Duke over Purdue
After a solid 2-6 Sweet 16, to hell with KenPom:
South: 5. San Diego State vs 6. Creighton
All year, Creighton hovered in the magic KenPom zone as a profile of a national champ. Well, to hell with KenPom
San Diego State 66 Creighton 65
Midwest: 2. Texas vs. 5. Miami
As I was fake golfing last night, I overheard badger fans in the bay next to me talking about how they could have won it all. Idiots.
Texas 78 Miami 72
East: 3. Kansas State vs. 8. Florida Atlantic
When I was younger, I had this formula where I’d pick Final 4 participants based on history of what seed historically came out of regions. The East used to produce the most 1-seeds. Well, suck on that stupid, young Eric.
Kansas State had 5 turnovers against Michigan State. They’re 263rd in the nation in offensive turnover %. For all the talk of Izzo is March, I’d have figured out a way to force a team that turns it over a lot, to you know, turn it over.
Florida Atlantic took advantage of a Rick Barnes team. Whatever the reason is, Barnes coached teams loose in March because the offense breaks bad. I’ll say this, though, FAU is top-30 KenPom defense and offense. I think the committee owes it to teams like FAU more respect. I don’t care what team you are. 28-3 regular season record in a top-10 league deserves way more respect.
Amazing this is the regional final at MSG. Tickets are probably pretty easy to get. If I was there, I’d buy them because this could be a great game. KenPom likes FAU by 1. Guess it’s FAU 69 Kansas State 68
West: 3. Gonzaga vs. 4. UConn
UConn has come out of the West 3 of the 4 times they’ve won national championships. In 1999, they shattered Cinderella’s shoe. What does that mean? Nothing.
UConn’s demolition of Arkansas was as impressive as anything we’ve seen this tournament. They looked a lot like the Huskies of early season. It’s also a reminder to probably not overreact to a bad stretch of a season. If a team has a great, sustained stretch, barring injury, that’s what that team is capable of.
As for the Zags, I’d rather focus on Mick Cronin. At one point in the first half last night, Dan Bonner noticed Cronin telling his team to slow down as they were running all over the hapless Zag defense. That was the point I knew Gonzaga could win should they keep UCLA within distance in the first half. UCLA needed to bury Gonzaga like UConn buried Arkansas. Instead, Cronin was so concerned with playing within his system, he almost certainly lost the opportunity. His near future at UCLA with the guys he’s losing becomes interesting.
The Zags defense last night gets buried by UConn. Saturday is a new day, however. They also dropped 33 in the first half against a good UCLA defense which would be pretty damn good had they not given up 46. The 46 they scored in the 2nd half is even more impressive. The nation’s number 1 offense needs to do that again. It should be a thriller. I like UConn 80 Gonzaga 78
Thank you, Midwest region.
1. Houston vs. 5. Miami
Kelvin Sampson has done impressive work at Houston. Same with Jim Larranaga at Miami. Houston is a heavy 8-point Ken Pom favorite. Having the 8th best offense and 4th best defense will do that. Doesn’t hurt that Miami’s 108th ranked defense is a problem for the Hurricanes.
Miami’s offense on the other hand, is the 11th best KenPom offense. They’re not a fast-paced team, so Houston’s methodical style won’t bother them greatly. Miami has the nation’s 23rd best effective fg%. They shoot the ball well from 2 and 3, 35th and 39th respectively in the nation. However, Houston has the nation’s 2nd best defensive effective fg%.
Houston’s offense is efficient, but hardly dynamic. 71st I’m effective fg% is fine, 165th in 3pt% is ok. What sets them apart is their offensive rebounding % which is 4th best on the nation at 37%. They extend possessions to make up for what they may lack in explosiveness. While Miami is also a good offensive rebounding team, they’re just average on the defensive glass.
Miami has good guards and that’ll help neutralize Houston to an extent but the difference is Jarace Walker for the Cougars. Houston 63 Miami 58
2. Texas vs 3. Xavier
Xavier is back in the Sweet 16, as is Sean Miller. Rodney Terry has done a great job getting Texas here as well despite a turbulent December. This could be one of the better games of the Sweet 16.
Texas still profiles as a national title contender. They’re 15th and 10th in KenPom offense and defense respectively. They’re 5th overall. X is 15th overall but a 64th rated defense is the red flag in this game.
Xavier has two defensive deficiencies. They don’t force turnovers and teams shoot the 3 ball well against them. Texas isn’t a great 3-point shooting team, however, and they don’t turn it over much.
On the defensive side of things, Texas force a lot of turnovers and has the nation’s 57th best defensive effective fg%. They do not rebound well, 219th on defensive boards and they put teams on the line. They’re 240th in FTA/FGA. X doesn’t necessarily do those things great on offense but they do them well enough. They’re also the 3rd best 3-point shooting team in the nation.
I had Texas in the Final 4 but I sort of like X here. Xavier 81 Texas 78