The Virginia Cavaliers match up well against nearly everyone on any given team they play, but they face their biggest challenge to date when they take on Michigan State‘s Adreian Payne in the Sweet 16.
Payne sat out some games during the season with injuries, but is now playing at his peak at the perfect time. Payne lit up second round opponent Delaware for 41 points on 10-of-15 shooting. Payne put up only 12 points against Harvard in the third round, but that was a much more perimeter-oriented game.
Payne will be expected to take over against Virginia because the perimeter will be well defended by the Cavaliers’ superior wing defense. Virginia held the Memphis Tigers to only 23.1 percent from the behind the arc and muddled down the guard play on the whole.
Clearly coach Tony Bennett will want to do the same against coach Tom Izzo‘s guards Gary Harris and Keith Appling. Virginia’s Joe Harris and Malcolm Brogdon are great defenders because they work hard on defense, and their size and length make them difficult to work around.
Akil Mitchell will likely be given the task of handling Payne. Mitchell matches up fine with his size, but because Payne is capable of going outside, that will obviously offer a challenge. Payne is almost as efficient outside as he is inside, and his quickness off of his first step from the arc makes him a mismatch against anyone.
Payne’s stats may not necessarily guarantee that Michigan State wins, but if he is slowed and taken out of his comfort zone, it could be enough for Virginia to advance into the Elite Eight of the NCAA tournament.