Archive | March, 2014

ELITE 8 SUNDAY THOUGHTS

30 Mar

7 UCONN vs 4 MICHIGAN STATE

UConn is clearly shooting the ball well right now, and to beat Michigan State, you need an excellent backcourt. Defensively, UConn keys on shutting down the inside, but the idea of chasing Adreian Payne is troubling (see Dustin Hogue’s boxscore from Friday). Both teams are obviously capable of getting hot from outside, but I’ll go with UConn here. People knock their transition defense, but Kevin Ollie has clearly made it a priority to get back defensively lately, so like in the UVA game, a major source of points for the Spartans will be gone.. Michigan State has more avenues to score, but to me, it ultimately boils down to who do I trust to shoot the ball better right now, and it’s UConn.

ADVANCE: UCONN 65-61

ATS: UCONN +5


 

8 KENTUCKY vs 2 MICHIGAN

I suspect we’re going to see a lot of the 1-3-1 from Michigan tonight. The game plan vs Kentucky will always be make them beat you from outside. If the Wildcats hit the shots, you tip your hat and say goodnight, but you can’t get beat in one on one scenarios. Worried about Kentucky defensively though. Tournament run has been fueled defensively by their reliance on the 2-3 zone. Zoning Michigan is probably akin to committing seppuku, but I have a feeling it might not matter. Kentucky is awful in transition defense, and Michigan is extremely efficient in transition. Kentucky is obviously a tremendous offensive rebounding team. If they dominate that area, it will certainly help negate their issues in transition defense, but it’s troubling that their defensive is actually worse off a made bucket than it is off a rebound. Negating Kentucky’s height via transition is the key here, but then again, when Michigan gets hot (and they’ve been hot) nothing else really matters.

ADVANCE: MICHIGAN 74-69

ATS: MICHIGAN +2.5 

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ELITE 8 SATURDAY

30 Mar

11 DAYTON vs 1 FLORIDA

Didn’t have time to get to this one because of an intense NL only fantasy draft, but thought Dayton would be able to keep it close because of Florida defensive scheme and the fact they can shoot the ball, but ultimately wouldn’t find a way to score inside to win. 

ADVANCE: FLORIDA

ATS: FLORIDA -10

2 WISCONSIN vs 1 ARIZONA

I’m troubled about Arizona tonight. They have a very concrete halfcourt offense obviously, but if there’s one team in the country that can give them fits, it’s Wisconsin. That impressive Arizona defensive is predicated on forcing teams to take long 2 point jump shots, the worst shot in basketball. That’s all well and good, but Wisconsin is adept at shooting the 2 point jumper, and they obviously can shoot the 3. The key is Jackson and his ability to sustain a dribble. It seems a little simple, but if he can keep a dribble long enough to force the modified pack line defense of Arizona to come up and respect it, then Wisconsin will win this game. On offense is where I think Arizona actually gains enough of an advantage to win tonight. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson is going to be an absolute nightmare for Wisconsin. The Wisconsin defense is predicated on funneling shots to the middle of the court. If you’ve seen RHJ lately, you know he’s deadly in the exact are Wisconsin wants you to shoot the ball. Coming out party for him tonight. 

ADVANCE: ARIZONA

ATS: ARIZONA -3

FRIDAY SWEET 16 THOUGHTS

27 Mar

10 TENNESSEE vs 2 MICHIGAN

Why Tennessee can win: Simply put, Michigan doesn’t have the ability to play two bigs at once, and they might not have the ability to play even one if Jordan Morgan gets in foul trouble. Stokes and Maymon can feast inside Friday night. The only reason Texas stayed anywhere in the arena with Michigan was because they grabbed 53% of their misses. Stokes and Maymon are better offensive rebounders than Holmes and Ridley, so that’s a scary thought. Stokes and Maymon alone grab nearly 30% of their team’s misses. That’s ridiculous. Additionally, the Vols are getting great scoring from their perimeter players. Josh Richardson can’t miss in this tournament, and at times has looked like the most athletic player on the court. Defensively, the Vols are playing at a high level as well, but it comes down to their ability to defend Michigan off ball screens. No team left in the tournament depends on a two point or three point jumper off a ball screen more than Michigan. It’s the bread and butter of their offense. Ultimately, the game comes down to whether or not Tennessee’s defense can limit Michigan’s offense enough, because we all know Michigan’s defense isn’t going to win the game. Tennessee’s defense is holding opponents to 32% on two point jumpers, and Richardson’s athleticism on Stauskas off the ball screens is key, and if they switch Barton on him, Stauskas has had trouble with smaller guards at times. Besides defending the two point jumper well, Tennessee is adept at pushing teams off the 3 point line. The fact of the matter is that Michigan shoots 43% from 3 and averages 9.5 triples in their 27 wins. In their 8 losses, 30% from 3 and they hit just 6 a game. Tennessee is 21st nationally in terms of percentage of 3PT attempts allowed. That’s a big stat. This ain’t Texas and Michigan isn’t going to hit 14 3s. Since Michigan can’t score inside with any regularity, defending the ball screen and the 3 are two huge keys, and Tennessee does both well.

