attack to further stretch the defense. This will be a huge aspect of Friday evening's ball game because Richmond forward Darrius Garrett is the ultimate eraser on the backline of the Spider defense. If whichever Morris twin Garrett is guarding can float to the perimeter for shots, it will open up driving lanes for the rest of the Jayhawk squad by pulling one of the nation's premier shot blockers away from the bucket.
As for other important pieces to Richmond's puzzle, look no further than Kevin Anderson. If you haven't seen the diminutive Anderson play you're in for a treat because he's the most underrated point guard in all of college hoops. Kansas must keep Anderson out of the painted area while somehow contesting his shots from beyond the arc.
On the bottom half of the bracket keep an eye FSU's Chris Singleton vs. Bradford Burgess of VCU. Burgess is the Rams most dynamic scorer while Singleton may be the best defender in America. If Singleton an shut down Burgess without help, then VCU will struggle to create a lot of good looks against a very long athletic Florida State group.
Both of these games are intriguing for the college hoops purist even if they don't have that "wow" factor of historic programs doing battle. I'm interested to see if Anderson can handle all of the bodies Coach Self will throw at the talented guard to get him out of rhythm and perhaps force some turnovers. It will also be interesting to if Richmond can compete on the glass enough in this game to keep it competitive.
In the other contest, remember the Old Dominion blue print for beating VCU two out of three times in Colonial Conference matchups. ODU used their size on the perimeter to bother the Ram jumpshooters and then absolutely bludgeoned VCU on the glass for extra shot opportunities on the offensive end. If that sound like FSU's blue print to you, then you'd be right.
It's not likely we'll see any more upsets in this region. Florida State should handle VCU and Kansas won't have much trouble with a Richmond squad that lacks depth. If Richmond stays in the ball game long enough to come down to one or two possessions however, they do have a huge advantage over KU because they have a better creator in Anderson to manufacture buckets down the stretch. The Jayhawks lack that kind of playmaking at the guard spot, but it's doubtful the Spiders keep it close enough to make that matter.