2018 NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 Preview—West Region

The Sweet Sixteen

michigan
Yahoo Sports

The first weekend of the NCAA Tournament was a wild one—filled with historic upsets and late game heroics. Let’s take a look at the Sweet Sixteen and who will advance to the Final Four in San Antonio.

The West Region—Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA, March 22 & 24

The West Region lost its 1-seed Xavier and 2-seed North Carolina on Sunday, adding to upsets in the Round of 32. This opens up the bracket for Michigan and Gonzaga to get their shot at making the Final Four. Texas A&M and Florida State will have something to say about that, as they too will fight to punch their ticket to San Antonio.

#9 Florida State vs. #4 Gonzaga, Thursday, 10:07pm., TBS

Florida State is one of the surprises in this year’s NCAA Tournament. The Seminoles took down Michael Porter Jr. and Missouri, 67-54, and then came back from a 12 point deficit late in the second half to bounce top-seeded Xavier from the “Big Dance.” Florida State’s strength is on the interior. Led by Terance Mann and Phil Cofer, the Seminoles were third in the ACC in scoring from inside the arc this season. Florida State has struggled shooting the ball from three-point range, shooting at a 33% clip, but the Seminoles have shot it at 39% from deep in the NCAA Tournament. Look for Gonzaga to force Florida State to shoot the three in their Sweet Sixteen match-up.

rui ncaa
The Spokesman-Review

The Zags will look to cut down the nets in Los Angeles and make it to their second consecutive Final Four. Only two starters from last year’s squad returned to Spokane this season, Jonathan Williams and Josh Perkins, but Mark Few has the Bulldogs back in a familiar spot and poised to make a run. Freshman Zach Norvell Jr. recorded a double-double in Gonzaga’s win over Ohio State Saturday with 28 points and 12 rebounds, while sophomore Rui Hachimura added 25 points. The combination of experience and stars bursting out right before our eyes, the Zags have something special going. I’ll take the Bulldogs to end the Seminoles’ run in LA on Thursday night.

Gonzaga 84, Florida State 75

#7 Texas A&M vs. #3 Michigan, Thursday, 7:37pm., TBS

Texas A&M and Michigan advanced to the Sweet Sixteen in polar opposite ways. The Aggies trounced 2nd seeded North Carolina, while the Wolverines needed a buzzer beater from freshman Jordan Poole to hold off an upset scare from the 6-seed Houston. Texas A&M has been an enigma all year. The Aggies were in the top ten earlier in the season, but made their way to the bubble following a stretch of five straight losses to open SEC play. Texas A&M has won five of their last six games and have a frontcourt in Tyler Davis and Robert Williams that is one of the best in the country. Led by Davis and Williams, the Aggies outrebounded the Tar Heels, one of the best rebounding teams in the country, 50-36, on Sunday. Texas A&M hasn’t forced many turnovers and they’ve given up 51 three-point attempts in their first two games of the “Big Dance.” If Michigan can take care of the ball and make some shots from deep, it could be a different story for the Aggies on Thursday.

duncan robinson

Following an epic run at Madison Square Garden in the Big Ten Tournament two weeks earlier, the Wolverines struggled mightily on offense in their first two games of the NCAA Tournament. Michigan found their way to the Sweet Sixteen thanks to the art of the buzzer beater. The Wolverines have their best defensive team in recent memory and allowed just 55 points per game in the opening weekend. Michigan will need to counter Texas A&M’s strength on the interior with successful outside shooting to come away with the win. Look for Mo Wagner and Duncan Robinison to find their stroke and for the Wolverines to escape from the Aggies in a close one.

Michigan 73, Texas A&M 72

Winner of the West Region: Michigan

john beilein
clickondetroit.com

Michigan will have a new lease on life after escaping from the jaws of defeat in the Round of 32. I expect John Beilein’s team to snap out of their shooting funk from last weekend and return Big Ten Tournament form in the Sweet Sixteen. Better shooting and defense will help the Wolverines get past Texas A&M and Gonzaga on their way to San Antonio and their first Final Four since 2013.

2018 NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 Preview—South Region

The Sweet Sixteen

kevin knox ncaa
A Sea of Blue

The first weekend of the NCAA Tournament was a wild one—filled with historic upsets and late game heroics. Let’s take a look at the Sweet Sixteen and who will advance to the Final Four in San Antonio.

The South Region—Phillips Arena, Atlanta, GA, March 22 & 24

The South is the craziest of the four regionals in this year’s “Big Dance.” For the first time in NCAA Tournament history, none of the top four seeds in a single region advanced to the second weekend. With that being said Virginia, Cincinnati, Tennessee, and Arizona have all been eliminated and the door is open for an underdog to cut down the nets in Atlanta and keep their National Championship dreams intact.

