NCAA Tournament: Sunday Second Round Notes

18 Mar

10 Butler vs 2 Purdue

My analysis for this game can be found here 


ATS: Butler +3.5

O/U: Over 144

11 Syracuse vs 3 Michigan State

As always against Syracuse, the first thing you look at is how Michigan State performed against zones this year, and the answer is an unsurprising “excellent”. Per Synergy, Sparty scored in the 89th percentile nationally in zone offense, but of course facing Syracuse’s long 2-3 on short prep is another story. Sparty does have all pieces needed to bust zone with sharp shooting wings, outstanding ball movement, and bigs who are adept at working in the middle of floor. In regard to latter, look for Ben Carter to get some serious run today. Tom Izzo trusts him and he’s an excellent passer from the free throw line extended, and he could see 15-20 minutes if freshman sensation Jaren Jackson is struggling to figure things out in the halfcourt against the Orange. Offensively, the Cuse are likely in trouble. They rely heavily on dribble penetration, drawing contact, and offensive rebounding. All three of those areas are hard to achieve against Michigan State, as Izzo’s defense is predicated on excellent and reliant help, and Sparty will actually be the team with the decided advantage on the offensive glass, as rebounding out of the zone is always a massive issue for the Orange.

BRACKET: Michigan State

ATS: Michigan State -9.5

O/U: Under 128.5

7 Texas A&M vs 2 North Carolina

We’ll see how long Roy Williams can keep his effective small ball lineup on the floor against massive Texas A&M. While UNC’s 2PT% defense has been solid overall, the Heels have actually been poor in rim defense with the small lineup, clocking in at 225th nationally in defending the rim, per Between Bob Williams and Tyler Davis, the Aggies are looking to pound it inside at every possession, and Roy might have to turn to Sterling Manley and Garrison Brooks sooner rather than later. On the other end however, the small ball lineup will eat up the Aggies’ defense. Texas A&M can’t guard UNC’s mobility in man, and Theo Pinson has been a one man zone shredder when the Aggies switch into zone, which they do frequently, and often within the same possession. If UNC’s small lineup can effectively defend, the Heels are going to run away. If Roy is forced to go big, this is going to be a rock fight, as Brooks and Manley have a net negative effect on the offense.


ATS: UNC -6.5

O/U: Under 152

7 Nevada vs 2 Cincinnati 

My analysis of this game can be found here

BRACKET: Cincinnati

ATS: Cincinnati -7

O/U: Under 137.5

5 Clemson vs 4 Auburn

The efficiency of Clemson’s offense against an outstanding defense in NMSU surprised me, and they actually matchup better against Auburn, as the Tigers don’t have the length that has given Clemson issues this year. Clemson has been efficient vs zones and Brad Brownell’s teams are always excellent in transition denial, which will force Auburn to execute pick and roll in the halfcourt against an excellent pick and roll defense. That said, Auburn’s man to man in the halfcourt has been effective against pick and roll heavy teams, and Brownell has restructured his offense more for ball screens than motion the past two seasons. Ultimately, this game is going to be played at Clemson’s tempo, and with their ability to score against Auburn’s matchup zone (which Pearl likes to use in slower tempo games), the orange Tigers could pull off the very minor upset.

BRACKET: Clemson

ATS: Clemson +1.5

O/U: Under 146.5

16 UMBC vs 9 Kansas State

My analysis for this game can be found here.

BRACKET: Kansas State

ATS: Kansas State -10

O/U: Under 136

9 Florida State vs 1 Xavier

Last year Chris Mack coached circles around Leonard Hamilton, humiliating the Noles by switching between 2-3 and 1-3-1 zones, and FSU was boatraced out of the tournament. While the personnel has largely changed for FSU this year, the principles are still the same. FSU will play an active, extended man to man, switching between 1-4 in a very effective pick and roll defense. Hamilton will also mix in some extended matchup zone, which severely handicaps their ability to rebound defensively and negates a lot of their inherent athleticism. The Noles aren’t an effective zone defense. Overall, I don’t think a lot has changed from last year. Xavier has the edge on the sideline and the style of play suits the Muskies just fine, as they tend to score at will when opponents want to play a transition heavy game. Additionally, FSU might be shorthanded with Terance Mann reportedly unlikely to play with a groin strain.


ATS: Xavier -5.5

O/U: Over 156

13 Marshall vs 5 West Virginia

Ah a West Virginia throwdown in the second round, and Bob Huggins and Dan D’Antoni haven’t exactly been buddies since the latter arrived at Marshall (ps don’t call this a rivalry in front of Huggy). Schematically, Jon Elmore is a one man press wrecker, and the Herd scored in the 96th percentile nationally in press offense. Marshall is not a team you press, but Huggins isn’t going to switch anything up of course. Defensively Marshall is decent defending ball screens, but that hardly matters against Huggins’ cut and fill motion offense, and the Herd have been extremely poor defensively against that type of action all year. Similarly to Wichita State, the Herd are at a massive disadvantage on the glass, but Marshall negated that against the Shockers by scoring at will in pick and roll. The Mountaineers however are a far, far superior half court pick and roll defense when compared to WSU, and they have the ability to guard Ajdin Penava effectively in Marshall spread pnr offense.

BRACKET: West Virginia

ATS: West Virginia -12.5

O/U: Over 159.5

NCAA Tournament: 54-23-3

ATS First Round: 25-6-1

O/U First Round: 21-10-1

ATS Second Round: 4-4

O/U Second Round: 4-3-1



NCAA Tournament: Saturday Second Round Notes

17 Mar

9 Alabama vs 1 Villanova (Pittsburgh)

Interesting pickle for Jay Wright today, as Jalen Brunson can’t guard Collin Sexton. My knee jerk reaction was that Wright would switch Bridges onto Sexton in Bama’s ubiquitous ball screens, but the Tide have good enough surrounding pieces on the wing with Dazon Ingram and John Petty that could make that move backfire. The Tide are coming off a mostly unsustainable offensive performance, as their first round win over VA Tech was essentially their best offensive game of the entire season if you exclude Alabama A&M, which I am. The biggest downside for the Tide is I’m not sure Donta Hall and Herb Jones can take advantage of Eric Paschall and Omari Spellman’s issues in pick and roll and post defense. You can attack Nova’s bigs, but Hall and Jones have been inconsistent at best as offensive threats.

BRACKET: Villanova

ATS: Alabama +11

O/U: Over 148

7 Rhode Island vs 2 Duke (Pittsburgh)

Check out The Action Network for my analysis of this game.


ATS: Duke -9.5

O/U: Under 149

13 Buffalo vs 5 Kentucky (Boise)

Check The Action Network for my analysis of this game.

BRACKET: Kentucky

ATS: Kentucky -5.5

O/U: Under 156

11 Loyola Chicago vs 3 Tennessee (Dallas)

Check The Action Network for my analysis of this game.

BRACKET: Loyola Chicago

ATS: Loyola Chicago +5.5

O/U: Under 130

8 Seton Hall vs 1 Kansas (Wichita)

Against a team that attacks the rim, the health of Udoka Azubuike is of the utmost importance, and it sounds like he’ll only be able to go 15-20 minutes per Bill Self. Per, Azubuike’s presence on the floor against Tier A opponents has been worth 14 points per 100 possessions. Defending against burly Angel Delgado without Azubuike is a major challenge for Mitch Lightfoot and Silvio De Sousa. Neither of these teams can guard each other in pick and roll. With Desi Rodriguez healthy alongside Khadeen Carrington, Lagerald Vick, Svi, and Malik Newman’s suspect defense will be exploited in ball screens tonight. On the other end, the Pirates are even worse guarding at the point of attack, and Devonte’ Graham should have a field day.


