(5) Temple vs. (12) South Florida: Midwest Region
Temple 24-7, 13-3 A-10 (Regular-season Conference Champions; At large)
South Florida 21-13, 12-6 Big East (At large)
Time: 9:50 p.m. Friday
Location: Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tenn.
Winner will face: (4) Michigan or (13) Ohio, Sunday
Temple No. 26 AP; No. 28 ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll
South Florida 45
Players to Watch
Temple: G Ramone Moore, 6-4 Sr. (17.7 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 3.5 apg); G Juan Fernandez, 6-4 Sr. (11.4 ppg, 3.9 apg, 38.8% 3s); C Michael Eric, 6-11 Sr. (9.1 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 2 bpg). Eric missed 13 games from Nov. 27 to Jan. 18 with a knee injury. Since Feb. 11, Eric has five double-digit scoring games, six double-digit rebound games and he has 24 blocks in his last 11 games.
South Florida: F Augustus Gilchrist, 6-10 Sr. (9.6 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 1.3 bpg); G Anthony Collins, 6-1 Fr. (8.5 ppg, 5.3 apg, 1.7 spg); F Victor Rudd, 6-7 So. (8.7 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 1.3 apg). Rudd has played his best basketball of late. In his last three games, he’s scored 44 points and yanked down 18 boards, including a 15-point, 5-rebound performance in Wednesday’s 65-54 NCAA win over Cal.
Why Each Team Dangerous
Temple: The Owls have three excellent starting guards and another strong wing in Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson. They shoot 47.2 percent from the field (32nd in the nation), 40.2 from behind the 3-point arc (eighth in the country), leading to 76 points per game, which is 30th-best in college basketball. Their 1.25-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio is solid. Temple’s 15.6 assists is the 19th-best average in the nation. They get 7.2 steals per game in forcing 12.5 turnovers.
South Florida: The Bulls are one of best defensive teams in the tournament, and on Wednesday, they showed they can play a little offense, too. USF shot 57.1 percent from the field and scored 36 first-half points to run out to a 36-13 halftime advantage on Cal. Defensively, teams shoot just 38.8 percent overall and 29.7 from the 3-point line against the Bulls. They out-rebound their opponents 34.3-30.6 on average to go along with 5.5 steals and 3.8 blocks per game.
Why Each Team is Vulnerable
Temple: The Owls have struggled a bit in their last five games on the heels of a 12-game winning streak that gave them the A-10 regular-season championship. The Owls have allowed four straight opponents to shoot 43.5 percent or better from the floor, including a 26-for-48 performance by Fordham in an Owl overtime win. Even with Eric, Temple is small. It only out-rebounded its opponents by 1.1 per contest.
South Florida: Despite Wednesday’s performance, South Florida typically struggle to score. They have scored 53 points or fewer 12 times, including four times in their last seven games. For the season, the Bulls are shooting 43.6 percent from the field (155th nationally) and they score just 59.2 points per contest (328th in the country). They have a negative assist to turnover ratio (368-452) and a negative turnover margin (11.2-13.7).
The Bottom Line: Temple’s good but has struggled down the stretch. The Owls are senior-dominated but has played below their standards a few times this season. I like South Florida’s defense to keep the Bulls close in this one, and an upset is possible.
The Pick: Temple 62, South Florida 60
Greg Against the Spread This Season: 199-151-6 (Through Wednesday, March 15)