NCAA Game Analysis: Second Round, Thursday EveningPosted by Brian Otskey on March 21st, 2013
It’s not been an insane day yet, but who knows what the Thursday evening sessions might have in store for us. Let’s continue our analysis of all of today’s games with the evening slate of eight contests.
#1 Louisville vs. #16 North Carolina A&T – Midwest Region Second Round (at Lexington, KY) – 6:50 PM ET on TBS
First things first — congratulations to the Aggies for taking care of business in Dayton, no matter how narrow the final margin was. Their reward is the number one overall seed in the Tournament, and a shot at history. This is the nice way of thinking about things in Aggie-land. Realistically, Cy Alexander’s team will be happy if they can hang around for a half. But if we are actually being realistic, I wouldn’t plan on that happening. A&T’s 73 point output on Tuesday marked just the third time in 2013 that they scored that many in a game, and rest assured they have not seen a defense near the caliber of Louisville’s during that time.
Only VCU turns teams over more often than do the Cardinals, and rest assured that Peyton Siva, Russ Smith and the rest of the gang will be salivating at the sight of the Aggies and their 292nd ranked turnover percentage. If this is to be a game, A&T must limit turnovers, keep it in the half-court, and hope to make as many shots as they did in Dayton. It’s the definition of a mission impossible, and A&T will find out fast that, despite calling Freedom Hall home for over 50 years, Louisville is most certainly not Liberty.
The RTC Certified Pick: Louisville
#8 Colorado State vs. #9 Missouri – Midwest Region Second Round (at Lexington, KY) – 9:20 PM ET on TBS
For those seeking to avoid watching a game in the 50’s at all costs, this matchup of top-15 offenses is your best bet in the second round. Missouri is led by the mercurial Phil Pressey, whose breathtaking moments of wizardry are too often eclipsed by mind-numbing late game decisions. He is my guilty pleasure in this Tournament: A point guard who I would not trust to run my own team, but who is too brilliant for my neutral observer eyes to ever look away. He should have his run of things on Thursday; that is, if Colorado State’s recent ineptitude covering scoring guards continues. We all remember Kendall Williams’ explosion in Fort Collins a few weeks back, but Derrick Marks (Boise State) and Deonte Burton (Nevada) have since had their own field days against the Rams. Pressey should get his (and his teammates theirs), but this will be a game decided on the backboards. Missouri is not a bad rebounding team at all (actually 7th nationally in offensive rebounding percentage), but compared to the Rams, they are. Colorado State is the single best rebounding team in the land, despite running out a starting frontcourt that features two players under 6’6”. Pierce Hornung, Greg Smith and Colton Iverson are all relentless in pursuit of missed shots on both ends of the floor. The onus will be squarely on Alex Oriakhi and Laurence Bowers to match that intensity. I’m not sold on that happening, and I’m also struggling to trust in a Missouri outfit that has looked unfocused all season long. Far easier to believe in a veteran Ram team that was in this same position a year ago – give me Colorado State in an entertaining battle.
The RTC Certified Pick: Colorado State
#5 UNLV vs. #12 California – East Region Second Round (at San Jose, CA) – 7:27 pm ET on truTV.
In a strange twist, these teams already played once back in December with UNLV escaping Berkeley with a one-point win. Now they will meet again in San Jose, only 45 miles from Cal’s campus. The story for UNLV all season has been unfulfilled expectations. Anthony Bennett has all the talent in the world but hasn’t brought it every single night. Dave Rice’s team averages 72 PPG but at the pace it plays, that’s not quite where it should be. The Rebels turn the ball over too much but do play quality defense. In the first meeting, the offensive glass was the difference. UNLV grabbed 13 offensive rebounds to Cal’s 5 with Bennett posting a 25/13 game. For the Golden Bears to be successful this time around, they need to do what they do best: defend the interior.
