NCAA Tournament Preview: 8 vs. 9 Games
Memphis (23-9, 12-6 American) vs. George Washington (24-8, 11-5 Atlantic 10)
Memphis Strengths and Weaknesses
Memphis is very efficient offensively as they average 47.9 percent per game from the field, good for 23rd in the country. Memphis struggles at the line though, with a 64.9 percent free-throw average.
George Washington Strengths and Weaknesses
George Washington has a balanced starting line up that features sophomore guard Kethan Savage who averages 12.7 points per contest and the line up as a whole averages 63 points per game. Just like Memphis, the Colonials have a low free throw percentage at 65.4 percent per game, which can be even more concerning as the team plays on.
X-Factor: George Washington Forward Isaiah Armwood
Armwood will need to power the Colonials on defense. He average 1.6 blocks per game for defense that averages 4.2 and allows 66.9 points and could offset the efficient Memphis shooting percentages.
Kentucky (24-9, 12-6 SEC) vs. Kansas State (20-12, 10-8 Big XII)
Kentucky Strengths and Weaknesses
Led by Julius Randle, the Wildcats attack the boards very effectively grabbing 41.3 per game, which places them in the top five nationally. However, Kentucky must be able to shoot free-throws. They convert 67.9 percent per game good for a tie for 242nd in the country.
Kansas State Strengths and Weaknesses
The Wildcat defense is allowing 65.7 points per game, which will bode well against what can be a lethal Kentucky team. On the offensive side for the Wildcats though, Kansas State doesn’t have much significant scoring depth outside of Marcus Foster (15.6 points per game) and Thomas Gipson (11.8 points per game).
X-Factor: Kentucky Guard James Young
Young has averaged 12 or more points per game in his last four outings and is a versatile compliment to potential lottery pick Julius Randle. If Young gets going offensively, not only will Kentucky beat Kansas State, but they could be on its way to a third round upset of No. 1 seed Wichita State.
Gonzaga (28-6, 15-3 WCC) vs. Oklahoma State (21-12, 8-10 Big 12)
Gonzaga Strengths and Weaknesses
Mark Few’s squad is very disciplined on both sides of the floor, but especially when it comes to shot selection. Gonzaga ranks fifth in field goal percentage shooting 49.8% on the season. The Zags have had a tendency of fallings in games they shouldn’t have this season as their schedule features losses to Portland and San Diego, two inferior teams compared to Oklahoma State.
Oklahoma State Strength and Weaknesses
Led by Markel Brown and Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State has scored with ease all season long. They rank 16th in the nation in scoring and Smart and Brown average over 17 points per game. Like Smart and Brown at times, Oklahoma State has been inconsistent. The Cowboys have wins over Kansas, Colorado, and Memphis, but also had a stretch where they lost seven straight games. If the good team can show up in the tournament, they are very dangerous.
X-Factor: Oklahoma Guard Marcus Smart
Smart is one of the best players in the country and such a threat offensively. If he can keep his composure he is almost impossible to guard.
Colorado (23-18, 10-8 Pac 12) vs. Pittsburgh (25-9, 11-7 ACC)
Colorado Strengths and Weaknesses
Inside presence will be the biggest factor for the Buffaloes if they’re to knock off Pitt. Freshman forward Wesley Gordon and sophomore Josh Scott average a combined 14.6 rebounds per game. Colorado has been injury plagued all season and where it may come to hurt them will be against an athletic team like Pittsburgh. Colorado hasn’t matched up with athletic teams in the regular season like Arizona, UCLA and Cal, all teams they lost to.
Pittsburgh Strengths and Weaknesses
Pitt posses a stout defense which allows 62.4 points per game and grabs seven steals. They also have a strong defensive frontcourt led by center Talib Zanna. The biggest weakness for Pitt would be their lack of consistency in general. At times they looked like a top 15 team in the country and at times they have looked like a bubble team. Piecing together will come via their athletic players in Lamar Patterson and James Robinson.
X-Factor: Guard Lamar Patterson
Patterson is a part of those inconsistencies. He cannot afford to have a down night. The Panthers offense operates around him and Talib Zanna. If one or both are off, the Panthers will be out of the tournament quickly.