We’ve already covered Tuesday’s action, so on to Wednesdays two games I wish weren’t happening. Nothing against these teams per se, I just wish the NCAA had the balls to stick to 64 teams. But they don’t. So there’s Wednesday.
California (12) v South Florida (12)
Cal (24-9): The Bears finished 2nd in the Pac 12 regular season. That’s good, right? Sure, they were 1-3 against teams in Pomeroy’s top 100 out of conference, and that one win came over #78 Denver. Cal stumbled down the stretch and lost 3 of their final 4, including twice to Tournament champion Colorado.
Cal has now gone to the NCAA Tournament in three of Mike Montgomery’s four seasons, and their record is 1-2. Getting the play-in game may suck for making a run, but at least they get a game where they’ll have a good chance at winning. Cal is led by 6’6 sophomore Allen Crabbe who plays 85% of the teams minutes and puts up 26% of their shots when he’s on the floor.
USF (20-13): The Bulls made a nice 10-3 run at one point in the Big East and ended up tying for 4th place in the regular season. They tried to run the gauntlet in the poorly formatted conference Tournament, but got knocked out in their second game, an OT affair vs Notre Dame. And the Bulls did this with an almost complete lack of offense. Their offensive efficiency was 178th, and only three teams in the nation run a slower tempo. But they make up for it with defense, and are among the nation’s top 30 in defensive 2pt% and 3pt%, which combine to give them the 15th best defensive eFG% in the country. Fall behind this team at your own peril.
The Bulls have three players (Victor Rudd, Augustus Gilchrist and Jawanza Poland) who all take more than 24.5% of the shots when they’re on the floor. Rudd mysteriously takes almost half of his from beyond the arc where he’s a 29% shooter. And not a single player on this team averages double-digit points.
Cal will win if they limit USF’s extra possessions. By “extra” I mean offensive boards and free throws, while also forcing turnovers. USF is 231st at getting to the line, while Cal is 13th at keeping them off. The Bulls are 106th in offensive rebounding, while the Bears are 23rd in defensive rebounding. And the Bulls turn it over on a crazy 22.9% of their possessions.
USF will win if they shut down the interior. Cal scores 60.8% of their points on 2s, which is 14th nationally. As noted earlier, this is the strength of the USF defense.
Lamar (16) vs Vermont (16)
Lamar (23-11): The Cardinals did what a lot of us wish we could do. They made Bob Knight cry on television. Lamar is coached by Knight’s son Pat, and after a disappointing tenure at Texas Tech he took over Lamar this year, won his division of the Southland, and then won the conference Tourney.
Lamar has Mike James. He shoots a lot. And by a lot I mean more than 31% of the shots when he’s on the floor. They also have three players who each steal the ball on more than 3% of their opponents possessions, and as a team they generate the 46th most steals in the nation.
Vermont (23-11): The Catamounts began the season 6-9, including dropping their conference opener. And then they finished 17-2 and won the America East Tourney for the 2nd time in three years. Like Lamar, they are also coached by a 1st year head coach – John Becker – who assumed the reigns after Mike Lonergan upgraded to George Washington.
Vermont has three players who all take the lion’s share of the shot when they’re on the floor. Four McGlynn takes the most at 30.1%, while Matt Glass takes 27.4%. Brendan Bald also takes 27.4%, but not many of his go in. Bald makes 39% of his 2s and 27% of his 3s. Settle down, young fella! (to be fair, he lit it up from beyond the arc last year).
Lamar will win if they can make any shots. Lamar is 255th in 2-pt% and 227th in 3-pt%, while defensively Vermont is 63rd and 57th respectively.
Vermont will win if they can get to the line. They aren’t great at it (129th), and Lamar isn’t great at denying it (119th), but once they get there the Catamounts make over 74%. In their 3-game run in the America East Tournament they outscored their opponents by 14 at the line.