NCAA Tournament Game Analysis: Third Round – SundayPosted by EJacoby on March 18th, 2012
RTC Region correspondents Brian Otskey (East), Kevin Doyle (South), Evan Jacoby (Midwest) and Andrew Murawa (West) contributed to this preview.
#3 Georgetown vs. #11 N.C. State – Midwest Region Third Round (at Columbus, OH) – 12:15 PM ET on CBS
We originally picked Georgetown to get upset in the round of 64 by Belmont, but that was with knowledge that the Hoyas could be the biggest threat to stopping Kansas from reaching the Elite Eight if they were able to escape that opening game. Not only did Georgetown escape, but it was one of the most impressive showings of any team in the tournament thus far. The Hoyas used their length and athleticism to deny the efficient Belmont offense from ever getting started, and they were unreal at their own end offensively with a 61.2% field goal percentage for the game. This matchup will be more difficult, however, against an North Carolina State team that’s getting better every game and playing spectacular offensively. The Wolfpack have great size inside to match Georgetown, with C.J. Leslie and Richard Howell as long and athletic as any Hoya. Howell had his best game of the season with 22 points on 10-12 shooting last game, but that will also change as he goes up against much stronger post defenders. Georgetown primarily plays zone defense but will also switch things up and defend man-to-man when needed. It will be a battle inside all night as the Hoyas surely won’t let Scott Wood get open looks from three. This game, though, will be decided on the other end of the floor. NC State was not particularly strong defensively throughout the year, but they completely shut down San Diego State on Friday by allowing just 37.7% field goal shooting. The Aztecs played a lot of one-on-one ball, the exact opposite of what the Hoyas will show. It’ll be up to Henry Sims to make smart decisions in the high post, something he’s done all year. Jason Clark was great last game and is a reliable playmaker in this game, while Otto Porter remains rock solid as an X-factor offensively. Both of these teams looked great last round, but Georgetown has the advantage because it should pose a much greater defensive threat to the Wolfpack while also running a motion offense that will be difficult to defend.
The RTC Certified Pick: Georgetown
#1 Michigan State vs. #9 Saint Louis – West Region Third Round (at Columbus, OH) – 2:45 PM ET on CBS
Two top ten teams in defensive efficiency. Two coaches with a well-earned reputation for X-ing and O-ing with the best of them. It isn’t likely to be one of the prettiest displays of basketball you’ll ever see, but if you like fundamentals and you like basketball as chess match, this is a can’t-miss game. The Billikens advanced to this round behind great team defense and great individual offensive performances by Kwamain Mitchell (22 points including four threes) and Brian Conklin (16 points, earned largely from his ten-of-11 performance from the line). But Conklin also turned the ball over eight times, in part due to the active hands of Memphis defenders; he’ll see more of that on Sunday and will need to take better care of the ball. Defensively, the Billikens will need to come up with some sort of answer for Draymond Green, who was brilliant Friday against Long Island, registering a triple-double with 24 points, 12 rebounds and ten assists. But perhaps the biggest battle of the game will be on Michigan State’s offensive glass. The Spartans have historically made a living creating offensive on second-chance opportunities, but the best Rick Majerus-coached teams have been proficient in securing defensive rebounds. If the Billikens can limit the Spartans’ offensive rebounding (a feat easier said than done), Tom Izzo will need to find other ways for his Spartans to score in the halfcourt, and there have been times this year when that MSU offense has bogged down a bit. While sophomore guard Keith Appling is usually excellent getting penetration, SLU is no liable to allow that very often, and there is no one else on the Spartan roster capable of creating his own offense off the dribble on a regular basis. Guys like Green, Brandon Wood and Austin Thornton have been very efficient three-point shooters, but, with the exception perhaps of Green, they need someone to create open looks for them. In short, if SLU can do what no other team has been able to do all year – keep Michigan State in check on their offensive glass – then the Billikens could drag this game down into the mud and pull out a win. But, if the Spartans do what, you know, they always do, I have a hard time seeing Saint Louis pulling this one out.
