For all the crazies: The top three seeded states (Gonzaga, Baylor, Michigan), the two finalists (Alabama, Houston) and the third seeded state (Arkansas) are still alive. What can we expect from this weekend’s regional semi-finals? Can a double-digit number complete her Cinderella in the Final Four? We looked at the Sweet 16 games to see how each team got there and what might be the key to making it to the Elite 8.
READ MORE: Men’s basketball coach Andy Enfield: We didn’t expect to beat Kansas by as many points as we did.
(12) Oregon State vs. (8) Loyola-Chicago 14:40. Saturday, March 27 at CBS
The Beavers were one of the hottest teams in the country, winning three games in a row to win the Pac-12 Tournament and earn their candidacy, before scoring 70 and 80 points in their first two games of the tournament.
They won their first two games in very different ways, with 10/21 three-pointers and just 6/10 free throws against Tennessee, before turning those numbers around against Oklahoma State, with 32/35 from the line and 6/21 from deep. What sets these two victories apart is their ability to capture the ball (18 turnovers) and protect the three-point line (13/55 combined). However, neither Tennessee (33.1% 3-point shooters) nor Oklahoma State (33.2% 3-point shooters) had overly experienced shooters.
That will change Saturday, when the Beavers take on a Loyola-Chicago team that has been highly disciplined in execution (just 19 turnovers) and has made 15 of 37 (40.5 percent) three-point attempts so far. The Ramblers held Georgia Tech and Illinois off the mark.
The offensive glass (5 total offensive rebounds), that will be important Saturday, as Oregon State has had success on the offensive boards so far (18).
For CBS College basketball analyst Steve Lappas, the pace of the game will also be an important factor to keep an eye on.
Loyola is the slowest team in America. They are very methodical in their approach, they don’t pass the ball, they take it all the way, so I think the pace of play will be a big factor in this match, Lappas said.
Either way, Vegas loves the Ramblers and has them as 6.5-point favorites.
(11) Syracuse vs. (2) Houston 9:55 p.m. Saturday, 27.3. TBS
Here we go again. The Syracuse team that was debating whether or not to make the tournament is in the round of 16. The success of the Dutch team was mainly due to a number of beautiful three-pointers. They made 29 three-pointers on 58 attempts in two games, an absurd 50 percent rate. Since their seasonal rate is 35.3%, we can expect some decline in the near future.
The Orange defense stifled San Diego State by allowing 11 three-point shots on 40 attempts. Against West Virginia, the Mountaineers gained a little more ground by making 11 of 26 distance shots. But they gave the ball away 14 times because the Orange struggled defensively the entire game.
Against Houston, it will be interesting to see how the Cougars attack the zone. So far, they haven’t shot the three-pointer too well (15/47 31%), which could be a problem.
People aren’t used to playing in areas outside the ACC, Lappas said. If you’re San Diego State
and West Virginia tried to attack, that’s not how you want to attack it. You have to send the ball to the baseline, send it to the corner, but not to the middle. Everyone is focused on getting the ball from one wing to the other and throwing it into the high post, but you also have to use the baseline against that area. Ask the boys to hold more territory.
Another big question is what Dejon Jarreau can bring to the table. The senior suffered a hip injury in Sunday’s win over Rutgers, but fought back and reached third down late in the game. The guard trio of Jarreau, Quentin Grimes and Marcus Sasser have been the driving force behind Calvin Sampson’s team this year. How they find the opening and open space at Syracuse will be key, as will their defense against Buddy Boeheim and Alan Griffin. The Cougars are six point favorites in Vegas.
(5) Villanova vs. (1) Baylor, 17:15. Saturday, March 27 at CBS
In the first two games, the Wildcats were somewhat surprised by how easily they dominated their first opponents. They outscored Winthrop 73-63 in the first frame and then ended the Evil Green’s run with a three-pointer over North Texas (15-30). You could argue that all five should make it to numbers 12 and 13, but remember that Nova’s team raised questions early in the tournament with the loss of senior guard Collin Gillespie.
