NCAA Second Round Game Analysis – Friday

Posted by rtmsf on March 18th, 2011

What a Thursday — there’s no possible way that Friday could ever match it, right?  We won’t know until we start playing the games.

#4 Texas vs. #13 Oakland – West Region Second Round (at Tulsa, OK) – 12:15 pm ET on CBS

On one end of the court, this figures to be a terrific matchup, as Texas is Ken Pomeroy’s most efficient defensive team in the nation, and Oakland is his 13th most efficient offensive team. The Longhorns limit their opponents to effective field goals of 42% while the Grizzlies shoot it at over 56%. And Oakland wants to get up and down the floor, while Texas plays at a more middling pace. In short, a battle between a great defensive team and a great offensive team. Keith Benson is the big man in the middle for Oakland, and his battles with Texas freshman Tristan Thompson inside could be illuminating, but the Grizzlies also get plenty of offensive production from junior point Reggie Hamilton (17.4 PPG, 5.4 APG), senior power forward Will Hudson (12.5 PPG, 7.1 RPG) and freshman guard Travis Bader (10.5 PPG, 2.7 3PG, 45.8 3P%). Unfortunately for the Grizzlies, they’ll also have to defend in order to win this game, and they’ve not been a good defensive team. They don’t force a lot of missed shots, they don’t do a great job rebounding what shots are missed and they don’t even force turnovers to make up for those deficiencies. They’ll need to rely on some combination of an out-of-their-minds defensive performance and an extra-special-bad shooting effort from the Longhorns in order to stick around. Despite the fact that Texas has played at a slower pace than Oakland this year, the Longhorns ability to play at a faster pace could be a key for them to put away this Grizzlies. Dogus Balbay and Cory Joseph are more than capable of getting Texas up and down the court, and Thompson and front-court mate Gary Johnson are comfortable getting out and running too, as are wings Jordan Hamilton and J’Covan Brown. While Oakland is use to picking up the pace, getting the more athletic Longhorns into a running game could spell their demise.

The RTC Certified Pick: Texas.

#8 Michigan vs. #9 Tennessee – West Region Second Round (at Charlotte, NC) – 12:40 pm ET on truTV.

The Volunteers started the season strong, with their wins over Villanova and Pitt, two of the better wins in the nation in the first month of the season. And since then there has long been the perception that they were a lock for the Tournament, regardless of the ups and downs they had the rest of the season. For the Wolverines, they were mostly counted out after a six-game losing streak left them at 1-6 in their conference and just barely over .500 on the season. As a result, when this matchup was announced on Selection Sunday, there were those who thought Michigan got a gift, while the Vols may have been a bit under-seeded. Closer examination reveals a Michigan team that should be favored here, based on their resume. However, Tennessee may have the two best players in the game on Friday, and if Michigan has trouble matching up defensively with freshman forward Tobias Harris and junior wing Scotty Hopson, they could have trouble. The Wolverines rely on sophomore point guard Darius Morris to run the team, make good decisions and find shooters like Tim Hardaway Jr., Zack Novak, Stu Douglass and Evan Smotrycz to knock down their threes, while freshman big man Jordan Morgan mans the paint. Given that the Vols specialize in hitting the offensive glass, grabbing 37.9% of their misses, Morgan will be on the spot and he’ll need to get help from guards and wings in limiting UT to one shot. Michigan will limit possessions and take care of the ball, but when all is said and done, their inexperience (they’re in the bottom 3% in Ken Pomeroy’s weighted experience rating) and lack of size may doom them in a close game.

The RTC Certified Pick: Tennessee.

#2 Notre Dame vs. #15 Akron – Southwest Region Second Round (at Chicago, IL) – 1:40 pm ET on TBS.

