NCAA Game Analysis: Second Round, Friday Evening

Posted by RTC Staff on March 20th, 2015


In what was certainly one of the most competitive and jam-packed “opening” days in NCAA Tournament history, Friday’s slate of games will have a hard time following Thursday’s remarkable act. However, today offers a fair share of fascinating matchups as well. Here is a preview of Friday’s evening games.

#8 Oregon vs. #9 Oklahoma State – West Region First Round (at Omaha, NE) – 6:50 PM ET on TBS.

The game plan is simple when playing Oregon: Stop Joe Young. (USA TODAY Sports)

The game plan is simple when playing Oregon: Stop Joe Young. (USA TODAY Sports)

For the Ducks, it all begins and ends with Pac-12 Player of the Year Joseph Young. A deadly shooter, Young is stroking it at 36.1% from three (a career-low), 50.3% from two and 92.6% from the free throw line. He’s adept as a pull-up shooter from deep, a catch-and-shoot guy coming off a screen or on the bounce and on the attack. He’s scored 20 or more 17 different times this season. In other words: stop Young, stop the Ducks. Unfortunately for the Cowboys, they don’t appear to have a ready-made matchup for Young, unless they put 6’6” Le’Bryan Nash – ostensibly a power forward on this team – on him. On the other end of the court, the Ducks can throw a combination of Dwayne Benjamin, Elgin Cook and Dillon Brooks at Nash – the ‘Pokes leading scorer – and feel relatively comfortable, while they’ll let Young, or any of their other fresh guards, chase Phil Forte off screens and try to limit his clean three-point looks. In the end, the Cowboys are more reliant on three-point shooting, while the Ducks can score in all three ranges. Unless Forte and senior Anthony Hickey get super hot from deep, the Ducks should have the edge

The RTC Certified Pick: Oregon

#1 Duke vs. #16 Robert Morris – South Region Second Round (at Charlotte, NC) – 7:10 PM ET on CBS.

Robert Morris sprung a mild upset in Dayton on Wednesday, knocking off favored North Florida in impressive fashion. To further extend their season, the Colonials will need another unexpected victory, but quite obviously, this upset may be slightly less attainable. Duke has had their share of recent struggles in the Tournament’s second round, but stubbed toes against foes such as Mercer and Lehigh can only offer RMU so much solace. Jahlil Okafor dominated small-conference foes in November and December – the Colonials, like almost every team in America, has no player capable of slowing Duke’s freshman star. Quinn Cook and Tyus Jones have proven virtually unstoppable as a duo: stopping one is possible, but forcing poor shooting nights from both is rare. The Colonials made only 4-of-16 three-point field goals against North Florida but have shot the three-ball well this season (37.7 percent). Getting hot from long range would be a great way for Andy Toole’s team to begin the task of hanging around in this game. To finish that chore — even if it ends in defeat — Robert Morris will need to pitch a perfect game. This is the life of a #16 seed, and while it’ll be Duke moving on to face the winner of San Diego State-St. John’s, Robert Morris should head home with heads held high, a proud season in the books.

The RTC Certified Pick: Duke

#7 Iowa vs. #10 Davidson – South Region Second Round (at Seattle, WA) – 7:20 PM ET on TNT.

Davidson was picked to finish 12th in the 14-team Atlantic-10 preseason poll, yet here are the Wildcats, conference regular season champions and a #10 seed in this Tournament. They might not be done, either — the last time Bob McKillop coached a team on this seed line, the Wildcats advanced to the Elite Eight. Some kid with the last name Curry helped get them there. To begin an imitation of the 2008 team, Davidson will need to upset #7 seeded Iowa. The Hawkeyes’ season has also had a redemptive quality to it, as Fran McCaffery’s team overcame midseason controversy to win eight of their final 11 games. Iowa has won this season behind a towering front line that is headlined by senior Aaron White (16 PPG, 7.5 RPG). A relatively undersized Davidson team may struggle to keep up on the backboards with the Hawkeyes, but they will attempt to make up for it with crisp, clean offense. Davidson’s offensive statistical profile is nearly as pretty as the product on the floor; the Wildcats are seventh nationally in overall offensive efficiency, second in turnover percentage and second in made three-point field goals. For the sake of America, I hope Davidson finds a way to keep playing basketball beyond Friday, but I don’t see it happening. Iowa is underrated at this seed line – expect the Hawkeyes to nip Davidson in what should be a good one.

The RTC Certified Pick: Iowa 

#3 Oklahoma vs. #14 Albany — East Region First Round (at Columbus, OH) — 7:27 PM ET on truTV.

Oklahoma should win, but Albany is no pushover. (James Snook-USA TODAY Sports)

Oklahoma should win, but Albany is no pushover. (James Snook-USA TODAY Sports)

If there’s one thing we have learned about the Great Danes in recent years, it’s this: They will not cower to bigger, better opponents. In 2013, Will Brown’s club played #2-seed Duke fairly tough en route to a 12-point defeat. Last season, it trailed #1 overall seed Florida by just three points at the 15-minute mark before fading. And the story could be similar this time around. Albany is a well-balanced team that likes to control tempo on offense and sag back on defense, forcing opponents to shoot over the top of them to win. Oklahoma likes to push the tempo, on the other hand, and tends to be at its offensive-best in transition. Brown will likely employ a 2-3 zone against the Sooners, and if his guys are able to get back and turn this into a half-court affair, the Great Danes could hang around for the better part of the night — especially if Buddy Hield (37.1% 3PT) and company don’t knock down outside shots. Ultimately, Oklahoma’s tough defense (5th-best nationally) and sheer talent should win out, but perhaps not before Peter Hooley and the America East champs make a few more memories. Oh, and did I mention that Oklahoma is a #3-seed from the Big 12? That didn’t work out too well for Iowa State and Baylor on Thursday.

