11 BYU Cougars (25-9, 13-5 WCC) vs. 11 Ole Miss Rebels (20-12, 11-7 SEC)
Tuesday, March 17, 9:10 p.m. Eastern
UD Arena, Dayton, Ohio
Dayton, Ohio, home of the First Four, is where BYU is heading for the second time since joining the West Coast Conference prior to the 2011-12 season. Last time they played in Dayton the Cougars completed the largest comeback in NCAA history against Iona. They shouldn't need to do that this time around.
This is exactly the kind of game the NCAA Tournament needed to help kick off the dance. After a year riddled with pundits complaining about low scoring games and the generally dysfunctional state of college basketball, the big dance gets underway with a pair of teams who like to run-and-gun and hate to play defense.
BYU ranks second in the nation in points per game (83.6) and Ole Miss ranks 53rd (72.6). While both of those numbers well above average it's clear that one is better than the other. That one would be BYU and it's not just in the points per game category.
Both teams play up-tempo offense but BYU just does it better.
Ken Pomeroy's adjusted offensive efficiency numbers peg the Rebels as the nation's 22nd best. BYU ranks ninth. Ole Miss' average possession length of 16.9 seconds ranks 40th in the country. The Cougars' possessions last 14.6 seconds, the fastest in the nation.
These are very similar teams in terms of the stats, but BYU is a bit better.
What allows BYU to be better than Ole Miss is the Cougars have better, and more, shooters. Tyler Haws is the Cougars' all-time leading scorer — ahead of his dad, Marty Haws, and guys like Danny Ainge and Jimmer Fredette. Chase Fischer, a West Virginia transfer, has hit 87 three pointers on just a sliver shy of 40% shooting. Skyler Halford (48-99 from three this season) and Anson Winder (42-111 from three this season) both come off the bench as high-energy sharpshooters.
Running the show for the Cougars is six-foot-six junior point guard Kyle Collinsworth. He does it all. So much so that he has six career triple doubles, all of which coming this season, which ranks first in NCAA history on both single-season and career lists.
The Rebels are led by five-foot-10 guard Stefan Moody. The junior takes just shy of a third of his teams shots but isn't the most accurate shooter. He's hit 71 threes this season but needed 204 attempts to do so. The Rebels' most accurate deep threat is LaDarius White who has hit 55 threes on 133 attempts.
While the Cougars are lacking much of an interior presence the Rebels don't present much of a problem in the paint. No Rebel stands above six-foot-nine and as a team they shoot just 46.9% inside the arc, easily a bottom-half mark nationally.
Ole Miss holds a slight advantage on the defensive end, but it's not likely enough to make up for their shortcomings on offense. BYU, which occasionally runs a four-guard offense, has simply too many weapons for the Rebels to contain. If BYU can keep the Rebels from setting up a half-court defense — more than probable — the Cougars will have few problems running past the Rebels.