#9 Kansas State vs. #5 Kentucky, Thursday 9:37pm., CBS

Kansas State and Kentucky have weathered the storm and advanced to the Sweet Sixteen. Kansas State opened their NCAA Tournament run with a 69-59 victory over Creighton in the first round. The Wildcats figured that they would face the #1 overall seed Virginia in the Round of 32, but UMBC had other plans. The Retrievers took down the Cavaliers and became the first 16-seed to defeat a 1-seed in the history of the Men’s NCAA Tournament. K-State ended UMBC’s Cinderella run and defeated the Retrievers 50-43 to advance to the Sweet Sixteen for the first time since 2010. The Wildcats have relied on their defense so far in the Tournament. Kansas State forced Creighton and UMBC to turn the ball over on 23% of their possessions. The Wildcats have struggled offensively without their leading scorer Dean Wade who missed both games last weekend. His status for the Sweet Sixteen is still uncertain.

Kentucky advanced to this point with wins over the 12-seed Davidson in the first round and 13-seed Buffalo, who ended Arizona’s season last Thursday, in the second round. The Wildcats have played their best basketball following a four game losing streak in early February. Kentucky has lost just once since February 15 and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has proven to be one of the best scoring point guards in college basketball down the stretch. If the young Wildcats can withstand the defensive pressure thrown at them by K-State, Kentucky will be well on their way to their second consecutive Elite Eight appearance. Look for Kentucky’s offense to be the difference and for the Wildcats to advance.

shai ncaa
Charlotte Observer

Kentucky 75, Kansas State 63

#11 Loyola-Chicago vs. #7 Nevada, Thursday 7:07pm., CBS

clayton custer ncaa
al.com

Loyola-Chicago has pulled off two of this year’s most impressive upsets, defeating 6-seed Miami on a buzzer beating three by Donte Ingram and then 3-seed Tennessee on a Clayton Custer jumper with 3.6 seconds left, to advance to the Sweet Sixteen. The Ramblers and their 98-year old chaplain turner Internet sensation, Sister Jean, are headed to Atlanta and have no plans of ending their season any time soon. Loyola-Chicago has been impressive defensively so far in the Tournament holding their two opponents to an average of 63.5 points. The Ramblers have yet to have a player foul out of a game all season.

sister jean
uproxx.com

Nevada holds the title of the first weekend’s comeback kids. The Wolfpack trailed the 10-seed Texas by 14 points in the second half and rallied back to win, 87-83, in overtime. Nevada followed up their first round win with an upset of the 2-seed Cincinnati on Sunday. The Wolfpack came back from a 22 point deficit to take down the Bearcats and advance to the second weekend. Of the 85 minutes Nevada has played in the NCAA Tournament, they have led for only one minute and fifty-six seconds of game time. The Wolfpack have a potent offensive attack and averaged 1.18 points per possession in their first two games of the “Big Dance.” If the South Region continues to be the most unpredictable in NCAA Tournament history, I’ll try to stay ahead of the curve and pick the upset. Loyola-Chicago will continue its magical run into an Elite Eight match-up with Kentucky.

Loyola-Chicago 66, Nevada 65

Winner of the South Region: Kentucky

calipari
CatsPause – 247Sports

As we’ve seen before, John Calipari has his freshman playing their best when it matters the most. The Wildcats have the easiest route to the Final Four and I expect them to take advantage of it. Big Blue Nation will be headed to San Antonio.

NCAA Tournament Second Round: #11 Syracuse vs. #3 Michigan State

Syracuse is Sweet

tyus ncaa
syracuse.com

Syracuse defeated Michigan State, 55-53, on Sunday in Detroit to advance to the Sweet Sixteen for the 19th time in program history.

The Orange took the lead on a free throw by Marek Dolezaj with 4:23 left and did not relinquish it. The Spartans did not make a field goal over the last 5:41 of the game. Cassius Winston missed a half-court heave at the buzzer to give the Orange the win.

A back-and-forth first half ended in a flurry. Matthew Moyer blocked a three-point attempt by Matt McQuaid, but McQuaid recovered and banked in a triple at the horn to give Michigan State a 25-22 lead at the break.

The Spartans outrebounded the Orange, 51-30, including 29-7 on the offensive glass, but shot the ball just 25.8% from the field and turned the ball over 14 times. It was by no means an offensive masterpiece by Syracuse, as the Orange shot 35.7% from the field and assisted on only three of their fifteen made field goals.

The Syracuse defense forced Michigan State into attempting a school record 37 attempts from beyond the arc.

Winston led Michigan State with 15 points, on 4-of-12 shooting, and dished out 6 assists. Syracuse held All-Big Ten First Team performer and likely NBA Draft lottery pick, Miles Bridges, to 11 points on just 4-of-18 from the field, and 6 rebounds. Moyer’s cousin, Nick Ward, contributed with 10 points and 5 rebounds for the Spartans in the losing effort.