So far, they have answered these questions. But Baylor poses a big challenge, as the Bears’ trio can cause problems on both ends. As a result, the Bears made 24 and 13 turnovers in the first two games and made 19 of 50 three-point shots (38%). Macio Teague, Davion Mitchell and Jared Butler are a test of Nova’s new look, which they have yet to see in this year’s tournament.
If Collin Gillespie is not there, they did a good job of covering it up and were able to get past him, that’s another thing, Lappas said. These guys (Baylor) not only have three huge guards, but three huge defensive guards. All three of these guys are top offensive players. Then you have two of the best defensive players in the country in Davion Mitchell and Mark Vital. Villanova is one of the most effective midfielders in the country. I think they will try to score against this Baylor team.
In the first two games, the Wildcats gave the ball away just 11 times. If they can maintain that level of execution, it will be an interesting match. Baylor is a seven-point favorite.
(15) Oral Roberts vs. (3) Arkansas 19-25. Saturday, 27.3. TBS
The Golden Eagles are only the second team with 15 wins to reach the Round of 16. This is largely due to the efforts of sophomores Max Abmas and Kevin Obanor. The two men combined to average 56.5 points per game and victories over Ohio State and Florida State. So it’s not surprising that Lappas is interested in how Eric Musselman’s group defends them to slow them down.
I know he knows to stop those two guys, Lappas said. If two guys on a team get 57, they can beat anyone. So I think they (Arkansas) really need to take care of those two kids and beat some of those guys. I think Eric Musselman will do….. You won’t be able to stop them completely, but you should let those two guys shoot 14/35 or something.
Oral Roberts’ ability to take down his opponents is not lost in these upsets. They asked Ohio State 16 to hand out gifts.
READ MORE: This is a high performing team: UCLA’s Mick Cronin says Alabama’s 3-point shooting and rebounding are his biggest concerns heading into Sunday’s game.
and Florida at 19. Arkansas has yet to turn the ball over (10 and 9 in the first two games), so this will be something to keep an eye on.
On the Razorbacks’ side, they saw against Colgate what Coach Musselman’s defensive unit is capable of (22 turnovers). I’m curious to see if they’re going to pressure against ORU at some point to force them into bad shots and turnovers.
Offensively, the Razorbacks don’t operate from the three-point line (9/33), but they don’t lean too heavily on the deep ball either. Instead, he beat his opponents inside, especially on the offensive glass (19 offensive rebounds). Oral Roberts was susceptible to offensive rebounds from the opponent, dropping 10 rebounds to OSU and Florida. Rebounds and flips are two important things to keep an eye on Saturday night. Arkansas is an 11-point favorite.
(5) Creighton vs. (1) Gonzaga 14-10. Sunday, March 28 on CBS
The Blue Jays needed a late save from UC Santa Barbara’s Amadou Sow to avoid a first-round loss before beating Ohio in the second round. The big difference between the two games was better efficiency from the three-point line (9/21 against Ohio State) and the Bobcats’ terrible night from the foul line (9/16). Overall, the Jays defended the three-point arc well (12/52), but that defense will be tested at a whole new level by Gonzaga.
They have to do something for Drew Timm, and this is a bad game for them, Lappas said. Christian Bishop has been very good this year, but he is a 6’7 center. The 6’4 center against Drew Timm, it’s not working. This is going to be a big problem.
The Bulldogs reached the round of 16, as they did in the regular season, by winning each of their first two games by double digits. They have shown no weaknesses in the passing game, nor in the passing game, and are the heavy favorites here (13.5 points). The biggest question, as Seth Davis noted in The Athletic, is whether a team will force its bench to play a significant role. Mark Few only played with seven players despite Monday’s 87-71 victory over Oklahoma. If two players commit fouls, the game is watched from the bench.
(7) Oregon vs. (6) USC 9:45 p.m. Sunday, March 28. TBS
Oregon only had to play one game after their first round game against VCU was cancelled due to the Rams’ positive COVID results. The Ducks clearly took advantage of the extra time to practice, as they hit 11 three-pointers and shot 56 percent from the field in their win over second-seeded Iowa on Monday. Oregon’s offense was very efficient (10th Ken Pom) and did not fail on defense (52nd).