Mike Brey’s Fighting Irish have had a dream season in a year where not all that much was expected.  A run to a 14-4 record and a second place finish in the regular season of the nation’s toughest conference resulted in a #2 seed in the NCAAs and a first round matchup against another midwestern team with aspirations of playing Cinderella.  The Irish offense, the third most efficient in the nation, starts with Ben Hansbrough’s all-american numbers of 18/4/4 APG and continues on through Tim Abromaitis’ 15/6 and Carleton Scott’s 12/7.  These three players are bloody murder on a defense, combining for 199 threes over the course of the season and hitting them at a 41.8% clip, causing defense to extend well beyond their comfort zones in trying to guard these shooters.   The three-point attack, of course, sets up a drive-and-dish game with the clever Hansbrough sometimes opting to drive to the rim in the hopes that the defense collapses so that he can find one of his teammates for the easy look from outside the arc.  Akron, with 7’0 sophomore Zeke Marshall in the middle, will be better situated than most to crowd the Irish shooters, knowing that Marshall (and his 2.5 blocks per game) is waiting inside to erase any mistakes; with a deep group of experienced players at the disposal of Zip head coach Keith Dambrot, we don’t expect that his team will get rattled.  The key to this game will be whether Notre Dame is hitting their usual shots — and if they are, the Irish will advance.  If not, Akron has just enough talent and motivation to make things quite interesting.  We think Hansbrough will make the difference, though. 

The RTC Certified Pick: Notre Dame

#8 George Mason vs. #9 Villanova – East Region Second Round (at Cleveland, OH) – 2:10 pm ET on TNT.

Here are two teams entering the NCAA Tournament going in opposite directions. Before George Mason’s winning streak was snapped in the CAA Tournament against VCU, the Patriots hadn’t lost since January 8. On that same date, Villanova was riding high at 13-1 and ranked in the top ten before going a meager 8-10 to close out the campaign, giving Wildcat fans painful flashbacks to last year’s late-season collapse. Jay Wright’s team is struggling all over the floor; senior guard Corey Fisher is mired in a month-long shooting slump and Maalik Wayns has just started to make shots with any consistency in the last two games. Villanova only shoots 35% from three on the season and Mason is one of the best teams in the nation at defending the three. Quite simply, Nova needs their senior Fisher to shake off the cobwebs and spring for 20-25 points for the Wildcats to have a fighting chance, not only with his outside shooting but also his penetration ability and proficiency at the charity stripe. The Patriots have a multitude of weapons in their offensive arsenal from floor leader Cam Long to versatile big man Ryan Pearson and shooting threat Andre Cornelius. Villanova will need a strong defensive effort to limit a Mason attack that’s supremely efficient, rarely turns the ball over and shoots the three at a 40% clip. Unless the game is decided at the free throw line late, Mason is stronger across the board than their Big East counterparts. They’re confident, playing at a high level and have executed on both ends of the floor all season. Sounds like the opposite of a Villanova team that’s once again sliding in March.

The RTC Certified Pick: George Mason.

#5 Arizona vs. #12 Memphis – West Region Second Round (at Tulsa, OK) – 2:45 pm ET on CBS.

Josh Pastner has got Memphis back in the NCAA Tournament, and for a reward, he gets to face his alma mater in their initial game back. This was not the smoothest of seasons for a Memphis club that was picked as a top 20 team in the preaseason, as the Tigers, loaded with five freshmen in their rotation, had problems with maturity from day one. However, here they are in the Big Dance and there is little question that this is a talented team. Point guard Joe Jackson was considered a national top 20 recruit for the Tigers, but he struggled through much of the regular season. However, he is coming off a great stretch in the Conference USA Tournament, where he averaged 18.7 points and 3.3 assists while hitting four of his five threes, and if he’s still going well, he could give Arizona point guard Momo Jones some serious problems. Jones is a streaky guard offensively, who can contribute on the defensive end, even when his shot isn’t falling (he was 7-27 from the field in the Pac-10 Tourney), but Jackson’s quickness could give him problems. The big question for Pastner is how to defend Derrick Williams, one of the nation’s most efficient shooters from anywhere on the floor. Williams has knocked down threes at a 60.3% clip this season, also shoots from inside the arc at a 61.8% rate, and draws about eight fouls per game, getting to the line at a stunning rate and converting 75% of his shots from there. His only real weakness is that he has the tendency to disappear when his teammates don’t get him the ball, and perhaps Memphis’ best chance to encourage that behavior is to pressure the Wildcat wings and guards. Unfortunately for Pastner, his youngsters haven’t shown the consistent dedication on the defensive end to indicate that they’ll be very successful in applying that pressure, meaning that the Tigers’ return to the NCAA Tournament may be a short-lived experience.

