On the eve of the Sweet 16, Westwood One college basketball analyst Alaa Abdelnaby dropped CBS Sports Radio and was given an intriguing prompt.
Complete the following sentence: West Virginia will beat Kentucky if . . .
“If Kentucky commits 22 to 23 turnovers – but I don’t see that happening,” Abdelnaby said on The DA Show. “I’m going the exact opposite way of a lot of other people. I think Kentucky’s going to blow West Virginia out of the gym.”
The No. 5 Mountaineers (25-9) play No. 1 Kentucky (36-0) on Thursday at 9:45 p.m. ET.
West Virginia freshman guard Daxter Miles Jr. essentially guaranteed the win over the Wildcats, saying they’ll be 36-1 after the game. But it didn’t end there. Miles also said that Kentucky – and not West Virginia – should be the intimidated team going into the game. Perhaps that’s because the Mountaineers’ press defenses forces opponents into turnovers on 28.3 percent of possessions – the highest rate in the country.
Abdelnaby, however, doesn’t see that storyline playing out Thursday.
“I think they’re going to limit their turnovers,” he said of the Wildcats. “They’re going to beat that press. And if I know (John Calipari) at all, he’s not going to beat it to get it past half-court and then set up an offense. He’s going to have advantages in numbers. You’re going to see a lot of lobs, a lot of dunks, a lot of highlight films. This game – it could be over quickly, let’s put it that way.”
In the West region, meanwhile, we’ve got a pair of compelling Sweet 16 match-ups: No. 1 Wisconsin (33-3) versus No. 4 North Carolina (26-11) and No. 2 Arizona (33-3) versus No. 6 Xavier (23-13).
Wisconsin/UNC offers a matchup of contrasting styles (the Badgers’ grind-it-out philosophy versus the Tar Heels’ up-tempo attack), while Arizona/Xavier offers a student-versus-teacher matchup. Chris Mack coached under Sean Miller, who led Xavier to the Elite Eight in 2008 before bolting for Arizona.
North Carolina and Xavier aren’t exactly slouches, but one could argue that Wisconsin and Arizona are the two best non-Kentucky teams remaining in the tournament. Should they meet in the Elite Eight on Saturday, who wins?
“I like Arizona,” Abdelnaby said. “I picked them out of this bracket to go to the Final Four, so I’m going to stick to my guns. I think their defense is outstanding. I think with that match-up against Wisconsin, who do you go to inside that can score over (Brandon) Ashley, (Kaleb) Tarczewski and (Rondae) Hollis-Jefferson?”
Well, to be fair, Wisconsin has Frank Kaminsky, who is 7-0, Sam Dekker, who is 6-9, and Nigel Hayes, who is 6-7.
“Now, I’m not saying Wisconsin can’t (go inside),” Abdelnaby clarified, “but I picked Arizona because of their defense – and because despite being a No. 2 seed, I think this team is better than the No. 1 seed from last year.”