10 Things to Watch on Day 2 of the NCAA Tournament
March Madness, take two.
If Thursday wasn't exciting enough for you, we have another full slate of games today. Thursday's games provided their fair share of upsets -- can Friday match that level of entertainment?
Here are 10 things to watch as you sit back, relax, and enjoy another day of madness.
1. Can Dayton Continue Their March Success?
Down the stretch, the Flyers went 4-4, including an early exit from the Atlantic 10 tournament, where they were the 1 seed. Head Coach Archie Miller has led Dayton, though, to three straight trips to the NCAA Tournament and has had success in March -- the Flyers are 5-2 over the past two seasons, including a trip to the Elite 8 in 2014 as an 11 seed. The Flyers enter this year’s tournament as a 7 seed, their highest over the past three years, and will face 10-seeded Syracuse, who they defeated during their 2014 tournament run.
Dayton will lean on their defense to give them the edge over the offensively-challenged Orange.
2. Is VCU the Same Team Under New Coach Will Wade?
VCU became synonymous with tournament Cinderella under now Texas Longhorns head coach Shaka Smart, but with Will Wade -- a former Smart assistant -- now running the show, is this the same VCU team the nation used to know?
They've been able to keep their strong defensive identity, with a similar defense rank to last year under Smart. The Rams are also posting a similar turnover rating, forcing turnovers on 21.9-percent of opponents’ possessions. VCU faces 7-seeded Oregon State, a team that takes good care of the ball, led by guard Gary Payton II. However, Oregon State is one of the most overrated teams in the tournament according to our metrics, so an "upset" could be likely.
3. Can Cal Survive the Injury to Tyrone Wallace?
With the recent scandal in the basketball program already serving as a distraction to the Golden Bears, they also learned that they'll be without leading scorer Tyrone Wallace for the entirety of their run through the tournament, due to a broken hand.
Wallace has been an important cog in the Cal offense, averaging 15.3 points per game and having the second highest Usage Rate on the team. With NBA talent on the roster, Cal will need others to pick up the slack offensively against a tough Hawaii squad. The Rainbow Warriors, who enter the tournament as a 14 seed out of the Big West Conference, ranks eighth in defense this year according to our unadjusted numbers, and gave Oklahoma a scare late in December. The game could be closer than many think.
4. Will Iowa Continue Their Bad Luck Year?
Iowa rose all the way up to number three in the AP polls in January with a 7-0 start in the Big Ten, including two wins over Michigan State. The Hawkeyes tanked towards the end of the season, though, losing six of seven, including a loss to lowly Illinois.
According to KenPom’s Luck metric, Iowa ranks as the least lucky team in the tournament, which is the measure of the deviation between a team’s actual winning percentage and what one would expect from their game-by-game efficiencies. This is made evident by the impressive resumé they posted early in the season and their quick drop that led them to be a 7 seed. Iowa faces Temple tomorrow, who ranks as the third luckiest team in the field and was rated as the most overrated team in this year’s field.
5. Does Cal State Bakersfield Have Any Chance of Shutting Down Buddy Hield?
Oklahoma’s senior guard Buddy Hield was the second leading scorer in the nation this year and is a top contender for the Naismith Player of the Year award. In his last game, though, Hield was held to only six points on 1 of 8 shooting by West Virginia’s outstanding defense.
Cal State Bakersfield ranks fifth in defense this year behind their ability to turn teams over and hold opponents to the eighth lowest shooting percentage in the country. If they have any chance to slow Buddy down, they will have deny him from getting the ball the way West Virginia was able to, when they held Hield well below his average of 16 shots per game.
6. Can Maryland Start the Tournament on the Right Foot and Make a Run?
Like Iowa, Maryland has struggled down the stretch, losing five of eight, including a loss to Minnesota, who is sub-250 in RPI. The Terrapins spent most of the season in the top 10 of the AP poll, peaking at number two. Maryland has a great deal of talent and balanced scoring inside their starting lineup, with all five averaging between 11 and 14 points per game. They don't get much production elsewhere, though, as no one else averages more than six points per game.
The Terps gave eventual Big 10 tournament champion Michigan State all they could handle in their last game, which is a good sign for them being on the right track. They will be facing a tough South Dakota State team today, a 12 seed from the Summit League.
7. Can Wisconsin Continue Their Season Turnaround?
On December 16th, former Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan resigned, leaving the Badgers in the hands of Greg Gard. They lost four of their next six and looked like they would miss the tournament for the first time since 1998. Wisconsin’s fortunes turned around with a home win against Michigan State, though, which began their run of 11 victories in 14 games entering the tournament. They will face 10-seeded Pittsburgh today, who lost 10 of their last 17 contests.
8. Can Stephen F. Austin Beat West Virginia at Their Own Game?
West Virginia ranked second in turnover percentage this season, forcing opponents to turn the ball over on 25.5 percent of possessions.
Tops on that list is Stephen F. Austin.
Lumberjacks head coach Brad Underwood worked with Bob Huggins for a year at Kansas State, so the two are familiar with the other's style. The Lumberjacks come into Friday’s game with a 20-game winning streak, the longest current streak in the nation. But their best win according to RPI this year is three victories against 85th ranked Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, and they've only faced four other opponents in the RPI top 100, losing all four. Stephen F. Austin will most likely have a tough time controlling the ball against the Mountaineers in this matchup.
9. Will Michigan’s Three-Point Shooting Be Too Much for Notre Dame?
Since the inception of the First Four, the winner of the Wednesday at-large game is 5-0 in the first round. Michigan defeated Tulsa on Wednesday to earn a chance to take on 6 seed Notre Dame in Brooklyn, meaning they're that team.
The Wolverines rank 41st in the country in three-point shooting percentage, with four players shooting at least 35 percent (minimum 10 minutes per game) and guard Duncan Robinson leading the Wolverines in three-point shooting at 45 percent. In contrast, Notre Dame ranks 313th in opponent three-point shooting percentage. Michigan was the second-to-last team in the field, but they've knocked off Texas, Maryland, Purdue, and Indiana this season -- don't think it's impossible for them to beat a team like Notre Dame.
10. Will Cincinnati’s Smothering Defense Be Too Much for Saint Joseph’s?
Mick Cronin once again has the Bearcats playing defense at a high level in Cincinnati, ranking ninth defensively according to our numbers. Cincinnati does have a defensive Achilles heel, though, and that's not being able to defend the three very well.
But Saint Joseph’s isn't a good three-point shooting team.
Senior forward Isaiah Miles, St. Joseph's leading scorer, may be a player to keep an eye on, as he shoots 39 percent from downtown. But the Hawks attack is led by Miles and junior forward DeAndre Bembry, who account for 45 percent of Saint Joseph’s points, on average.
It also may be worth keeping an eye on how both teams handle having to travel out to Spokane, Washington for this game, and who responds better to the cross-country flight.