2012 NCAA Tournament Picks: Midwest Region Quarterfinal Ohio vs South Florida Odds and Predictions – Free March Madness Picks 3/18/2012:Although Lehigh and Norfolk State pulled the two biggest upsets of the tournament so far, Sunday’s West Region matchup between Ohio and South Florida is a battle of underdogs. The 13th-seeded Bobcats (28-7) are fresh off an upset of Michigan, while the 12th-seeded Bulls (22-13) had to survive a play-in game and a meeting with Temple to reach the round of 32. However, there is only one spot in the Sweet 16 up for grabs, and only one Cinderella will keep dancing after Sunday’s showdown. South Florida is a 2 ½-point favorite in the game, but given the upset bug that has been going around, that isn’t necessarily a good thing.
While both teams bring momentum and confidence into the matchup, the similarities end there. Ohio likes to play at a fast pace, scoring from the perimeter and using an opportunistic defense to create transition baskets. Meanwhile, the Bulls will sacrifice quick scoring chances to control the tempo, choosing to rely heavily on their physical, grinding defense. It will be a true clash of styles Sunday, and the side that best dictates the pace will have a huge advantage.
For Ohio, point guard D.J. Cooper is the engine that powers the team on both ends of the court. He leads the team in scoring at 14.7 points per game and in assists at 5.7 per game. Cooper also leads the team with 2.3 steals per game, and the Bobcats rank fourth in the country as a team in steals. Cooper has the ability to slash into the lane and get to the foul line, and he can also knock down shots from behind the arc. The combination makes him a difficult matchup for most teams, and even when he isn’t scoring, Cooper is usually creating open looks for teammates.
The problem for Cooper and company is that the Bulls’ suffocating defense is excellent at keeping perimeter players in check. The Bulls held a solid Temple offense to just 44 points last round, and the Bobcats could find points tough to come by, as well. Ohio has been a strong 3-point shooting team all year, but South Florida is holding opponents to less than 30-percent from beyond the arc. More importantly, the Bulls outrebound opponents almost every game, meaning the Bobcats won’t have many second-chance opportunities.
With the Bobcats’ offense likely to find points much harder to come by Sunday, the team’s defense will have to step up. Ohio’s fast, pesky guards were a perfect match for the perimeter-oriented Wolverines last round, but the Bulls are the furthest thing from a finesse, jump-shooting team. Junior forward Toarlyn Fitzpatrick and sophomore forward Victor Rudd Jr. lead a group of big bodies that love to pound opponents in the paint. South Florida’s offense isn’t pretty or explosive, but the Bulls look to the post early and often, which could spell trouble for the smaller Bobcats’ lineup.
In the end, the mismatches all seem to favor the Bulls. What South Florida lacks in offensive firepower, it makes up for in physicality and athleticism. Ohio will find it difficult to get open looks from the perimeter against a fierce USF defense, and the Bulls should be able to control the pace. A low-scoring game does not favor the Bobcats, and Ohio could struggle both on the glass and stopping the Bulls post players. South Florida knows how to win ugly, and the Bulls should be able to wear down the Bobcats throughout the course of the game.
Prediction: South Florida Bulls (-2 ½) Cover the Spread
NCAA TOURNAMENT VEGAS ODDS: Favorite: South Florida -2 Total: Over/Under 116
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