NCAA Tournament Game Analysis: Second Round – Friday EveningPosted 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.
#8 Memphis vs. #9 Saint Louis – West Region Second Round (at Columbus, OH) – 6:50 PM ET on TBS
It may be an 8/9 game, but according to advanced metrics, this is anything but your typical 8/9 game. Both teams are among the top 15 teams in the country according to Ken Pomeroy’s rankings, outscoring opponents by about 0.2 points per possession over the course of the season. Still, looking back over the schedules, the Billikens’ only have four wins over NCAA Tournament teams (Vermont, St. Bonaventure and two over Xavier), while the Tigers have just three (Belmont, Southern Miss and Xavier) – not exactly stunning resumes. However, SLU head coach Rick Majerus is no stranger to NCAA Tournament success, and his ability to scout and gameplan for an opponent is legendary. And while Memphis is used to playing at a fast tempo, you can bet Majerus will effectively slow this game down, using 25 seconds or more on every offensive possession, mostly forgoing any attempts at offensive rebounds in an effort to get back on defense, and making Memphis score over a stingy SLU defense. While Memphis has been killing teams over the past month or so, the two games they’ve lost have been down-tempo affairs (UTEP and Southern Miss), and if they get frustrated against the deliberate Billiken pace, it could spell an early end to the Memphis season. Still, the Tigers will have a significant athletic advantage and while Majerus has a decent matchup for lightning quick guard Joe Jackson in the form of Kwamain Mitchell (and Jordair Jett), it remains to be seen how effective they will be against sophomore win Will Barton. If Barton can find space inside the SLU perimeter defense, he could create serious problems. Of course, that’s a big if.
The RTC Certified Pick: Saint Louis
#2 Duke vs. #15 Lehigh – South Region Second Round (at Greensboro, NC) – 7:15 PM ET on CBS
Located less than an hour’s drive from Cameron Indoor, Duke will do battle with Patriot League champion Lehigh in what is practically a home game for the Blue Devils. Duke is limping into the NCAA Tournament have lost two of their last three games, one of these losses coming in blowout fashion against arch rival North Carolina. Despite having many holes on the defensive end and Ryan Kelly uncertain for the game against Lehigh, Duke does have one of the more potent offensives in the tournament. Austin Rivers and Seth Curry can score from virtually anywhere on the floor, and the Plumlee brothers make for a formidable frontcourt. It is not often that a Patriot League team can put a player on the floor that has the ability to go shot-for- with one of the best teams in the nation, but C.J. McCollum will prove he belongs running side by side with Austin Rivers. The junior guard from Canton, OH ranks top ten nationally in scoring and has the ability to take over a game for long stretches. Although Duke will no doubt focus much of their effort on the defensive end on McCollum, it is no secret that the Blue Devils struggle guarding around the perimeter. McCollum will get his points, but it is just a question if his teammates will be able to follow suit. If Lehigh gets production from Gabe Knutson and Holden Greiner, don’t be surprised if the Mountain Hawks hang with Duke for much of the game.
The RTC Certified Pick: Duke
#4 Michigan vs. #13 Ohio – Midwest Region Second Round (at Nashville, TN) – 7:20 PM ET on TNT
One of several popular upset picks in this region, the Ohio Bobcats got the team they wanted in the first round. That’s because Ohio can put to use its strong perimeter defense against an opponent that runs its offense pre-dominantly from the outside. Michigan has no legitimate interior scoring threat and instead finds offense through the terrific penetration of guards Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway, Jr. to find openings for Zack Novak, Stu Douglass, Evan Smotrycz and the rest of the fine perimeter shooters on the team. But the Bobcats, possessing the 13th best three-point defense in the nation, have tailored their game to strong perimeter defense. Star guard D.J. Cooper is one of the nation’s leaders in steals (2.4 SPG) and should do a great job of holding Burke from getting to the basket. Four different Bobcats can hit the three and themselves and will try to beat Michigan at its own game. But therein lies the problem, as the Wolverines are used to teams trying to take away their strength and John Beilein’s team has improved defensively and on the boards throughout the season. Without much of an inside presence themselves, the Bobcats won’t be able to take advantage of UM’s lack of size and strength inside. Between two similar styles of play, we’ll take the power team’s talent, offense, and coaching over the mid-major’s defense and inexperience. It could very well be a great game, though.
The RTC Certified Pick: Michigan
#7 St. Mary’s vs. #10 Purdue – Midwest Region Second Round (at Omaha, NE) – 7:27 PM ET on truTV
Despite being the power conference school, Purdue is the underdog in this game and also seems to be getting overlooked. The Boilermakers turn the ball over at the second-lowest rate in the country behind only Wisconsin, and valuing the ball usually results in an efficient offensive attack. Purdue has seen strong developments over the season by several different players, especially sophomore guard Terone Johnson. And Robbie Hummel remains a terrific competitor as well as a reliable scorer and rebounder. But with all that said, St. Mary’s just has more polished talent on the floor in this game. Matthew Dellavedova never seems to be denied no matter the matchup, so pesky guard Lewis Jackson should not pose any kind of significant defensive roadblock. Dellavedova is so good at creating crafty shots, finding open teammates, and hitting threes when defenders have their hands down. Purdue lacks interior strength which means one of the nation’s top rebounders, Rob Jones (14.8 PPG, 10.7 RPG), should have a big game. Brad Waldow is only a freshman but plays like a more polished player inside and should also have an advantage against a less-talented Purdue front line. Purdue will want to slow the pace in this game, but St. Mary’s is still good in the half court as a team that’s strong with the ball. Go with the Gaels in this one.
