NCAA TOURNAMENT: THURSDAY’S ACTION EARLY GAMES
No. 5 West Virginia (20-11) vs No. 12 Clemson (22-11)
Time: 12:15 p.m. | Where: St. Pete Times, Forum, Tampa Bay, FL
Analysis: Clemson and West Virginia kickoff the NCAA Tournament at 12:15 p.m. this afternoon. Clemson is one of the hottest teams nobody is talking about, winning 5 of their last 7 and knocking off UAB in an opening round game in Dayton, Ohio.
Clemson gets a rested West Virginia team that comes into the the tournament not shooting the ball well and have the look of a team that goes out in the second round.
West Virginia’s focus will be on shutting down Clemson’s guard combo of Demontez Stitt (14.7 ppg) and Andre Young (team-high 68 3-points).
WVU boast one of the best 3-point perimeter defenses in the country and look for Clemson to test WVU inside with a heavy dose of Jerai Grant (12.8 ppg).
However, look for rest to play into WVU’s favor and clamp down on defense against the Tigers.
TIOPS PICK: WEST VIRGINIA
Updated 2:35 p.m.: West Virginia advances to the round of 32, defeating Clemson 84-76 on Thursday afternoon. No. 5 West Virginia will face the winner of No. 4 Kentucky – No. 13 Princeton.
No. 8 Butler (23-9) vs No. 9 Old Dominion (27-6)
Time: 12:40 p.m. | Where: Verizon Center, Washington, DC
Analysis: A game that Pitt will obviously have a close eye on. The buzz surrounds Old Dominion who are a dynamic rebounding team. They have great size inside and are truly a dominant rebounding team, most notably on the offensive end.
ODU’s ability to defend and rebounding keeps them in just about every game but they are vulnerable against teams that shoot well from the outside, most notably 3-point shooting teams who on a particular day have their shots going in.
Butler’s Matt Howard (16.8 ppg) has a tall order inside and the key for Butler is going to be guard Shelvin Mack (15.2 ppg).
From a style of play perspective, for all of the talk of ODU being a matchup problem for Pitt, they play a Pitt style of game, which plays into Pitt’s hands. The big concern though for Pitt would be ODU’s ability on the boards.
However, Butler’s combo of Mack and Howard and their ability inside and on the perimeter, poses more of a matchup problem for Pitt. If I’m the Panthers, I’m hoping for Old Dominion to prevail.
TIOPS PICK: BUTLER
Updated: 2:12 p.m. – Butler holds a 43-42 lead wth 11:28 left to play
No. 4 Louisville (25-9) vs. No. 13 Morehead St (24-9)
Time: 1:40 p.m. | Where: Pepsi Center, Denver, CO
Analysis: Under Rick Pitino, Louisville lives by the 3 but are vulnerable inside. Louisville lacks front court depth and Morehead St. poses some problems with their inside game of Kenneth Faried (17.6 ppg, 14.6 rpg) and figure to be a tough out with the combo of Faried inside and guard Demonte Harper (17.1 ppg).
It can be argued that Morehead St. will have the two best players on the floor but it’s hard to go against Rick Pitino in the tournament. I like Morehead St. but going with Lousiville in a close one.
TIOPS PICK: LOUISVILLE
No. 7 Temple (25-7) vs No. 10 Penn State (19-14)
Time: 2:10 p.m. | Where: McKale Center, Tucson, AZ
Analysis: Penn State had a tremendous run in the Big 10 Tournament behind their play on the defensive end. I don’t see them having enough scoring to knock off Temple. This is a matchup that favors Temple in several areas.
TIOPS PICK: TEMPLE
No. 4 Kentucky (25-8) vs No. 13 Princeton (25-6)
Time: 2:45 p.m. | Where: St. Pete Times Forum, Tampa Bay, FL
Analysis: Kentucky’s youth could come back to haunt them at some point but there’s too much talent for Princeton to knock them out. Kentucky is built around their perimeter play through freshman Brandon Knight (17.7 ppg) and Doron Lamb (13.7 ppg). Kentucky though also boast an inside and out balance with freshman forward Terrence Jones (17.1 ppg).
TIOPS PICK: KENTUCKY