Games of Thursday, March 13
Big East Second Round
Matchup: #8 Seed Villanova (20-11, 9-9) vs. #1 Georgetown (25-4, 15-3), 12:00 p.m. EST, ESPN
Rankings: Villanova, #56 in Pomeroy Ratings (9th of 16 in Big East); Georgetown, #8 (2nd)
Pomeroy Prediction: Georgetown, 67-59 in 64 Possessions
Upset Possibility: 18%
Prospectus: Villanova likely ended Syracuse's NCAA Tournament hopes yesterday afternoon in convincing fashion, beating the Orange 82-63. Now the Wildcats get a rematch with Georgetown, which they lost to 55-53 on February 11. That game featured a controversial foul called against guard Corey Stokes in the final second, which sent Hoyas point guard Jonathan Wallace to the line for the game-winning points in an ugly game that saw both teams score less than 0.9 points per possession. These two teams, of course, have a fierce rivalry that was intensified by the 1985 NCAA championship game, in which No. 8 seed Villanova beat No. 1 seed Georgetown 66-64. Even with yesterday's big win over Syracuse, the Wildcats can't be certain right now whether they are in this year's NCAA tourney or not, but a win over the Big East tournament's No. 1 seed would do the trick. After a lull in the middle of their conference season, the Hoyas have won five in a row and are coming off a 55-52 win over Louisville that won them the Big East regular season title. Georgetown will be challenged by Villanova's sophomore guard Scottie Reynolds, who hit four threes against the Orange yesterday and scored 22 points, and who got to the line 13 times in the game with the Hoyas and poured in 24.
Matchup: #5 Seed West Virginia (23-9, 11-7) vs. #4 Connecticut (24-7, 13-5), 2:00, ESPN
Rankings: West Virginia, #18 in Pomeroy Ratings (4th of 16 in Big East);
Connecticut, #21 (5th)
Pomeroy Prediction: West Virginia, 71-70 in 67 Possessions
Upset Possibility: 49%
Prospectus: West Virginia trailed throughout much of the second half yesterday versus Providence, the Big East tournament's lowest seed, but came back to win 58-53 in an ugly game that featured 35 turnovers. Now the Mountaineers face a UConn team that beat them 79-71 in Hartford on March 1. The Huskies won despite Mountaineers forward Joe Alexander's 32 points on 14-of-24 shooting. Alexander, a 6'8 junior, scored 32 again in the team's next game, a win over Pittsburgh. UConn beat West Virginia by getting to the line 18 more times than the Mountaineers, which has been the Huskies' M.O. all season--they rank fourth in the nation in free throw rate, having shot 35 free throws per 100 field goal attempts, and their defense is fifth best at keeping teams off the line, having held opponents to 23.3 attempts/100 FGA. What UConn's defense does not do well is force turnovers--it is seventh from the bottom in Division I in that category--while West Virginia takes care of the ball better than all but two other teams. Predictably, the Mountaineers committed just five turnovers in the game against the Huskies.
UConn has its shooting guard Jerome Dyson back in the fold after he missed nine games due to suspension. Dyson has played just a little over 16 minutes per game in the four games since his return, and scored only 19 total points on 7-of-15 from the floor. Dyson led the team in scoring before he was suspended.
Matchup: #7 Seed Pittsburgh (23-9, 10-8) vs. #2 Louisville (24-7, 14-4), 7:00, ESPN
Rankings: Pittsburgh, #30 in Pomeroy Ratings (7th of 16 in Big East); Louisville, #7 (1st)
Pomeroy Prediction: Louisville, 69-64 in 65 Possessions
Upset Possibility: 29%
Prospectus: The Panthers took down No. 10 seed Cincinnati yesterday to advance and set up a rematch of a regular season game played on February 24 in Pittsburgh which Louisville won 75-73. Panthers junior forward Sam Young, who is almost single-handedly keeping alive the art of the mid-range jumper, scored 20 points in that one on 63 eFG% shooting, while his freshman frontcourt-mate DeJuan Blair added 20 points and 11 rebounds. Louisville was led by center David Padgett's 21 points on 9-of-13 shooting, while guard Edgar Sosa had a rare good shooting game, knocking in 3-of-4 from three and 4-of-7 from two to tie a season high with 21 points.
