Eight Questions That Could Decide Each Men’s Sweet 16 Matchup

Chaos reigned over the primary weekend of the lads’s NCAA event. No. 1 seed Purdue and 2-seed Arizona went crashing out in historic first-round shockers; they have been promptly joined by 1-seed Kansas and 2-seed Marquette within the following days. Duke, which introduced America’s longest lively win streak into the dance, additionally went dwelling ahead of anticipated, leaving us with a Sweet 16 largely missing in model recognition. There aren’t numerous conventional powers left within the subject—however consequently, the second weekend is giving us a slate of fascinating matchups that ought to make for entertaining video games. Let’s preview the spherical of 16 by digging into eight key questions that would resolve every of the upcoming matchups.

How will UCLA defend Gonzaga’s Drew Timme?

With his workforce having performed Gonzaga in each of the final two seasons, Mick Cronin has seen numerous Drew Timme. He’s additionally seen Timme rating numerous factors on his protection. The Zags star put up 25 factors within the workforce’s dramatic Final Four victory over UCLA two years in the past. Then he backed that up with an 18-point outing in a win the next season. In that recreation, Cronin threw double-teams at Timme when he went to work within the put up. But as a result of Timme is an efficient passer, UCLA needed to ship these doubles late to keep away from kick-out passes for open 3s. And the artful large man simply sped up his course of and acquired his shot off earlier than the doubles may arrive.

This 12 months, Cronin has two good low-post defenders in freshman Adem Bona and senior Kenneth Nwuba, which may give him the arrogance to simply play Timme straight up. That’s in all probability his greatest wager, provided that the Zags transfer the ball rapidly and hunt out open 3-pointers each time a workforce sends further assist to the put up.

If Cronin does belief his bigs to play Timme one-on-one, he’ll want them to remain out of foul hassle. Gonzaga’s profession scoring chief is aware of how to attract a whistle and is absolutely able to grinding down a workforce’s entrance line. “It’s the hardest thing to do, is prepare for a guy that puts the pressure on the officials every time he’s in the low post,” Cronin mentioned this week, through the Los Angeles Times. “So you’ve got to be able to defend without fouling, which is really hard with the way he plays.”

Complicating issues, Timme can step exterior and take greater, lumbering defenders off the dribble, so it’s not so simple as throwing a bunch of dimension at him.

Cronin’s workforce has performed an honest quantity of zone protection this 12 months, and that is likely to be a useful gizmo on this recreation. It would enable UCLA to get our bodies round Timme when he’s down across the rim and to chop off his drives with faster defenders on the perimeter. But even when zone isn’t the reply, Cronin actually wants a brand new strategy to decelerate Timme. If he doesn’t provide you with an efficient one, Gonzaga will lower UCLA’s tourney run brief for a second time in three seasons.

Can Miami’s backcourt deal with Houston’s stress protection?

Houston’s no. 1–ranked protection is constructed on disruption. Kelvin Sampson’s Cougars assault particular areas of opposing offenses in an effort to throw off their timing and pressure contested jumpers late within the shot clock. For instance, if a workforce runs pick-and-roll, the screener’s defender will nearly all the time hedge it aggressively, aiming to get the ball handler to retreat towards half courtroom and decide up his dribble. It’s been a tremendously profitable technique this season, as Houston ranks third in pick-and-roll protection, per Synergy. And it’s a tactic Miami, a workforce that runs numerous ball screens for its gifted backcourt, must reckon with on Friday if it’s going to face an opportunity.

Having Isaiah Wong in your workforce is a reasonably good reply to aggressive pick-and-roll coverages. At 6-foot-4, he has the peak to see over these double-teams and make skip passes to open shooters. Houston’s opponents have additionally discovered some success by slipping the display screen early or having the screener lower his roll to the basket brief so the ball handler can eliminate the ball earlier than the entice will get there, and Wong is able to making these all day. He additionally has the power to separate these doubles and create offense for himself or others towards a rotating protection. Indiana couldn’t preserve him out of the lane in Miami’s second-round win.

The ACC Player of the Year gained’t be the perfect participant on the courtroom on Friday evening, however he shall be crucial one. If Wong is unable to deal with Houston’s stress, this recreation will get away from Miami in a rush. If he can, we could possibly be in for one of many extra entertaining video games of the event.

Does Xavier have the depth to hold with Texas for 40 minutes?

Xavier’s bench gamers mixed to play simply 24.8 p.c of the workforce’s minutes this season. That ranks 310th within the nation, and coach Sean Miller has needed to shorten his rotation even additional—down to simply seven gamers—after a season-ending damage to large man Zach Freemantle. This Musketeers workforce is painfully skinny. The starters hardly ever depart the courtroom for greater than a fast breather. And foul hassle can depart them option-less.

Texas coach Rodney Terry doesn’t have to fret about any of that. The Longhorns rotation goes 9 deep, which helps them maintain a sooner tempo and a extra aggressive model of protection. Texas can’t match Xavier’s offensive firepower, but when this turns right into a working recreation, the Big 12 champs ought to have the ability to outlast their Sweet 16 opponents.