Additionally, Michigan State’s other likely NBA Draft lottery pick, Jaren Jackson Jr., was virtually non-existent on Sunday. Jackson Jr. was limited to two points on two free throws, but was 0-of-4 from the field, and corralled eight rebounds in just fifteen minutes.

Syracuse was led by Tyus Battle who scored 17 points on 4-of-15 from the floor. Oshae Brissett tallied 15 points and grabbed 9 rebounds. Frank Howard poured in 13 points on 5-of-10 shooting before fouling out.

oshae michigan state
syracuse.com

Dolezaj finished with 6 points and 6 rebounds.

Jim Boeheim commented on his team’s performance in his postgame press conference. “Our defense has been good in this tournament all the way,” Boeheim said. “This team perserveres through no matter what happens. It is very tough to play three games in five days at this level. They [Michigan State] really got us on the boards, but these guys just battled the whole game, I’m very proud of them.”

With the win, the Orange improved to 23-13, while Michigan State ended its season with a 30-5 record. The Spartans defeated just three teams that made the NCAA Tournament this year—North Carolina, Purdue, and their first round opponent Bucknell.

Syracuse advances to the Sweet Sixteen where they will take on Duke on Friday, March 23 at a time to be determined. The Blue Devils enter the contest with a record of 28-7 and have arrive in Omaha after beating Iona in the first round and Rhode Island in the second round. Duke is led by ACC Player and Rookie of the Year Marvin Bagley III, who averages 21.2 points and 11.3 rebounds per game. The Blue Devils won, 60-44, when the teams played in Durham on February 24. Bagley III led Duke with 19 points and 7 rebounds, while Battle led the Orange with 12 points and 4 rebounds.

NCAA Tournament First Round: #11 Syracuse vs. #6 TCU

Syracuse Takes Down TCU

dolezaj ncaa
syracuse.com

Syracuse defeated TCU, 57-52, in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Friday night in Detroit.

Tyus Battle and Frank Howard connected on floaters on back-to-back possessions to give the Orange a 54-49 lead with 1:27 left. The Horned Frogs were unable to get any closer as Matthew Moyer and Pashcal Chukwu converted on their free throws to seal the victory for Syracuse.

The Orange took a 27-20 lead on a layup by Marek Dolezaj with 3:55 to play in the opening stanza, but TCU responded with an 8-0 run to take a one point lead into the break.

After a back-and-forth beginning to the second half, Syracuse took the lead for good on a layup by Bourama Sidibe with 11:18 to go.

In a game where the Orange shot just 36.8% from the floor, including just 3-of-14 from three, their defense stymied the Horned Frogs and held them to just 39.6% from the field and 3-of-17 from distance. Syracuse outrebounded TCU, 37-34, and forced the Horned Frogs into 13 turnovers. The Orange valued the ball and turned the ball over only seven times.

Kenrich Williams led TCU with 14 points, on 7-of-15 shooting, and 8 rebounds. Vladimir Brodziansky scored 13 points and grabbed 4 rebounds.

Syracuse was led by Dolezaj who tallied 17 points and corralled 4 rebounds before he fouled out. Oshae  Brissett poured in 15 points on 5-of-17 shooting. Brissett also pulled down 9 rebounds and blocked 3 shots.

oshae ncaa
syracuse.com

Battle and Howard scored 7 points apiece and shot a combined 6-of-23 from the field. Howard recorded 4 rebounds as well.

Chukwu finished with 6 points and 10 rebounds in the win.

Jim Boeheim commented on his team’s performance in his postgame press conference. “I thought that our defense was really good tonight,” Boeheim said. “We just had trouble getting things going on offense. We just decided to go with Oshae. We thought he had an advantage there. He wasn’t having a great game, but it turned out to be the right move. He made three almost impossible shots. But it was our defense. Our defense was tremendous. They’re [TCU] one of the best shooting teams in the country from the three-point line. These guys just played. We did a good job on the boards and didn’t turn the ball over. It was a really good win.”

With the win, the Orange improved to 22-13, while TCU ended their season with a 21-12 record.

Syracuse advanced to take on the 3-seed in the Midwest, Michigan State, on Sunday a 2:40pm. The game can be seen on CBS. The Spartans enter the contest with a 30-4 record. Michigan State is led by All-Big 10 First Team selection Miles Bridges, who is averages 17.3 points and 7 rebounds per game.

NCAA Tournament—First Four: #11 Syracuse vs. #11 Arizona State

Syracuse Escapes Dayton with Win over Arizona State

oshae ncaa
syracuse.com

Syracuse earned a 60-56 victory over Arizona State in Dayton on Wednesday night.

