Breaking Down the NCAA Tournament West Region
Marcus Denmon and the Missouri Tigers are one of the best offensive teams in the country. (Icon SMI)
By J.J. Buck
Wednesday, March 14, 2012
Second Round Games:
1) Michigan State vs. 16) LIU-Brooklyn
The Blackbirds can score in bunches and will look to run to put pressure on the Spartans defense. Averaging 81.9 points per game this season LIU is led by forward Julian Boyd who averages 17.4 points and 9.2 rebounds a game. The Spartans will try to control the tempo with their size, controlling the boards to limit the fast break opportunities. LIU is an exciting 16 seed but the Spartans will slow the game down and grind them out inside.
Winner: Michigan State
8) Memphis vs. 9) Saint Louis
The Tigers are top-10 in the nation in both field goal percentage defense and offense. The Billikens are only giving up 57.5 points a game to opponents this season. Memphis guard Will Barton has the ability to take over games, averaging 18.1 points a game this season, Barton will be tasked with breaking down the Billikens. 6-foot-6 senior forward Brian Conklin leads St. Louis in scoring at 13.9 points; the Tigers will throw 6-foot-8 forwards Tarik Black and Ferrakohn Hall at him in the paint. Memphis should be able to create more offense to go along with their defense giving them the edge.
5) New Mexico vs. 12) Long Beach State
The match-up to watch will be Kendall Williams against Casper Ware. Ware leads the 49ers in scoring at 17.4 points a game and Williams has been tasked with slowing down the opponents' top guard this season for the Lobos. Forward Larry Anderson is coming off a knee sprain and according to head coach Dan Monson is very questionable for the game against UNM; the 49ers will need him to help on Lobo forward Drew Gordon. The 49ers are and experienced and tested team. The Lobos will have to not overlook them and continue to lean on their defense. If Williams wins the battle against Ware the Lobos should out last the 49ers being the deeper team with more scoring options.
Winner: New Mexico
4) Louisville vs. 13) Davidson
The Wildcats feature a starting five that all score in double figures led by 6-foot-7 forward De'Mon Brooks at 16 points a game. The Cardinals defense will be tested as the Davidson starters also average 36.2 percent shooting from three point range. Louisville will need their guards to defend and put pressure on the Wildcats at the three point line, the Cardinals get 9.1 steals a game. Rick Pitino will not mind if his team slows the pace down and forces the Wildcats into a half court game. If the Cardinals are not forcing turnovers the Wildcats could live at the three point line. There is a reason Davidson is a hot upset pick, they are good.
6) Murray State vs. 11) Colorado State
Guards will be the story of this game, Wes Eikmeier and Dorian Green combine to score 29.1 points for the Rams while Isaiah Canaan and Doonte Poole average 33.4 points a game for the Racers. At 6-foot-5 Pierce Hornung is not a dominate presence inside but could be an x-factor for the Rams if he is able to score in the paint. Canaan will be the best player on the floor and should be able to carry his team to victory.
Winner: Murray State
14) BYU vs. 14) Iona
The winner will play Marquette.
Both teams can put up points, BYU averages 78.2 and Iona 83.3 points a game. Scott Machado averages 9.9 assists a game for the Gaels and will be looking for leading scorer Mike Glover, 18 points a game, and guard Sean Armand, who is shooting 46.7 percent from three, to make plays. The Cougars are deep but lack an impact perimeter scorer and the Gaels also have that in Lamont Jones. Inside will be where the Cougars will have to make their mark with Brandon Davies. A track meet that should favor the better back court players.
3) Marquette vs. 14) Iona
The Golden Eagles are led by Jae Crowder, the Big East player of the year and Darius Johnson-Odom, who are averaging 17.4 points and 18.5 points a game respectively. The duo carries the hopes of the Golden Eagles and will have to be ready to face the offensive pressure Iona will present. The Gaels received one of the final bids into the tournament but will show people that they did indeed deserve one by becoming the early Cinderella in the West.
7) Florida vs. 10) Virginia
The Gators shoot and keep shooting. Second in the nation with 841 three point shot attempts the Gators connect on 39 percent of those shots. The Cavaliers will want to slow down the game as they held opponents to 53.3 points a game and just 29.5 percent shooting from three. Mike Scott averages 18.1 points a game for Virginia but keeping up with the Gator trio of Kenny Boynton, Bradley Beal and Erving Walker should prove to be too much Scott and the Cavaliers.
2) Missouri vs. 15) Norfolk State
Norfolk guard Chris McEachin averages 6.1 three point shots a game and will have to hit them on a consistent basis to keep the Spartans any where close to the Tigers. The Tigers overall have a plus 14.6 point scoring margin over their opponents and average 80.3 points a game. Missouri is just better in every aspect of the game.
Third Round Match-Ups:
1) Michigan State vs. 8) Memphis
Draymond Green will have to take over for the Spartans against the Tigers. A threat from anywhere on the floor, Green averages 16.1 points a game. The Tigers have the scorers to press the Spartans defense; Tom Izzos' team will have to be sound on defense and limit what Will Barton can do for the Tigers. Guard Keith Appling will have to provide offense but must also limit the turnovers and control the Spartan offense. A big game from Green and the defense should give the edge to the Spartans late.
Winner: Michigan State
5) New Mexico vs. 13) Davidson
The Lobos have done well in limiting the damage opponents can do from deep, only allowing teams to shoot 30.7 percent from outside. Inside Drew Gordon will force the Davidson defense to collapse leaving opportunities for Kendall Williams and Tony Snell. While the Wildcats will lean on their starters, the Lobos could have the x-factor coming off their bench in guard Demetrious Walker. Walker averaged 12.7 points during the Lobos Mountain West title run and has bought in on the defensive end. The Lobos have never made the Sweet 16 but this team should change that.
Winner: New Mexico
6) Murray State vs. 14) Iona
While both teams have players that can take over games, they do have a solid overall cast of players which makes this match-up very intriguing. The Racers shoot 40.6 percent from outside but if they struggle can they create enough offense? Canaan will not only need to score but create opportunities for his teammates. The Gaels will lean on forward Mike Glover to dominate inside and wear down the Racers. Lamont aka Mo-Mo Jones made a run last season with Arizona and does it again with Iona.
7) Florida vs. 2) Missouri
According to kenpom.com, Missouri has an average adjusted offense of 125.5 which is first in the nation while Florida has an average adjusted offense of 120.9, good for third in the nation. A shootout is in store. The Tigers only average 10.3 turnovers a game and the Gators only 10.9 which are great for two teams that want to push the tempo. The edge should go to the team that plays their style of basketball better and that is Missouri.