NCAA Tournament Game Analysis: First Four – Wednesday NightPosted by EJacoby on March 14th, 2012
The ‘First Four’ play-in games continue on Wednesday night, hoping to repeat what was an incredible first night of games on Tuesday. We saw two of the greatest comebacks in NCAA Tournament history — in back-to-back games — on the opening night of the Big Dance! Both of tonight’s games are from the Midwest Region. Here’s what to watch for, including the primetime First Round matchup in the nightcap.
#16 Lamar vs. #16 Vermont – Midwest Region First Round ( at Dayton, OH) – 6:30 PM ET on truTV
The early game on Wednesday night pits two of the last-ranked teams on this year’s NCAA Tournament S-Curve, and the winner gets rewarded with a date against #1 seed North Carolina on Friday. There is actually an intriguing storyline in this matchup, as Lamar is coached by Pat Knight, Bob Knight’s son, who recently delivered an infamous press conference after his team lost to Stephen F. Austin on February 22. In the presser (see above), Knight lashes out at his players, throwing his seniors under the bus for their despicable performance. Crazy enough, the Cardinals got Knight’s message loud and clear and have not lost since the rant, winning six straight games by an average of 14.6 points per game. The Southland Conference champions now match up with Vermont, trying to keep the post-presser streak alive. The Catamounts, though, have won 14 of their last 15 games and play solid defense with a defensive efficiency and field-goal percentage nearing the top 50 in the country. Their job will be to stop Mike James, Lamar’s top scoring guard (17.1 PPG), who once put up 52 points in a game last season. Both teams lack size, and whomever ends up winning the battle on the boards could have the advantage in this one. Vermont’s leading scorer is a freshman who comes off the bench, Four McGlynn, at just 12 points per game. In a toss up game, we’ll go with Lamar to continue its terrific story of post-rant resiliency.
The RTC Certified Pick: Lamar
#12 California vs. #12 South Florida – Midwest Region First Round ( at Dayton, OH) – 9:00 PM ET on truTV
This is an interesting play-in game, as both teams are from power conferences and play excellent defense. USF is known for its incredibly slow-paced attack with an elite defense, but California actually is just as stingy defensively. Cal has a better defensive efficiency this season (92.9 versus 94.2), though Pomeroy’s adjusted rankings accounting for opponent strength has USF slightly better. Nonetheless, it’s a marginal difference, and both teams can lock up the perimeter. The difference here is that California has more scoring options that are capable of filling it up. Four Golden Bears score in double figures, including the versatile guard trio of Jorge Gutierrez, Allen Crabbe, and Justin Cobbs. Crabbe is a three-point sniper that shoots over 40% from three on nearly 200 attempts, and Gutierrez is a terrific senior leader that’s physical on both ends. USF, meanwhile, doesn’t have a single player that averages in double figures per game. The Bulls have several athletic wings that have played well defensively and stepped up at different times offensively, but they just might not have enough scoring punch to win this game. A lot will be riding on the shoulders of freshman point guard Anthony Collins, who has played quite well in the second half of the season but will have a tough matchup against Gutierrez and these guards. South Florida always has the potential to muddy up a game with its snail-paced offense, but we’ll take Cal’s playmakers to prevail even if the game is played at the Bulls’ pace. The winner advances to play Temple on Friday.
The RTC Certified Pick: California