Rothstein: Friday’s Sweet 16 Primer; Predictions, Key Matchups & More

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(credit: Elsa/Getty Images)

(credit: Elsa/Getty Images)

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By Jon Rothstein

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KANSAS VS. MICHIGAN

Key matchup: Jeff Withey vs. Mitch McGary

Don’t be surprised if: Kevin Young has a major impact on this game.

X-factors: Ben McLemore (Kansas), Glenn Robinson III (Michigan)

The skinny: Michigan might be the most talented offensive team in college basketball. The Wolverines have a terrific back court with Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. along with a plethora of role players that can stretch the defense. The one thing Michigan doesn’t have? Experience. And that’s where Kansas may have a distinct edge in this game. Four of the Jayhawks’ starters — Elijah Johnson, Travis Releford, Kevin Young, and Jeff Withey all played during last year’s run to the national title game. It says here that will be the difference.

Prediction: Kansas 67, Michigan 60

FLORIDA VS. FLORIDA GULF COAST

Key matchup: Scottie Wilbekin vs. Brett Comer

Don’t be surprised if: Florida plays one of the best defensive games we’ve seen in the NCAA Tournament

X-factors: Mike Rosario (Florida), Chase Fieler (Florida Gulf Coast)

The skinny: Florida Gulf Coast is without question the story of the tournament — but they’re not going to beat Florida. Billy Donovan’s team will be locked in on both sides of the floor, and should be able to slow down the Eagles’ transition game. Keep an eye on Florida forward Will Yeguete, who could have a big role because of his intangibles.

Prediction: Florida 71, Florida Gulf Coast 62

NCAA PICKS: Rothstein, Moose, Evan, Giglio, JJ pick ‘em all

LOUISVILLE VS. OREGON

Key matchup: Oregon’s guards against Louisville’s press

Don’t be surprised if: Oregon uses Dominic Artis and Johnathon Loyd together in the back court to offset Louisville’s pressure.

X-factors: Carlos Emory (Oregon), Gorgui Dieng (Louisville)

The skinny: The Cardinals are playing like the best team in college basketball. Louisville’s bench of Kevin Ware, Stephan Van Treese, and Montrezl Harrell have been terrific, and Russ Smith is performing like an elite guard. Oregon has been phenomenal in their first two NCAA Tournament games, but it says here their run ends against the Cardinals.

Prediction: Louisville 79, Oregon 70

DUKE VS. MICHIGAN STATE

Key matchup: Derrick Nixvs. Mason Plumlee

Don’t be surprised if: Tom Izzo plays Denzel Valentine for longer than usual to exploit’s Duke’s lack of size in the back court

X-factors: Keith Appling (Michigan State), Rasheed Suliamon (Duke)

The skinny: This battle between two of the sport’s blue bloods has the makings to be one of the best games of the entire tournament. The keys to this game will be how Duke deals with the Spartans on the back boards, and how Michigan State contains Ryan Kelly — and that’s where Branden Dawson comes into play. Tom Izzo has used Dawson in spurts this season at power forward, and his versatility could make him a candidate to check Kelly with regularity. This is a game that could very well come down to the final possession.

Prediction: Duke 71, Michigan State 70

Do you agree that FGCU’s run will end Friday? Make your case in the comments!

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