OHIO STATE beats KENTUCKY
Youthful exuberance can take a team only so far. Like Kentucky, Ohio State depends on freshmen (Jared Sullinger and Aaron Craft). Unlike the Wildcats, OSU also relies on upperclassmen, including two of the most versatile perimeter defenders in the country (senior David Lighty and junior William Buford). Combined with Craft, who led the Big Ten in steals, that trio will present the toughest test that freshman point guard Brandon Knight and Kentucky have faced. UK's success has thus far belied its inexperience; against an experienced team that can match the Cats' talent, their run comes to an end.
OHIO STATE BEATS NORTH CAROLINA
For a team that performed so consistently, the Buckeyes had a lot of close games during Big Ten play. That's what prepared them to win this one. The Tar Heels are one of the fastest teams in the country, but Ohio State will be able to use Craft, Lighty and Buford to control the pace. Plus, if Buckeyes coach Thad Matta wants to go big, he can turn to senior center Dallas Lauderdale, one of the nation's strongest rebounders and shot blockers. Up front, Henson and Zeller are more about finesse than power, and I love the matchup of Lighty defending Barnes. Ohio State is just too savvy and too good.
FLORIDA beats BYU
These teams played a double OT classic in the first round of last year's tournament, with BYU winning 99--92 on the strength of 37 points from Jimmer Fredette. Gators guard Erving Walker was as bad as Fredette was good, shooting 4 for 16 from the floor and attempting just one free throw. The 5'8" Walker has come a long way, though, as he demonstrated in Florida's third-round win over UCLA by shooting 8 for 10 from the stripe and scoring 21 points. Fredette will again win this individual matchup, but Florida's bigs—Chandler Parsons, Alex Tyus and Patric Young—will rule the paint and earn the victory.
BUTLER beats WISCONSIN
The Bulldogs and the Badgers mirror each other in so many ways: First and foremost, both are led by tough, strong, smart guards. Butler's Shelvin Mack dropped 30 on Pitt, hitting 7 of 12 threes, while Wisconsin's Jordan Taylor has struggled from the field but handed out 12 assists with just three turnovers. The teams also have versatile forwards (Butler's 6'8" Matt Howard and Wisconsin's 6'10" Jon Leuer), and both are comfortable slugging it out in the half-court. The winner will be the squad that has more March magic, and with a pair of close wins, Butler is wielding the more potent wand.
FLORIDA BEATS BUTLER