Friday's slate for the 2013 NCAA tournament offers an exceptional amount of intrigue.
And the majority comes from the power conferences.
One matchup we'll first check out ahead is between the Mississippi Rebels and Wisconsin Badgers. The Rebels enter March Madness on a five-game win streak and sport a 26-8 record. Coach Bo Ryan and the Badgers finished near the middle of the Big Ten in the regular season, but made a strong run through the conference tournament.
Considering the differences of conference depth and top talent, it's just the beginning of one exciting day for college basketball.
West Region: Ole Miss (12) vs. Wisconsin (5)
Here we have a matchup of polarizing philosophies.
The Ole Miss Rebels like to score as they average 78.2 points per game. By contrast, the Wisconsin Badgers play defense and allow a mere 55.9 points per contest.
Ironically, each are quite similar regarding impact inside the paint and on the glass. Entering this bout, the Rebels have the slight momentum edge as they won the SEC tournament, and the Badgers were the Big Ten runners-up.
That said, it will be interesting to see how the Badgers approach this game offensively. Ole Miss allows an average of 67.3 points, which is more than what Coach Ryan's team averages.
Midwest Region: Cincinnati (10) vs. Creighton (7)
A similar duel as Ole Miss and Wisconsin, Cincinnati and Creighton features a strong defense against a strong offense.
The Bearcats allow only 58.8 points per game and the Bluejays average 75.4. Intensifying this matchup is Cincinnati's No. 12 ranking in opposing shooting percentage (38.5). Creighton knocks down 50.8 percent from the field which ranks No. 1 in the country.
Consider this a wash, because the Bearcats will force some misses and challenge consistently, whereas the Bluejays will create opportunities for open looks. If there's a major disparity here, it's rebounding.
Cincy averages 40 boards per game and although the Bluejays dish the rock nicely, the Bearcats have that interior advantage to force the low-percentage jumpers.
South Region: Villanova (9) vs North Carolina (8)
A joust between two power conference schools with middle seeds, Villanova and North Carolina are dangerous opponents should the Kansas Jayhawks advance.
The Wildcats do not comparatively equal the Tar Heels on offense. North Carolina averages 17.3 assists and 77.2 points per contest. And the discrepancy on the defensive end does not favor Villanova as much.
In short, North Carolina's offense is a better matchup to 'Nova's defense than 'Nova's offense to Carolina's defense. The Tar Heels are just as effective at generating turnovers and their offense gains even more from transition.
Therefore, Villanova's offense must take advantage of every scoring opportunity and shorten the game. Reducing North Carolina's possessions will prevent Roy Williams' team from finding a rhythm, not to mention the Wildcats' defense has proven the potential to stifle high-powered attacks.
South Region: Minnesota (11) vs. UCLA (6)
It's quite easy to look past Minnesota, because the Golden Gophers finished tied for No. 7 in the Big Ten regular season. On the other hand, UCLA won the Pac-12 regular season and were upset by the Oregon Ducks in the conference tournament.
Each has faced a rugged schedule, although the Gophers are more battle-tested with the Big Ten's top-heavy depth. This matchup certainly pits an explosive offense in the Bruins versus a stout defense in Minnesota.
Dive in more, however, and the Gophers are more impressive at sharing the rock than at first glance. Coach Tubby Smith courts an efficient offense that complements his defense and rebounding talent.
Unless the Bruins manage to take advantage of turnover opportunities and get more physical inside, the Gophers will stick around as the game progresses.
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