ATS: Kansas -4.5

O/U: Over 153.5

5 Ohio State vs 4 Gonzaga (Boise)

Not much to glean from Gonzaga’s beatdown of Ohio State in PK80, as this is a totally different Buckeye team, as they were still trying to figure out Chris Holtmann’s system and hadn’t yet meshed as a team. That said, Holtmann has some major matchup issues to contend with again against the Zags. First and foremost, Ohio State’s bigs, namely Kaleb Wesson, can’t defend the mobility of Killian Tillie, Johnathan Williams, and Rui Hachimura. Gonzaga’s overwhelming strength is the ability of the frontcourt to play away from the rim and with their collective back to the basket in Mark Few’s ball screen continuity offense. This is a nightmare scenario for Wesson and Micah Potter (who didn’t play in the first game in Portland, which ended up being the frosh Wesson’s first start), and it’s going to force Holtmann to use Keita Bates-Diop in high leverage defensive situations against bigger opponents, which exposes him to tired legs and fouls. This is essentially the second game in a row where Micah Potter figures to be a non-factor. On the other end, Gonzaga is an elite pick and roll defense, but Ohio State doesn’t run pick and roll. Holtmann likes to send Jae’Sean Tate and KBD to the rim as cutters, and he gives both a ton of freedom to create offensively, with Kam Williams on the perimeter as a safety valve. Few however has several options against, Tate and KBD, as Hachimura can switch on 2-5, and Silas Melson and Zach Norvell have length on the perimeter. South Dakota State effectively walled off the rim, and Ohio State jacked up a season high 40 three point attempts, and the troubling aspect of that is that SDSU isn’t a remotely good defensive team, and Gonzaga is one of the country’s best interior defenses. Ohio State will get blown out if they have to shoot anywhere near 40 threes again tonight.

BRACKET: Gonzaga

ATS: Gonzaga -3.5

O/U: Under 142.5

6 Florida vs 3 Texas Tech (Dallas)

Florida is at a major athleticism and skill disadvantage in the frontcourt in this matchup, which was something first round opponent St. Bonaventure couldn’t exploit, although Keith Stone has been playing with a toughness that I haven’t seen from him before, and he could very well be the x-factor in this game. Offensively for Florida, it’s all about Chris Chiozza’s decision making against Texas Tech’s souped up pack line defense. Texas Tech flies to the ball  as well as any defense in the country, but it leaves them vulnerable on the weak side. Florida’s ball movement is often suspect, but if Chiozza can make the quick pass and exploit the weak side, the Gators are going to have some wide open looks from deep, and we all know Florida can shoot the ball. Can former Gator Brandone Francis provide any intel on his ex-teammates? I’m sure Chris Beard asked, but I think the crux of this matchup is whether or not the length of Tech can disrupt Chiozza, because laterally they don’t have the quickness to keep him from breaking down the modified TTU pack line.

BRACKET: Florida

ATS: Florida +2

O/U: Under 134

6 Houston vs 3 Michigan (Wichita)

Interesting matchup, as I think both defenses are equipped to handle the offensive actions of Kelvin Sampson and John Beilein. Rob “The Bun” Gray is a phenomenal offensive player, especially out of ball screens. In fact, I would venture to say he’s the most complete offensive player in the country when it comes to utilizing ball screens, as he can drive, finish at the rim, pull up and hit the jumper, or find the open man (usually lethal Corey Davis and Armoni Brooks) when blitzed by the defense. I suspect Beilein will play Gray straight up with Zavier Simpson, as he has been a lock down defender of late, and the key to Michigan’s catapult up the defensive efficiency ratings. I would also bet that he switches Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman on him to show some length as well. For Houston it’s all about their ability to chase Moe Wagner around in Beilein’s outstanding ball screen offense. Devin Davis and Fabian White are capable, but White is young and foul prone, and pulling Davis away from the rim takes away Houston’s best defensive rebounder (although that’s not really a concern against Michigan). All about the ball screens in what could be the most intriguing x’s and o’s matchup of the day.

BRACKET: Michigan

ATS: Michigan -3

O/U: Under 134

NCAA Tournament: 46-16-2

ATS: 25-6-1

O/U: 21-10-1



My Bracket

15 Mar

NCAA 2018

West Region Breakdown

15 Mar

1 Xavier vs 16 Texas Southern (Nashville)

Xavier Fingerprint: Lethal offensive team with a suspect defense. Xavier has all the pieces necessary for a Final Four run on the offensive end, as Tre Bluiett is an outstanding senior wing scorer, JP Macura is a senior jack of all trades, Quentin Goodin has quietly developed into an offensive threat at the point, and Chris Mack has the ability to rotate Kerem Kanter and Sean O’Mara at the post and keep them both fresh offensively. And I haven’t even mentioned the developing games of freshmen Naji Marshall and Paul Scruggs, or the stretch shooting of Kaiser Gates. Defensively, the Muskies are prone to mental lapses, but the emergence of Marshall and the long armed Scruggs on that end can’t be overlooked, and neither can Mack’s ability to concoct morphing zones out of his 1-3-1 that have given teams fits on short prep in the dance. Mack is a premier tournament coach.

Texas Southern Fingerprint: Mike Davis has high major talent with waterbug Trae Jefferson at the point, Donte Clark and Derrick Bruce on the wings, and 7’2 Trayvon Reed at center. This isn’t a typical SWAC entry, and Xavier simply won’t bowl them over because they’re a 16 seed. Davis’ squads always take away the three point line, and for a SWAC team, they value the rock and can shoot at a good clip from outside. The Tigers aren’t to be taken lightly.

Match Up: Jefferson is the type of player who can give Goodin fits with his quickness off the dribble, and TSU can shoot against the pack line defense of Xavier. Texas Southern can compete for more than 30 minutes in this one.


ATS: Texas Southern +19.5

O/U: Over 160

8 Missouri vs 9 Florida State (Nashville)

This analysis is included in my Friday column at


5 Ohio State vs 12 South Dakota State (Boise)

Ohio State Fingerprint: The Buckeyes get by with their outstanding length on wings between Keita Bates-Diop and Jae’Sean Tate. Chris Holtmann doesn’t really use them in ball screens, as he prefers to post KBD up and isolate mismatches either facing the rim or with his back to the basket, and Tate is a downhill attacker who will look to breakdown his man as soon he gets the ball. Kaleb Wesson has a Jared Sullinger body in the post, and thus the Bucks run quite a bit of offense through the block between him and KBD. Defensively, Ohio State is compact and defends well in the post, but not so well in ball screens.

South Dakota State Fingerprint: The Dauminator. Mike Daum is the most lethal offensive big man in midmajor basketball, and his ability to play at the rim or in pick and pop is a devastating combo. I mean come on, a center that hits 43% from 3 is unfair. Add in big shooters like Reed Tellinghuisen and Skyler Flatten on the wing and a super quick ball handler in David Jenkins in ball screens, and you have a potent offensive team capable of scoring on anyone in the country. Defensively, the Jacks have some issues. Daum can’t guard effectively in pick and roll, and those big shooters on the wing are pretty stationary on the defensive end.

Match Up: Both offenses have some advantages. SDSU’s wings can’t defend KBD and Tate, and they could dominate this game. However, Kaleb Wesson can’t defend Daum in pick and pop, and I’m thinking Holtmann has to pull the KBD card and put him on the Dauminator. That will expose him to foul trouble however, and TJ Otzelberger will certainly not reciprocate with Daum on KBD. Some very interesting match ups within match ups in this one, but if ultimately SDSU is going to have a chance to jump shoot its way into an upset.

