NCAA Game Analysis: Second Round, Friday EveningPosted by KDoyle on March 22nd, 2013
#2 Georgetown vs. #15 Florida Gulf Coast – South Region Second Round (at Philadelphia) – 6:50 PM ET on TBS
Florida Gulf Coast is one of the better stories in this year’s NCAA Tournament. Only in their sixth year as a Division 1 program, the Eagles are riding their first winning season in history thanks to the hiring of former Florida State assistant Andy Enfield. In Enfield’s first year, they finished 15-17, but were a game away from the NCAA Tournament as they lost to Belmont in the Atlantic Sun finals. This year, Florida Gulf Coast has been the team to beat, and it began with an early season win over Miami (FL). FGCU’s style of play greatly differs from today’s opponent, the Georgetown Hoyas. The Hoyas are predicated on a stingy zone defense that rarely allows for clean looks at the basket, and they play at a snail’s pace. Led by Otto Porter, Georgetown has a legitimate star that can carry them deep into the NCAA Tournament. FGCU very much likes to get up and down the floor with Sherwood Brown and Bernard Thompson leading the attack. If FGCU is able to get out in the open floor and score in transition, they’ll keep it close for much of the game. Problem is that not many teams control the pace of a game quite like Georgetown—that’s what makes them such a difficult opponent as they force the opposition to play their style of game. Historically, Georgetown has struggled in the NCAA Tournament under John Thompson III as they’ve failed to reach the second weekend in four of six appearances under him, but many believe this is a different Hoya team. FGCU is playing with house money and expect them to make a game of this, but in front of a heavy Georgetown crowd in Philadelphia the Hoyas are simply too much in the end.
The RTC Certified Pick: Georgetown
#2 Ohio State vs. #15 Iona – West Regional Second Round (at Dayton, OH) – 7:15 p.m. ET on CBS
One of the nation’s most balanced teams, the knock on the Buckeyes for the longest time this season was that they didn’t have a secondary scorer to help out junior DeShaun Thomas. We’ll get to that in a second, but let’s just say that Iona never had such a problem. Senior guard Lamont “Momo” Jones has always been the main offensive weapon on this team, never afraid to look for his own shot, but the Gaels have always trusted guard Sean Armand and forward David Laury to chip in heavily in the scoring column. And as a result, the Gaels have one of the most efficient offenses in the mid-major ranks. The problem for Tim Cluess’ team is the complete inability to stop teams on defense; only nine times all season have they held an opponent below one point per possession in a game. Given that Ohio State is one of the best defensive teams in the nation (sixth in defensive efficiency per KenPom.com), you can expect the Buckeyes to at least slow Iona’s prolific offense. And given that Thad Matta has been getting significantly improved offensive play out of guys like Aaron Craft, Lenzelle Smith, LaQuinton Ross and Sam Thompson, you can expect the Bucks to take advantage of that buttery soft Gael defense. While Momo Jones, et al. have the ability to make some exciting plays when they’ve got the ball, their inattention to details defensively will allow the Buckeyes to have more than their share of exciting offensive plays as well.
The RTC Certified Pick: Ohio State
#8 North Carolina vs. #9 Villanova – South Region Second Round (at Kansas City) – 7:20 p.m. ET on TNT
Going by preseason projections, North Carolina was supposed to be here today. Despite losing four impact players from last year’s Elite Eight team, they returned James Michael McAdoo, P.J. Hairston, and Reggie Bullock—many surmised McAdoo had All-American potential as he’d be the focal point of the Carolina frontcourt this year—and had highly regarded freshman Marcus Paige to take over the point guard role. Conversely, Villanova had much lower expectations. Picked to finish 12th in the Big East after going just 13-19 last year and having a very young team to boot—three of their most significant players are underclassmen—just making the NCAA Tournament would have been considered a success for Jay Wright. Fortunately for Villanova, freshman Ryan Arcidiacano has carried them for much of the year emerging as their go-to offensive threat early in the season. Preseason projections and hype aside, North Carolina and Villanova find themselves in the 8 vs. 9 matchup with one another. Villanova got here with their defense and North Carolina their offense. 6’10” Mouphtaou Yarou anchors a defense that relinquishes 64.7 PPG and limits opponents to 42.4% shooting on two point field goals, but they struggle defending the perimeter as opponents shoot 36.8%. Ever since Roy Williams went to a smaller starting five, their offense has kicked it into another gear. If Villanova can limit Reggie Bullock’s opportunities they have a good chance to advance to Sunday’s game against—in all likelihood—Kansas. It has been more than just Bullock lately though, and the Heels’ have a lot of firepower on offense that Villanova will struggle containing. The fans and media will get what they want on Sunday: Kansas vs. North Carolina in Kansas City.
