Some brief notes on the bottom half of the bracket.TOWSON-OHIO STATE
- The Tigers could've drawn a tougher opponent in the first round. This isn't to say that the Buckeyes are a trash fire, but having gone through the front door when nobody even knew Towson was in town, the Tigers looked poised for a trip to Chapel Hill to deal with the Tar Heels -- arguably the strongest team in the country -- in the first round. Towson's overall profile isn't strikingly impressive -- it's an average team that does a handful of things exceptionally (including its ability to compete) -- but with a fairly strong defense and a desire to deflate tempo to its preferred pace, the Tigers are a unique opponent for Ohio State (a team that has recently gotten hot). If Towson can survive playing with a large possessions deficit (the margin appears heavily tilted in the Buckeyes' favor), the Tigers may be able to pull some sorcery.
- Ohio State was the biggest beneficiary of the criteria that the NCAA requires for constituting and seeding the field, but just because the Buckeyes are arguably overseeded doesn't mean that Ohio State is out of its league: A team that meandered around the offensive end of the field in 2012 has struck a balance in its overall profile. With cats like Logan Schuss, Jesse King, Turner Evans, and Dominque Alexander rifling the pill, Towson is going to have a tough time trying to contain some of the best offensive performers in the nation. Towson has seen an offense of this caliber in conference play -- Drexel is probably a better offensive team, in the overall, than Ohio State -- but the way that the Buckeyes play, getting the bulk of their offense from Schuss and spreading the wealth with aplomb, creates mismatches for the Buckeyes that should reap rewards.
- The Red as an unseeded team is shocking: Despite its NCAA Tournament profile (which doesn't do the best job at actually assigning appropriate value to a team's overall performance), Cornell remains one of the strongest three or four teams in the country. The Red aren't only an offensively-focused team that manages to succeed because Rob Pannell still wears a Cornell uniform; rather, the defense is capable, getting timely play from A.J. Fiore and strong field support from Thomas Keith, Tom Freshour, and Jason Noble to balance the team's offensive efforts. The Red's ceiling against Maryland is likely dictated by what the offense can do against the Terps' thunderous defense, but it'll be Cornell's defense that will need to keep them in the game if the Red struggle to get goals on the board playing at an assumed possession deficit.
- Maryland hasn't been playing the kind of ball over the last few weeks that makes you think that getting into a scoring war with Cornell is the kind of circumstance that the Terps can thrive in. With the potential advantage that Maryland may have in the possession game -- at the dot and with their clearing game -- the Terps would be wise to try and possession starve the Red's offense, keeping the ball out of Pannell's crosse and letting an offense that has struggled to efficiently and consistently score over the last month have time and room to try and crack the Red's defense. Maryland has all the tools necessary to win, but much of the Terrapins' success against Cornell is going to be predicated on creating preferable circumstances to dictate the scope of play.
- There are two unseeded teams that look the most dangerous: Cornell and Loyola. For the Greyhounds, they are a matchup nightmare with experience navigating the NCAA Tournament waters to its ultimate destination. Where Loyola needs to make hay against Duke is when the Greyhounds have the ball -- likely playing at a possession deficit, the Greyhounds need to attack a questionable Duke defense and maximize its opportunities. Loyola has the defense to keep the Devils relatively under control (contingent upon Jack Runkel coming correct), but it's still a matter of what Loyola is going to do with its offensive opportunities -- it may not need a lot of them to make the scoreboard blink, but if it isn't getting tallies at a solid rate, there may not be enough possessions to keep pace with Duke.
- I'm not exactly sure how much I like Duke in this spot. The Greyhounds are willing to pick their spots to run, but they aren't quite as hectic as the Devils. With guys like Justin Ward, Mike Sawyer, Nikko Pontrello, and Zach Herreweyers, the Greyhounds have a multitude of options in their offense with varied capabilities, the kind of multi-prong attack that the Duke defense often struggles against given its frequent forays into ball watching and uneven crease play. I'm not sure that the Devils match up well against a better balanced team like Loyola, but there is something working in Duke's favor that is important: Brendan Fowler is a possession-generation machine, and he's going to give Jordan Wolf and his machete-wielding pals all kinds of opportunities to go after Loyola's pressure-oriented defense.
This, basically (not violent at all):