NCAA Game Analysis: Second Round, Friday Evening

Posted by Brian Otskey, Andrew Murawa, Walker Carey & Bennet Hayes on March 21st, 2014

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We may not know what the Friday evening sessions might have in store for us, but we can be confident in thinking there will be lots of excitement. Let’s continue our analysis of all of today’s games with the evening slate of eight contests.

#8 Memphis vs. #9 George Washington – East Region Second Round (at Raleigh, NC) – 6:55 PM ET on TBS

It's Put Up or Shut Up Time for Josh Pastner (Photo: Spruce Derden/USA TODAY Sports)

It’s Put Up or Shut Up Time for Josh Pastner
(Photo: Spruce Derden/USA TODAY Sports)

On paper this is a very intriguing game. The statistics, especially those compiled by Ken Pomeroy, point to an even match-up between two teams who play similar styles. A tougher Atlantic 10 schedule caught up to George Washington in the closing weeks of the season but the Colonials still enter this game with a 7-5 record in their last 12 games. Memphis, on the other hand, is just 4-4 in its last eight after getting bounced on its home floor by Connecticut in the AAC Tournament. Mike Lonergan’s team will be led by a pair of former high-major players who transferred to his program, Maurice Creek and Isaiah Armwood. Creek represents the most substantial three-point threat for GW and it will be interesting to see if he can get some shots to go down against a Memphis guard unit that defends the arc fairly well. There is injury news regarding the Colonials. 6’3” guard Kethan Savage is unlikely to see significant time if at all, but Lonergan would not rule him out of action when asked on Thursday. Savage (12.7 PPG) made a one-minute appearance in last week’s conference tournament loss to VCU but has not played any significant minutes since January 18. If he can go, it would provide more of an emotional lift to GW than anything else given he is nowhere near 100 percent. As for Memphis, it will have to dominate the paint area and win the rebounding battle in order to advance to the round of 32. The Tigers have a lot of talent but it is hard to trust this team against a talented A-10 club with something to prove.

The RTC Certified Pick: George Washington

#1 Wichita State vs. #16 Cal Poly – Midwest Region Round of 64 (from St. Louis, MO) – at 7:10 PM EST on CBS

The unbeaten Shockers will play their first NCAA Tournament game as a one-seed Friday evening when they take on 14-19 Cal Poly, who earned a spot in this game with a dominating effort in Wednesday’s First Four win over Texas Southern. Like in all #1 vs. #16 games, Wichita State has a clear talent advantage in this match-up. Gregg Marshall‘s squad is led by the stout play of forward Cleanthony Early, who leads the team in both scoring (15.8 PPG) and rebounding (5.9 RPG). The Shockers have a renowned reputation for playing suffocating defense and that will likely be an issue for a Cal Poly team that is 327th in the country in point per game and 319th in the country in team field goal percentage. Winning four straight games to get to this point is a great story for Joe Callero and the Mustangs, but the winning ways will end in a likely lopsided fashion Friday night. Expect Early and guards Fred VanVleet and Ron Baker to establish themselves quickly and for Wichita State cruise to victory.

The RTC Certified Pick: Wichita State

#6 North Carolina vs. #11 Providence – East Region Second Round (at San Antonio, TX) – 7:20 PM ET on TNT

Does Roy Know What to Expect Tonight? (Photo: USAToday.com)

Does Roy Know What to Expect Tonight?
(Photo: USAToday.com)

This game has some potential to be one of the better round of 64 match-ups in this tournament. The first thing that jumps out at you when looking at these teams is the free throw disparity. Providence ranks second nationally at 78.1 percent while North Carolina is near the very bottom of Division I at 62.5 percent. When you have a free throw mismatch as significant as that, it can absolutely make a difference in the game. In order to win, Providence and Bryce Cotton have to be able to break down the Tar Heel defense off the bounce. The Friars do not shoot the ball particularly well but they get to the line fairly often and pull down offensive rebounds at a high rate to convert second chances. Getting those offensive rebounds against a UNC team with three 6’9” players on the front line will not be so easy. For our money, the Cotton-Marcus Paige battle is one of the best of the opening round. That could determine the outcome in this one, although whoever wins the war in the paint could very well determine it as well. The intangibles seem to favor North Carolina in this one. For one, Roy Williams has never lost his first game of any NCAA Tournament as long as he has been a head coach. Secondly, we get the sense that Providence is a team that is just happy to be here after winning the Big East Tournament to secure its first NCAA berth in 10 years. The Friars have a very good team and could certainly win, but UNC may be a better choice in this one, free throw shooting notwithstanding.

