(5) Temple vs. (12) Cal/USF Preview
Senior NBA & College Basketball Editor
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(5) Temple Owls
Hailing from the always-tough Atlantic 10 are the upperclassmen-laden Owls, who closed the regular season out by winning 12 of their last 13 games. They feature experienced guards Ramone Moore and Khalif Wyatt in the backcourt. The two of them do everything out on the floor, averaging 17 poinrs apiece while also contributing a combined seven rebounds and six assists. The Owls are well-balanced outside of them, with Michael Eric and Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson manning the frontline and controlling the boards. They score 76 points as a team, utilizing the three-point shot regularly with consistent success. They’re one of the best teams at shooting the long ball in the field, hitting 40 percent on the year. Their defense is nowhere near as good as their offense, but the Owls did go 2-0 against teams in the RPI Top 25. It’s been 11 years since this program last won multiple tournament games. They have the talent and ability to end that streak.
(12) California Golden Bears
Tournament expectations are going to be low for the Bears because the Pac-12 gets virtually no respect nationally. However, they’re a good enough team to advance past the first round and perhaps even win a couple of games. Sophomore wing Allen Crabbe is a big-time player who leads the team in points (15.4) and rebounds (5.6). Jorge Gutierrez and Justin Cobbs do a great job setting him and the rest of their teammates up for quality looks. They combine to dish out nine assists a game. Big man Richard Solomon was supposed to provide the interior presence that made this team a viable threat to go on an extended run, but he was underachieving before becoming academically ineligible for this semester. The Golden Bears are not much of a three-point shooting team. Defensively, they hold the opposition to 61 points a night, but do not block a lot of shots or get many steals. They were 4-0 against teams with an RPI in the 26-75 range, which helped make up for their 0-3 mark against teams in the Top 25.
(12) South Florida Bulls
The last time we saw the Bulls in the tournament was in 1992. They’ve finally made their return by following the Florida State and Wisconsin blueprint of prioritizing defense above everything else. The Bulls are the only team in the tournament without a player averaging double-figures. Rather than having a true go-to scorer, the Bulls have seven guys averaging between nine and six points. They only score 59 a night, but do hold the opposition to 56, which was Top 10 in the country during the regular season. The Bulls defense is all about contesting and forcing tough shots as they do not create a lot of turnovers. They do a good job of not fouling, but there’s an old saying that you can only stop teams for so long before you have to be able to score points, something the Bulls struggle to do. They were 0-4 against the RPI Top 40 mainly because they couldn’t keep pace offensively. If they’re going to win a tournament game for the first time in school history, they’re going to need a couple of guys to come alive offensively and play well beyond their usual level.
HOOPSWORLD’s pick: California. We’re going to go with the upset on this one and pick Cal to give the Pac-12 something to celebrate.
Who do you think is going win? Chime in by leaving a comment below!