Overnight 5: February 21, 2023

Posted by Matthew Eisenberg on February 21st, 2023

What a strange CBB media cycle today was, but luckily there were games to play tonight. Let’s do an #overnight5 (@matteisecontributing)…


1. Since starting BE play 0-3 last yr, @MarquetteMBB has gone 25-8 since – incl. conf-leading 14-3 this yr. Despite being chosen 9th of 11 in preseason BE poll, Shaka has Eagles in line for 1st BE title since ’13 w/ DePaul, Butler & St. John’s remaining.

2. It was again tale of 2 halves for Baylor at K-State tonight, as Bears were outscored 44-31 2H in 10-pt loss. 20 of K-State’s 28 FGs came on layups/dunks, again calling into question Baylor’s interior D. BU now w/ worst def-eff in B12 play of any team last 4 seasons.

3. Tennessee lost 4th straight road game & for 5th time in last 7 outings as Texas A&M improved to 13-2 SEC. After -21 FT deficit vs. UK, the Vols were -20 vs @aggiembk. No longer asking will TAMU dance this March, but rather, can Aggies win the SEC?


4. After averaging 83 PPG through Jan, Xavier held under 70 for 3x in last 4 games in 64-63 L vs. Nova. Cats controlled tempo & frustrated XU, leading to 19-2 pts off TO. Xavier’s Souley Boum has 7 ast/14 TO in 3 recent Ls after having 4.3:1 ATO in Jan.

5. Coming off OT W vs. Okla, Texas hammered Iowa St. 72-54 to stay even w/ KU in B12 race. Cyclones have lost 4 of last 5 games & 7 in a row on road. Gabe Kalscheur’s 3FG struggles continue going 3-11 (25% last 7 games). Before closing vs. KU, Texas is @ Baylor & TCU.

EXTRA: Miami stayed 1 game behind UVA in ACC standings w/ road W at VT; Mich St held home serve vs. IU in battle of B1G middle (7 teams have 7 Ls in conf play); Mizzou (11th preseason SEC) notched 20th W vs. Miss St.; TxTech conts. strange late-season surge w/ W at Oklahoma.

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Overnight 5: Weekend Edition, February 19, 2023

Posted by Matthew Eisenberg on February 19th, 2023

It’s only 1 week until the start of #championshipfortnight, 2 weeks until #championshipweek & 3 weeks until #selectionsunday. Let’s do a #weekend10 (@matteise contributing)…


1. On Sat the selection committee gave us their bracket preview. Despite 3 recent Ls, Purdue is still a #1 seed; B12 has 5 teams in top 4 seed lines; & Mick Cronin is agitated. That fall of Gonzaga? Zags sit at #15 overall.

2. Trailing 45-32 at half, KU outscored Baylor 55-26 to grab key B12 win. Baylor’s superb trio outdone by deeper KU team w/ Dajuan Harris leading charge. KU’s versatile scoring, Bill Self’s coaching & BU’s def woes all apparent during Bears’ meltdown.

3. Kentucky posts strong 2-0 week after beating Tennessee 66-54. Vols’ offense was again putrid, finishing 37% FG, 22% 3FG & 4-14 FT, again calling into question how far UT can ride? OTOH, can @KentuckyMBB finish strong & avoid NCAAT trip to Dayton?

4. Trayce Jackson-Davis had 26 pts, 12 reb, 5 blks & 3 stls in 71-68 @IndianaMBB W vs. Illini. TJD now avg’ing more than 20 pts, 10 reb, 3 asts & 3 blocks per game, something last done by Tim Duncan in ’97. Could 2/25 game @ Purdue have NPOY implications?

5. Nick Smith returned to Arkansas’ starting lineup & played 30+ min in 84-65 W @ Florida. In his 3rd game back, Smith finished w/ 10 pts, one of 5 Razorbacks in dbl-figures. If Smith can stay on the floor, will Muss Bus pick up steam heading into March?


6. After losing prev 4 games in which they posted 65 PPG, TCU beat Okla St 100-75 in Mike Miles’ 1st game back. @TCUBasketball shot 68% FG, owning a 50-20 paint pt edge. Frogs added 8-15 from 3 for complete performance. A healthy TCU is a dangerous TCU.

