Round of 64 Friday Predictions- South and East Regions

Posted: 03/21/2014 by levcohen in Basketball, NCAA

Now for the other two regions.

— South Region—

7 New Mexico (27-6) vs 10 Stanford (21-12) in St. Louis
Spread: New Mexico favored by 3
I’m a big fan of New Mexico, and I think they were drastically underseeded. This is a team that beat San Diego State twice and Cincinnati once, won the Mountain West conference championship, has one bad loss (against UNLV, who have an RPI of 104), and has lost just three games by more than three points. They are good defensively, good offensively, great on the boards. The Lobos have a 7’0″ center named Alex Kirk who averages 14 and nine and can shoot the ball from mid range. Their leading scorer, Cameron Baristow, exploded this season after averaging just 9.7 points per game in his junior year (he’s at 20.3 this year). Baristow gets to the line nearly nine times per game, and this is a team that gets to the line 26 times per game. That should be enough to stave off an upset, at least in the early going. I don’t have much to say about Stanford. They’re a good team, but I don’t think they are much more than that, and I think New Mexico is. New Mexico wins 70-66

2 Kansas (24-9) vs 15 Eastern Kentucky (24-9) in St. Louis
Spread: Kansas favored by 13
You should watch this game, but not because it’s going to be an upset. Kansas will win, but it’ll be interesting to see how they play without Joel Embiid. Embiid is out at least until the sweet 16, and coming before that could be a match-up against New Mexico. Depending on how Kansas plays today, they might well be underdogs against New Mexico in the next round, Andrew Wiggins and all. They should haven’t defended well without Embiid. Hopefully that changes today, but, assuming New Mexico wins, they’ll have a tough match-up in the next round. Kansas wins 84-73.

5 VCU (26-8) vs 12 Stephen F Austin (31-2) in San Diego
Spread: VCU favored by six
Talk about an enticing game. It’s everybody’s favorite underdog (VCU) against this year’s likely best chance at a poorly seeded team making a chance. I’ll start out by saying I like Stephen F Austin in this game. VCU is a good team, but they don’t have the type of team that plays well as favorites. They rely on turnovers, leading the nation in steals, but they have losses to Georgetown, Northern Iowa, and Florida State. What I’m trying to get to is that, while they are good, they can be beaten by pretty mediocre teams when they fail to force turnovers. Stephen F. Austin lost at Texas by 10 and at East Tennessee State by eight. That’s all that separates them from perfection. On the other hand, their best win is over Towson, and they have four wins over top-150 teams, three of them against the same team (Sam Houston State). But then again, they’ve won 28 straight. Nobody on their team averages more than 1.7 turnovers per game. You know what, I’m going to change my pick. I keep looking for other reasons to pick SFA, but I can’t find any. All I’ve gotten really is their 28 straight wins. But again, their best win was over Towson. I think VCU (a great offensive rebounding team) is going to destroy SFA (#335 in defensive rebounding) on the boards. I also don’t think Stephen F Austin has faced anyone close to as good as VCU before. Texas was the closest, but remember, Texas wasn’t supposed to be good, and at the beginning of the season (when the two played), they weren’t that good. VCU wins 71-65.

4 UCLA (26-8) vs 13 Tulsa (21-12) in San Diego
Spread: UCLA favored by 8.5
I don’t really like either of these teams. Tulsa isn’t a great team, but they caught fire at the end of the year. UCLA is a team that is ripe for an upset, but I’m not sure Tulsa is the team to do it. I think I dislike UCLA more than I dislike Tulsa, so I’ll go with Tulsa (that’s logical, right?). Tulsa wins 76-72.

— East Region —

8 Memphis (23-9) vs 9 George Washington (24-8) in Raleigh
Spread: Memphis favored by 4
There’s always a conference who teams do much worse than expected. I think this year it might just be the AAC. The AAC got four teams in the tournament, and most people think SMU should have joined Memphis. But the bottom of the conference was terrible, with teams like South Florida and Temple giving the top-5 some easy wins. And I think thay might be showing in the tournament. Cincinnati was upset by Harvard yesterday. Louisville barely escaped 13th seeded Manhattan, and UConn needed overtime to shake Saint Joe’s. The A-10, on the other hand, was 2-1, with Dayton defeating Ohio State and St. Louis edging out NC State. George Washington has been underrated all season, and while Memphis might have more talent, I think GW is the better team and will win this game. 71-69.

6 North Carolina (23-9) vs 11 Providence (23-11) in San Antonio
Spread: North Carolina favored by 4
This North Carolina team is not the type that does well in the tournament. Despite starting the season poorly, they started overachieving and continued to do it, winning 12 straight games. But this is the same team that lost to UAB, Miami, and Wake Forest. That’s three losses against sub top 100 teams, and that shows how inconsistent this team can be. They also shoot just 62.5% from the free throw line, and even more concerning is the fact that they hit just four three point shots per game. Marcus Paige and Leslie McDonald can both hit threes, but the rest of the team has hit 17 three point shots combined all season. So they can’t shoot from the line, they can’t shoot from beyond the arc, and they’re mediocre defensively. How are they top 50 in points per game at 76.3 points per tilt? I’ll tell you why: offensive rebounding. UNC gets a ton of extra possessions, as they are averaging more than 14 offensive rebounds per game, near the very top of college basketball. Those extra possessions mean extra shots and extra points. So to beat UNC, you need to limit them on the offensive glass. It’s as simple as that. Now, can Providence do it?
The short answer is “probably not”. The long answer is that UNC will probably still get a bunch of offensive rebounds, but Providence is capable of holding them below their season average. The Friars aren’t a great defensive rebounding team, but they aren’t terrible either. And if they limit UNC at all, they’ll probably win the game. They are a terrific free throw shooting team at 78%. That’s a huge advantage. They have the best player on either team, Bryce Cotton. Cotton is averaging 39.9 minutes per game (!), and he was just as strong in the Big East tournament as he was at the beginning of the season. He should be even better with some rest. I really don’t know who to pick here. It’s a true toss up. My gut says it’s Providence, though. 74-72

1 Virginia (28-6) vs 16 Coast Carolina (21-12) in Raleigh
Spread: Virginia favored by 20.5
20.5? More than Arizona is favored by? I’m splitting hairs here, but I think Arizona should be favored by more than Virginia is. Maybe Weber State is just that much better than Coast Carolina. Anyway, it doesn’t matter. I like Virginia here. 77-62.

3 Iowa State (26-7) vs 14 North Carolina Central (28-5) in San Antonio
Spread: Iowa State favored by 8
I’m going to go with the upset here. North Carolina Central is the rare #14 seed who has a win over an at-large tournament team on the road (over NC State). They lost in Cincinnati by just 13 and at Wichita State by just 11. They’re also just 1-5 if you remove non top-150 wins, but let’s not focus on that. The Eagles are good offensively and tremendous defensively (58.5 points per game allowed, seventh in the country). Jeremy Ingram is their best player, averaging 21 points per game. He’s a senior who hits two threes per game. They also shoot 73% from the line.
Iowa State won the Big 12 tournament. They went 26-7, and they have nine top-50 wins. Melvin Ejim, the power forward, was the Big 12 player of the year. He and DeAndre Kane are a great 1-2 punch on a team that scored 83 points per game and led the nation in assists per game. Sounds good to me. So why am I picking them to lose? Because they are just 4-6 on the road. Because they give up 74 points per game. Because they force just nine turnovers per game. I could be dead wrong. Iowa State has the talent and pedigree to be a Final Four pick. In fact, I probably will be wrong. But I’m going to pick the North Carolina Central Eagles anyway. 74-70

 

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