16 Questions for First Round Friday of the NCAA Tournament

Posted by Matthew Eisenberg on March 17th, 2021

With the first round of the NCAA Tournament now just days away, here is a question I have for each of Friday’s 16 match-ups.

  • #1 Illinois vs. #16 Drexel: Can the Illini’s Trent Frazier and Adam Miller begin the Tournament by finding their three-point shot? The Illini duo of Frazier and Miller made 36.7 percent of their three-point attempts in the season’s opening 22 games. Down the stretch over the final seven games, Frazier and Miller were a combined 16-of-55 (29.1%) from beyond the arc.
  • #1 Baylor vs. #16 Hartford: Will Baylor be back to its pre-COVID pause self or will the February layoff linger? Baylor went 5-2 after returning from its COVID pause, but that included closer than expected wins against both Iowa State and Kansas State. While Baylor has the nation’s best three-point percentage offense, they take on a Hartford team that has a top 10 three-point percentage defense.
  • #2 Houston vs. #15 Cleveland State: Can Cleveland State find enough baskets to keep the game close against a Houston squad that sometimes struggles to make shots? Cleveland State played three games all season against an opponent with a top-100 defensive efficiency and 19 games against a defense that sat outside of the top 250. The Vikings draw a top-10 defense in a Houston squad that is the only team in the country to have both a top-10 two-point and three-point percentage defense.
  • #2 Ohio State vs. #15 Oral Roberts: Can Oral Roberts keep things close long enough for Max Abmas to have a chance to steal an upset? Approximately 42 percent of the field-goal attempts taken by Oral Roberts come from three-point line. They have knocked down 38.8 percent of those attempts, a percentage that sits just outside of the top ten. ORU kept non-conference games close against Arkansas, Oklahoma State and Wichita State, and with the nation’s leading scorer in Max Abmas, they are a team Ohio State will not want to deal with late in a close game.
  • #3 West Virginia vs. #14 Morehead State: Can 35 percent be the magic number for Morehead State? Morehead State is 17-3 when it holds its opponent to under 35 percent shooting from beyond the arc. The Mountaineers were 12-3 when they exceeded that percentage and just 6-6 when they failed to reach it. In West Virginia’s two losses to Oklahoma State to finish the season, the Mountaineers made just 12-of-47 (25%) from deep.
  • #3 Arkansas vs. #14 Colgate: Quite simply, how will Colgate fare outside of the Patriot League? All 15 of Colgate’s games came against Patriot League opponents, with its 12 regular-season Patriot League contests coming against just three different teams in Army, Boston University and Holy Cross.
  • #4 Purdue vs. #13 North Texas: Will Purdue and other Big Ten teams have an advantage in tournament games played at Lucas Oil Stadium? The Boilermakers are familiar with Lucas Oil Stadium, having played there last week and just an hour’s drive from West Lafayette. Could Purdue be playing in front of a crowd that makes this feel like a home game?
  • #4 Oklahoma State vs. #13 Liberty: Will the bright lights of the Big Dance bring out a different Cade Cunningham? All season long freshman sensation Cade Cunningham has proven able and willing to make the right play and get his teammates involved. As the spotlight of March grows, the Cowboys will continue to need other players to take advantage of what the freshman superstar gives them. Avery Anderson has done that lately, averaging 17.4 points per game over his last five contests.
  • #5 Tennessee vs. #12 Oregon State: Can the Beavers continue what they started at the Pac-12 Tournament? Oregon State went from down double-figures against UCLA in their Pac-12 Tournament opener to clinching an NCAA Tournament spot just three days later. One standout from their recent success has been Warith Alatishe, who averaged 14 points and 9.7 rebounds per game in the Pac-12 Tournament.
  • #5 Villanova vs. #12 Winthrop: What will be the impact of the Collin Gillespie injury here in March? Villanova dropped its final two games without the services of Gillespie, games in which the Wildcats’ offense looked stagnant for much of both games. Jeremiah Robinson-Earl and Jermaine Samuels combined for 46 points in the Big East Tournament loss to Georgetown, while the other three starters combined for just six points on 1-of-7 shooting.
  • #6 San Diego State vs. #11 Syracuse: Can Syracuse once again turn things on at Tournament time? The Orange have reached at minimum the Sweet 16 in each of the last two times they were seeded 10th or worse. The Syracuse defense has allowed 12 .5 more points per game on the road than they have at home.
  • #6 Texas Tech vs. #11 Utah State: Will this #6/#11 battle come down to those “stolen” opportunities? Texas Tech forces turnovers at a top-10 rate nationally, while the Aggies turn it over at a rate that ranks outside of the top 200. For Utah State, they have a chance to gain ground by dominating the glass, where they outrebound opponents by 12.7 rebounds a game in wins and just 4.1 RPG in losses.
  • #7 Florida vs. #10 Virginia Tech: Will Tre Mann continue to light up the nets? Florida’s Tre Mann is averaging 22.6 points per game over his last five games on 58 percent shooting overall and 41.7 percentfrom beyond the arc. In Mann’s first 17 games of the season, he was averaging just 14.1 points per game.
  • #7 Clemson vs. #10 Rutgers: Will free throw shooting hinder Rutgers’ ability to pick up its first NCAA Tournament win since 1983? Clemson enters this matchup shooting 76.5 percent at the charity stripe whereas Rutgers ranks 332nd at just 63.2%. While the Rutgers trio of Geo Baker, Jacob Young, and Ron Harper are competent at the line, Montez Mathis and Myles Johnson are a combined 61-of-122 there.
  • #8 North Carolina vs. #9 Wisconsin: As great as North Carolina is attacking the glass, can they really win NCAA Tournament games with all their shooting and turnovers woes? The Tar Heels are the nation’s best offensive rebounding team with a rate that is better than any team has had since the start of the 2016-17 season. The rest of the North Carolina offense leaves room for improvement, with this year’s squad having the worst effective field-goal percentage and turnover rate of any Tar Heels’ NCAA Tournament team.
  • #8 Loyola (Chicago) vs. #9 Georgia Tech: Which senior big can find success against the opponents tenacious defense? This matchup features the ACC’s Player of the Year in Moses Wright and the MVC’s Player of the Year in Cameron Krutwig. Loyola possesses the best defensive efficiency, while Georgia Tech comes in fresh off of forcing Florida State to commit 24 turnovers in the ACC title game.
Matthew Eisenberg (136 Posts)


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