Second Round Game Analysis: Sunday GamesPosted by rtmsf on March 21st, 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 Sunday games.
12:10 pm – #1 Syracuse vs. #8 Gonzaga (Buffalo pod)
In the CBS national game to start the day, everyone will get this very enticing game between Syracuse and Gonzaga. Given the way this year is winding up, it wouldn’t surprise anyone if the Orange without their big man Arinze Onuaku found itself on the short end of the score around 2:30 pm today. But we still have faith in Syracuse even without the talented center and we think that Jim Boeheim’s team is too good to fall short of the Final Four this early. The primary problem that the Zags are going to have is one they didn’t have to worry as much about with Florida State, and that is in stopping the powerful SU offense. With offensive scoring threats at all five positions, Syracuse is in a far more advantageous position than FSU was (with their limited offense) when Gonzaga caught fire on Friday — if the Zags want to get into a shootout with Syracuse, that’s not likely to end well for them. Still, with the way the Big East has had so many early round troubles, and the WCC looking great with St. Mary’s already in the Sweet Sixteen, we’re not ready to dismiss the Zags based on that alone. The Syracuse zone is likely to be something that Mark Few’s team has not seen with such athletes all season, so even with their ability to put the ball in the hole, we hesitate to think the Zags can consistently score on it.
The Skinny: Gonzaga will push the Orange, but we still like this team to advance and make a serious push for the national title in coming weeks.
2:20 pm – #2 Ohio State vs. #10 Georgia Tech (Milwaukee pod)
You might not see it on their faces, but the Buckeyes are smiling. Northern Iowa’s removal of Kansas puts Ohio State in the driver’s seat in the Midwest region. That said, there’s still no way Thad Matta and Evan Turner are going to let the rest of that team look past their opponents and assume an open road to Indianapolis. Good thing, because Georgia Tech showed us that they’re not just made up of Derrick Favors and Gani Lawal and a bunch of suckers. The Yellow Jackets shot 2-10 from the three point line but balanced that by holding Big 12 player of the year James Anderson to a 3-12 shooting night, 0-6 from beyond the three-point arc, and an overall 11 points. But the most impressive aspect of Georgia Tech’s performance on Friday night — by FAR — was the fact that they went to the free throw line 25 times — and hit 24 of them! It wasn’t just Lawal and Favors. Tech played nine players, and eight of them shot at least one free throw. Evan Turner isn’t just the player of the year in his conference, though — he’s likely the national POY, so the Tech task is that much tougher. Turner wasn’t himself in their first round game against UCSB, going 2-13 and posting only nine points (though he did contribute 10 boards and five assists). He’s looking to break out, and knows he’ll have to be at his best. Lawal and Favors, though, will be looking to get Dallas Lauderdale, Jon Diebler, and Turner in foul trouble early and open poke some holes in that OSU front line.
The Skinny: You probably don’t want to go with our Midwest picks, since yesterday we took Kansas and Ohio. It’s not exactly going out on a limb to say that this will be a great second round game, but that stat line of Turner’s shows you that he can play such an important role on the team even when he’s not scoring. For Tech to win, they’d have to turn in a similar performance at the free throw line, keep Turner under wraps and coax him into a supporting role again, and cool down Jon Diebler. That’s a tough trifecta to pull off. We don’t see it happening. But we didn’t see Northern Iowa dismissing Kansas, either.
2:30 pm – #4 Maryland vs. #5 Michigan State (Spokane pod)
We bet some scouts and film guys are working overtime for these two teams, not only gathering extra film on their opponent on Sunday, but also erasing all that Kansas game film to make room for some material on Northern Iowa! This will be interesting not just because it looks like one of the funnest matchups on paper, but because of what we saw in each team’s first round game. Michigan State seemed as if they were already looking forward to playing Maryland as opposed to worrying about New Mexico State. Some would even say that the only reason they got by the Aggies is because of a controversial lane violation call (our opinion: if a ref sees something, he has to call it, no matter the teams or the time) from which the Spartans benefited. That aside, in the post-game press conference, Tom Izzo didn’t look like Tom Izzo. You could see the worry and a little bit of surprise. Maryland, however, didn’t exactly have an easy time against Houston but it wasn’t as tough a game as it looked. Greivis Vasquez looked more than content to let Aubrey Coleman and Kelvin Lewis go crazy for the Cougars and grab all the scoring headlines, take a back seat in scoring to teammates Landon Milbourne and Jordan Williams, and collect assists and rebounds. Michigan State rode Kalin Lucas‘ career high of 25 points to that first round victory, and they can’t let it get to that point against the Terps. The Spartans as a team didn’t shoot very well (20-53, 37.7%), and they let NMSU hang with them on the boards. That’s MSU’s calling card, especially at tournament time.
The Skinny: The one who dictates tempo will win. And Maryland seems to have more of a sense of purpose than does Michigan State right now. We thought we’d see a little more spring in the Spartans’ collective step as the tournament began, but it wasn’t there. Another great second round game, but we see Maryland getting out to an early lead, Michigan State closing the gap in the second half, but the Terps pulling it out in the end. We always hesitate to go against Izzo and his boys in early round games, but this MSU team looks a little confused right now.
