NCAA Game Analysis: Third Round, SaturdayPosted by KDoyle on March 23rd, 2013
#4 Michigan vs. #5 Virginia Commonwealth – South Region Third Round (at Auburn Hills, MI) – 12:15 PM ET on CBS
The even-keeled and veteran John Beilein, an All-American point guard in Trey Burke, and the scoring prowess of Tim Hardaway Jr. vs. Shaka Smart’s NCAA Tournament charm and relentless havoc defense led by Darius Theus and Troy Daniels. Make no mistake about it, Michigan vs. Virginia Commonwealth has the potential to be an instant classic. When the brackets were released this past Sunday evening, many of the talking heads on ESPN and other networks fell in love with Virginia Commonwealth and picked the Rams to advance deep into the Tournament. Jay Bilas, in particular, referenced their havoc defense and how it is so difficult to prepare for in such limited time. Bilas is right, their defense is a bear for any team to cope with. Just look at what the Rams did to Akron, albeit a depleted Zips teams. Lest we forget that Michigan is coached by one of the best in the business and has a backcourt consisting of two future NBA players? Burke has a 3.3 assist to turnover ratio and the Wolverines, as a team, take impeccable care of the basketball ranking #1 in the country in turnover percentage. On the flipside, VCU is #1 in turnovers forced. Something has to give, right? Assuming Burke takes care of the ball, limits Michigan’s turnovers, and turns it into a halfcourt game the Wolverines have the advantage. The Rams are very susceptible in giving up points inside the arc and are a weak defensive rebounding team. Mitch McGary and Jordan Morgan will have opportunities to score inside once Michigan is able to settle into their offense. In many of the games where VCU has had success, they have largely controlled the game’s tempo and forced 20+ turnovers that led to easy transition points. It is foolish to imply that the Rams are a one trick pony, though. They have three deadly three point shooters in Troy Daniels, Rob Brandenberg, and Treveon Graham, along with Juvonte Reddic who will challenge the Michigan big men in the paint. Ultimately, the game comes down to Trey Burke handling VCU’s pressure, thus forcing the game to be played in the halfcourt. I’m not betting against an All-American point guard, nor a coach like John Beilein.
The RTC Certified Pick: Michigan
#3 Michigan State vs. #6 Memphis – Midwest Regional Third Round (at Auburn Hills, MI) – 2:45 PM ET on CBS
Memphis’ Thursday victory over Saint Mary’s may not have been the most dominating of wins, but it advanced the Tigers to the round of 32 all the same. Michigan State awaits Memphis there, and Sparty looked awfully solid in dispatching Valpo in their Tournament opener. Derrick Nix was dominant against the Crusaders, as the smaller Valpo front line could not match-up with the burly Spartan captain. The final damage was 23 points and 15 rebounds for Nix, and a +23 edge on the boards for Michigan State. First order of business for the Tigers will be doing what Valpo could not in matching that trademark Spartan physicality – on the glass or otherwise. We all know how athletic this Memphis team is (across the board), but a second round win over a WCC team offers no conclusive evidence as to the toughness of this group. Beating the Spartans would. The Memphis frontcourt was solid against the Gaels, but obviously will need to elevate their play even further on Saturday. DJ Stephens was at his springy, high-flying best Thursday though, blocking eight shots and providing multiple highlight-reel caliber dunks – a reminder for all of us to say a nightly prayer for a Final Four that does not include Memphis, if only so that we see Stephens in that weekend’s dunk contest. I digress however, so back to Thursday, where Stephens and co. got a big boost from Tarik Black, who scored 12 points, grabbed seven rebounds, and didn’t miss a shot in his best individual game since January. Memphis fans would certainly welcome a repeat performance on Saturday against the Spartans. For all their tough, physical banging, Michigan State does have the athletes to match up with Memphis up front, with Branden Dawson and Adreian Payne adding the explosive athleticism that the plodding Nix lacks. The matchup in the backcourt will be equally important (and athletic), as Gary Harris and Keith Appling square off with the Tigers’ Joe Jackson and Geron Johnson.
Getting any kind of NCAA Tournament win was big for Memphis. But getting a win over Tom Izzo and Michigan State, with a trip to the Sweet 16 on the line? It would completely legitimize everything Josh Pastner has done since taking over four seasons ago. If the Tigers can force turnovers and get easy buckets like they did at times against Saint Mary’s, there’s a shot that it happens. I just can’t see it though, as I expect Michigan State to make this a half-court game that Memphis never truly settles into.
