16 Questions For First Round Saturday of the NCAA Tournament

Posted by Matthew Eisenberg on March 18th, 2021

After 16 games of wall-to-wall NCAA Tournament action on Friday, another 16 games are set to tip on Saturday. Here are questions I have for each game that will be played on First Round Saturday.

  • #1 Gonzaga vs. #16 Play-In Winner of Appalachian State/Norfolk State: What will a senior Corey Kispert look like in the NCAA Tournament? In Corey Kispert’s first two seasons at Gonzaga, he averaged 6.1 points per game in 24.8 minutes across seven NCAA Tournament games. No longer a secondary option, Kispert is poised to shatter his previous averages.
  • #1 Michigan vs. #16 Play-In Winner of Mount St. Mary’s/Texas Southern: Will Michigan have any tournament jitters without Isaiah Livers? With Isaiah Livers expected to be unavailable in the NCAA Tournament, the Wolverines not only lose their second-leading scorer, but one of the few players on the team with Tournament experience. With Livers sidelined, only senior guard Eli Brooks has any significant experience playing in the NCAA Tournament.
  • #2 Iowa vs. #15 Grand Canyon: If Grand Canyon can make threes, can its size at least frustrate Luka Garza? Grand Canyon’s two leading scorers are 7’0″ Asbjorn Midtgaard and 6’10” Alessandro Lever. The Antelopes rely on efficient post scoring from the pair to counteract the 245th ranked three-point shooting offense. Grand Canyon will have size to throw at Luka Garza, but the senior All-American will present real challenges for the Antelope bigs to stay attached in pick-and-pop situations.
  • #3 Kansas vs. #14 Eastern Washington: What will be the impact of the recent COVID battles within the KU program? From being knocked out of the Big 12 Tournament with positive tests to not having Jalen Wilson available to begin the NCAA Tournament, the last week has been tricky for Kansas. It appears the Jayhawks will get David McCormack back for the opener, a big boost with potential for a match-up against Evan Mobley in the second round.
  • #3 Texas vs. #14 Abilene Christian: Can Shaka Smart avoid NCAA Tournament struggles? Since taking VCU on its improbable Final Four run in 2011, his teams have gone 2-6 since, with four consecutive first round exits in the NCAA Tournament. The Longhorns open against an Abilene Christian team which played Texas Tech tough earlier in the season, having trailed by just one-point with eight minutes to go.
  • #4 Florida State vs. #13 UNC Greensboro: After its nightmare against Georgia Tech in the ACC Tournament, will the Florida State offense protect the ball? The Seminoles turned it over 24 times against Georgia Tech in the ACC championship game, including a -25 turnover margin over its final three games, and a turnover rate ranking on the season of 241st. UNC Greensboro has a pesky backcourt of Isaiah Miller and Keyshaun Langley, who, between the pair, average 3.6 steals a game.
  • #4 Virginia vs. #13 Ohio: Does Ohio have enough firepower to pull an upset? Ohio’s Jason Preston is one of only two players in the country to be averaging 15 points, six rebounds, and six assists per game this season. Alongside Preston is the pair of Ben Vander Plas and Ben Roderick, who on the year made 97 three-pointers on 38 percent shooting. As a team the Bobcats average 80.9 points per game and could present a challenge for Virginia if Ohio’s offense can continue to click here.
  • #5 Colorado vs. #12 Georgetown: Can the Hoyas keep last week’s run rolling? Georgetown entered the Big East Tournament with a record of 9-12 before rattling off four wins in four days. The recent stretch of success goes back as far as 10 games, though, with much of it coming from a Georgetown defense which held eight of those opponents to under 45 percent shooting from the floor. The Hoyas are 12-6 when they accomplish that feat, and just 1-6 when opponents manage to shoot better than that mark.
  • #5 Creighton vs. #12 UC Santa Barbara: What will Creighton’s offense look like after a pair of lackluster performances? After torching the Madison Square Garden nets against Butler, the Bluejays’ offense really struggled against both Connecticut and Georgetown. In its final two Big East Tournament games, Creighton shot just 33.1 percent from the field and 29.2 percent from deep on 48 three-point attempts.
  • #6 USC vs. #11 Play-In Winner of Drake/Wichita State: With Evan Mobley playing his best basketball, can USC make a statement to start the tournament? Evan Mobley is averaging 17.2 points and nine rebounds per game over his last five contests while continuing to protect the rim at every turn. With Drake still having uncertainty about the availability of Tank Hemphill and with Wichita State fresh off of a surprising loss to Cincinnati, the Trojans have an opportunity for a favorable path against either opponent.
  • #6 BYU vs. #11 Play-In Winner of Michigan State/UCLA: Is BYU too much of a complete team for either Michigan State or UCLA? BYU is ranked among the top 30 in both offensive and defensive efficiency, and while Michigan State is just outside of the top 30 on the defensive side of the ball, it has struggled offensively. For UCLA, while its offense can be potent, the Bruins’ defense has struggled to string together stops when it matters most.
  • #7 Connecticut vs. #10 Maryland: Will this be a game won and lost on the backboard? All season long, rebounding performance has been a key indicator for both teams. In UConn wins, the Huskies outrebounded opponents by 9.8 rebounds a game, and in losses, they have averaged a 0.4 rebounding deficit to opponents. Similarly for Maryland, the Terrapins have averaged a +4.1 rebounding advantage in victories, and in losses have been outmuscled by opponents to the tune of 6.6 rebounds a game.
  • #7 Oregon vs. #10 VCU: In the NCAA Tournament will it be a singular talent or the talent of the whole that wins out? VCU’s Bones Hyland leads the Rams in scoring at 19.5 points per game, as the 6’3″ sophomore guard is an efficient scorer both in transition and in the halfcourt. For Oregon, the Ducks have five players who average 10 or more points per game, led by the talented duo of Chris Duarte and Eugene Omoruyi, who each average 16.7 points per game.
  • #8 LSU vs. #9 St. Bonaventure: Is Darius Bays the most important player to this matchup? While LSU’s trio of Cam Thomas, Ja’Vonte Smart, and Trendon Watford are consistent scorers, the team’s fourth-leading scorer, Darius Davis, is anything but consistent. In wins, Davis averages 14.9 points per game and has made 46-of-93 three-point attempts. In LSU defeats, Davis averages just 4.5 points per game and has made just 2-of-28 from beyond the arc.
  • #8 Oklahoma vs. #9 Missouri: How much will this matchup look like the matchup between these teams from last season? These former Big 12 foes played in November of last season, a game in which Oklahoma won by 11. The Sooners’ offense was led by 36 combined points from Austin Reaves and Brady Manek, who together made 6-of-14 three-point attempts.

Matthew Eisenberg (136 Posts)


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