Third Round Sunday: Your Commentary
12:15 PM (7) Washington vs. (2) North Carolina (CBS)
Sunday's action begins in Charlotte and if the Huskies are at their best they've got a shot to knock off the Tar Heels despite playing in front of a decidedly pro-Carolina arena. Washington was not at their best down the stretch on Friday night but they survived a challenge from Georgia 68-65 thanks to 19 points and seven assists from Isaiah Thomas. The Huskies turned the ball over just five times on the night, limiting the number of fast break opportunities for the Bulldogs. They'll need a similar effort against North Carolina, who put up 102 points in their win over Long Island, scoring 1.09 points per possession (their season average is 1.06).
UNC assisted on 21 of their 34 field goals; Kendall Marshall finished with 10 helpers and his matchup with Thomas on both ends of the floor will go a long way in determining the outcome. North Carolina also punished Long Island on the glass with a 54-39 rebounding advantage, and despite the number of points allowed (87) the Heels weren't bad defensively (36.5% FG defense, 0.94 points/possession). The field goal percentage defense was better than their season average (40.3%) and the points per possession were equal with that they've given up on the season. Harrison Barnes, John Henson and Tyler Zeller make up a tough trio the Huskies could have issues with, but Washington has bodies up front as well with Matthew Bryan-Amaning and Darnell Gant being two of those players. If Washington can survive the early wave that likely comes with the vocal crowd they've got a shot to win.
5:15 PM (8) George Mason vs. (1) Ohio State (CBS)
7:45 PM (11) Marquette vs. (3) Syracuse (truTV)
The second game of the day in Cleveland is also the second time in this tournament that two Big East teams have met (Connecticut beat Cincinnati on Saturday night). Marquette won the regular season meeting by six in late January when the Orange were taking their lumps, but Syracuse has played solid basketball in recent weeks. Senior forward Rick Jackson scored 23 points and grabbed seven rebounds in their win over Indiana State on Friday, a game Syracuse struggled with early before putting it away late in the second half. The key player for Syracuse in this contest as well as the remainder of the tournament is likely point guard Scoop Jardine.
Jardine finished with 13 points and 13 assists in that game, and when he does a good job of running the show the Orange can be a tough team to slow down. Marquette essentially won the regular season at the foul line, making 24 of 33 while Syracuse attempted just 14 free throws (making eight). Jimmy Butler and Darius Johnson-Odom are just two of the players Buzz Williams can look to offensively as both do a good job of attacking the basket in addition to knocking down perimeter shots when left alone. The Golden Eagles did the job defensively in their win over Xavier on Friday, harassing Tu Holloway for much of the night. The offensive numbers are pretty close but Syracuse has been the better defensive team, which could give them an edge on Sunday night.
7:10 PM (11) VCU vs. (3) Purdue (TBS)
9:40 PM (10) Florida State vs. (2) Notre Dame (TBS)
This will be a game of contrasts, with the Seminoles leading the nation in field goal percentage defense and Notre Dame thought of as one of the best offensive teams in the country. Forward Chris Singleton should see more playing time on Sunday than he did in his return against Texas A&M on Friday, when he played just 16 minutes and scored five points. The Aggies shot just 31.4% from the field and while Notre Dame is far more potent offensively that number is a clear indication of what Leonard Hamilton's team can do on the defensive end. Ben Hansbrough and company will need to rely on ball and people movement to find quality looks, and the good news for Notre Dame is that these aspects have been strengths for them this season.
The interesting stat in this matchup: Florida State averages four more possessions per game than Notre Dame but their offensive numbers really don't compare. Florida State is just under a point per possession while the Irish average nearly 1.2 points/possession, but the Seminoles are at their best when allowed to turn games into rock fights. Not that Notre Dame can't win a physical game because they more than proved they can throughout the course of the season, but attempting to do so would play right into Florida State's hands. As for what Notre Dame may do defensively don't be surprised if the Irish show a zone defense. Florida State made just four of fifteen shots from deep on Friday and shoots 32.9% from three on the season. Derwin Kitchen and Michael Snaer will need to knock down a few jumpers to keep Notre Dame honest and open things up inside.
8:40 PM (9) Illinois vs. (1) Kansas (TNT)
2:45 PM (8) Michigan vs. (1) Duke (CBS)
8:10 PM (5) Arizona vs. (4) Texas (TNT)
The matchup between the Wildcats and Longhorns could end up being the game of the day, which should come as no surprise if indeed the case. Forwards Derrick Williams (Arizona) and Tristan Thompson (Texas) are both lottery picks whenever they choose to leave school and the same could go for Texas wing Jordan Hamilton as well. Williams came through in crunch time once again on Friday, blocking a Wesley Witherspoon shot in the final second to preserve Arizona's win over Memphis. The Cats may need another Herculean performance and then some from their surefire All-American given the talent that Texas brings to the table. The Wildcats have been very good offensively for much of the season but Texas allows opponents to shoot just 38.6% from the field and 28.8% from three.
Dogus Balbay, who is one of the best defenders in the country, could give MoMo Jones problems especially if the sophomore takes the challenge a little too personally. When Jones does well as a distributor in addition to knocking down open shots Arizona is a tough team to slow down, but this is the kind of individual battle that can frustrate a point guard who loses focus. Arizona does a good job of defending the three (29.1%) but overall opponents shoot 44.5% from the field, and with the Longhorns' interior strength the Wildcats' interior depth will be tested. The winner advances to Anaheim and will have a good shot at winning their next game regardless of who wins the Duke/Michigan contest in Charlotte.