The RTC Certified Pick: Michigan State
#1 Louisville vs. #8 Colorado State – Midwest Region Third Round (at Lexington, KY) – 5:15 PM ET on CBS
The tenor of the buildup to this game took an interesting turn in the moments that followed Colorado State’s second round win over Missouri, when Larry Eustachy admitted that his team was going to need a lot of help against the Cardinals. While the Rams, like any winner of a #8-#9 game, were always going to be a clear underdog, Eustachy may have been selling his team a little short. Not only is Colorado State now in the third round of the NCAA Tournament, but they have managed to win 26 games out of the #1 RPI conference in America, so the role of Cinderella may not be the most appropriate fit. Either way, Eustachy is right to a large degree – his Rams will need to play well to get a shot at the Sweet 16, but by golly, they have an actual chance to swing the upset here. Louisville’s turnover-inducing ways were quite evident in round two, when they had a tournament-record 20 steals among the 25 NC A&T turnovers they forced. Colorado State will not prove nearly as easy to turn over, as the senior backcourt of Dorian Greene and Wes Eikmeier runs the show for a Ram squad that holds a top-20 national ranking in offensive turnover percentage. Furthermore, Louisville could be in over their heads when it comes to collecting Colorado State misses. The gaping hole in the Louisville statistical profile is defensive rebounding, where the Cardinals rank just 246th in the country. Part of the blame undoubtedly goes to Russ Smith and Peyton Siva’s tendency to leak-out in advance of transition opportunities, but this must be an area of concern for Rick Pitino in this one, as Colorado State is the second best offensive rebounding team in the land.
Larry Eustachy may think his team needs a miracle here, but a Ram win is not as far-fetched as he seems to think. Steady ballhandling and offensive glass dominance aside, it’s awfully tempting to pick a team starting five seniors this time of year, but ultimately I can’t do it. Colorado State gives Louisville everything they want in this one, but Louisville has enough athletes to limit the Ram damage on the offensive glass, plus far too much experience and desire to have their Tournament end here.
The RTC Certified Pick: Louisville
#6 Arizona vs. #14 Harvard – West Regional Third Round (Salt Lake City, UT) – 6:10 PM ET on TNT
The easy comparison to make in this third round breakdown is something along the lines of “Well, if Arizona had way too much size and athleticism for Belmont, wouldn’t the same hold true for Harvard?” Certainly, the fact that the Crimson allowed New Mexico’s pair of bigs to go for 37 points against them has to be of concern, especially since this Arizona team is bigger, deeper and more talented along the frontline than the Lobos were. Of course, the corollary to that line of thinking is “If Harvard could shoot a 61.9 effective field goal percentage against New Mexico, what can they do against a lesser Arizona defensive squad?” Seemingly the easy answer for that begins with on-the-ball defense. Crimson freshman point guard Siyani Chambers regularly penetrated the middle of the Lobo defense and was rewarded with not only open lanes to the hoop but open shooters out at the arc on the kick out. But Sean Miller has two different guards – senior Mark Lyons and sophomore Nick Johnson – capable of terrorizing Chambers and limiting his penetration. And with guys like Kevin Parrom, Solomon Hill and Brandon Ashley having enough footspeed to allow them to match up with smaller shooters, Harvard likely isn’t going to find anywhere near as many open looks today. And a Wildcat offense that is beginning to gel could take advantage of lesser athletes on the way to an efficient scoring night.
The RTC Certified Pick: Arizona
#4 Saint Louis vs. #12 Oregon – Midwest Regional Third Round (at San Jose, CA) – 7:10 PM ET on TBS
#4 seeded Saint Louis knocked off New Mexico State to reach round three, where they will now meet #5 seeded… oops, I mean #12 seeded Oregon. Forgive my error, as not only did the Ducks deserve a seed closer to a #5 than a #12, but also played like it on Thursday. Dana Altman’s team raced out to an 11-point lead at the half against Oklahoma State and never looked back, ultimately winning by 13 in a game that was never close in the second half. They looked an awful lot like the bunch that ran out to that 17-2 start this season, and then reappeared at the Pac-12 Tournament. Dominic Artis played well (13 points, 4 assists) and Arsalan Kazemi (17 rebounds) dominated the glass from start to finish against the Pokes. But with all due respect to Travis Ford and company, the team Oregon meets Saturday will pose a far stiffer test than did the Cowboys. Saint Louis did what Saint Louis does in grinding out a workmanlike win over the Aggies, and will now look to apply the clamps to the Ducks. Dwayne Evans led the way with 24 points and six boards, while Cody Ellis and Cory Remekun each reached double figures off the Billiken bench. Saint Louis is not an elite rebounding team and was outboarded by 11 in the New Mexico State game (the Tournament misses you already Sim Bhullar), so the draw of a very good rebounding Oregon team has to cause some angst for Jim Crews.
Oregon may have a shot at winning the rebounding battle, but the Ducks are going to need more than that. Oregon has struggled to score at times this season (moreso when Artis was out), making the real challenge in this one getting good enough looks against that stingy Billiken man-to-man D. I think that will prove to be too tough a task, as I cannot see the Ducks generating enough offense to extend their uplifting postseason run beyond here. Also, you must forgive me for going all Digger Phelps on you here, but the Billikens have the look of a team on a mission, and I cannot see them losing to a clearly inferior team.
The RTC Certified Pick: Saint Louis
#3 Marquette vs. #6 Butler — East Region Third Round (at Lexington, KY) — 7:45 PM ET on CBS.