7. After 10-10 start this yr, @TexasTechMBB is 5-2 in last 7 following W @ WVU. Tech overcame 8-pt deficit w/ 8:27 to go, w Fardaws Aimaq controlling final 5 mins on way to his 1st dbl-dbl of season. How much will respect of B12 strength benefit RRs come Selection Sunday?

8. UNC falls to 1-5 in last 6 games w/ 77-69 loss at @PackMensBball. Heels were unproductive on both ends, w/ Bacot, Davis & Love going 14-43 & allowing NC St to shoot 65% 2H. Now 0-9 vs. Q1 opps, Heels have a stellar NIT resume.

9. Houston beat Memphis 72-64 to likely ascend to #1 in polls on Monday. Memphis’ turnover proneness reared its head to the tune of 18 miscues leading to 22 @UHCougarMBK points. Can Memphis get Kendric Davis back from injury in timely manner? Tigers host Coogs on 3/5.

10. Clemson’s 10-1 ACC start is a distant memory now at 11-5 following ugly L @ Louisville. While Tigers were +20 in paint, going 4-24 from 3 & a -15 FT difference were too much to overcome. This resume-cratering L + recent L @ BC make for a steep uphill climb for Tigers.

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Overnight 5: February 16, 2023

Posted by Matthew Eisenberg on February 16th, 2023

What Thursday lacked in intrigue it made up for with a full-coverage RTC in College Park. Let’s examine in an #overnight5 (@matteise contributing)…


1. A 29-4 Maryland run had Xfinity Center rocking like old days on way to beating #3 Purdue, 68-54. Beyond Edey & BrSmith, rest of Boilers limited to 18 pts on 27% FG. After losing 3 of 4, will returning home get Purdue back on #1 seed track?

2. Arizona responded from Stanford L by blitzing Utah in Tucson, 88-62. While Utes made Tubelis work for his 11 pts (5-14 FG), Kerr Kriisa & Pelle Larsson combined for 28 pts – stark contrast from their 6 pt egg (1-14 FG) in SLC L. Cats still 2 games behind UCLA in Pac standings.

3. Florida Atlantic suffered 2nd C-USA Feb road L w/ 74-70 defeat @ MTSU. FAU nearly overcame 14-pt deficit in final 7 mins but were unable to get late stops. FAU began day w/ top 20 NET & SOR, but L shrinks their NCAA Tourney margin of error.

4. Despite 24 TOs & near 6-min scoring drought late in 2H, Memphis got past UCF, 64-63. With W, @Memphis_MBB has now won 8 of its last 9 as they cling to #11 seed @bracketproject. W/ 2 of final 5 games vs. Houston, Memphis cannot afford Ls elsewhere.

5. Picked 8th in A-Sun preseason, Kennesaw St moved into 1st following 88-81 W vs. Liberty. Trailing 70-59, @KSUOWLSMBB made 9 of final 11 shots to recover. From going 1-28 in 2020, Amir Abdur-Rahim now has Owls positioned for March run through Kennesaw.

EXTRA: Gonzaga avenged home L to LMU by dropping 68 1H on way to 43-pt win; UCLA traded runs back/forth w/ Stanford before finally pulling away late; Iowa avenged earlier 16-pt L at Ohio State with 17-pt W at home.

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2021-22 Rush The Court Preseason All-America Teams

Posted by Matthew Eisenberg on November 11th, 2021

The 2021-22 Rush The Court pre-season All-American selections feature five Big Ten bigs featured across the three teams, the nation’s leading scorer from a season ago, a pair of dynamic duos, the son of a legend, and much more. Thirty-two different players received at least one vote, and not one of those player were from Kentucky or North Carolina.