Why Michigan can win: I mentioned above how much Michigan loves to use Stauskas off the ball screen, but Walton, Irvin, and Levert are all adept at coming off and shooting a jumper as well. That’s why Michigan is so hard to defend. Anyone on the court outside of Morgan or Horford is able to utilize the ball screen or nail a 3. Stopping that is easier said than done. Defensively, don’t be shocked to see Beilein go to the 1-3-1 early. In the Battle of Atlantis (a long time ago, I know), UTEP went into a 1-3-1 and totally threw the Vols off their game. Obviously UTEP has a lot more length, but the Vols haven’t really seen a zone all that much in the SEC outside of Missouri and Ole Miss. It will give Tennessee and even bigger edge on the offensive glass, but you have to do something else if Michigan can’t stop the offense when it’s filtering through the two bigs on the blocks.

X-Factors: Glenn Robinson III will likely have to have a big game for Michigan to win. If he’s hitting early and forcing Maymon to chase him away from the basket, that height advantage shifts to something of a negative quickly.

ADVANCE: TENNESSEE 84-80

ATS: TENNESSEE +3 

 


 

7 UCONN vs 3 IOWA STATE

Why UConn can win: Simply put, they have Shabazz Napier. He has the mental makeup and the game to back it up to carry a team, Kemba Walker style. Additionally, UConn has been playing much better defense. They just ground Villanova down to .92 ppp. A lot of that can be linked to the 7 foot Brimah staying on the court and protecting the rim. Iowa State doesn’t have anyone close to his height to contend with him inside as well, assuming UConn can keep this in a halfcourt setting (more on that later). If UConn can keep it in the halfcourt, Napier and Boatright will be able to break the ISU defense down. Everyone is excited to see Napier vs Kane, but it’s more likely Kromah vs Kane. Kromah has the height and length to matchup with the ISU PG, and he’s the best on ball defender for the Huskies. I’ve seen lots of talk about how Kane is so good posting up smaller guards, which is true, but it’s incorrectly assuming Napier and/or Boatright will be guarding him.

Why Iowa State can win: The loss of Niang was devastating, for sure. But the win over UNC not only advanced ISU to the Sweet 16, but it gave the Cyclones confidence they can win without one of their more important players. Plus they’ve had a week now to learn how to play without him. Iowa State is adept at spreading teams out and attacking mismatches they create with their versatility. It’s a really fun offense to watch. UConn is not a good rebounding team. They’ve improved since the beginning of the year, but they’re still not good, and it hurts them in transition. They’re 221st in terms of percentage of opponent shots coming via transition. To make matters worse, they’re 312th in percentage of shots allowed 0-10 seconds following an opponent defensive rebound. That’s a significant stat because 1) Iowa State rebounds the ball extremely well defensively (the loss of Niang is only a minor factor in this area, just a 11% def reb percentage) 2) Iowa State is adept at getting in transition after that defensive rebound, ranking 57th in percentage of shots 0-10 seconds after a board. That’s how Iowa State is able to generate transition buckets and play fast, despite being 308th in defensive TO rate.

X-Factors: The DeAndre Daniels vs Melvin Ejim matchup is the key to the game in my mind, not Napier/Kane, and it’s not close. I think Daniels is going to have an extremely difficult time with the versatility of Ejim, and that also means Giffey and laughably Brimah would be chasing Hogue around as well. An x-factor in favor of UConn is the fact that they’re playing essentially a home game at MSG, and a venue they’re of course very familiar with. I don’t think the tournament loss two years ago to Iowa State plays much of a factor here, but Boatright, Daniels, and most importantly Napier were on that team in Calhoun’s last game, so who knows.