The RTC Certified Pick: Arizona.

#1 Duke vs. #16 Hampton – West Region Second Round (at Charlotte, NC) – 3:10 pm ET on truTV.

If the Hampton Pirates have a chance in the world to spring an historic update and become the first #16 seed to knock off a #1, they’ll have to do it behind their defense. Hampton’s offensive efficiency numbers are in the bottom 20% of all teams in the nation. They don’t shoot the ball well from anywhere on the court and they’re a poor rebounding team, but they do hold their opponents to an effective field goal percentage of just 42.5%, fourth best in the nation. Add to that their ability to force turnovers and take care of the ball on their own end of the court, and if the Blue Devils’ shots aren’t falling, maybe the Pirates can hang around for more than a half. More likely, however, is that Duke’s own excellent defense, which holds opponents to an effective field goal percentage of just 43.8% – good for seventh in the nation – chokes out the Hampton offense and imposes a handful of stretches where the Pirates are unable to score at all. Meanwhile, Nolan Smith continues his special season, Kyle Singler teaches the newcomers a lesson or two and the Plumlees get busy in the glass while Hampton, whose strongest opponent all season long was Colorado State, gets outclassed by a level of talent they are unfamiliar with.

The RTC Certified Pick: Duke.

#7 Texas A&M vs. #10 Florida State – Southwest Region Second Round (at Chicago, IL) – 4:10 pm ET on TBS.

All defense, all the time.  That’s the storyline of this game between two of the more stalwart teams in America at pressuring the ball and putting teams outside of their offensive comfort zones.  The key question going into it is whether FSU’s best player, 6’9 uber-defender Chris Singleton, will be at 100% after suffering a broken foot in mid-February.  Even if he’s at 75%, though, he’s still fully capable of wreaking havoc with his anticipatory tendencies and nose for the ball.  Texas A&M looks to slow the game to a crawl, hoping that a 55-54 game ultimately goes its way.  And it usually does, as the Aggies went 6-1 in one-possession games this year.  The Aggies will look to a pair of long wings to provide enough scoring in the duo of Khris Middleton (14/5) and David Loubeau (12/5) to outlast the Seminoles, but they run about as hot and cold as the faucets located in the locker room of the United Center.  The good news for Mark Turgeon is that FSU might be just as schizoid offensively, as the Seminoles other than Singleton have a lot of trouble putting the ball in the hole.  Since the Singleton injury, the Noles have only broken seventy-five points once, and that was against the Division II team also known as Wake Forest.  It says here that A&M at full strength will out-tough a Florida State team that will still be adjusting to having their star player back in the lineup, and the NCAA Tournament is no place for teams to re-learn chemistry on the fly.

The RTC Certified Pick: Texas A&M.

#1 Ohio State vs. #16 UT-San Antonio – East Region Second Round (at Cleveland, OH) – 4:40 pm ET on TNT.

The overall #1 seed in the tournament welcomes a UT-San Antonio team to Cleveland that is fresh off a Wednesday night victory over Alabama State in the play-in game. As playing the formidable Buckeyes wasn’t daunting enough, the travel schedule certainly hasn’t made it any easier for the Southland champions. The Roadrunners may have a perimeter scorer to match the likes of William Buford and Jon Diebler, though: Melvin Johnson, III. The 15.2 PPG scorer outscored the USC, VCU and Alabama State teams in the first half of Wednesday’s First Four action, finishing  with 29 points on 9-17 FG. They might need 40 from Johnson on Friday just to stay competitive. The Buckeyes have the most complete and balanced team in the nation. If you haven’t seen the Buckeyes that much this season, prepare for a freshman point guard and freshman center that play with the poise and consistency of wily seniors. David Lighty is a lockdown defender likely assigned to Johnson and Buford is a tremendous scorer in the mid-range. Coach Thad Matta loves to isolate Diebler and Sullinger on one side of the floor, forcing opponents to pick their poison: double Sullinger and leave the hottest shooter in the country open or single-team Sullinger, a decision that usually results in either two points or the Columbus native standing at the free throw line. Ohio State ran through the Big Ten with just two road losses to teams that finished undefeated at home. Do you really think the 16-seed Roadrunners will give them trouble? Someday a 16 will beat a 1. It just won’t be Friday.