Padgett and Sosa are about as different as they come in the college ranks. Padgett is a fifth-year 6'11 senior from Reno, a transfer from Kansas, who is playing the best basketball of his career after missing most of the non-conference schedule with a devastating knee injury, and is the most valuable player on a team that is a legitimate threat to win the NCAA Championship. Sosa is a 6'1 baby-faced sophomore guard from New York City, the son of Dominican immigrants, who had an excellent freshman season last year, capped off by a strong NCAA Tournament, but who has struggled in his follow-up effort. While Pitino gushes about the intangibles of Padgett and his playmaking and leadership abilities, he has been continually frustrated with Sosa's attitude and his play, and was quoted in the New York Times yesterday as saying "after coaching Edgar Sosa, I’m going right to heaven.” If Sosa can get things going, and consistently knock down three-pointers while doing a better job of distributing the ball (his 15.6 assist rate this season is down from 22.2 last year), then the Cardinals, good as they are already, could prove nearly impossible to beat.
Matchup: #6 Seed Marquette (23-8, 11-7) vs. #3 Notre Dame (24-6, 14-4), 9:00, ESPN
Rankings: Marquette, #11 in Pomeroy Ratings (3rd of 16 in Big East); Notre Dame, #26 (6th)
Pomeroy Prediction: Marquette, 76-73 in 73 Possessions
Upset Possibility: 39%
Prospectus: This is a matchup between one of the best defenses in the country (Marquette ranks eighth in Division I in adjusted defensive efficiency, at 0.87 points per possession allowed) and one of the best offenses (Notre Dame is 11th with an adjusted efficiency of 1.19 PPP). It is also an interesting test for Notre Dame--the Fighting Irish are 17-0 at home this season, and 7-6 in road or neutral venues. Notre Dame ventured into the Bradley Center in Milwaukee to play Marquette on January 12, and exited after having taken a 92-66 beating, the team's worst loss since a 111-82 loss to Duke in 1999. Marquette, which beat Seton Hall 64-57 last night to advance, also has a good offense, and the Golden Eagles have the distinction of having every one of their players sport an offensive rating above average (100). The only player that doesn't qualify on Notre Dame is Tory Jackson, the team's sophomore point guard, who leads the team in assist rate but has shot just 43.5 eFG% from the floor and committed turnovers on a high 28.2 percent of his possessions used.
Atlantic 10 Second Round
Matchup: #8 Seed Dayton (21-9, 8-8) vs. #1 Xavier (26-5, 14-2), 12:00
Rankings: Dayton, #71 in Pomeroy Ratings (4th of 14 in A-10); Xavier, #15 (1st)
Pomeroy Prediction: Xavier, 69-60 in 61 Possessions
Upset Possibility: 18%
Prospectus: The Flyers just barely got by St. Louis yesterday 63-62 in
overtime, and now look to maintain their shot at an NCAA Tournament berth with a win over top seed Xavier. The Musketeers handled Dayton with relative ease in the regular season, winning 69-43 at home and 57-51 on the road. One thing seems certain--the Flyers have no chance at an upset if their best player, senior guard Brian Roberts, plays as he did yesterday. Roberts took a season low five shots and tied a season low with five points while committing 10 turnovers, but was picked up by his teammates in the victory. Dayton has a strong offense, which has scored 1.12 points per possession by adjusted efficiency this season, but the Flyers tallied just 94 points in 105 regular season possessions against Xavier, or less than 0.9 per trip. While the Musketeers are known for their offense (and for good reason, as the unit ranks fourth in the country in raw efficiency), Xavier also has the A-10's best defense, which is 30th in the country in adjusted efficiency and has held opponents below a point per possession in nine of 16 conference games this season.