ADVANCE: IOWA STATE 68-65

ATS: IOWA STATE -1.5


 

8 KENTUCKY vs 4 LOUISVILLE

Why Kentucky can win: They can dominate Louisville’s frontcourt, plain and simple. Not just dominate in terms of the frontcourt matchup, but on the glass as well. Louisville is not a good defensive rebounding team out of the zone, and Kentucky is the second best offensive rebounding team in the country. It’s a huge advantage here, and the Wildcats exploited it in the first meeting. Randle essentially negates Harrell, and you’re left with Van Treese vs Cauley-Stein/Poythress/Johnson combo. Terrifying. If Louisville can’t stop Kentucky on the offensive glass, and if Russ Smith isn’t being ridiculous (in the good way), it’s tough to see how Louisville wins the game.

Why Louisville can win: Kentucky just got done playing what was essentially their best game of the season offensively. They balanced inside scoring with actual good shooting from outside, and it negated Andrew Harrison’s turnovers, which are still a major issue (he has 12 in two tournament games). That issue will most certainly be exploited by the pressure and traps of the notorious Louisville defense. It certainly helps that Kentucky has seen it before, but that doesn’t mean the Harrisons will be any better at handling it. Essentially, Louisville points off turnovers are going to have to outweigh Kentucky’s second chance points. It really could be that simple. I  mentioned that Kentucky’s offense won’t look as good as it did vs Wichita State, and I have to believe Louisville’s offense won’t look as bad as it did vs Manhattan and St. Louis. Those were two tough matchups defensively in terms of scheme and the opponent knowing Louisville’s strengths.

X-Factor: Three point shooting. Kentucky has proven more capable of hitting them lately, and Louisville has struggled lately. If Kentucky is hitting the outside shot after surviving pressure, then good night (I sincerely doubt this scenario actually happens though). Kentucky has been mixing in more zone lately, and if Louisville is proving incapable of hitting from outside, it could be a long night.

ADVANCE: LOUISVILLE 72-64

ATS: LOUISVILLE -4


 

4 MICHIGAN ST vs 1 VIRGINIA 

Why Michigan State can win: To beat the pack line, you have to be able to 1) shoot the 3 well and 2) be able to work the ball around efficiently to find the best possible shot, because it’s likely never to come via dribble drive and they hedge extremely hard on screens knowing help is behind them. Michigan State does both of those things well. They shoot the 3 at nearly 40% and are 13th in assist rate as a team. Plus the individual match up of Adreian Payne could be quite a problem for the Hoos. Virginia hasn’t really faced a big with the versatility of Payne. If he knocks down some early 3s, it’s going to really disrupt the pack line philosophy.

Why Virginia can win: Michigan State gets 29% of their shots via transition looks, the 13th highest rate in the country. That isn’t going to happen Friday night. Virginia already limited transition opportunities (18.4% rate, 36th in the country), but they’ve simply stopped going after offensive rebounds entirely in the tournament, instead sending everyone back to set up the packline. They’ve had 6 offensive rebounds in total in two games, and ZERO vs Coastal Carolina. That cuts out a significant source of points for the Spartans, and makes them even more reliant on hitting the 3, which is a difficult prospect a neutral court. If the 3 isn’t falling, Virginia will likely win this game. Offensively, UVA is patient. They average nearly 20 seconds per possession and they often get a high percentage look. The media loves Brogdon and Harris, and rightfully so, but freshman PG London Perrantes hasn’t committed a turnover in the tournament, and his emergence earlier this year really changed the prospect of UVA’s season from potential bubble team to number one seed. Tremendous player.

X-Factors: In what is likely to be one of the tightest games of the weekend, Virginia’s poor FT shooting could become an issue. I genuinely hope it doesn’t, but it’s a problem that looms potentially large. Michigan State’s health is also an issue. Appling still isn’t right, and Dawson seemed to hurt his already injured hand against Harvard. Both will play, but their effectiveness could be limited. The battle between Brodgon and Harris is the matchup to watch, especially when UVA is on offense. Harris is a tremendous on ball defender, and if he limits Brogdon, scoring enough points for the Cavs to win could become an issue.

