Sweet Sixteen Predictions: Iowa State vs Virginia, Wisconsin vs Notre Dame, Gonzaga vs Syracuse, Indiana vs North Carolina

Brice Johnson

After a first day of Sweet Sixteen basketball of all wins for the higher seeded teams, the picture of the Elite Eight will be completed with number one seeds, both from the ACC, opening (Virginia vs Iowa State) and closing (North Carolina vs Indiana), while in between are more ACC teams: Notre Dame facing Wisconsin and Syracuse playing against Gonzaga.

#4 Iowa State vs #1 Virginia: The Cyclones are averaging 86 points per game in the tournament and Georges Niang is scoring 28 a night. But against the fantastic Virginia defense, are they going to find enough offense to last them 40 minutes? Malcolm Brogdon is going to be a problem for the Cyclones to handle (22 points against Butler), but Anthony Gill (19 points in the last two games each) dominating in the paint could make the difference for the Cavaliers, who will focus on not letting Iowa State turn this into a fast-paced game.

#7 Wisconsin vs #6 Notre Dame: Wisconsin thrive on defense and hustle, while hoping Nigel Hayes finally starts making their shorts. Notre Dame are more talented and experienced on paper, counting on Zach Auguste (13 points, 13.5 rebounds in the tournament) and V.J. Beachem to use their advantage in the paint against a Badgers team that lacks a real big man. Getting Ethan Happ in early foul trouble could go a long way for the Fighting Irish, who don’t want this to become another close game with a slow pace and plenty of mistakes, which suits Wisconsin perfectly.

#11 Gonzaga vs #10 Syracuse: The two remaining double digit seeds have won quite comfortably in the first two rounds. Gonzaga probably have the more impressive record when it comes to the teams they’ve faced. Syracuse beat Dayton and Middle Tennessee while proving they deserved a spot in the tournament (did they?) but the 2-3 zone is going to find it more difficult against Domantas Sabonis and Kyle Wiltjer, while the Bulldogs hope to contain Michael Gbinije like they did to Isaiah Whitehead of Seton Hall, and watch out for Trevor Cooney. Syracuse, like Wisconsin, need to turn this game into an ugly one.

#5 Indiana vs #1 North Carolina: Two programs with 10 national championships between them, as North Carolina are probably delirious by Duke getting knocked out of the tournament. For North Carolina, everything begins with dominating the frontcourt battle, which means a good games for Brice Johnson (19.5 points, 8.5 rebounds, 70% from the field in the tournament) and solid backup from Kennedy Meeks, Isaiah Hicks and Justin Jackson. Stopping Yogi Ferrell and not allowing Indiana to get hot from the outside is the plan on defense. Ferrell needs Collin Hartman, Nick Zeisloft and Max Bielfeldt to hit shots when they’re open, while the Hoosiers are hoping Robert Johnson does get to play, and Thomas Bryant won’t be left on his own to battle against the big North Carolina frontcourt.

Image: Source