The RTC Certified Pick: St. Mary’s
#1 Michigan State vs. #16 Long Island – West Region Second Round (at Columbus, OH) – 9:20 PM ET on TBS
You know about Michigan State: a piece of the Big Ten regular season title, the Big Ten tournament championship, six Final Fours for Tom Izzo. But what about their opponent? Long Island is in its second straight NCAA Tournament as the winner of the NEC and scored the third most points per game in Division I, scoring just a shade under 82 points per game. Part of the reason for that number is the fact that they played the second quickest tempo in the nation, because they certainly weren’t the most efficient offensive team. Worse yet, they were a terrible defensive team, ranked in the bottom quarter of D-I in defensive efficiency. But, they do have a couple of players – juniors Jamal Olasewere and Julian Boyd – who can fill it up in an efficient manner. But, the fact is, Michigan State is among the top ten most efficient teams in the nation on either end of the court, and unless something goes drastically wrong for the Spartans on Friday, they’ll be able to wear the Blackbirds down bit by bit. The old saying goes that its easier to slow a game down than it is to speed it up and certainly, the Spartans have plenty of experience uglying things up when they need to. But, odds are, they won’t need to.
The RTC Certified Pick: Michigan State
#7 Notre Dame vs. #10 Xavier – South Region Second Round (at Greensboro, NC) – 9:45 PM ET on CBS
Notre Dame has overachieved for much of the year, while Xavier nearly had their season end in a downward spiral after they struggled to rebound from the brawl against Cincinnati and the subsequent suspensions to Mark Lyons and Tu Holloway. As such, this is one game that is virtually impossible to figure out. When the Musketeers are at their very best, they have the ability to play with any team in the nation, as the country saw early in the season when they defeated Vanderbilt, Purdue, and Cincinnati. Meanwhile, Notre Dame has looked vulnerable lately having lost to St. John’s towards the end of the Big East regular season, and then Louisville in the conference tournament. The Irish lack a consistent scorer that can take over a game, but they make up for this with a stingy defense and balanced play on offense. If the Irish are able to neutralize Holloway—sophomore Jerian Grant will likely draw the unenviable task of marking him—Notre Dame will have just enough firepower to slip into the third round.
The RTC Certified Pick: Notre Dame
#5 Temple vs. #12 South Florida – Midwest Region Second Round (at Nashville, TN) – 9:50 PM ET on TNT
South Florida looked tremendous in Wednesday’s First Four game, but that has just as much to do with California’s unpreparedness and general mediocrity as much as it has to do with the Bulls. Nonetheless, USF still shot 57.1% from the field and will try to employ a similar slow-paced, efficient offensive attack to put points on the board against a high-scoring Owls team. The problem is that Temple has much more complete guards than Cal, a trio of which are all capable of creating plays off the dribble through unselfish team play. The Owls’ 15.6 assists per game rank in the top 20 in the country. Ramone Moore and Khalif Wyatt both average at least 17 points per game with interchangeable skills, and Juan Fernandez shoots 43.4% from three. Temple also has strength inside with the athletic duo of Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson and Michael Eric, the latter of which dominates interior defense with 2.0 blocks and 8.8 rebounds per game. South Florida won’t have the athletic advantage in this one like it did against Cal, and we could be in for a serious battle on the boards and on the wings. Anthony Collins has been terrific at point guard for USF, and he needs to set the table to find easy baskets for Victor Rudd, Augustus Gilchrist, and company to try to keep up that high field-goal percentage. We’ll go with Temple, the more consistent team with reliable playmakers that should be well-prepared for USF’s physical perimeter defense.
The RTC Certified Pick: Temple
#2 Kansas vs. #15 Detroit – Midwest Region Second Round (at Omaha, NE) – 9:57 PM ET on truTV
Detroit is one the most talented #15-seeds in recent memory, possessing a McDonald’s All-American guard (Ray McCallum) with explosive athleticism and a duo of talented seniors in Chase Simon and Eli Holman. But this team struggled for much of the early season and doesn’t pose any kind of serious threat to the Jayhawks’ powerhouse inside game. The Titans will have no answer for National Player of the Year candidate Thomas Robinson (17.9 PPG, 11.7 RPG), and seven-footer Jeff Withey should eat up any double teams on the other side of the block. In addition, Tyshawn Taylor’s game has come full circle and the senior is now playing like one of the best and most reliable point guards in the country. If there are concerns about Kansas’ offense or depth, they shouldn’t be revealed too much in this matchup. Detroit will be a fun lower seed to watch, especially the talented guard McCallum, but don’t expect an upset in this one.
The RTC Certified Pick: Kansas