NCAA TOURNAMENT MIDWEST REGION

20 Mar

1 Wichita State vs 16 Cal Poly

Cal Poly just scored their highest point total in a game all year vs Texas Southern (D1 opponents only), and put up a season high 1.31 ppp, AND they went 23-36 from 2. It was their best offensive performance of the year. Now they get to play Wichita State in Wichita’s second home, St. Louis. It’s been 12 days since Wichita won the MVC title, so they might come out a little sluggish against a Cal Poly team that probably feels invincible right now, but eventually the fact that Wichita has Early to negate Eversley will start to show, and then Van Vleet and Cotton will extend out on Johnson and Odister…oh and Baker will fight through every single screen better than any defender in the country and oh the game’s over now…

ADVANCE: WICHITA STATE

ATS: WICHITA STATE -18

8 Kentucky vs 9 Kansas State

KSU and Bruce Weber defenses in general love to take away the 3. That’s all well and good, but who cares when it’s against Kentucky? If you don’t play zone or at least sag off UK on the perimeter, you’re giving your team little chance to win. In reality, neither team can shoot a lick, so it comes down to which interior defense I trust the most, and it’s Kentucky’s. I love Marcus Foster, but he’s going to have to be more aggressive for KSU to win, think “vs Iowa State” Marcus Foster where he attacked instead of settled for the 3. It’s especially key against Andrew Harrison, who really can’t stay in front of smaller, quicker guards. All in all, I think KSU struggles here because of their smaller frontcourt and the defensive scheme is something Kentucky welcomes. 

ADVANCE: KENTUCKY

ATS: KENTUCKY -6

5 St. Louis vs 12 North Carolina State 

NCSU is the current tournament cause celebre, as they probably didn’t deserve to get in, but of course beat Xavier and now everyone thinks they’ll beat SLU. The Billikens’ recent play doesn’t really inspire much confidence to go against the tide, but let’s not forget NC State’s shortcomings, which are plentiful. They don’t have anyone who can shoot the ball outside of Turner, they play some very suspect defense, and they don’t rebound defensively (watch TJ Warren, he loves to run out as soon as an opponent shoots the ball to beat everyone down court. It REALLY kills them on the defensive glass.). The good news for NCSU is that they don’t rely on the 3 at all, so the strength of SLU’s defense (totally pushing teams off the 3 pt line) doesn’t really matter. The Pack also takes care of the ball exceptionally well. SLU just lost in the A10 tournament to St. Bonaventure, who profiles similarly offensively to NC State. Offensively, SLU has to have Jett go at Tyler Lewis. His defense isn’t good, and if they keep exposing him Gottfried has to play Barber, and that point the NC State offense takes a major hit. Lewis has been functioning at a high level in terms of court vision and awareness offensively. It’s absolutely key for SLU that Jett attacks Lewis.

ADVANCE: NC STATE

ATS: NC STATE +3

 

 4 Louisville vs 13 Manhattan

Maybe the first round game I’m looking forward to the most. Steve Masiello is Rick Pitino. Masiello literally learned every single aspect of coaching from Pitino. This couldn’t be more interesting. They actually played last year in the first game of the season, and Pitino really put it on the Jaspers. Alvarado had 6 turnovers vs the pressure and traps that Masiello was still installing in practice every day at Draddy, and Manhattan as a team had an astounding 39% TO rate. The Jaspers didn’t have George Beamon in that game, but still, 39%! Anyway, if you know anything about Masiello, he’s exactly like Pitino in his lust for revenge. Manhattan’s turnover rate this season is still very troubling, and if they do break the pressure and the traps, is the offense good enough to beat Louisville without relying on getting to the FT line (Manhattan has the second highest FT rate in the country, Louisville is slightly better than average in terms of foul rate)? Louisville’s three losses in AAC play all came attached to a 20% TO rate, which is 5% above their season average. So, in the end, when you have two teams who are looking to do the exact same thing against each other scheme wise, I’ll take the team with the better talent. One minor thing to note, and I hate delve into “intangibles”, but Manhattan is as close of a team as I’ve seen or read about all year. They’re a very tight knit group. Potential to be a great game. 