The RTC Certified Pick: North Carolina
#3 Florida vs. #14 Northwestern State – South Region Second Round (at Austin) – 7:27 p.m. ET on truTV
Coming off of consecutive Elite Eight appearances and having many of the pieces back from those teams, Billy Donovan and Florida seemed destined to make it to Atlanta this year. The Gators began the year 7-0 dismantling some good teams in the process: Wisconsin, Middle Tennessee, Marquette, and Florida State. During SEC play, however, Florida struggled against teams on the road that they had no business losing to, namely Arkansas, Tennessee, and Kentucky. While still a popular pick to emerge from the South Region, there are many question marks surrounding Florida. They can answer some of those questions this weekend, and it begins with Northwestern State out of the Southland Conference. The Demons are no stranger to upsetting #3 seeds in the NCAA Tournament as their last appearance in 2006 saw them defeat Iowa. To be frank, Northwestern State has no business hanging around with the Gators, but would it surprise anyone if Florida let them hang around for much of the game? There is little point in breaking down the matchups and tendencies of each team as Florida is better in every department, but as we saw yesterday with #14 seeded Harvard beating New Mexico sometimes the statistics can be thrown out the wonder. The Gators rank 6th in offensive efficiency and 3rd in defensive efficiency according to Pomeroy, for what it’s worth. What is interesting is Northwestern State’s pace of play, which ranks #1 in the nation. The Demons will look to speed up Florida and force the issue. Depth may be an issue for the Gators as Donovan has a short bench usually playing just eight players. If there is one thing that history tells us though, it is to not bet against Billy Donovan in the NCAA Tournament. In his 12 appearances with Florida, he has advanced to the Sweet 16 or further in six of them. In his last five appearances: two Elite Eights and two National Championships. Expect this Gator team to play with a serious chip on their shoulder and to move past Northwestern State.
The RTC Certified Pick: Florida
#7 San Diego State vs. #10 Oklahoma – South Region Second Round (at Philadelphia) – 9:20 p.m. ET on TBS
There may not be a team hailing from a Power Six conference who is receiving less attention than the Oklahoma Sooners. Flying under the radar for much of the season out of the Big 12, Oklahoma is in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2009 when they were a #2 seed and advanced to the Elite Eight under Jeff Capel. Oklahoma, now under the tutelage of Lon Kruger, will do battle with San Diego State who has advanced to the NCAA Tournament in this their fourth consecutive year. After high expectations in the preseason, the Aztecs were living up to the hype surrounding Jamaal Franklin getting out to a 14-2, but they are a pedestrian 8-8 in their last 16 games. Franklin, while an exceptional defender, has struggled finding his shot for much of the season shooting 40.5% from the field and 27% from three. Oklahoma’s stud player is Mississippi State transfer Romero Osby who averages 15.8 PPG and 7.0 RPG. This has the making of a grind-it-out type game, and that favors a defensive-minded team like San Diego State. While the Mountain West has really disappointed thus far, look for Franklin and senior guard Chase Tapley, who have both played in NCAA Tournaments all four years, to lead the Aztecs to victory.
