NCAA Game Analysis: Third Round, SundayPosted by CNguon on March 24th, 2013
Here are the game breakdowns for Sunday’s slate. From 24 to 16…
#2 Ohio State vs. #10 Iowa State – West Regional Third Round (Dayton, OH) – 12:15 PM ET on CBS
Friday night against Notre Dame, Iowa State hit nine threes as they rolled over Notre Dame into the Round of 32. Maybe just as impressively, they turned it over just six times, forced 17 turnovers and limited a good three-point shooting Irish team to just four threes on the night. Let’s just go out on a limb and say that none of those things are likely to happen when they face Ohio State today. But that’s not to insinuate that the Cyclones don’t have a chance. This is a team that can get scoring from all eight of the players in their rotation and guys like Will Clyburn, Melvin Ejim and Georges Niang are all inside/outside threats that are capable of creating matchup problems for their opponents. The problem is, the Buckeyes have shown their ability defensively to deal with versatile offensive teams; Michigan and Indiana are the top two offensive teams in the nation, and the Buckeyes have held each below one point per possession on one occasion earlier in the season. Of course, the thing is, on the other occasion when the Buckeyes faced those teams, they allowed an average of 1.21 points per possession and gave up a total of 21 three-pointers in those two games. In other words, while OSU has the ability to turn off the water for good offensive teams, there are just nights when good offense beats good defense. If Iowa State has it going, they’ve got enough talent to score enough points to beat Ohio State. The problem is, the Buckeyes have been pretty darn efficient offensively themselves of late and the Cyclones, meanwhile, are the third-worst defensive efficiency team remaining in the tournament. Iowa State’s offense has the ability to give Ohio State trouble, but it is just as likely that the Buckeyes will exploit that soft Cyclone defense.
The RTC Certified Pick: Ohio State
#1 Indiana vs. #9 Temple — East Region Third Round (at Dayton, OH) — 2:45 PM ET on CBS.
When you think of Fran Dunphy and Temple, you think of defense and a junkyard dog style of play. Not so much with this group. Since January 19, Temple has been an offensive juggernaut of sorts. The Owls have scored at least 70 points in their last 12 games and 16 of their last 17 games. Even in the one game they didn’t score 70, they fell only one point short of that mark. The point is the Owls can hang with Indiana offensively despite a talent disadvantage. The real question in this game is whether or not Temple can play the defense necessary to knock off the Hoosiers. Indiana is most vulnerable when teams slow the pace and get physical. Temple can surely get physical but we’re not sure the Owls can slow the pace against such a high-octane offense. For Indiana, the defensive key will be containing Khalif Wyatt. Although not a particularly great shooter, the Temple senior does it all. He gets others involved and averages 20.2 PPG with the potential to go for 30+ on any given night as he has done on six occasions this season, including in two of Temple’s last three games. Wyatt gets to the free throw line very well but one of Indiana’s many strengths is keeping opponents off the charity stripe. It’ll be very interesting to see if Wyatt can get to the line with regularity in this game. The Hoosiers have a significant talent advantage in this game but that was also the case with NC State, who Temple beat on Friday. Indiana can’t take this one for granted and must be focused defensively in the half court. Temple won’t turn the ball over often and Wyatt will be searching for contact all game.
The RTC Certified Pick: Indiana
#1 Kansas vs. #8 North Carolina – South Region Third Round (at Kansas City, MO) – 5:15 PM ET on CBS
North Carolina held up their end of the bargain as did Kansas—barely—and the nation will witness two of the most tradition-rich programs in the country do battle on Sunday evening in Kansas City for the right to advance onto the Sweet 16 in Arlington, TX. North Carolina got here by defeating Villanova and earning Roy Williams his 700th career victory in the process. I’d be willing to bet that Ol’ Roy would remember win #701 more than #700 if the Tar Heels are able to upset his former team in Kansas City in front of a heavy Jayhawk crowd. After Kansas’ uninspiring seven point win over Western Kentucky—a game where they trailed at halftime—North Carolina’s chances all of a sudden seem much better. Kansas’ offense, in particular, was out of sync for much of the game against the Hilltoppers. It is no mystery that Elijah Johnson and Naadir Tharpe have struggled off-and-on throughout the season filling the void at point guard that Tyshawn Taylor left, and that was showcased last night. The two combined to shoot 1-9 from the field and had five assists to five turnovers. Conversely, North Carolina’s Marcus Paige was steady and effective playing the point against Villanova shooting 4-6 from the field and handing out four assists. As is so often the case in the NCAA Tournament, strong guard play is often responsible for whether a team advances deep into the tournament. P.J. Hairston and Reggie Bullock were also stellar in the win netting 38 points on 8-14 shooting from beyond the arc, but the Villanova defense isn’t quite like what the Heels will face against Kansas. Jeff Withey anchors perhaps the best defensive frontcourt in the nation while Ben McLemore and Travis Releford are exceptional defenders on the perimeter. So much of the success North Carolina has had during this stretch where they’ve won nine of 11 games has been from the perimeter and pushing the ball in transition with their smaller lineup, but Kansas is adept at defending the perimeter as opponents shoot just 30% from three. In order for North Carolina to have a chance, Bullock and Hairston are going to have to be connecting on their three point shots, but even with that the Heels will struggle to contain McLemore and Withey on the interior. Expect Roy to have his team ready, but Kansas won’t lose in front of their hometown fans.
