NCAA Tournament Game Analysis: Sweet Sixteen, Thursday NightPosted by Brian Otskey on March 28th, 2013
Tonight we tip off the Sweet Sixteen with games from the East Region in Washington, DC, and the West Region in Los Angeles, CA. Here are the breakdowns for tonight’s games.
#2 Miami vs. #3 Marquette — East Regional Semifinal (at Washington, D.C.) — 7:15 PM ET on CBS.
Two coaches and teams that have significantly overachieved this season collide in tonight’s first regional semifinal game in our nation’s capital. Marquette has been the quintessential “survive and advance” team through its two games of this NCAA Tournament having gotten by Davidson and Butler in thrilling fashion. In this match-up, the Golden Eagles will have to overcome some notable disadvantages coming in to it. Even though Reggie Johnson will not play for Miami, he hasn’t been playing all that well of late so his loss isn’t a huge hit for the Hurricanes. Marquette is a team that thrives off of dribble penetration and offensive rebounding so Jim Larranaga’s game plan will no doubt focus on that. Buzz Williams doesn’t have the three point shooters needed to open up his offense, one that is highly dependent on Vander Blue and others creating and getting into the paint. If Miami defends the paint well, can keep Marquette off the free throw line for the most part and win the turnover battle (Marquette averages 14 per game and Miami is #18 in offensive turnover percentage) it should win the game. However, it’s not always so simple. In addition to the dynamic Blue, Jamil Wilson could be a very difficult match-up for Miami. Wilson is a bouncy 6’7 player who can create off the bounce and isn’t afraid of contact around the rim. He could be Marquette’s most important player in deciding the outcome of this one. The intangibles in this game strongly favor the Golden Eagles. It hasn’t just been in this tournament but Marquette has a ton of experience playing in and winning close games over the last few seasons. This team knows how to win and make plays in big moments down the stretch and that becomes such a valuable asset in the NCAA Tournament. We think Miami’s game against Illinois, where the Hurricanes were pushed a bit, was a good thing but it could be only a matter of time as the Hurricanes lack of tournament experience catches up to them. This may be the game as the pressure and scrutiny ramps up, especially against a team with so much experience in one or two possession games. Although this appears to be a good match-up for Miami on paper, there’s a reason why they play the games. The Golden Eagles may come away with another squeaker of a win.
The RTC Certified Pick: Marquette.
#2 Ohio State vs. #6 Arizona – West Regional Semifinal (at Los Angeles, CA) – 7:47 PM ET on TBS
The Thad Matta/Sean Miller backstory gives this matchup plenty of pizzazz, but even without that part of the story, this is quite a battle. You can just run down this game matchup by matchup and find plenty of compelling storylines. At point guard, the Mark Lyons vs. Aaron Craft face-off alone makes this a must-watch game, with Craft one of the nation’s most disruptive perimeter defenders and Lyons one of the most dangerous offensive players off the bounce. While Lyons has the reputation of a guy who is a killer in the clutch, he’ll need to play within himself against Craft and make sure not to force too much against his pressure. Meanwhile, on the other side of the court, Lyons is no slouch on defense himself and Craft an improving, but still somewhat limited scorer. You could do worse that spending the entire 40 minutes of action just watching those two go at it. Elsewhere, the next biggest potential matchup is DeShaun Thomas and Solomon Hill. Thomas is the Buckeyes lone pure scoring threat and Hill will certainly be guarding him for much of the game. Thomas has got a pretty complete offensive game, with range from three, a solid pull-up game off the bounce, some post-up ability and the ability to get on the offensive glass. But, luckily for Arizona, Hill’s defensive versatility can match Thomas’ game, as he’s as comfortable guarding in the post as he is away from the hoop. On the other end of the court, Thomas’ defensive game has improved, but he’s still a long ways from a defensive stopper, although depending on the matchups on the court, he might not be the guy tasked with checking Hill. Arizona doesn’t necessarily need Hill to outscore Thomas in this matchup, but if he can take him out of his comfort zone, OSU will have to count on other less polished scorers to have big games. And there are other great matchups all across the court. Nick Johnson is Arizona’s best perimeter defender and he could take a crack at anyone from Craft to Lenzelle Smith to Shannon Scott, even to Thomas for a stretch if needed. In the paint, Arizona’s three freshman bigs have been playing well of late, but they’ve got big physical veteran Bucks ready to bang with them all day long. And then there are X-factors like Kevin Parrom and LaQuinton Ross. Parrom, a senior, has turned into an excellent third-scorer for the Wildcats, while Ross is starting to live up to the high expectations he earned back in high school. All over the rosters there are strength-on-strength battles, leading me to believe that when we come out of the final media timeout, we’ll be in a dead heat. In that situation, give me the team most capable of putting the ball in the net in a variety of ways. And in this case, that is the Wildcats, with Lyons, Hill, Parrom and even Johnson and Grant Jerrett all capable of filling it up.