Matchup: #5 Seed Saint Joseph's (19-11, 9-7) vs. #4 Richmond (16-13, 9-7), 2:30
Rankings: Saint Joseph's, #63 in Pomeroy Ratings (2nd of 14 in A-10); Richmond, #136 (9th)
Pomeroy Prediction: Saint Joseph's, 69-62 in 62 Possessions
Upset Possibility: 21%
Prospectus: Saint Joseph's continued its schizophrenic season by running over Fordham 80-62 yesterday, which, after the way the Hawks have played over the past five weeks, probably means they're due for a dud of a game against Richmond. The Spiders are heavily over-seeded, however, as they are the nation's third luckiest team and went 0-4 in the conference season against Saint Joseph's, Xavier, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island. Their loss to the Hawks came on January 12 in an 81-63 decision in Philadelphia. Richmond's best asset is a defense that generates a good amount of steals and forces turnovers. However, the Spiders--the youngest team in the A-10, with an experience level of 1.1 years--have a decidedly sub-par offense, which is unable to get offensive boards or get to the free throw line, and the team has just one qualifying player with an average or better offensive rating (sophomore forward Dan Geriot). The Hawks, in contrast, have six qualifying players who all have offensive ratings higher than Geriot.
Matchup: #7 Seed La Salle (15-16, 8-8) vs. #2 Temple (18-12, 11-5), 6:30
Rankings: La Salle, #142 in Pomeroy Ratings (11th of 14 in A-10); Temple, #72 (5th)
Pomeroy Prediction: Temple, 79-71 in 68 Possessions
Upset Possibility: 22%
Prospectus: A Philadelphia Big 5 battle plays out on the boardwalk, with La Salle advancing to face Fran Dunphy's charges after upsetting Duquesne yesterday 82-79 in the first round. Temple won easily at home in the two squads' sole meeting during the regular season, coming away with an 85-66 victory in the final game of the season last Saturday. Temple is an interesting case for the NCAA Tournament selection committee, as the Owls didn't do anything in the non-conference schedule, but then went 4-1 against Xavier, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Saint Joseph's, and finished alone in second place in the Atlantic 10 standings. The Owls are still probably a couple wins shy of getting to the Dance. In case the thought of the Explorers running the table in the tournament has crossed your mind, here's the history: La Salle has not won the A-10 tournament nor the regular season title since joining the conference in 1995, and last went to the NCAA's in 1992. Temple won back-to-back A-10 tournaments in 2000 and 2001, which was the last time the Owls went to the NCAA Tournament.
Matchup: #6 Seed Charlotte (19-12, 9-7) vs. #3 Massachusetts (21-9, 10-6), 9:00
Rankings: Charlotte, #76 in Pomeroy Ratings (6th of 14 in A-10); Massachusetts, #68 (3rd)
Pomeroy Prediction: Massachusetts, 79-78 in 78 Possessions
Upset Possibility: 47%
Prospectus: The 49ers put the Rhode Island Rams out of their misery last night with a come-from-behind 75-73 victory. The win was reminiscent of Georgetown's two-point victory over Villanova this season--with less than a second left, sophomore guard Michael Gerrity drew a foul call and hit two free throws to provide the margin of victory. Now Charlotte plays the Minutemen, who beat the 48ers 86-79 in Amherst on January 19. That game played out in 77 possessions, which was the second-fastest pace that Charlotte has played at this season. Massachusetts, which is third in the country with an average of 76.1 possessions/40 minutes, has played 10 games this year of 80 or more possessions. This one, in other words, is going to move at a very good clip, and should be a great game to watch considering the even quality of the two teams. From the department of potentially useless trivia: Massachusetts' shot-blocking forward, 6'9 senior Dante Milligan, has fouled out of 11 games this season, quite a feat considering that he has averaged less than 18 minutes a contest. The Minutemen are 7-4 in those games.