ADVANCE: LOUISVILLE

ATS: MANHATTAN +17

6 UMass vs 11 Tennessee

The Vols just spent a lot of energy coming back vs Iowa and played 5 extra minutes, and UMass is looking to get in transition as often as they can, but I would hope a college basketball team could play through any fatigue in the NCAA tournament. UMass has the 16th highest rate of shots in transition in the country. When a team is playing UMass, I’m always going to look at how good they are getting back defensively, and despite being such a dominant offensive rebounding team, the Vols are well in the upper half in terms of eFG% in defensive transition. UMass doesn’t really have enough of an advantage there for me to think it will play a huge part in the outcome of the game. UMass is tremendous at taking away the 3 point shot, but this is another instance of who cares when Tennessee isn’t really looking to shoot from outside. That puts the onus on Lalanne and Putney inside to slow down Stokes and Maymon, and after watching what Armwood and Larsen did inside in the A10 tournament, I’m not left feeling very convinced about UMass’ chances. Chaz could go in take over mode, but the perimeter height of Tennessee could also be an issue for UMass. 

ADVANCE: TENNESSEE

ATS: TENNESSEE WHATEVER IT IS 

3 Duke vs 14 Mercer

I love Mercer more than most Mercer fans love Mercer. Langston Hall is possibly my favorite PG in the country, and the Bears have waited for this moment for years now. They watched as Dunk City took the nation by storm in last year’s tournament, after FGCU beat them on their home court in the ASUN tournament. Langston Hall has a true, natural feel for the game, and is a total pleasure to watch…think Jake Odum for Indiana State. He’s a throwback point guard who dictates the pace and flow of the game. Mercer’s ball movement is tremendous, and they work the ball around until they find the perfect shot. Unfortunately Duke just isn’t a good matchup for them. They’re not a very good one on one defensive team, and thus they tend to sag on the perimeter, and as we know, Duke can absolutely torch you from outside. The matchup defensively on Parker is close to laughable as well if they’re not a zone, as Bud Thomas or Jakob Gollon would be on him. Yikes. All in all, a damn shame this team couldn’t have been matched up against Syracuse, because I think they would have a chance. Anyway, enjoy Langston Hall while you can. I’ve been touting that kid since he was a freshman on past lives of this blog. 

ADVANCE: DUKE

ATS: MERCER +13

7 Texas vs 10 Arizona State 

Been going back and forth on this one. Texas has superior athleticism, and that’s been my knock on ASU all year long, their lack of. But at least ASU has Bachynski inside to erase a lot of the sins from that lack of athleticism. ASU loves the Jahii penetrate and kick, and that will work well against a Texas interior defense that doesn’t allow you to score inside with the shot blocking monsters of Holmes and Ridley lurking inside. Of course, that still means you actually have to hit the shots, which can always be a challenge in an arena you’ve never played in before. Texas’ backcourt is young, but they’re athletic as hell. Isaiah Taylor has the makings of a star, and Javan Felix can hit big shots (but can also shoot the Longhorns in the foot). So the question here is what trumps what? I think the scheme sets up nicely for ASU, but the athleticism of Texas could totally negate that, especially vs the very unathletic wings of ASU, but then, like I said earlier, Bachynski can erase some of those mistakes. I’ll reluctantly take Arizona State. 

ADVANCE: ARIZONA STATE

ATS: ARIZONA STATE +2

2 Michigan vs 15 Wofford

I don’t like Michigan’s chances overall in this tournament, but they shouldn’t have a problem with Wofford. The Terriers are very young and they don’t have the height to take advantage of Michigan’s major weakness defensively (it’s not the only weakness on that end). I will, however, be rooting hard for Wofford just because of Aerris Smith.

ADVANCE: MICHIGAN

ATS: MICHIGAN -15

 

SECOND ROUND

Wichita State over Kentucky

Louisville over NC State

Duke over Tennessee

Michigan over Arizona State 

SWEET 16

Wichita State over Louisville

Duke over Michigan

ELITE 8

Wichita State over Duke 

MIDWEST CHAMPION

Wichita State 

 

 

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