Xavier usually performs at a fast tempo however has slowed issues of late. Expect that to proceed towards Texas. In Colby Jones and Souley Boum, Miller has two penetrators he can depend on to create offense within the half courtroom. When these two are attacking the rim, it opens up house for large Jack Nunge on the inside and sharpshooter Adam Kunkel on the surface. Penn State was in a position to take a second-half lead on the Horns by infiltrating the paint and kicking the ball out for 3s. Jones and Boum can wreak comparable havoc—however they’ll should be well-rested in the event that they’re going to do it for a full 40 minutes.

Can Michigan State deal with Ok-State’s athleticism?

It’s March, so in fact Tom Izzo’s workforce is peaking. His Spartans are again within the Sweet 16 but once more after grinding down USC and Marquette with hard-nosed protection and a disciplined half-court offense. That feels like your typical Izzo-coached workforce. But whereas the outcomes are acquainted, the strategy isn’t. This isn’t essentially the most gifted workforce Michigan State has delivered to the Sweet 16. AJ Hoggard and Tyson Walker kind a powerful backcourt and Joey Hauser is nice from deep, however Walker was the one Spartan to make an All–Big Ten workforce. And, general, the workforce lacks athleticism and has to play a extra conservative model of protection. Per CBBAnalytics.com, Michigan State ranks 275th in Hakeem Percentage, which measures how typically a protection steals the ball or blocks a shot.

Now right here’s the difficulty: Kansas State can run and soar with any workforce within the nation, and having performed a rigorous convention slate within the Big 12, they’re additionally comfy working in a grind-it-out, half-court recreation. No matter the tempo, staying in entrance of those Wildcats may be powerful. Keyontae Johnson is an enormous, sturdy wing with a mushy contact from deep and NBA-level hops. Point guard Markquis Nowell is undersized however is likely to be the quickest participant left within the event. Ok-State will put Nowell in numerous ball screens, and that shall be powerful on Michigan State’s bigs, who gained’t have the ability to sag off and comprise his dribble with out conceding midrange jumpers and floaters.

Michigan State has no probability if this turns right into a observe meet. It’ll want to guard the ball and make pictures to sluggish issues down and preserve Ok-State out of its transition recreation. Izzo is a grasp at bending video games—particularly event video games—to his liking, so I wouldn’t depend out the Spartans even when they’re outmatched on paper.

How will Arkansas fare and not using a dimension benefit?

My bracket is usually in shambles, however I did handle to name Arkansas over Kansas. Not that it was that troublesome to foretell. The Jayhawks have been good, however that they had one main flaw: They weren’t very large. The Razorbacks’ level guard, Anthony Black, is similar peak as Kansas’s middle, Ok.J. Adams. I figured Arkansas’s dimension would overwhelm and put on down a skinny Kansas entrance line. That’s what occurred. The Hogs grabbed rebounds on 40.5 p.c of their very own misses; they shot 60 p.c within the paint; they usually went to the road 26 occasions. That’s the way you win a recreation regardless of making solely three pictures from deep.

UConn provides a a lot greater problem. I imply that actually. The Huskies—the nation’s twenty eighth tallest workforce, per KenPom—are led by large man Adama Sanogo. He’s a bully on the boards, he blocks pictures, and he’s an unimaginable cowl within the put up, averaging 1.04 factors on post-ups (86th percentile), per Synergy. Behind him is 7-foot-2 freshman Donovan Clingan, who’s already blocked 5 pictures by means of two event video games. Even UConn’s wings, Jordan Hawkins (6-foot-5) and Andre Jackson (6-foot-6), have dimension and size. The Huskies don’t begin a participant shorter than 6-foot-5. Arkansas is in for a a lot more durable combat on the inside. Eric Musselman might want to tweak his recreation plan if he’s going to have any hope of whipping his shirt off after this one.

That gained’t be straightforward. The Razorbacks have adopted the identical script all season: They don’t shoot numerous 3s, they usually’re not overly correct once they do. Only 9 faculties made fewer 3s per recreation this season. If the pictures aren’t falling Thursday evening, Arkansas will simply need to take its possibilities attacking UConn’s bigs. The Huskies are foul-prone, and Musselman’s workforce attracts whistles at a excessive price. But Arkansas must get to the rim early and infrequently—that’s essentially the most real looking path to victory.

Can Florida Atlantic preserve Tennessee off the offensive glass?

Tennessee needs to make this recreation unwatchable. If Rick Barnes has his approach, it is going to be excruciatingly sluggish and brutally bodily. First workforce to 60 wins. That’s how Tennessee approaches each recreation. As senior ahead Olivier Nkamhoua put it after the spherical of 32 win over Duke, the Vols carry groups “into the mud.” Tennessee is usually identified for its hard-nosed protection, however that physicality has been an asset on either side of the courtroom. The Vols have struggled to shoot this season, rating 218th in 3-point-shooting share, and Zakai Zeigler’s late-season damage value them their most dependable supply of offense. But Tennessee has overcome all these bricks by mauling the offensive glass. Only six faculties have rebounded their misses at the next price, per KenPom, which has helped preserve the Vols afloat.

