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Previewing the Texas A&M/Michigan and Loyola/Nevada Sweet 16 Games

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We’ve made it to the Sweet 16, which is always an awesome weekend, but still feels like a weird setup. That’s only because my dumb brain can’t comprehend we’re done with daytime basketball, something that often makes me upset. Regardless we’ll go on with the previews, this time going two at a time based on the time slots of games. We’ll continue to do previews the same way with ATS picks and regular picks. For those that asked I went back and added up the results from the first weekend, going 24-19-1 in blog ATS picks. Let’s hope that continues. 

No. 7 Nevada vs No. 11 Loyola – 7:07 pm, CBS, Atlanta
Line: Nevada -1

Well, here we are like everyone expected. No. 7 Nevada vs No. 11 Loyola Chicago for a chance to play for the Final Four. This might be the most intriguing game of the Sweet 16 for me simply because of the stylistic differences between the two teams. Nevada wants to get up and down the court, running a pace and space offense while Loyola desperately wants to slow it down. I mean, just look at the average length of offensive possessions between the two teams. Loyola averages over 18 seconds of possession while Nevada averages 16.1 seconds. The one thing that’s important here for Loyola is the fact it can defend the pace and space. Nevada plays dudes between 6’3″ and 6’8″ with the majority of them being 6’7″. That does provide mismatches typically for the Martin twins and then for Jordan Caroline, who runs the de facto 5 spot for Nevada. Loyola will be able to get out on the perimeter to defend Caroline, but I do wonder how they’ll defend the Martin twins. Assuming they put Ingram and Jackson on them, that should create a mismatch for Kendall Stephens, who is a lethal shooter from three and at 6’7″ is where the mismatch lies. Loyola is going to have to decide who to put Custer (6’1″) on. The big help for Nevada here? Loyola isn’t a good offensive rebounding team. Nevada struggles on the defensive glass, something that Loyola likely won’t take advantage of. That’s simply because Loyola want to get back, limit transition and set up its defense. That’s going to be the decision Loyola has to make tonight and my guess is they decide to limit transition as much as possible forcing Nevada to run a halfcourt offense. This game though is ultimately going to come down to who dictates tempo. Both teams have played ridiculously close and crazy games in the first two rounds, so it’s not like they’ll be shocked when it comes to anything. That’s where I like Nevada here. The Wolf Pack have played teams that mimic Loyola. Cincinnati and Texas both are defensive-minded teams that want to slow it down and make you work on both sides of the ball. Loyola has not played a team that is similar to Nevada. The two matchups against Miami and Tennessee favored Loyola because the styles are similar.
Bracket pick: Nevada
ATS pick: Nevada

No. 3 Michigan vs No. 7 Texas A&M – 7:37 pm, TBS, Los Angeles
Line: Michigan -3

This is a matchup where we are truly going to see two completely different roster builds. Michigan plays a small ball type with Charles Matthews at the four and Mo Wagner at the 5 – a dude who can step out and comfortably shoot the ball or pass from the high post. On the other hand, Texas A&M runs two bigs in Robert Williams and Tyler Davis, who are more traditional back to the basket type players. Oh, they also have a 6’9″ guard in DJ Hogg. It’s a similar matchup to what we saw Texas A&m just have with UNC, where the Tar Heels like to run Theo Pinson as the small ball four. However, the difference there was TJ Starks’ ability to easily blow by Joel Berry and either force the defense to collapse or get a bucket himself late in the clock. Zavier Simpson is a way better defender than Berry. Can Starks still attack in the same way he did against UNC? If Simpson can prevent Starks from getting into the lane, then it comes down to either correct entry passes being made to the post or Hogg taking advantage of his mismatch – most likely going up against Duncan Robinson. Luckily, Michigan has seen this before as Michigan State uses a similar roster build – a team who Michigan beat twice. On the flip side, Michigan is going to draw the two bigs away from the bucket. One will have to guard Charles Matthews, who will look to beat his guy off the bounce. The other will have to guard Wagner, who will be in roughly 1,000 high ball screens and knowing Beilein he’ll put a wrinkle in whether it’s a pop, roll or double screen. Can the bigs guard on the perimeter? Texas A&M won’t be able to go back to the 2-3 zone it uses at times, simply because Michigan is a terrible team to try and zone. They are an excellent passing team and can slide Matthews into that high post spot and surround him with Abdur-Rahkman, Robinson and Wagner, all of whom can shoot. One weird wrinkle in this game is the fact both teams suck at the free throw line. Texas A&M ranks 320th while Michigan ranks 328th at the free throw line. Can someone actually step up and hit free throws late?
Bracket pick: Michigan
ATS pick: Michigan

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