All games on CBS
(7) Florida vs. (4) Louisville (Phoenix: Saturday at 4:30)
First instinct: Florida
The numbers like: Florida (KP - 54%, Silver - 55%, BPI - Louisville 11, Florida 16)
When Louisville has the ball: After a season of questionable defense, Florida has put together a string of three excellent defensive games in their first three tournament victories, though granted they haven't come against the best offenses the nation has to offer. In case you haven't been made aware, though, Louisville doesn't have one of those, either. The Gators match up nicely with the Cardinals. Both teams employ three-guard starting lineups, but Erik Murphy may have a tough time handling either Gorgui Dieng or Chane Behanan, and Erving Walker and Kenny Boynton are less than formidable defenders. The Gators' defensive style hasn't been forcing an overwhelming number of turnovers, and I think Peyton Siva, especially, will benefit from this. Offensive rebounding is key for Louisville.
When Florida has the ball: This end is way more interesting, pitting one of the sport's best offenses against one of its best defenses. Florida will be living or dying by the three-pointer, as always. If they make it to the Final Four, maybe people will start noticing how often Kenny Boynton's been on the "living" side of that. Louisville forces lots of turnovers and causes opponents to take tough shots. Florida rarely turns the ball over and makes more tough shots than could possibly be imagined. It'll be fun to watch.
Thought process: Florida's issue all season long has been defense, and it's been coming along lately. Louisville's defense is excellent, but Florida's offense is, possibly, the least defense-affected offense that can be played. If the Gators can keep Louisville from shooting well above their talent level, all they'll have to do to win is hit shots at a reasonable rate.
Final pick: Florida
(2) Ohio State vs. (1) Syracuse (Boston: Saturday at 7:05)
First instinct: Ohio State
The numbers like: Ohio State (KP - 63%, Silver - 64%, BPI - Syracuse 2, Ohio State 3)
When Syracuse has the ball: Syracuse better make their first shots, because they won't be getting too many second chances. Ohio State's the second-best defensive rebounding team in the country, and, sans Fab Melo, the Orange's offensive rebounding is mostly left in the hands of solid but unspectacular C.J. Fair and Rakeem Christmas. Aaron Craft will force Scoop Jardine into a few turnovers, but the rest of the Orange are so solid that it shouldn't be their downfall. I like Syracuse's chances to get good shots and make them -- they just have so many weapons.
When Ohio State has the ball: I've heard people doubting the Buckeyes' ability to handle the vaunted Syracuse zone. It is said Ohio State doesn't have enough shooters. But Deshaun Thomas and William Buford are both very good, and you can't really leave anyone else alone behind the arc. Also, I'm having a tough time imagining the Orange bigs defending Jared Sullinger effectively, and that's even before the many putback opportunities he'll earn due to Syracuse's horrible defensive rebounding. Jim Boeheim's team needs to force lots of turnovers against an opponent who, outside of Craft, doesn't turn the ball over much at all. It's the most likely way both their defense and offense will be effective.
Thought process: People are slowly beginning to realize that Syracuse's season did't end with Fab Melo's. And there aren't many teams with six offensive players as effective as Jardine, Dion Waiters, Kris Joseph, C.J. Fair, Brandon Triche, and James Southerland. But new-look Syracuse hasn't had to face an excellent power big man like Sullinger, and I think he'll cause a lot of problems. If Syracuse doesn't bring the defensive pressure and figure out how to handle the Buckeyes inside, they're in trouble.
Final pick: Ohio State
Drew Cannon is a college student and a regular contributor to Basketball Prospectus. Click here to see Drew's other articles. Follow him on Twitter at @DrewCannon1.
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Drew Cannon is an author of Basketball Prospectus.
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