The darth of upsets in the first round was disappointing, but remember kids - this is a zero sum game: the lack of Cinderellas also means we've got a lot of strong teams set to battle today. Let's take a quick tour of today's action:
(1) Ohio State vs (9) Xavier
SOUTH REGION QUARTERFINAL (Lexington, KY)
Game Analysis: I haven't seen Xavier play too much this season, but looking at their probable starters, it's clear they're going to be overwhelmed on the interior. Their two biggest forwards go 6-8, 210 and 6-9, 240; that sounds to me like a feast for the blistering Greg Oden. The Xavier KenPom Scouting Report confirms this, as the Muskateers have been a middle of the pack rebounding team on both ends of the floor all season. What's surprising, though, is that Ohio State doesn't clean up on the glass nearly as much as one would expect. Looking at their KenPom Scouting Report, the Buckeyes are only a little bit above average on the boards. Does Xavier have a chance today?
Maybe. They do one thing better than almost every team in the country: get to the free throw line. The Muskateers enjoy a very impressive .358 free throw rate (2nd in the nation), and if there's one way to beat Ohio State, it's to get Greg Oden off the floor. If Xavier can get the big freshman into foul trouble, they're capable of sticking around and making a run at it.
The Line: Ohio State -7.5
PB's Pick: Ohio State 68 Xavier 64
AW's Pick: Ohio State 75 Xavier 65
Final Score: Ohio State 78 Xavier 71 (Overtime)
(4) Maryland vs (5) Butler
MIDWEST REGION QUARTERFINAL (Buffalo, NY)
Game Analysis: The battle of opposite tempos! Butler plays the slowest brand of basketball among the tournament teams remaining, while Maryland is among the fastest tempo teams in the field. This is a fascinating matchup, actually, as Butler plays a truly deliberate, protective brand of basketball (first in the nation in TO%), while Maryland likes to get the pace going and feast on transition points. The Terrapins also defend exceedingly well - teams have more or less died trying to shoot three pointers against them, and the big worry for Butler has to be whether they can score enough.
The Bulldogs will likely try to make this a very slow game, limit the number of Maryland possessions, and hope to win a close, low-scoring game. Maryland would probably prefer that the game get up and down a little more, but I'm not sure Butler will allow it. If the Terrapins struggle in the halfcourt, Butler can pick up a Sweet 16 berth.
The Line: Maryland -5.5
PB's Pick: Butler 60 Maryland 58
AW's Pick: Maryland 58 Butler 50
Final Score: Butler 62 Maryland 59
(3) Texas A&M vs (6) Louisville
SOUTH REGION QUARTERFINAL (Lexington, KY)
Game Analysis: This is a heck of an interesting matchup made more engaging by the location of the game in Lexington, Kentucky. Despite what you hear about Louisville's press, they're not an "up tempo" team, per se. The Cardinals thrive on pressure defense, but they succeed more by frustrating teams into low shooting percentages than by forcing gobs of turnovers. That will be important for the Cardinals today, as Texas A&M ranks sixth nationally in turnover percentage. They take care of the basketball and they shoot an outstanding rate from behind the three point line.
One worry for Billy Gillespie must be the different paths these teams took to get to the second round. Louisville hammered an awful Stanford team so hard that they didn't have to expend much energy in the second half to preserve a 20 point lead. Texas A&M, meanwhile, trailed as late as ten minutes into the second half, and put Penn away with a surge of defensive energy. Will the Aggies be tired today? Will Louisville, spurred on by a partisan crowd, bring 40 Minutes of Hell? If we see uncharacteristic turnovers from tired Aggies early on, then Louisville's got a very good chance of winning. If Acie Law and his cohorts are their usual calm, collected selves, though, they're the stronger team. One thing we'll also need to watch is Josh Carter - the Aggies need him to contribute on offense to keep from being a "stand and watch Acie Law" offensive squad.
The Line: Texas A&M -2.5
PB's Pick: Texas A&M 78 Louisville 71
AW's Pick: Texas A&M 70 Louisville 67
Final Score: Texas A&M 72 Louisville 69