The RTC Certified Pick: Kansas
#3 Florida vs. #11 Minnesota – South Region Third Round (at Austin, TX) – 6:10 PM ET on TNT
Florida is back to their old ways: blowing out teams that they are far superior than. In the Gators opening round game they beat Northwestern State by 32 points and looked like the team that many expected them to be for much of the season. Thing is, this was the team that Florida was in the majority of their games. With the exception of several road games in the SEC, Florida has looked like the best team in the country many times. The inconsistency and unpredictability of Florida is what caused many red flags to rise up heading into the NCAA Tournament. Florida’s opponent is another team that is near impossible to figure out and one that has underachieved for much of the season. Minnesota finally has the monkey off their back after winning their opening round game against UCLA; it was the Golden Gophers’ first NCAA Tournament win since 1997. Although Tubby Smith has never coached against Billy Donovan in his time at Minnesota, he certainly is no stranger to him. They both come from the Rick Pitino coaching tree and were assistants together at Kentucky from 1989-1991, and coached against each other many times when Smith was the head man at Kentucky and Georgia. However, all of that is practically ancient history at this point in time. As for the game itself, if there is one edge Minnesota will have it is in the paint with Rodney Williams and Trevor Mbakwe. The two carved up a porous and weak UCLA frontcourt and, while Florida’s forwards aren’t nearly as weak as UCLA’s, the Gators are a perimeter oriented team. Erik Murphy has exposed himself as a suspect defender, although he can really stretch a defense with his exceptional three point shooting ability. Aside from Murphy, Florida has three others that routinely fill it up from distance: the always entertaining and, at times, instant headache Kenny Boynton, along with Mike Rosario and Michael Frazier. Minnesota’s win over UCLA was nice, but let’s not forget this is a team who is 6-11 in their last 17 games. If the Gophers are able to somehow find the team that beat Michigan State back in December to commence Big 10 play, they’ll have a good chance to beat Florida, but that’s not happening.
The RTC Certified Pick: Florida
#7 San Diego State vs. #15 Florida Gulf Coast – South Region Third Round (at Philadelphia, PA) – 7:10 PM ET on TBS
Without question the best story and most surprising upset of the Round of 64, Florida Gulf Coast will look to prove to the college basketball community that their sound defeat of Georgetown was no fluke. Shame on us for doubting the Eagles and giving them little chance against Georgetown. Perhaps it was the fact that FGCU has had a basketball program for less than ten years, or that this season was the first winning one in program history, or that they hail from Fort Myers that is more commonly associated with the Boston Red Sox spring training facility than FGCU campus. What we know now about Florida Gulf Coast basketball is that: they own wins over Miami (FL) and Georgetown, Andy Enfield happens to be a very good coach—something he proved to many as an assistant under Leonard Hamilton at Florida State, but announced to the country on Friday—and they have some serious athletes who happen to be very good basketball players. Know this, Steve Fisher and San Diego State will not be taking the Eagles lightly. Unlike the Hoyas who were clearly out of their element trying to keep pace with FGCU’s up-tempo style of play in the second half, the Aztecs have no qualms running up and down the floor; Jamaal Franklin, Chase Tapley, and Xavier Thames all excel in transition. Ostensibly the biggest reason FGCU beat Georgetown was because they forced the Hoyas to play their game. John Thompson III inexplicably allowed his counterpart to dictate how the game would be played, and Georgetown was punched squarely in the face as a result. The problem for FGCU against San Diego State is that they can run and play in transition, too. While Brett Comer and Sherwood Brown were more than impressive against Georgetown, it is hard to bet against Jamaal Franklin and Chase Tapley—of course, we all had similar thoughts when thinking of Otto Porter and Markel Starks. The closest a #15 seed has ever come to advancing to the Sweet 16 was in 1997 when Coppin State defeated South Carolina in the opening round and then lost to Texas 82-81 in the Round of 32. Will Florida Gulf Coast make history tomorrow?
