NCAA Tournament Game Analysis: Second Round – Friday AfternoonPosted by EJacoby on March 16th, 2012
RTC Region correspondents Brian Otskey (East), Kevin Doyle (South), Evan Jacoby (Midwest) and Andrew Murawa (West) contributed to this preview.
#6 Cincinnati vs. #11 Texas – East Region Second Round (at Nashville, TN) – 12:15 PM ET on CBS
These are two teams with similar statistical profiles but the Texas Longhorns are missing Alexis Wangmene, a big senior forward who would have added an extra body for Rick Barnes to go up against Cincinnati’s Yancy Gates in the paint. With a guard-oriented team and a thin front court, the Longhorns have some difficulty against the physical Bearcats. Cincinnati doesn’t have a deep front line either but Gates is the team’s third leading scorer and a key cog in its offensive flow. Neither team shoots the ball particularly well but Cincinnati has an edge on the perimeter with multiple players who can make a three. Texas ranks sub-200 in defending the triple and that’s something that could cost it the game. Cincinnati is a streaky hit-or-miss team with four capable guards surrounding Gates on the floor. As for Texas, leading scorer J’Covan Brown is pretty much the team’s only major threat. If Cincinnati can lock up Brown defensively, it will win the game rather easily. If Brown manages to get free and score close to his average of 20.1 PPG, the Bearcats will be in for a nail biter. Although Brown is the best player on the floor in this game, the edge has to go to Cincinnati because of its more balanced talent on the perimeter (including limiting turnovers), Gates in the post and the team’s overall experience. The majority of Cincinnati’s rotation is made up of juniors and seniors while four of Texas’ top six scorers are freshmen.
The RTC Certified Pick: Cincinnati.
#6 San Diego State vs. #11 N.C. State – Midwest Region Second Round (at Columbus, OH) – 12:40 PM ET on truTV
A very popular upset pick, North Carolina State comes into this game on a roll having won four of its last five games with the only loss in the ACC Tournament semifinals to North Carolina by one possession. But NC State was on the bubble just one week ago; this team has been inconsistent throughout the season. The Wolfpack lost four games in a row prior to that strong finish to the season. The key to pull this upset will be to keep pressure on a strong SDSU defense, keyed by pounding the ball inside to find points in the paint with C.J. Leslie, Richard Howell, and C.J. Williams. It’s doubtful that San Diego State will give Scott Wood any wide open looks from three. The Aztecs, meanwhile, may have the two best overall players in this game with Mountain West Player of the Year Jamaal Franklin (17.2 PPG, 7.9 RPG) and savvy guard Chase Tapley (15.7 PPG, 43.3% three-pointers). Both players shoulder a lot of the scoring load but have been reliable in big games this season against strong MW competition. SDSU is a much stronger defensive team (93.5 defensive efficiency) and holds opponents to 40% shooting from the field. NC State has a 99.9 ‘D’ efficiency and allows too much easy offense. We’ll take the Aztecs, the stronger team all season long that has Sweet Sixteen experience from last season.
The RTC Certified Pick: San Diego State
#8 Creighton vs. #9 Alabama – Midwest Region Second Round (at Greensboro, NC) – 1:40 PM ET on TBS
This is a classic offense-heavy versus defense-first matchup. Creighton is one of the best offensive teams in the country with the second-best offensive efficiency in the country (117.8) and the very best field-goal percentage in the land at 50.9%. Alabama, though, locks up defensively and only allows 38.8% field-goal defense. Something has to give here, and we’re leaning Creighton. The reason? The Bluejays were exploited this season for five losses but only when opposing teams had strong guards with the ability to break down a weak perimeter defense. Alabama does not possess any explosive guards, as Levi Randolph, Trever Releford, Trevor Lacey, and Andrew Steele all have some skills but are not polished offensively. All of them shoot under 30% from three, a very poor percentage. Not having dismissed Tony Mitchell in this game will really hurt; the Crimson Tide would like to have his slashing ability to put points on the board. Creighton will rely heavily on Doug McDermott, one of the most efficient offensive players in the country this season (23.2 PPG, 8.2 RPG, 61% field-goals), who will create his own shots with crafty moves and also set up his teammates from the perimeter. Alabama certainly has a great chance to win this one, as the ‘Tide are actually slight favorites and will have an advantage if they can dictate a slower pace. But with the best player on the floor and a more cohesive team, we’ll lean Creighton and take the offense over the defense in this great #8-#9 matchup. A huge night on both ends from JaMychal Green could change that for Alabama, but he hasn’t been as dominant a force this season as was expected.
