After a couple of days of being sick, The Stack is back ready to talk March Madness as the Sweet 16 starts tonight. Preview and predictions straight ahead, but there's one story that tops them all. Find out what that is in "the stack" for today, Thursday, March 28:
Bulls top Heat, stop streak at 27 games
The win streak is over. The Miami Heat's run to history was stopped dead in its tracks last night as the Chicago Bulls, still without Derrick Rose, found a way to beat the Heat 101-97. The Heat's 27 game win streak, second longest in NBA history was snapped by a team without their best player and a team that doesn't score that much. A lot of people thought the streak would go on and that the Heat's toughest test would be at San Antonio on Sunday. Not that the Bulls aren't a good team, but when you don't have a player of Rose's calliber and when you struggle to put the ball in the hoop like the Bulls have at times this season, it's a little easier to think that the Heat would win. The Bulls played one of their best games of the year. The Heat seem to bring that out a lot in most teams. It was an electric atmosphere in the United Center last night. It felt like an NBA Finals game. Luol Deng was huge for the Bulls with 28 points including four three-pointers, but Carlos Boozer was the big difference, recording a double-double with 21 points and 17 rebounds. That toughness showed throughout the game and helped energize the building and the team.
Don't hate on the Heat. Their 27 game win streak was phenominal and they are still head and shoulders the best team in the eastern conference, if not the NBA. San Antonio and Oklahoma City pose as big tests for the Heat, but they won't meet until the NBA Finals. The Heat will cruise through the NBA playoffs and are definitely in route to their second straight NBA championship. What a remarkable accomplishment they achieved. So close to getting to the top. Still have to marvel at it though and applaud them for what they did. Yes they have three super-stars and the best player in the NBA in LeBron James, but winning 27 straight games is tough to do. Michael Jordan's Bulls never did that. Congrats to the Heat for what they accomplished.
East Region (Washington D.C.) Sweet 16 preview
#3 Marquette vs. #2 Miami (FL) 7:15 PM ET CBS
Marquette has survived two nail-biters in advancing to the sweet 16 in Washington D.C. getting a last second layup to beat Davidson 59-58 and then squeezing by Butler 64-62. So they know how to win the close games, but they haven't played a great game yet in the tournament. Miami struggled, but found a way to get by Illinois in the round of 32 to get to the Sweet 16, but they are at a disadvantage without center Reggie Johnson. That is a big loss because of Marquette's physical play. The Hurricanes must stay out of foul trouble. Hope the curse of The Stack doesn't fall upon Miami because of this, but...
Pick: Miami (FL)
#4 Syracuse vs. #1 Indiana 9:45 PM ET CBS
What an interesting and fun game this should be. Indiana has been the best team in the country for much of the season, but they received a scare from Temple in getting to the Sweet 16. Syracuse has breezed into the Sweet 16. What gives the Orange a chance in this game is their 2-3 zone defense that they play. It could give Indiana problems. Syracuse does struggle on offense at times and that is what could and eventually will doom this against Indiana, a very good offensive team. Close game and it won't shock me if Syracuse wins, but...
West Region (Los Angeles) Sweet 16 preview
#6 Arizona vs. #2 Ohio State 7:47 PM ET TBS
Arizona is playing the disrespect card. They were very impressive last week in knocking off Belmont, a team that a lot of people including myself had them losing to, and Harvard. The Rodney Dangerfields now take on Ohio State who had to have a last second three pointer by Aaron Craft to get by Iowa State. Physical game and lots of fun, but I think Ohio State has more talent. Arizona does get the benefit of having a lot of fans coming to the game as they are the closest campus of the four schools so they will have a lot of support on their side. This will be a fun game.
Pick: Ohio State
#13 LaSalle vs. #9 Wichita State 10:17 PM ET TBS
Ok, who had this Sweet 16 matchup correct in their bracket? Anyone? I didn't think so. Someone's Cinderella story has to end tonight and I think it will be LaSalle's. Wichita State is a physical team who can also knock down threes as evidenced by the way they were able to come back and knock off #1 Gonzaga last Saturday. Gregg Marshall has done a great job in coaching this team. LaSalle's three point shooting will keep them in it for a while, but Wichita State is a slightly better team.
Pick: Wichita State
One last note before I go, Shaka Smart is staying at VCU. The head coach had interest from Minnesota and UCLA, but turned it down. It's probably the best move as Smart will continue to build VCU into a powerhouse basketball program. Tough for both of the big programs though to know that VCU is a better job than both Minnesota and UCLA.
Coming up Friday: Reaction to Thursday's Sweet 16 games plus preview and predictions for Friday's Sweet 16 matchups.