The RTC Certified Pick: San Diego State
#13 La Salle vs. #12 Ole Miss – West Regional Third Round (Kansas City, MO) – 7:40 PM ET on TruTV
Which is more surprising: La Salle winning a couple of games to get to this point or Marshall Henderson and the freewheeling Rebels out-Wisconsining the staid Badgers? We’ll call it a toss-up for now, but the fact is, one of these teams will be advancing to Los Angeles and the Sweet 16. We didn’t expect that Wisconsin would let Henderson beat them, and he hit just six of 21 shots from the field and just three threes (although there were a couple big ones in the second half there), and it was really frontcourt guys Murphy Holloway and Reginald Buckner, who combined for 19 points, 21 rebounds an d six blocks between them, that led the way for Andy Kennedy. And those guys have a good matchup in this game as well, as La Salle is undersized and undertalented in the middle, although sophomore forward Jerrell Wright is coming off a career game. But really, the Explorers are a team that is fueled by athletic and prolific guards Ramon Galloway, Tyrone Garland and Tyreek Duren and they’ll present matchup problems for an Ole Miss team that will lack the perimeter quickness to match up with all of them. In the end, this game will come down to which team can best exploit the advantages it holds over the other, but we’ll give the lean to the Rebels since they have the more balanced offensive attack, capable of not only getting scoring from their bigs inside, but also from Henderson on the perimeter.
The RTC Certified Pick: Ole Miss
#2 Miami vs. #7 Illinois – East Region Third Round (at Austin, TX) – 8:40 PM ET on TNT.
Somehow, some way, Illinois survived a huge field goal drought in the second half of Friday’s game against Colorado to advance to the round of 32. The Illini will take on a Miami team that has now won five in a row since losing three of four towards the end of the regular season. To upset the Hurricanes, Illinois must take advantage of the three point line. While Miami is a very good three point shooting team, Illinois’ percentage is not good. However, that is the focal point of the team’s offense because of a lack of inside presence and the ability of its guards to shoot the rock. John Groce’s team shouldn’t count on getting to the free throw line 24 times again as it did against the Buffaloes because that isn’t how the Illini play. Brandon Paul must have a big game if Illinois is going to advance. The team’s leading scorer may need to post a performance like the one he had at Gonzaga back in December because we’re not sure the rest of the team can keep pace with the Hurricanes. Anything can happen if Paul is carrying the Illini but Miami may still have an answer. Miami has a dynamic playmaker in Shane Larkin and the presence of Reggie Johnson in the middle cannot be discounted despite his struggles of late. Illinois will find it difficult to match Miami inside and that’s where the Hurricanes can and should win the game. Jim Larranaga has one of the bigger teams in America and this looks to be a bad match-up for the Fighting Illini, who lack a major presence in the paint.
The RTC Certified Pick: Miami.
#2 Duke vs. #7 Creighton – Midwest Regional Third Round (at Philadelphia, PA) – 9:40 PM ET on TBS
Sunday’s slate of games may save the best for last. Two offensive juggernauts meet in the final contest of the day, with the final Sweet 16 bid going to the victor. Neither Duke nor Creighton plowed their way into the Third Round, per say, but each showed off characteristic offensive prowess in getting by Albany and Cincinnati. For Creighton it was the usual suspect leading the way, as Cincinnati was the latest audience for the Doug McDermott show. The Bluejay star posted totals of 27 points and 11 rebounds, and didn’t miss any of his eleven free throw attempts, including four clutch makes in the final two minutes. How the Blue Devils approach defending McDermott will be something to keep an eye on. I’m not sure any Blue Devil, particularly in the starting five, is well-suited to guarding the crafty McDermott in the post and then chasing him around the perimeter, but Ryan Kelly will likely get the first crack. Kelly is a better defender than he gets credit for, but clearly less mobile than your prototypical McDermott foil. Freshmen Amile Jefferson and Alex Murphy both play limited minutes for the Devils off the bench, but the youngsters would seem to be decent matchups for Dougie Mc-D, so don’t be surprised to see either take a turn or two on him.
Offensive efficiency is the name of the game for both these teams. Two top-five offenses, eight regulars who shoot better than 40% from three-point range, eight total starters with offensive ratings over 110 — the Wells Fargo Center nets should feel a ripple or two on Sunday night. Something has to give however, and the Duke defense has proven more capable of stopping opponents than that of the Bluejays. Duke is 29th nationally in defensive efficiency, 22nd in opponent’s three-point percentage. They won’t be able to completely neutralize that explosive Creighton offense, but I think they do enough to let their shooters make the difference on the other end. Also, is it just me, or is Seth Curry flying way under the radar right now? Mason Plumlee was an early national POY candidate and much of the recent focus has centered around Kelly’s return, but Curry has quietly put together a phenomenal senior season. He went for 26 in the opener against Albany, and in your “irrelevant but it would still scare me if I were a Duke opponent” fact of the night, let’s not forget that the Curry family has a decent history in this NCAA Tournament thing. Curry is a player to keep an eye on as we move forward in this Tournament, as well as for Sunday night, where I like Seth to play a starring role in another Duke victory.
The RTC Certified Pick: Duke