RTC Preseason Player of the Year: Drew Timme, Gonzaga

Drew Timme is the RTC Preseason Player of the Year (USA Today Images)

RTC Preseason Coach of the Year: Chris Beard, Texas

Chris Beard is the RTC Preseason Coach of the Year (USA Today Images)

First Team All-America

  • Collin Gillespie, Villanova – (14.0 PPG, 4.6 APG, 3.3 RPG, 37.6% 3PT) Collin Gillespie returns for a fifth year at Villanova. His season was cut short last season after suffering a torn MCL in the team’s regular-season finale. Gillespie shot above 37 percent from beyond the arc despite struggling down the stretch, making just 12-of-44 (27%) over his final nine games. Now healthy, the experience Gillespie brings to Villanova’s backcourt puts the Wildcats in a strong position heading into the season.
  • Johnny Juzang, UCLA – (16.0 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 35.3% 3PT) After an up-and-down season prior to March, Johnny Juzang exploded on the national scene during the NCAA Tournament. Juzang averaged 22.8 points per game during UCLA’s run to the Final Four, including a 29-point, 12-of-18 shooting night against Gonzaga. Juzang enters the season healthy, something that he was challenged with last year. His decision to return to UCLA solidified the Bruins position near the top of the polls heading into the season.
  • Paolo Banchero, Freshman, Duke – Listed at 6’10”, 250 lbs., Paolo Banchero was a consensus five-star recruit who has NBA scouts frothing at the mouth for a chance to land him. In Duke’s exhibition win over Winston-Salem State, Banchero led Duke in scoring with 21 points on 8-of-13 shooting and in rebounding with nine, in 20 minutes of action.
  • Kofi Cockburn, Illinois – (17.7 PPG, 9.5 RPG ,1.3 BPG) Kofi Cockburn returns to Illinois but will miss the first three games of the season due to an NCAA ruling. Cockburn returning to Illinois means Brad Underwood brings back the only player in the nation from a season ago who averaged at least 15 PPG, 9 RPG, and shot at least 60 percent from the field. Kofi could approach the 20 PPG mark if he can raise his free-throw percentage from 55 percent (120-of-217) closer to his freshman year mark of 68 percent (111-of-164).
  • Drew Timme, Gonzaga – (19.0 PPG, 7 RPG, 65.5% FG%) The RTC Preseason Player of the Year, Drew Timme is the only unanimous first-team selection. Timme exploded out of the gate last season beginning the year with 25 points against Kansas, 28 against Auburn, and 17 vs. West Virginia. On the season, Timme had 16 games with 20 or more points. During the NCAA Tournament, Timme averaged 20.3 PPG on 65 percent shooting.

Second Team All-America

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RTC 16: 2021-2022 Pre-Season Rankings

Posted by Matt Eisenberg on November 9th, 2021

The first Rush the Court rankings are out and they come with no surprise at the top. Gonzaga was a near unanimous selection as the top team in the country heading into the season. Following the ‘Zags, voters believe in a pair of Big 12 squads with Kansas and Texas taking the next two spots. Off of last season’s final Four run, UCLA occupies the #4 spot, one spot ahead of a Villanova team that heads to Pauley Pavilion on Friday night.

CONFERENCE BREAKDOWN: Big Ten (4), ACC (3), Big 12 (3), SEC (2), AAC (1), Big East (1), Pac-12 (1), WCC (1)


  • Tuesday: Champions Classic Kansas vs. Michigan State (6 PM EST, ESPN), Kentucky vs. Duke (9:30 PM EST, ESPN)
  • Friday: Villanova at UCLA (11:30 PM EST, ESPN 2), San Diego State at BYU (9 PM EST)
  • Saturday: Texas at Gonzaga (10:30 PM EST, ESPN 2), Davidson at San Francisco (8:30 PM EST)
  • Sunday: Florida State at Florida (1 PM EST, ESPN)
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Preseason Stock Report: Buy Now

Posted by Matthew Eisenberg on October 28th, 2021

The first Associated Press Top 25 poll of the season has many familiar faces ranked among the top 25. Here is a look at four teams that did not crack the top 25 to begin the year, but are teams worth buying stock in now.

