Viewers Guide to Sweet 16 Thursday: Big Injury Changes 1 Favorite
WASHINGTON - The Sweet 16 kicks off from Coast-to-Coast Thursday – with Indiana being the favorite to emerge from four teams playing in the political center of the country (Washington) and Ohio State the favorite to emerge from the entertainment center (Los Angeles). However, the favorite in one game has dropped since the initial Breitbart Alphabetical Ratings due to an injury, meaning they are no longer the favorite. The table below shows each team's ranking and their start time Thursday. While Indiana and Ohio State are favorites for the Final Four, they both must survive Thursday in a bit of a road game.
For detailed accounts of the key players on each team, go to Breitbart Alphabetical Ratings, but the basic outlooks are as follows:
Ohio State is by far the strongest team out west with a 37, but as Big Ten football teams have learned through many a Rose Bowl, it can be tough to win after making the West Coast flight. The Pac12 has certainly looked stronger than expected, so Arizona's 22 probably understates their true value. Whoever survives that game gets one of the big surprises in Wichita State or LaSalle, so the Buckeyes are not looking at any games that will scare them in Los Angeles - and they have the edge on moving to the Final Four along with fellow Big Ten team Indiana on Saturday.
Indiana is the highest rated team playing Thursday with a 47, just two points behind Louisville. The only bad news for them is that they play against a team that just missed being the second best rated team of the eight playing tonight in Syracuse, with a 36. While you cannot match two Player of the Year candidates for Indiana, Syracuse has the talent, experience and trio to battle them tough if the Big East loyalties of a DC crowd carry over from the Syracuse-Georgetown classics.
That game will be preceded by what would have been a HUGE battle between guys who probably weigh over 300 pounds - though they are listed slightly below - but the fact that Miami's huge guy is out with an injury drops them from a 25 to a 23, while Marquette is still a 25. While Miami is favored by four or five points officially, losing two points for a injury drops them just behind Marquette in the Rating.
The one team who dropped since last weekend was Miami, who loses two points on their “healthy” rating due to the loss of big man Reggie Johnson to injury. Johnson is a non-factor on offense, but on defense his 6-10, 292 pound frame should have been a great anecdote to the 6-8, 290 pound frame of offensive specialist Davante Gardner, who is so good at the line that his own fans chant “automatic” during his free throws.
Prior to the tournament, it looked like this matchup and in fact the whole lower half of the East bracket was a toss-up. Both Miami and Marquette had 25 points apiece, and Miami was given 3 wins in the bracket due to being a higher seed than Marquette. Marquette was actually listed with "0 to 3 wins" since every one of the games in their path - Davidson, Butler and Miami - all looked like virtual toss-ups with Marquette the smallest of favorites. So far the ratings have proven accurate in those games with Marquette falling behind by nine points in both games before rallying for a one point win and then a two point win. They would take a three-point win Thursday and a chance to either play potential coach Tom Crean and Indiana or a Syracuse team that Gardner destroyed with his size at the end of the season.