By the Numbers: NCITBI, Rounds 2-3

I didn't think anyone would be dumb enough to have men's basketball games other than NCAA games on Thursday or Friday (especially given who's running the NIT now). I was wrong. Iowa didn't seem to be in any real trouble, but didn't exactly crush Stony Brook ... still, a win is a win. They've advanced with Maryland to the NIT quarters, and those will be played on non-NCAA game days. Either Virginia or St. John's will face Iowa, likely in Iowa City because Big Ten.

Onto the upcoming games ... Wisconsin was the only loser, so this won't be much shorter than last time.

Saturday

12:15 PM, #4 Michigan (-1) vs. #5 VCU, NCAA

  • Michigan beat South Dakota State mostly by hitting from outside; they shot nearly the same from two (.576 for the Jackrabbits to .543 for the Wolverines), had the same number of offensive and defensive rebounds, and hit the same number of free throws. Michigan is not likely to match VCU that way: as mgoblog points out, VCU lives and dies by its press. If it works, the Rams will force turnovers that lead to easy baskets and cause serious problems for UM. (Sound familiar? Nope, not to me either. No idea what you're talking about.) If it doesn't, Michigan's offense will shred the Rams, and VCU's sub-par half-court offense will struggle, even against a defense that has been pretty weak the last month or so.
  • Trey Burke had just 6 points against SDSU, his only single-figure output of the season. He's had fewer than 15 only three other times: 12 against Cleveland State, 10 against Kansas State, and 11 against Eastern Michigan, all in games Michigan won comfortably. I'd expect a solid game this time out, because in the games following those outings, he was impressive: 17 points and 6 assists against Pitt, 18 points and 11 assists against NC State, 22 points and 11 assists against Central Michigan. (Competition obviously better in the first two games.) 
  • VCU has played four games against kenpom top-20 teams: Duke, Missouri, and St. Louis twice. They lost all four. Maybe this means Michigan has an edge in close games between good teams; maybe this is where VCU makes another one of those runs. On the other hand, even forcing turnovers didn't help in those games – Missouri had 14 and St. Louis had 18 (VCU forced 8 in each of the other two big-game losses).

2:45 PM, #3 Michigan State (-5) vs. #6 Memphis, NCAA

  • Michigan State turned the ball over 17 times against Valparaiso, but crashed the offensive boards (20, .571) to make up for it, and the Crusaders normally box out pretty well. Memphis is worse on the defensive glass, but better at forcing turnovers; if Memphis can pressure Sparty's bigs (Payne had 6 of the 17 and Nix had 2), they could create problems even if Harris has another tolerable day (4 assists, 2 TOs against Valparaiso).
  • The Tigers played really effective D against St. Mary's, which was good because they gave up 15 offensive boards (.375). Josh Pastner is probably tired of facing trees, as the Gaels are about like MSU on the glass, and the Tigers are likely to struggle Saturday too.
  • Their offense against St. Mary's was not good at all: 0.86 PPP, .441 from two, .500 from the line. Memphis, like VCU, did not fare well against top-20 competition, losing all three games (VCU, Minnesota, and Louisville). None of the losses were bad, and the Tigers are unlikely to give up 80+ to the plodding Spartans, but they will be made to pay if they don't fix their rebounding issues.

Sunday

12:15 PM, #2 Ohio State (-8) vs. #10 Iowa State, NCAA

  • The Buckeyes thrashed Iona soundly, in part because they averaged 1.19 PPP to the Gaels' 0.88. (I know! Two Gaels in one tournament! It's like the Hunger Games, only without mines buried in the court.) They were up 16 after 10 minutes, and that was pretty much that.
  • The supporting cast showed up nicely, as Sam Thompson had 20 (including 8-8 from the line), and Lenzelle Smith and Evan Ravenel had 12 and 11 respectively. That's going to be a problem for a Cyclone defense that is close to average, especially given OSU's run of late. There aren't many teams that played through their conference tournaments and into the NCAAs like they wanted a Final Four spot, and OSU is one of them.
  • Iowa State's offense is actually pretty solid: 8th in ORtg, 41st from three, 27th from two, and 58th from the line. Tyrus McGee only gets about 60% of available minutes, but makes the most of them, with a 130.8 ORtg, 8th-best in the country: .545 from two plus a team-leading .457 from three and .825 from the line. I'd expect Aaron Craft to be guarding McGee starting at the scorer's table; that will require one of the other guys to step up, like Melvin Ejim (113.6 ORtg, 17 against Notre Dame) or Georges Niang (116.5 ORtg, 19 against ND). The Irish defense isn't anything like Ohio State's, so they may find it a bit more difficult to build a lead for McGee to maintain.