BYU: In the shadows of Gonzaga sits BYU, a team that won 20 games and earned a #6 seed in last season’s NCAA Tournament. While the Cougars do not return either Brandon Averette or Matt Haarms, they do bring back a pair of All-WCC preseason players in Alex Barcello and Caleb Lohner. Mark Pope’s team also adds a fifth-year senior in Te’Jon Lucas from Milwaukee where Lucas averaged 14 or more points per game, five or more assists per game, and four or more rebounds per game in each of the past two seasons.

Mark Pope Has an Underrated Team Returning (USA Today Images)

Florida: Last season ended in the Second Round of the NCAA Tournament after the Gators were upset by Oral Roberts. It was a season that also included the horrific on-court collapse of Keyontae Johnson. Mike White’s team did not receive a single vote in the preseason AP Poll and have been picked to finish seventh in the SEC by the media. It is a team that returns a trio of seniors in Tyree Appleby (11.3 PPG, 28.4 MPG), Colin Castleton (preseason All-SEC first team selection) and Anthony Duruji (6.1 PPG, 4.4 RPG in 22 MPG). In addition, the Gators add in three impact transfers including Myreon Jones from Penn State, Brandon McKissic from UMKC, and CJ Felder from Boston College. The three newcomers averaged a combined 42.2 points per game last season.

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Preseason Stock Report: Bear Market

Posted by Matt Eisenberg on October 26th, 2021

The 2020-21 season began with both Duke and Kentucky ranked in the top 10 and of course ended with both missing the NCAA Tournament for the first time in over 40 years. The final AP Poll of last season did not include 10 of the 25 teams that were ranked to begin the season. While polls only tell some of the on-court story, here are a few teams that I feel could have difficulties reaching their lofty preseason expectations.

Auburn: Bruce Pearl’s Auburn club enters the year at #21 in the AP Poll and as high as #9 on a pair of ballots. The Tigers are coming off a forgettable season outside of Sharife Cooper’s 12-game stretch, and they begin the season with Allen Flanigan (14.3 PPG last season) out for at least a month. With Cooper gone and Flanigan sidelined, that leaves just one of the team’s top six scorers from last year on the team and ready to start the season. Auburn does add some firepower in the form of Georgia transfer K.D. Johnson (13.5 PPG) and North Carolina transfer Walker Kessler (4.4 PPG), along with five-star freshman Jabari Smith. The question is whether Pearl put it all together? Additionally, how will a non-conference schedule that features just one true road game impact the Tigers’ readiness for road tests in a very strong SEC?

Bruce Pearl is Ready to Rumble Again (USA Today Images)

Baylor: Baylor begins the season ranked #8 in the nation. The defending champs bring back the talented Adam Flagler and Matthew Mayer along with the toughness of Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua to a squad that adds senior guard James Akinjo and freshman Kendall Brown. The list of what is no longer in Waco, though, is long. Gone are Jared Butler, Davion Mitchell, MaCio Teague and Mark Vital. That includes 61.8 percent of the scoring from last year’s team, two players from the all-conference first-team, three players from the league’s all-defensive team, a consensus first-team All-American, the Naismith Defensive Player of the Year, and the Final Four Most Outstanding Player. Can Scott Drew do what few champions have done recently and back up a National Championship with another year in the top 10?

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2020-21 Rush the Court All-America Teams and Yearly Awards

Posted by Matthew Eisenberg on April 4th, 2021

The 2020-21 Rush the Court awards and All-American selections are here. While five freshman have been selected to the All-American teams, they do not come from the usual suspects of Duke or Kentucky. In fact, the blueblood quartet of Duke, Kansas, Kentucky and North Carolina are without a single player being represented on any of this year’s three All-America teams. While there might be some surprises, the RTC Player of the Year is anything but, with two-time unanimous RTC First Team All-American Luka Garza winning the award. Gonzaga’s undefeated run to the Final Four lands two on the First Team and gives Mark Few the top spot in the coaching ranks.

