NCAA Tournament: Day 4 Notebook

  • Louisville vs. Michigan, 12:10PM CBS
  • North Carolina vs. Arkansas, 6:10PM TNT
  • Duke vs. South Carolina, 8:40PM TNT

What in the hell is going on?

The ACC had an AWFUL day yesterday with truly miserable performances by Notre Dame, Florida State and Virginia. Much will be said about conference perception today, but I’m afraid that ship has sailed and that the “best conference ever” tag is a distant memory. Of course, if the ACC puts three teams in the Final Four, the narrative changes a bit, but only for the top of the league. This tournament was an opportunity for mid-tier ACC programs and new-to-the-top-tier programs to make a statement, and unfortunately that statement wasn’t a favorable one. “The big three” aren’t playing for conference redemption, but losses today would be an absolutely disastrous result for the league, financially and for reputation.

Michigan is a bit of a nightmare matchup for Louisville as the Wolverines are a high scoring team that doesn’t turn the ball over. The Cards have struggled against hot shooting three points this year as their defensive strength is to force turnovers and to destroy any chance you have around the rim. Michigan scores 38% of their points from three point range, and are nearly dead last in Division I in 2 point scoring. What Louisville does well, Michigan isn’t even going to challenge it. Michigan’s weakness on defense is that they give up a lot of threes, but … yeah, that’s not really going to help Louisville. Ultimately, the Cards are the more athletic, more talented team. They just need to find a way to exploit that against a team designed to hide talent gaps.

The Tar Heels get another favorable draw against a team who can’t rebound, and in fact, the Razorbacks are near the bottom of college basketball in defensive rebounding. The story of the game for the Heels is the health of Joel Berry who sat out of practice today and listed as “questionable” today. There’s little doubt that Berry will play, but if he’s not effective, how will Nate Britt do against a defense who’s fairly good at forcing turnovers. I don’t expect much resistance from the Razorbacks and the Heels should coast into the Sweet 16 where a dangerous Butler team awaits. As we said before the tournament, UNC typically crushes teams in the first two rounds, and the real struggle won’t hit until later on.

Duke’s playing a road game against South Carolina which has drawn a lot of attention, but oddly isn’t all that new for the Blue Devils. During the 2010 title run, Duke played Baylor in Houston and Butler in Indianapolis. It happens, and it’s not something Duke should be all that concerned about. What they SHOULD be concerned about is the hot streak that one of the worst offenses in the NCAA Tournament caught in the first round against Marquette. The Gamecocks scored 93 points by shooting 53% from the field. By comparison, it took South Carolina 4 overtimes to score 86 points against Alabama. They had a smoking hot start to the season with an 8-0 start including convincing wins over Syracuse and Michigan, but have only won 4 of their last 10. Duke’s had a tendency to allow teams to find their groove, but if they can keep South Carolina’s offense closer to their season average (41%, 73 points per game), they’ll be fine.