ADVANCE: VIRGINIA 68-67

ATS: VIRGINIA +2

SWEET 16 THOUGHTS

26 Mar

11 DAYTON vs 10 STANFORD 

Why Dayton can win: They at least have shooters capable of hitting from outside against the newly tormenting Stanford zone. Sibert can be deadly, and Oliver can at least bring some Stanford bigs out to respect his outside shot. They fared well against most zones this year (unless your team is coached by Phil Martelli), so the possibility of a decent shooting night is as at least there. I would also highly recommend Archie Miller use his depth at this time of the year to his advantage, and bring ball pressure early and often. The Cardinal looked downright inept vs Kansas late vs the press. I’m also sure Archie got a full scouting report from his brother regarding Stanford. Dayton caught two crummy offenses, and Stanford hasn’t shown they’re any less crummy offensively than Ohio State or Syracuse.

Why Stanford can win: The Cardinal clearly have a distinct height advantage with Huestis, Nastic, Powell, and stretch big Gage. Dayton has played undersized all year long, but the length and roaming ability of Stanford in that zone they used against Kansas can cause some real issues.  I also have to believe that Dayton has caught some opponents at the perfect time in terms of shooting. Ohio State and Stanford went a combined 3-22 from 3, and while a lot of credit has to be give to the Flyers’ defense, if each team hits just one more 3, this is a different matchup, regardless of how crummy those offenses were.

The X-Factor: The offense of each team. Neither has cracked 1ppp, and sure that can be chalked up to the fact that they were technically the “worse” team in each meeting, but neither has inspired much confidence at this point. Stanford has faced two teams with better height than Dayton that could at least challenge them in their first two games, and I think they’ll find it easier to score inside on Thursday.

ADVANCE: STANFORD 64-59

ATS: STANFORD -3


 

6 BAYLOR vs 2 WISCONSIN

Why Baylor can win: Well, I would say the fact that their oxygen-depriving matchup zone just held the best shooting team in the land to 5-24 and they just put up 1.42 ppp offensively would be a good start. The defense is fun to watch because of the length and athleticism, and the ability to quickly morph from man to different zones based on the offense. I’ve been known to criticize Scott Drew’s use of the zone given the athleticism he recruits, but you can’t argue with the results right now. Offensively Baylor will have to knock down the 2pt jump shot from the middle of the court. Because Wisconsin’s guards can be beat so easily off the dribble, Bo Ryan brings Kaminsky, Hayes, and Dekker up to the FT line to cut off the penetration once guards get past the initial defense. Chery has actually shot a pretty good percentage on 2pt jumpers this year. He’s the key in terms of hitting that shot, or making a good interior pass to a wide open Austin/Jefferson/Gathers. This is especially key since Wisconsin is adept at taking away the 3.

Why Wisconsin can win: While I just got done lauding the Baylor matchup zone, there has to be some luck involved when the best shooting team in the nation goes 5-24. That zone will surely get tested again by Wisconsin, who of course relies heavily on the 3. Baylor also isn’t going to post 1.42ppp as an offensive unit again. With Dekker and Kaminsky, they have two versatile bigs who can find the gaps in the Baylor zone that Creighton couldn’t. Kaminsky people able to draw Austin out of the anchor spot of that zone is HUGE.

X-Factors: I’m going to go with two individual players. Royce O’Neale has been playing like Royce White in terms of his all around game. Gasser trying to guard O’Neale is a total mismatch, and something that’s capable of breaking this game open for Baylor. For Wisconsin, I think it’s Nigel Hayes. If the Badgers go big and try to put Dekker on O’Neale, Hayes will have to provide something offensively.

ADVANCE: BAYLOR 74-69

ATS: BAYLOR +3.5 


 

4 UCLA vs 1 FLORIDA 

Why UCLA can win: Big time matchup here. Good offense peaking at the right time vs a great defense continuing to lock it down in the tournament. Jordan Adams has become something of an efficient assassin for the Bruins, and the Bruins generally don’t turn it over with the 11th best offensive TO rate in the country, which is particularly useful vs Florida’s pressure defense. They have several guys who can beat you, and they don’t rely on the 3 (although they can shoot it), often finding the gaps within a defense, whether it be at the rim or a 2pt jumper (this might be problematic though vs Florida). Defensively they make you beat them with the 3, no doubt about it. They will sag and cut off driving lanes, but I wouldn’t be shocked to see Powell match up more aggressively with Wilbekin.

