Over the next two days in a series of separate posts, RTC will break down all 16 of the second round games using our best analytical efforts to understand these teams, the matchups and their individual strengths and weaknesses. Our hope is that you’ll let us know in the comments where you agree, disagree or otherwise think we’ve lost our collective minds. Here are the Saturday games.
1:05 pm – #2 Villanova vs. #10 St. Mary’s (Providence pod)
A great opening game of the day for the group of teams that produced the best opening day of the NCAA Tournament ever. A lot of experts are going to be calling for an upset here and based on the way these two teams are playing we can’t say that we blame them. The Wildcats came into the NCAA Tournament having lost five of seven games and nearly lost to Robert Morris (down by 7 with less than 4 minutes left before some controversial calls went ‘Nova’s way). On the other side, the Gaels stormed through the West Coast Conference Tournament and knocked off Richmond, a team that a lot of people had as a potential sleeper, in the first round. The key to this game will be how Reggie Redding handles Omar Samhan. After watching Samhan rip apart the Spiders, Jay Wright has to be concerned about his interior players going against one of the best low-post players in the country. On the other side, Saint Mary’s has to figure out how to deal with Scottie Reynolds and the rest of the Wildcat backcourt. They are certainly better equipped to match-up with Villanova’s perimeter players with Mickey McConnell and Matthew Dellavedova than the Wildcats are to handle Samhan. Saint Mary’s perimeter players pack enough offensive punch to make keep up with Villanova’s guards, but Mouphtaou Yarou and Redding shouldn’t challenge Samhan too much defensively. The one wildcard here is Reynolds. Will he “learn” from Wright’s “teaching moment” and become the Scottie Reynolds we knew for most of the past two seasons or will be the 2-15 from the field Reynolds?
The Skinny: Samhan overwhelms the Wildcats on the inside and advance into the Sweet 16 as this year’s Cinderella.
3:20 pm – #5 Butler vs. #13 Murray State (San Jose pod)
The second game of the second round will feature the top mid-major program in the east versus an upstart who would love to get there themselves. In their first round game, if you haven’t heard, the Racers’ Danero Thomas hit a shot at the buzzer to knock Vanderbilt out of the Tournament, but what you may not know about that game is that Murray State pretty much controlled it throughout. It was very late when Vandy regained the lead and set the stage for Thomas’ game winner. The point: Murray is better than your typical #13 seed Cinderella. Butler, on the other hand, had a weak first half and a superb second half to put away UTEP. It was two of the staples of Butler’s attack — relentless halfcourt defense and the three-ball — that allowed the Bulldogs to quickly take the lead and never look back against the Miners. As for this game, Murray State does many of the same things that Butler does, it’s just that Brad Stevens’ team does those things better. It will certainly be interesting to see how Butler responds to being the Big (Bull)Dog in an NCAA Tournament game, as they’re usually the upstart taking on some higher-seeded Kansas or Florida type of team.
The Skinny: We’d love to take Murray State here, but Butler isn’t going to let a johnny-come-lately out-Butler them en route to the Sweet Sixteen, so we expect Butler to hang on and win by 6-8 points.