NCAA Tournament: East Region Preview

16 Mar

#1 Villanova vs #16 Mount St. Mary’s (Buffalo)

Guess the question is can MSM compete against the defending champs, and I kinda think they can. Villanova’s defense is built on switching everything on screens and forcing you into a lot of jump shots that you don’t necessarily want to take with their truly outstanding help defense. Where MSM can maybe exploit something in Nova’s defense is the overall lack of team speed and lack of a true rim protector. MSM, led by Robinson and Long, is small but super quick in the backcourt. Brunson and Villanova won’t be rattled at all by Mayhem and can likely score at will against MSM’s defense, but maybe the quickness of the Mount guards gives the defending champs some issues on the other end. Of course Robinson probably didn’t do himself any favors with his pregame comments about Villanova’s backcourt, providing some motivation for the Wildcats that they maybe lacked a little in a 1/16 matchup.

ADVANCE: Villanova

ATS PREDICTION: MSM +27

#8 Wisconsin vs #9 Virginia Tech (Buffalo)

This is likely a tough match up for Virginia Tech because Wisconsin takes away a lot of what the Hokies do offensively because they generally don’t allow threes at a high volume and they don’t put you on the FT line. That’s a bummer for VA Tech’s penetrate and kick game. Additionally, the Hokies don’t value a high shot rate, meaning they tend to turn the ball over and don’t extend possessions with offensive rebounds. Given Wisconsin’s propensity to limit possessions in a game, a low shot volume is especially precarious against the Badgers. Buzz obviously has to double Happ, as LeDay can’t guard him on his own, and that exposes a lot of holes on an already hole filled VA Tech perimeter defense. Of course if LeDay can get Happ in early foul trouble, and LeDay draws a lot of contact, everything changes. The Badgers always have trouble with quick penetrating guards that forces their bigs to come up on dribble drives leaving the baseline open, and Justin Robinson is capable of exploiting that.

ADVANCE: Wisconsin

ATS PREDICTION: Wisconsin -5.5

#5 Virginia vs #12 UNC Wilmington (Orlando)

Really need to keep my eyes on Isaiah Wilkins’ status for this one. He’s the hard hedge in the pack line. He’s the guy on Cacock, the most efficient rim scorer in the country. His status is of fairly grave importance, but you might not realize it by looking at the stat sheet. Regardless, this is an extremely intriguing game. UNCW’s press won’t bother Perrantes much, as Keatts took it with him from Louisville, who of course UVA is quite familiar with. UNCW is much more reliant on the three offensively this year, and they shoot it well from the wings with Bryce and Flemmings and the point with Ingram, and Talley’s recent strong play has allowed Ingram to work more and more off the ball. So the Seahawks are capable of shooting over the pack line. However, the Seahawks aren’t going to find anything in transition against UVA and they’re not going to be able to generate extra possessions with their pressure, and any cold shooting streaks could spell doom. UNCW has more firepower offensively, but UVA is much more prepared for what they’ll see defensively from UNCW than the Seahawks are. Again, things really change here if Wilkins can’t go. UVA really needed him at 100% against Colson in ACC Tournament, and he wasn’t there. His absence or limited availability means more time for Salt, who would get caught in terrible mismatches against UNCW.

ADVANCE: Virginia

ATS PREDICTION: UNC Wilmington +7.5

#4 Florida vs #13 ETSU (Orlando)

Pretty tough draw for Florida. They got the one 13 seed who can match their athleticism, and ETSU takes a high percentage of their shots at the rim, where UF is significantly weaker defending due to the Egbunu injury. Additionally, Forbe’s defensive scheme really forces you to beat them with jump shots (the Bucs are 21st nationally in FG% at the rim defensively). Florida is a good shooting team, but it’s born from working inside out offensively, mostly off of Hill penetration, and ETSU doesn’t have to double the post against the Gators. That said, Florida obviously has some advantages. 1) Devin Robinson is a problem for Forbes. Bradford is too small to guard him and Glass isn’t quick enough. 2) Cromer and the ETSU are susceptible to pressure and if you can get in Cromer’s jersey, it really bothers him. 3) Florida can score in transition against the Bucs fairly routinely, and the Gators are lethal when they can run and get their athleticism in the open court.

