Second Round Game Analysis: SaturdayPosted by rtmsf on March 19th, 2010
Over the next two days in a series of separate posts, RTC will break down all 16 of the second round games using our best analytical efforts to understand these teams, the matchups and their individual strengths and weaknesses. Our hope is that you’ll let us know in the comments where you agree, disagree or otherwise think we’ve lost our collective minds. Here are the Saturday games.
1:05 pm – #2 Villanova vs. #10 St. Mary’s (Providence pod)
A great opening game of the day for the group of teams that produced the best opening day of the NCAA Tournament ever. A lot of experts are going to be calling for an upset here and based on the way these two teams are playing we can’t say that we blame them. The Wildcats came into the NCAA Tournament having lost five of seven games and nearly lost to Robert Morris (down by 7 with less than 4 minutes left before some controversial calls went ‘Nova’s way). On the other side, the Gaels stormed through the West Coast Conference Tournament and knocked off Richmond, a team that a lot of people had as a potential sleeper, in the first round. The key to this game will be how Reggie Redding handles Omar Samhan. After watching Samhan rip apart the Spiders, Jay Wright has to be concerned about his interior players going against one of the best low-post players in the country. On the other side, Saint Mary’s has to figure out how to deal with Scottie Reynolds and the rest of the Wildcat backcourt. They are certainly better equipped to match-up with Villanova’s perimeter players with Mickey McConnell and Matthew Dellavedova than the Wildcats are to handle Samhan. Saint Mary’s perimeter players pack enough offensive punch to make keep up with Villanova’s guards, but Mouphtaou Yarou and Redding shouldn’t challenge Samhan too much defensively. The one wildcard here is Reynolds. Will he “learn” from Wright’s “teaching moment” and become the Scottie Reynolds we knew for most of the past two seasons or will be the 2-15 from the field Reynolds?
The Skinny: Samhan overwhelms the Wildcats on the inside and advance into the Sweet 16 as this year’s Cinderella.
3:20 pm – #5 Butler vs. #13 Murray State (San Jose pod)
The second game of the second round will feature the top mid-major program in the east versus an upstart who would love to get there themselves. In their first round game, if you haven’t heard, the Racers’ Danero Thomas hit a shot at the buzzer to knock Vanderbilt out of the Tournament, but what you may not know about that game is that Murray State pretty much controlled it throughout. It was very late when Vandy regained the lead and set the stage for Thomas’ game winner. The point: Murray is better than your typical #13 seed Cinderella. Butler, on the other hand, had a weak first half and a superb second half to put away UTEP. It was two of the staples of Butler’s attack — relentless halfcourt defense and the three-ball — that allowed the Bulldogs to quickly take the lead and never look back against the Miners. As for this game, Murray State does many of the same things that Butler does, it’s just that Brad Stevens’ team does those things better. It will certainly be interesting to see how Butler responds to being the Big (Bull)Dog in an NCAA Tournament game, as they’re usually the upstart taking on some higher-seeded Kansas or Florida type of team.
The Skinny: We’d love to take Murray State here, but Butler isn’t going to let a johnny-come-lately out-Butler them en route to the Sweet Sixteen, so we expect Butler to hang on and win by 6-8 points.
3:35 pm – #4 Tennessee vs. #14 Ohio (Providence pod)
Who predicted this one? Evidently 56 people out of about 4.5 million, according to ESPN’s Tournament Challenge game. That’s assuming, at least, that if you didn’t have a perfect bracket, you missed at least one of these teams. So, anybody want to bet against these Ohio U. guards? Yeah, we didn’t think so. The only thing more shocking than the Bobcats’ dispatching of the Hoyas was that Ohio U. hung 97 POINTS on them, and it’s not like Georgetown is some terrible defensive team. Armon Bassett and D.J. Cooper were somehow always able to get open from beyond the three-point arc, and when you have two guys who hit five threes apiece, you’re going to beat a lot of teams — especially one as schizophrenic as Georgetown. But Bassett and Cooper were also able to get inside, absorb contact, and get to the line. What can the Volunteers do to stop this? Well, it depends on which Tennessee team shows up. This season, UT has gotten up for big games and relaxed for not-so-big games. Can they get up for an NCAA second-round game against…Ohio? They have enough offensive weapons. Ohio U. guards the three very well, and they showed that on Thursday night. If Tennessee’s guards concern themselves with playing good in-the-jerseys defense against that Ohio U. backcourt, and if they’re convinced that the best offensive strategy is to go exclusively inside for at least the first half of this game, Tennessee will quell this uprising. If the UT guards feel like chucking threes and playing sagging defense, the Vols will lose. You cannot give a hot upstart team a reason to believe.
