With Purdue's exit from the CBI, there are just two tournaments left to watch.
7:47 PM, #2 Ohio State (-4) vs. #6 Arizona, NCAA
- The Buckeyes struggled against Iowa State in two areas: offensive rebounding (the Cyclones had 12, .387) and three-point shooting. At 12 for 25, ISU shot better from outside the arc (.480) than inside it (.407). Most of that came from Michigan State transfer Korie Lucious (5 for 7); the boards came primarily from 6'6" Melvin Ejim (6 of the 12), who has a 13.2 OReb%, 62nd in the country.
- Both of those areas could be problems against the Wildcats. Arizona gets 35.1% of available offensive rebounds (61st); although they don't have an Ejim to gather all of them, 7'0" freshman Kaleb Tarczewski pulls down 11.9%, followed by 6'8" Brandon Ashley (9.4%) and 6'6" Kevin Parrom (9.1%). Four Arizona starters shoot at least .333 from outside (including Parrom), and 6'10" freshman Grant Jerrett shoots .403 ... these are not guys you want to leave open.
- Arizona's height (+3.5", 16th) may give Ohio State some trouble. Deshaun Thomas should get his points, but it wouldn't be a surprise to see the role players struggle to help him.
9:45 PM, #1 Those Guys (-5) vs. #4 Syracuse, NCAA
- The #1 offense in the country scored 15 points in 20 minutes against a Temple team not playing a matchup zone. The Owls' defense is marginally better than average (97.2), so Tom Crean had better get those problems worked out before facing a much better defense: Syracuse is 10th (88.1).
- Indiana gets a lot of shots blocked (10.7%, 277th), which is music to Boeheim's ears, as Syracuse leads the country in block percentage (18.8%). Four players are ranked individually, led by Rakeem Christmas (11.2%, 20th) and Baye Keita (8.4%, 62nd). As a point of comparison, Ohio State is 15th. In the regular-season game IU won, they had just one shot blocked; in the loss in Bloomington, the Buckeyes blocked seven shots.
- Both teams crash the offensive boards well (Syracuse 39.5% and 5th, two spots ahead of IU), so expect a lot of second-chance points and angry teeth-gnashing on the sidelines. (This may be where Syracuse loses the game: they give up a lot of offensive boards – 34.2%, 270th.)
7:37 PM, #4 Michigan (-1) vs. #1 Kansas, NCAA
- kenpom loves Michigan in no small part because of their evisceration of Havoc. While that confidence might carry over into Friday's game, nothing else does, and certainly they can't expect to have the same type of success against a completely different team.
- Kansas leads the country in defensive eFG% (41.1%; Southern is second, which may help to explain why Gonzaga did not roll over them on Thursday). They don't force turnovers much (18.5%, 253rd), basically because they just let Jeff Withey block shots (13.7%, 5th). Michigan is 11th in two-point shooting (53.8%) while the Jayhawks are 1st in two-point shooting allowed (38.7%). One of these things, you know.
- At the other end, Kansas does turn the ball over a lot (20.4%, 201st), but Michigan doesn't force a lot of turnovers (18.8%, 237th). The Jayhawks have four starters shooting better than .500 from two-point range; expect them to pound away at Michigan's defense rather than trying to stretch it with outside shooting.
9:45 PM, #3 Michigan State vs. #2 Duke (-1), NCAA
- Michigan State overwhelmed their first two opponents with defense: 0.90 PPP for Valparaiso and 0.71 for Memphis. Duke held Creighton to 0.78. That probably means we'll see a game in the high 80s.
- Like Sparty, Duke is strong at both ends, so a loss typically comes when they struggle in multiple areas. Against Maryland, Duke was cold from three (4-25) and didn't defend inside the arc (18-31, .581). Dez Wells put up 30, including 10-10 from the line. It might take a similar effort from Nix or Payne for Michigan State to advance to Sunday's regional final.
- Three Duke starters shoot .800 or better from the line (Rasheed Sulaimon is exactly at .800) ... but Mason Plumlee is not one of them. He's the only high-usage guy worth fouling, and at .672, he's not terrible. The Spartans aren't likely to make up ground by fouling late in the game.
9:00 PM, #3 Iowa (-4) vs. #2 Maryland, NITI know, we'll have regional finals before this game, but if I don't do it now, I'll forget again.
- Who's excited about this future conference matchup? Bueller? Bueller?
- OK, seriously. Maryland's offense is ... not so good (106.5, 78th). Yes, they scored 83 points in each of their wins over Duke, but that's the kind of performance they'll need to beat an Iowa team with a slightly better defense. Maryland turns the ball over a lot (22.1%, 286th), but Iowa doesn't force turnovers much (19.5%, 202nd); they also don't draw a lot of fouls (34.6 FTA/FGA, 212th). Basically, it's the two-point shot (52.2%, 24th) or bust, which sounds easy enough for Iowa to defend.
- Going back to why these teams are in the NIT ... Iowa allowed roughly 1 PPP to Stony Brook and Virginia, also not offensive powers, so it may be that the Hawkeyes are just defending down to the level of their opponents. They did hit much better from outside than normal (.421 against Stony Brook, .471 against Virginia), and the Terrapins do allow a number of three-point shots (34.3%, 215th), so Iowa may find themselves in the NIT final if someone takes advantage of the open looks they'll be getting.