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March 23, 2011
Tournament Preview
Soft Southwest for Jayhawks?

by Ken Pomeroy

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Southwest Regional
All games played at the Alamodome in San Antonio

Kansas advanced to the Sweet 16 as expected and while they didn't look quite as overpowering as Ohio State in their 80 minutes of tournament action, they benefited greatly from action elsewhere in the Southwest bracket. While the Jayhawks drew a 12-seed for Friday's game, the other half of the bracket features the first ever 10 vs. 11 matchup in tournament history. Keep in mind, though, that even with the greased skids there's a one-in-three chance that Kansas doesn't make it to Houston, which means there's a one-in-three chance of a double-digit seed representing this quarter of the bracket.

Log5 odds

Seed               Elite8  Final4  Final   Champ    Prev
 1  Kansas          81.1    66.3    42.8    19.8    12.4
 10 Florida St.     64.2    17.6     5.9     1.2     0.09
 12 Richmond        18.9     9.7     3.0     0.5     0.06
 11 VCU             35.8     6.5     1.4     0.2     0.0005

Odds for the entire Sweet 16 are here.

(12) Richmond vs. (1) Kansas (Friday, 7:27 on TBS)
The Jayhawks made 23-of-40 two-point attempts against Illinois, a performance that seemed to have erased most people's memories of the lackluster effort in the quasi-exhibition against Boston U to open their tournament run. The Spiders depend on the Princeton system, albeit a watered down version of it. Chris Mooney's team doesn't get many offensive boards, but they don't completely neglect the offensive glass, either. They'll use up a lot of the shot clock, but 25 teams played slower this season. They score a lot off the pass, but they have players that score off the dribble occasionally, as well. They take a lot of threes, but don't depend on them as heavily as Mooney's Air Force teams did.

As it has always been under Self, there will be three-point shots available for the opposition. Sure, Kansas has held opponents to under 30 percent shooting from beyond the arc. I'm not saying Richmond can expect warmup-style looks, but at least a third of their shots should be threes. And there's a fair chance they could meet their season average of making 40 percent of those looks. That would lead to a pretty nice offense even without many offensive boards or efficiency inside the arc. The advantage the Jayhawks own is having two Morrises, while Richmond only has one Harper (Justin) to defend them. Richmond can put five shooters on the floor and they'll have to shoot well to keep up with Kansas.

(11) Virginia Commonwealth vs. (10) Florida State (Friday, 9:57 on TBS)
Who knew the Seminoles could make it so far with so little offense? I for one welcome a Final Four run from a team with an offense that ranks outside the top 100 nationally. It certainly would increase the number of teams given hope to go far in the tournament in the future.

How effective is Florida State's defense? On the season, they've held opponents to 39.9 percent accuracy on two-point shots. There were four teams this season that gave up a higher figure on three-point attempts. For good measure, FSU ranks in the nation's top ten in three-point defense as well.

Then there's VCU, who brings a defense outside the top 100 into this contest. The Rams' offense was rightly celebrated in a comprehensive takedown of Purdue in the round of 32. The 1.43 points scored per possession was 15 percent higher than any team had posted on the Boilermakers this season and the best offensive performance against Purdue since Matt Painter has been a coach there.

I'll nominate the presence of Chris Singleton as the most overrated storyline of the tournament's first week. Singleton played for 26 minutes in the Seminoles' first two tournament games, and while he gives the defense a boost, it was doing very well without him. And offensively, Singleton isn't as much of a factor as people seem to think. He figures to get even more minutes against VCU, but his presence doesn't change the fact that this a battle of strength-on-strength (VCU's offense against FSU's defense) and weakness-on-weakness (VCU's defense against FSU's offense). Most of the nation's eyeballs are going to be on Ohio State and Kentucky during this game, but there is some reason to take a peek at this one during NAPA commercials.

Ken Pomeroy is an author of Basketball Prospectus. You can contact Ken by clicking here or click here to see Ken's other articles.

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