Previewing Nashville: Evening games

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Now we turn our attention to Friday's evening session in Music City:

No. 4 Michigan (24-9) vs. No. 13 Ohio (27-7), 7:20 p.m. ET

What to watch: Anybody who’s watched John Beilein’s teams play offense at Michigan, and West Virginia before that, knows how frustrating it can be defending his system in the half-court. The Wolverines are going to shoot 3-pointers and layups and not a lot else. They’re also relentless with their high picks and backdoor cuts to the basket and don’t turn it over much -- only 10.9 turnovers per game. But in Ohio University, Michigan gets a team that doesn’t mind grinding it out on defense. The Bobcats like to trap and really challenge teams with their on-the-ball pressure. They’re forcing 17.7 turnovers per game and defend the 3-point shot as well as anybody in the country. Opponents are shooting just 29.6 percent from 3-point range against the Bobcats, who are 60-19 under John Groce when they hold opponents under 70 points.

Who to watch: Michigan point guard Trey Burke was named Big Ten Freshman of the Year by the media. He leads the Wolverines in scoring (14.8 points) and assists (4.6). He broke Michigan’s 27-year-old freshman record for assists in a season and has 151 entering the Ohio game; Gary Grant had the old record, dishing out 140 assists during the 1984-85 season. Burke had been pretty good at taking care of the ball until the 77-55 loss to Ohio State in the Big Ten tournament semifinals, when he turned it over eight times. He also shot just 1-of-11 from the field in that game, so you know he’s been bouncing off the walls to get back onto the court.

Why to watch: Losing to Ohio State in anything is a nightmare for Michigan. So it goes without saying that the 22-point loss to the Buckeyes in the Big Ten tournament still stings. The only thing that could make it worse would be losing to Ohio University in the NCAA tournament. The good news for Michigan fans is that the Wolverines are 8-0 in games following losses this season. But Ohio comes into this game having won eight of its past nine games. “We’re playing with confidence right now. We’re playing together as a team," Ohio junior guard D.J. Cooper said. "We’re playing pretty good defense. That’s what we’ve been relying on all year. We’re going to stick together and stay together through the tournament."

What they’re saying: “This is Ohio versus Michigan, and it’s about two teams competing and that want the same thing, and that’s to survive and advance. Every guy on our team needs to be focused on their role to help Ohio do well.” --Ohio University coach John Groce

“I think everybody is in that same boat. All 68 teams are trying to get to that point where it just becomes magical for them, and it’s so much fun if they’re successful in that dream.” --Michigan coach John Beilein

Around the rim: Michigan is 11-0 this season when sophomore guard Tim Hardaway Jr. shoots 50 percent from the field or better. ... Ohio junior guard Cooper is one of two Division I players over the past 12 years to have averaged 15 points, 5 rebounds, 7 assists and 2 steals over an entire season. ... Cooper, who’s left-handed, recorded the first triple-double in Ohio history earlier this season in a victory at Portland when he scored 14 points, pulled down 10 rebounds and handed out 10 assists. ... Cooper isn’t a great shooter. In fact, he’s shooting just 34.8 percent from the field this season. ... The Wolverines are 18-0 this season when leading at the half.

No. 5 Temple (24-7) vs. No. 12 South Florida (21-13), 9:50 p.m. ET

What to watch: Temple has won 13 of its past 15 games and sports a spiffy 24-7 record. The Owls are no stranger to the NCAA tournament, either: This is their fifth consecutive appearance. What they’d like to change is how long they hang around in the postseason. They haven’t won more than one game in the NCAA tournament since 2001, when they advanced to the Elite Eight under then-coach John Chaney. It’s Fran Dunphy’s show now, and the Owls have a veteran team built to make a deep run. They boast one of the more potent backcourts in college basketball and start three seniors and two juniors. All five starters average at least 9.1 points per game.

Who to watch: Temple senior guard Ramone Moore ranks second in the Atlantic 10 in scoring at 17.7 points per game. He’s one of three players on Temple’s team to have made 50 or more 3-pointers this season. Not only that, but Khalif Wyatt, Juan Fernandez and Moore shoot better than 38 percent from 3-point range. The 6-foot-4 Moore has scored in double figures in all but two games this season.

Why to watch: Forget jet lag. South Florida’s players insist they were ready to play after knocking off California in the first round late Wednesday night in Dayton, Ohio. The Bulls caught an early flight to Nashville on Thursday and said the short turnaround won’t be a problem. It was only a year ago that VCU came out of the first round and made it all the way to the Final Four. Plus, South Florida coach Stan Heath said, it’s not all bad to have already played a game. “We got our feet wet a little bit and got out there and maybe worked out the kinks and the nervousness and all those different things," Heath said. "The other team is a little more well-rested, may have a little more energy, but may not have the same rhythm that we may have from the previous game.”

What they’re saying: “We have to come out aggressive. They do a great job defensively. I mean, they held California to 13 points yesterday in the first half, which is great. But we’ve got to come out and play our basketball, got to make the extra pass, hit the open shots … and they don’t let you speed them up. They do a great job of getting their shots and slowing the game down.” --Temple guard Ramone Moore

“I said in Dayton that playing defense has kind of been our foundation. It really becomes a problem for a lot of teams. A lot of teams pride themselves on scoring 80 points or in the 70s, and they feel like if they can get to 80 points or in the 70s that they have a good chance of winning. For us, we feel like if we can keep them below the 60s that we have a good chance of winning.” --South Florida forward Ron Anderson Jr.

Around the rim: South Florida set the Big East Conference scoring defense record this season by allowing just 56.8 points per game. The Bulls have held 31 of their 34 opponents under 70 points. ... Anderson transferred to South Florida from Kansas State following the 2009 season. His other finalist when trying to decide where to continue his college basketball career was Temple. ... Heath said his players were wired following the 65-54 victory over Cal on Wednesday night. “I know the guys didn’t sleep much last night. They were watching 'SportsCenter' at 2 o’clock in the morning. They were watching each other’s dunks and getting excited. I was trying to put them to bed,” Heath joked. ... Dunphy said he heard someone say that going against South Florida’s defense was “like going to get a root canal.” ... Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin, who faced South Florida in Big East play, said what makes the Bulls so good defensively is how well they rotate, and when they do, the guy rotating over is anywhere from 6-7 to 6-11. ... Temple will be joining the Big East in football next season and then in all sports in 2013-14.