2:45 PM, #1 Indiana (-15) vs. #9 Temple, NCAA

  • Don't be fooled by the score: JMU scored half of their points in the final ten minutes of the game, once everything was decided, and still only outscored IU by 8 over that time. Once Yogi Ferrell built that early lead, the game was pretty much over. (Not the 10 points I'd forecast, but close enough.)
  • A John Chaney defense might have been enough to slow down this Indiana team; an adequate Fran Dunphy defense will not be. Duke put up 90 points at 1.32 PPP in a blowout win in December; four Blue Devils had 14 points or more. Expect Indiana to have an equally-balanced attack Sunday.
  • Temple's offense is actually pretty efficient (111.2, 33rd), but largely because they don't turn the ball over at all (15.9%, 9th). That's not going to matter. Indiana defends pretty much everything Temple does well, and the Owls really don't stop anything Indiana does well on offense. Indiana likely won't be tested on Sunday.

6:10 PM, #11 Minnesota vs. #3 Florida (-9), NCAA

  • The Gophers got a thin UCLA squad in early foul trouble and buried them; that could also happen (the foul trouble, not the burying part) against the Gators, who are 303rd in bench minutes (24.7%); UCLA was 294th (25.2%).
  • Minnesota was 9-16 from three, including 4-6 from Austin and 5-8 from Andre Hollins. Neither missed from the line (11-11 combined); Andre's 28 points was topped only by his 41 against Memphis in November. Florida allows opponents to hit 29.7% from three and just 41.6% from two, so I wouldn't expect a similar performance Sunday. Minnesota can't even guarantee an advantage on the offensive glass (they're still #1 in the country), as Florida allows just 28.3 OReb%, 50th.
  • Minnesota's three-point defense isn't great, and Florida can hit from there (38.0%, 25th) as well as from two (54.9%, 8th) ... the team that's been #1 in kenpom's rankings since January 12 doesn't struggle often, and in most of their losses, their weakness was in a different area: giving Arizona 13 more FT attempts (and 14 more to Kansas State), allowing Arkansas to score 1.14 PPP, hitting just 10-33 from three against Missouri, giving Tennessee 13 offensive rebounds ... the Gophers will simply have to create a weakness and focus on it, hoping to keep the Gators close enough that one advantage (rebounding, maybe?) will be enough to give them a narrow win.

8:40 PM, #7 Illinois vs. #2 Miami (FL) (-5), NCAA

  • Illinois played three games against Colorado: led 37-21 at halftime, gave up a 21-2 run to blow that lead, then finished on an 18-7 run to put the game away.
  • Defense carried the day, as the Buffaloes managed just 0.77 PPP. Miami hasn't been held under 1.0 PPP since a 54-50 win over Virginia in February. The Hurricanes don't turn the ball over much, either (16.9%, 22nd), so the advantage the Illini might otherwise have there is neutralized.
  • Miami doesn't allow a lot of threes (35.2% of attempts, 252nd), so that's not a good sign for John Groce's three-or-nothing offense. The 'Canes also allow 32.7% accuracy, so what little effect that has will also not be in Illinois' favor.
  • Actually, Illinois really doesn't have any edge here. Everything they do well, Miami does better: they're taller (+4.0", 10th), more experienced (2.40 years, 8th) ... I guess if bench play becomes a factor, Miami could be in trouble (23.9% bench minutes, 312th), but I think it's more likely that the Illini will find themselves behind early and won't be able to shoot their way out of it.

Monday

7:00 PM, Santa Clara at Purdue (-7), CBI

  • As mentioned in other posts, Purdue won't find themselves as underdogs in this tournament; kenpom says it's theirs to win. Santa Clara is a step up from Western Illinois, but not much of one: while they do force turnovers, kind of (21.3%, 92nd) and hold down two-point shooting (44.9%, 77th), Purdue's already bad at those things ... 
  • ... and Santa Clara does not box out well: 33.5% OReb allowed is a good thing for Purdue fans and for Dru Anthrop. (And, you know, any bigs who decide to get some of those missed shots.) Of course if Purdue shoots like they did against the Leathernecks – .571 from two, .636 from three, .923 from the line – then it probably doesn't matter what happens on missed shots. (The Boilers did get 9 offensive boards, .391.)
  • Western's offense was fairly effective, and Santa Clara does have a pretty good offense (1.17 PPP against Vermont, 107.0 ORtg overall, 72nd), but again, West Coast Conference opposition. The Catamounts were actually the second-highest-rated team the Broncos beat; somehow they knocked off St. Louis on the road, 74-62. Let's write that off as early-season jitters and move on. 
  • Honestly, we can probably throw all these numbers out the window. Either the Boilers will work hard and get the win, or they'll let it slip away: they're perfectly capable of solid performances when Painter can get 40 (or even 30) good minutes out of the team. Purdue is 2-7 against top-20 competition; Santa Clara is not top-20 competition.

Quick Hitter: Easiest Road to the Final Four Ever? (and notes)

Boilers Roll in Riveting CBI Opener: 81-67

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