Why Florida will win: They’re playing as good defensively as anyone outside of maybe Arizona, and it’s very debatable. The defense excels at protecting the paint despite not having a big time shot blocker. They aggressively deny penetration gaps, they double EVERYONE if you do get it near the basket, and they bring full court pressure, especially off of makes. Now, Florida will allow some points in the first 10 seconds after a make off their pressure (per hoop-math.com, a site I find just as essential as kenpom) , it is beatable in that regard. However, despite the fact that UCLA is a very good transition team, for whatever reason scoring in the first 10 seconds after a make is the transitional metric they are the worst in. A seemingly esoteric point, I agree, but I think it could play a bit of a factor, as it’s clear UCLA is a much better transition team off live ball turnovers (6th in eFG in transition 0-10 seconds after a steal as compared to 161st in 0-10 seconds after opponent score), and that won’t happen incredibly often vs Florida. Florida’s pressure is best beat when you can quickly break them with a scheme, and that isn’t how UCLA gets in transition. On top of that, Kyle Anderson can certainly be prone to some major turnover issues, For a team that likes to get in transition and score at the rim, the Florida defense can be cataclysmic.

X-Factors: It’s an “x-factor” in every game, but I’m going to go with 3 point shooting in this one. Both teams are going to have to hit them, simply because that’s what each defensive scheme allows for. Florida is capable of shooting it well with Wilbekin and Frazier, but hasn’t thus far in the tournament. UCLA hasn’t really needed the 3 so far, but they will vs Florida. They’re essentially a shooter down as LaVine is playing timid and is a shell of his former self from early in the season. Another tiny factor is the travel for UCLA. They didn’t look great traveling to Missouri earlier this year, and it’s certainly a much easier journey and not across several time zones for Florida.

ADVANCE: FLORIDA 70-62

ATS: FLORIDA -4.5


 

4 SAN DIEGO STATE vs 1 ARIZONA

Why SDSU can win: The lengthy and freakishly athletic Aztec defense is clearly capable of beating any team in the country, even with just a modicum of offensive support. They can be encouraged by a few things from their loss at Viejas back in the second game of the season, SDSU didn’t have Polee and Arizona had Ashley. Arizona has obviously moved on since without Ashley, but having Polee for the rematch is significant factor for the Aztecs (they also played in Hawaii last year in a tight one won by Arizona). Fisher’s mixing in of the 1-3-1 has been nothing short of brilliant, and makes a nearly impossible defense to solve even tougher to prep for, and if it can make Arizona settle for outside jump shots, it gives SDSU a chance to win. Offensively, not much I can say besides Xavier Thames. Polee has developed into something of a weapon beside him, but quick guards can give Arizona some problems, as it can negate their propensity to switch on every screen, and that’s honestly the best way to score on them, and Thames can be lightning quick. He had a bad shooting night in the first meeting, but got to the FT line 9 times.

Why Arizona can win: Because they have the best half court defense in the country. Oh and they don’t allow anything in transition either. SDSU is a tremendous defense, but by nearly every metric, Arizona does everything SDSU does defensively better. By almost every metric, the Arizona offense is better than SDSU’s as well, same as on the glass. While SDSU isn’t likely to cough it up 21 times to results in an astounding 31 points off turnovers for Arizona like Gonzaga did, Arizona has looked better and more confident lately shooting the ball from 3, particularly Nick Johnson, and that might have to do with his wrist being near 100% finally.

X-Factors: For SDSU it has to be another scoring option emerging for Thames and Polee, or else they’re sunk. Shepard has been AWOL offensively for some time now (coincidentally, one of SDSU’s best offensive performances all year was against USU with 1.24 ppp, that was Shepard’s last good offensive game), so a solid game from him would go a long way. O’Brien had a nice game in the first meeting, but hasn’t scored in double digits in a month now. SDSU has also played a game in the Honda Center this year and one last year, so they have some familiarity and comfort with it, having won both games as well. Anything to give this offense a boost is a good thing.

ADVANCE: ARIZONA 68-54

ATS: ARIZONA -7

I will have some thoughts on Friday’s games later Wednesday afternoon

SUNDAY ROUND OF 32 THOUGHTS

23 Mar

10 Stanford vs 2 Kansas

The Cardinal clearly have the height inside to pull off the upset over Embiid-less Kansas, but I have a feeling the Jayhawk perimeter outplays Stanford’s. KU won’t go 0-7 from 3 again, and Tharpe can’t possibly have a worse game than he did Friday. Big issue is that Perry Ellis can really struggle against size, and although I think the backcourt will play better, if they don’t then scoring will be entirely on Wiggins. Kansas has tremendous transition defense, and Stanford is going to make KU beat them from outside, so I think this one likely stays pretty low scoring though out, with Kansas pulling away a bit in the end.