The RTC Certified Pick: Ohio State

#1 Kansas vs. #16 Boston U. – Southwest Region Second Round (at Tulsa, OK) – 6:50 pm ET on TBS.

Boston University has an excellent player in America East Player of the Year John Holland, but it will take everything the talented wing has in his arsenal to take down the mighty Kansas Jayhawks.  As good as Holland is, and he averaged 19/6 this season for the Terriers, it’s unlikely he would crack the KU starting lineup with Tyrel Reed, Tyshawn Taylor and Brady Morningstar hogging the bulk of the perimeter minutes.  After all, one of the top point guard recruits in America last season, Josh Selby, has been relegated to role player, suggesting just how much talent that Bill Self has at his disposal in Lawrence.  On the very slim chance that BU has designs on an upset, they need to make sure that two things happen — first, that Kansas shows up uninterested and lackadaisical (esp. the Morris twins), and, secondly, get the ball inside the paint where the KU defense is a little softer than on the perimeter.  The Jayhawks are one of the very best in the nation at defending the long-ball (29.7%), but they are somewhat vulnerable to dribble-drives and penetration (44.9% defending the two).  This, of course, is much easier said than done, but BU would do well to remember that mid-majors too often try to rely on jump shots to pull off upsets and even though they’re not a good interior team, their best chance still depends on getting and making those shots.  We’re not sold that they can do it — KU advances.

The RTC Certified Pick: Kansas.

#2 UNC vs. #15 LIU – East Region Second Round (at Charlotte, NC) – 7:15 pm ET on CBS.

When people think about North Carolina under Roy Williams, the first image that comes to mind is usually high-powered fast break offensive attacks led by ultra-quick point guard springing 90 points on the most helpless of opposing defenses. While the insertion of Kendall Marshall into the starting lineup has been a stroke of genius and has greatly improved Harrison Barnes’ game as a direct result, the rock for the Heels this season has actually been defense. Carolina’s seventh overall ranking in defensive efficiency is not only due to John Henson’s shot-blocking and shot-altering presence in the post, but their ability to keep opponents off the free throw line. The real challenge for Long Island to spring an epic upset is converting on the offensive end, and they seem to match up as well as a 15-seed possibly can. The Blackbirds actually play at a faster tempo than UNC, control the offensive boards and lead the entire nation in free throw rate. Since the Heels are the second best team in the country in keeping their opponents off the charity stripe, this could prove to be a fascinating subplot to an exciting, up-tempo clash. The Blackbirds need their 6’7 duo of Julian Boyd and Jamal Olasewere to hold their own in the post against Henson and Tyler Zeller enough to coax one or both into foul trouble and , mitigate the Heels size. For Carolina, a stronger floor game from Kendall Marshall than the ACC Tournament final performance is a must, and Barnes’ shooting stroke hopefully continues to be a reliable weapon. Long Island, the regular season and tournament champions in the NEC, boast firepower of their own, but it’s not at the same level of Carolina. Expect a close first half before the superior talent is simply too much to handle.

The RTC Certified Pick: UNC.

#3 Purdue vs. #14 St. Peter’s – Southwest Region Second Round (at Chicago, IL) – 7:20 pm ET on TNT.

In a different matchup, the St. Peter’s Peacocks might have been a trendy pick for the upset victory.  But the problem for John Dunne’s team is that, as good as his defense is, Purdue’s is even better.  Representing Matt Painter’s tough philosophy, the Boilermakers make it their mission to keep teams from scoring, and they do it very well starting with the quick hands and feet of Kelsey Barlow out front and the long arms of JaJuan Johnson down low.  St. Peter’s has trouble scoring against MAAC teams, so we’re not sure where they’re going to find openings against the likes of the Boilermakers.  Purdue will have less of a problem, especially with the offensive talents of E’Twaun Moore (18/5 and 41% from three) and Johnson (21/8) balancing things out on the floor.  If St. Peter’s wants to pull off the upset, they’ll need to stymie Moore and hope that Johnson does something silly like get into foul trouble (unlikely, as he’s had four fouls in the last four games, total).  It’s not completely incomprehensible that SPC could stay close enough to catch fire and pull off the miracle as Purdue certainly has trouble on occasion finding the bucket, but we think that the senior all-americans of Moore and Johnson will make sure to advance their team to the next round for the fourth consecutive year. 

