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Well, it’s safe to say that if you went into this NCAA Tournament concerned about whether or not there would be any “March Madness,” you got your answer right away from the South Region.
The No. 2 Arizona Wildcats, many may have predicted to reach the Final Four, were bounced before the Round of the 32 by the No. 15 seed Princeton Tigers.
Will Princeton prove to be this year’s Cinderella story? In this March Madness TNT matchup, we'll find out between them and their fellow Tigers from Missouri.
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Heading into their game against Arizona, Princeton faced a No. 2 seed team with a 9-2 record against Quad 1 teams. Meanwhile, the Tigers were 0-1 against Quad 1 teams and 2-2 against Quad 2.
So what happened?
First and foremost, credit to Princeton for overcoming a 10-point deficit. In terms of Arizona’s performance, they scored just four points over the last eight minutes of the game and made just three three-point shots (18.8%). This was far less than their 38.17% rate, ranking 16th in the nation.
Simply put, Princeton beat them up, blocking six shots. Princeton also had a slight edge in the turnover and rebounds battle.
Also, Arizona still beat Princeton in field goal and three-point percentage.
On the year, the Tigers rank 74th in the nation in points per game at 76. It’ll be interesting to see if their KenPom ranking of 98th shows up in this game.
Against the Wildcats, Princeton honestly didn’t have any standout players. In terms of team stats, Princeton lost in the following categories:
A big factor in this four-point difference was Ryan Langborg and Keeshawn Kellman having two blocks each and Tosan Evbuomwan leading the way with 15 points.
Princeton does rank quite low at 164th in the nation in three-point percentage at 34.45%, but they shot just 16% (4-of-25) from deep—that’ll need to change.
Even as the higher seed, Missouri was the underdog against No. 10 Utah State. The Tigers from Missouri took care of business, winning 76-65.
Both teams were top offensive units, with Missouri ranking 23rd in the nation with 79.5 points per game. The concern with Missouri was their defense which allows 74.6 points per game (297th), but they allowed 10 points less than that, thanks to Utah State’s terrible performance from the three-point range (4-of-24; 16.7%).
For Missouri, they shot 51% from the field, 40% from three-point range, and four players scored double-digit points.
Utah State had five more turnovers and four fewer steals than the Tigers.
Despite their season-long defensive woes, Missouri played well here, and their offense clicked.
As mentioned, four players on the Tigers had double-digit points, including Noah Carter, DeAndre Gholston, and team leaders D’Moi Hodge and Kobe Brown.
Hodge and Brown combined for 42 points, 12 rebounds, four assists, and six steals.
Hodge was also lethal from three-point range, taking 10 shots and making five. He was also 8-of-14 from the floor.
Needless to say, Hodge and Brown will be a problem moving forward in the tournament.
Despite Princeton’s gutsy effort against one of the better teams in college basketball this season, it’s hard to imagine that the lightning will strike twice here against Missouri.
Arizona had a terrible day shooting the basketball, while Missouri is coming off a game that would’ve overwhelmed Princeton.
Princeton could play physically again here, but Missouri has too many offensive options, like Hodge, Brown, and Gholston.
The physical play could help, but Princeton doesn’t have a player that can go toe-to-toe with Hodge or Brown.
Look for Missouri’s offense to keep firing away here.
Best Bet: Missouri -6.5 (-110) at PointsBet
Location: Golden 1 Center, Sacramento, California
Game Time & Date: March 18, 2023, at 6:10 PM ET
TV Network: TNT
After graduating from the University of New Hampshire with a BA in Journalism, Richard Janvrin has been covering iGaming and sports betting since December 2018. Richard has covered betting at Bleacher Report, Gambling.com, The Game Day, Forbes, and more.More info on Richard Janvrin
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