There are 32 games on Thursday and Friday, one of the most exciting 48-hour segments on the sports calendar.
We won’t be able to get individual previews up for every game, but we’ll cherry pick some of the more compelling matchups during the tournament’s “second” round.
In this post, we preview the Midwest Region’s 5-12 matchup between Temple out of the Atlantic 10 and the 12th-seeded winner of Wednesday night’s First Four game between California and South Florida.
Temple-California/South Florida Game Info
- Seeds & Region: #5 Temple v #12 California or South Florida in Midwest Region
- Temple-Cal/USF Date: Friday, March 16th
- Temple-Cal/USF Tip Time: 9:55 ET
- Temple-Cal/USF Location: Nashville
- Temple-Cal/USF TV: TNT
- Temple-Cal/USF Announcers: Ian Eagle and Jim Spanarkel
- Temple-Cal/USF Point Spread: TBA
- Tickets: Temple-Cal/USF Tickets
- Tickets: All Nashville Sessions
- Tickets: Midwest Regional Tickets in St. Louis
Temple-Cal/USF Analysis and Prediction
In the first four game, I’m going with Cal even though I’m not sure either team truly deserved a bid. South Florida is almost unwatchable on the offensive end, and I think Cal’s strong guard play will be the difference.
Regardless of who wins the first four game between the Bears and the Bulls, I don’t see either of them beating Temple (though this guy disagrees).
The Owls have a trio of strong guards, which would make for a great matchup with Cal. Strong backcourt play is always critical for success in March, and I’ll take my chances with the likes of Ramone Moore, Khalif Wyatt, and Juan Fernandez. While Temple hasn’t posted particularly impressive defensive numbers this season, the stats have improved since Micheal Eric returned from a knee injury, and neither Cal nor USF have beaten enough quality teams for me to think they’ll spring the upset.
Predicted Winner: Temple
Temple Owls Team Capsule
- Conference: Atlantic 10
- Record: 24-7 (13-3 conf)
- Last 10 Games: 8-2
- Record vs. Tournament Teams: 5-2
- Wins vs. Tournament Teams: Duke, Saint Bonaventure, Saint Louis, Wichita State, Xavier
- Losses vs. Tournament Teams: Purdue, Texas
- Player to Watch: Khalif Wyatt (6’4” G, Jr.) – 17.1 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 3.4 apg, 2.2 spg, 38.8 3P%
Temple Owls Bottoms Line:
The Owls won the regular season title in the A-10 but lost in the tournament quarterfinals. Led by the trio of Khalif Wyatt, Ramone Moore, and Juan Fernandez, the Temple offense was one of the best in the country. The Owls hit over 40 percent from three-point range and rarely turn the ball over, which helps to atone for the fact that they don’t have a high offensive rebounding rate and don’t get to the line too often.
On the inside, big man Micheal Eric missed time during the season with a knee injury, but he is healthy now and averaging 9.1 points and 8.8 rebounds while hitting over 52 percent from the field. Forwards Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson and Anthony Lee both battle inside, particularly on the glass, and both also make over 56 percent from the field. Eric’s return has helped on defense, but the overall defensive efficiency numbers aren’t particularly impressive.
California Golden Bears Team Capsule
- Conference: Pac-12
- Record: 24-9 (13-5 conf)
- Last 10 Games: 7-3
- Record vs. Tournament Teams: 1-5
- Wins vs. Tournament Teams: Colorado
- Losses vs. Tournament Teams: Colorado (2), Missouri, San Diego State, UNLV
- Player to Watch: Allen Crabbe (6’6” G, So.) – 15.3 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 2.2 apg, 40.7 3P%
California Bottoms Line:
The Golden Bears lost three of their last four games and missed out on a chance to win the Pac-12 regular season title, but apparently they had still done enough in the eyes of the selection committee. The team lacks depth, with five players logging the bulk of the time and only seven playing double-digit minutes.
Cal finished 50th in adjusted offensive efficiency, largely due to a low turnover rate and solid shooting both inside and outside of the arc. The Bears take less than 23 percent of their field goal attempts from long range, which is one of the lowest rates in the nation. They wound up 21st in defensive efficiency and rank in the Top 50 in effective field goal percentage defense, defensive rebounding percentage, and opponents’ free throw rate.