BRACKET: South Dakota State

ATS: South Dakota State +8

O/U: Over 146.5

4 Gonzaga vs 13 UNCG (Boise)

Gonzaga Fingerprint: The Zags are an offensive machine. Mark Few has a slew of offensive options inside and out. Killian Tillie, Johnathan Williams, and Rui Hachimura provide an unfair trio inside, and Tillie has recently added unstoppable stretch 4 to his resume with his unbelievable perimeter shooting of late. Want to collapse on the frontcourt? Good luck, as Silas Melson, Josh Perkins, Zach Norvell can all drive, dish, and shoot. Gonzaga’s frontcourt athleticism translates to the nation’s 12th best rim protection defense, but the guards are a little slow on dribble penetration, and Few tossed in a lot of 2-3 zone to compensate.

UNCG Fingerprint: The Spartans are a tough bunch. Wes Miller runs a trapping 2-1-2 zone press, and UNCG actually pressed at the second highest rate in the country, per Synergy. Additionally, they protect the rim extremely well thanks to James Dickey, who I have hyped as an NBA prospect all year because of his massive wingspan and fast twitch leaping ability. UNCG actually allowed the 22nd lowest FG% at the rim thanks to him. With a difficult press and an elite back end rim protector, it’s no wonder UNCG was 28th nationally in defensive efficiency rating. Offensively, Miller gears everything towards running sharp shooting Francis Alonso off a million screens, and the Spartans shoot the 3 at a top 25 rate nationally, and they crash the glass extremely hard on both ends. This isn’t your typical 13 seed.

Match Up: Gonzaga’s press offense has been excellent this year (mostly after the Texas debacle in PK80), and they’ve been one of the country’s best defensive rebounding teams, which negates two of UNCG’s biggest strengths, but if you’re going to beat Gonzaga’s defense, it’s going to come from the perimeter, and the Spartans will certainly bomb away.

BRACKET: Gonzaga

ATS: UNCG +12.5

O/U: Under 136

6 Houston vs 11 San Diego State (Wichita)

See my column at The Action Network for my analysis of this game.

3 Michigan vs 14 Montana (Wichita)

Michigan Fingerprint: John Beilein’s 2 Guard ball screen offense. Michigan is always a lethal tournament team because Beilein’s offense is the best in the country at finding and exploiting mismatches within his outstanding ball screen sets. The Wolverines are patient and methodical, and Zavier Simpson and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman will run the offense until that mismatch pops up. Defensively, Michigan has suddenly morphed into the 5th most efficient unit in the country, which makes these Wolverines the best defense Beilein has ever coached. A Beilein offense paired with a dominant defense sounds like a recipe for a deep tournament run.

Montana Fingerprint: The Grizzlies are an aggressive bunch on both ends of the floor, as Travis DeCuire attack the rim offensively with Michael Oguine and Ahmaad Rorie in the backcourt, and Jamar Akoh and Fabijan Krslovic in the post. Both tandems play their own two man games essentially, as Rorie feeds off Oguine’s penetration, and Akoh feeds off Krslovic’s passing from the high post. As such, Montana attempts shots at the rim at the 25th highest rate in the country. Defensively, the Grizzlies are equally aggressive, as they extend well past the three point line defensively with, Big Sky DPOY Oguine leading the charge. Thus, Montana turns teams over at the 30th highest rate nationally, and they take away the three point line, as teams attempt triples at the 28th lowest rate.

Match Up: Michigan has some major positives and a few negatives in this match up with Montana. First, Akoh and Krslovic have very little chance of guarding Moe Wagner in pick and pop situations. Second, Michigan doesn’t turn the ball over, which is key against the ever aggressive Oguine. Third, Simpson has turned into a stellar on ball defender, and he’s capable of staying in front of Oguine, and Michigan’s defense allows the 8th lowest FG attempt rate at the rim, per, and Wolverines aren’t going to put you on the free throw line. The negatives: Michigan still doesn’t defend in the post well, and Montana’s post action isn’t a simple entry feed, as the high-lo action between Akoh and Krslovic can be difficult to defend even for good post defenses. Michigan has had a long layoff from winning the Big Ten tournament, and a hyper aggressive Montana team can put you in an early hole if you come out rusty.

BRACKET: Michigan

ATS: Michigan -11

O/U: Under 135

7 Texas A&M vs 10 Providence (Charlotte)

Texas A&M Fingerprint: The Aggies are one of the most dominant frontcourt teams in the field. Billy Kennedy is something of a dinosaur, as he has been extremely slow to embrace the spread pick and roll, pace and space revolution. Tyler Davis, Bob Williams, and Tonny Trocha-Morales can all score at the rim, with Davis and Williams representing dual post threats, and this is when the Aggies are at their best offensively. However, TJ Starks is something of a loose cannon at the point, and he can quickly derail the TAMU offense. There’s a reason the Aggies grade out as a “poor” ball screen offense per Synergy. The strength of the Aggies as a whole is their defense, where they naturally defend in the post well and in ball screens thanks to Admon Gilder. With the massive frontcourt, TAMU is also capable of playing volleyball on the offensive glass, and that’s a large part of what can often be a clunky Aggie offense.

Providence Fingerprint: Ed Cooley is a phenomenal basketball coach, and his ability to utilize his versatile length in flex motion is top notch, plus it helps that he has an excellent floor general in Kyron Cartwright. Rodney Bullock, Alpha Diallo, and Jalen Lindsey can all draw bigs out of the lane and make them face guard a long wing in space. Defensively, PC has struggled to defend at the rim and rebound consistently, but that wing length has been incredibly disruptive on the perimeter.

Match Up: This one likely comes down to the Friars’ ability to make Williams and Davis guard and big up fouls trying in motion. Otherwise, PC can’t stop TAMU in the paint or on the offensive glass. PC has a big advantage at the point, but the Friars haven’t shown a consistent ability to hit jump shots or provide any sort of consistent offense from anywhere on the floor except the free throw line, and the Aggies typically defend without fouling.


ATS: Texas A&M -3

O/U: Under 138

2 North Carolina vs 15 Lipscomb (Charlotte)

UNC Fingerprint: Roy Williams gets an undeserved rep for just rolling the ball out as a coach, but his switch to a smaller lineup with a healthy Cam Johnson has the Heels in a great position to make a third straight trip to the national title game. UNC’s secondary break offense is lethal this year with Joel Berry, Theo Pinson, Kenny Williams, and Johnson all capable of leading the charge, and Luke Maye’s ability to quickly establish position has all made the Heels the 5th most efficient offense in the country. The amazing part of Williams’ small ball lineup is that it hasn’t limited the Heels on the glass, and they still grab their misses at the 2nd best rate in the country. Defensively UNC still underscreens and sags on the perimeter to entice jump shots so they can grab the miss and go, which means they can be prone to hot shooting, perimeter oriented teams.

Lipscomb Fingerprint: The Bisons are a Belmont clone, as Casey Alexander runs his mentor Rick Byrd’s famous drag screen offense and 4 out 1 in ball screen motion. The problem for Lipscomb was that they didn’t shoot the ball well this year until the ASUN tournament, as it took sophomore Kenny Cooper a while to get comfortable running the offense in injured Nate Moran’s stead. Lipscomb has a lethal slashing wing in Garrison Mathews, and Rob Marberry serves as the hyper efficient big who gets to enjoy single coverage as the “one in”- a trademark of any Byrd/Alexander offense. Defensively, Lipscomb applies a little bit of halfcourt ball pressure and they rebound exceptionally well.

