NCAA Game Analysis: Second Round, Thursday Evening

Posted by Brian Otskey on March 21st, 2013

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It’s not been an insane day yet, but who knows what the Thursday evening sessions might have in store for us. Let’s continue our analysis of all of today’s games with the evening slate of eight contests.

#1 Louisville vs. #16 North Carolina A&T – Midwest Region Second Round (at Lexington, KY) – 6:50 PM ET on TBS

First things first — congratulations to the Aggies for taking care of business in Dayton, no matter how narrow the final margin was. Their reward is the number one overall seed in the Tournament, and a shot at history. This is the nice way of thinking about things in Aggie-land. Realistically, Cy Alexander’s team will be happy if they can hang around for a half. But if we are actually being realistic, I wouldn’t plan on that happening. A&T’s 73 point output on Tuesday marked just the third time in 2013 that they scored that many in a game, and rest assured they have not seen a defense near the caliber of Louisville’s during that time.

Peyton Siva and Louisville, the tournament's #1 overall seed, begin its quest for a title today against

Peyton Siva and Louisville, the tournament’s #1 overall seed, begin its quest for a title today against North Carolina A&T. (USA Today)

Only VCU turns teams over more often than do the Cardinals, and rest assured that Peyton Siva, Russ Smith and the rest of the gang will be salivating at the sight of the Aggies and their 292nd ranked turnover percentage. If this is to be a game, A&T must limit turnovers, keep it in the half-court, and hope to make as many shots as they did in Dayton. It’s the definition of a mission impossible, and A&T will find out fast that, despite calling Freedom Hall home for over 50 years, Louisville is most certainly not Liberty.

The RTC Certified Pick: Louisville

#8 Colorado State vs. #9 Missouri – Midwest Region Second Round (at Lexington, KY) – 9:20 PM ET on TBS

For those seeking to avoid watching a game in the 50’s at all costs, this matchup of top-15 offenses is your best bet in the second round. Missouri is led by the mercurial Phil Pressey, whose breathtaking moments of wizardry are too often eclipsed by mind-numbing late game decisions. He is my guilty pleasure in this Tournament: A point guard who I would not trust to run my own team, but who is too brilliant for my neutral observer eyes to ever look away. He should have his run of things on Thursday; that is, if Colorado State’s recent ineptitude covering scoring guards continues. We all remember Kendall Williams’ explosion in Fort Collins a few weeks back, but Derrick Marks (Boise State) and Deonte Burton (Nevada) have since had their own field days against the Rams. Pressey should get his (and his teammates theirs), but this will be a game decided on the backboards. Missouri is not a bad rebounding team at all (actually 7th nationally in offensive rebounding percentage), but compared to the Rams, they are. Colorado State is the single best rebounding team in the land, despite running out a starting frontcourt that features two players under 6’6”. Pierce Hornung, Greg Smith and Colton Iverson are all relentless in pursuit of missed shots on both ends of the floor. The onus will be squarely on Alex Oriakhi and Laurence Bowers to match that intensity. I’m not sold on that happening, and I’m also struggling to trust in a Missouri outfit that has looked unfocused all season long. Far easier to believe in a veteran Ram team that was in this same position a year ago – give me Colorado State in an entertaining battle.

The RTC Certified Pick: Colorado State Read the rest of this entry »

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NCAA Game Analysis: Second Round, Thursday Afternoon

Posted by BHayes on March 21st, 2013

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And so it begins. Today at exactly 12:15 PM in Auburn Hills, Michigan, the 2013 NCAA Tournament as we all know it will officially tip off, setting in motion a chain of events that will undoubtedly bust most people’s brackets by mid-afternoon. Nevertheless, the anticipation for the best two weekdays in all of sports is over. Let’s get things started with an analysis of all of today’s games, beginning with the afternoon slate of eight contests.

#3 Michigan State vs. #14 Valparaiso – Midwest Region Second Round (at Auburn Hills, MI) – 12:15 PM ET on CBS

Adreian Payne Has Been One Of The Leaders Of The Stout Spartan Defense

Adreian Payne And Sparty Look To Turn Away Valparaiso’s Upset Bid Thursday

The Second Round of the 2013 NCAA Tournament tips off in Auburn Hills on Thursday, where Michigan State clashes with former March magician Bryce Drew and his Valparaiso Crusaders. Having been underseeded slightly by the committee, the Horizon League Champs now rest as a dangerous #14 seed. They are led by Ryan Broekhoff, a 6’7” senior and two-time Horizon League POY. The Aussie import does the bulk of his damage from three-point range, having made 82 threes this season. He will undoubtedly be the focus of the Spartan defense, a unit that has proven stingy as ever this season. Tom Izzo’s team ranks 8th nationally in defensive efficiency, in large part because of their defense of the three-point stripe, where opponents have shot just 30.8%. The physical, tough Spartan identity is not limited to the defensive end however, as Michigan State has played efficient (albeit slow) offense all season, despite a relative dearth of play-makers (apologies to the oft-dynamic backcourt of Keith Appling and Gary Harris). We can analyze this matchup all we want, but the final calculation is very simple. Despite Valparaiso being a tricky #14 seed, this is Michigan State, Tom Izzo and March. The home court advantage Sparty will enjoy in Auburn Hills is almost overkill – I like Michigan State to take care of business here.