ADVANCE: Florida

ATS PREDICTION: Florida -10.5

#6 SMU vs #11 USC (Tulsa)

Tough quick travel and tough opponent to prep for if you’re Andy Enfield (although they’ve already meet once this year). SMU is perhaps the most intriguing team in the field for me. They’re limited by their lack of depth, but defensively they play probably the best team defense I’ve seen. You’re not going to get shots at the rim against the Mustangs (only 7 teams in the country allow them at a lower rate). They’re a brick wall in the lane. They’ll use different zone looks, some 1-3-1, but essentially their parts are interchangeable defensively as they basically run at 6’7 1-5. You HAVE to be able to hit jump shots over them if you’re going to win, and that’s precisely what USC did in the first meeting in LA this year. The Trojans were 12-24 from 3 and SMU had trouble defending Boatwright’s size outside of the lane. I’m sure Jankovich was secretly a little peeved that PC couldn’t hold on to their big lead in Dayton, because USC prevents some very specific matchup problems with their bigs. With Boatwright’s offense comes his defense though, and that’s often when Enfield has to switch to the matchup zone to hide him, and it’s difficult to zone SMU with their long shooters. Milton, Ojeleye, Brown, and Foster can all stroke it.

ADVANCE: SMU

ATS PREDICTION: USC +6.5

#3 Baylor vs #14 New Mexico St (Tulsa)

Tough matchup for NMSU. Weir and his staff place a point of emphasis on taking away the three point line because they play in a guard oriented league that shoots the three at the third highest rate as a conference. That’s how the Aggie defense is constructed and their frontcourt of Chua and Jones is undersized but mobile and able to defend outside and switch on ball screens. That’s going to bite them a little against Baylor, who wants to pound it inside to Motley. That’s a big advantage for the Bears. Additionally, I’m not sure how NMSU handles the 1-1-3 zone. NMSU’s offense relies heavily on Baker’s penetration and Chua drawing contact inside. The Baylor defense simply doesn’t allow looks inside, as no team allows fewer FGAs at the rim than the Bears. If Lecomte isn’t 100% yet, that opens the door a bit for the Aggies. Both teams are outstanding on the offensive glass, so if the offenses aren’t getting going, that’s a battle to watch.

ADVANCE: Baylor

ATS PREDICTION: Baylor -12.5

#7 South Carolina vs #10 Marquette (Greenville)

South Carolina is not only hilariously overseeded, but they get to stay home as well. South Carolina’s hat is hung on their defense, which doesn’t allow penetration, easy entry passes, transition points, easy shots, etc. However, the defense has shown some definite kinks in the armor down the stretch. In the last month, the Gamecocks have allowed opponents to score better than 1ppp seven times in ten games. Prior to that, SC’s defense had allowed that to happen all of 4 times. If the South Carolina defense is faltering, they don’t have the offensive chops to make it up for it, as they really struggle in that department (the offense is essentially Thornwell and Dozier bullying their way to the rim). Marquette is an intriguing if frustrating team because they’re the opposite of the Gamecocks. The shoot the three better than any team in the country, and Luke Fischer has had a remarkably efficient season at the rim. The problem is they can’t defend, and the small guards Howard and Rowsey can be overpowered by Dozier and Thornwell. Marquette’s reliance on the 3 also won’t take advantage of USC’s propensity to foul with their aggressive defense. Interesting offense vs defense game here.

ADVANCE: South Carolina

ATS PREDICTION: South Carolina -1

#2 Duke vs #15 Troy (Greenville)

Duke has clearly become the pick du jour after their ACC tournament run, but they still have the same PG issues and defensive issues that they’ve had all year long, but obviously offensively they’re a dynamo if Tatum is going to continue to play like he did in Brooklyn. You can still exploit the Duke defense in ball screens, especially the freshmen, and Troy runs a LOT of ball screens with Varnado, Person, and Hollimon. Defensively Troy isn’t good. They don’t rebound well and they essentially let you go wherever you want. Duke will score in bunches, and if the jump shots are falling like they did in Brooklyn, they’ll hit triple digits. That said, Troy should be able to find their spots off ball screens too, just not nearly enough to keep up.

ADVANCE: Duke

ATS PREDICTION: Duke -20

EAST REGIONAL PREDICTIONS: Villanova over Wisconsin

Virginia over Florida

SMU over Baylor

Duke over South Carolina

EAST REGION SWEET 16 PREDICTIONS:

Villanova over Virginia

Duke over SMU

EAST REGION FINAL: Villanova over Duke

 

 

 

 

 

 

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