Match Up: Lipscomb will have a chance to shoot themselves into respectability with the final score, and they can at least partially keep UNC off the offensive glass, but ultimately UNC just has a physical and athletic advantage at every position. The good news is that Lipscomb is well familiar with every thing the Heels run. I mentioned in The Action Network’s initial bracket breakdown that FGCU is a poor man’s UNC, and the Bisons of course just got done smashing the Eagles in the ASUN finals. Of course applying that to the Heels is a different story.


ATS: UNC -19.5

O/U: Under 162



Midwest Region Breakdown

15 Mar

1 Kansas vs 16 Penn (Wichita)

Kansas Fingerprint: The Jayhawks are an elite offensive unit thanks to Devonte’ Graham’s ability to pick apart opposing defenses in on-balls. Graham is a lethal pick and roll offensive player, whether shooting, passing, or penetrating. Being flanked by Malik Newman, Svi Mykhailiuk, and the mercurial Lagerald Vick only adds to the danger of KU’s offense, as does brick wall of a man Udoka Azubuike, who can take over in the post and sets bone rattling screens for Graham and company. KU has the offensive capability pour gasoline on the bracket and throw a match on top, a la Villanova two years ago. Defensively, KU has some holes, particularly with Vick and Svi on the wing. In fact, the holes became so glaring at times that Self famously switched to a zone in a few instances this year.

Penn Fingerprint: Penn being seeded as a 16 is just another glaring oversight by the committee in its attempt to seed and bracket the field. Penn is the best 16 seed in the history of the NCAA Tournament, and there’s simply no rationale or justification for the Quakers being on the 16 line other than sheer laziness. Moving on, Steve Donahue is an analytical coach, and as such, Penn takes high percentage shots at the rim by working through a fantastic high-low big man duo of AJ Brodeur and Max Rothschild, and Penn has arguably the best big to big passing I’ve seen in D1 basketball this year. That opens up the perimeter for knock down shooters like Caleb Wood and Ryan Betley. Defensively, Penn doesn’t gamble for steals, and they stay at home on shooters, rarely over helping on penetration and rarely doubling the post. This is essentially Fran Dunphy’s defensive model, which of course makes sense, and the Quakers allow threes at one of the lowest rates in the country.

Match Up: With Azubuike’s status in question (and it sounds like Self is leaning towards resting him), Penn could have a chance to hang around in this game, especially since they’re THE BEST 16 SEED EVER! If Azubuike does sit, freshman Silvio De Sousa will see plenty of minutes, and while he has been spectacular offensively, he doesn’t know what he’s doing defensively, and against an offense like Penn’s that is predicated on quick ball movement, his inability to recognize help situations will be exposed. Against any 16 seed in the history of the NCAA Tournament, I think Self could surely get away with resting his center, but thanks to the severe apathy of the committee, it has the potential to turn this into a legitimately tough basketball game.


ATS: Penn +14

O/U: Under 147

8 Seton Hall vs 9 North Carolina State (Wichita)

Seton Hall Fingerprint: The Pirates are a senior laden squad built on their physicality inside. The Hall attacks the rim relentlessly through 6’6 point guard Khadeen Carrington in pick and roll and burly Angel Delgado inside. The Pirates are also a ferocious offensive rebounding team. Defensively, Seton Hall has suffers from mental lapses, and the guards in particular are poor defending against dribble penetration. Additionally, Delgado is a poor defender in pick and roll, and Ish Sanogo has served as a sort of band aid for both the porous perimeter and interior.

North Carolina State Fingerprint: Kevin Keatts is a Rick Pitino guy, and he established his name as a D1 coach by taking UNCW to back to back CAA titles with a physical and relentless full court press. Unfortunately for the Pack, they don’t do much else well defensively, and they’re particularly lax inside, where Omer Yurtseven is too slow of foot to make a difference at the rim. If you can beat the press, you’re going to score at the rim, as NCSU allows shots at the rim at the 6th highest rate in the country, and offenses torch them for the 54th highest FG% at the rim. Offensively Keatts also brought his 4 out 1 in ball screen motion with him from UNCW, and the Pack surround Yurtseven with lethal shooters and a fantastic distributor in Markel Johnson.

Match Up: Quite frankly, this one is difficult to call. NC State can’t defend Seton Hall at the rim, but I’m not convinced in Seton Hall’s abilities in press offense. The Pack pride themselves on conditioning, and I can see Seton Hall wearing down in this one, particularly Delgado. I think the Pirates get out to a fast start with easy buckets at the rim, but the press eventually makes this a tight game back and forth down the stretch.

BRACKET: Seton Hall

ATS: Seton Hall -2.5

O/U: Over 157

5 Clemson vs 12 New Mexico State (San Diego)

This analysis can be found in my Friday column at

4 Auburn vs 13 Charleston (San Diego)

This analysis can be found in my Friday column at

6 TCU vs 11 Syracuse (Detroit)

TCU Fingerprint: Jamie Dixon’s motion offense is pure genius, and the man is an offensive savant, which is ironic after his Pitt teams were labeled as “boring”. The Frogs play 4 out with the center Vlad Brodziansky even capable of popping out on the perimeter. The key to Dixon’s phenomenal cut and fill motion is the ball movement. Whether the ball is in PG Alex Robinson’s hands or point-forward Kenrich Williams, it never sticks, and defenses are seemingly always a pass behind the action. While Robinson has been mostly great since becoming the primary ball handler with Jaylen Fisher out, the MVP is Williams. His ability to shoot, dribble, and pass at the 4 forces opposing coaches to play two bigs, and few 4s in the country have the ability to keep up with Williams’ ball skills. Defensively, it’s been a different tale for the Frogs. Brodziansky is weak in the post, and absolutely no one outside of maybe Desmond Bane plays any dribble contain defense. Help side rotations are late and Dixon’s dabbling in zone did nothing to help.

Syracuse Fingerprint:  As usual, Jim Boeheim’s zone took another March scalp, this time Arizona State’s. The 2-3 zone just takes teams out of their natural offense and breaking the zone down via iso also isn’t an option. It’s almost impossible to score on the Orange in transition, as Boeheim always places a high value on getting back defensively to set up the zone. Syracuse played in a staggering seven games that didn’t even reach 60 possessions, and its play in game in Dayton barely got there, landing at 60 even. Simply put, teams that don’t play Syracuse on a regular basis aren’t prepared for the zone come tournament time.

On the other side of the ball, Syracuse ranks 130th in offensive efficiency rating, per KenPom. Syracuse’s offense relies heavily on iso penetration from the long backcourt of Tyus Battle and Frank Howard, in addition to Oshae Brissett’s ability to draw contact, and the anemic Cuse offense is bolstered by the 13th highest offensive rebounding rate in the country.

Match Up: TCU’s motion offense has been outstanding against man and zone, and I’m sure Dixon had his team fully prepared for the Syracuse 2-3, a scheme he’s obviously quite familiar with from his days at Pitt. TCU is unique in that it has the ability to put big shooters on the perimeter against the zone, a luxury that Arizona State didn’t have in Dayton. The other advantage TCU has is that it is a strong rebounding team, and that will limit Syracuse’s supplemental offense on putbacks. Howard and Battle can break TCU down off the dribble rather easily however, and that’s a cause for concern, as the Frogs can’t defend against the one offensive strength of the Orange.


