Friday, March 21, 2014

Friday Early Games

Duke - Mercer

  • That was incredible. Everything about that was awesome. When that white kid started dancing at the end, that was one of the funniest things I've seen in a long time. And when Jabari is a ten-time All-Star, these Mercer guys will all be say they knocked him out of the NCAA Tournament. It was like a morality play come to life - experience trumping youth. 
  • The way Duke played made them very susceptible to an upset. I talked about this a lot in my RealGM column today - Duke couldn't slow the game down and throw it inside against Mercer. They don't have a traditional post presence and they can't protect the rim - Mercer's C was bigger than theirs. Duke ended up playing in the half-court and taking a bunch of 3's, while Mercer moved the ball around the floor and attacked the paint. Those percentages, over the course of a game, can even out the differences in talent. 
  • You saw the hole in Jabari's game today - 14 FGA's and 0 assists. Jabari doesn't really look to create shots for his teammates and he has the ball in his hands a lot, which means Duke has a lot less ball movement than it otherwise could have. It becomes a lot of 1-on-1 scoring, which is hard to be consistent at over the course of a game. When Jabari's shot isn't falling, he doesn't have a Plan B in terms of how he can impact the game. Passing the ball is a good way to get back into rhythm - the pass will always be there for you. 
Gonzaga - Oklahoma State
  • If the Powers That Be wanted to send a message about OSU, they couldn't have done a better job of setting it up. OSU has no C and they got to see the biggest C in the field of 68 in the first round. If they had gotten by 7'0 300 with a post game, they would have faced an Arizona team with a 6'11 250 C with a post game. There weren't two teams in the country that OSU matched up worse with.
  • That fifth on LeBryan was questionable at best. OSU was going to lose anyway - the refs didn't have to be so blatant about it. They pretty much ruined the whole flow of the game.
Creighton - UL Lafayette
  • Creighton was able to survive against the Sun Belt champs, but their style of play is really playing with fire. It's the same thing as Duke - small-ball teams who hoist a lot of 3's leave themselves vulnerable to the upset. UL-Lafayette didn't quite have the firepower to go 40 minutes for Creighton, but they certainly didn't look out-matched. Giving up 13 offensive rebounds isn't a great sign - if ULL had gone better than 4-16 from beyond the arc, they might have had a real chance at the upset.
  • Elfrid Payton looked really good. A 6'3 190 junior guard who played on the U-19 team this summer, Payton is an elite athlete with NBA ability. He was by far the best athlete on the floor today. He's a jumper away from being a really special player - even without one, he should be an excellent second-team combo guard at the next level. His ability to ball-hawk smaller PG's and run the offense should keep him in the NBA for a long time.
Kansas - Eastern Kentucky
  • You are really starting to see how the absence of Joel Embiid affects this team. Without him, they are pretty average - they lost at West VA, they barely snuck by OSU in the Big 12 Tourney and lost to Iowa State. EKU, which doesn't even have a ton of talent, gave them a hell of a game. Embiid is their defensive anchor and their post presence - without him, they have a hole on both sides of the ball. Jamari Traylor ended up being the difference in the second half, but that just shows you how much EKU would have struggled against a 7'0 like Embiid. Stanford has sizd but they don't have a ton of athleticism on the perimeter - they have a chance to give Kansas trouble in the round of 32, but on the whole, the Jayhawks got a very favorable pod. 
Baylor - Nebraska
  • Baylor's been one of the hottest teams in the country for the last few weeks, primarily because of the combination of Kenny Chery, Isaiah Austin and Cory Jefferson. Baylor has two huge big men who can score and block shots and they have a PG who can control tempo and create looks for them. That's a really hard combination for most college teams to match-up with. Nebraska fell into that category - they had to get the game going up and down to have any chance, but Baylor's zone and Chery's steady hand kept the pace at the Bears tempo. They will be a very tough out, especially in a second-round game in San Antonio, a few hours down the road from Waco.
Stanford - New Mexico
  • I'm not surprised at all by this one. New Mexico is a really unathletic team that plays bully ball against smaller teams. Stanford has a huge front-court, so you would have to be a more balanced team to beat them. Last year, New Mexico lost to Harvard in the first round and their lack of athleticism was glaring. This year, they brought back the same team without Tony Snell, now in the NBA. The Mountain West has been under-performing in the Tourney for awhile. Even if they have the size of high-major teams, they don't generally have the athleticism. In the case of SDSU, they have the size and athleticism but not really the skill. 
Tennessee - UMass
  • It just didn't seem like UMass had the horses to run with Tennessee in this one. Conferences like the Big East, the A-10 and MWC may get bids like they are high-major leagues, but they don't seem to really perform up to them in the Tourney. A team that fattens up on the bottom of one of those conferences may not be all that special. You got to take numbers from those conferences with more of a grain of salt, especially when you are projecting guys to the NBA. Those aren't like statistics you get in the ACC or the Big Ten.

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