After three days off, the NCAA tournament gets rolling again on Thursday with four games that should be interesting to watch. In both the East and West Regions, the seeds have held pretty well with only Missouri and Florida State falling out of the top four. Thursday also features three teams from the Big Ten as well as Marquette. The Midwest is well represented.
One interesting thing to note about the salary chart: there are four $200,000 players and they come from two teams: Ohio State and Marquette. That means it will be somewhat more difficult to use the stars and scrubs method. As you will see there are plenty of players to use in a balanced roster. Last week I used the following code (which I will do again this week) for my recommendations: players that I recommend will be in bold, players that I feel are priced correctly will be in italics, and players that you
should avoid will be struck through.
1. Syracuse vs. 4. Wisconsin (East Region, Boston, 7:15 PM – All times Eastern)
This game features a team with a famed zone against a team that loves to shoot threes. If the Badgers are able to hit a lot of their threes (like any team looking for an upset), they may be able to move on to the Elite Eight. Wisconsin plays its own version of tough defense, but I think they will have some problems matching up with Dion Waiters ($183,000). The sophomore has scored at least 18 points in three of his last four games and has been shooting very well. He should lead the Orange in points once again. Kris Joseph’s ($121,000) salary is appropriate. The forward has not topped 12 points in his last five games. He played 37 minutes against Kansas State, but had just 11 points on 2-for-7 shooting. During his last five games, Joseph has made just 30% (12-for-40) of his field goals. James Southerland ($112,000) has given the team another boost off the bench. For the first time since the first three games of the season, the sophomore has scored in double figures in consecutive games. He put in 15 on both UNC-Asheville and Kansas State. Because of inconsistent minutes, Southerland isn’t as good of a play as Waiters, but he is an affordable double-digit points option.
I used to think that Jordan Taylor ($167,000) was one of those players that might be trouble for the Badgers if he hit his first three-pointer. I have come to realize that Taylor consistently takes terrible shots, but he makes a surprising number of three-pointers during which he is closely guarded. In other words, shooters got to shoot. He scored 14 points against Vanderbilt, but only converted 5-for-15 from the field. He only hit 35.9% of his threes this season and he worries me a bit as a play against the Orange. Junior Ryan Evans ($143,000) has matured into a nice secondary scorer. The swingman has scored in double digits in 14 straight games. During that span, he has not topped 18 points, so his upside is somewhat limited. Over the last three games, Evans has gone 4-for-10 from three-point range. When the Badgers decided to test the inside of the zone, they will go to Jared Berggren ($110,000), He had 12 points against the Commodores, but was held to 11 combined points in his two previous games. Berggren should be able to take advantage of the Orange not having Fab Melo.
1. Michigan State vs. 4. Louisville (West Region, Phoenix, 7:47 PM)
Like the first game, this game features legendary coaches who prefer different strategies. The Cardinals will press and try to beat Michigan State with defense, but the Spartans have the best player in the game in Draymond Green ($186,000). The Dancing Bear is the most valuable Spartan and has averaged 20.0 points through two NCAA tournament games. He has continued his excellent shooting season by converting 16-for-28 (57.1%) from the field and half of his three-pointers (4-for-8). If the Spartans can beat the Louisville press, Green should get a few easy baskets as well. Sophomore Keith Appling ($129,000) will have pressure on him to handle the ball against the Cardinal pests. The point guard has only hit one of his last eight three-pointers, but scored 19 points against Saint Louis by going 7-for-14 from the field. Senior guard
Brandon Wood ($117,000) is capable of a big game from long range, but he has only gone 1-for-3 on threes in the tournament. My guess is that he is limited to single digits again.
The Cardinals win with defense and they have not topped 69 points in their last four games – all wins. Because they do not have a clear lead scorer, they – like Syracuse – are a hard team to parse. Nevertheless, they do have some nice, low priced scoring options. The most expensive of the Cardinals is senior
Kyle Kuric ($146,000). He has not topped 13 points in his last four games. He has also scored at least ten points. In other words, Kuric likely won’t win or lose your Joust for you. I’d prefer someone with more upside. Foul trouble is usually associated with bigs in college basketball, but Cardinal point guard Peyton Siva ($131,000) has accrued at least three fouls in his last five games. He fouled out in the opening NCAA tournament game against Davidson, but did score 17 points in 25 minutes. He will key the Louisville attack and the team will need him to play at least 30 minutes. The best of the inexpensive Cardinals is freshman Chane Behanan ($98,000). He seems like a Michigan State player to me: hustle and rebounding. Behanan has also scored 24 points in his last two games.