The RTC Certified Pick: Creighton
#7 Florida vs. #10 Virginia – West Region Second Round (at Omaha, NE) – 2:10 ET on TNT
There was a time when people thought that this Gator team was going to be a potential Final Four caliber team. Those days are mostly gone, given that they have lost four of their last five games and have been unsuccessful in their games against big time competition this season. But the Gatos are still the second most efficient offensive team in the nation and their backcourt trio of Kenny Boynton, Bradley Beal and Erving Walker is capable of lighting up the scoreboard. In a great matchup of styles, they’ll face a Virginia team that is fifth in the nation in defensive efficiency and does a good job of limiting their opponents’ perimeter looks, making for a classic matchup of strengths when the Gators have the ball. As for the Cavaliers, they haven’t beaten an NCAA Tournament team since January 28 (North Carolina State) and have only beaten two all season, meaning they’ve still got to prove that they are capable of playing a high level of basketball. While the matchup of the Gator guards against the Cav perimeter defense may get the most attention, it could be the battle inside, between Florida’s Patric Young and Mike Scott of the Hoos that decides this game. Scott has been one among the handful of best players in the nation this year, taking over 30% of the UVA shots, using them in a very efficient manner and turning in some excellent rebounding numbers on both ends of the court. Tony Bennett will need Scott to again carry the Cavalier offense, and if the Gator offense gets frustrated, the Hoos can pull this out. But if Young and his teammates can limit Scott, the Gators could pull away.
The RTC Certified Pick: Florida
#3 Florida State vs. #14 St. Bonaventure – East Region Second Round (at Nashville, TN) – 2:45 pm ET on CBS
Florida State has the look of a Final Four sleeper after running roughshod through the ACC Tournament, taking down both Duke and North Carolina for the second time this season. The question mark with Florida State has always been its ability to generate offense, control the basketball and play consistently at a high level. This is FSU’s best season under Leonard Hamilton but those questions will be put to the test starting today. The Seminoles will take on a St. Bonaventure team that surprised many in the Atlantic 10 Tournament and features a future pro in Andrew Nicholson (18.4 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 2.0 BPG). In order to pull the upset, Nicholson has to be prepared for Florida State’s athletic front court and defense on a level not seen in the A-10. Florida State ranks in the top ten nationally in eFG% defense and block percentage while boasting strong numbers in defensive efficiency and shooting percentages against. St. Bonaventure does a nice job getting to the free throw line and converting, something the Bonnies have to be able to do in this game. They’re simply not going to make enough jump shots to win so they have to take it right to Florida State and try to get its big men in early foul trouble. St. Bonaventure doesn’t shoot well but gets a ton of points from the foul line. St. Bonaventure can hang around if Florida State is careless with the ball (as it has too often been known to be) but the Seminoles simply have too much talent, athleticism and defense to lose this game. The Seminoles have lost to teams like Boston College and Clemson this year so there is a chance, but we feel it’s a very small one for St. Bonaventure.
The RTC Certified Pick: Florida State.