The RTC Certified Pick: Oklahoma

#1 Wisconsin vs, #16 Coastal Carolina – West Region First Round (at Omaha, NE) – 9:20 PM ET on TBS.

Let’s get right to the point: it is going to take a very special performance for the Chanticleers to knock off the Badgers today. Wisconsin is the best offensive team in the nation (by quite a margin); Coastal Carolina is just a smidge above average defensively. On the other end of the court, again, Cliff Ellis’ guys are pretty ordinary, while Bo Ryan’s squad is 31st in the nation. And then there’s the size thing. You see, Wisconsin features this guy named Frank Kaminsky. He is seven-feet tall. He is very good. Nigel Hayes and Sam Dekker get plenty of time for the Badgers too, and they are 6’8” and 6’9” respectively. All three of those guys are capable of scoring in the post or dragging their defenders out to the three-point line. Coastal Carolina has two “big” guys that earn significant minutes: Badou Diagne and Tristan Curtis. Both guys are 6’7” juniors who, while adept at rebounding, don’t have the skill to handle any of those Badger bigs. Throw in Wisconsin’s sophomore point guard Bronson Koenig and the Chanticleers simply don’t have the offensive firepower to hang around in this game.

The RTC Certified Pick: Wisconsin

#8 San Diego State vs. #9 St. John’s – South Region Second Round (at Charlotte, NC) – 9:40 PM ET on CBS.

Steve Fisher Is Doing It Again

Steve Fisher is no stranger to the Big Dance. (Getty)

San Diego State and St. John’s meet in a classic #8/#9 game. There are reasons why both these teams are seeded this low; San Diego State can’t score, St. John’s doesn’t rebound; yet there are also traits that make each a potentially scary foe for a #1 seed — namely, massive amounts of athleticism. St. John’s will be hamstrung by the loss of Chris Obekpa, who will begin a two-week suspension for marijuana use. If there was ever a game where one of the nation’s leading shot-blockers was needed, it was this Friday evening tilt. San Diego State gets more than 55 percent of their points from two-point field goals, a distribution unlikely to change in the absence of Obekpa. That doesn’t necessarily mean the Aztecs will be scoring often – they are 170th nationally in offensive efficiency – but they have the athletes to attack a rim left more vulnerable without Obekpa. SDSU’s stout defense (fourth nationally in defensive efficiency) is the most known quantity in this game; can those explosive Johnnies – guys like D’Angelo Harrison, Rysheed Jordan and Sir’Dominic Pointer – find a way to overcome it? Not often enough would be my guess, leading the dangerous Aztecs into a third round matchup with Duke.

The RTC Certified Pick: San Diego State

#2 Gonzaga vs. #15 North Dakota State – South Region Second Round (at Seattle, WA) – 9:50 PM ET on TNT.

Iowa State’s Thursday loss opened the bottom half of this region up for the Zags, but first things first: Mark Few’s team must take care of North Dakota State, second round winners a year ago. Gonzaga is a polarizing team. There is a contingent of analysts and fans who are buying stock in this Bulldog team, believers in the most efficient defense of the Mark Few era and a cast of veteran stars. On the other side, skeptics point to a checkered March history and a win-loss record that while gaudy, possesses little in the way of substance. Gonzaga played just two teams seeded above the #9 line, beating SMU and losing to Arizona. North Dakota State’s strongest non-conference opponents (Iowa and Texas) beat the Bison by a combined 66 points, but don’t write them off just yet. Summit League Player of the Year Lawrence Alexander (18.9 PPG, 4.6 RPG) had 28 points in the Bison defeat of Oklahoma last NCAA Tournament and has efficiently made threes in large quantities this season (97 made on 45 percent shooting). Containing him will surely be a focus of Mark Few’s game plan. Still, Alexander’s explosive abilities are unlikely to be enough to upend a Gonzaga team who should be eager to make an early statement.

The RTC Certified Pick: Gonzaga

#6 Providence vs. #11 Dayton — East Region First Round (at Columbus, OH) — 9:57 PM ET on truTV.

Providence's Kris Dunn will be the best player on the floor against Dayton. (

Providence’s Kris Dunn will be the best player on the floor against Dayton. (

Dayton won in its First Four home game and now ships off just one hour east to Columbus. Sounds like the recipe for an upset, right? Think again. Not only will the bench-less Flyers (341st in bench minutes) be playing their second game in three days, but their penetrate and kick offense might really struggle against a Providence team with exceptional size and length – the 5th-tallest team in effective height – and an NBA-caliber point guard capable of staying in front of anyone. Kris Dunn boasts the sixth-highest steal rate in the country (2.8 SPG) and rarely gets beat off the dribble. It’s hard to envision the Dayton’s small lineup getting into the teeth of the Friars’ defense with enough regularity to earn trips to the free throw line and create open threes on the perimeter. On top of that, guys like LaDontae Henton (19.7 PPG) and 6’9” Tyler Harris (10.2 PPG) should get plenty of inside scoring opportunities on the other end against the Flyers’ frontline, which maxes out at 6’6”. Dayton has overcome physical mismatches before, but when you factor in the short rest, lack of depth and the presence of Dunn – a truly elite guard – all signs point to chalk in Columbus.

 The RTC Certified Pick: Providence

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