It’s now on to Day 2 of the Big Dance, with the second set of Round 1 games to be played. I’ll once again focus on a few of the biggest games of the day that are slotted for Prime Time viewing, tailoring the article to the CBB fan who happens to prefer making things a tad bit more interesting.
8 Creighton (21-11, 10-9) vs. 9 Kansas State (22-11, 11-9)
6:50 pm ET TNT
Spectrum Center – Charlotte, NC
Open: CREIGH – 2
Spread: CREIGH – 1
Consensus: KSU 51%
Finishing just north of .500 on the year in the Big East, it was a bit of a down year for Creighton, from what we’ve become accustomed to expecting under Greg McDermott. The season ending injury to standout SO C Martin Krampelj didn’t help matters much, for prior to his injury, the Bluejays were rolling at 15-4 and 5-2 in the Big East. However, that signature, 89-32 overtime, win over Villanova on Feb. 24th showed that they are capable of beating anyone, and while they lost both games to Xavier, the loss at home was by one point. Getting bounced in the first round of the Big East Tournament to Providence, 72-68, Creighton will be well rested, with plenty of time to prepare for the trip to Charlotte.
For the second time under Bruce Weber in his six-year tenure, the Wildcats will be a 9th seed in the Tournament, and while up and down in the Big 12 this year, Kansas State has played a tough schedule (36th) in a power conference. They’ve played some of the best teams in the country in Kansas, West Virginia, and Texas Tech, but have come up short in all of these, which is worrisome, when a team has come up short in all their big games. Kansas State did pull off an overtime win over TCU, 66-64, in the first round of the Big 12 Tournament, but were subsequently bounced in the 2nd round when they crossed paths with Kansas again, 83-67. Though playing one more game than Creighton in their tournament, both teams should be about equally rested with similar distances to travel in getting to Charlotte, NC for this matchup of 8 and 9 seeds.
Keys to the Matchup:
The Creighton offense (22nd), led by SR. PG Marcus Foster, is one of the better shooting teams in the country (7th FG%). Though they derive a majority of their points from three, where they shoot at a near 38% (53rd), they are very good in attacking the basket with an even higher shot percentage (4th, 2P%). The high shot percentage is key for a team that manages to get up a ton of shots, as one of the faster-paced offenses out there (9th) that excels at avoiding turnovers (19th). The turnover avoidance is an important thing to consider in this matchup, because in creating turnovers is really where the Kansas State defense (41th) excels. Ranking 6th overall in terms steals, forcing turnovers (25th) is a big part of what the Wildcats do on defense, which also contributes to a significant portion of their offensive production in the fast break. It is doubtful they will be able to rely on turnovers against Creighton and should provide a hidden matchup edge to the Bluejays. Also, considering that this defense is only average on the interior (151st), they may find issue with containing Foster and Khyri Thomas, who thrive off attacking the basket and getting high percentage buckets.
The Kansas State offense (59th) is similar to Creighton’s in that it looks to attack inside (97th) primarily, where it shoots a high percentage (36th). Unlike Creighton, however, they aren’t quite as good from three (204th), which correlates to a more one-dimensional offense, especially with the Bluejay perimeter defense being fairly stingy (75th). The Bluejay defense (62nd), will have a major advantage on the boards as well (31st to 254th), which is another reason to believe, that will these units are about dead even statistically, Creighton’s D might have another hidden matchup advantage. Overall, in considering the matchup deeply, its Creighton or nothing for me here, and I’m not exactly sure the number is fully representative of some of Creighton’s hidden matchup edges that may come to play a part in the outcome.
