Previewing Columbus: Sunday's games

March, 18, 2012
3/18/12
12:05
AM ET

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Taking a look at Sunday's games in Columbus.

No. 11 NC State (23-12) vs. No. 3 Georgetown (24-8), 12:15 p.m. ET

NC State is an 11-seed and Georgetown is a 3-seed. But Sunday’s matchup at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio, doesn’t feel like a 3/11 game.

The Wolfpack have the length and athleticism to challenge a Georgetown team that enjoys the same tools and uses them to its advantage, too.

C.J. Leslie and Richard Howell just attacked and attacked against undersized San Diego State as NC State scored the “upset” against the Aztecs on Friday. Lorenzo Brown shot well from outside with SDSU’s bigs trying to close up the lane.

The Wolfpack were dominant. But they also had a clear size advantage in that matchup.

That won’t be the case against Georgetown, a team that utilizes 6-foot-10 Henry Sims and 6-8 Otto Porter in the frontcourt. The Hoyas have the top 3-point defense in America. Jason Clark is a versatile guard who carved up Belmont.

Georgetown showcased its versatility in its win over Belmont. The Hoyas went to a zone that frustrated one of the top 3-point shooting teams in America.

They can throw multiple defensive looks at the Wolfpack. They can go man-to-man because they have the size, or they can revert to that tough zone.

Georgetown beat NC State 82-67 last season, when the Hoyas separated from a young Wolfpack team with a 15-0 run in the second half. The Wolfpack made just 23.5 percent of their 3-point attempts in that game.

This season, the Wolfpack are ranked 82nd in Ken Pomeroy’s adjusted tempo ratings. Georgetown is 299th. NC State’s players said Georgetown’s ability to control the speed of the game affected the outcome last year.

“I know the one thing I can remember, it was very frustrating playing them, because they’re the type of team who doesn’t want to score 80 or 90 points,” Howell said. “They don’t want to get up and down the floor. They just want to play a very slow, a very slow-paced game. That’s something we don’t want to do. We want to get up and down.”

The Hoyas resent the notion that they can’t run, but they also recognize the role that tempo could play in Sunday’s game.

“They have pretty much the same players on the team. They’re a very athletic team,” Clark said. “They like to get out and score in transition. They’re a very good team.”

No. 9 Saint Louis (26-7) vs. No. 1 Michigan State (28-7), 30 minutes after Game 1

You don’t need the actual scouting reports to know Saint Louis’ game plan against Michigan State. The Billikens, ranked 304th in Pomeroy’s tempo ratings, want to make the Spartans play slower than their norm.

But it’s more complicated than that, which is why the matchup between the two guys on the sidelines takes precedence.

This is Saint Louis vs. Michigan State, but it’s also Rick Majerus vs. Tom Izzo.

Majerus has amassed a 517-215 record and made 12 NCAA tourney appearances. He led Utah to the NCAA title game in 1998, the highlight of a head-coaching career that started at Marquette during the 1983-84 season.

Izzo was a longtime assistant under Jud Heathcote before taking over the program during the 1995-96 campaign. He has a 384-161 record. He won the national title in 2000 and he’s reached the Final Four six times.

This is a matchup of two of the top coaches in the game. Both Izzo and Majerus showcased their acumen during round of 64 victories in Columbus.

The Spartans didn’t impose their will in the first half against LIU-Brooklyn the way they could have and led by just five points at the break.

Izzo said he was disappointed the Spartans didn’t take great shots early in that game. He scolded his squad for not sticking to the game plan and attacking inside. The Spartans responded with an impressive effort after halftime.

Izzo has molded this program into one of the most focused and connected teams in the country, one that’s capable of reaching New Orleans.

But Majerus is a master game-planner, too.

By Saturday afternoon, less than 24 hours after his team’s win over Memphis in the second round, Majerus seemed capable of writing a thesis about Green and his teammates.

“I can beat Rick. I can get him up and down the court for sure,” Izzo joked. “The job he does with his team, his teams are always tough, well-disciplined. They don’t make a lot of mistakes. They don’t beat themselves. They’re very solid and fundamental. And the post players are as fundamental as anybody in the country.”

Memphis, the Billikens' first-round opponent on Friday, was supposed to have the same advantages in size and athleticism that Michigan State appears to have entering Sunday’s game. That didn’t matter when Saint Louis and Memphis took the floor, though. Saint Louis slowed the game down and didn’t panic when the Tigers took an eight-point lead midway through the second half.

Kwamain Mitchell hit big shots. Brian Conklin proved that a 6-6, 235-pound forward can hold his own in the paint against a more athletic, longer opponent.

But Michigan State has beef in the post that Memphis lacked. Derrick Nix and Adreian Payne have stepped up in the postseason.

Majerus, however, faced similar circumstances Friday and came out on top.

The former Utah coach’s experience will play a role in Sunday’s matchup. He’s one of the best in the business at breaking down opponents and finding their weaknesses.

He’ll try to do it again against a coach that he respects.

“I respect Izzo because he’s a self-made coach. He was with Heathcote all those years. He’s demanding. He’s fair,” Majerus said. “His players really like him. And he loves the game. He’s a guy that you could get together with and talk ball.”

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