The RTC Certified Pick: Michigan State

#6 Butler vs. #11 Bucknell — East Region Second Round (at Lexington, KY) — 12:40 pm ET on truTV.

One of Thursday’s better games pits two teams that have combined to win 54 games against one another. The key to Butler’s resurgence this season has been the addition of Rotnei Clarke. The 6’0” transfer from Arkansas has opened up Butler’s offense and made it easier for the other Bulldogs to operate. In this game, Brad Stevens and company face a particularly difficult matchup for an 11-seed. The Bucknell Bison have one of the best centers in the nation (Mike Muscala) and are a senior laden team that maximizes possessions and won’t be afraid to bang with Butler. In addition Muscala, a 6’11” senior and perhaps the best rebounder in the country, Dave Paulsen’s team defends with the best of them and has a pair of very capable three point shooters in Bryson Johnson and Cameron Ayers. The key for Bucknell will be to contain Clarke and keep him from dominating the game. For Butler, getting on the glass and limiting Bucknell’s top scorers will be critical. Bucknell has very little scoring depth with four players averaging about 53 of its 67 PPG. It’s probably not too smart picking against Stevens but we like the match-up for Bucknell in this one.

The RTC Certified Pick: Bucknell

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NCAA Game Analysis: First Four – Wednesday Night

Posted by Brian Otskey on March 20th, 2013

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In last night’s opening round games, North Carolina A&T and St. Mary’s both advanced to the Round of 64, and two more games tonight will round out the field. Once again, tonight’s games will get under way at 6:40 PM tonight on truTV — here’s our analysis of tonight’s two games.

#16 LIU Brooklyn vs. #16 James Madison — East Region First Round (at Dayton, OH) — 6:40 PM ET on truTV.

LIU-Brooklyn

LIU Brooklyn Will Depend on Its Transition Attack

Night two of the First Four begins with a game that will feature two vastly different style of basketball. LIU Brooklyn loves to play fast but unlike most up-tempo teams, the Blackbirds do not force many turnovers to fuel a transition attack. LIU shoots the ball very well, led by senior forward Jamal Olasewere and junior point guard Jason Brickman (a 46% three-point shooter). Olasewere operates primarily inside the arc but also isn’t afraid to step out and take an occasional triple. Brickman is a terrific assist man, averaging over eight dimes per game. He’s ranked #16 in assist rate nationally but is vulnerable to coughing it up as well, averaging four turnovers a night. Still, his 2-to-1 assist to turnover ratio is fantastic. James Madison has to focus on these players defensively along with C.J. Garner, who averages 16 PPG for a team that scores nearly 80 PPG on average. LIU’s offensive statistics are impressive but Jack Perri’s team doesn’t take defense, ahem, very seriously. The problem for James Madison is that it doesn’t shoot the ball particularly well to begin with, so it will have to slow the game down (easier than speeding it up) and limit LIU’s possessions. JMU is led by strong senior forward Rayshawn Goins who, at 6’6” and 266 lbs, is certainly a force to be reckoned with. Goins against Olasewere could be the key match-up in this game. Neither team has a lot of size but Olasewere is giving up about 40 pounds to the burly Duke. In the end, we feel LIU has enough offensive firepower despite its defensive issues to advance and play Indiana on Friday.

The RTC Certified Pick: LIU Brooklyn.

#13 Boise State vs. #13 La Salle – West Region First Round (at Dayton, OH) – 9:10 PM ET on TruTV

Jeff Elorriaga Will Be Bombing Away Tonight

Jeff Elorriaga Will Be Bombing Away Tonight

These two underdogs will have the attention of the nation all to themselves as they fight to be included in the bulk of the bracket. And this game is definitely one to keep an eye on, as it may be one of the more entertaining contests you’ll see on this first weekend of play. Both teams are guard-dominated, both teams shoot the three regularly and with great proficiency, and both teams will get out in transition when they have the opportunities. For La Salle, the backcourt trio of Ramon Galloway, Tyreek Duren and Tyrone Garland combine to average 44.9 points and 9.1 assists between them and shoot a collective 37.4% from deep. Meanwhile, Boise’s trio of Anthony Drmic, Derrick Marks and Jeff Elorriaga combine to average 43.9 points, 8.4 assists and a collective 41.8% clip from behind the arc. Those guys go a long way toward cancelling each other out, in which case the game may come down to the frontcourts, where the Broncos have the advantage. While the Explorers are largely ineffective in controlling the glass, Boise is the third-best team in the nation in defensive rebounding percentage. Forwards Ryan Watkins and Kenny Buckner are particularly good in that area but it is a full-team effort, as even the guards chip in to clean the glass. In a game where both teams have perimeter players to put the ball in the hoop, the dirty work up front may turn out to be the difference.