The RTC Certified Pick: Arizona
#1 Indiana vs. #4 Syracuse – East Regional Semifinal (at Washington, D.C.) – approx. 9:45 PM ET on CBS.
For those of a certain age, this game is sure to evoke memories of Keith Smart and the 1987 national championship game. This meeting between two of college basketball’s best programs could shape up to be a terrific battle. Syracuse had a rough time in February but it seems the Orange have turned the corner. Jim Boeheim’s team has allowed more than 63 points only one time since a February 25 loss to Marquette, the one exception coming in the Big East championship game against Louisville where the Orange were overwhelmed and ran out of gas in the second half. This team is defending better than it has at any point this season and that could be the difference maker against the high-flying Indiana offense. However, let’s not sell the Hoosiers short on the defensive end. This group can play a little defense of their own and is much-improved from last year’s team which saw its season end in this round. The big question for Indiana is how it will attack Boeheim’s zone. It’s a legitimate question to ask but will Jordan Hulls and Yogi Ferrell be able to get quality shots off against the length of the Orange? If they can, Indiana will likely win without many issues. If not though, the onus shifts to Indiana’s wins and Cody Zeller. Zeller, Victor Oladipo and Christian Watford seem to match-up well against a zone defense because Zeller can float behind it along the baseline all night unless Syracuse adjusts, Oladipo is the best athlete on the floor and can score from anywhere on the floor and Watford has the size and length to shoot over the zone or get in the middle of it and make things happen. In fact, Tom Crean can go to Watford, Oladipo or Will Sheehey as the crucial player to get into the middle of the zone and create good looks for the team. One of the interesting aspects of this game is that Indiana likes to play at a faster pace which, ironically, could also make Syracuse better. The Orange play their best when they get out of a half court setting and can create in transition. Zeller and company can run the floor as well as anyone though so transition defense (on both sides) will also be critical in this game. Both teams are fantastic on the offensive glass but Indiana has a strong edge at the free throw line if the game is close and comes down to a few possessions down the stretch. There will be a ton of talent on the floor in this game but we have to favor Indiana. The Hoosiers are loaded across the board while Syracuse, despite the emergence of Baye Keita, is somewhat lacking in the front court. That, combined with the Orange’s history of mental lapses this season, gives us some pause. If Syracuse is focused for all 40 minutes, it will go blow for blow with Indiana and this could turn out to be an epic game. Still, we feel Indiana has just enough to advance to the regional final on Saturday.
The RTC Certified Pick: Indiana.
#9 Wichita State vs. #13 La Salle – West Regional Semifinal (at Los Angeles, CA) – 10:17 PM ET on TBS
With apologies to fellow underdogs Oregon and Florida Gulf Coast, the winner of this game will likely be the lowest seed to advance to the Elite Eight this season. And both of these teams have proven themselves capable of playing with the big boys this season. Wichita State has the recent wins over Pitt and Gonzaga, but they’ve also beaten VCU and Creighton this season, while La Salle aside from their NCAA Tournament wins, also has wins over Villanova, Butler and VCU in their past as well. La Salle relies heavily on talented perimeter players offensively, with Ramon Galloway leading the way. The senior has had a terrific NCAA Tournament (21.3 PPG, 12/23 from 3), but the Explorers aren’t still around if they haven’t gotten big scoring contributions from other guys on their roster. It hasn’t always been the same guy, but between perimeter guys like Tyreek Duren, Tyrone Garland (the hero against Ole Miss), Sam Mills and Jerrell Wright, head coach Dr. John Giannini has found a player or two to step up in each game. The problem for La Salle this season, when they’ve had problems, that is, is on the defensive end. As an undersized team, they don’t do a great job cleaning the defensive boards and they allow too many good looks for their opponents. Both of these issues can become serious problems against Wichita State, as the Shockers have advanced to this point by virtue of playing two very different games against their first two opponents. Against Pitt, the Shockers outfought one of the nation’s best rebounding teams, then came back against one of the nation’s best offensive teams in Gonzaga and simply outshot them. If Gregg Marshall can get his team to combine a little from both columns, they could give La Salle serious problems. Wichita has the size up front in Carl Hall, Cleanthony Early and Ehimen Orukpe to the undersized Explorers fits in the paint, and they’ve got athleticism, balance, experience and depth around the perimeter, with a whole host of guards and wings (highlighted by, but not limited to Malcolm Armstead, Ron Baker, Tekele Cotton and Fred Van Vleet) to match the Explorers’ strengths.
The RTC Certified Pick: Wichita State