Pacific 10 Quarterfinals
Matchup: #5 Seed Arizona St. (19-11, 9-9) vs. #4 Southern California (20-10, 11-7), 3:00
Rankings: Arizona St., #43 in Pomeroy Ratings (7th of 10 in Pac 10); Southern California, #25 (5th)
Pomeroy Prediction: Southern California, 66-61 in 63 Possessions
Upset Possibility: 27%
Prospectus: Star frosh James Harden announced yesterday that he will return for his sophomore
season in Tempe. That's certainly great news for the Sun Devils and their fans, as Harden has been a top 10 performer by offensive rating amongst those using 28 percent of possessions or more. Harden, a big 6'5 guard who can score and distribute, has shot an outstanding 58 percent on his two-pointers this season, and has had a better season than a certain other more highly touted 6'5 freshman Pac 10 guard. Harden torched the Trojans this year in the teams' two meetings, shooting a combined 15-of-17 (100 eFG%) from the field and 16-of-18 from the line for 50 points. The Sun Devils split with USC, losing in L.A. 67-53 and winning in Tempe 80-66. Arizona St.'s chances in this game would be higher if not for USC getting a slight "semi-home" boost because of the game being played in L.A., at the Staples Center. The Sun Devils are on the bubble, so they need this game a lot worse than do the Trojans, who have essentially already locked up an NCAA berth.
Matchup: #9 Seed California (16-14, 6-12) vs. #1 UCLA (28-3, 16-2), 5:30
Rankings: California, #53 in Pomeroy Ratings (9th of 10 in Pac 10); UCLA, #2 (1st)
Pomeroy Prediction: UCLA, 83-67 in 68 Possessions
Upset Possibility: 8%
Prospectus: The Golden Bears beat Washington 84-81 last night, led by Patrick Christopher's 25 points and Ryan Anderson's 25 and 16 rebounds, to advance into this matchup with the top-seeded Bruins. For inspiration Cal will likely look to last Saturday's game at Pauley Pavilion, when it came within a point of upsetting UCLA, and would have won if not for a questionable out-of-bounds call leading to UCLA's final possession, in which Josh Shipp made a ridiculous shot from behind the backboard with 1.5 seconds left. Anderson and Co., possessors of perhaps the nation's most underrated offense (eighth in the land in adjusted offensive efficiency), will have a chance at revenge tonight, but will likely have to deal with a Staples Center filled mostly with UCLA fans, giving the Bruins an additional edge. The loss last Saturday was the Golden Bears' fifth straight to end the season and third straight close defeat, a streak they turned around last night.
Matchup: #6 Seed Oregon (18-12, 9-9) vs. #3 Washington St. (23-7, 11-7), 9:00
Rankings: Oregon, #40 in Pomeroy Ratings (6th of 10 in Pac 10); Washington St., #10 (2nd)
Pomeroy Prediction: Washington St., 67-61 in 59 Possessions
Upset Possibility: 26%
Prospectus: Oregon is another Pac 10 team on the bubble, but is behind Arizona and Arizona St., meaning this is an essential game for the Ducks. Oregon has a tough matchup, however, for while the Cougars were likely overrated after their 14-0 start to the season, now it seems that they are underrated, and potentially a strong pick to do serious damage in the postseason. Washington St. also beat the Ducks twice during the regular season, 69-60 at home and 62-53 in Eugene. Oregon is the other Pac 10 team besides Cal with a sneakily great offense--the Ducks are sixth in the nation in adjusted offensive efficiency, thanks primarily to the fifth best eFG%. Senior forward Maarty Leunen leads the charge in that department, with an eFG% of 68.1, second best in the nation. Leunen has shot 60 percent on his 148 two-point attempts, and hit a remarkable 55 of his 104 three-point attempts. The offense sometimes comes and goes for Leunen, however. He torched hapless Oregon St. for 7-of-8 from three-point range and 32 points three games ago, then in the team's next game, a win over Arizona St., took only one shot from the field (although he did get to the line eight times). Leunen played very well in the two games against Washington St., scoring 20 points in each on
combined 79 eFG% shooting from the floor. The Ducks defense, however, has let the team down all year, and gave up 1.10 points per possession in regular season conference play.