Marquette really shouldn’t be here but alas, the Golden Eagles survived and advanced after Davidson outplayed them for 39 minutes on Thursday afternoon at Rupp Arena. This game is a rematch of the thriller in Maui, you know, the game where Rotnei Clarke hit the crazy shot that was all over the Watch ESPN promos this winter. It’s never wise to bet against Butler in the tournament but this is actually a match-up that may favor Marquette. The Golden Eagles are not afraid to get down and dirty in a physical game. They don’t shoot the three ball well to begin with so almost all of their offense operates within the arc, making them accustomed to physical Big East defenses. Butler makes you work for every bucket and you can expect the same here. It has been said that Buzz Williams wants his team to get 49 paint touches a game. You can bet that’ll be a point of emphasis in Brad Stevens’ scouting report, cutting off guard penetration and fronting the Marquette big men. Cutting off penetration starts with Junior Cadougan and Vander Blue, something Davidson learned the hard way in the final seconds of Thursday’s game. Butler has to stay in front of Marquette’s guards, otherwise they will rip the Bulldog defense apart. For Butler, it has to get Clarke going offensively. He struggled against Bucknell in the Bulldogs’ tournament opener but he changes the dynamic when he’s making shots. If Clarke can hit from deep, Marquette has many other things to worry about from Roosevelt Jones’ floaters to Andrew Smith operating in the paint. The battle between Smith and Chris Otule/Davante Gardner could play a significant role in determining the outcome. Marquette is probably the better overall team but the difference in this game could be the three point line, where Butler has more firepower. We made the mistake of picking against Stevens in the round of 64. We’re not about to do that again.
The RTC Certified Pick: Butler.
#1 Gonzaga vs. #9 Wichita State – West Regional Third Round (Salt Lake City, UT) – 8:40 PM ET on TNT
With the mayhem that has gone down in the West Region so far, anybody that is still alive here has to really like their chances to advance to the Final Four. For Wichita State, they saw Gonzaga struggle mightily in their second round game just after the Shockers convincingly took care of Pitt. And they’ve got to figure if Southern could give the Zags everything they could handle, then they can actually take them down. For Gonzaga, it is tough to know what their mindset is: did their confidence take a bruising, or did they survive a bad game and are ready to roll from here? If the Zags hope to improve upon their performance in their opening game, job number one is to fight on the boards. Wichita State dominated Pitt – one of the nation’s premier rebounding teams – on the glass on Thursday, but the Zags have the size and the ability to outwork the Shocker bigs. In fact, up front Gonzaga will hold a significant size advantage, as their four players who use the most possession and take the most shots on the team are all 6’8’ or taller. By comparison, Wichita’s only guys taller than 6’8” are mere role players. Guys like Cleanthony Early and Carl Hall (both listed at 6’8”) will need to have a big impact up front. Where Wichita State can take advantage of the Zags is in the backcourt. Guys like Kevin Pangos, Gary Bell and David Stockton are all fine players, but Shocker guards Malcolm Armstead, Demetric Williams and Tekele Cotton all could have a quickness and athleticism advantage over their opponents. Still, if that trio is not consistently aware on defense, those Gonzaga guards can certainly make them pay from deep. In the end, however, the Zags may just have too much offense for the Shockers. Wichita scored 73 points against a tough Pitt team, but struggled shooting the ball, posting just a 40.8 eFG%. So long as Gonzaga can fight the Shockers to a draw on the glass, they’ve got an offensive advantage over the lower-seeded opponents.
The RTC Certified Pick: Gonzaga
#4 Syracuse vs. #12 California – East Region Third Round (at San Jose, CA) – 9:40 PM ET on TBS.
Syracuse obliterated hapless Montana on Thursday night but faces a much tougher this time around, one that will be playing a quasi-home game. California got by UNLV in the round of 64 and will pose a challenge for the Orange tonight. Cal’s big strength is its interior defense, ranked seventh in two point percentage against. Although Syracuse can struggle inside, the Orange are a strong offensive rebounding team. Cal needs to keep Syracuse off the glass and try to score some points in transition. Mike Montgomery’s team is a poor three point shooting club and you know Jim Boeheim will pack his zone in and dare the Bears to beat the Orange from the outside. The way Syracuse is playing defense of late, it could be hard for California to generate offense in this match-up. Allen Crabbe could be the typical “zone buster” player teams that beat Syracuse often have. At 6’6,” Crabbe can work his way to the foul line and rip the zone apart with his multitude of weapons if he’s on his game. For Syracuse, perimeter shooting could loom large. The Orange don’t have much of an inside presence to begin with as their bigs get points almost exclusively off offensive rebounds. Syracuse is going to have to make mid to long range jump shots which means Brandon Triche and James Southerland need to be clicking. If they’re not and Michael Carter-Williams is forced to shoot more than he should, this could be a low scoring grinder. Despite playing 45 minutes from campus, we don’t think Cal has enough in this match-up to slay the mighty Orange.
The RTC Certified Pick: Syracuse.