Player of the Year: Luka Garza, Iowa

Coach of the Year: Mark Few, Gonzaga

First Team All-America

  • Ayo Dosunmu, Junior, Illinois (Unanimous 1st-Team) – (20.1 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 5.3 APG, 38.6% 3PT) Ayo Dosunmu was the only player nationally to average at least 20/5/5 on the season and he did so while leading the Illini to the Big Ten Tournament championship. Dosunmu overcame a late-season injury to his face, but donned a mask and kept on producing. With the junior at the helm of the Illini attack, Illinois grabbed hold of a #1 seed for the first time since the 2004-05 season.
  • Jalen Suggs, Freshman, Gonzaga – (14.0 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 4.5 APG, 50.2 FG%) Jalen Suggs thrust on the scene right from the start, beginning his college career with 24 points and eight assists in the season opener against Kansas. Several weeks later, Suggs poured in a season-high 27 points against Iowa. A threat on offense with the ball in his hand and a threat on defense at nearly all times with his excellent anticipation and quick hands, as exhibited in last night’s incredible late-game sequences in the Final Four.
  • Cade Cunningham, Freshman, Oklahoma State (Unanimous 1st-Team) – (20.1 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 3.5 APG, 40% 3PT) The top ranked recruit in the country helped guide an Oklahoma State team that was unranked to begin the year into the Big 12 Championship Game and a spot ranked among the top 15 teams entering the NCAA Tournament. In a situation clouded with the unknown of an NCAA investigation, Cunningham stuck with his commitment to Oklahoma State and was able to get the Cowboys into the postseason. Cunningham was the definition of a “prime-time performer” as seen in his 40-point game on the road in Norman in a come from behind win over rival Oklahoma.
  • Drew Timme, Sophomore, Gonzaga (19 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 65% FG) Timme finished his 2019-20 season by scoring 17 points off of the bench in Gonzaga’s WCC Championship Game win against Saint Mary’s. The terrific end to last season carried over into this season. Timme more than doubled his scoring output, while finishing with the second-best field-goal percentage among the 173 players who attempted 300 or more shots. The mustached magician took center stage in the Elite Eight with a dazzling and dominating performance against the defense of USC and Evan Mobley, scoring 23 points, grabbing five rebounds and dishing out four assists.
  • Luka Garza, Senior, Iowa (Unanimous 1st-Team) (24.1 PPG, 8.7 RPG, 1.7 APG, 55.7% FG) A unanimous RTC 1st-Team All-American last season, Luka Garza again finds himself as a unanimous 1st-Team All-American. Garza began the year scoring 102 points in his first three games and finished the year averaging 23.3 over his final 10 games, including 36 on 14-of-20 shooting in the Hawkeyes NCAA Tournament loss.

Second Team All-America

  • Jared Butler, Junior, Baylor (16.5 PPG, 4.8 APG, 40.4% 3PT, 2 STL/G) While COVID ended a tremendous Baylor season last year, Jared Butler returned and helped guide the Bears right back to their spot near the top of the rankings. The junior guard set career-best marks across the board. Butler was the only player in the Big 12 to average 15 points, 5 assists and 3 rebounds per conference game since the 2017-18 season.
  • Corey Kispert, Senior, Gonzaga (18.9 PPG, 5 RPG, 45.3% 3PT) After averaging just 6.7 points per game as a freshman and 13.9 PPG as a junior, Kispert raised that to 18.9 per night in his senior year. Kispert’s shooting splits had 50/45/90 being discussed late into the season, a player who made three or more three-pointers in 17 games on the season. Kispert will leave Gonzaga having made the third-most three-pointers of any Bulldog since the start of the 2000-01 season.
  • Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, Sophomore, Villanova (15.7 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 2.2 APG) After finishing fifth on the team in scoring as a freshman, Robinson-Earl led the Wildcats this season. After the season-ending injury to teammate Collin Gillespie near the end of the season, Robinson-Earl responded by taking on an even bigger role in the Villanova offense. While Villanova was a popular team to pick against heading into the NCAA Tournament, Robinson-Earl averaged 20 points, 8.5 rebounds and six assists per game in Villanova’s first two tournament games.
  • Kofi Cockburn, Sophomore, Illinois (17.7 PPG, 9.5 RPG, 65.4% FG) Kofi Cockburn was the only player in the nation to average north of 15 points and 7.5 rebounds per game while shooting at least 60 percent from the field. Cockburn’s size and strength led to 15 games with at least four offensive rebounds, which ranked fourth in the nation.
  • Evan Mobley, Freshman, USC (16.4 PPG, 8.7 RPG, 2.9 BLK/G) Evan Mobley finished the season taking home the Pac-12 Player of the Year, Freshman of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year awards. Mobley finished with multiple blocked shots in 27 games, the highest total in the nation. Mobley was the only player in the country to average 15 points, eight rebounds, and two blocks per game. He was the anchor to the USC defense which according to KenPom finished an adjusted defensive efficiency of 88.1, well below the team’s average of 99.5 in Andy Enfield’s first seven years with the Trojans.

