In the wake of St. John's loss, I (personally) put my support behind Gonzaga. Because what if the Johnnies lost to the national runner-up, or at least a Final Four team? Would that make the loss better?
Wouldn't it feel worse to get beaten by a team only to see them revert to a mediocre type? Who's to say.
Some good games on tap tonight, headlined by Gonzaga Bulldogs vs. the BYU Cougars and the heavyweight matchup, the Wisconsin Badgers vs. the Kansas State Wildcats. I think the PIttsburgh Panthers/ Butler Bulldogs game might provide some actual surprise fireworks. The Big East is crossing its collective fingers that some of the league's teams can get far in the NCAA Tournament.
Thoughts on the games? Take a look at our previews of each of the evening's games, and chat about it... below the fold.
6.10 PM (2) San Diego State vs. (7) Temple
RK: This Owls team can cause problems for the Aztecs, who struggled to make layups against Northern Colorado. Lavoy Allen dominated the boards against Penn State, but can he do it against the trio of Leonhard, White, and Thomas? Not without a great shooting day from Juan Fernandez. Temple struggles in 3 point shooting defense (35.4%), so the Aztecs can use Chase Tapley (37.5%) and James Rahon (42.9%) early and often in this game.
PD: Neither team seems to have a weakness exploitable by the other... San Diego State doesn't draw fouls, Temple doesn't foul; both are careful with the ball; only San Diego State's offensive rebounding may face a challenge from Temple's height and glass work. San Diego State certainly needs to put in a better performance than they did in their first game; I think they'll make the second weekend, but it'll be close.
The pick: San Diego State Aztecs
9.40 PM (3) Connecticut vs. (6) Cincinnati
RK: Who would have thought we would see two teams from the same conference face off this early? These teams played on February 27th in Cincinnati with the Huskies winning 67-59. I was impressed with the way U Conn played against Bucknell with players like Roscoe Smith and Jeremy Lamb helping out Kemba Walker. If Cincinnati is going to win this game, Yancy Gates needs to have a breakout game and dominate Alex Oriahki on the glass. I’ll take the Huskies and Kemba Walker to march on to Anaheim.
PD: Can Cincinnati contain Kemba? Can they make him take contested jump shots? I'm not sure about that, but their defense has been inspired in the latter half of the season. The Bearcats are long and despite occasional sequences of bad basketball, can make life tough on opponents. I'll take Kemba to make it through.
The pick: Connecticut Huskies
5.15 PM (12) Richmond vs. (13) Morehead State
RK: The Eagles have a huge edge on Richmond and that is Kenneth Faried. How are the Spiders going to tangle Faried in their web when they got outrebounded 36-27 by Vanderbilt on Thursday. The only way Richmond can win this game is form the three point line. The Spiders have four players who shoot above 40 percent from beyond the arc. That includes star point guard Kevin Anderson. We know one double digit seed will make the Regionals next week and I think the Eagles with Faried, and clutch shooters Demonte Harper and Terrence Hill will pull off another upset. By the way, I had this matchup on one of my brackets.
PD: I like Richmond to make it through in this matchup... I like their shooting and ballhandling. Justin Harper can hang with Faried. Yes, Morehead State worked the boards hard. But would they have won if Peyton Siva didn't routinely get himself stuck in the air, where his only outlet would be to fling the ball in hopes of a teammate available to make a play? Morehead State got in the lane and made the Cardinals shoot, but they could have shot better than that. I don't think Richmond will be that careless, that nonchalant with the game.
The pick: Ricky has the Morehead State Eagles; Pico has the Richmond Spiders
7.10 PM (1) Pittsburgh vs. (8) Butler
RK: This is going to be a low scoring basketball game completely won on the defensive end. In order for the Bulldogs to pull another magical upset, they will need point guard Shelvin Mack to carry them in the scoring department. Without Mack, this team does not get many points. Gibbs had 26 in Pitt's win on Thursday and is really the only scoring the Panthers have. However, I like Pitt because I think their physicality inside can force Butler's big men (Matt Howard and Andrew Smith) into foul trouble. Both Howard and Smith average about three fouls per game which is high.
PD: Pitt should worry about this game. Can they work inside out instead of outside in? Can they get out in transition? I felt that Pitt would be knocked out at some point; I don't think that many teams in the bracket can beat them, but Butler could win. They're battle-tested, don't back down to height and size... but the foul trouble will probably get them in the end. I think PItt wins.
The pick: Pittsburgh Panthers
7.45 PM (3) BYU vs. (11) Gonzaga
RK: Even though our Red Storm lost to Gonzaga, this is my favorite game of the "third round". You have the tall frontcourt in Gonzaga against Jimmer Fredette and BYU. This is where BYU is going to miss Brandon Davies because guys like Robert Sacre and Sam Bower can dominate Noah Hartsock and Chris Collinsworth inside. The key will be on the perimeter. For Gonzaga, they will need junior Marquise Carter to repeat his 24 point performance from Thursday night. As for the Cougars, they need Fredette to attack the paint and get the big men into foul trouble and have Jackson Emery continue his three steals a game average. Close game, but I like Jimmer Fredette to advance on one more game, But, Denver has been the region for upsets.
PD: I know this won't really happen. I know Gonzaga will return to being soft when faced with a team with experience and shooting ability. But I like the Zags to knock off the Brigham Young Cougars. They have height, and the way they were playing against St. John's, they looked focused and clinical. But do they have enough perimeter defense to slow down Jimmer? This will be the game of the night, and I think the Zags get it.
The pick: Ricky has the Brigham Young Cougars; Pico has the Gonzaga Bulldogs
8.40 PM (4) Wisconsin vs. (5) Kansas State
RK: I have Kansas State in my Final Four, so this is a matchup that makes me nervous after the Badgers blew out Belmont. Wisconsin under Bo Ryan is so disciplined. They only turn the ball over seven times a game on average. Part of K-State's game is forcing turnovers with opponents turning it over fifteen times per game. We are looking at a showdown between two elite guards in Jacob Pullen and Jordan Taylor. On Thursday, Pullen went for 22 even with a fever. This guy is competitive and he isn't going out easily. I think the frontcourt of K-State will slow down Keaton Nankivill and Jon Leuer enough to get the upset.
PD: I had Kansas State losing in the first round, and almost had Wisconsin going to the Final Four. The Wildcats are passionate, while Bo Ryan's Badgers are tenacious, crisp, and disciplined. Kansas State needs to be disruptive on defense if they want to win, and I don't think they will disrupt the Badgers enough. They're good at countering athletic teams with size and sneaky athleticism of their own. Wisconsin wins this one.
The pick: Ricky has the Kansas State Wildcats; Pico has the Wisconsin Badgers