Filling Out The Sweet 16

THE NCAA TOURNAMENT WEEKEND UPDATE

WHO'S GONNA FILL OUT THE REST OF THE SWEET 16 CARD NOW THAT BIG EAST & BIG 10 (ALREADY) HAVE THREE TEAMS APIECE HEADING TO NEXT WEEK'S REGIONAL SEMIFINALS?

By Jim Hurley:

Now you know why they call 'em "power conference":

In case it didn't dawn on you, all eight NCAA Tournament teams that won in Saturday's Round of 32 were from the power conferences (ACC, Big East, Big 10, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC) and - in the four head-to-head matchups between power conference teams versus the non-power conference squads, the "big boys" prevailed in all of 'em with Ohio State besting Gonzaga, Marquette topping Murray State, Louisville downing New Mexico and Indiana slipping past upset-minded VCU ... so we don't want to hear the mid-majors yapping today, alright?

As it turns out, today's Round of 32 games - a/k/a "Third-Round games" according to the NCAA Tournament stuffed shirts - sports another four games between power conference clubs versus non-power conference teams (see North Carolina vs. Creighton, Michigan State vs. Saint Louis, South Florida vs. Ohio and Florida against giant-killer Norfolk State) and so let's keep a close eye on what happens here 'cause there is a real distinct possibility that unlike a year ago when two non-power guys made it all the way to the Final Four (see VCU and Butler, of course) here we might actually get as many as 15 power conference teams into the Round of 16 (something's gotta give in that Xavier vs. Lehigh showdown in Greensboro).

One other major side note coming from Saturday's Round of 32 action when NCAA Tournament Betting Favorites registered a tasty 5-2-1 ATS (against the spread) mark with one pick 'em game (see Wisconsin over Vanderbilt) and so now chalk sides are a collective 22-19-2 spreadwise with that lone push while heading here in this eight-game Sunday card and that comes out to a .537 winning rate for the favs thus far.

And, of course, it's duly noted in our Jim Sez headline here that both the Big East (Syracuse, Marquette and Louisville) and the Big 10 (Ohio State, Wisconsin and Indiana) sent three teams apiece to next Thursday/Friday's Sweet 16 games and imagine if Georgetown, Cincinnati and South Florida win today?

Than the Big East would have six of its nine NCAA Tourney teams in the Sweet 16 (already gone are West Virginia, Connecticut and Notre Dame) while Big 10 fans are keeping fingers crossed that Michigan State and Purdue can survive and advance today/tonight so that the country's best overall league can place five teams in the Sweet 16 round. The Big 10 team that already has been bounced from this tourney is Michigan.

Meanwhile, let's show you how Saturday's action went on a game-by-game basis from a pointspread perspective in schedule book rotation order:

FAVORITE SPREAD DOG RESULT
(at Pittsburgh)      
Syracuse - 5.5 Kansas State Syracuse 75-59
Ohio State - 7.5 Gonzaga Ohio State 73-66
(at Louisville)      
Marquette - 5.5 Murray State Marquette 62-53
Kentucky - 12 Iowa State Kentucky 87-71
(at Albuquerque)      
Wisconsin PK Vanderbilt Wisconsin 60-57
Baylor - 8 Colorado Baylor 80-63
(at Portland)      
Louisville - 2 New Mexico Louisville 59-56
Indiana - 5.5 VCU Indiana 63-61

Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers roars into the College Basketball post-season as we'll have NCAA Tournament, NIT and CBI and CIT winners too all through the month of March plus there's plenty of NBA Winners when you sign up today and be sure to check in with us either right here online or else at our toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453 for all the winning selections. Note that the special check-in times are anytime after 11 a.m. ET for all the weekday afternoon games and then after 1 p.m. ET for all the Monday-through-Friday night action. Also, the winning selections are available after 10 a.m. ET on Saturday and Sunday. Go ahead and sign up now for the NCAA Tournament and all the other post-season College Basketball Tournies!
 

SUNDAY'S GAMES

NCAA TOURNAMENT - South Regional
#10 XAVIER (22-12) vs. #15 LEHIGH (27-7) - at Greensboro

Okay, Mountain Hawks, now that you've come this far, what's next?

The Lehigh bandwagon figures to get pretty crowded by game time and naturally there must be concern as to just how much celebrating the Patriot League champs did following Friday's epic 75-70 win against Duke but here's the real truth: Brett Reed's team didn't play its best ball in that one even though the Hawks held their own on the boards with the Dookies (see 37-34 advantage for the Blue Devils) and even though C.J. McCollum poured in 30 points (but note he missed 15-of-24 field-goal tries and canned only 10-of-16 free throws).

In other words, Lehigh figures to be a major handful here for a Xavier team that keeps getting into big-time holes and climbing out of them as was the case late Friday night in that rather controversial 67-63 win against Notre Dame - we're not gonna review the rule book here but even the biggest die-hard Musketeers fan knows his club "escaped" that Round of 64 matchup although a round of applause is due G Tu Holloway who banked in the go-ahead shot with 21.3 seconds left and wound up scoring 25 points after being on the silent side for much of this affair.

