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NCAA Tournament Tempo Report: 4 Friday Sweet 16 Over/Unders to Watch, Including Miami vs. Houston, Xavier vs. Texas

NCAA Tournament Tempo Report: 4 Friday Sweet 16 Over/Unders to Watch, Including Miami vs. Houston, Xavier vs. Texas article feature image

Jamie Sabau/NCAA Photos via Getty Images. Pictured: Texas’ Marcus Carr.

Friday’s NCAA Tournament slate features four Sweet 16 games with a spot in the Elite Eight on the line.

After tournament games went 32-16 to the under in the first weekend, Collin Wilson is back to break down over/unders for both the Thursday slate and the Friday slate.

Friday’s games include San Diego State vs. Alabama, Miami vs. Houston, Princeton vs. Creighton and Xavier vs. Texas, and Wilson came through with an total to target for each game.

Check out all four of his pace breakdowns for Friday’s NCAA Tournament matchups below.

No. 5 San Diego State vs. No. 1 Alabama

Total: 136.5 · Projected: 139.5

The paradise from a betting standpoint has been San Diego State, which has cashed the under in 10 straight games and  15 of its last 19.

The style of play in wins over Charleston and Furman favored the Aztecs’ slow nature, as neither team played press beyond half-court. Now, head coach Brian Dutcher gets another team with an average possession length outside the top 200 on defense in Alabama.

Top-seeded Alabama toppled Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and Maryland with first-half Kill Shots, easily covering in cruise control in both Birmingham games.

While Nate Oats prefers a lightning-fast offensive attack, the combination of a non-press defense and a defensive turnover rank of 312th suggests San Diego State will have extended offensive possessions.

The Crimson Tide are the top overall team in defensive effective field goal percentage, forcing us take a deeper dive into the style of play.


— NCAA March Madness (@MarchMadnessMBB) March 19, 2023

Alabama generates high-frequency rates in transition and pick-and-roll with plenty of 3-point attempts from catch-and-shoot and off-the-dribble situations. The San Diego State defense has no issues playing teams in transition and stopping the off-the-dribble 3-pointers, but a rank of 253rd against catch-and-shoot 3s is sure to be the formula for Oats.

For the slow burn of the Aztecs, a heavy amount of half-court pick-and-roll goes against a Crimson Tide defense that ranks 16th and 31st in those respective defensive efficiency categories.

The Aztecs will be able to hang with most of the offensive elements presented by the Tide but could be on the hunt for points the entire game.

San Diego State lost in Quad 1 games with high tempo earlier this season to Arizona and Arkansas and will now be challenged to contribute to the final score against Alabama.

No. 5 Miami vs. No. 1 Houston

Total: 138 · Projected: 140.5

There may not be two more contrasting styles on offense than transition-minded Miami facing a snail-paced Houston team that’s based on a playbook of cut and isolation.

Miami head coach Jim Larranaga preferred to face Indiana, a team that invited transition and preferred to score under 70 points. The Hurricanes put the Hoosiers in a blender in the second half, executing a 16-2 scoring run with 14 minutes left in the game.


— NCAA March Madness (@MarchMadnessMBB) March 20, 2023

While the under was predictable against Northern Kentucky, Houston had no issues getting into a quick pace with Auburn. The Cougars beat the Tigers by 17 while eclipsing the closing total by 13 points.

Head coach Kelvin Sampson prefers a slower pace of offense despite eclipsing 80 points in 17 games this season.

Miami will want to push in transition, an area where the Cougars are 80th in defensive efficiency. The Hurricanes’ top-40 marks in finishing at the rim and off-the-dribble 3-pointers will be challenged by Houston. That may be the end of the advantages for Miami, as Houston holds a tremendous edge in the defensive turnover and rebounding departments.

Offensively, the Cougars will look to employ pick-and-roll, isolation and cuts to the basket. Miami has been exceptional at defending the cut, which may force Houston into more jump shots than expected.

The Cougars own shooting advantages in the head-to-head advanced numbers, but the crux of this game may be two offenses and defenses that rank top-40 in finishing at the rim frequency.

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No. 15 Princeton vs. No. 6 Creighton

Total: 140 · Projected: 143

Princeton was the impossible handicap heading into the tournament with a resume that didn’t include a game against a top-25 team.

Riding an over in nine of their previous 11 games heading into the tournament, the Tigers put two blazing offenses in Arizona and Missouri into a vice grip for two consecutive unders. The Wildcats and Tigers (of Missouri) had two of the highest rates of 10-0 runs in the nation, but neither could execute a Kill Shot in losses to Princeton.

Creighton went under the total in the first round against NC State before excelling in a boat race against Baylor.

The Bluejays have no issues pressing on defense and creating short possessions for the opponent while opting for a top-20 frequency and efficiency rate in catch-and-shoot 3s on the offensive side of the ball.

When defenses stymy Greg McDermott’s offense from jacking 3-pointers, a heavy amount of pick-and-roll with different flavors of screens work in combination with a high efficiency of midrange jump shots.

The hidden stat in this game could be the defensive turnovers, as each team ranks bottom-15 of all 363 Division-I teams in forcing turns. With poor marks in offensive rebounding and stellar ranks in defensive free-throw rate, each possession may read in the play log as a single shot and defensive rebound with no trips to the foul line.

Combine those aspects with each team’s top-35 rank against catch-and-shoot 3s, and the formula for scoring droughts is there.

No. 3 Xavier vs. No. 2 Texas

Total: 148.5 · Projected: 155

Xavier head coach Sean Miller made a return to his team’s December pace in two tournament victories, logging 72 and 77 possessions against Kennesaw State and Pittsburgh.

The post play of Jack Nunge and Jerome Hunter has been the bread and butter of the offense. A blazing top-50 offensive pace has been assisted by a pressing defense that ranks 52nd in average possession length.

Texas entered March Madness with a steep increase in opponent points per possession, playing its best defense of the season. The Longhorns survived the hot shooting of Penn State, limiting the Nittany Lions to 29% from long distance while forcing nine turnovers.

Texas is a top-20 team nationally in defensive rebounding and turnover rate, so we need to take a deep dive to see how Xavier plans to execute its offense.



— NCAA March Madness (@MarchMadnessMBB) March 17, 2023

Pushing tempo and heading to the post are the primary methods for Xavier. The Musketeers should find success in that area against a Texas team that ranks 145th in post-up efficiency.

Although the numbers are not as generous, Xavier holds advantages in perimeter shooting and pick-and-roll sets. The X-men will also get to the free-throw line often against a Texas defense that ranks 240th in defensive free-throw rate.

The Longhorns are no strangers to crossing hurdles under coach Rodney Terry, opting to get into transition with scoring runs based on screen and cut plays.

There are two key areas where the Longhorns can take advantage of Xavier, specifically in attacking the rim and in the midrange area. Texas doesn’t finish at the rim at a high rate, but a midrange frequency of 11th will be in play against a Musketeers defense that ranks 288th in defending the midrange jump shot.

Both of these teams have an average possession length in the top 60 from an offensive perspective. Each team’s offensive style also gives it an advantage against the opposing defense.

If Texas can flex its top-20 defensive turnover numbers, plenty of quick baskets are sure to follow.

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