The RTC Certified Pick: San Diego State
#7 Notre Dame vs #10 Iowa State – West Regional Second Round (at Dayton, OH) – 9:45 p.m. ET on CBS
If you like watching defense, I suggest you turn on Oklahoma/San Diego State as alternate viewing at the same time. But if you like watching a pair of teams that are very good at putting the ball in the hoop and not very good at preventing the other team from doing the same, this is your dream matchup. Both teams are in the top 12 in KenPom.com’s offensive efficiency ratings, while on the defensive end, Notre Dame is significantly better than Iowa State, yet still checks in at just 89th in the nation. You can also expect this game to have plenty of flow, as neither team is particularly good at getting to the free throw line and neither team fouls all that much. And it should be a pretty clean game as both teams rarely turn the ball over and, you guessed it, neither team forces many turnovers. Where the two teams do differ is how they get their points. The Cyclones love the three; they’ve got five guys who average at least two three-point attempts a game (and another who just misses that mark). The Fighting Irish, meanwhile, have four guys averaging at least three three-point attempts per game, but have more offensive balance, in part due to senior center Jack Cooley who is a back-to-the-basket post guy who also is one of the nation’s best offensive rebounders. Both teams can have pretty divergent outcomes in this game depending on how effectively they shoot the ball, but Notre Dame’s ability to throw the rock into a solid interior presence provides them slightly more stability.
The RTC Certified Pick: Notre Dame
#1 Kansas vs. #16 Western Kentucky – South Region Second Round (at Kansas City) – 9:50 p.m. ET on TNT
Western Kentucky wasn’t supposed to win the Sun Belt Conference last year, and they weren’t supposed to win it last year either. After firing their head coach Ken McDonald midway through last season, all Ray Harper has done is lead the Hilltoppers to consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances. Middle Tennessee was the prohibitive favorite all season in the Sun Belt, but after they were upset by Florida International that left the door open for another team. Western Kentucky’s run looks to come to an end tonight though as they run into a Kansas team playing in front of their hometown crowd in Kansas City. If the Hilltoppers are to have any success against Kansas, it likely will come from the perimeter as the Jayhawks are perhaps the best interior defensive team in the Tournament with Jeff Withey turning aside and altering shots on seemingly every shot inside the paint. T.J. Price and Brandon Harris have combined for 143 three pointers and will have to have their stroke working today. Even with that, it’s hard to see seniors Jeff Withey and Elijah Johnson allowing Kansas to lose in Kansas City.
The RTC Certified Pick: Kansas
#6 UCLA vs. #11 Minnesota – South Region Second Round (at Austin) – 9:57 p.m. ET on truTV
There are endless storylines heading into this one, and many don’t even involve the game itself. Most recently, the Los Angeles Times had an extensive story on the upbringing, recruiting process, and age of Shabazz Muhammad. Then, of course, there is speculation that the losing coach of today’s game may be out of a job come Monday as both Ben Howland and Tubby Smith are on the hot seat at their respective schools. Howland has won just one NCAA Tournament game since 2009 and his teams have largely underachieved during this stretch. As for Smith, he has yet to win a game in the NCAA Tournament with Minnesota. In fact, the Golden Gophers don’t have a Tournament win since 1997. In looking at what will transpire on the hardwood tonight, this is hardly a traditional 6 vs. 11 game. In fact, the experts in Vegas have Minnesota as a favorite tonight. UCLA is playing without their second leading scorer in Jordan Adams who broke his right foot during the Pac-12 Tournament. Add Adam’s absence with UCLA’s struggles on the offensive and defensive glass, and this looks to be an uphill battle for the Bruins. Trevor Mbakwe and Rodney Williams are relentless rebounders—most missed shots by Minnesota will disguise themselves as passes to these two underneath. UCLA will have the best player on the floor in Muhammad, however, and he will have to play like the future NBA Lottery pick that he will be for the Bruins to win.
The RTC Certified Pick: Minnesota