NCAA Game Analysis: Third Round, Sunday

Posted by RTC Staff on March 22nd, 2015


For the majority of programs around the country, making the Sweet 16 is the start of what would be considered a “successful” season. While many of the programs set to participate in today’s Third Round have aspirations that extend well beyond the final 16, making it to the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament has always been a mark of accomplishment. After today, eight teams will punch their ticket to next week. Here are eight preview’s of Sunday’s games.

#2 Virginia vs. #7 Michigan State – East Region Second Round (at Charlotte, NC) – 12:10 PM ET on CBS

Virginia faces Michigan State for the second-straight March. (Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports)

Virginia faces Michigan State for the second-straight March. (Jeremy Brevard/USA TODAY Sports)

The good news for Virginia is that Justin Anderson – still recovering from a broken finger – looked more like his old self against Belmont on Friday, scoring 15 points on 4-for-6 shooting and earning several trips to the free throw line. The bad news is that its vaunted defense allowed the #15-seeded Bruins to shoot 59 percent from two-point range and hang around for most of the afternoon. Michigan State, meanwhile, made relatively easy work of Georgia. Which makes one wonder: Is an upset a-brewin’ in Charlotte? Belmont found success by using its three-point barrage to spread out the Cavaliers’ Pack-Line defense, then exploiting the resultant lanes. The Spartans – while not quite as deep-ball oriented – attempt over one-third of their shots from behind the arc and hit nearly 39 percent of the time. On top of that, Tom Izzo’s club is very effective on both the offensive and defensive glass, led by rejuvenated forward Branden Dawson (12 PPG, 9 RPG). If Michigan State can stretch the defense, penetrate those openings and create second-chance opportunities, it might be able to find success against America’s second-most-efficient defense. Unfortunately, if Anderson takes another step forward, that might not be enough. With the 6’6” wing knocking down perimeter jumpers and attacking the lane on Friday, Virginia scored 1.22 points per possession – its most since February 28th – and looked much closer to the patient-but-efficient offense that dominated opponents in December and January. No matter how well the Spartans spread the floor, they are never going to score at will against Tony Bennett’s defense – no one does – so their ability to get stops will become crucial. But if Anderson is earning trips to free throw line and scorching from behind the arc, I’m not sure Izzo’s bunch can get enough stops to win this game. Expect Michigan State to stay within striking distance for 35-plus minutes, but count on Anderson to make the difference in the end.

The RTC Certified Pick: Virginia

#1 Duke vs. #8 San Diego State — South Region Third Round (at Charlotte, NC) — 2:40 pm ET on CBS

Steve Fisher is Leading This Year's Aztecs to Unexpected Success (Getty Images/K. Horner)

Steve Fisher vs. Coach K? Sign me up! (Getty Images/K. Horner)

Duke and San Diego State will play for the first ever in what highlights as an extremely intriguing matchup. The Aztecs were clinical in discarding St. John’s Friday night, even showing an unusual accuracy from three-point range (9-of-22 on threes). When Steve Fisher’s team can find ways to score the basketball – from three-point range or elsewhere – they become a difficult team to beat. There is little inconsistency to the Aztecs’ efforts on the defensive end, where they regularly cause intense trauma to opponents. That defensive activity is what should have Coach K’s attention right about now. Duke guards Quinn Cook and Tyus Jones stand 6’2” and 6’1”, respectively; no Aztec guard is shorter than 6’3”, and wings like Winston Shepard (6’8”) and Dwayne Polee (6’7”) will also take turns harassing Duke’s pair of star guards. The Blue Devils did manage well against Virginia and their bigger group of guards, but San Diego State presents a longer, more athletic challenge than even the Cavaliers. Of course, the question on the flip side is one that has long plagued the Aztecs: How will SDSU score points? Duke’s defense has taken nights off this year, sure, but there should be some trust that Coach K can devise a game plan capable of removing easy-bucket opportunities. The Aztecs’ best bet may be a continuation of the long-range prowess they displayed Friday night. There are guys on the roster who can knock down those deep shots – Quinn, Shrigley and Polee prime among them. Can they hit enough to complement the terrifying SDSU defense?

San Diego State would be a more appealing pick to pull the stunner if this game were not being played in Charlotte. As is, they are faced with defeating a #1 seed in a virtual road game, a proposition that even the strongest of stylistic matchups can fail to enact. Duke should be scared – the Aztecs are a truly scary matchup in this spot – but expect San Diego State to fall a shot or two short of swinging the upset. Duke will leave the home cooking behind in advancing to Houston.

The RTC Certified Pick: Duke

#2 Kansas vs. #7 Wichita State – Midwest Region Round of 32 (from Omaha, NE) – at 5:15 PM EST on CBS.