If Cal can limit Bennett in the paint and force UNLV to take jump shots, specifically threes, the Rebels will likely oblige. UNLV takes too many threes for a team that doesn’t shoot it very well from deep. Believe it or not Bennett, at 6’8”/240, is the team’s best three point shooter (36-95). Defensively, UNLV will target Allen Crabbe and Justin Cobbs so other players for California may have to step up in order to win. The game plan for UNLV should be similar. Cal doesn’t take many threes at all and is one of the worst three point shooting teams in the country. UNLV has to force the Bears into quick shots and get the game going up and down. Cal is not a deep team at all with Mike Montgomery essentially using a six-man rotation. That said, it’s always easier to slow a game down than to speed it up. While Cal isn’t a “slow” team, comparatively speaking it is in this match-up. If the Golden Bears control the pace and the paint, they’ll win the game in front of what could be a fairly partisan home crowd.
The RTC Certified Pick: California.
#4 Syracuse vs. #13 Montana – East Region Second Round (at San Jose, CA) – approx. 9:57 pm ET on truTV.
San Jose’s final game of the day features a Syracuse team coming off a terrific run at the Big East Tournament where the Orange won three straight games and led Louisville by 16 in the second half of the championship game before collapsing down the stretch. The biggest news heading into this game may be the report that Jim Boeheim’s program has been under investigation for years now and some major violations are rumored to have occurred. Of course, all this is at this point is an unwelcome distraction for a team and program that has been the subject of multiple inquiries and distractions over the last few seasons. That, perhaps, is the biggest thing Montana has going for it in this match-up. Although Montana shoots the ball very well, the Orange are better in almost every facet of the game. In particular, the Grizzlies could get killed on the boards in this game. Montana averages just 31 RPG and is at a serious height disadvantage. Will Cherry and Kareem Jamar are very good players but Montana needs a third guy to put up big numbers, something it just doesn’t have right now with Mathias Ward done for the season with a broken foot. Without Ward, Montana is even thinner up front. Even Cherry himself is just recently back from an injury. The bottom line here is Syracuse has too much talent and firepower for Montana to overcome. The Orange also don’t get enough credit for what they do defensively, something that carried them through the Big East Tournament. A three point barrage early on could keep Montana in the game but Boeheim will adjust and Syracuse will be on its way to a win. The Grizzlies have to hope that the Orange are distracted by everything going on off the court in order to have a chance at pulling the upset.
The RTC Certified Pick: Syracuse.
#6 Arizona vs. #11 Belmont – West Regional Second Round (at Salt Lake City, UT) – 7:20pm ET on TNT
Flashback to the 2012 NCAA Tournament: the Belmont Bruins are one of the trendiest picks to pull a round of 64 upset over Georgetown, but they allow the Hoyas to shoot a 66.3 eFG% en route to a 15-point loss. Take that time machine back a year earlier when those self-same Bruins were again one of the favorites to pull the Cinderella against Wisconsin and, again, their defense failed them as they allowed the Badgers to shoot a 65 eFG% (oh, and they also shot just 42.8 eFG% themselves) on the way to a 14-point loss. So, if you’re skeptical of Belmont’s chances this season against a big and bad major-conference team, nobody is going to blame you. And, if you look at the teams from the last couple of those seasons, those teams were both probably better than this team is.
But, this team has plenty of efficient scorers, with Ian Clark and Kerron Johnson the most dangerous of the bunch, and if they get things rolling offensively from deep, they’ll be a tough out. But, their Arizona opponent may be the worst possible matchup for Belmont. The Bruins are a small team right on down the line while the Wildcats are one of the biggest and most athletic teams in the nation. And where the Bruins need three-point shots to go down in order to win, the Wildcats have big, active defenders on the perimeter – like Nick Johnson, Solomon Hill and Kevin Parrom – who can give those shooters problems. The Bruins likely keep things closer than they have in the past two seasons, but in the end, Arizona just has too much for Belmont.
