3/20 Sunday 2nd Round Notes

20 Mar

When #2 Villanova struggles, it’s usually because they can’t stay in front of big, athletic guards. That’s not going to be an issue vs #7 Iowa, and the Wildcats, who switch on everything because of their wing athleticism, shouldn’t have much of a problem stopping a jump shot reliant Hawkeye team. For Iowa to pull off the upset, Ochefu is going to have get in early foul trouble and the Hawkeyes have to exploit their size advantage in the frontcourt. And Villanova going cold from outside when Fran goes zone would help too. Overall, Iowa just doesn’t have the big Ed Sumner/Kris Dunn/Malcolm Brogdon guard to break down Villanova’s defense.

Incredibly interesting game between #6 Notre Dame and #14 SFA. If you watched the WVU/SFA game, you noticed the Jacks basically didn’t run their spread motion offense, as they routinely broke the press, let Walkup dribble off ~15 seconds, and then work his way into the lane with ease. Conversely, WVU’s halfcourt offense was an unmitigated disaster, and that’s when they weren’t turning it over at a 31% clip. Today the Jacks have an Irish team that 1) doesn’t turn the ball over 2) is an elite halfcourt offense and 3) will force you to run offense against them. The first two things are pro Irish, the last, not so much if you’ve watched Notre Dame defend in the halfcourt. However, the only time Notre Dame has seen pressure this year was vs Louisville with 5 days of prep and the Cardinals coming off a trip to Cameron Indoor, and SFA’s press is more of the matchup man variety than Pitino’s waves of zone pressure. You have to have a secondary ball handler vs SFA, and who is Jackson’s help? Matty Farrell? Steve Vasturia? I picked SFA to go to the Final Four, so I’m obviously going to stay with them here, but they do in fact cause a lot of issues for Notre Dame, who simply won’t be able to run their halfcourt offense for much of the game. My biggest concern with SFA heading into the tournament was their defensive rebounding, and WVU did pound on the offensive. The Irish are a decent team in that regard.

This could be a very problematic game for #2 Oklahoma, as #10 VCU is outstanding at taking away jump shots and of course generating turnovers. Buddy and company will turn the ball over, but unlike the aforementioned Irish, they’re incredibly battle tested against pressure, and just saw it vs CSUB in the first round. I have some very real concerns about VCU’s offense today. Oklahoma is elite defensively in one key area, and that’s rim protection. They have the 14th lowest FG% allowed at the rim, and VCU generates offense at the rim at a top 50 rate. Kruger made a major adjustment against Aly Ahmed in the 2H vs CSUB, bringing a smaller defender down and swarming the big man, forcing 4 TOs in the final 20 minutes, but he won’t have to do that against Mo Allie-Cox, and the Sooners can stay at home against Johnson.

I talked about #15 MTSU’s aggressive amoeba zone that goes back and forth between 1-3-1 and 2-3 matchup, and I think it’s something that could flummox 3 point reliant #10 Syracuse, but I have some major concerns about the Blue Raiders offensively against a zone they’ve never seen before with basically no prep time. MTSU doesn’t have a PG (although Perrin Buford was outstanding vs MSU), and I thought that would ultimately be their downfall in a competitive game vs Michigan State, but the Blue Raiders just kept hitting jump shots. They’ve seen a decent amount of zone in CUSA play, but nothing really compares to Boeheim’s zone, and if you can’t move the ball in the halfcourt against it, you’re in trouble. Additionally, Kermit Davis brings Upshaw and Harris away from the rim offensively, and that really limits their ability to crash the offensive glass, which is always a necessity vs Syracuse.

A quick note on the early NIT game…it looks like no Bates-Diop for OSU again, but Florida’s offense is an ideal matchup for the Buckeyes. If you can’t consistently hit jump shots over the packed in OSU defense, you’re going to have some problems. That said, OSU’s offense is a disaster. Three point bombing Akron was just 9-42 from 3 vs the Bucks in the first round, and still could have won that game thanks to OSU’s halfcourt offense.

VILLANOVA -6

SFA +1

OKLAHOMA -6

SYRACUSE -6

OHIO STATE -1

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#13 Hawaii has a serious size disadvantage on the wings and in the frontcourt vs #5 Maryland, but don’t undervalue the athleticism of Quincy Smith, Aaron Valdes, and Mike Thomas. Those three go 6’1, 6’5, and 6’7, but can easily play with Nickens, Layman, and Carter, and I haven’t even mentioned the mobility of Janks (and Maryland struggled to cover a similar player in Mike Daum in the first round). While Maryland has a high TO rate, extending pressure against the Terps is ill advised. If Trimble can get by Rod Bobbitt, things will break down defensively for the Bows. It’s best to sag off him and turn him into a jump shooter, which isn’t really in Hawaii’s defensive DNA (Ganot is a Randy Bennett guy, so you know he’s going to crowd the 3 point line and make you take contested two point jump shots). There are some other issues here for Hawaii. If they fall behind early, they have to go with Tummala for his offense, but he’s a major liability defensively. That said, in terms of overall athleticism, Hawaii can compete with anyone in the country, and that tends to close the gap on whatever scheme/height advantage the Terps have.

I think this is a tough game for #3 Texas A&M. #11 Northern Iowa can handle an aggressive zone like Kennedy employs. Washpun is a natural zone buster and UNI is of course going to spread you out with their bigs and force you into uncomfortable situations off ball screens. Defensively, a Jacobson team is always going to force you into jump shots. They cut off entire regions of the court and you basically have nothing but contested two point jumpers. The Aggies are hell on transition reliant teams, but that isn’t UNI’s game at all. I think the Panthers are going to be able to operate in the halfcourt against the Syracuse-esque TAMU defense, but I’m concerned about the overwhelming height and athleticism advantage the Aggies enjoy across the board.

#7 Wisconsin runs into a frontcourt that can overpower them with #2 Xavier, and this isn’t the same transition denying Wisconsin defense of the previous years. Yes, the swing offense is back and can be particularly effective when Mack utilizes the 1-3-1, but Ed Sumner  is going to be able to attack Koenig off the dribble routinely, and Farr and Reynolds provide a frontcourt that’s both athletic and husky to match Hayes and Happ.

#1 Oregon spreads your defense out with their athletic length, and they attack gaps better than any team in the country. Defensively, Altman is a mastermind with trapping schemes, and that offensive mobility translates extremely well in that regard. #8 St. Joe’s is a unique team though in that they basically have multiple PGs thanks to the exceptional Bembry, who is basically impossible to turn over with those up the line traps. Additionally, Oregon isn’t a great three point shooting team, and that’s key vs an extremely packed in St. Joe’s defense. Teams that can overpower Oregon in the post have had success, but that’s not St. Joe’s. That said, the Hawks can match their mobile length, they’re not going to be phased by Altman’s traps, and they’re going to force Oregon into jump shots, which is going to give them a distinct chance tonight.

Ball State can shoot over UT Martin’s matchup zone, but can they stay in front of Schroyer’s attacking backcourt? Alex Anderson’s improved ball skills off the dribble has been one of the most remarkable improvements I’ve seen all year in CBB.

I think St. Mary’s can be bothered by the physicality of Georgia’s frontcourt, but if Fox insists on playing his 2-3 matchup zone, the Gaels are going to absolutely shred it. UGA hasn’t traveled west of the Mississippi all year.

PREDICTIONS (2147-1656-105), NCAA TOURNAMENT (27-16-1):

HAWAII +7.5

NORTHERN IOWA +7

XAVIER -4.5

ST. JOE’S +6.5

UT MARTIN +7

ST. MARY’S -6.5

 

 

 

 

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