The dream intrastate match-up is finally taking place Sunday in the Round 32 in Omaha, as the Kansas Jayhawks and Wichita State Shockers will meet with a trip to the Sweet 16 on the line. The Jayhawks enter after earning a comfortable 75-56 victory over New Mexico State on Friday. Bill Self’s group was once again led by dynamic sophomore point guard Frank Mason, who continued his strong season with 17 points, nine rebounds, and four assists. The Jayhawks also received lifts off the bench from guard Devonte’ Graham and forwards Brannen Greene and Jamari Traylor, as that trio combined for 24 points. With Perry Ellis finally healthy after suffering a knee injury towards the end of the regular season, Kansas is nearly back (sans Cliff Alexander) to operating as the strong unit that took home the outright Big 12 regular season title. Wichita State survived a test from Indiana in its opening game, but the Shockers grabbed control of the game late and emerged with a 81-76 win. Junior point guard Fred VanVleet exhibited why he was on most people’s preseason All-American teams with a dynamic performance that saw him get the best of Indiana star point guard Yogi Ferrell and finish with a game-high 27 points. Shockers fans should be even more pleased with Friday’s victory as it was earned on an afternoon where junior sharpshooter Ron Baker struggled all afternoon to a 3-of-13 shooting performance. This is going to be a great game, one that could be looked at as the game of the weekend. In the end, though, expect Kansas to use its talent advantage all over the court to leave with the victory. Ellis is going to be a nightmare match-up for Gregg Marshall’s crew and he will show that he is definitely back to being the same player he was before the injury.

The RTC Certified Pick: Kansas

#3 Oklahoma vs. #11 Dayton – East Region Second Round (at Columbus, OH) – 6:10 PM ET on TNT

The Flyers look to keep the momentum rolling against Oklahoma. (Getty Images)

The Flyers look to keep the momentum rolling against Oklahoma. (Getty Images)

Oklahoma has superior size and athleticism and yada yada yada – throw out the scouting report for this one. Dayton has proven, time and again, that its utter lack of depth (343rd in bench minutes) and general lack of size (326th in effective height) doesn’t really have much bearing on how – or how well – it plays against bigger, deeper, and supposedly better opponents. More importantly, no scouting report can spell out the impact that its crowd (just one hour from home) will probably have on the team’s performance tonight. Red and blue filled Nationwide Arena on Friday against Providence, helping Archie Miller’s group overcome a lackluster offensive start and play with sustained energy against one of the taller and more athletic teams in college basketball. Dayton aggressively denied passing lanes and swarmed the Friars’ frontcourt each time it tried to exploit that height advantage. When Ed Cooley’s team would begin to claw back from its second-half deficit, the raucous Flyer faithful would quickly squash the momentum. Mentioning this is not meant to imply that Oklahoma’s doomed – it is, after all, the #3-seed – but it is meant to suggest that the Sooners would be wise to play aggressive, uptempo basketball right from the outset and stop the momentum before it gets started. Lon Kruger’s group should also find a way to keep TaShawn Thomas rolling down low; the big man scored 18 points against Albany on Friday and his team is 7-0 when he drops at least 15. If they can exploit Dayton’s lack of size the way Providence couldn’t, this game is ripe for the taking. But don’t count on it. The Flyers have their mojo working and I don’t see it slowing down in Columbus.

The RTC Certified Pick: Dayton

#2 Gonzaga vs. #7 Iowa — South Region Third Round (at Seattle, WA) — 7:10 pm ET on TBS

McCaffery's Hawkeyes will need to get some stops if they hopse to get to the Sweet 16. (AP/C. Neibergall)

McCaffery’s Hawkeyes will need to get some stops if they hope to get to the Sweet 16. (AP/C. Neibergall)

Did any team look better in the first round than Iowa? The Hawkeyes rolled Davidson by 31, neutralizing a typically efficient Wildcat while scoring 1.3 points per possession themselves. Aaron White led the way with 26 points on 14 shots, Mike Gesell had 15 points and 6 assists, and Iowa turned the ball over just five times. Gonzaga wasn’t quite as dynamic in winning their opener versus North Dakota State, but after scoring 86 points on 1.23 points per possession, the Bulldog offense is still humming. Domantas Sabonis was a spark off the Zags bench, scoring seven points and grabbing 11 rebounds. Against a big Iowa lineup, expect him to be key again on Sunday. Aaron White should be licking his lips after he watches tape of Friday night, when 6’6”, 240 pound Bison big man Dexter Werner scored 22 points on a variety of drives and post moves against the Zags. Neither Kyle Wiltjer nor Przemek Karnowski look to be good matchups for White when Iowa has the ball, so expect to see another healthy dose of the talented Sabonis. On the other end of the floor, Gonzaga will look to do what they always do – spread the floor around Karnowski, get the big man touches and spot up for three. Kevin Pangos and Wiltjer combined for 41 points against NDSU – the type of production that needs to become the norm for the rest of this Tournament. Byron Wesley has struggled of late, scoring in double-figures in just three of his last nine games. His athleticism is a unique ingredient in the Gonzaga mix, which would make a return to form for him invaluable to Mark Few.