Third Team All-America

  • Davion Mitchell, Junior, Baylor (14 PPG, 5.3 APG, 2 STL/G, 45% 3PT) After shooting just 31% from beyond the arc during his first two years in college, Davion Mitchell knocked down 45% of his 131 attempts this season. In addition to being a terrific shooter, Mitchell took home Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year honors. Entering the Final Four, Mitchell has 18 games with at least two steals. In the team’s first 14 games of the season, Mitchell was averaging 11.5 points per game, whereas over the next 14 games, Mitchell was scoring 16.6 points per game.
  • Quentin Grimes, Junior, Houston (18 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 41.2% 3PT, 99 3PM) Since returning to action in early February after missing a game against Our Lady of the Lake, Houston’s Quentin Grimes has averaged 20.2 points and 4.5 three-pointers per game. When Houston lost AAC Preseason Player of the Year Caleb Mills to the transfer portal, the Cougars turned even more to Grimes. After making 94 three-pointers in his first two collegiate seasons, Grimes is sitting at 99 heading into the Final Four. With one more make, he will become just the ninth Houston Cougar to eclipse 100 makes from deep since the 1992-93 season.
  • Cameron Thomas, Freshman, LSU (23 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 88% FT) LSU’s Cameron Thomas finished the season leading the nation in freshman scoring and finishing fourth overall. In the NCAA Tournament, the he powered through top 20 defenses to score 57 points in two games. No one in the country had more 25 point outings than Thomas did with 16 instances.
  • Hunter Dickinson, Freshman, Michigan (14.1 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 59.8% FG) The Big Ten Freshman Year of the Year burst onto the scene quickly averaging 18 points per game and 8.1 rebounds per game in his first 10 collegiate games. He quickly replaced the production left behind from Jon Teske and formed a dynamic front-court partnership with Franz Wagner.
  • Cameron Krutwig, Senior, Loyola (Chicago) (15 PPG, 7 RPG, 3 APG, 57.4% FG) A four-year starter at Loyola (Chicago), Krutwig earned Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year award this season. A versatile player who scored in double-figures in all but three games, had 26 games with two or more assists, and 12 games with at least eight rebounds. In the Ramblers upset Second Round win over Illinois, Krutwig gave the Illini defense problems for 40 minutes, finishing the game with 19 points, 12 rebounds, and five asissts.

Honorable Mentions: Max Abmas (Oral Roberts), Charles Bassey (Western Kentucky, James Bouknight (Connecticut), Trayce Jackson Davis (Indiana), Herbert Jones (Alabama), Neemias Queta (Utah State), McKinley Wright (Colorado), Moses Wright (Georgia Tech)

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Eight Questions for the Final Four

Posted by Matthew Eisenberg on April 2nd, 2021

Sixty-three NCAA Tournament games down, three more to go. After regional final games playing on Monday and Tuesday of this week, the Final Four teams are looking at a slightly shorter turnaround than usual heading into this weekend. Here are four questions for each game set to take place on Saturday in Indianapolis.

#1 Baylor vs. #2 Houston

1) Will Jared Butler break out of his tournament slump? Jared Butler was a first team AP All-American who averaged 17.1 points per game, shot 48.8 percent from the field and 42.9 percent from three-point range prior to the start of the NCAA Tournament. In the tournament, Butler has yet to find his stroke, as he is shooting just 34.6 percent from the field and 25 percent from beyond the arc. As a result, his scoring average has dipped to just 13 points per game in the tournament.

