NCAA Tournament Observations: Don't dare sleep on Kansas State
The potential matchup between Kentucky and Wichita State in the Round of 32 has the nation drooling. One problem: John Calipari's Wildcats must first get by Bruce Weber's Wildcats.
1. Kansas State might be the most forgotten team in America.
And that's not necessarily a bad thing for the Wildcats. As soon as the brackets were announced on Sunday night, the entire nation -- including myself -- immediately pointed at a potential matchup between Kentucky and Wichita State in the Round of 32. The one thing we all forgot? John Calipari's squad has to face Bruce Weber and Kansas State before they can get to a showdown with the Shockers, and that's not going to be an easy initial task. An excellent tactician, Weber has again gotten the most out of his team and has a special scorer in freshman Marcus Foster, who averaged 15.6 points and shot 40.4 percent from three-point range this season. Kentucky has the ability to overwhelm Kansas State with its talent, but the team that finished fifth in a tough Big 12 Conference isn't going to lie down because the entire nation is salivating to see one of college basketball's blue bloods play Wichita State.
2. Ohio State has absolutely nothing to gain from playing Dayton in the Round of 64.
If the Buckeyes win, they'll advance to a meeting with Syracuse in the Round of 32. If they lose, it's a bad look in the state of Ohio. Ohio State would never schedule Dayton in a home and home because it has absolutely nothing to gain. The Flyers? They'll be one of the happiest teams in the NCAA Tournament. Archie Miller did a terrific job molding his team during the second half of the regular season and now for the first time as a head coach, he'll lead his squad into the field of 68 against Ohio State. Dayton is playing with house money in this one. The Buckeyes? Not so much.
3. Jonathan Holmes is the X-Factor in Texas' game against Arizona State.
The Sun Devils' front court has struggled guarding athletic forwards in the past few seasons and that's just the type of role that Holmes fills for the the Longhorns. 6-foot-8 and skilled, Holmes (13.0 points, 7.2 rebounds) can take opposing big men outside and also put the ball on the floor and attack the rim. Jonathan Gilling is a terrific pick-and-pop player at power forward for Arizona State, but handling an athlete like Holmes is going to be a tall task. Holmes is by far the most important piece in this basketball game and it's not even close.
4. Cincinnati has an incredibly tough first game against Harvard.
It's not a secret that the Bearcats struggle to score during periods of games, and the Crimson are a well-coached, sound team that will make opponents work offensively. Another thing to keep in mind in this game? The best point guard on the floor plays for Harvard. Sophomore floor general Siyani Chambers has had two high-level years in Cambridge and is averaging 11.1 points and 4.7 assists while shooting an impressive 39.7 percent from three-point range. In a game that's almost certain to be decided by a few possessions, Chambers could be a major factor down the stretch.
5. Saint Joseph's has to have elite ball screen defense to beat UConn.
And that may be a hard thing to achieve considering the Hawks' front court. Saint Joseph's has two elite big men in Halil Kanacevic and Ron Roberts, but dealing with the pick-and-pop ability of Shabazz Napier, DeAndre Daniels, and Niels Giffey is going to be one arduous task. Phil Martelli's team has a distinct edge in this game in terms of interior scoring, but the NCAA Tournament is a guard's game and there's no better guard in this tournament than Napier. How well Saint Joseph's is able to defend arguably the best guard in college basketball in screen-and-roll situations will determine whether or not the Hawks have a chance at advancing to the Round of 32.
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