There should be plenty of points scored in this game, but I think it’s Iowa who ultimately displays the extra gear needed to get through. The Hawkeyes have been tested time and time again throughout the Big Ten season and appear to arrived here in March a cohesive unit. Those moments of self-doubt have been far less frequent for an untested Gonzaga unit. That disparity in battle-testedness (if you will) should be the difference in a close, entertaining third-round contest.

The RTC Certified Pick: Iowa

#2 Wisconsin vs. #7 Oregon – West Region Third Round (at Omaha, NE) – 7:45 ET, truTV

Look for Nigel Hayes to take on a much bigger role for Wisconsin next season. (AP)

Look for Nigel Hayes to take on a much bigger role for Wisconsin against the Ducks. (AP)

Last year, when Wisconsin played Oregon in this same round of 32, the Ducks led with 1:26 left when the Badgers called timeout. With 15 seconds left, Joseph Young missed a three that could have tied it. The final margin was eight, but Oregon threw a scare into the Badgers far larger than the final score indicates. So, Oregon’s a legit threat to Wisconsin today, right? Well, not so fast. Only two players who played for the Ducks in that game return, while the bulk of the Badger brigade is back. Still, like last year, Oregon’s team revolves around Young, the Pac-12 Player of the Year who has averaged 20.4 points and dropped 27 in their round-of-64 win over Oklahoma State. The reputation of Wisconsin is that of an elite defensive team, but the reality is they’re good, not great. Guards Bronson Koenig and Josh Gasser will get after Young, but you can very much expect Young to get his. Where the Badgers have the greatest advantage though is on the other end of the court, where the best offensive team in the nation is big and bad, let by likely National Player of the Year Frank Kaminsky, along with frontcourt partners Nigel Hayes and Sam Dekker. The Ducks, like most teams in the country, don’t really have the size and depth to deal with that level of play; the two tallest players in their rotation are 6’7”, smaller than all three of those Badgers. And while Oregon has the offensive firepower to keep things interesting for awhile, eventually the Badgers should be able to wear them down.

The RTC Certified Pick: Wisconsin

#4 Maryland vs. #5 West Virginia – East Region Second Round (at Columbus, OH) – 8:40 PM ET on TNT.

West Virginia's pressure might be too much for Maryland to handle. (Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports)

West Virginia’s pressure might be too much for Maryland to handle. (Joe Maiorana/USA TODAY Sports)

On the surface, it looks like Maryland matches up pretty well in this game. It’s led by playmaking guards, it generally takes care of the ball and it does a pretty good job of crashing the defensive glass – all crucial factors against the Mountaineers. Not to mention the fact that its defense is rock-solid in nearly every major category. Dig a little deeper, though, and you start getting nervous for the Terrapins. Their offensive turnover rate declined in Big Ten play. They didn’t defensive rebound as well, either. And perhaps most importantly – outside of a January home contest against Minnesota – Mark Turgeons’ bunch has never faced anywhere near the pressure it is going to face tonight in Columbus. West Virginia leads the country in defensive turnover rate, ripping off nearly 11 steals per game and sending wave after wave of bodies to batter and bruise opponents up and down the floor. On top of that, the Mountaineers relentlessly crash the offensive glass (40.6% OReb). That level of physicality is nearly impossible to game-plan for – “We tried to simulate the speed and pace they came at us, but it’s hard to simulate that,” Buffalo head coach Bobby Hurley said West Virginia turned his team over 17 times on Friday. Maryland’s backcourt duo of Melo Trimble and Dez Wells should do a better job against the press than the Bulls did, but it’s the ‘shock’ factor that Terrapin fans should be worried about. An early hole could be difficult to climb back from. The good news is that if Turgeon’s team is able to escape the pressure, get down the court and score with some level of consistency, it’ll be able to set up its excellent half-court defense against a Mountaineer team that can’t really shoot (46.7% eFG). Unfortunately, West Virginia fans will vastly outnumber Maryland fans in Nationwide Arena, and that combination of crowd-energy and frenetic defensive pressure might be too much to overcome. Bob Huggins’ team advances.

The RTC Certified Pick: West Virginia

Share this story

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *