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Day One (03/16)
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March 17, 2012
Day Two
15 Ways to Beat a 2 Seed

by Jeff Nusser and Corey Schmidt



(6) Cincinnati 65, (11) Texas 59 [64 possessions]
The young Longhorns made only four field goals in the first half, but they showed the resolve of a group wise beyond their years when they made a valiant comeback in the second half. After being down by as many as 19, Texas tied the game with three minutes remaining, but Cincinnati's experienced duo of Yancy Gates and Cashmere Wright connected on a few timely buckets that ensured the Bearcat victory. Rick Barnes loses frontcourt centerpiece Clint Chapman, who had a career year when his team was desperate for help in the paint, but the rest of his team will likely return ready to build on this overachieving season.

(3) Florida State 66, (14) St. Bonaventure 63 [62]
St. Bonaventure managed to score efficiently against the Florida State defense for about half of the game, which allowed the team to lead well into the second half, but then the dry spell came. The Seminoles locked down the Bonnies for a five-minute stretch late in the game, causing three turnovers and forcing misses on all six of their field goal attempts. When Leonard Hamilton's team produces such defensive runs, all it needs is for a few shots to go down on the other end -- and that's exactly what happened during the run. Thus, the 'Noles took the lead and, ultimately, the game from Andrew Nicholson and company.


(10) Xavier 67, (7) Notre Dame 63 [59 possessions]
If you possess no bias against games played primarily in the half court, this was as clean and well played a game as you'd want...for 39 minutes. The final minute, however, reminded us yet again that these are college athletes. Mark Lyons and Tu Holloway hit huge shots for the Musketeers in the final minute while Notre Dame carelessly threw the ball into the fifth row (the Irish were eighth nationally in turnover percentage). Then with Eric Atkins at the line poised to tie the game for the Irish, Jerian Grant committed the second three-point-line lane violation most of us have ever seen in our lives -- in a little more than 24 hours. (I can only imagine the conversations that are taking place between coaches and players before today's games about proper lane etiquette.) An intentional foul on the ensuing possession put away any hopes of a victory for the Irish. It was a bummer of a way to end a game that featured both teams posting effective FG percentages north of 55 and turning it over on fewer than 20 percent of possessions. Alas, this is what makes March mad -- and drives coaches crazy.

(15) Lehigh 75, (2) Duke 70 [69]
If Ken Pomeroy's laptop were an actual person, it would be nodding knowingly, with a look that says, "Why are you so surprised?" While the vast majority of the country shook its head in collective disbelief at this result, is it really all that shocking to imagine the 82nd best team in the country beating the 18th best team in the country? That's where Lehigh and Duke were ranked, respectively, by KenPom heading into the game, meaning the Blue Devils were only about a 4-to-1 favorite by his calculations. It turns out that C.J. McCollum's fantastic numbers -- 116 offensive rating on more than 32 percent of possessions used -- weren't just a function of the Patriot League-level opponents. Beyond scoring 30 points, the 6-3 junior guard simply looked like he absolutely belonged on the same court with his more highly recruited foes. And given what fans we are of efficiency, we'd be remiss not to note forward Gabe Knutson, who scored 17 points on just five shots and hit his final four free throws late to help seal it.

If you want to try to pinpoint something on which to blame the Duke loss, there are two areas you could look at, both of which were recurring issues as the Blue Devils dropped three of four to end the season. First, Duke's effective FG percentage was just 47, thanks to 23 percent shooting on 26 attempted threes. (The Blue Devils posted a 53 eFG percentage on the season.) Second, despite a tremendous size advantage, the Blue Devils lagged far behind the Mountain Hawks in trips to the free throw line. It all added up to just 1.02 points per possession and a round of 64 exit.

(7) Florida 71, (10) Virginia 45 [63]
Florida managed to beat Virginia convincingly, despite the fact that its three-pointers weren't falling. The Gators made just 4-of-23 from beyond the arc, but they made up for it by making 24-of-30 from inside the arc. That comes out to 80 percent -- yes, you read that correctly. Such two-point accuracy is rarely achieved in any Division I game, let alone one against the pack-line defense of Virginia. Patric Young and Bradley Beal were perfect on their twos, and they were also Florida's leading rebounders on a night when the team thoroughly dominated the battle on the boards. On the strength of such rebounding, the Gators put together their best defensive performance of the season, holding the Cavaliers to 0.71 points per trip.