ATS: Syracuse +4

O/U: Under 136.5

3 Michigan State vs 14 Bucknell (Detroit)

Michigan State Fingerprint: Sparty is perhaps the most balanced team in the field, as Duke is the only other team in the field currently in the top 10 in both offensive and defensive efficiency rating, per KenPom. Tom Izzo certainly hasn’t reinvented the offensive wheel with his standard Hawk action, but he has a play making point guard in Cassius Winston, dual bigs in Jaren Jackson and Nick Ward, and a high scoring wing in Miles Bridges, and with the country’s highest assist rate, the Hawk motion is as fluid as any offensive system in the country. Defensively, Sparty is once again dominant in the paint, as they allow the lowest 2PT% offense in the country. MSU’s biggest issue has been live ball turnovers out of Winston and TumTum Nairn, otherwise Michigan State has all the pieces for a Final Four run.

Bucknell Fingerprint: Per Synergy, only Oral Roberts ran more offense through the post than Bucknell, and Nana Foulland was both prolific and efficient on the block. High scoring wing Zach Thomas has been slowed with a broken nose, but he ditched his protective mask late against Colgate in the Patriot League final, and should be hindrance free for the first round. Stephen Brown at the point completes the Bucknell “triplets”, which run head coach Nathan Davis’ motion offense at a high level. Defensively, Bucknell plays straight up man to man, no frills, no gimmicks. That means Bucknell doesn’t produce a lot of turnovers, but they also don’t get beat backdoor or via penetration.

Match Up: This isn’t the best of match ups for one of the better midmajors in the country. As a post reliant offense, drawing the country’s best 2PT% defense and the 2nd best rim protecting defense is pretty brutal. It’s going to take a mask-free Thomas finding his shooting stroke and Brown beating the laterally slow Winston off the dribble in order for Bucknell to hang, and as an offense that works inside out, that’s going to be difficult. Additionally, with Bucknell’s inability to exploit the one glaring weakness of the Spartans, the sledding doesn’t get any easier.

BRACKET: Michigan State

ATS: Michigan State -14.5

O/U: Under 148.5

7 Rhode Island vs 10 Oklahoma (Pittsburgh)

Rhode Island Fingerprint: Danny Hurley reinvented Rhody as a 4 out 1 in ball screen reliant offense this year, and until a recent late season swoon, the Rams were outstanding in that formation. With the ever steady Jeff Dowtin and fullback Jared Terrell running the offense, the Rams can be incredibly difficult to stay in front of, and EC Matthews and Stan Robinson on the wings only make things more difficult for opposing defenses. Defensively, Hurley pressures ball handlers relentlessly and URI is hell on three point reliant offenses, the Rams will force shooters off the line all day and shot swatting Cyril Langevine is lurking at the rim. With Fatts Russell off the bench and the versatility of Robinson, the Rams can bring pressure in waves either full court or in the halfcourt, and playing offense against URI requires 40 minutes of focus.

Oklahoma Fingerprint: Trae Young. For Lon Kruger’s transition reliant offense, it’s all about what Young is able to create offensively. He’s the most ball dominant player in the country, and Oklahoma lives and dies with his decision making off ball screens. Young’s supporting cast can be inconsistent, but serviceable. Brady Manek is a developing pick and pop big and Chris James is an efficient scorer, but make no mistake, this is Young’s team. Defensively, OU doesn’t do much of anything well besides clogging up the lane against penetration. The Sooners are poor in pick and roll defense, and you can go basically go right at Young on that end.

Match Up: OU is an excellent press offense, so don’t look for Hurley to extend pressure on Young, because then you’re playing right into his hands. Dowtin is an excellent on ball defender, and Hurley can blitz Young on ball screens with any number of defenders like Russell and Robinson, and force the ball out of his hands. Hurley can even hard hedge with the athletic Langevine and not risk getting burned on recovery against this Sooner offense. On the other end, OU’s poor screen and roll defense should be exposed routinely by Terrell and Matthews.

BRACKET: Rhode Island

ATS: Rhode Island -2

O/U: Over 158

2 Duke vs 15 Iona (Pittsburgh)

Duke Fingerprint: An embarrassment of riches on the offensive end and a reworked defense that has suddenly morphed into one of the most efficient units in the country as a 2-3 zone. Duke’s offense can be a thing of beauty, as the spacing is excellent between shooters like Grayson Allen and Gary Trent, and the two head interior monster of Marvin Bagley and Wendell Carter. Point guard play is an issue, but Trevon Duval has been much better in limited doses of late. As if the Blue Devils needed any help offensively, they’ve been supplementing the offense with nation’s highest offensive rebounding rate.

Iona Fingerprint: The Gaels spread the floor with 4 lethal perimeter threats around big man TK Edogi (although Roland Griffin was phenomenal against Fairfield, and offers more versatility offensively), and Tim Cluess always runs one of the country’s best transition attacks. Defensively, the Gaels will mix it up, but Cluess likes to extend pressure before falling into a match up zone, which allows him to both utilize his 4 out alignment aggressively, but also protect against his lack of height.

Match Up: It’s hard to envision Coach K getting away from the zone at this point, but the Gaels are a zone shredding machine with shooters like EJ Crawford, Rickey McGill, Zach Lewis, Schadrac Casimir, and Deyshonee Much (if he’s out of Cluess’ doghouse) spreading the floor. That said, they haven’t seen a zone with this size before, and if the shots aren’t falling for 40 minutes, they’re going to get crushed at the rim by Bagley and Carter.


ATS: Duke -20.5

O/U: Over 157

East Region Breakdown

14 Mar

1 Villanova vs 16 Radford (Pittsburgh)

Villanova Fingerprint: Villanova’s fingerprint is fairly straightforward. It’s the best offense in the country. With Jalen Brunson at the helm, Nova can essentially shred any defensive scheme thrown at them. In my daily columns, I’ve pasted in Villanova’s offensive resume from Synergy, and it’s just a string of “excellents”. Jay Wright has surrounded Brunson with high level offensive players who combine lethal shooting, dribbling, and passing. When Villanova’s offense is clicking, it’s flawless. Defensively, Villanova has had its issues, but it generally takes a combination of a dominant post scorer and a quick on the ball guards who can expose Brunson and backcourt mate Donte DiVincenzo’s lack of lateral quickness. Few teams in the country possess those traits in harmony, and Villanova’s defense has quietly improved to a top 25 efficiency rating with the return of Phil Booth. If the Wildcats are defending at a high level, they’re unstoppable.

Radford Fingerprint: Mike Jones is an excellent basketball coach, and his Highlanders have bought into his full court pressure and stifling halfcourt defense. Offensively, Ed Polite’s ability to score at and away from the rim was a matchup nightmare in the Big South, and Carlick Jones is a highly effective scorer out of ball screens.

Match Up: Pressing Villanova will lead to certain doom, as the Wildcats are one of the best press offenses in the country. Radford will try to muddy up this game with physical ball pressure, but that’s hard to pull off against Jay Wright’s offense, as literally everyone can handle the ball. Nothing to get excited about here.

BRACKET: Villanova

ATS: Villanova -23.5

O/U: Under 140.5 (the ol’ under blowout)

8 Virginia Tech vs 9 Alabama (Pittsburgh)

Virginia Tech Fingerprint: I’ve been critical of Buzz Williams in the past, but he did a nice job saving the Hokies’ season, especially getting his team to buy in defensively, where they’ve been stellar down the stretch. The strength of the Hokie defense lies in their ball screen defense, where Justin Robinson, Ahmed Hill, and Nickeil Alexander-Walker (NAW is an under the radar NBA prospect, love his game) have been phenomenal, leading VA Tech to limit PnR ball handlers to a meager .64 points per possession. The Hokies are also excellent in denying transition opportunities, where they rank 25th nationally in lowest transition FGA rate, and they don’t foul, sporting the country’s 60th lowest FTA rate. Offensively, it’s all about attacking down hill in Buzz’s penetrate and kick offense. The Hokies are third nationally in shot rate at the rim. Robinson and the outstanding versatile Chris Clarke are lethal penetrators, and a host of long, deadly wings on the perimeter leaves single coverage for Kerry Blackshear in the paint.

Alabama Fingerprint: Collin Sexton is Alabama’s fingerprint. Sexton is one of the most lethal utilizers of ball screens in the country, and the Tide want to get out and run and have he and Dazon Ingram attack north/south as much as possible, and it’s essentially impossible to keep both of them off the line. John Petty is a floor spacer for the Tide, but he’s awfully streaky from beyond the arc, and Donta Hall (who is returning from a concussion) is an excellent floor running big man and rim protector for a defense that was 13th nationally in efficiency rating. The Tide defend well in pick and roll, but they foul a lot and struggle to rebound consistently.

Match Up: This doesn’t set up well for the Tide on paper, but I’m hesitant to count out Sexton, the most competitive man in the game, based solely on the metrics. But that’s precisely what I’m going to do. VA Tech limits transition, trips to the stripe, and they defend extremely well in ball screens. That’s essentially the three keys to Alabama’s offense. This looks like it could be one of the better match ups of Thursday.

BRACKET: Virginia Tech

ATS: VA Tech -1.5

O/U: Under 142


4 Wichita State vs 13 Marshall (San Diego)

Wichita State Fingerprint: The great Gregg Marshall teams of the past were lock down defensive teams that “played angry”. This Shocker team is all about offense, as WSU scores at 1.22 points per possession, the 4th best rate in the country, and that’s by far the best offensive team Marshall has ever coached. Conversely, the Shockers have struggled in pick and roll defense and transition defense all year, and this is the worst defensive team Marshall has had in his tenure at Wichita since his first season in 2007-08 when the Shockers finished a game out of last in the MVC. Why is WSU so porous defensively this year? I mentioned poor PnR defense, as teams have exposed the lack of lateral quickness in the backcourt and the immobility of the frontcourt, and opposing offenses have taken advantage of the Shockers’ constant offensive glass pounding, and have beaten the somewhat lumbering Shockers down the floor.

Marshall Fingerprint: Dan D’Antoni has quickly built an analytics dream team in Huntington, West Virginia, as the Herd spread the floor in transition and use and NBA style spread pick and roll offense in the halfcourt. The Herd either bomb away from the perimeter or score at the rim, nothing in between, as they’re 13th nationally in two point jump shot rate. The Herd offense begins with the incomparable Jon Elmore. While Landry Shamet is the NBA prospect at the point in this game, Elmore actually plays the more NBA ready game, he just doesn’t have the body that Shamet does. Defensively, D’Antoni applies the same analytical mindset as he does on the offensive end, as the Herd chase shooters off the line and into the waiting arms of versatile shot blocker Ajdin Penava. Marshall led CUSA in three point attempt rate offensively, while allowing the lowest attempt rate defensively. Penava swatted shots at the 13th highest rate in the country, but this also exposed him to fouls and contact.

Match Up: Marshall can score against Gregg Marshall’s defense. The Herd are lethal in pick and roll with Elmore, CJ Burks, and the rolling Penava. Shamet and Conner Frankamp’s pick and roll defense could be exposed in a big way. Marshall can also score in transition IF Penava can keep Wichita State off the offensive glass. Note the literal “big if”. It’s almost a certainty that Shaq Morris, Darral Willis, and Rashard Kelly will crush the Herd into a cube on the glass. Ultimately, the overwhelming physical prowess of Wichita State will wear down the Herd, but this is far from a gimme putt in the first round for the Shockers.

BRACKET: Wichita State

ATS: Marshall +12

O/U: 165

5 West Virginia vs 12 Murray State (San Diego)

My analysis for WVU and Murray State can be found in my daily column at

6 Florida vs 11 St. Bonaventure (Dallas)

My analysis for the Gators and Bonnies can be found in my daily column at

3 Texas Tech vs 14 SFA (Dallas)

Texas Tech Fingerprint: Chris Beard is one of, if not the best, young coaches in basketball. Beard quickly assembled a melange of interchangeable frontcourt parts with off the charts athleticism around a dominant ball handler in Keenan Evans to run his Bob Knight copy cat motion offense. Young players like Jarrett Culver gained valuable experience and confidence when Evans was sidelined with a toe injury, and his development has been pivotal for what can be a stagnant offense at times. Defensively, Beard uses a souped up pack line that amplifies the ubiquitous ball pressure in front of the “pack”. The Raiders fly to the ball defensively, and can be beat with weak side attacks via quick skip passes and ball reversals, but rare is the offense that utilizes that efficiently in the ball screen heavy basketball of today. Beard isn’t married to one particular scheme, as he’ll alternate between hard hedging, blitzing, trapping, and downing on ball screens. It’s why he’s such a phenomenal in game coach and game planner.

SFA Fingerprint: Kyle Keller is a Brad Underwood guy, and thus the Jacks are clones of Underwood’s best teams. They deny absolutely everything on the perimeter in the halfcourt, and they generate turnovers (and steals) at the highest rate in the entire country. Offensively, SFA runs a spread motion offense that utilizes the athleticism and versatility of its frontcourt (sound familiar?). TJ Holyfield and Leon Gilmore are a brutal matchup for anyone in the frontcourt, and the Jacks can shoot the ball at the wings with Ivan Canete and Kevon Harris when you try to double in the frontcourt (and both Holyfield and Gilmore can pass the ball). When all else fails for SFA, Shannon Bogues is one of the quickest on-ball guards in the country, and can break most anyone down off the dribble. While Bogues and fellow point guard Aaron Augustin are outstanding in Keller’s denial defense, they’ve both been loose with the ball all year, and the Jacks as a whole are one of the most turnover prone teams in the country.

Match Up: These teams mirror each other in a lot of ways: aggressive defenses, motion offenses, and athletic frontcourts. You’re going to see, and likely hear from the CBS crew, comparisons of SFA to WVU, and subsequently how Tech matched up against the full court press. Ignore them. These comparisons are inaccurate, as SFA doesn’t press full court often, as its high turnover rate is borne from trapping at halfcourt and denying all entry passes and penetration. A far more reasonable comparison in the Big 12 is Oklahoma State, as Mike Boynton was an Underwood assistant as well, and plays a very similar deny defense. Unfortunately I don’t glean too much from those two meetings, as the Raiders didn’t have Zach Smith in the loss in Stillwater, and Evans was hurting as well. Speaking of Smith, he and Zhaire Smith are incredibly important against the versatility and mobility of Holyfield and Gilmore. That’s going to be the match up to watch in this game, as SFA’s ability to win the SLC hinged on exploiting that frontcourt advantage. That’s not going to be the case against the Red Raiders. Expect to see a lot of turnovers and a lot of whistles in this one, but ultimately Tech’s superior defense and guard play wins out. This game won’t be for the faint of heart.

BRACKET: Texas Tech

ATS: SFA +11

O/U: Under 137.5

7 Arkansas vs 10 Butler (Detroit)

Arkansas Fingerprint: The Hogs are an excellent offensive team, propelled by the senior laden backcourt of Daryl Macon, Jaylen Barford, and Anton Beard. An old adage is that senior backcourts carry teams in March, and while the evidence is strictly anecdotal, the Hogs certainly have a veteran backcourt. Arkansas is efficient in both the halfcourt and transition, and it excels in pick and roll, grading out in the 97th percentile nationally in PnR offense, per Synergy. Defensively, it’s been a struggle all year for the Hogs. So much so that Mike Anderson has somewhat turned things around with a 2-3 zone defense, which must have Nolan Richardson yelling at his television in El Paso. That zone has taken a toll on the Hogs’ rebounding an ability to push in transition, despite the presence of Dan Gafford and Trey Thompson.

