Three things to watch is a quick preview of the NCAA tournament's second weekend. It is exactly what it says it is.
Thing One: Jacob Pullen vs. Jordan Crawford. If you thought last week's matchup was a challenging one for Kansas State's guards, welcome to the Sweet 16. This week, the Wildcats will face one of the hottest players in all of college basketball, Crawford. (If they manage to contain Crawford and beat Xavier, Kansas State will likely be awarded with the honor of trying to guard Andy Rautins and Wes Johnson, which, yikes. But let's focus on the Sweet 16 for a second.) Crawford averaged 27 points in his first two tournament games against Minnesota and Pittsburgh. At Indiana, Crawford was a paragon of potential without much polish; in his second year since transferring, he's turned that potential into a complete offensive game. He's nearly impossible to stop. Then again, we would have said the same thing about BYU's Jimmer Fredette, who spent much of the season having his way with opposing guards only to be contained by Pullen in the second round. Pullen pulled double-duty in Kansas State's win, defending Fredette on one end and contributing an efficient 34 points on the other. Pullen v. Crawford. It sounds like a Supreme Court case. Instead, it's one of the best guard match ups you'll see all tournament. Don't miss it.
Thing Two: Hey, man, slow down. If Butler has any hope of beating No. 1-seed Syracuse in Thursday's early game, they have to slow the ball down. Like, big-time. The Bulldogs don't much care for a fast-paced game anyway -- they average 64.8 possessions a game, good for 275th in Division I -- and this proclivity for sloth could mitigate some of the Bulldogs' other disadvantages. The last thing Butler will want to see is Syracuse's long zone getting into passing lanes, creating turnovers, and getting easy buckets. Or, almost as bad, getting lots of long rebounds and run-outs into the secondary break. Rautins loves the secondary break. The goal for Brad Stevens' team is simple: Get the ball into the middle of the zone. Don't turn it over. Get genuinely open looks from outside. Make them. And, for the love of Hinkle Fieldhouse, slow down.
Thing Three: Fortunately, this sort of slow pace will be a little bit more advantageous for Butler with Arinze Onuaku still out of Syracuse's lineup. Butler's task is hard enough. With Onuaku out of the middle of the lane, that slow-it-down-and-get-it-inside strategy looks a little bit more viable; with Onuaku in the game, Syracuse is more than happy to play a bruising half-court style, and as good as Matt Howard is, it's hard to imagine him staying step-for-step with a healthy Arinze for 40 minutes.
But that's at all! Here's one bonus bold prediction from the West: Jordan Crawford has an off-night, going 6-for-24ish from the field, and Kansas State takes a surprisingly easy win on their way to the Elite Eight. What? I'm totally counting that as bold.