CREIGH is 14-16-0 ATS overall
CREIGH is 7-4 ATS in non-conference games
CREIGH is 12-8-0 ATS as a favorite
KSU is 14-16 ATS overall
KSU is 2-8 ATS in non-conference games
KSU is 7-8 ATS as an underdog
14 Bucknell (25-9, 19-2) vs. 3 Michigan State (29-4, 17-3)
7:10 pm ET TBS
Little Caesars Arena – Detroit, MI
Open: MSU – 14.5
Spread: MSU – 14.5
Consensus: MSU 60%
Starting off the season with one of the more difficult non-conference schedules in the entire country (31st), let alone in the Patriot League, the Bucknell Bison, stumbled out the gate, losing their first four games (Monmouth, Arkansas, UNC, Maryland). But in hanging in all of the games, save for Arkansas, Bucknell showed they can play with anybody in the country. Once they got into conference play, they ran through the Patriot league, only losing 2 games (1 in OT), to both regular season and tournament Patriot League Championships. Now having won eight-straight, Bucknell is a dangerous 14-seed, and with 9 days of rest, the Bison have the potential to give Sparty all that it can handle.
Despite all the controversy surrounding the Michigan State basketball program this season, the Spartans have consistently been one of the more balanced teams in all of College Basketball, and perhaps Izzo’s best team yet. They dominated the Big 10 – only losing to Michigan and OSU in the regular season – and came up with two wins against two of the most talented teams in the country in North Carolina (by 18) and Purdue. Finishing off the regular season with 12-straight wins, Sparty was arguably the hottest team in the nation, but slipping up to Michigan for the second time this year, 75-64, resulted in an abrupt exit from the Big Ten Tournament. Now with 13 days of rest since that game, Michigan State is rested, rejuvenated, and is playing its first 2 games in Detroit, not too far from East Lansing in its home state of Michigan.
Keys to the Matchup:
Evidence of Michigan State being perhaps the most balanced team in the country, is shown in the fact that they are one of only two teams (Duke) with an offense (10th) and a defense (9th) both statistically rated in the top 10.
Featuring the #1 overall FG% defense, Sparty has been dominant inside (1st), with So. PF Miles Bridges and 6-11 C Jaren Jackson protecting the paint as well as any front court out there, resulting in the highest shot-blocking % in the country. This presence in the paint could be bad matchup-wise for Bucknell’s offense (101st), one that struggles from three (208th), and relies on its two Senior big men, PF Zach Thomas and 6-10 C Nana Fouland to produce inside at a high percentage (23rd). If Bucknell really has any chance here of hanging in this game they’ll have to get to the free-throw line, where they have generated a large percentage of their points (39th), managing to get to the line on a very high percentage of FG attempts (11th). Michigan State has been solid at keeping teams off the line (73rd), however, so I struggle to see how Bucknell will keep pace with this potent Michigan State offense, though Bucknell has put up over 80 points in 6 out of their last 7 games.
On offense, Michigan State really can beat you inside (24th 2p%) or from three (4th), which tends to leave opposing defenses in a “pick your poison” kind of scenario a lot of the time. Not only that they can score from anywhere, but also with anyone, as they are number one overall in assists per field goal, showing a propensity to spread the ball around as well as any team in the country. And if that’s not enough, they dominate the offensive glass as well (5th), leading to second chance opportunities on days where the threes aren’t falling. The only place where Michigan State shows some vulnerability is when they get sloppy and turn the ball over (235th) which has been a problem at times this year, as a young team (280th). The Bucknell D (115th), however, doesn’t force many turnovers (255th), and while they have been very solid from a fG% defense standpoint (36th), Michigan State is even better (9th). One thing the Bison do have going for them though is their experience (82nd) and they are sure going to need it, if they hope to hang in there with this Championship caliber squad. Many of the same players are here from last year’s team that gave West Virginia a scare in the opening round as a 13-seed, so don’t be surprised if this Bucknell bunch hangs around for a while with a Michigan State team that may have to shake off some rust after a long layoff.