The RTC Certified Pick: Boise State

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NCAA Game Analysis: First Four – Tuesday Night

Posted by BHayes on March 19th, 2013

The First Round/Opening Round/Play-In Games/Mild Annoyance of the NCAA Tournament begins tonight, getting under way at 6:40 PM tonight on truTV (go ahead, try to remember where that channel is again). From 68 to 16 in the next six days… let’s analyze the first two games this evening.

#16 North Carolina A&T vs. #16 Liberty — Midwest Region First Round (at Dayton, OH) — 6:40 pm ET on truTV.

John Caleb Sanders Continuing His Hot-Shooting Ways Would Be A Huge Boost For The Flames In Dayton

John Caleb Sanders Continuing His Hot-Shooting Ways Would Be A Huge Boost For The Flames In Dayton

Nothing says NCAA Tournament like a match-up between North Carolina A&T and Liberty now, does it? Like it or not, the First Four is the official tip-off for the Big Dance, and this year’s opening act pits the tournament champions from the MEAC against one of the unlikeliest Big Dance participants ever –- the 15-20 Liberty Flames. The Big South Champs aren’t the only party crashers here, however.  Having entered the MEAC tournament under .500 and as the #7 seed, A&T was nearly as long a shot to make this field. The Aggies are easily the worst offensive team in this field of 68, choosing instead (a generous explanation) to hang their hat on the defensive end, where they rank 81st nationally in defensive efficiency. Springy senior Austin Witter is the key to the stingy defense, having blocked 11.8% of opponents two-point field goal attempts, the 16th highest rate in the country. Unfortunately for he and the Aggies, Liberty does most of their offensive work from beyond the arc and at the line. With guards John Caleb SandersDavon Marshall and Tavares Speaks all averaging at least 13.0 PPG, Liberty has proven to be a capable offensive unit, especially of late. The same praise cannot be afforded their defense, however, as LIU-Brooklyn is the only team in the field with a worse defensive efficiency rating than the Flames. So yes, it will be a titanic battle between Liberty’s 303d ranked defense and NC A&T’s 317th ranked offense. Ultimately though, I think the difference-making happens when Liberty has the ball. A&T’s tough defense notwithstanding, we like the Flames to continue their hot shooting and extend a postseason life that they could have never expected to have.

The RTC Certified PickLiberty

 #11 Middle Tennessee vs. #11 Saint Mary’s — Midwest Region First Round (at Dayton, OH) — 9:10 pm ET on truTV.

If Middle Tennessee Has Anything To Say About It, Matthew Dellavedova Will Be Donning The Saint Mary's Jersey For A Final Time Tuesday Night

If Middle Tennessee Has Anything To Say About It, Matthew Dellavedova Will Be Donning The Saint Mary’s Jersey For A Final Time Tuesday Night

The nightcap on Tuesday features two of the final teams to make the NCAA Tournament field, with Middle Tennessee and Saint Mary’s facing off for the chance to meet Memphis on Thursday in Auburn Hills. The Gaels are no strangers to the big stage, as Matthew Dellavedova and company are making their third appearance in the last four years. Saint Mary’s shoots the ball both well and often from deep. The Gaels convert on 37% of their tries from distance, with those points accounting for nearly a third of their total points scored this season. Dellavedova is the leading scorer and unquestioned leader of this bunch, but Stephen Holt and Beau Levesque are both double-figure scorers capable of carrying the offensive load for a night. Middle Tennessee is not a bad offensive team in its own right (73rd nationally in offensive efficiency), but Kermit Davis has concocted a decidedly different recipe for success. Do not be surprised if you see 11 different Blue Raiders touch the floor on Tuesday night, and among that group are seven players who average at least six points a contest, with just one (Marcos Knight at 12.5 PPG) in double-figures. The Middle Tennessee depth is clearly impressive, and it has also helped the Blue Raiders on the defensive end. Middle Tennessee is 20th nationally in defensive efficiency, also ranking in the top-25 in a slew of important defensive categories. The most relevant of those metrics for its match-up with the Gaels is three-point percentage defense, where MTSU ranks 14th nationally, allowing just 29.5% shooting from behind the arc. It’s a particularly damning piece of evidence for believers in the Gaels, and the Middle Tennessee statistical profile would suggest that the Blue Raiders have more than just a fighting chance in this one. Call me a sucker for the sentimental story, but despite the aforementioned statistical evidence, I can’t pick against Saint Mary’s here. A brilliant career lives to see another day, as Dellavedova is the difference in what could be a thriller in Dayton.

The RTC Certified Pick:  Saint Mary’s

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