The RTC Certified Pick: North Carolina

#5 VCU vs. #12 Stephen F. Austin — South Region Second Round (at San Diego, CA) — 7:27 pm ET on truTV

Turnovers, turnovers, and more turnovers! If you are a change-of-possession enthusiast, I have the game for you. Both the Rams and Lumberjacks rank in the top three in the country in turnover percentage, so despite each team’s respectable ball-handling abilities, there should be plenty of turnovers to go around. The pace of this game will be interesting to watch, because Stephen F. Austin plays offense at a painstakingly slow pace (#342 nationally in seconds per offensive possession) – a stark contrast to the run-and-gun system Shaka Smart employs. Seniors Juvonte Reddic and Rob Brandenberg are the last remnants of the 2011 VCU team that shocked the world in making the Final Four, and they are two of five Rams averaging at least 9.5 points per game. The 6’9” Reddic will be especially important in this game, as he will match up against a SFA team with only one regular over 6’6”. It’s hard to know what to expect from the 31-2 Southland Champions, but their impressive win total has led many to tout them as a potential bracket buster. Their season-long anonymity should make them a team to watch on Friday – think Big Foot stumbling into Times Square – but don’t expect the world out of the Lumberjacks. This VCU team may not be as good as their #5 seed would seem to indicate, but I don’t trust the Jacks’ to be the team to expose them. For at least another round, Havoc lives on.

The RTC Certified Pick: VCU

#1 Virginia vs. #16 Coastal Carolina – East Region Second Round (at Raleigh, NC) – 9:25 PM ET on TBS

UVA Will Defend Its First #1 Seed in Decades (Photo: Geoff Burke-USA Today Sports)

UVA Will Defend Its First #1 Seed in Decades
(Photo: Geoff Burke-USA Today Sports)

Coastal Carolina is making its first NCAA appearance in 21 years, led by former Auburn coach Cliff Ellis. The Chanticleers (we love that nickname) took advantage of the Big South Tournament being on their home floor and won three games to earn the automatic bid. Coastal Carolina did play competitive non-conference games against major conference schools Mississippi and Minnesota but were blown out by ACC opponent Clemson. It is hard to expect a team that struggles as much as they do to shoot the ball to compete with such a strong defensive club like Virginia. However, the Chanticleers do have three guards who can fill it up, Josh Cameron, Warren Gillis, and Elijah Wilson. One thing they do well is crash the offensive boards and that will be an absolute must in a low possession game. Coastal Carolina is not going to make shots on a consistent basis against a Virginia defense that is significantly taller and more athletic. Defensively, it will be hard for it to contend with the talented Cavalier wings such as Joe Harris. There is a reason why they play the games but this one has the makings of a convincing Virginia victory.

The RTC Certified Pick: Virginia

#8 Kentucky vs. #9 Kansas State – Midwest Region Round of 64 (from St. Louis, MO) – at 9:40 PM EST on CBS.

One of Friday’s most intriguing match-ups will be the nightcap of the day’s action in St. Louis. Kentucky has one of the country’s most talented rosters, but has struggled with consistency all season and that is exactly why it is an eight-seed. John Calipari‘s squad did leave a good impression after its play in last week’s SEC Tournament where it earned impressive victories over LSU and Georgia before pushing #1 Florida very hard in a one-point loss. Kentucky is led inside by the tandem of freshman forward Julius Randle and sophomore forward Willie Cauley-Stein, which gives the team a significant advantage in the interior. Freshman guards Andrew Harrison and Aaron Harrison have been up-and-down this season, but both have stepped up their play recently and seem primed to carry that over into the tournament. Bruce Weber‘s Kansas State squad, however, will not be a pushover. Freshman guard Marcus Foster and senior guards Shane Southwell and Will Spradling give Kansas State good production from the perimeter and all three have exhibited their ability to get hot. This should be a hotly-contested battle, but expect Kentucky to use its talent advantage to pull away in the second half.