If Xavier is gonna move on to Sweet 16 action, than Holloway and fellow guard Mark Lyons must drain more than the four triples they shared against the Irish and Chris Mack's club must find an answer in dealing with Lehigh F Gabe Knutson whose 17 points and 8 rebounds were major factors against Duke.

NCAA TOURNAMENT - Midwest Regional
#12 SOUTH FLORIDA (22-13) vs. #13 OHIO (28-7) - at Nashville

Is South Florida this year's VCU? No doubt that's what folks are saying after the USF Bulls won their "First Four" game against favored California and then followed it up with a stunner 58-44 winner against Temple - a game in which Stan Heath's club missed 22 consecutive FG attempts and shot 11 percent from the floor in the first half of play ... really!

Nobody wins uglier than this Big East bunch that held Temple's starting five to 14-of-41 shooting from the floor and truly unnerved a veteran Owls bunch that just couldn't see straight with all that defensive pressure heaped upon 'em after intermission. Now, tiny G Anthony Collins (17 points versus Temple) must navigate his way through an Ohio defense that was merely brilliant in the 65-60 upset win against Michigan on Friday night.

Note that the Bobcats held the maize-and-blue to 22-of-54 FG shooting (that's 40.7 percent) and even swiped the ball late thus preventing the Wolverines from getting off a potential game-tying triple with 6.8 seconds left. Ohio head coach John Groce - who figures to land in a Big 10 or Big 12 job any day now (paging Illinois and/or Nebraska) - admitted afterwards that "we're playing our best basketball of the year" and so that ought to scare a South Florida team that must deal with star D.J. Cooper (21 points and 5 assists against Michigan) who is more than capable of taking over a game for minutes at a stretch.
 

NCAA TOURNAMENT - West Regional
#15 NORFOLK STATE (26-9) vs. #7 FLORIDA (24-10) - at Omaha

Maybe the best quote coming after the scintillating Norfolk State upset win against "three-TD" favorite Mizzou was swingman Rodney McCauley letting folks know, "We're ready to keep playing."

Okay, so the giant-killers who sport a heavy New York City flavor on their roster know what they did was, indeed, a big deal but consider for a moment the fact that the Spartans shot a sizzling 54.2 percent against one of America's top-five teams plus Norfolk State pulled down 14 offensive rebounds in that tilt and such effort here against guard-oriented Florida could make for another delicious showdown.

If Billy Donovan's guys want to make it to the Sweet 16, than the Gators need to nullify forward Kyle O'Quinn whose 26-point, 14-rebound performance made him the biggest hero of the day in the biggest shocker of the day. Florida will want to run and make the 250-pound O'Quinn have to track down the SEC guys who should be more than a bit concerned that three-point shooting went awry in the runaway win against Virginia - the Gators canned just 4-of-23 triples and few teams survive NCAA Tourney games with such beyond-the-arc numbers.

P.S., Florida guard Kenny Boynton missed all five of his triple tries against the Cavs and tell us right now that he'll score only 8 points here and we'll tell you Norfolk State has a shot to keep its Cinderella status intact ... we'll see.

Here's some NCAA Tournament News & Notes from Saturday's action on the hardwood ...

Marquette's 62-53 sometimes-hard-to-watch win against Murray State produced some of the tourney's absolute worst shooting lines and how about the fact the two teams combined to go 8-of-36 from beyond the arc while the respective benches canned a mere 6-of-19 made field goals? The M-State Racers - burned on a late-game 14-2 run by Marquette - will rue the fact they didn't go to the hole as hard as possible as the Ohio Valley Conference attempted just 10 free throws and maybe that was something head coach Steve Prohm should have better addressed ...

The Wisconsin Badgers are movin' on for a Sweet 16 game this Thursday against #1 regional seed Syracuse and tell us right now that Bo Ryan's guys will commit 8-or-fewer turnovers in that clash and we'll tell you Wisky's a "live dog". In the wild 60-57 win against crybaby Vanderbilt, the Badgers turned it over just eight times and that helped to offset some wobbly shooting from the floor (see 23-of-55 for 41.8 percent). Reserve guard Ben Brust - who scored 11 points and chipped in 4 rebounds in just 20 minutes of work - was a real wild card hero here against the Commodores and he could be a jump-shooting factor against that famed 2-3 'Cuse zone defense ...

Finally, stat line of the day/night in Kentucky's 87-71 win against 12-point pup Iowa State: The Wildcats held the Cyclones to 3-of-22 from beyond the arc as former Michigan State G Chris Allen failed on 9-of-10 triples. Think Tom Izzo might have been smiling about that stat mess for his former stat player who said bye-bye to East Lansing two years ago?
 
NOTE: There's much more NCAA Tournament coverage in the next edition of Jim Sez and don't forget we'll have our complete NCAA Tourney Conference-by-Conference Pointspread Chart in tomorrow's column, so don't miss out plus we'll bring you the first words on all the Sweet 16 matchups!

21
Nov

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