(12) South Florida vs. (13) Ohio: Midwest Region
South Florida 22-13, 12-6 Big East (At large)
Ohio 28-7, 11-5 MAC (Conference Tournament Champions)
Time: 7:10 p.m. Sunday
Location: Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tenn.
Winner will face: (1) North Carolina or (8) Creighton, Friday in St. Louis
First round results
South Florida def. Temple, 58-44
Ohio def. Michigan, 65-60
South Florida 34
Line: South Florida -4 (O/U 114½)
Players to Watch
South Florida: G Anthony Collins, 6-1 Fr. (8.6 ppg, 5.2 apg, 1.7 spg); F Victor Rudd Jr., 6-7 So. (8.9 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 1.3 apg); F Augustus Gilchrist, 6-10 Sr. (9.6 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 1.3 bpg). Collins was phenomenal Friday against Temple’s more experience backcourt. He made six of his 12 field goal attempts and 5-of-7 free throws for 17 points. He also had five assists, four rebounds and a steal in the win.
Ohio: G D.J. Cooper, 5-11 Jr. (14.6 ppg, 5.7 apg, 2.4 spg); G Walter Offutt, 6-3 Jr. (11.7 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 35.2% 3s); F Ivo Baltic, 6-8 Jr. (9 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 47.8% FG). Baltic’s performance was huge for the Bobcats Friday. He played 36 minutes, scored 10 points, grabbed seven boards and, along with Reggie Keely, gave the Bobcats a nice lift in the paint.
Why Each Team Dangerous
South Florida: The Bulls have one of the best defenses in the tournament, and in the second half on Friday, their offense came alive for 43 points. For the season, USF is holding opponents to 38.8 percent from the floor, including a 15-for-42 night by Temple. Opponents are shooting just 29.7 percent from behind the 3-point line, including 2-for-12 from the Owls. South Florida forces 13.7 turnovers per game. Coach Stan Heath’s defense is outstanding inside and out.
Ohio: Cooper is a stellar and clearly a solid go-to scorer. That’s always crucial in the NCAA Tournament. Cooper was at his best Friday, hitting seven of his 11 shots, three of his six 3-pointers and four of his five foul shots. He also had five assists. As Cooper goes, so go the Bobcats. Ohio held Michigan to 40.7 percent from the field and 7-of-23 from the 3-point line and scoreless for the final 4:12 of the contest. And it wasn’t an anomaly. For the season, opponents are shooting just 41.2 percent from the field and 29.6 from the 3-point line. The Bobcats get 9.4 steals per game and force an astounding 17.7 turnovers.
Why Each Team is Vulnerable
South Florida: Even with 43 points in the second half Friday, the Bulls shot just 34 percent from the floor against Temple. This is not a good offensive team. For the year, the Bulls shoot 43.6 percent from the floor, and despite an 8-for-15 night against the Owls, USF shoots just 31.6 percent from 3. Against a stellar Ohio perimeter defense, points are going to be tough to come by.
Ohio: The Bobcats get much of their point production from Cooper’s ability to penetrate defense, as it was Friday against the Wolverines. His going will be tough against South Florida’s defense. Aside from Keely and T.J. Hall, Ohio has almost no depth. Against a physical South Florida team, foul trouble could really hurt the Bobcats. Despite a 51.2 percent performance from the floor against Michigan, Ohio doesn’t typically shoot well. For the season, Ohio is a 43.2 percent shooting team and hits just 33.9 percent of its 3-pointers.
The Bottom Line: Usually, my advice is to take the player with the experienced go-to scorer. In this case, though, I love the way USF is playing.
The Pick: South Florida 60, Ohio 53
Greg Against the Spread This Season: 216-165-6 (Through Friday, March 17)
Round of 32 Against the Spread: 19-12-1
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