Matchup: #7 Seed Arizona (19-13, 8-10) vs. #2 Stanford (24-6, 13-5), 11:30
Rankings: Arizona, #23 in Pomeroy Ratings (4th of 10 in Pac 10); Stanford, #14 (3rd)
Pomeroy Prediction: Stanford, 65-63 in 62 Possessions
Upset Possibility: 43%
Prospectus: The No. 2 seeded Cardinal gets a rough deal having to play its first tournament game against Arizona, arguably the fourth best team in the conference. Stanford beat the Wildcats twice this season, but those games were decided by a combined five points, and the Cardinal needed a last-possession block by Brook Lopez on February 16 to hang on for a 67-66 win in Tucson. Arizona is perhaps the NCAA Tournament bubble team with the most interesting case. If the Wildcats lose tonight, they would have gone 9-11 in conference play this year, and a sub-.500 conference record is usually a killer for at-large chances. Yet Arizona has played the toughest schedule in the country by the Pomeroy Ratings, and has six wins over teams in the Pomeroy Top 50. Over its last 11 games, however, the Wildcats are 4-7--just 2-7 against non-Oregon St. competition--and recent results are weighted more heavily than the rest of a team's schedule by the committee. Arizona has the nation's 10th best offense by adjusted efficiency, at 1.19 points per possession, but the Wildcats are just fifth in the Pac 10 in points per possession in conference games, at 1.09. They scored 0.94 in the two games this season against Stanford, which has the ninth best adjusted defensive efficiency in Division I. That defense has been touched up recently in Stanford's two-game losing streak, especially last Saturday at the Galen Center, when it allowed USC to score 1.12 points per possession in a 77-64 defeat.
Atlantic Coast First Round
Matchup: #12 Seed North Carolina St. (15-15, 4-12) vs. #5 Miami (21-9, 8-8), 2:30
Rankings: North Carolina St., #96 in Pomeroy Ratings (12th of 12 in ACC); Miami, #45 (5th)
Pomeroy Prediction: Miami, 71-67 in 65 Possessions
Upset Possibility: 34%
Prospectus: N.C. State was picked to finish at 9-7 in the ACC this season, but instead it stumbled to a 4-12 record and tied for last place in the conference with Boston College. Sophomore forward Brandon Costner regressed from last season, seeing his minutes drop along with his offensive rating and involvement in the offense (possessions used and percentage of shots taken). Ben McCauley, a 6'10 junior, regressed to an even greater extent, as his offensive rating and eFG% dropped from 112.1 and 58.4 last season to 94.3 and 43.8 this year, respectively, while his minutes and involvement in the offense also fell steeply. All that means that despite the presence of heralded freshman forward J.J. Hickson, who has played well, the team's offense went from a unit that scored 1.06 points per possessions last year to one that averaged 1.02 this season. The team's defense was an even bigger problem in ACC play, however, as the Wolfpack gave up 1.14 points per possession to their conference foes. Consequently, N.C. State completely collapsed down the stretch, losing its last eight games. Can the Wolfpack put things together in time for a run through the ACC Tourney? Not likely, but a win in their opening game would damage the NCAA Tournament chance of Miami, which lost a critical game against Florida St. in overtime in its final game of the regular season Saturday. Miami was outscored in conference play, but has big wins over Clemson and Duke, which might be enough to push it into the tournament. One of the Hurricanes' losses came January 19 at N.C. State in overtime by a score of 79-77, a game won by a steal and layup from senior forward Gavin Grant in the final seconds.
