NCAA Tournament: ACC Round of 32 Previews

No. 11 NC State (23-12) vs. No. 3 Georgetown (24-8), 12:15 PM, CBS (Columbus, OH)

Jack the Bulldog.

This is a nightmarish matchup for NC State, but as the 11-seed playing the 3-seed, the Wolfpack have nothing to lose. They aren’t approaching the game that way, though (nor should they). Still, Georgetown’s Princeton offense and pesky defense that can go both zone and man-to-man will pose a lot of problems.

Key to the game: Patience on both ends. NC State won’t have an easy time getting good looks on offense. The Hoyas hold opponents to just 43.1% effective field goal percentage, fifth nationally, and just 27.1% from three. They are long, quick and experienced all over the floor. But State has faced some pretty disruptive defenses already (North Carolina and Florida State). Offensively, NC State has to work hard to get the best shot possible.

Defensively, head coach Mark Gottfried pointed out today that even if Georgetown gets a backdoor lay-up after bleeding 25-30 seconds off the shot-clock, it still counts for two points but it can be so demoralizing that it feels like eight points. The Wolfpack have to stay focused and not get down on themselves when that happens.

Prediction: Georgetown 64, NC State 61

Random Mascot Facts: There’s no such thing as a hoya, but in the late 1800’s students combined the Greek hoia or hoya (meaning “what” or “such”) and the Latin “saxa” to form a cheer: “Hoya saxa!” (“What rocks!”) It has stuck every since. Different breeds of dog have been used as the actual mascot since the early 1900s but Jack the Bulldog has been used since 1964. They’ve used a person in a suit since the 70’s as well as the live mascot.

No. 1 North Carolina (30-5) vs. No. 8 Creighton (29-5), 5:15 PM, CBS (Greensboro, NC)

Billy Bluejay stalks the sidelines during Creighton's win over Alabama on Friday.

Carolina’s bracket has opened up – the No. 2 and 3 seeds (Kansas and Georgetown) are still alive, but every other seed but one remaining is 10 or worse. The lone exception is the team Carolina faces tomorrow, Creighton (an eight-seed). So in theory, the Tar Heels could advance to the Final Four without facing a seed higher than eight. And in the Sweet 16, should Carolina advance, they are guaranteed to face a 12 (South Florida) or 13 (Ohio). But they have to win this first.

Key to the game: The three-point line. The only way Creighton has any shot at beating North Carolina is if they hit a ton of three-pointers. Unfortunately for the Tar Heels, the Bluejays are capable of doing that, shooting a blazing 42.5% on the year. Five Bluejays have hit 20 or more three’s. Alabama defends the three-point line very well and Creighton hit 9-of-21 (42.9%) against them on Friday. Carolina will have to crowd the three-point arc and try to force Creighton to beat them with two-pointers.

Creighton’s not a very good defensive team either, but the Bluejays are going to pack the middle and try to force Carolina to beat them from the outside. Particularly if John Henson plays, the Tar Heels will have the horses to will their way to points in the paint. But they still could use a little more offensive balance than they’ve had the last few games, and now is as good a time as any for UNC to knock down a few extra three’s.

Prediction: North Carolina 84, Creighton 74

Random Mascot Facts: Creighton is the only Division-I school to use a bluejay as its mascot. Prior to 1924, Creighton’s teams were called the Hilltoppers but too many teams used that name. The Omaha Bee helped find a new nickname by asking readers to submit their choices. Since the school colors were blue and white, they decided on bluejay.

U mad, Billy Bluejay?

No. 3 Florida State (25-9) vs. No. 6 Cincinnati (25-10), 9:40 PM, TBS (Nashville, TN)

This picture is from the game that got the Bearcat arrested for throwing snowballs at fans.

Florida State is inconsistent enough to have lost in their first NCAA Tournament game but good enough to reach the Final Four. The Seminoles probably would have lost that game to St. Bonaventure as recently as a month ago. But they didn’t, and now they’ll face a good Cincinnati team for the right to advance to their second straight Sweet 16.

Key to the game: Turnovers. Florida State has cut down on them when it mattered (just a 15.7% loss of ball against St. Bonaventure) but their 20.3% in the ACC title game against North Carolina (compared to just 7.9% by UNC) was one of many reasons that game was close. Cincinnati doesn’t turn the ball over much (just 16.2% per Ken Pomeroy, 10th-lowest nationally) and the Bearcats have a 12.3% steal percentage (18th nationally). Florida State has to avoid give-aways and be able to get stops if they can’t force any.

Prediction: Florida State 71, Cincinnati 60

Random Mascot Facts: When playing Kentucky in football in 1914, a cheerleader from Cincinnati (talking about fullback Leonard “Teddy” Baehr) started the chant: “They may be the Wildcats, but we have a Baehr-cat on our side.” The crowd started chanting “Come on, Baehr-cat!” and it stuck after awhile, but not until 1919. Here’s the worst bearcat suit ever made (from 1950):

And this, of course, is a real bearcat (worth it just for how weird it is):

Last week: 8-3

Season: (144-52) (12-5 Postseason)

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