Butler Fingerprint: The Bulldogs have deviated a bit from the Butler Way in LaVall Jordan’s first season, as like Arkansas, they’re here because of their offense, not their defense. Butler runs on-balls at one of the highest rates in the entire country, and Jordan will run pick and roll from the top with Kamar Baldwin or from the side with Kelan Martin, a matchup nightmare at the 4. Tyler Wideman has been an efficient roll man and post option for Jordan as well. Defensively, Jordan likes to trade off between defense and offense with Paul Jorgensen (offense) and Aaron Thompson (defense) on the perimeter, and Nate Fowler (defense) and Wideman (offense) in the frontcourt. Sometimes you can catch Butler in bad substitution patterns, and if Arkansas is playing at their preferred pace, that’s a legitimate concern.

Match Up: While Butler runs pick and roll at one of the highest rates in the country, the one strength of Arkansas’ defense has been its ability to defend effectively in PnR, but they also haven’t seen a 4 that runs PnR at the point of attack like Martin. Look for Jordan to trade more offense for defense in this one, with Henry Baddley and Thompson seeing significant minutes, as the Baldwin/Martin duo should be good enough offensively against this Arkansas defense.


ATS: Butler -1.5

O/U: Under 151.5

2 Purdue vs 15 CSUF (Detroit)

Purdue Fingerprint: The Boilers have incredible balance with Isaac Haas capable of dominating in the post, and Matt Painter runs some of the best off ball motion in the country with a bevy of lethal perimeter shooters. Carsen Edwards’ ability to create offense gives Purdue something it has been lacking in the past as well. Defensively, the Boilers have fallen off a bit down the stretch, and I’m concerned about the relative lack of athleticism on the wings and at the point of attack, but that’s something to worry about after the first weekend, as is the lack of defensive rebounding prowess.

CSUF Fingerprint: The Titans are a guard heavy group that’s entirely reliant on getting to the rim, and they actually lead the country in free throw rate. Jackson Rowe serves as an undersized swiss army knife 5, but thus the Titans are poor in the post defensively and on the glass.

Match Up: If it seems like I’m glossing over this game, it’s because I think it has the potential to be the biggest blowout of the first round. Purdue doesn’t foul defensively, and CSUF can’t defend in the post. This is a mismatch at nearly every turn unless the Boilers come out rusty after the long layoff from the Big Ten Tournament being playing in January.


ATS: Purdue -20.5

O/U: Under 145.5

South Region Breakdown

14 Mar

1 Virginia vs 16 UMBC (Charlotte)

Virginia Fingerprint: DEFENSE! UVA is synonymous with the vaunted pack line defense, and the Cavs defend in it with historical efficiency. Offensively, Virginia is extremely methodical, using Tony Bennett’s mover-blocker offense to free up shooters Kyle Guy, Ty Jerome, and Devon Hall with a series of screens set by the bigs along the lane lines. Virginia is the field’s overall 1 seed for a reason, and sleeping on the Cavs because of a perceived “lack of offensive firepower” is fool hardy. UVA’s offense typically centers around one primary bucket getter, but this year’s team has more balance, but the wrist injury to De’Andre Hunter is big. Hunter gave UVA more spacing and balance offensively, and was a swiss army knife type of player. UVA’s postseason injury bad luck continues. Last year, the best individual defender in the country, Isaiah Wilkins, couldn’t play because of a respiratory infection, and in 2015 Justin Anderson broke his hand before the tournament.

UMBC Fingerprint: This might sound lame, but the Retrievers are a true team. They enjoy playing with each other and have a tough mental mindset, as they were on the ropes several times in the AmEast championship game on the road against a dominant league powerhouse. With Jairus Lyles and KJ Maura running the show, it’s unwise to count out UMBC. The Retrievers can shoot from multiple positions, and Lyles is one of the best individual scorers in the entire tournament. Dave Odom wants to spread the floor in transition and extend pressure defensively to mitigate his lack of frontcourt talent.

Match Up: Is there even a glimmer of hope for the Retrievers of Baltimore Country against what is statistically the best defense of the KenPom era? I think the answer is a surprising yes. The Retrievers are led by spark plug Maura at the point and volume scorer Lyles in the backcourt. Lyles has a high major pedigree and is fearless with the ball. He’s the type of player that won’t be intimidated by the infamous UVA pack line defense, and he’ll be willing to shoot from outside all day. UMBC is a guard heavy lineup with excellent ball movement that can fire away without a conscience from the perimeter. That’s just about the best you can ask for against Tony Bennett’s pack line, but the Retrievers thrive when spacing the court in transition, which simply isn’t possible against Virginia’s dominant break denial defense. UMBC is also severely undermanned in the frontcourt.

BRACKET: Virginia

ATS: UMBC +21.5

O/U: Over 121

8 Creighton vs 9 Kansas State (Charlotte)

Creighton Fingerprint: The Bluejays are annually one of the best offenses in the country under Greg McDermott, who is a master of set plays. While the Bluejays play fast and thrive in transition, they’re absolutely lethal in the halfcourt under McDermott’s offense, which features ball reversal, staggered doubles, and pop and seals, all run with great efficiency. Creighton is dominated by a pair of big, athletic guards in Marcus Foster (a former Kansas State guard) and Khyri Thomas, who is also one of the best on ball defenders in the country. The Bluejays haven’t quite been the same offense without Martin Krampelj, as McDermott’s sets thrive with an athletic bucket getter in the paint. Defensively, Creighton is poor defending at the rim (another byproduct of of losing Krampelj), and opposing offenses have exploited that all year.

Kansas State Fingerprint: Bruce Weber mostly scrapped his motion offense this year in favor of more pick and roll, as he recognized that he had elite guards in Barry Brown, Kam Stokes (although he hasn’t been remotely close to being the same player since breaking his foot), and Cartier Diarra who can thrive in on-balls, and Dean Wade is one of the most efficient “rollers” in the game. Defensively, the Wildcats aggressively pursue turnovers (KSU led the Big 12 in defensive turnover rate and steal rate), as Weber liked to extend his long, athletic guards and wings, and Makol Malwien developed into an excellent rim protector. With length and athleticism 1-5, KSU has been an oppressive pick and roll defense all year.

Match Up: This game has a few “B plots”, as Weber and McDermott are friends and know each other from their MVC days at SIU and UNI, and Foster of course had a falling out with Weber at KSU. Ultimately, I think this game comes down to pick and roll defense. Creighton, despite having Thomas on Brown, isn’t a good PnR defense overall, while KSU is phenomenal. A presumably healthy Dean Wade should be able to dominate in this game against Creighton’s lacking frontcourt. While KSU isn’t strong in transition defense in terms of efficiency, it doesn’t allow a lot of shots on the break to begin with, denying opportunities at a top 60 rate nationally, which is again a key to defending Creighton.

BRACKET: Kansas State

ATS: Kansas State +1.5

O/U: Under 144.5

5 Kentucky vs 12 Davidson (Boise)

Included in Thursday’s daily column at


4 Arizona vs 13 Buffalo (Boise)

Arizona Fingerprint: The Wildcats certainly had their fair share of off the court distractions, which I won’t get into here, but they appear to be playing with a nice chip on their shoulder at this point. It also helps to have the tournament’s most dominant player in Deandre Ayton. Ayton has made the Wildcats the 4th most efficient post offense in the country, and if you take into account frequency of post possessions, Arizona is in a class of its own. Allonzo Trier is a lethal slasher/shooter on the wing, and Rawle Alkins, while inconsistent since coming back from a foot injury, is always a matchup that needs to be accounted for on the wing as well. Defensively, Sean Miller’s pack line has struggled unlike any Miller defense I’ve seen. Point guard Parker Jackson-Cartwright (and Alkins when interested) have been the only consistent perimeter defenders, and dribble penetration has routinely broken the pack line, which is all the more frustrating since dribble denial is the key tenet of that scheme. Ayton and Dusan Ristic have also been extremely poor in pick and roll defense (Ristic simply isn’t capable of defending in ball screens, but Ayton is learning), and neither have been particularly effective as post defenders. The defense has shown signs of life down the stretch however, as Miller tweaked things to have Alkins help far more around the rim than before.

