The Hoos are a one seed in the East. That, right there, pretty well sums up the season we've had. But, we want this season to continue as long as possible. To that end, we're going to take a look at the other games in the East bracket. Who do the Hoos want to win? Who gives us the best chance to continue on?
Today we take a look at the
First Second Round. After these games, we'll take a quick look at the next round.
Game 1: #1 Hoos vs #16 Coastal Carolina
Hoo Should The Hoos Root For: This one is obvious.
Game 2: #8 Memphis vs #9 George Washington
Hoo Should The Hoos Root For: Memphis
Why: As you'd expect from an 8/9 game, this is completely a toss up. According to Ken Pomery (kenpom.com) the game is 50/50. Memphis is ranked 45th according to his computers and GW is ranked 46th.
While this isn't the Memphis team you were used to seeing under John Calipari, they still play a similar style of basketball. Memphis is a high pace team, averaging over 69 possessions per game (the Hoos are at 61). GW is just over 67 possessions. The Tigers are a small-ish team, led by a trio of senior perimeter players. GW is one of the taller teams in the country (although not as tall as the Hoos). GW is a good rebounding team (as you'd expect with their height) and they shoot the 3 ball very well (37%). Memphis doesn't shoot it as well (33%) and they give up offensive rebounds on over 33% of opponents' missed shots.
In truth, Memphis and GW are similar teams. Neither team turns the ball over much, but neither team forces many turnovers. They are similar in eFG%, Off Reb %, FT shooting, turnovers, and % of shots taken from 3-point-range. Neither team is particularly deep, as both teams have 4 guys who play 70% of the team's minutes.
The Hoos generally excel against smaller teams, where their interior play can really dominate. Memphis has just one truly big player, and he is prone to foul trouble. GW is the more balanced team, while Memphis often looks for scoring from lead guard Joe Jackson. For this reason, I'd rather play Memphis. They play a fast pace, but not fast enough to really bother the Hoos. The Hoos would have no problem slowing the game down. If Memphis were to press, the Hoos have enough ballhandlers to break it with ease, as they did against FSU in the ACC tournament. The Hoos' defense is very good at stopping teams with one main scoring option.
While the Hoos are likely to be 8-10 point favorites over either, the matchup against Memphis is preferable. Of course, I reserve the right to change my mind after seeing the two teams play.
Game 3: #5 Cincinnati vs #12 Harvard
Hoo Should The Hoos Root For: Cincy
Why: This game isn't as much of a mismatch as the seeding would have you think. Pomeroy has the Bearcats as the #24 team in the nation, while Harvard is #33. Simply put, Harvard was underseeded. As usual, no respect for Harvard. Lucky for them, their basketball team is pretty good. Otherwise they'd have nothing going for them.
Cincy is one the better defensive teams in the nation, but they aren't particularly good on offense. Harvard isn't quite as good defensively, although they are still solid. They are better offensively than Cincy. However, Harvard hasn't played near the schedule that Cincy has. If Harvard somehow gets to the Sweet 16, Virginia fans would rejoice because we'd be prohibitive favorites. However, Cincinnati has a much higher chance of beating Michigan State.
Obviously, I'd rather the Hoos face Harvard in the Sweet 16 than either Cincinnati or Michigan State. But between Cincy and MSU, I'd rather face the Bearcats.
Game 4: #4 Michigan State vs #13 Delaware
Hoo Should The Hoos Root For: Delaware
Why: This game is one of the bigger mismatches in the bracket, much higher than the 3/14 matchup. Michigan State was thought of as one of the top teams in the nation back in October. They struggled with injuries, but have gotten healthy and they won the Big 10 tournament with relative ease. The so-called "experts" are all on the Spartans bandwagon and picking them to win. This team, however, lost 4 of their last 6 in the regular season, including home games to Nebraska and Illinois. The Spartans can be beaten.
But can Delaware beat them? It's not a great matchup for the Blue Hens. Delaware can score, make no mistake about that. But they don't play much defense. Michigan State is one of the most efficient offenses in the country. Delaware seems like a longshot to win. They'd need a shootout, and they might not have the firepower to hang. But knocking the Spartans off would make the Hoos' run to Dallas much easier.