The RTC Certified Pick: Michigan State
#1 North Carolina vs. #8 Creighton – Midwest Region Third Round (at Greensboro, NC) – 5:15 PM ET on CBS
The media gets the matchup it craved, as former high school (Ames, Iowa) teammates Harrison Barnes and Doug McDermott, now both collegiate stars, go up against each other for the first time. While Creighton plays a lot of zone defense, the other end of the floor could very well see Barnes matched up with McDermott for much of the time. This game’s outcome will be decided by everybody else, though. The Bluejays really have only one big body inside in form of Gregory Echenique, and he will have the difficult task of anchoring an interior defense against the most talented front line in this tournament. UNC should eat up Creighton inside, even if John Henson remains limited by his wrist injury, by going to always-productive Tyler Zeller as option ‘A’. Henson’s health is a key factor here, as the forward will create an even bigger mismatch in the paint if he can go at full strength. But this is a game where James Michael McAdoo can be just as productive, as his inexperience and unpolished post moves won’t be exploited as much when he will have the athletic advantage against defenders. For Creighton to win this game, it will have to be incredibly efficient offensively, though that’s something it can do. The Bluejays were an elite offensive team this season and nobody is more productive than McDermott, but the question is who else can have a big game. UNC is sometimes susceptible from behind the arc, so Jahenns Manigat and Ethan Wragge must be hitting some shots from the outside. In addition, either Antoine Young or Josh Jones will have Kendall Marshall defending him, who is a poor perimeter defender that can give up the dribble drive. In what looks to be an up-and-down game, UNC has a huge advantage on the interior that can only be made up for by a great offensive performance by the Bluejays. Unless Creighton has its best shooting day of the season, North Carolina will win this one without too much trouble.
The RTC Certified Pick: North Carolina
#7 Florida vs. #15 Norfolk State – West Region Third Round (at Omaha, NE) – 6:10 PM ET on TNT
Regardless of what happens on Sunday afternoon, it has been a season to remember for Norfolk State. Not only did the Spartans earn their first ever NCAA Tournament berth, but they earned their first ever NCAA Tournament win. And they did it in endearing and memorable fashion. They fought the #3 team in the final AP Top 25 rankings tooth and nail, right down to the end. And then came out on top. Behind a scintillating 26 points and 14 rebounds from senior center Kyle O’Quinn – not to mention 20 each from Chris McEachin and Pendarvis Williams – the Spartans sent the first major shockwave through an unforgettable evening of college basketball. But, all that is in the past now and the next goal is the Sweet 16. To get there, they’ll need to go through Florida, a team that spent its share of time in the Top 10 this year as well. Just looking at the numbers, there is no way NSU should have a chance to advance. While Missouri had a very pronounced weakness in the middle that the O’Quinn could exploit, he’ll face a future high NBA draft pick in Patric Young on Sunday, a whole different ball of wax than the overachieving Ricardo Raliffe. Still, the Gators aren’t exactly world beaters. They’ve underachieved some this season, losing games to Georgia and Rutgers, and the style of play they use if capable of getting them beat if their voluminous number of threes aren’t falling. Guards Kenny Boynton, Erving Walker and Bradley Beal are all capable of getting a little too three-happy at times, and if the Spartans can get out and challenge those shots and make the Gators take tough shots from deep, maybe they can stick around a bit. Of course, they’ll need O’Quinn, McEachin and Williams all to have similarly effective games, but if, somehow, everything breaks right for Norfolk State, who’s to say there isn’t a chance for them to keep in touch for 30-some minutes and then out-fight Florida in crunch time like they did to Mizzou on Friday. Stranger things have happened, and recently. However, the smart money is on the clock striking midnight, the 62.7 eFG% from Friday dipping back into the 50% range they hit at during the season, and the Gators coasting down the stretch to a Sweet 16 berth.
The RTC Certified Pick: Florida
#12 South Florida vs. #13 Ohio – Midwest Region Third Round (at Nashville, TN) – 7:10 PM ET on TBS
A pod of two big upsets leaves us with an intriguing #12-#13 matchup between two teams that have plenty of similarities. Both USF and Ohio have offenses featuring dribble-heavy point guards that make all the decisions, in freshman Anthony Collins for the Bulls and junior D.J. Cooper for Ohio. Cooper is much more adept at finding his own shot and he’s not afraid to fire away from the outside while Collins rarely shoots unless it’s in the flow of the offense and at the end of the shot clock. But both of these teams defend at a high level, each in the top 13 in the country at three-point defense, allowing under 30% shooting from deep. They each struggle a bit offensively, as well, without strong interior scoring or pure scorers on the wings. But that’s where these teams greatly differ. USF wants to slow down the pace and find open shots near the end of the shot clock while Ohio loves to shoot it from the outside at any point in the offense. That’s where the concern lies for Ohio, as the Bobcats were effective against a Michigan team that struggled to defend the outside and didn’t have interior threats to expose Ohio defensively, but USF is the exact opposite. The Bulls lock up the three-point line well and also have athletic advantages down low and on the wings with reliable forward Augustus Gilchrist and emerging swingman Victor Rudd. We will give the advantage to USF, which continues to disrupt opposing offenses and should be able to do the same against Ohio. South Florida has been good enough offensively and is not facing a superior athletic team in this one.