Buffalo Fingerprint: Few, if any, midmajor teams possess Buffalo’s athleticism and speed combo. Head coach Nate Oats can put three ball handlers on the floor at all times with Wes Clark, CJ Massinburg, Davonta Jordan, and Dontay Caruthers. That backcourt in combination with burgeoning offensive talent Jeremy Harris on the wing and mobile big Nick Perkins makes Buffalo a lethal offensive group who loves to attack downhill and in transition. The Bulls are like a football team with a great running game, they just keep pounding away at the line of scrimmage (and Ernie Johnson apparently thinks they’re the Buffalo Bills anyway). Defensively, Buffalo has some fairly severe deficiencies at the rim, as Perkins isn’t a big bodied rim protector, and in fact, 6’3 athletic frosh Jayvon Graves led the team in block rate. Buffalo loves to overpower you with speed and depth, but that’s also to mask a lack of bulk inside.

Match Up: Arizona is easily the worst 4 seed Buffalo could have drawn (ok Gonzaga wouldn’t have been great either). Ayton could realistically put up 30 and 20 against this Buffalo post defense, and Miller can use Alkins on Perkins in pick and roll defense instead of Ayton. For Arizona, this is actually a very similar match up to last year’s first round meeting with North Dakota, and I suspect we’ll see a very similar result.

BRACKET: Arizona

ATS: Buffalo +9

O/U: Over 157

6 Miami vs 11 Loyola Chicago (Dallas)

Analysis included in Thursday’s daily column


3 Tennessee vs 14 Wright State (Dallas)

Tennessee Fingerprint: The Rick Barnessaince is in full effect, as the Vols ran his post heavy, 2 Play flex to great effect, thanks to hyper flexible Grant Williams and Admiral Schofield  The Vols are deep and interchangeable on the perimeter, and capable of hitting jump shots when defenses collapse on the Schofield/Williams high-lo action. Defensively is where Tennessee butters its bread. The Vols are long and active, simultaneously protecting the rim and extending pressure. Tennessee is quietly one of the most complete teams in the field.

Wright State Fingerprint: The Raiders are a well prepared and well coached team, thanks to Scott Nagy, who lead South Dakota State to 3 dances in his previous stop. WSU doesn’t have a lot of firepower offensively, but it defends extremely hard and well in halfcourt man to man.

Match Up: This doesn’t really set up well for the Raiders. The Vols’ frontcourt is too mobile and athletic for Loudon Love, and while he’s a force at the rim offensively, Tennessee is extremely strong in rim protection. Cole Gentry is a steady PG and has been with Nagy since SDSU, but he can be overwhelmed by athleticism, as can leading scorer Grant Benzinger. That said, Barnes’ offense isn’t going to blow anyone out, and Nagy’s defense doesn’t get blown out. Feel free to grab some lunch during this one.

BRACKET: Tennessee

ATS: Wright State +12

O/U: Under 132

7 Nevada vs 10 Texas (Nashville)

Nevada Fingerprint: Few coaches have embraced the “pace and space” concept as quickly and as well as Eric Musselman has in Reno. Nevada hasn’t quite been the same since losing nominal point guard Lindsey Drew, but with the 6’7 Martin twins at the helm, few teams are as talented and long in the backcourt as the Pack, and I’m talking about the entire country. Caleb is the lethal shooter and volume scorer of the two, while Cody is a facilitator and passer extraordinaire, and the far better defender of the two. Nevada has no interior size and no depth, but Musselman uses that to his advantage with Jordan Caroline as a mismatch floating 5, and Kendall Stephens slots in anywhere from 2-4, and can burn opposing defenders with his perimeter shooting. Of course that lack of interior height takes its toll defensively and on the glass, and those are the two glaring weaknesses in Nevada’s game.

Texas Fingerprint: While Nevada can score but struggles defensively, the Horns are the reverse. This is an elite defense with an often putrid offense. Texas is the worst three point shooting team in the field, but the good news is that Mo Bamba is healthy, and he and Dylan Osetkowski have a major advantage at the rim. Matt Coleman has been a steady freshman point guard, but with his perimeter weapons missing, defenses have been more than happy to sag off of him take away his passing/penetration lanes. Defensively, Shaka Smart remains a mastermind, and mixes man, zone, and pressure extremely effectively, and of course it helps to have Bamba at the rim.

Match Up: Elite offense vs elite defense. Poor offense vs poor defense. Can Nevada’s small ball, pace and space lineup force Bamba and Osetkowski to defend outside of the paint? Likely. Will Shaka counter by trading offense for defense with Jericho Sims replacing Osetkowski? Also likely. While Nevada isn’t a strong defensive team, Cody Martin’s length can frustrate Coleman, and when Coleman struggles, Texas’ offense essentially grinds to a halt.


ATS: Nevada -1

O/U: Over 143.5

2 Cincinnati vs 15 Georgia State (Nashville)

Cincinnati Fingerprint: Mick Cronin has length and versatility all over the floor, and uses it to dominate defensively. If it wasn’t for Virginia, we would be talking about the Cincy defense as one of the greatest of all time. Cronin has one of the best individual defenders in the country in Gary Clark, and he calls out all of Cincy’s defensive scheme switches, as they go from switching man to man, full court pressure, and extended matchup zone. The Bearcats are more impressive on the defensive end in my mind than Virginia, because they tailor the defense to the opponent, and they play all of their schemes exceptionally well. Offensively, Cincy can struggle at time because they’re not a particularly strong shooting team, but Jacob Evans is an outstanding creator, he just needs to take over at times, and doesn’t do it. Cincy supplements that clunky offense with extra possessions, as it has the third highest offensive rebounding rate in the country, and the 10th highest turnover rate defensively.

Georgia State Fingerprint: Ron Hunter’s Panther squad is synonymous with extended 1-3-1 matchup zone in midmajor basketball circles. This isn’t a simple 2-3 zone, but rather a complex trapping zone that forces a lot of turnovers, but gives up a lot of open looks on the perimeter. Offensively, GSU revolves entirely in D’Marcus Simonds’ orbit. Every offensive action flows through him at the point of attack in pick and roll, and Simonds had the 4th highest usage rate and 9th highest shot rate in the entire country. It’s impossible to keep him out of the lane, but if you can turn him into a jump shooter, he struggles. Hunter accordingly has surrounded him with marksmen, like Devin Mitchell, Malik Benlevi, and Jeff Thomas, all of whom are 6’5 on the wing and all of whom shoot 40%+ from deep. Jordan Session meanwhile was a lethal roll man for Simonds has his primary screener.

Match Up: Cincy is one of the worst zone offenses in the league, but GSU’s unique zone actually shouldn’t bother them too much, as it’s more spread out than typical zones. Evans should be able to break it down off the dribble eventually. GSU is going to get crushed on the offensive glass as well, as it’s miserable rebounding out of the zone. Offensively, GSU likely struggles, as Cincy can switch all day on Simonds and not miss a beat.

BRACKET: Cincinnati

ATS: Cincinnati -14

O/U: Under 130