The RTC Certified Pick: Purdue.

#6 Xavier vs. #11 Marquette – East Region Second Round (at Cleveland, OH) – 7:27 pm ET on truTV.

While the Musketeers certainly have capable pieces surrounding their junior superstar, it’s clear the centerpiece of their offensive attack revolves around 6’0 guard Tu Holloway. The artist formerly known as Terrell has accomplished the rare feat of averaging 20+ points, 5+ rebounds and 5+ assists on the season while shooting 43% and reaching double figure scoring in all but two of Xavier’s regular season contests. It’s going to be quite the stiff challenge for Marquette guard Darius Johnson-Odom to both contain Holloway on one end and still provide the Golden Eagles with a consistent jump shooting threat on the other. Even more worrisome for the Golden Eagles is seven-foot behemoth Kenny Frease creating mismatch issues in the post. Since forward tandem Jae Crowder and Jimmy Butler are more perimeter-oriented and undersized for the task, it’ll be the job of inexperienced center Chris Otule to handle Frease. Marquette has been dismal defending the three this season, ranking in the bottom 100 in Division I in opponents’ three-point marksmanship, but Xavier shoots a meager 33% from long range. Instead, the real issue for Marquette will be Frease, Jamel McLean and Jeff Robinson operating inside. Xavier shoots an efficient 52% from inside the arc and Marquette ranked near the bottom of the Big East in opponents two-point percentage at 48%. If the Golden Eagles limit the Xavier bigs, get to the free throw line with their dribble penetration offensively and force Holloway to win the game single-handedly, they’ll stand a fair chance. Since I trust Holloway and his 5 APG to withstand the urge to force and because of Marquette’s inability to defend consistently this season, the pick here is Xavier in a tight one.

The RTC Certified Pick: Xavier.

#8 UNLV vs. #9 Illinois – Southwest Region Second Round (at Tulsa, OK) – 9:20 pm ET on TBS.

They’re calling it the Lon Kruger Bowl, in reference to the four seasons he spent as the head coach of the Illini in the late 90s and the current now-seven years he’s spent as head man in Vegas.  What they might want to call it is the Enigma Bowl, as both Illinois and UNLV had seasons with more ups and downs than a hot air balloon in a hurricane.  The Rebels were left to play also-ran in the Mountain West as San Diego State and BYU took all the hype, attention and a total of five victories from UNLV; while the Illini stumbled and bumbled its way to only six wins in its final sixteen games of the regular season. So what about tonight — both teams have a little something to prove as two experienced teams who undoubtedly believed they would be playing in something a little better than an 8/9 game on the first night of the Tournament.  The key to this game tonight will be which team is able to most effectively get its primary scorer off, whether Demetri McCamey for Illinois or Tre’Von Willis for UNLV.  McCamey (15/3/6 APG) is the more talented all-around player but has a tendency to disappear for long stretches of games ; Willis (14/4/4 APG) appeared on the verge of stardom after last season, but his senior year has been relatively disappointing.  There’s really no telling which player will decide to show up tonight, so we’re just going with the team that has seen better competition throughout the year. 

The RTC Certified Pick: Illinois.

#7 Washington  vs. #10 Georgia – East Region Second Round (at Charlotte, NC) – 9:45 pm ET on CBS.