BUCK is 5-5 ATS overall
BUCK is 1-1 ATS an underdog
BUCK is 1-1 ATS in non-conference games
MSU is 15-16-2 ATS overall
MSU is 15-16-2 ATS as a favorite
MSU is 9-4 ATS in non-conference games
9 Florida State (20-11, 9-10) vs. 8 Missouri (20-12, 10-9)
9:50 pm ET TBS
Nashville, TN – Bridgestone Arena
Open: MIZZOU – 1
Spread: FSU – 1.5 *Reverse Line Movement*
Consensus: MIZZOU 58%
After leaving the first game of the season and remaining injured through the end of the regular season, Freshman future NBA Lottery pick Michael Porter returned to the lineup for Missouri in their 1st round game of the SEC Tournament. He returned with some rust for sure, going 5-17 from the floor, and playing a major role in Missouri’s first round ousting from the Tournament at the hands of Georgia. Mizzou has certainly competed without him this year, with some big wins over Tennessee and Kentucky, and a very close, 83-79, loss to West Virginia on a neutral court. What remains to be seen is if the Tigers will gel with Porter and form the chemistry needed to win a game in the Big Dance. They will have a full 8 days to rest and prepare since their last game but will have at a slight geographical disadvantage to Florida State in Tennessee.
Florida State has been a very inconsistent team this year, with flashes of brilliance in big wins over North Carolina, Miami, Louisville, and Clemson, but shaky losses to Boston College and Wake Forest. They showed they can score with anyone back on December 30th, losing a shootout in Cameron to Duke, 100-93, but its really been their defense that has been the concern, with inconsistent effort consistently. The Seminoles, too, lost their opening round matchup in their conference tournament, going down, 82-74, to Louisville and will have a full nine days to recoup, one more day than Mizzou.
Keys to the Matchup
This Florida State team is big (12th Height) with 2 7-footers inside, and the offense (27th) looks to attack the paint, where they execute efficiently, at a high percentage (37th). The Seminoles also use that height to crash the offensive glass (46th), where second chance opportunities and put-backs play a key role in their success. They won’t have their normal size advantage against this Missouri defense (45th) however, as they can matchup with inside (38th), with three F/C’s 6-10 or over, and with the reinstatement of Porter into the lineup, they now have four. The Tigers are even better than the FSU offense in terms of two-point FG% (24th), and if they can keep the Seminole offense out of the paint, Florida State might be in trouble because, while only average from three (156th), Mizzou plays lockdown perimeter D (32nd). The Tigers’ main weakness is their lack of turnover production (307th) and being only average on the defensive glass (152nd), they could struggle to contain the offensive rebounding prowess of the Noles. If they can though, and having Porter back should help, I don’t see much advantage for the FSU offense, as the overall statistics would suggest.
The Missouri offense (51st) should hold a matchup edge over the Florida State defense (79th), though, as a team that relies very heavily on the three-point shot (25th), for FSU’s main weakness, other than their lack of rebounding (243rd), is perimeter defense (255th). Missouri has shot nearly 40% from three on the year (26th) so they certainly do get hot, and in Kassius Robertson and Jordan Barnett, they have two players that hit from downtown at a rate over 42%. Whether or not Missouri gets hot from three will really be the deciding factor in this game, as it often is with the Tigers, because Florida State will certainly have the advantage in terms of interior defense (25th) against Mizzou’s 2p% offense (148th). If there is a team that presents the opportunity to get things going beyond the arc, however, it is Florida State, so overall, I think Mizzou has the slight matchup advantage in this game and I am actually a bit surprised the Florida State is the favorite in this one. The addition of Michael Porter does throw an unknown into the equation, and this does affect the chemistry of a team, with it being only his second game back, and this being an NCAA Tournament game.
FSU is 15-13-1 ATS overall
FSU is 8-2 ATS in non-conference games
FSU is 11-8-0 ATS as a favorite
MIZZOU is 16-15 ATS overall
MIZZOU is 5-4 ATS as an underdog
MIZZOU is 6-6 ATS in non-conference games