NCAA Viewing Guide, Day Two Round One
The bulk of the conference prepares to wade through officiating that makes "conference" refs look like Hall of Fame officials. At least these guys are generally lousy in both directions: it's easier to coach when you know you need an extra two or three points on your lead, as opposed to coaching in a five-on-eight matchup. Neither Big Tenteen team acquitted themselves particularly well yesterday: after being arguably seeded too low, Ohio State found themselves having to hold off VCU in both regulation and overtime to squeak out a three-point win, while the Good Guys played maybe 20 good minutes of basketball and still had multiple chances to pull out an overtime win against Cincinnati.
Does that mean there will be five more OT games involving conference teams today? Sure! I like where this is going. Previews, and then I've got to head out to do some serious watching. You may actually be able to watch nearly every minute of Bee One Gee basketball today on one TV ... but I recommend four.
#10 Georgia (21-11, kenpom 33) vs. #7 Michigan State (23-11, kenpom 18), 12:40 on truTV
There will be some bricks laid in this game: Georgia shoots .689 from the line, Michigan State .633. The Bulldogs are generally mediocre or worse from everywhere, relying on solid defense - stop me if you've heard this before - to make up for an offense that has dry spells. They don't force turnovers, but they do everything else pretty well, except maybe for fouling too much. Imagine Purdue with less of an inside game, and you might have Georgia ... and that key difference may prevent the Bulldogs from pulling off a minor upset.
#10 Indiana (20-13, kenpom 55) vs. #7 Wichita State (28-4, kenpom 11), 2:45 on CBS
Two teams with statements to make face off in the second wave of games today. Indiana spent the last six weeks of the season playing like an NIT team and then somehow managed a 10 seed; Wichita State went 28-4, didn't have a single bad loss on their schedule (unbeaten at home, road losses to #8 Utah in OT and #9 Northern Iowa, plus neutral losses to 20-win teams #68 George Washington and #56 Illinois State), and ended up as a 7 seed. This game could easily look like the Georgetown-Eastern Washington game last night: one team is clearly better, but the other team's offense is so hot that the better team may not ever be able to pull safely away. By all rights, IU should get blown off the court; what's more likely is that they fall behind by double digits on multiple occasions but still manage to get within 5-6 late.
#13 Valparaiso (28-5, kenpom 58) vs. #4 Maryland (27-6, kenpom 32), 4:40 on TNT
Yeah, that's not a misprint. Valpo's defense may actually be better than Maryland's: they defend inside better than a lot of other teams (.421 opponents' twos, 11th in DI) and actually rebound really well (35.0% OReb, 47th; 27.5% allowed, 37th). If you thought 4-seeds were maybe a bit weak this year, you might be right. kenpom has Maryland as a two-point favorite, and I'd hesitate to give the points here.
#10 Davidson (24-7, kenpom 31) vs. #7 Iowa (21-11, kenpom 25), 7:20 on TNT
Yet another relatively even matchup, similar to Indiana-Wichita State. The Wildcats' D isn't quite as bad as Indiana's, but it's a lot worse than many (103.1, 180th), and Iowa can capitalize when their shots are falling. A real problem for the Hawkeyes will be open 3s: Iowa allowed 36.5 3PA/FGA, 252nd, and Davidson shoots 45.7, 9th, with a .393 accuracy, 16th. (Remember, volume of threes is a better indicator of defensive weakness than shooting percentage from three.) Transition defense will help them avoid those open looks, although it'll be needed after missed shots (Iowa's .332 from three, 217th, and .469 from two, 209th) much more than from turnovers (17.4%, 70th).
#16 Coastal Carolina (24-9, kenpom 140) vs. #1 Wisconsin (31-3, kenpom 3), 9:20 on TBS
Finally, a game where a Big Tenteen team should roll. In non-conference play, Wisconsin crushed 156 Chattanooga 89-45 and 196 Milwaukee 93-54. The Chanticleers are actually not that bad for a 16 seed - they lost by 13 at UCLA and by 3 at Mississippi, which isn't bad even if you bump those teams to the NIT - but they are a 16 seed in the wrong year. Put this team up against some of the weaker 1s (don't say what I know you're thinking, we'll agree not to mention it) and they might have a chance. This year, the question is when Vince McMahon will rest his starters.