(15) Norfolk State 86, (2) Missouri 84 [64]
Norfolk State stunned -- yes, stunned -- Missouri in what would be the first of two 15-over-2 upsets on Friday. Mizzou's defense was far from elite this season, but it was never quite this bad. NSU plays in one of the worst offensive leagues in the country, and it had merely the fifth-best offense in that league. But the Spartans carved up the Tigers unlike any team this season. Seriously, they scored 1.34 points per trip, which is worlds more efficient than Mizzou's second-worst defensive performance of the year (1.20 points allowed per possession to Kansas) They got great guard play from Pendarvis Williams, Chris McEachin, and Rodney McCauley, who combined to go 8-of-13 from downtown while committing just three turnovers. That trio's strong outing served as the perfect complement to Kyle O'Quinn's monster evening in the paint. The senior center had 26 points and 14 rebounds, five of which came on the offensive end. As it happens I wrote about O'Quinn before the season began. I'd become enamored with his play as I previewed the MEAC for the College Basketball Prospectus 2011-12, but I'd be lying if I told you I thought the article could still be referenced in March. Back then I said that the big man was unheralded because he had yet to have a breakout game against a big-name opponent. It turns out he just saved his best for the biggest stage.

(1) Michigan State 89, (16) Long Island 67 [69]
When the Blackbirds trotted into the locker room down just five to the Spartans, we're sure we weren't the only ones who wondered if LIU Brooklyn could provide the perfect capper to a crazy day. Alas, the final chance for Ken Pomeroy's prediction to come to pass fell by the wayside, as MSU dominated the interior -- particularly after halftime. Draymond Green and Derrick Nix combined for 26 points in the second half as the Spartans shot nearly 63 percent from inside the arc and grabbed nearly 50 percent of thier own misses. Green finished with his second consecutive NCAA tournament triple-double: 24 points, 12 rebounds, 10 assists. The last time he did it his team was in the process of losing to UCLA. This time Green actually gets to enjoy it.

(9) Saint Louis 61, (8) Memphis 54, [63]
Two elite defenses turned in two elite defensive performances in this one. For the number jockeying we like to do around here, sometimes basketball really is as simple as making shots. Memphis found out what so many Saint Louis opponents before them know: That can be really, really hard to do against the Billikens. Most glaring was that the Tigers made just two of their 15 three-point attempts, but it was the 49 percent on twos that truly did them in -- Memphis normally makes 54 percent of those, 10th nationally. Saint Louis meanwhile demonstrated the flip side of that with its effective FG percentage of 51, which helped make up for giving the ball away on more than one in four possessions. Kwamain Mitchell and Brian Conklin were the only two Billikens to score in double figures, and Conklin hit seven of eight free throws in the last three minutes to seal the deal.


(11) NC State 79, (6) San Diego State 65 [68 possessions]
All five of the ACC's tournament teams were in action Friday, and NC State took care of business early in notching the league's first win of the day. While this result would be considered an upset based on seed, both KenPom and FiveThirtyEight had the Wolfpack favored in this one. Mark Gottfried's team dominated the Aztecs in the paint to the tune of 62 percent two-point shooting. Lorenzo Brown was the catalyst for that interior surge, as six of his seven assists were on buckets from inside the arc. The sophomore guard also chipped in 17 points and nine rebounds in NC State's first tournament victory since 2006.

(8) Creighton 58, (9) Alabama 57 [56]
After Wichita State's loss to VCU on Thursday, it was up to Creighton to carry the Missouri Valley banner. The Bluejays nearly shot themselves in the foot by going 1-for-5 at the free throw line in the final minute, but they ultimately survived after a last-second heave by Alabama fell short. The Crimson Tide held their opponent to just over a point per possession, which stands as a major achievement against a team that averaged 1.19 on the year. However, in the end Anthony Grant's team couldn't score enough points against the middling defense of Creighton.

