NCAA Viewing Guide, Round 2
So, yeah. That happened. But Tommy Luce got 2 minutes in a tournament game, so that was good. And hey, no one's going to dwell on that Western Carolina game anymore, are they?
Big Tenteen teams are 4-0 so far, and they're either higher seeds or virtual tossups today and tomorrow. Could we be talking 8-0? Let's find out.
7:45 PM, CBS: 5 Ohio State vs 4 Gonzaga
South Dakota State played the Buckeyes close, but it turned out to be Kam Williams rather than Keita Bates-Diop who picked up the kenpom MVP, with three OSU players topping 20 points in a balanced effort. Fifteen offensive rebounds - five by Bates-Diop - helped to offset Ohio State's 12-for-40 performance from three. They'll face a Gonzaga team that gave up 13 offensive rebounds to UNC Greensboro and trailed with 1:21 to play before squeezing out a four-point win.
This game could go either way: both teams like to work the ball inside, don't shoot that often from outside, but don't draw a lot of fouls and don't shoot that well from the line. Gonzaga likes to push the ball a bit, but Ohio State has more depth; the Zags are a taller team, but the Buckeyes are more experienced. I think Gonzaga's height will make a difference on the boards, and those extra possessions will be enough to give the Big Tenteen their first loss in the 2018 tournament.
9:40 PM, TBS: 3 Michigan vs 6 Houston
Any questions about Michigan's ability to win with defense were answered Thursday, as the Wolverines survived a 5-for-16 night from three by holding Montana to 0.71 PPP. Charles Matthews posted a long-overdue double-double, keying a .516 performance from inside the arc. They'll be tested again tonight, facing a Houston squad that needed every one of Rob Gray's 39 points to keep a pesky San Diego State squad at bay.
Presumably Kelvin Sampson can put his phone down long enough to keep an eye on the Cougars' offense: SDSU held Gray's teammates to .333 from two and .143 from three. John Beilein will have an answer for Gray, and if Sampson can't diversify Houston's offense, Michigan will cruise to a Sweet 16 spot. Expect Gray to top 20, but the Wolverines will be the team in Los Angeles next week.
Sunday, 12:10 PM, CBS: 2 Purdue vs 10 Butler
As expected, Purdue and Butler rolled to first-round victories; the injury to Haas changed the script ... and now that we can't even be sure he's out, I have even less of an idea what's going to happen. A full-strength Purdue team would likely be more successful against Butler than they were in December, but the one position where the Boilers don't have a ready solution is center. Even without Haas, the Good Guys should have enough of a height advantage to keep doing what they do, and Butler's weak three-point game (126th in percentage on offense, 180th in threes allowed on defense) should be enough for Boston to welcome Purdue.
But an injured Haas could make things interesting ... or make things even worse for Butler, depending on how far off 100% he is and how well he can stand having his arm hacked. It's anyone's guess as to how this will play out, but I still think this is going to be a Purdue win. Next week will be a different story, though.
Sunday, 2:40 PM, CBS: 3 Michigan State vs 11 Syracuse
The good news for the Spartans is that they won't have to figure out how to stop TCU's top-15 offense; the bad news is that they'll be facing a defense better than theirs, and that crazy 2-3 zone has sent teams better than Michigan State home early before. Jim Boeheim may not care much for NCAA rules, but his on-court coaching skills are extremely solid, and the fact that he has an extremely young team with no depth in the second round is a testament to that.
MSU doesn't like to shoot that many threes (35.6/100, 220th), but they're really good from outside (.410, 6th). If they don't open up the zone from outside, they're going to have real problems against the taller Orange ... but only on offense. Syracuse is terrible from three (.320, 315th) and from two (.465, 307th). They were short of both those marks against TCU, but kept the Horned Frogs to 0.87 PPP and won a low-scoring game. If they can keep the Spartans under 60 as well, they may survive, but they simply can't afford to fall behind. If Michigan State gets a second-half lead, that will likely be enough to get them through.