The Skinny: Tennessee seems to sputter out of the NCAA Tournament early whenever anything’s expected of them. We have every reason to think the Vols will crank up the defensive effort and get the job done. Despite OU’s performance against the Hoyas, the talent disparity is pretty remarkable, here. But what the heck, let’s have some fun and take Ohio in a close one.
5:40 pm – #1 Kansas vs. #9 Northern Iowa (Oklahoma City pod)
I wouldn’t make too much of Kansas’ relatively slow start and the lack of a big blowout win against Lehigh. The Jayhawks only got to the line ten times while Lehigh managed to coax the Jayhawks into 18 fouls and get to the line 21 times. They hit 17 of them, which is 12 more than Kansas. A 12-point deficit at the free throw line is pretty substantial, but it’s the only statistical category the Jayhawks didn’t win. They hit more shots, owned the boards, snagged more steals, and if they’d tried to mount more of an attack inside the paint, they’d have made up that free throw deficit and it would have been a bigger win. Northern Iowa fought hard to get by UNLV, and you can bet Ali Farokhmanesh will find himself well-covered by taller, quicker players all night. No offense, but that’s probably a situation he finds himself in a lot during the year, yet he still gets his. But that makes the inside matchup that much more important. Cole Aldrich won’t destroy Eglseder, though he may outplay him. But the rest? Tough to see UNI keeping pace with that stacked KU lineup.
The Skinny: That first game took a lot out of the Panthers, and we don’t think Farokhmanesh is going to get nine looks from three that he’ll feel like actually shooting. He may take them, but the looks won’t be as good. Have to stick with the Jayhawks.
5:45 pm – #3 Baylor vs. #11 Old Dominion (New Orleans pod)
While the seeds might suggest that one of these teams expected to get here and the other pulled off a big upset that would be a gross underestimation of how good Old Dominion is. Even though the Monarchs lost a bunch of close games (they did have a win over Georgetown–insert Ohio joke here) to NCAA Tournament level teams that surely benefited them when they reached this stage. They lack the “names” that Baylor has, but they also lacked the same “names” when they matched up against Notre Dame, but they still held on for a not-that-surpising win. If you’re looking for a guy to watch on the Monarchs, keep an eye on Gerald Lee. He had a relatively quiet game against the Georgetown so expect him to come back firing. Likewise Baylor survived against Sam Houston State despite an awful performance from one of its stars (Tweety Carter with two points) and a mediocre performance from another one its stars (LaceDarius Dunn with 13 points, but didn’t get going until late). Even though it was Sam Houston State it says something about the fortitude of the Bears to overcome weak performances out of two of its stars. Even though Baylor’s backcourt has more firepower they won’t have that big of an edge over Old Dominion. The key in this game will be on the inside where Ekpe Udoh will be a matchup nightmare for the Monarchs.
The Skinny: Scott Drew rides Udoh into the Sweet 16 where they will have a home crowd behind them.