The Huskies have been a darling of the efficiency gurus all season despite their usual Pac-10 road woes and uninspiring non-conference performance. Equally proficient scorer and passer Isaiah Thomas orchestrates the ninth most efficient offense in the nation, an attack that also ranks 16th in effective FG% and 12th in 2-point FG%. The Huskies rarely turn the ball over and big men Matthew Bryan-Amaning, Justin Holiday and Aziz N’Diaye crash the offensive glass with ferocity. Georgia was equally confounding at times this season, a talented group led by preseason SEC POY Trey Thompkins and the human highlight reel Travis Leslie. The Bulldogs’ endless line of single-digit losses in conference play rendered their NCAA chances tenuous at best, but Georgia was able to sneak in with a relatively favorable seed considering the expectations. Look for Holiday, Washington’s lockdown defender extraordinaire, to be matched up against Leslie, whose 50% FG and 7.2 RPG are outstanding totals for a 6’4 guard. Thompkins will also be a load for Bryan-Amaning to handle in the post in another delicious matchup. The key for Georgia will be containing Thomas, the straw that stirs the drink for Washington’s offensive attack. Frustrate Thomas early and he may revert back to his old turnover habits. If this game stays in the 60s or low 70s, Georgia may have a chance, but any high-scoring clash will be too much of the Bulldogs’ mediocre offense to handle. For Washington, imposing their preferred tempo and generating offensive rebounds and kickouts for gunners C.J. Wilcox and Terrence Ross will be vital. We like the Huskies chances to speed up the pace and take care of an inferior Bulldogs squad.

The RTC Certified Pick: Washington.

#6 Georgetown vs. #11 VCU – Southwest Region Second Round (at Chicago, IL) – 9:50 pm ET on TNT.

This game comes down to two words: Chris Wright.  If the talented Georgetown point guard is near 100% and able to lead his team, then the Hoyas are a top ten caliber team who should have no problem with VCU tonight.  If, however, and as we suspect, Wright is nowhere near back to normal, then we think it’ll simply be a continuation of what Georgetown fans have seen in recent weeks — a team that will struggle to get the ball in the right spots and, as a result, difficulty in reaching 50 points.  VCU is led by its own mighty mite leader, Joey Rodriguez, a 5’10 waterbug who routinely sets up his upperclass trio of Jamie Skeen, Brandon Rozzell and Bradford Burgess with the ball in the positions they like to score.  VCU took offense to the Selection Sunday criticism lobbed its way and it showed in their First Four game against USC, but the Hoyas are much more mentally tough and talented than those Trojans.  Before Chris Wright’s injury in February, the Hoyas had won nine of ten games against quality Big East competition, and with Wright back running the show, we expect that John Thompson, III’s, team will outlast the pesky Rams in Chicago tonight. 

The RTC Certified Pick: Georgetown.

#3 Syracuse vs. #14 Indiana State – East Region Second Round (at Cleveland, OH) – 9:57 pm ET on truTV.

Buried by most in mid-February after losing six of eight Big East contests, Syracuse enters the NCAA Tournament having won six of seven, their only blemish to scalding Connecticut in overtime at the Big East Tournament. Their guards – the enigmatic yet capable Scoop Jardine, the steady Brandon Triche and progressing freshman Dion Waiters – handle a healthy chunk of the scoring load, while Cuse’s most consistent piece, Rick Jackson, is a double-double machine in the post. Indiana State knocked Valley co-favorites Wichita State and Missouri State to garner an unexpected bid. The Sycamores balanced attack is boosted by leading scorer Dwayne Lathan, big man Carl Richard, emerging freshman star Jake Odum and three-point marksman Jordan Printy. Indiana State as a whole is a mediocre three-point shooting team at 36% on the season, but Printy could very well serve as the game-changer in a possible upset bid. His 48% mark on 104 attempts ranks near the top in the country. The key to stopping Syracuse is easier said than done: penetrate the zone for easy buckets in the soft spots, make a fair share of jumpers and play solid conversion defense to prevent Syracuse from running in transition where they’re absolutely lethal. Steady play from the Sycamores backcourt controlling tempo will be crucial. For Syracuse, activity in the zone for 40 minutes could spell blowout, not only because Indiana State doesn’t sport an especially powerful or efficient offense, but because of the unfamiliarity factor. Hitting a higher percentage than 66% from the line would also aid Cuse’s cause. Look for this game to get out of hand early in the second half as the Orange talent simply overwhelms the upstart Sycamores.

The RTC Certified Pick: Syracuse.

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One response to “NCAA Second Round Game Analysis – Friday”

  1. Murray Flitter says:

    that just sucks. I always thought the Soul Train LIne was the do-not-ever-miss part of the show ‘cos the chicks were sexy with looking like the hootchies today and the guys were always stylin’.

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