NCAA Tournament: ACC Friday First- (Sorry, Second-Round) Action
No. 11 NC State (22-12) vs. No. 6 San Diego State (26-7), 12:40 PM, truTV (Columbus, OH)
Even President Obama is sort of on the NC State bandwagon (picking them to go to the Sweet 16), but State isn’t taking itself too seriously. The Wolfpack repeatedly said on Tuesday that they viewed this as a business trip, and they also understand that they’re the lower seed for a reason. But this is a good matchup for them and if they maintain focus throughout, they should win.
Key to the game: Turnovers. Neither team turns it over a lot (State is 88th and SDSU is 91st in turnover percentage) or forces a lot, but turnovers have come back to bite both teams from time to time. State had its second-highest loss of ball in 2012 against North Carolina on Saturday (19.75%) and many of them were in the second half. Carolina scored just eight points off of those turnovers, but they were still empty possessions. San Diego State has had its own issues, losing some low-scoring affairs because of opponents’ points off turnovers. Neither team wants to give up easy baskets to the other in a game like this because of how much both teams want to run.
Prediction: NC State 77, San Diego State 69
Random Mascot Facts: The school’s first nicknames were “Normalities” (SDSU used to be known as Normal College), “Professors” and my personal favorite “Wampus Cats”. But after a committee formed in 1924, they decided on the Aztecs. In 2003, the Aztec Warrior was named the official mascot replacing the former one, Monty Zuma:
No. 10 Virginia (22-9) vs. No. 7 Florida (23-10), 2:10 PM, TNT (Omaha, NE)
This is actually a pretty good matchup for Virginia. Florida is a very athletic team, but the Gators can be coerced into taking bad shots, which plays into Virginia’s hands.
Key to the game: The three-point line. Florida is third nationally in percentage of points scored from beyond the arc (39.1%), but Virginia’s three-point defense is stingy (12th nationally, allowing 29.5%). Florida shoots 39% from three on the year, but it’s been their undoing at times (6-of-27 at Kentucky in a 20-point loss, 5-of-23 in a surprising loss at Georgia). But Virginia really needs to make some, too. The Cavaliers are shooting just 17-of-57 (29.8%) in the last four games, three losses. They need to knock down some shots to keep Florida’s defense honest.
Prediction: Virginia 64, Florida 61
Random Mascot Facts: The history of Florida’s gator mascot was covered here in the preview for Florida-FSU earlier this year. But it’s worth repeating that not only did several live alligators serve as the mascot (although some were killed), but also a motorized reptile. This was an early representation of the alligator:
No. 3 Florida State (24-9) vs. No. 14 St. Bonaventure (20-11), 2:45 PM, CBS (Nashville, TN)
Coming off of two huge wins in the ACC Tournament over Duke and North Carolina, Florida State is becoming a trendy pick. Even Dick Vitale picked the Seminoles to make the Final Four. But with the way FSU’s season has gone, they could lose to St. Bonaventure or make the Final Four and neither would be a surprise. But if they get past this first-round game, they could be dangerous.
Key to the game: Keeping the Bonnies off the foul line. St. Bonaventure has a pretty high free-throw rate (42.8, 35th in the country) and they make most of their attempts (76%, 18th nationally). Florida State’s opponents score 22.2% of their points from the line, but don’t have an usually high free throw rate (37.6). But a big reason Duke and North Carolina were able to keep it close against FSU last weekend was foul shots. The Seminoles have the depth to weather foul trouble, but they need to limit St. Bonaventure’s attempts.
Prediction: Florida State 71, St. Bonaventure 63
Random Mascot Facts: When NC State played St. Bonaventure in December, a preview post covered the illustrious history of the St. Bonaventure mascot. It includes a Brown Indian, a Bona Fanatic (a la the Phillie Phanatic, which the students hated so much that they attacked it) and the current Bona Wolf. The Bona Wolf was chosen because it is “aggressive, yet friendly; leaner and more athletic than previous representations”:
No. 1 North Carolina (29-5) vs. No. 16 Vermont (24-11), 4:10 PM, TBS (Greensboro, NC)
It doesn’t look like Carolina will have John Henson for this game, but it shouldn’t need him. Vermont is a solid team that plays good defense, but they don’t have a fraction of Carolina’s talent.
Key to the game: Patience. Vermont is one of the slower-paced teams in the field (294th in Pomeroy’s adjusted tempo rankings), and obviously the Tar Heels like to get a lot of possessions. Carolina has already faced two of the slowest teams in the country (Wisconsin and Virginia) and is 3-0 against them, although none of the wins were pretty. Vermont will likely show some zone against the Tar Heels and Carolina has to work hard to find the best shot.
Prediction: North Carolina 88, Vermont 63
Random Mascot Facts: There’s no such thing as an actual catamount; the word could refer to several wild cat species. But the word comes from “catamountain” (what it sounds like: cats that live in the mountains). The last actual sighting of a catamount in Vermont came in 1881, though. And in 1926, the student newspaper put mascot names up for a vote. Only male students were allowed to vote. (Fantastic.) The other options besides catamount? Tomcat, camel and cow.
No. 2 Duke (27-6) vs. No. 15 Lehigh (26-7), 7:15 PM, CBS (Greensboro, NC)
Lehigh hasn’t lost by double digits this year (by nine at Michigan State, at Iowa State and at American). That loss at American on February 9th was Lehigh’s last loss. But Lehigh hasn’t played a team as good as Duke since December 22 (at Michigan State). Duke might be reeling right now, and this game might be closer than expected, but Duke should still win fairly easily.
Key to the game: Slowing down Lehigh’s C.J. McCollum. Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski was full of praise for Lehigh’s standout junior guard, who is like Maryland’s Terrell Stoglin, but efficient. McCollum takes 33.7% of his team’s shots but he is still 162nd nationally in ORtg (offensive rating). For perspective, Stoglin is 427th. Duke’s defense is actually playing much better though, and they’ve disrupted some high-usage players in the past like Stoglin. But if McCollum goes off, Duke could be in trouble.
Prediction: Duke 77, Lehigh 68
Random Mascot Facts: Lehigh was known as the Engineers until 1995, when they changed to the Mountain Hawks. There’s actually no such thing as a mountain hawk, but it’s not uncommon to see hawks flying over Lehigh’s campus (which is in the mountains). The name was changed because Lehigh wanted to be perceived as a more well-rounded school that wasn’t just engineers.
Last week: 8-3
Season: 141-50 (9-3 Postseason)