How they handle the inner presence of Evan and Isaiah Mobley will be interesting to see. The brothers are a threat so far: Isaiah is averaging 16 points and 6.5 rebounds and Evan is averaging 13.5 points, 12 rebounds and three blocks per game so far. They also allowed their opponents to make only 13 of 48 shots from beyond the arc.
Oregon has no clear answer for the Mobles inside, as evidenced by the Trojans’ 72-58 takedown in February. What they learned from that game and how they apply it here will be something to keep an eye on.
I think the Oregon team is really starting to come together now, Lappas said. Will Richardson is back in the mix, he was out for half a season, now he is back in the mix. This is another Oregon team. They can’t really compete internally in this game. USC’s team is a lot like Florida’s defensively: they’re big, they’re huge in the lane. But I think the problem for USC is that they have to start keeping these guys.
(4) Florida State vs. (1) Michigan State 5:00 PM Sunday, March 28 on CBS
The Seminoles’ defense carried the first two wins of the tournament against UNC-Greensboro and Colorado. In those two games, they allowed opponents to average 53.5 points, shot 25 percent from three-point range and committed 13 turnovers. But the crime hasn’t woken up yet. They shot 0-for-9 from 3 against UNCG and then 6-for-17 against Colorado.
It won’t be enough against Michigan. The Wolverines have allowed just seven three-pointers in the first two games, and opponents haven’t shot well from inside the arc either, with just 37.5 percent. The Seminoles will need to match their form from the regular season (38.2 percent 3-point shooting) to have a chance to beat the number one seed in the region.
I don’t think this is a good game for Florida State for one major reason. It was a great team of shot blockers and
They are very good at defending two-point shots, but they can’t really do anything against Hunter Dickinson, who is a very good inside player, a post player who can pass, Lappas said.
Michigan was able to handle the loss of Isaiah Leber with a broken leg without much trouble, thanks to the combined efforts of Eli Brooks and Chondy Brown. In Monday’s win over LSU, the duo combined for 42 points, seven rebounds and eight assists while making 8-15 three-pointers. Brooks and Brown more than made up for the lack of livers there. The question now is whether they can do the same against a Seminoles defense that is much better than the Tigers.
Leavers obviously hasn’t missed yet, but you have to assume it will happen at some point, Lappas said. The only one I’m worried about at Michigan is Mike Smith because he’s small. He’s a very good player, but he’s only 6-foot-4, and Florida State’s guards are very tall. But I think this Michigan team is very strong on both sides, and I think Florida State will have a hard time scoring.
(11) UCLA vs. (2) Alabama 19-15. Sunday 28.3. TBS
The Bruins are the last team to move from the First Four to the Sweet 16. We’ve already seen that extra play has been an advantage for teams in this 11-team bracket, and it certainly feels that way. Mick Cronin’s team lost in overtime to Michigan State before beating BYU and ending Abilene Christian’s hopes. They did so with a combination of three-point shooting and defense (42.8% vs. 24%), while taking care of the ball (18 turnovers overall).
But now they face an Alabama team that ranks third in defensive efficiency and can give the Bruins trouble (30% 3-point shots against them). The Tide’s shooting was inconsistent: they made just five three-pointers against Iona before exploding for 16 shots against Maryland. The question is which version of Tide’s offense will be on display Sunday. Is it a group of shooters with their lights off? Or the one who fought with Jonah on the field?
Alabama thrives on making throws in transition on defense, Lappas said. And it’s not total pressure. That’s half the defense, but they force a lot of steals, a lot of turnovers, and that’s where they get those three-pointers in transition. If you let them shoot three-pointers in the half court, which I think Mick Cronin will let them do, those baskets are not the same.
UCLA plays at one of the slowest paces in the country (337th adjusted KenPom time), and they’ll need every bit of that mid-range performance here.
BIG NEWS: Loyola is two wins away from repeating its historic run to the NCAA Final Four.
Another key to consider here. Free throw. UCLA has made just 9-of-16 and 6-of-13 in its last two games, while Alabama made 13-of-23 against Iona and made all 10 of its field goals Monday. The further we get in the tournament, the more mistakes in shooting can mean the difference between going through or going home.
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