The perimeter trio of Allen Crabbe, Jorge Gutierrez, and Justin Cobbs leads the team offensively. Crabbe leads the team in scoring and is second in rebounds and assists. He takes roughly half of his shots from three-point range and hits nearly 41 percent of them. Gutierrez won the Pac-12 Player of the Year Award and ranks second on the team in points and assists while leading the Bears in steals. He’s the heart and soul of this team and is as tough as they come. Minnesota transfer Justin Cobbs has also played well, contributing 12.9 points and 5.0 assists while hitting nearly 42 percent from long range.
Inside, Harper Kamp and David Kravish both shoot over 55 percent from the floor and grab at least 5.1 rebounds per game, with Kravish owning the better rebounding percentages of the two.
South Florida Bulls Team Capsule
- Conference: Big East
- Record: 20-13 (12-6 conf)
- Last 10 Games: 7-3
- Record vs. Tournament Teams: 3-10
- Wins vs. Tournament Teams: Cincinnati, Louisville, Vermont
- Losses vs. Tournament Teams: Connecticut, Georgetown, Kansas, Marquette, Notre Dame (2), Southern Mississippi, Syracuse, VCU, West Virginia
- Player to Watch: Anthony Collins (6’1” G, Fr.) – 8.5 ppg, 5.3 apg, 1.7 spg, 50.0 FG%
South Florida Bottoms Line:
The Bulls were sweating out their NCAA Tournament fate despite 12 Big East wins, largely because the bulk of those victories came against the worst teams in the league. But late wins over Cincinnati and Louisville were enough to satisfy the committee.
USF has no double-digit scorers, but they do have seven players averaging between 6.8 and 9.6 points. Freshman point guard Anthony Collins missed the first few games of the season, but his presence and ability to get into the lane have been critical for the Bulls. Five players grab at least four rebounds per game, led by Toarlyn Fitzpatrick, who also scores 8.0 points per game and makes over 41 percent from deep. Big man Augustus Gilchrist leads the team in scoring at 9.6 points per game, while Jawanza Poland provides athleticism on the wing.
The Bulls play at one of slower paces in all of college basketball, so don’t count on them lighting up the scoreboard. They are in the middle of the pack in terms of offensive efficiency and rank 293rd in three-point shooting and 303rd in turnover rate. The Bulls are much better defensively and finished 16th in adjusted efficiency. They are in the Top 30 in both two- and three-point defense, and limit their opponents’ trips to the free throw line. Expect a low-scoring grinder when USF takes the floor, but given their struggles against tournament caliber teams, their NCAA run could be a short one.
Related: Jump to our Midwest Region Bracket Breakdown
See our other individual game previews and predictions:
- South Region: #4 Indiana v #13 New Mexico State
- South Region: #5 Wichita State v #12 VCU
- South Region: #6 UNLV v #11 Colorado
- South Region: #7 Notre Dame v #10 Xavier
- South Region: #8 Iowa State v #9 Connecticut
- West Region: #4 Louisville v #13 Davidson
- West Region: #5 New Mexico v #12 Long Beach State
- West Region: #6 Murray State v #11 Colorado State
- West Region: #7 Florida v #10 Virginia
- West Region: #8 Memphis v #9 Saint Louis
- East Region: #4 Wisconsin v #13 Montana
- East Region: #5 Vanderbilt v #12 Harvard
- East Region: #6 Cincinnati v #11 Texas
- East Region: #7 Gonzaga v #10 West Virginia
- East Region: #8 Kansas State v #9 Southern Miss
- Midwest Region: #3 Georgetown v #14 Belmont
- Midwest Region: #4 Michigan v #13 Ohio
- Midwest Region: #5 Temple v #12 Cal/USF
- Midwest Region: #6 San Diego State v #11 NC State
- Midwest Region: #7 St. Mary’s v #10 Purdue
- Midwest Region: #8 Creighton v #9 Alabama