2. Ohio State vs. 6. Cincinnati (East Region, Boston, 9:45 PM)
As is well known by now, the Sweet 16 is dominated by Ohio. For the first time in NCAA history, one state has four different representatives in the final 16 and at least will get through to the Elite Eight. No team has boasted the line of young front options like the Buckeyes over the past five years. From Greg Oden to Kosta Koufus to B.J. Mullens to Jared Sullinger ($214,000). The sophomore had his troubles against Gonzaga, but finished with 18 points. He has not topped 18 points in his last three games, but will have a nice size advantage against the Bearcats. Sullinger has made four of his last five three-point attempts over the last three games. If Sullinger has a match up advantage, then Deshaun Thomas ($213,000) should be an even better play. He also had 18 points against the Zags after putting 31 points on Loyola in the first round. The Bearcats will have to cover Thomas with a guard and the 6-foot-9 sophomore should continue his fine scoring. Despite the perception that William Buford ($139,000) has had a down season, he has continued to score. He averaged 15.0 points in the first weekend of the Big Dance and hit 5-for-14 from beyond the arc.
Like their Big East brethren Louisville, Cincinnati is not a particularly high scoring team. They have not topped 72 points since Feb. 15 (over their last nine games) and won both of their games last weekend despite not topping 65 points. Their somewhat dependable low post option is Yancy Gates ($156,000). He will be asked to attack Sullinger and provide more than the 34 points he has scored over the last three games. Among the backcourt options, Sean Kilpatrick ($136,000) is the best shooter. He broke out of a two-game slump to score 18 points against Florida State. Kilpatrick knocked down four threes against the Seminoles and did his scoring on just nine shots. The sophomore was held to single digits eight times this season, so there is some risk to picking him. Like Kilpatrick, Dion Dixon ($123,000) has shown the ability to score. Lately, he has done it without hitting three-pointers (just 1-for-10 on threes in his last three games). Dixon did score 13.5 points in the first two tournament games and is a decent bet to score another dozen.
3. Marquette vs. 7. Florida
This is the game that I am most looking forward to of the four on Thursday. Florida has proved me wrong again and again, and they are now receiving some Final Four buzz after blowing out Norfolk State. The Golden Eagles are a beast of a different color and it will take the Gators’ best game to move on. In Darius Johnson-Odom ($204,000) and Jae Crowder ($202,000), Marquette has one of the best and toughest pairings of players. DJO has averaged 20 points over his last three games and has only been held under 17 points once in his last ten games. In the two tournament wins, the senior only converted 4-for-14 (28.6)% three-pointers, which is well below his season conversion rate of 38.9%. Crowder has become a double-double machine with five straight games of at least ten points and ten rebounds. He averaged 21.0 points against BYU and Murray State. Crowder would have been a good match up for Will Yeguete, but the Gators will have a hard time slowing him down. Sophomore forward
Davante Gardner (93,000) has played in the last four games after missing eight games with a knee sprain. He could test the Gator interior, which is somewhat suspect.
One of the keys to the Gators’ recent success is that they seem to have backed off relying on
Kenny Boynton ($153,000) and Erving Walker ($121,000). Before breaking out for 20 points in the blowout win over the Spartans, Boynton had scored just 42 points in the five previous games. His excellent three-point stroke had deserted him and he has made just 6-for-28 on threes in his last five games. Most of his points against the Spartans came when the game was over (and it was over quite early), so he is not a great play. Walker also had 15 points in the win last Sunday in his first double-digit scoring performance in his last five games. I continue to like Bradley Beal ($151,000). The freshman scored 14 points in both tournament wins and has only been held below 14 once in his last seven games. He will test the Golden Eagle defense. E rik Murphy ($121,000) has only scored 15 points in the two tournament games and he is unlikely to be a featured performer against Marquette. Patric Young ($119,000) has the type of size to test the Golden Eagles and he could be a factor on the offensive boards. He has only topped 12 points twice in his last nine games.