NC State Wolfpack (#1) vs. Indiana Hoosiers (#4)
Time: 6:00 PM
Line: Indiana -2
Did you guys catch the little nugget above? About what the folks out in the desert think about tonight?
Vegas has NC State as the underdog.
Without a doubt, today’s game is both interesting and a near toss-up. State opened the NCAAT with wins over #16 NC A&T (79-58) and #8 South Florida (79-67). Indiana had wins against #12 VCU (63-32) and #13 Belmont (70-48). So let’s look at the three aspects of the game and pick a winner.
Both squads can put up points. In their last five games, State has scored an average of 70, Indiana 71. On the season, State’s scoring offense ranks 19th in the country, Indiana #28. State shoots 47% from the field, Indiana 46%. State’s top scorer is 6′ 5″ Center Elissa Cunane (16.3 ppg/ 8 rpg), that also happens to be their leading rebounder. Indiana’s top scorer is 6′ 3″ Forward Mackenzie Holmes (17.8 ppg / 8 rpg), that also happens to be their leading rebounder.
LOTS of reasons why these two are close.
The difference could be the fact State’s trio of Cunane, Boyd and Brown-Turner have been awesome this tournament. All three have gone for double-digit points in each of the first two games, with a combined three double-doubles. The key is, can the offense spread the floor enough to ease pressure on Cunane. State struggles offensively when they start forcing the ball inside and trying to play a grinding style of offense.
While Indiana’s Holmes could have her normal big game, we are actually focused on their Guard, Grace Berger. State has struggled with guard play through the first two rounds, while Berger has been excellent. 37 points over two games with good pace. Crutchfield and crew have to be ready. Luckily, IU isn’t known for three-point shooting, averaging 4 per game. That said, South Florida wasn’t great in that department either and then went off, so *shrug*.
Advantage: Narrowly NC State
Here is our worry. Through the first two games, State has struggled to find their rhythm early. That can’t happen again, because if Indiana takes over defensively, it’s going to be a long day for the Pack. On the season Indiana’s opponents average sub-60 points, with 11 games holding opponents under the 56-point mark.
Indiana rebounds well, but is even more impressive with their turnover ratio. While State is nearly equal on turnover margin versus opponents, Indiana is pushing over 4 more per. Look for lots of movement and State to look out of sync at times, before adjusting.
This game will be about containing runs. If you look at only State’s third quarter play, you see what they’re capable of. Unfortunately, far too many times both the Aggies and Bulls went on 7 to 9 point runs.
Tonight’s matchup will be a pair of schools with rich men’s basketball history, but have completely flipped the script.
Indiana’s Teri Moren, outside her first season, has lead the Hoosiers to 5-straight seasons of 21+ wins. This year, they’ve been ranked in the Top-25 for the entire season, while topping out at their program best #12 ranking.
Wes Moore had himself a week. Not only did he have perfect halftime adjustments in both opening rounds, but he took home National Coach of the Year honors. Each and every season, State has improved their record, now they go for glory. With a win today, a State basketball program will get into the Elite Eight, since 1998 Women’s Final Four squad.
Tournaments and one-and-done games rely so much more on coaching. Adjustments are everything and putting players in the position to succeed, is beyond crucial.
Advantage: NC State
This will be a close one. Expect each team to battle on both sides of the floor, while taking turns leading. State Twitter is going to be a mess, but hopefully all will be happy in the end.
The game could feel very similar to the ACC Championship, as State prevails in a last possession defensive stand to head to the Elite Eight.
PI Prediction: State wins 68-66