Game 5: #6 UNC vs #11 Providence
Hoo Should the Hoos Root For: Providence
Why: I suspect that many Virginia fans would love to see the Hoos knock off the Tar Heels on the way to the Final Four. In fact, I'm one of them. And it's close, because Providence is likely under-seeded. The Friars are an offensive-minded team that really doesn't shoot the ball very well. UNC, while known for its fast-paced high-octane offense , is really a defensive squad this year. They still play fast (over 70 possessions per game), but their defense keeps them in games. Marcus Paige is really the only true offensive threat on the team.
Providence has 2 players who play 90% of the team's minutes. And 3 others who are well over 70%. That lack of depth would be a problem once they got deep enough into the tourney to face us. UNC has much more depth. Providence is absolutely capable of beating the Tar Heels, they have height, they have a great PG and they have 5 guys who can shoot the 3. They aren't likely to get much further than that though. Still, if the do, it'll be to the Hoos' benefit.
Game 6: #3 Iowa St vs #14 NC Central
Hoo Should The Hoos Root For: NC Central
Why: Iowa State is one of the fastest teams in the country, at nearly 72 possessions per game. They shoot a lot of 3s (although not particularly well). They like to run and they get a lot of easy baskets in transition. That's the type of team that can give the Hoos trouble.
NC Central, on the other hand, isn't a good shooting team, doesn't rebound very well, and lives off turnovers. The Hoos generally don't turn the ball over much, and can really shut down teams that can't shoot the 3. Iowa State certainly has a great chance to make the Elite Eight, but should NC Central knock off the Cyclones, they will most likely go down long before a potential matchup with the Hoos. Still, the Hoos would be prohibitive favorites in that game.
Game 7: #7 UCONN vs #10 St Joe's
Hoo Should The Hoos Root For: UCONN
Why: The Huskies have name pedigree, but this team isn't the same team that won national titles with Richard Hamilton and Emeka Okafor. UCONN has one great player (Shabazz Napier) and a couple of good shooters. They don't rebound the ball very well, they don't shoot very many threes (although they shoot it well) and they thrive on turnovers.
St Joe's has two very good big men, they don't give up offensive rebounds and they shoot the ball extremely well. UCONN has played a tougher schedule and is a much better defensive team than the Hawks. St Joe's is deeper, more balanced, and probably matches up better with the Hoos, but UCONN has more talent and is more likely to make a run deep into the tourney. Napier is the wild card. He's one of the best players in the country and could single-handedly lead the Huskies to a win in just about any game.
UCONN could beat Villanova. They could beat Iowa State. They're probably more likely to beat the Hoos than St Joe's, but they also aren't very likely to get that far. This, again, is a case of hoping for a couple of wins from a team that the Hoos are likely to beat. I would rather see St Joe's in the Elite Eight than UCONN, but I would also rather see UCONN than either Villanova or Iowa State. And UCONN has a chance to get that far.
Game 8: #2 Villanova vs #15 Milwaukee
Hoo Should The Hoos Root For: Milwaukee
Why: This one is kind of obvious. Villanova is simply a much better team that Milwaukee. If the Hoos reach the Elite Eight, facing the Panthers (that's Milwaukee's nickname, but you knew that right?) would be preferred to play the Wildcats.
Milwaukee doesn't do anything particularly well, although they are balanced with 4 guys in double figures. Villanova, on the other hand, does just about everything well and they have the length on the perimeter to match up with the Hoos' length. Villanova is also one of few teams in the nation with the depth to hang with Virginia. Once again, it seems highly unlikely that Milwaukee will get far enough for a potential Elite Eight matchup with the Hoos, but we can all hope.
So there's your guide for the first round of games in this region (the NCAA may call it the "second round" but there is no "first round" games in the East, which just makes it confusing. Check back here for ongoing coverage, including a
second third (still confusing) round cheering guide.