Ending defensive possessions after a miss is a precedence for each workforce, however it is going to be particularly vital for Florida Atlantic on this matchup. The Owls prefer to get out on the break and set a fast tempo, which is tougher to do if wings have to remain again to assist on the glass. In 7-foot-1 middle Vladislav Goldin and star guard Johnell Davis, Florida Atlantic has two of the higher defensive rebounders at their respective positions, so they could be simply advantageous with out taking further precautions. And Davis, who grabbed 12 boards within the second-round win over Fairleigh Dickinson, is especially harmful when he grabs a board and instantly leads the break. The sophomore ranks 166th (out of greater than 3,000 gamers) with 102 factors scored in transition, per Synergy. He’ll want so as to add to that complete if the Owls are going to hold with their SEC competitors.

Scoring towards this nasty Tennessee workforce in half-court conditions has been a frightening job all 12 months. The Vols have surrendered 0.76 factors per possession within the half courtroom—solely two groups have been stingier in these conditions, in line with Synergy. When Tennessee can drag video games into the mud, to steal a phrase from Nkamhoua, it hardly ever loses. FAU’s job shall be protecting that from occurring.

How many Alabama 3s will San Diego State be prepared to surrender?

Judging by the info, the reply is “a lot of them.” San Diego State is mostly content material to surrender perimeter pictures if it means slicing off driving and passing lanes to the inside. That pack-line model of protection has helped the Aztecs end within the prime 10 in defensive effectivity in three of the final 4 years. But good, and prepared, 3-point-shooting groups can create points for the defensive scheme. And sadly for SDSU, Alabama is a type of groups.

Nate Oats, along with his limitless provide of expertise, has taken the “space and pace” philosophy to the acute this 12 months. Bama hardly ever shoots midrange soar pictures. Only 4.2 p.c of its makes an attempt have come from that vary, the bottom price within the nation in line with CBBAnalytics.com.

Against higher capturing groups, San Diego State gained’t assist almost as a lot on drives, however in Brandon Miller and Jahvon Quinerly, Alabama has two gamers who can persistently exploit that further house. Maybe Aztecs coach Brian Dutcher can strike the fitting stability—the place his protection will get stress on shooters however can nonetheless lower off drives for Miller and Quinerly—however towards a dynamic offense, he could have to choose his poison and reside with the consequence. If his backcourt can’t comprise Alabama’s dribble drives, spreading out the protection to remove the three could be essentially the most environment friendly possibility.

Can Princeton’s Tosan Evbuomwan counteract Ryan Kalkbrenner’s rim safety?

Princeton doesn’t see numerous 7-footers within the Ivy League, so enjoying towards Creighton’s Ryan Kalkbrenner may take some getting used to. The 7-foot-1 junior cuts an imposing determine in entrance of the rim, and coach Greg McDermott has constructed Creighton’s complete protection, which ranks thirteenth in defensive effectivity, round that inside presence. The Tigers managed the problem of enjoying towards Oumar Ballo and Azuolas Tubelis simply advantageous within the first spherical, however neither of Arizona’s large males can match Kalkbrenner’s defensive prowess. The Creighton middle simply gained his second Big East Defensive Player of the Year award final week.

The Tigers could have the counter to Kalkbrenner in ahead Tosan Evbuomwan. He’s nominally an influence ahead—and can play the 5 for giant chunks of video games—however he capabilities extra like a degree guard and acts because the playmaking hub for the Tigers offense. Having an enormous man who can deal with the ball on the perimeter creates awkward matchups for opposing bigs. Evbuomwan has the deal with to take them off the dribble, collapse the protection, and create for others. He may even do it towards some wing defenders.

As good as Kalkbrenner is at defending the rim, he does prefer to chase blocks. When he whiffs or over-helps, it creates straightforward alternatives for putbacks and dunks. Evbuomwan, who’s averaging 4.7 assists per recreation, is artful sufficient to catch Creighton’s large man out of place if he can beat his defender off the dribble and entry the paint.

I do wonder if Princeton will go small extra typically on this recreation to attract Kalkbrenner away from the basket. Evbuomwan has spent numerous time on the 5 for the Tigers, so it wouldn’t be completely out of character for coach Mitch Henderson. Kalkbrenner is a bit stiff and would have a tough time sticking in entrance of Evbuomwan—or any of the opposite smaller gamers on the courtroom. That would create a dimension mismatch on the opposite finish, in fact, however Kalkbrenner isn’t a terrific post-up participant and scores most of his factors on lobs and putbacks, which Princeton can stop with lively, high-effort protection. Given the dimensions disparity on this one, how the coaches resolve to match up will go a good distance in deciding the end result.

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