2) Will Baylor’s defense continue to create easy points off of forced turnovers? In the NCAA Tournament, Baylor has forced 14 or more turnovers in each game, leading to a turnover differential of +40 over four games. Offensively, Houston has only coughed the ball up more than 10 times in one of its four tournament games and maintains a season-long turnover rate that ranks in the top 20 nationally. If Baylor is able to create live ball turnovers against the Cougars, they can attack early and avoid the incredibly difficult half-court defense of Houston.

3) Who will AAC Defensive Player of the Year Dejon Jarreau be matched up against? Jarreau was locked onto Oregon State’s leading scorer Ethan Thompson for much of the Elite Eight win, holding the Beaver to 11 points on 3-of-12 shooting. Kelvin Sampson will have to decide between putting Jarreau on the struggling All-American Jared Butler or on Davion Mitchell with the hope of slowing him down.

4) Will Houston’s offensive rebounding prowess be a difference maker in this game? Houston has grabbed 62 offensive rebounds in its four tournament games, which has led to 51 second chance points. According to KenPom‘s database, Houston’s offensive rebounding rate of 39.8 percent ranks third among all teams since the start of the 2017-18 season. Baylor is coming off of a game in which it saw Arkansas grab 11 offensive rebounds. This is a match-up that will require Baylor’s guards to help clean up the glass.

#1 Gonzaga vs. #11 UCLA

1) Can UCLA find a way to slow the tempo to limit the number of Gonzaga possessions? In terms of pace, these two teams are polar opposites of one another. While Gonzaga is looking to run with every chance it gets, UCLA looks to milk the clock and attempt to find an offensive mismatch every possession. Unfortunately for UCLA, Gonzaga’s match-up with Virginia earlier in the year and the annual meetings with Saint Mary’s should have the Bulldogs more than comfortable playing at any pace.

2) Will Gonzaga’s size in the backcourt be what they exploit all game in this matchup? Gonzaga’s backcourt of Jalen Suggs, Joel Ayayi and Andrew Nembhard are all listed at 6’4″ or taller. The size, length and athleticism of this trio could lead to a difficult night for 5’11” Tyger Campbell on both ends of the floor. Campbell is the cog that keeps the Bruins’ engine running, and if he is slowed or in foul trouble, the near impossible task of beating Gonzaga gets even more challenging.

3) Will either bench play a role on the scoreboard? In UCLA’s win against Michigan, the Bruins’ defense did not tally a point, whereas in the win over Alabama it scored 18. For Gonzaga, Aaron Cook and Anton Watson get minutes but neither typically produces much offensive output. Then again, with Gonzaga’s starters averaging 72.8 points per game, the bench is not asked to score much at all.

4) Is there any chance Gonzaga gets caught looking past UCLA? Perhaps one of the few ways in which Gonzaga could be beaten is if they get caught thinking about cutting down the nets on Monday night and the perfection that would come with that. On paper, Gonzaga is the biggest favorite in a Final Four match-up for a reason. Coming out with the same intensity they showed against USC could go a long way in again building an early double-digit lead. Looking past UCLA could lead to a game that at least makes a Gonzaga play hard a bit longer than expected.

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Eight Key Questions for the Sweet Sixteen

Posted by Matthew Eisenberg on March 25th, 2021

What started with 68 is now down to just 16.

While the opening two rounds of the NCAA Tournament brought the usual surprises, the Sweet Sixteen is not without familiar faces. Three #1 seeds and a pair of #2 seeds are joined by the powerful programs of Florida State and Villanova, a quartet of Pac-12 teams, a pair of mid-majors, and of course, Syracuse. Here are eight questions that could define each match-up:

