Posted on March 20, 2022
The Bruins and Wildcats face tough opponents in the Second Round, but both matchups have tell-tale favorable signs that could indicate two more Pac-12 victories.
I preview both matchups here, and my picks along with Stephen Vilardo’s appear at the bottom.
No. 5 St. Mary’s v. No. 4 UCLA
Moda Center, Portland, OR
Saturday, March 19
4:10pm PT, TBS
The four-point victory may pale in comparison to the Gaels’ 29-point trouncing of Indiana, but what happened in the First Round can be thrown out the window.
UCLA survived and advanced, which is all that matters in March.
The matchup with St. Mary’s presents a much tougher challenge, though, with the second-place WCC team holding the nation’s 9th-best defense according to KenPom.
Based on the well-respected metric, the St. Mary’s “D” is the second-toughest unit the Bruins have faced all season, only behind Gonzaga, which held UCLA to 63 points.
Yet, the Gaels have one glaring flaw: rebounding.
Ranked 247th in rebounds per game, St. Mary’s is vulnerable to second-chance opportunities and it doesn’t crash the boards on offense.
The lack of offensive rebounding forces it to shoot efficiently from the field, resulting in one of the slowest tempos in all of college basketball.
The slower pace arguably favors UCLA, which thrives in games when the opponent is held to 70 or less.
Johnny Juzang needs to have a better game than his 3-for-11 performance in the First Round, and Myles Johnson can’t disappear like he did on Thursday, but the matchup in Portland appears favorable to the Bruins’ playing-style.
If UCLA can continue to keep its turnovers low and do damage on the glass, it should find a way to advance to the Sweet 16.
No. 9 TCU v. No. 1 Arizona
Viejas Arena, San Diego, CA
Sunday, March 20
6:40pm PT, TBS
The Cats committed 19 turnovers in the 17-point win, arguably under-whelming and potentially making this matchup a trendy upset pick.
TCU has one of the nation’s top defenses, but its offense is stuck in the Stone Age. The Horned Frogs’ points per game (252nd), 3-point percentage (315th), and turnovers per night (313th) rank among the worst in the nation.
Yet, its one of the top rebounding teams (28th) and shot-blocking squads (69th), coming in as the 15th-best defense according to KenPom.
Arizona has only faced a higher-caliber unit when it took on Tennessee, and the three times it played UCLA.
But without a correspondingly strong offense to strike fear in Lloyd’s staff, the game plan could be focused on the defensive side of the ball.
Perimeter defense will be pivotal, yet generating turnovers and pushing in transition figure to be priorities for UA, with the underlying goal of speeding up TCU into committing mistakes.
Capitalizing on TO’s and scoring on the fast-break could help breakdown the Horned Frog defense, increasing the tempo and producing more offensive opportunities for Arizona to take advantage of.
Perhaps most importantly, however, Bennedict Mathurin is itching to bounce back from his inefficient First Round game.
The Pac-12 Player of the Year almost never has poor back-to-back games, and figures to exploit ball screens all night.
As long as the Cats take care of the ball better than they did on Thursday, they should move on to the Sweet 16.
Second-Round NCAA Tournament Game Picks
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