(3) Georgetown 74, (14) Belmont 59 [59]
In the lead-up to this game, much was made of Belmont's ability to make threes and Georgetown's nation-leading three-point field goal defense. Turns out the long ball didn't factor much into this game's outcome. The Bruins performed adequately from beyond the arc, but the Hoyas proved to be too much in the paint, both on offense and defense. Rick Byrd has built one of the nation's most consistent programs outside of the major conferences, but a round of 64 win still eludes him after five tries. Perhaps his team's move to the Ohio Valley, which has won a game in this round in each of the last three seasons, will bring better fortune.

(1) North Carolina 77, (16) Vermont 58 [72]
No John Henson, no problem -- at least in the round of 64. James Michael McAdoo filled in admirably for Henson in the North Carolina frontcourt on his way to tallying a career-high 17 points to go along with six boards and four steals.

(13) Ohio 65, (4) Michigan 60 [57]
As they usually are, Michigan was content to shoot a lot of perimeter shots. But as can sometimes happen with such a strategy, the Wolverines shot themselves right out of an appearance in the round if 32, missing 16 of 23 three-point attempts. Ohio's defense, which normally feasts on opponent turnovers, was respectable even without forcing the Maize and Blue into a ton of mistakes thanks to those many misses. On the flip side, it seemed like there were stretches where Ohio couldn't miss. D.J. Cooper led the way for the Bobcats with 21 points and 5 assists. Ohio beating Michigan would have been huge news on Thursday. On Friday it was just another ho-hum double-digit seed taking out a favorite.

(10) Purdue 72, (7) Saint Mary's 69 [69]
Purdue seemed to be cruising, maintaining a double-digit advantage throughout most of the second half. But while most of the country's attention was focused on what Lehigh was doing to Duke, the Gaels began to climb back into it behind star guard Matthew Dellavedova. He scored five points in the last four minutes and change, also assisting on Jorden Page's three-pointer that gave Saint Mary's the lead with 44 seconds to go. That's when the Boilermakers finally woke up. Free throws by Lewis Jackson put Matt Painter's team on top for good, and a pair of Robbie Hummel free throws -- seriously, is there anything more fitting than that guy sealing a victory? -- provided the final margin. Like Michigan and Memphis before them, the Gaels found that shooting tons of threes (39 percent of their field goal attempts) and making just 16 percent of them is not a winning recipe.

(12) South Florida 58, (5) Temple 44, [57]
Given the Bulls' offensive outburst against California on Wednesday -- their 1.10 points per possession was easily their highest figure in a month and a half -- it wouldn't have been a shock to see their performance regress to more normal levels in this game. And it did (and then some) ...for a half: USF would score just 15 points on 24 possessions out of the gate as the Bulls made just three field goals despite 12 offensive rebounds. (Yes, you read that right. This game was on pace for 48 possessions at halftime of a 19-15 contest. Even Dick Bennett cringes at the thought of that.) Then, suddenly, the Bulls rediscovered the magic in the locker room. Victor Rudd and Anthony Collins combined for 27 of USF's 45 points as the defense continued to completely shut down the opponent. Temple's 0.77 points per trip was the lowest of the season for the Owls, who didn't shoot well (38.1 effective FG percentage), turned it over too much (on 23 percent of their possessions) and rebounded just 21 percent of their own copious misses. If the Stan Heath reclamation project isn't complete at this point, it's darn close.

(2) Kansas 65, (15) Detroit 50 [68]
Don't let the final margin fool you. Once the Jayhawks stretched the lead out to 25 points about seven minutes into the second half, this one was over. The final efficiency numbers don't look great -- one certainly would expect Kansas to put up better than 0.96 points per possession against a team who would have been expected to give up 1.01 to an average opponent. However, even as the Jayhawks built a brick house down the stretch, the defense remained stifling. Detroit mustered just nine points over the final nine minutes. When a pair of two seeds are unceremoniously shown the door earlier in the day, style points seem to matter a lot less.

Jeff Nusser is the Editor of CougCenter and a regular contributor to Basketball Prospectus. Follow him on Twitter at @NussCoug.

Follow Corey Schmidt on Twitter: @cjschmidt1. This free article is an example of the content available to Basketball Prospectus Premium subscribers. See our Premium page for more details and to subscribe.

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<< Previous Article
Day One (03/16)
Next Article >>
One Expert's Bracket (03/17)

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