ADVANCE: KANSAS

ATS: STANFORD +7

8 Kentucky vs 1 Wichita State

It looks as though Andrew Harrison will indeed be good to go, but I think Kentucky is going to struggle to score here. Transition points just are not a option vs Wichita State, as they only allow 17.5% of opponents shots to come in the open court. The biggest issue for me regarding the Shockers is how they respond to Kentucky’s height and athleticism. If Coleby and Early are holding their own inside, Kentucky will have to hit some jump shots to win the game, and that’s a dicey proposition. In that regard, the Baker/Young match up becomes very key. Baker is smaller, but is extremely underrated defensively.

ADVANCE: WICHITA STATE

ATS: WICHITA STATE -4.5

6 UNC vs 3 Iowa State 

The loss of Niang is just truly unfortunate for the Cyclones. So much of the offense was through him, it’s terrible that he can’t go. UNC takes more two point jumpers than any team in the country, and the Iowa State defense uses some Wisconsin principles to funnel shots to the middle of the floor. Without Niang, an already small ISU team will have issues in the middle of the court defensively. Hoiberg will likely use Naz Long in Niang’s place, and just go in full time 3 point attack mode and try to spread the court at all times and make UNC’s size a liability on defense. He really has no other option. The problem is that we know UNC is just fine with a faster pace.

ADVANCE: UNC

ATS: UNC +2.5

14 Mercer vs 11 Tennessee

In their NIT loss last year, Tennessee was seemingly content to jack up 3s against this Mercer team. That will be the recipe for a loss tonight. Mercer wants you to take those 3s as a defense. They goaded Duke into settling for jump shots and taking away any aggression, and they were even able to overcome the fact that Duke nailed a ton of them. The Vols have to get inside to Maymon and Stokes, early and often. Behind Coursey there is no height inside, especially with Monty Brown unavailable. Offensively, I’m a little concerned for the Bears. They can be very reliant on the 3, and that’s fine because they actually shoot it well. Tennessee unfortunately is one of the better defenses in the country at limiting the 3, 17th in 3PT FGA ratio. But, as we all know, Mercer is a very veteran team that has been waiting for this moment for years now. Highly unlikely a loss wouldn’t be closely contested.

ADVANCE: TENNESSEE

ATS: MERCER +8.5 

12 SFA vs 4 UCLA 

Tip of the hat to SFA. I thought the matchup vs VCU was a brutal draw for them, but they survived a 24% TO rate,  mainly because VCU can’t guard anyone inside, so Parker had a nice game. UCLA is actually a better matchup for the Jacks. SFA’s strength offensively is shooting the 3, and only three teams in the entire country allow more 3 pointers to be shot against them than UCLA. The sagging Bruin zone is ideal for SFA offensively. The issue is can SFA stop UCLA on the other end. The Bruins effortlessly took down a much better defensive team  than SFA in the first round vs Tulsa. Think we’re going to see some points on the board in this one.

ADVANCE: UCLA

ATS: UCLA -9

6 Baylor vs 3 Creighton

I think this sets up nicely for a relatively easy Creighton win. Baylor’s guards are small, and you have to have the perimeter length of say a SDSU or St. John’s to really disrupt the Creighton offense. Scott Drew and his infamous zone could really be in trouble. The Baylor defense is built on athletic height inside to discourage teams from coming inside and protecting their slower guards at the front of the zone. They encourage you to shoot the 3. That’s a really poor gameplan vs Creighton. For Baylor to win I think it’s going to take a combination of unusually poor shooting from the Blue Jays and Austin/Jefferson/O’Neale dominating inside. One of those might happen, but not both.

ADVANCE: CREIGHTON

ATS: CREIGHTON -3.5 

8 Memphis vs 1 Virginia

I think Memphis is going to struggle tonight. Seventh in the country in terms of percentage of shots taken in transition, but Virginia has one of the best transition defenses in the country, on top of simply not allowing teams to get out and run in the first place. Asking Memphis to execute for 40 minutes vs the pack line without any shooters is probably too tall of a task.