Saturday’s Games

  • #8 Loyola (Chicago) vs. #12 Oregon State (2:40 PM EST, CBS), If Oregon State can limit its turnovers, do the Beavers have enough firepower to pull off an upset? After a stifling defensive performance against Illinois, Loyola (Chicago) has retaken the top spot on KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency rankings this season. The Ramblers forced 17 turnovers against the Illini, an area of which Oregon State struggled against Oklahoma State, committing 20 turnovers. If the Beavers protect the ball, the three-point line becomes key where Oregon State has shot a robust 42 percent over its last five games.
  • #1 Baylor vs. #5 Villanova (5:15 PM EST, CBS): Will Villanova’s offense keep clicking or will the absence of Collin Gillespie be magnified against Baylor? In Villanova’s first two full games without Gillespie, the Wildcats shot just 38.3 percent from the field and 27.1 percent from beyond the arc. In the tournament, Jay Wright’s squad has found new life, however, shooting 50 percent from the field and 41.8 percent from deep. Among the players stepping up is former five-star recruit Bryan Antoine, who has scored more points in the NCAA Tournament than he had in the entire regular season.
  • #3 Arkansas vs. #15 Oral Roberts (7:25 PM EST, TBS) How much will the late December matchup between these teams factor into the March rematch? Oral Roberts led Arkansas by 12 points early in the second-half when these teams met in Fayetteville earlier this season before Arkansas took control and won by 11 points. The Razorbacks had a 32-point advantage on points in the paint and a 16-point advantage on second-chance points. While Oral Roberts did get its normal production from Kevin Obanor, Max Abmas struggled, scoring just 11 points on 4-of-11 shooting.
  • #2 Houston vs. #11 Syracuse (9:55 PM EST, TBS) Which team is better equipped to score against their opponent’s defense? Houston is one of the nation’s best defenses in efficiency totals and across all defensive shooting percentages. For Syracuse, the 2-3 Boeheim zone continues to work magic in another NCAA Tournament. For Houston, it’s an offense that at times can struggle to make baskets, but feasts on the offensive glass, an area that helped the Cougars survive Rutgers and could remain prevalent against Syracuse. For the Orange, it begins with Buddy Boeheim, who is averaging 26 points a game over six March contests.

Sunday’s Games

  • #1 Gonzaga vs. #5 Creighton (2:10 PM EST, CBS) Can Creighton replicate a BYU type of gameplan to keep this close longer than expected? In Gonzaga’s WCC Tournament finale, BYU shot 11-of-28 from deep and turned the ball over just eight times. Creighton ranks 20th in the nation in three-point makes per game (9.6) and on the season have forced 43 more turnovers than they have committed. They must get more from the trio of Damien Jefferson, Denzel Mahoney and Mitch Ballock, who are a combined 14-of-63 (22.2%) from beyond the arc over the Bluejays’ last four games.
  • #1 Michigan vs. #4 Florida State (5 PM EST, CBS) Will Florida State’s size across the court be too disruptive for Michigan? The height and length of Michigan’s Hunter Dickinson and Franz Wagner is often too much for its opponents to handle. But for Florida State, size itself should not be a concern. The Seminoles will throw length and depth at the Wolverines for 40 minutes with nine players averaging at least 10 minutes per game and five of those listed at 6’8″ or taller.
  • #2 Alabama vs. #11 UCLA (7:15 PM EST, TBS) Which team is able to control tempo and how much will that disrupt the opponent? In terms of style of play, Alabama and UCLA are polar opposites. While Alabama is looking to push and maximize the number of possessions in a game, UCLA much prefers to slow things down, run its offense and take advantage of any mismatch. If UCLA can protect the ball and get good looks offensively, its defense will be put in a position to at least have a chance to stay in the game with a red-hot Crimson Tide team.
  • #6 USC vs. # 7 Oregon (9:45 PM EST, TBS) Will USC replicate its performance against Oregon or will the Ducks continue to fly high off of its performance against Iowa? In 14 games against teams other than USC since the beginning of February, Oregon’s Eugene Omoruyi is averaging 17.3 points per game. In Oregon’s loss against USC, Omoruyi scored just nine points on 3-of-10 shooting. USC’s length allowed the Trojans to grab 15 offensive rebounds in that game to go along with 10 made threes on 21 attempts which resulted in a 14-point USC win. Andy Enfield’s team had success also holding Will Richardson to just five points, a tougher task this time around as Richardson is netting over 15 points a game in March.
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