The RTC Certified Pick: South Florida
#10 Xavier vs. #15 Lehigh – South Region Third Round (at Greensboro, NC) – 7:45 PM ET on truTV
One of the most anticipated games of the day based solely upon the matchup between C.J. McCollum and Tu Holloway—two of the best players in the NCAA Tournament—either Lehigh or Xavier will ensure that there is a double-digit seed advancing to the second weekend. If Friday evening proved anything to us, it is that both of these players seemingly cannot be stopped when the game is on the line and their team needs a crucial bucket. In Lehigh’s monumental upset of Duke, McCollum dropped in 30 points including a critical three pointer with just over two minutes left to push the Mountain Hawk’s lead to five points. Against Notre Dame, Holloway banked in one of the most difficult shots the Tournament has seen in the first weekend as he lofted the ball over Jack Cooley’s hands and kissed it off the glass to push Xavier ahead by one point with 21 seconds remaining. The team that is last standing will ultimately be the one that has better play from their supporting cast, and Lehigh’s is playing the best they have had all year at just the right time. Sophomore point guard Mackey McKnight was rock solid against Duke, and will need to bring that same level of play against Xavier and their point guard Mark Lyons. Down low, it will take another great effort fromGabe Knutson (17 points and 8 rebounds on 5-5 shooting from the field and 6-7 from the line against Duke) to contain Xavier’s big man Kenny Frease. Maybe more than anything, Dr. Brett Reed is slowly developing into one of the hottest young coaches in the nation as he has brought Lehigh—not known as a basketball school at all—to two NCAA Tournaments in the past three years. Reed and McCollum will find a way to get past Xavier and add to their already impressive resumes.
The RTC Certified Pick: Lehigh
#2 Kansas vs. #10 Purdue – Midwest Region Second Round (at Omaha, NE) – 8:40 PM ET on TNT
Purdue nearly lost to St. Mary’s last round after blowing a double-digit lead in the final six minutes, but the Boilermakers made the big plays at the end of the game to keep them in front. Purdue poses an interesting offensive threat here as a team that takes cares of the ball with the second-lowest turnover rate in the country. Robbie Hummel could be a matchup problem, as well, if his outside shot is on. But Purdue will really struggle to defend the Jayhawks inside. Ranked #236 in the county at two-point defense to begin with, Purdue has nobody to guard Thomas Robinson, the most dominant interior force in this tournament. Thomas Robinson should have a massive game and demand double-teams, which will let Jeff Withey score on the opposite block or open up three-point shots for Elijah Johnson and Connor Teahan. Tyshawn Taylor can shoot it, as well, and he has been incredible in all facets recently at the lead guard position. Lewis Jackson will try to pose a defensive challenge to Taylor, as he did to Matthew Dellavedova last round, but Taylor is better at getting by defenders off the dribble. The only way Purdue can win this game is if it runs a super-efficient offense at the slow pace it wants to play. But Kanas has such an advantage athletically and in the paint, so we make the Jayhawks the heavy favorites in this game.
The RTC Certified Pick: Kansas
#3 Florida State vs. #6 Cincinnati – East Region Third Round (at Nashville, TN) – 9:40 PM ET on TBS
Both teams struggled in their first games with Cincinnati holding off Texas and Florida State sneaking by upset-minded St. Bonaventure. Cincinnati is a team that looks like a top ten club when the shots are falling but the Bearcats aren’t particularly efficient on the offensive end of the floor. In order to advance to the Sweet Sixteen in Boston, Cincinnati has to get balanced scoring from its guards as well as Yancy Gates. Going up against a tall, talented and athletic front court is not the ideal match up for the UC big man but Mick Cronin and his team can’t win without Gates contributing. As for the guards, they must take advantage of Florida State’s perimeter defense, one that ranked eighth out of 12 teams in ACC play. While FSU’s three point defense is ranked in the top 30 overall, it can be taken advantage of by a good group of guards like Cincinnati’s. As for Florida State, the Seminoles need to defend the arc and neutralize Gates. Do that and they should be well on their way to a win. Despite Michael Snaer putting up a donut in the first game against St. Bonaventure, Florida State persevered and came up with a win. It’s highly unlikely that a player as talented as Snaer has such a poor game yet again but he should be the focus of Cincinnati’s defense. Florida State has a stronger and deeper front court than Cincinnati and Leonard Hamilton would be wise to go inside right from the opening tip. With just Gates and a collection of role players off the bench making up Cronin’s front line, the Seminoles have an opportunity to create serious foul trouble for Cincinnati. Even if the Bearcats manage to avoid fouling, that should open up the perimeter game for Florida State. Keep an eye on offensive rebounding in this game. Both teams are strong in that statistical category but weak on the defensive glass, a recipe for a number of offensive boards. Turnover margin will be important for the Bearcats because they protect the ball as well as anyone while Florida State is highly vulnerable to giveaways. The Seminoles have an edge across the board but offensive rebounding and ball protection could keep Cincinnati in the game for the long haul.
The RTC Certified Pick: Florida State.