ADVANCE: VIRGINIA

ATS: VIRGINIA -6.5

8 Gonzaga vs 1 Arizona

Gonzaga isn’t going to be able to go 9-18 from 3 against Arizona’s stellar half court defense, and the Wildcats won’t have to completely suck down on Karnowski like OSU had to. Not much more to say about this one, and I think it’s a pretty rote win for Arizona. The matchup was a good one for the Zags vs Oklahoma State, pretty far from that today.

ADVANCE: ARIZONA

ATS: ARIZONA -7.5

 

ROUND OF 32 THOUGHTS

22 Mar

8 Pitt vs 1 Florida

This one likely comes down to whether or not Florida shots are falling from outside, which is a very distinct possibility. Pitt seemingly has a new lease on life, and that’s been personified through the play of Talib Zanna. Florida didn’t look great vs Albany, and Donovan was none too pleased with the Gators’ effort. I expect we’ll see a strong, focused Florida team in the first few minutes, but I think Pitt is actually the better basketball team right now.

ADVANCE: FLORIDA 

ATS: PITT +5.5 

5 St. Louis vs 4 Louisville

We might see Louisville run St. Louis of the arena today. This Billiken team has trouble taking care of the ball, and they don’t really have a shooter who can burn the matchup zone after the pressure. Louisville in a route here.

ADVANCE: LOUISVILLE

ATS: LOUISVILLE -9.5 

7 UConn vs 2 Villanova

This was a turnover plagued game last year, but this one likely comes down to who hits more 3s. I know it sounds facile to say that, but I can’t really see any other way around this game. With the exception of little used reserve Kris Jenkins, Villanova has been ice cold from 3. Think that has to change today, but UConn will stay in the game simply because of their guard play. Bazz/Boatright will go right at Arcidiacono every time. He’s a major defensive liability.

ADVANCE: VILLANOVA

ATS: VILLANOVA -3.5 

7 Texas vs 2 Michigan 

The issue here is Michigan’s lack of interior defense vs Holmes/Ridley, and Texas’s inability to guard anyone on the perimeter. The Horns backcourt is tiny and prone to defensive lapses. I think that ultimately trumps UM’s defensive issues inside.

ADVANCE: MICHIGAN

ATS: MICHIGAN -4.5 

12 North Dakota State vs 4 San Diego State 

To beat NDSU’s modified pack line, you have to be able to shoot the ball, and I just don’t trust SDSU enough in this situation. NDSU is a very experienced team, and they’re just not going to turn the ball over, and thus the already limited SDSU offense will struggle. Taylor Braun is a better ball handling Larry Nance, who SDSU has struggled against.

ADVANCE: NDSU

ATS: NDSU +4

11 Dayton vs 3 Syracuse 

This could be the biggest blowout of the day. Unless Sibert provides a Herculean effort from outside, the Cuse zone will dominate. Dayton doesn’t have the ability to penetrate a zone (watch highlights of their game vs Duquesne), and that will ultimately prove to be the difference.

ADVANCE: SYRACUSE

ATS: SYRACUSE -8

7 Oregon vs 2 Wisconsin 

Wisconsin’s defense is tremendous at funneling shots to the middle of the court. Kaminsky and Dekker are brought up to the FT line extended, and totally deny penetration. Now, the issue is that Bo has to do that because the Badger guards can’t stay in front of anyone. If the Wisconsin bigs get in any sort of foul trouble early, Oregon will get to the rim with ease and thus control this game. Potential to be the best game of the day.

ADVANCE: WISCONSIN

ATS: OREGON +5.5 

12 Harvard vs 4 Michigan State

MSU looks the part of a national champion. They’re healthy and playing as well or better than anyone right now. The key here is that Michigan State really limits the midrange game defensively, and Harvard can be reliant on Saunders’ mid range game offensively. Can the Crimson get hot from outside and win this game? Sure, they have the shooters, and that’s MSU’s weakness defensively. You have to press Harvard. They looked really awful when Cincy brought pressure. The press break schemes simply aren’t there for Harvard.

ADVANCE: MICHIGAN STATE

ATS: MICHIGAN STATE -7.5 

 

 

Final Four

20 Mar

For the sake of posterity, based on my post my Final Four is…

Florida vs Villanova

Arizona vs Wichita State

Arizona beats Florida in the title game 74-68. Good luck and I’ll see you on twitter @jorcubsdan

Thanks for following along all season, and I’ll have round by round thoughts here.