Matchup: #11 Seed Boston College (13-16, 4-12) vs. #6 Maryland (18-13, 8-8), 9:30
Rankings: Boston College, #85 in Pomeroy Ratings (11th of 12 in ACC); Maryland, #51 (6th)
Pomeroy Prediction: Maryland, 74-70 in 70 Possessions
Upset Possibility: 35%
Prospectus: Maryland needs this game even worse than Miami needs a win, considering that the Terrapins are currently a shade behind the Hurricanes on the waiting list for an NCAA Tournament at-large bid. Maryland really hurt its chances by losing 91-76 at Virginia in its final game of the regular season last Sunday. The real back-breaker for the Terrapins, however, came the game before that, when Maryland blew a 20-point second-half lead and lost by three at Clemson, denying the team what would have been a signature win for its tournament résumé. The Terrapins could stand to get some more consistent play from their sophomore point guard Greivis Vasquez, who has alternated between electrifying and frustrating this season. Vasquez is averaging 6.8 assists a game, and his 37.4 assist rate ranks second in the ACC, but he has also turned it over 4.5 times a game on average. Maryland and Boston College split their season series, with the Eagles winning in College Park 81-78 way back on December 9, and the Terrapins coming back to take a 70-65 decision in Chestnut Hill on February 6. Boston College doesn't seem to be a team ready to make a tournament run, as the Eagles have lost six straight games and 12 of their last 13, with their only win in that stretch coming against similarly-hurting North Carolina St. Not even a historic scoring performance was able to get Boston College a win, as point guard Tyrese Rice's 46-point effort went for naught in a 10-point loss to North Carolina on March 1.
Southeastern First Round
Matchup: #5-West Seed Alabama (16-15, 5-11) vs. #4-East Florida (21-10, 8-8), 7:30
Rankings: Alabama, #81 in Pomeroy Ratings (8th of 12 in SEC); Florida, #46 (4th)
Pomeroy Prediction: Florida, 78-74 in 68 Possessions
Upset Possibility: 34%
Prospectus: The Gators are in a similar position to Miami and Maryland with regards to the NCAA Tournament, and are in serious danger of not being invited back to defend their two straight national titles after losing their last three games to close the season. A loss tonight would almost certainly send Florida in search of a less luminous championship--that of the National Invitational Tournament. In its last two games, losses to Tennessee and Kentucky, the Gators have scored 1.28 and 1.16 points per possession, respectively, but their defense has been shredded to the tune of a combined 1.29 points per possession. Florida' defense allowed 1.10 points per possession in conference play, tied with South Carolina for second-worst in the SEC behind Auburn. Florida, the second youngest team in the nation with an experience level of 0.6 years, beat Alabama 90-83 on the road in these teams' one meeting this season. The Crimson Tide has suffered through a rough year, which was tempered somewhat by an overtime victory against Vanderbilt in its final game of the season last Saturday.
Mountain West Quarterfinals
Matchup: #6 Seed Utah (16-13, 7-9) vs. #3 New Mexico (24-7, 11-5), 11:30
Rankings: Utah, #70 in Pomeroy Ratings (4th of 9 in Mountain West); New Mexico, #28 (1st)
Pomeroy Prediction: New Mexico, 67-61 in 62 Possessions
Upset Possibility: 27%
Prospectus: New Mexico is another team on the bubble, as while the stats show that the Lobos are the best team in the Mountain West, they finished third in the conference behind BYU and UNLV. Utah, meanwhile, lost five of its last six games to finsh below .500 in the conference, a rarity for a team that had won four of the eight Mountain West regular season titles entering this season (the Mountain West's first season was 2000). Both games played between the Utes and New Mexico this year were extremely tight. The Lobos took both a 77-67 overtime victory at home and a 72-71 win in Utah. New Mexico, which leads the nation in three-point field goal percentage (42.6), shot 15-of-30 combined from downtown in the two wins over Utah. The Lobos have won eight of their last nine games, with the lone loss coming against BYU in overtime 70-69. New Mexico last won the Mountain West tournament in 2005, and the Utes last won the year before that.
Caleb Peiffer is a contributor to Basketball Prospectus. He can be reached here.