By Sports Capital Journalism Center Staff
Editor’s note: David Mackey and Jack Carney, graduate students in the Department of Journalism and Public Relations at IUPUI, are covering the NCAA Midwest Regional Semifinals and Final at the United Center in Chicago. Mackey, who earned a degree in Marketing at Northwood University in Cedar Hill, Texas, relocated to Indianapolis to pursue a career as a sports broadcaster. He is from Houston, where he observed that football is watched more than weight.
Carney is from Noblesville, Indiana and resides in Indianapolis. He earned a degree in Accounting at Purdue University, where he covered men’s and women’s basketball for the school’s student newspaper, The Exponent.
Here are their predictions for the Midwest Semifinals:
By Jack Carney | @jackwcarney
After a one year hiatus, the top-seeded Virginia Cavaliers return to the Sweet 16 as favorites over the fourth-seeded Iowa State Cyclones in tonight’s Midwest Regional Semifinal in Chicago.
The matchup represents a sharp contrast in playing styles. Iowa State’s high-powered offense averaging 82.1 points per game will be challenged by one of the nation’s toughest defenses. The Cavaliers pack-line defense ranks third in scoring defense nationally, only allowing 59.5 points per contest.
Often Virginia looks to take away easy interior buckets and to wear the opponent down with defensive pressure. Senior guard Malcolm Brogdon calls the strategy, “a war of attrition.”
After punishing the opposition defensively in the first half, Virginia can take advantage and come alive offensively in the second half. This pattern worked to perfection against Butler in the second round as the Cavaliers made 73 percent of their shots and scored on all but eight second-half possessions.
For Iowa State, a team that struggles defensively but can certainly shoot the ball well, the key to countering Virginia’s rugged defensive approach will be making long-range shots early and often. Virginia will attempt to take away the paint, but if the Cyclones can knock down perimeter shots, maybe they can open up the Cavs’ defense.
This responsibility may fall on junior guard Matt Thomas’ shoulders. Thomas has made three or more 3-pointers in 18 of the last 27 games, and the Cyclones are 13-2 this season when he scores 12 or more points.
In the end, Virginia’s tenacious defense will likely be too much for the Cyclones to overcome. Shooting may come and go over the course of a game, but it’s unlikely that Virginia’s defensive intensity will waiver. I like the Cavaliers to move on and earn a shot at a trip to the Final Four on Sunday.
Prediction: Virginia 79, Iowa State 72
By David Mackey III @davidmackey_iii
Tenth-seeded Syracuse (21-13) was an up-and-down team all season. The Orange has tournament victories against Dayton and Middle Tennessee. In both games Syracuse had big performances from Michael Gbinije and Malachi Richardson. Combined Gbinije and Richardson have averaged 29 points in the tournament. The Orange has scored a total of 145 points in the tournament and this duo has contributed 20 percent of the team’s total. Syracuse can win this game on defense as well; the Orange have given up 50.5 points in the tournament.
The Gonzaga Bulldogs are dominant when scoring down low. However, in the tournament the Orange have only allowed 24 points in the paint, which is below their season average of 33.7 points. In the Orange’s two tournament victories, they’ve held their opponents to 30.9 percent from the field and 30.3 from the 3-point line. Look for Syracuse to run Gonzaga’s top 3-point shooter, Kyle Wiltjer off the 3-point line in this game.
Gonzaga is built to beat Syracuse’s zone defense. The Bulldogs have three players that can effectively break down Syracuse’s zone. Look for senior guard Eric McClellan to effectively drive to the hoop to penetrate the zone. Nearly 45.8 percent of his field goal attempts come at the rim. The size and shooting ability of 6-foot, 10-inch senior Kyle Wiltjer will be effective in this game as well he is averaging 43.2 points from the 3-point line. Gonzaga must attack the gaps in the zone by using the x-factor, freshman guard Josh Perkins. Gonzaga must attack the zone with their jump shooters. Perkins leads the team, shooting 53.8 percent on two-point jumpers. Also, he has the ability to create his own shot. Gonzaga will win this game with 3-point shooting, timely jump shots and attacking in the paint.
Prediction: Gonzaga 75 Syracuse 68