The RTC Certified Pick: Arizona
#3 New Mexico vs. #14 Harvard – West Regional Second Round (at Salt Lake City, UT) – 9:50pm ET on TNT
Steve Alford’s Lobos have done plenty this season, winning 29 games to this point, never losing two games in a row and winning both the Mountain West regular season title and the conference championship. In other words, to this point it has been, more or less, a dream season in Albuquerque. As for Harvard, this has certainly not been the year they imagined at the end of last season. First, senior co-captains Kyle Casey and Brandyn Curry were caught up in the school’s cheating scandal and sat the season out. Then, despite point guard Siyani Chambers turning in a terrific freshman season, the Crimson dropped six games in the non-conference schedule, but still went into the season as a favorite in the Ivy League, then proceeded to lose road games to teams like Columbia and Penn – teams in the bottom half of Division I – and needed a late-season collapse by Princeton to get the Ivy League title. Still, through all of that, the Crimson are back in the NCAA Tournament. And with guys like Chambers, Christian Webster and Laurent Rivard, they shoot the ball well enough to scare any opponent. The problem is, they don’t do anything else particularly well. Meanwhile, their opponent is pretty darn good all over the court, especially on the defensive end. Sure, there’s a chance that if the Crimson get a performance out of Rivard like they did last season (6/7 from three against Vanderbilt in the round of 64) and if someone else chips in, they could spring the upset. But aside from Harvard playing the perfect game, this looks like a game New Mexico wins fairly comfortably.
The RTC Certified Pick: New Mexico
#4 Michigan vs. #13 South Dakota State — South Region Second Round (at Auburn Hills, MI) — 7:15 PM ET on CBS.
Trey Burke vs. Nate Wolters: two of the most impressive and sound point guards that will play in this year’s NCAA Tournament. This is certainly the head-to-head matchup to pay special attention to as Michigan does battle with South Dakota State in their home state. Both have futures at the next level and are the focal points of their respective teams, but Burke’s supporting cast happens to be just a tad better than Wolters’. Michigan and South Dakota State actually are similar teams in many respects: exceptional offensively, rarely turn the ball over, and shoot well from beyond the arc. Problem for the Jackrabbits is that Burke plays alongside Tim Hardaway Jr., Nik Stauskas, and Glenn Robinson among others.
Wolters has a nice running mate in sharpshooter Jordan Dykstra — a 43% shooter from distance — but everything that South Dakota State does well Michigan simply does better. Unlike last year’s NCAA Tournament where Baylor simply out-athleted — think I just invented a word there — South Dakota State, Michigan doesn’t quite have the athletes like Quincy Acy and Perry Jones and won’t play at a terribly fast pace that will fluster them. Although they will put up points against Michigan’s defense that has looked shaky off and on throughout the season, they don’t have much of a chance of containing the Wolverines’ attack; South Dakota State’s defensive efficiency ranks 209th according to Pomeroy. Look for them to hang around for a while, but in the end it is too much Michigan.
The RTC Certified Pick: Michigan.
#5 Virginia Commonwealth vs. #12 Akron — South Region Second Round (at Auburn Hills, MI) — 9:45 PM ET on CBS.
The worst possible thing for a team preparing to face VCU’s full-court pressure and havoc defense would be to lose their starting point guard. Unfortunately for the Akron Zips, that’s exactly what has happened. Prior to their game against Kent State on March 8th, their starting point guard Alex Abreu was suspended for a marijuana arrest. The Zips lost that game to Kent State after having won 20 of 21 games with Abreu in the starting lineup before this loss. Now, freshman Carmelo Betancourt has the daunting task of spearheading Akron’s offense against the #1 team in the nation in turnovers forced. Even with Abreu in the lineup, Akron had a propensity to turn the ball over; it is hard to see how this can possibly end well for the Zips who have had a very nice season thus far. A 20+ turnover game seems inevitable. The one bright side for Akron is 7’0 center Zeke Marshall. If Betancourt or whoever is playing point guard for Akron is able to settle the offense in the halfcourt, they can have success dumping the ball into Marshall as VCU’s defense is vulnerable on the interior. In looking at VCU’s offense, much of their scoring output is a direct product of their defense forcing turnovers and allowing for fast-break opportunities. When in the halfcourt, the Rams shoot well from the perimeter at 35%. Treveon Graham and Troy Daniels, in particular, can light it up from the outside. VCU wins going away.
The RTC Certified Pick: Virginia Commonwealth.