The RTC Certified Pick: Kentucky.

#3 Iowa State vs. #14 North Carolina Central – East Region Second Round (at San Antonio, TX) – 9:50 PM ET on TNT

Will Ejim and Friends Rest on the Laurels of a Big 12 Title Tonight? (Justin Hayworth/AP)

Will Ejim and Friends Rest on the Laurels of a Big 12 Title Tonight? (Justin Hayworth/AP)

This is one of those first round games almost nobody is talking about regarding a potential upset but we challenge you to give this matchup some more scrutiny. North Carolina Central is a 28-5 team ranked No. 75 in the Pomeroy ratings, a team that won at NC State and went on the road at Wichita State and made it somewhat interesting at times. The Eagles are facing a trendy Final Four pick but know this: they are used to winning and have not lost since a three point setback at Florida A&M on January 11. That is 20 consecutive wins if you are keeping track at home, most of them in convincing fashion. In order to pull the upset over the Cyclones, the Eagles must stick to what they do best and that is defense. North Carolina Central is that rare team that plays at a slower tempo but forces a high percentage of turnovers on the defensive end. The Eagles rank fifth nationally in defensive turnover percentage and must create extra possessions against an Iowa State team that can light up the scoreboard. The bad news for the Eagles is the Cyclones are also in the top ten in limiting turnovers, but something has to give. Fifth year head coach LeVelle Moton’s team features star guard Jeremy Ingram (20.6 PPG) and a host of very good role players around him. North Carolina Central is highly experienced with six seniors (including Ingram) and six juniors on the roster. Fred Hoiberg’s Iowa State team enters this tournament on a hot streak but must not fall into the trap of hoisting up a lot of three pointers against a team that defends the arc very well. Iowa State has to use the strength and athleticism of its three-headed monster (Melvin Ejim, Georges Niang, and DeAndre Kane) to its advantage and overwhelm the Eagles with talent and scoring. The best way to do that is by maximizing possessions and taking it to them in the paint off the dribble and motion sets. While we won’t call you crazy for picking this upset, in the end this just seems like too much Ejim, Niang and Kane to confidently go in that direction.

The RTC Certified Pick: Iowa State

#4 UCLA vs. #13 Tulsa — South Region Second Round (at San Diego, CA) — 9:57 pm ET on truTV.

UCLA is not the most popular team on their seed line, but dare I posit the theory that this may be the most dangerous collection of #4 seeds in the history of the Tournament? At least in the last 20 years? The Bruins enter the Tournament fresh off a 26-win season and a Pac-12 Tournament title, but their powerful #4 seed brethren (namely Michigan State and Louisville) and Steve Alford’s shaky (to put it nicely) Tournament resume have UCLA overshadowed entering into play Friday. Kyle AndersonJordan Adams, and the rest of the talented Bruin rotation should allow Alford some benefit of the doubt this time around, but nobody would be shocked if Tulsa induces yet another March headache for an Alford-coached team. The Golden Hurricane’s 30th ranked defense may slow down the Bruins, but can Tulsa score enough points to keep up with a UCLA team that has kept scoreboard operators busy all season long? If Tulsa leading scorer James Woodard can increase his usage rate (just 22.4% on the season) at no sacrifice to his sterling efficiency (O-Rating of 118.1), the Golden Hurricane might just have a chance. This isn’t your daddy’s Conference USA, however, and I’m not buying the C-USA champs as a real threat to the Bruins. Votes of confidence for Steve Alford in the Tournament typically amount to famous last words, but a change of scenery and the underrated talent on this Bruin team makes this March different. In nearby San Diego, UCLA should coast into round three.

The RTC Certified Pick: UCLA

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