We’re down to the final two games before the Final Four, and we’re all out of No. 1 seeds in the NCAA tournament. Here’s a look at Sunday’s Elite Eight matchups and how I see the games playing out.
No. 5 San Diego State vs. No. 6 Creighton (-1.5)
2:20 p.m., CBS
The Bluejays rely somewhat heavily on the three-pointer, which could play right into the Aztecs’ hands. Just ask top-seeded Alabama, which came into Friday’s Sweet 16 matchup against San Diego State as one of the most three-point-reliant teams in the country but exited the tournament after shooting 3 for 27 from long range.
For the season, San Diego State’s opponents are shooting 28.1 percent on three-pointers, and in three NCAA tournament games, its foes have hit on only 18.2 percent. All three of those teams — College of Charleston, Furman and Alabama — rank 58th or higher in percentage of points derived from three-pointers, and San Diego State shut down all of them. Creighton ranks 86th in that category.
Likewise, Creighton’s defense should be able to keep the poor-shooting Aztecs off the scoreboard. San Diego State’s effective shooting percentage of 49.9 is by far the worst of the remaining tournament teams, and the Bluejays are tops among those who remain in terms of cleaning up opponent’s misses. (They rank 11th nationally in defensive rebounding percentage.) They also don’t give their opponents many chances at the free throw line, and San Diego State compiles a good amount of points from the charity stripe.
This one has rock fight written all over it.
Pick: Under 133.5.
In Kansas City, Mo.
No. 2 Texas (-4) vs. No. 5 Miami
The status of Longhorns forward Dylan Disu will go a long way toward determining the result. Disu, who averaged 23.5 points and 10 rebounds in Texas’s first two NCAA tournament victories, played only two minutes in Friday’s win over Xavier before suffering a bone bruise on his foot. Reports suggest he will be a game-time decision, and if Disu doesn’t play, the Longhorns will be less able to take advantage of a Miami defense that allows opponents to shoot 51.5 percent from two-point range. Disu was 22 for 30 in that category in Texas’s first two games.
I think the Hurricanes can keep this one close. Miami doesn’t excel at getting to the free throw line, but the Longhorns tend to foul in bunches and the Hurricanes are shooting 77.6 percent from the line, the second-highest mark among Elite Eight teams. Miami also is adept at corralling its missed shots, an area in which Texas isn’t great and would be worse without Disu. Throw in the fact that Miami Coach Jim Larrañaga is an old hand at this NCAA tournament thing and Texas’s Rodney Terry is coaching in just his second NCAA tournament, and I think the Hurricanes are the choice.
Pick: Miami +4.