March Madness at Ball Arena: Previewing the second round matchups in Denver

A look at the second-round NCAA Tournament matchups set for Sunday inside Ball Arena.

No. 6 Creighton (22-12) vs. No. 3 Baylor (23-10)

Time/TV: 5:10 p.m., TBS

Betting line/over-under: Baylor -1.5, 145.5

What Creighton wants to do: The Bluejays endured some tense moments in the second half of their first-round matchup with N.C. State, largely due to their inability to hit from outside (3 of 20 from 3). That must change if they are to keep pace with a Baylor offense that’s among the best in the nation.

Creighton has a distinct advantage in the paint with Ryan Kalkbrenner coming off a career-high 31 points and three blocks. But if the Jays’ guards aren’t hitting from deep — guards Ryan Nemhard, Trey Alexander and Baylor Scheierman were 2 of 15 vs. N.C. State  — Baylor can make it difficult for the 7-foot-1 big man to get the ball where he can finish.

Defensively, the objective is equal parts simple and extremely difficult to accomplish: Run Baylor’s talented guards off the 3-point line and force the Bears into having to make difficult shots over Kalkbrenner and Co. in the lane.

What Baylor wants to do: The Bears’ backcourt can dissect even the best of defenses with senior point guard Adam Flagler a master at picking the right spots to take over or defer to junior LJ Cryer or freshman Keyonte George.

Baylor had little trouble generating good looks against 14th-seeded UCSB in the first round, with Flagler a hyper-efficient 7 of 10 from the field with 18 points, five assists and just one turnover. The next step is getting George (1 of 7 from 3) and Cryer (1 of 6) going from deep, so the Bears can stretch out a Creighton defense anchored by Kalkbrenner.

The big question for the Bears is whether their collection of big men can handle Kalkbrenner on defense while also finishing on the other end. Deny him the ball, and the pressure will fall onto Creighton’s shooters.

No. 6 TCU (22-12) vs. No. 3 Gonzaga (29-5)

Time/TV: 7:40 p.m., TBS

Betting line/over-under: Gonzaga -4.5, 156.5

What TCU wants to do: The formula for the Horned Frogs’ success couldn’t have been more evident in their come-from-behind win over Arizona State. Take care of the ball (five turnovers), hold down the glass (ASU had just six offensive rebounds) and let Mike Miles Jr. take over on the offensive end.

The junior guard willed TCU back into a game it once trailed by double digits by attacking the defense, drawing fouls (12 of 14 on free throws) and making the right decisions with the ball. Now the challenge is coming up with a way to defend a Gonzaga big man Drew Timme — a task made all the more difficult by sophomore Eddie Lampkin Jr.’s recent departure from the program.

If the Horned Frogs can find a way to force him into tough shots without sending double teams, they can limit the damage done by Gonzaga’s array of outside shooters.

What Gonzaga wants to do: With the most efficient offense in the nation, the Zags are all about pushing the tempo and getting up as many shots as possible. And that doesn’t change one iota against the Horned Frogs.

As the second half of the Zags’ first-round win over Grand Canyon illustrated, it all starts with Timme. When the decorated senior is doing damage down low (15 of his 21 points came in the final 20 minutes Friday), everything else opens up for Gonzaga and deadly junior wing Julian Strawther.

The Zags cannot be as sloppy with the ball as they were against Grand Canyon (12 turnovers), and Strawther must avoid the foul trouble that plagued him on Friday night.

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