5:50 pm – #3 New Mexico vs. #11 Washington (San Jose pod)
Ranked in the preseason poll, many prognosticators figured Washington had a Sweet 16-caliber team back in November. It just took them roughly four months to start playing like one. The Huskies rallied from 15 points down in the second half Thursday behind red-hot outside shooting and the leadership of Quincy Pondexter to hand Marquette yet another NCAA Tournament heartbreak on the West Coast. This should be a wildly entertaining game played with both rabid fan bases packing the HP Pavilion. While the seeding of these teams does have a range, not many would be surprised if Washington advanced to the Sweet 16 (in fact, kenpom.com favors the Huskies to win based on their efficiency statistics). Pondexter ranks in the top-30 in all of college basketball in offensive rating, Isaiah Thomas appears to be coming alive at the opportune time, and role players like Darnell Gant, Matthew Bryan-Amaning and Elston Turner are contributing when called upon. The key for the Lobos will be continuing what they’ve done all season to win 30 games — balanced scoring from Darington Hobson, Roman Martinez and Dairese Gary, a top-25 efficient offense, not allowing second chances to the Huskies frontline and limiting turnovers (top ten in the country in that category). Hobson and Pondexter, two long forwards with all-around repertoires, should be one of the best individual matchups of round two.
The Skinny: Washington is riding quite the wave right now. I expect little big man Isaiah Thomas to hit a few dagger threes and an improbable Sweet 16 run will continue into Syracuse.
8:10 pm – #2 Kansas State vs. #7 BYU (Oklahoma City pod)
From our perspective, this is the game of the day on paper. Kansas State had no trouble dispatching its first round opponent North Texas, while BYU had to go into two overtimes to remove Florida from this year’s Tournament. But that shouldn’t influence your thinking about this game. The fact is that K-State and BYU have similar strengths and tendencies. Both teams can score, with Jimmer Fredette (BYU) and a cast of three others contributing double-figures each night, while the Wildcats bring the same number of scorers led by the dynamic Jacob Pullen and Denis Clemente. And their defenses are solid as well, with K-State locking people up at a little better rate than the Cougars. The prize, of course, is a trip to the Sweet Sixteen, but for BYU there’s an added incentive: the chance to play two games in front of a home crowd in Salt Lake City to go to their first-ever Final Four. If you know anything about BYU fans in the Wasatch Front, you know that they are rabid about their sports there. This would be one of the most partisan regional crowds that we’ve ever seen in NCAA Tournament history. Expect this game to come down to the wire, with the two K-State playmakers taking turns trying to outdo Fredette in the clutch.
The Skinny: We have a sneaky feeling that BYU is going to play one of its best games of the year tomorrow, and it’ll be just enough with a Fredette play in the clutch to upset the Wildcats and make it back home for the regional.
8:15 pm – #1 Kentucky vs. #9 Wake Forest (New Orleans pod)
The Demon Deacons and Big Shot Ish Smith rallied from eight points down in overtime Thursday night, properly ending the two month long Texas collapse and advancing to the next round to face top seed Kentucky. Regardless of how shaky Wake played down the stretch, the NCAA Tournament is all about one thing: survive and advance. Dino Gaudio notched his first postseason victory as Wake head coach and his team is now riding the momentum and positive energy from their overtime comeback. Could the Deacs pose matchup problems for Kentucky? There are some reasons why they may: 1) Wake is in the top-25 in four very important defensive categories: defensive efficiency (#24), 2-point FG% (#17), 3-point FG% (#7) and effective FG% (#3). The Deacs can become stagnant in the halfcourt and they often have issues making free throws and jump shots on a consistent basis, but their defense never truly falls off. The 2-point FG% stat could be the most imperative to maintain at a high level Saturday, as we know Kentucky likes to penetrate with John Wall and post up their two future lottery picks on the block. Force the Wildcats into shooting long jump shots and the 9-seed could hang around. The other key will be Al-Farouq Aminu staying out of foul trouble and on the floor. Tony Woods and Chas McFarland cannot handle DeMarcus Cousins and Patrick Patterson; Aminu is the Deacons’ best rebounder, shot blocker and post defender. He’ll need to have a heroic performance for Wake to pull off the upset.
Skinny: The way this Tournament has played out, we’re more and more convinced Wake Forest hangs around in this game on the heels of their defense in the halfcourt. Eventually, Kentucky will make this more of a transition-oriented game and win by around 10 points.