#3 Georgetown vs. #14 Belmont – Midwest Region Second Round (at Columbus, OH) – 3:10 PM ET on truTV
Now this is a juicy upset pick. You have to be bold to take a #14 over a #3, but many factors point the lower seed’s way. For one, Georgetown has been bounced in the first round in each of the past two NCAA Tournaments, including as a #3 seed in 2010. The Hoyas look great when they’re on, but they can look pretty bad during struggles and the Belmont Bruins play the kind of style that can put G’Town into a bind. The Bruins love to speed up the game and are the third-most efficient offensive team in the country (117.4). They love to shoot the three and have a trio of impressive guards that can all make plays. Kerron Johnson leads the team at 14.1 points and 5.2 assists per game while Drew Hanlen and Ian Clark make over 2.5 three-pointers per game while shooting over 40%, which is outstanding. Hanlen hits 48.1% of his threes, one of the best in the nation. But the question is whether or not these guys can go off against a strong Georgetown defense that in fact is the very best in the nation at defending the three, allowing just 27% from deep. The Hoyas have the athletic advantage with Henry Sims, Otto Porter, Jason Clark, and Hollis Thompson all capable of locking up defensively and making plays on the offensive end at their preferred slow pace. But this matchup is simply a great value upset pick, as the talent and execution disparity is nothing like a traditional #3-#14 matchup. KenPom’s ratings have these teams separated by just 11 spots (G’Town #12, Belmont #23), and plenty of things are working Belmont’s way to be a great upset pick. The Hoyas are capable of making noise in this bracket, but their first round opponent is just as capable of beating them as anyone else down the line. In this Super Bowl for Belmont, the Bruins just may finally break through and pull off an NCAA Tourney win after many near-misses in the past.
The RTC Certified Pick: Belmont
#1 North Carolina vs. #16 Vermont – Midwest Region Second Round (at Greensboro, NC) – 4:10 PM ET on TBS
The Vermont Catamounts used a solid defensive scheme to keep their First Four opponent from putting up points on the board, and a methodical offense led to an efficient attack. Things will be much different against perhaps the most talented and athletic team in the country in North Carolina. The one storyline to watch here will be how the Tar Heels treat John Henson, the star forward on the recovery from a wrist injury. UNC may choose to rest Henson, giving UVM a sliver of an opportunity to take advantage and try to make things interesting. There’s not much chance of an upset here, though the Catamounts want to play a slow pace and could frustrate UNC with a slow game. Expect the Tar Heels to still run away with this one thanks to the star power of Harrison Barnes, Tyler Zeller, Kendall Marshall, and company. Keep an eye on how James Michael McAdoo fills Henson’s minutes; the freshman has looked good and has tremendous upside but has had an up-and-down rookie season. They will need McAdoo down the line for some important bench minutes later in the tournament. The player to watch for Vermont is Four McGlynn, the freshman guard who comes off the bench and leads the team in scoring. Take UNC going away in this one.
The RTC Certified Pick: North Carolina
#2 Missouri vs. #15 Norfolk State – West Region Second Round (at Omaha, NE) – 4:40 PM ET on TNT
Norfolk State has played two NCAA Tournament teams this season: Marquette and Long Island. They played the Golden Eagles twice in the span of a week back in November, losing the first game by 31 before losing by just two in their second meeting. Months later, the program appears in its first-ever tourney and is rewarded with a matchup against a Missouri team that was at least in the discussion for a #1 seed throughout the season. If the Spartans are to have any chance in this game, they’ll need to ride 6’10” senior center Kyle O’Quinn hard. O’Quinn posted excellent shooting and rebounding numbers this season, averaging a double-double on the season, and providing an imposing defensive force in the middle. And, the interior is the one place where this Mizzou team might be a little vulnerable. Of the seven players that see time for the Tigers, only 6’8” Ricardo Ratliffe and 6’9” Steve Moore are interior players capable of rebounding with the big boys. The problem for the Spartans will be on the perimeter, where Mizzou’s guards and wings – from point guards Phil Pressey and Michael Dixon to scorers like Marcus Denmon and Kim English – will likely be too much for an NSU team that simply isn’t very efficient on either end of the court. Best case scenario for Spartans fans is if they are able to get Mizzou’s bigs in foul trouble, keep the game close by slowing the game down (which is not their normal strategy) and pounding the ball inside and hoping for something weird to happen late. It’s March, and weird things are known to happen, but probably not here.
The RTC Certified Pick: Missouri