ROUNDBALL DAILY

NCAA Tournament Predictions: First Four Midwest Region: 12. California vs. 12. South Florida, winner vs. 5. Temple

By: Kels Dayton

 12 California (24-9, 13-5 Pac 12)- The Golden Bears were the only at-large team admitted into the Dance from the Pac-12, and they barely cracked the field, sneaking into a First Four game in Dayton. The winner of this game will get 5th-seeded Temple out of the Atlantic 10 in the second round.

Guard Jorge Gutierrez (Photo:www.coveringthepac.com)

California is a balanced team with four players who average in double figures in scoring, led by sophomore forward Allen Crabbe (15.3 ppg, 5.7 rpg). Senior guard Jorge Gutierrez (13.1 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 4.1 apg) is one of the nation’s better floor generals.

The Golden Bears share the rock, ranking 12th in the nation in assists per game. They also shoot the ball well (47.9 percent) so it will be interesting to see what happens when they take on South Florida, which is one of the nation’s stingiest defensive teams.

KEY STATS:

12th Assists per game (16.1)

20th Field Goal Percentage (.479)

85th Points per game (71.7)

Team stats courtesy www.espn.com.

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 12 South Florida (20-13, 12-6 Big East)- USF deserved an NCAA Tournament bid, winning 13 games in the Big East and advancing to the quarterfinals of the Big East tournament in Madison Square Garden. The Bulls started off the season 7-6 but have improved greatly under Stan Heath, who has emphasized defense in turning this previously irrelevant program into an NCAA Tournament team.

Point guard Anthony Collins (Keith Srakocic/AP)

South Florida ranked 7th nationally in points allowed per game, giving up just 56.9 per. They also ranked 16th in field goal percentage against, and proved their defensive worth by shutting down Villanova and Notre Dame in the conference tournament.

South Florida’s main problem is that it can’t score. Amazingly, the Bulls don’t have a single player who averages in double figures in scoring. Senior forward Augustus Gilchrist leads the team at 9.6 points per game.

Freshman point guard Anthony Collins really came on during the latter part of the season for South Florida, helping the Bulls to an upset win at Louisville that greatly boosted their at-large profile. Collins had 17 in the Big East tournament win over Villanova, and scored in double figures in seven of the team’s final eight games.

KEY STATS:

7th Points Allowed per game (56.9)

16th Field Goal Percentage Against (38.8)

328th Points per game (59.2)

PREDICTION: South Florida  

Team stats courtesy www.statsheet.com.

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(WINNER above ) vs.  5 Temple (24-7, 13-3 Atlantic 10)

Temple is led by a trio of guards in junior Ramone Moore (17.7 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 3.5 apg), and seniors Khalif Wyatt (17.1 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 3.1 apg), and Juan Fernandez (11.4 ppg, 3.9 apg).

Guard Ramone Moore (AP Photo)

Fernandez has had an incredible career at Temple, knocking down the game-winning shot last season to defeat Penn State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. But he’s been overshadowed this season by the emergence of Moore and Wyatt, who helped lead the Owls to impressive regular season wins over Duke and Wichita State.

The Owls are an unselfish team, ranking 19th in the country in assists per game. They likely match up better with South Florida because Temple has consistent scorers and can play excellent perimeter defense. A match-up with California still favors the Owls, because Temple has more talent on the wing and can match Cal’s size inside.

KEY STATS:

30th Points per game (76.0)

19th Assists per game (15.6)

33rd Field Goal Percentage (.472)

PREDICTIONS:  Temple over either California or South Florida

Team stats courtesy www.bbstate.com.

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