2:40 pm – #2 West Virginia vs. #10 Missouri (Buffalo pod)
Besides being the stronger overall team with a plethora of options, West Virginia has a distinct advantage on the boards in this matchup. Even before Justin Safford tore his ACL, the Tigers weren’t a strong rebounding team and often found themselves with a size disadvantage against Big 12 opponents. Missouri ranks #329 in the nation in preventing offensive rebounds from their opponents, a concerning stat for Mike Anderson given that the Mountaineers come in at second in the nation in offensive rebounding. Devin Ebanks, Kevin Jones, Wellington Smith and the other West Virginia bruisers could have a field day on the boards. It’ll take a yeomen’s effort from Laurence Bowers and Keith Ramsey to keep the second chance points from getting out of hand. Where Missouri cancels out these types of numbers is with their suffocating press and forcing turnovers. The Tigers stand at third in the nation in steal% and second in the nation in turnover% defensively. Missouri will need to force Joe Mazzulla and the many West Virginia ballhandlers into traps and turnovers to keep the game from remaining in the halfcourt. They’ll also need hot shooting days from Kim English and Marcus Denmon.
Skinny: This seems like a poor matchup for Missouri. They may be able to stick around given West Virginia’s tendency to let their opponents hang, but second chance points and the shooting of Butler will vault the Mountaineers into the Sweet 16, a stage Bob Huggins doesn’t often reach.
2:50 pm – #4 Wisconsin vs. #12 Cornell (Jacksonville pod)
Rather than the lower seeded Cornell surviving a scare in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament, it was heavy favorite Wisconsin grinding out a 40-minute victory over Wofford to earn the right to advance. The Badgers received major contributions late from their junior forward Jon Leuer, a player they’ll need to step up once again in order to play in the Sweet 16. The key for Cornell will be the effectiveness of their seven foot center Jeff Foote. The Badgers have a severe matchup issue with Foote; their big men, Leuer and Keaton Nankivil, may be 6’10 but they like to drift towards the perimeter and may not be able to contain the Cornell behemoth in the post. Foote features an array of nifty moves on the block and could give the Badger big men headaches. In the end, this game should come down to who makes more three pointers. Both teams love to shoot from downtown, whether it be Trevon Hughes or Jordan Taylor for the Badgers or Ryan Wittman and Louis Dale for the Big Red. While Wisconsin does boast a top ten defensive efficiency on the season, they don’t guard the long range shot particularly well. Cornell’s overall defense and three-point defense happens to be even worse.
Skinny: I thought it would be Jimmer Fredette, but Ryan Wittman could be the budding star from this NCAA Tournament that turns into a household name. I expect another big performance from the Cornell senior in a close win where each possession is vital.
4:50 pm – #3 Pittsburgh vs. #6 Xavier (Milwaukee pod)
This is a rematch of last year’s regional semifinal game that Pittsburgh won, but very few of the players who played in that game are still in the fold. The three primary players on this year’s Pittsburgh team — Jermaine Dixon, Brad Wannamaker, Ashton Gibbs and Gilbert Brown — combined to score 17 points in last year’s win, while XU’s returnees — Dante Jackson, Jason Love, Kenny Frease and Terrell Holloway — scored just 15. Of course, Xavier has added a superstar player in Jordan Crawford, who blew up on Minnesota in the first round for 28/6/5 assts, and Pittsburgh has had a miraculous year with a bunch of guys who were merely role players last season. Both of these squads looked very impressive in their first round games, but in a battle of really strong defenses, we like the fact that Xavier has a few more offensive options than Pitt does in this one.
The Skinny: In a tight defensive battle, we like Xavier to outlast Pitt in a revenge game for the ages.
5:00 pm – #4 Purdue vs. #5 Texas A&M (Spokane pod)
The Boilermakers come into this game having knocked off a Siena team that a lot of the betting/bracketeing public probably picked to win that first round match-up. In doing show they showed a lot of people that they do have heart, which is something that Matt Painter had questioned earlier this season even when they had Robbie Hummel. The Aggies prevailed in the first round against their namesakes from Utah State thanks in large part to relentless defensive pressure and an unexpected contribution from freshman Khris Middleton who scored a career-high 19 points. Don’t expect Middleton to match those numbers against the Boilermakers, but you can count on the Aggies bringing their defense again. The Aggies will be chasing Purdue around every screen they try to throw at them and will provide a very different look than what the Boilermakers saw against Siena. You can expect a physical game which the Aggies prefer, but I am not sure anybody on the Boilermakers does with the exception of Chris Kramer. The key match-ups to watch in this one are on the inside where JaJuan Johnson will battle against Bryan Davis and on the perimeter where Kramer will attempt to slow down Donald Sloan, the one consistent scoring option for Mark Turgeon. The one wildcard in this match-up is E’Twaun Moore who has struggled recently, but could carry the Boilermakers into the Sweet 16.
The Skinny: Look for the Aggies to advance to Houston unless Moore or Johnson go off, which could happen, but we wouldn’t bet on it.
5:15 pm – #1 Duke vs. #8 California (Jacksonville pod)