The Orange, who trailed 49-42 with 7:04 left after a three point basket by Kodi Justice, used an 8-0 run capped by an old fashioned three-point play by Oshae Brissett with 4:09 to go to take a 50-49 lead. The Sun Devils took the lead back on the ensuing possession as Justice drained another trey. Brissett tied the game at 52 on a jumper with 2:51 remaining.

Tyus Battle put Syracuse ahead for good when he nailed a triple with 1:52 on the clock. Arizona State climed back within one with 53 ticks left on a jumper by Justice, but Paschal Chukwu answered with a pair of free throws to give the Orange a 57-54 advantage with 39 seconds left. Mickey Mitchell converted a layup with 15 seconds to go to bring the Sun Devils within one yet again and another Chukwu free throw extended Syracuse’s lead back to 58-56 one second later.

Arizona State had a wide open three-pointer for the win in the closing seconds, but Shannon Evans II’s shot would not fall. Frank Howard came away with the rebound and sunk the game clinching free throws to close out the win and send the Orange on their way to the round of 68 in Detroit.

Syracuse jumped out to an early 21-16 lead on a three-pointer by Battle, but the Sun Devils responded with a 7-1 run to take a 23-22 lead. The teams traded buckets the rest of the half and the Orange took a 30-28 lead into halftime.

Arizona State raced out of the gates in the final stanza to take a lead that they would eventually give up in the end.

The game featured five ties and eight lead changes and each team led for 17 minutes of action.

Syracuse shot 40.8% from the field and held their opponents to 40.4% from the floor. The Orange held a 37-34 edge on the glass. Both teams turned the ball over, but Syracuse converted off of the Sun Devils’ mistakes and held a 15-4 advantage in points off turnovers.

If the Orange plan to make a deep run in March, they will need to shoot it better from the charity stripe. Syracuse connected on just 13-of-23 from the foul line. Arizona State shot 3-of-10 from the stripe in their own right.

The Sun Devils were led by Justice who scored 15 points and dished out 5 assists. Evans II poured in 14 points and grabbed 5 rebounds, while Tra Holder stuffed the stat sheet with 11 points, 6 rebounds, and 4 assists. Mitchell chipped in with 10 points off the bench.

The Orange were led by Brissett who recorded the thirteenth double-double of his freshman campaign with 23 points and 12 rebounds. The combo-forward scored 15 of Syracuse’s final 30 points in the game. Brissett’s performance put him in elite company in the program’s history books. His double-double made him the fourth player in the history of the program to do so—Carmelo Anthony, Billy Owens, and Derrick Coleman are the only players to record double-doubles in the NCAA Tournament. Additionally, the only other Syracuse freshman to score 20 or more points in the “Big Dance” are Anthony and Malachi Richardson; both of those teams went to the Final Four.

Battle added 15 points on 6-of-14 shooting.

tyus ncaa
syracuse.com

Howard, who has been fighting a case of strep throat since the Orange finished their ACC Tournament run, scored eight of his 12 points in the first six minutes of the game. He also came away with three steals.

Chukwu contributed with 5 points and 9 rebounds, while Marek Dolezaj finished with 5 points and 5 rebounds.

Jim Boeheim commented on his team’s performance in his postgame interview. “This team has to battle for everything,” Boeheim said. “We’re so challenged offensively, this guy [Brissett] came up big and then we got some stops. When they [Arizona State] had that seven point lead we just really moved the ball and got some great shots and kinda just hung on at the end. This is the way we played all year long. Arizona State is a really good team and they played really well. We’re happy to win.”

Syracuse improved to 21-13 overall, while Arizona State ended its season with a 20-12 record.

The Orange live to see another day and will take on TCU in Detroit on Friday at 9:40pm. The game can be seen on CBS. The Horned Frogs are coached by former Pittsburgh coach, Jamie Dixon, who returned to Fort Worth to coach his alma mater in 2016. TCU is the 6-seed in the Midwest Region. The Horned Frogs enter the contest with a 21-11 record. TCU is led by All-Big 12 Third Team selection Vladimir Brodziansky who is averaging 15.1 points and 5.1 rebounds per game.

2018 NCAA Tournament—Midwest Region Preview

Upsets, Sleepers, Pick to Cut Down the Nets

Midwest
ncaa.com

The NCAA Tournament is upon us. Let’s take a look at the Midwest Region. The one seed in the Midwest, Kansas, will look to cut down the nets in Omaha on their way to the Final Four in San Antonio. However, there are 17 other teams looking to do the same thing. Here’s what to watch for.

Upset Pick: #12 New Mexico State over #5 Clemson

New Mexico State is in the field of 68 for the seventh time in the last nine years. The Aggies have won six consecutive games, including a victory in the WAC Championship game over Grand Canyon. New Mexico State is led by Zach Lofton who is averaging 19.8 points and 5.1 rebounds per game. The Aggies defense will be the difference if they are able to upset Clemson. The Tigers dropped four of five games in conference play against teams ranked in the top 50 nationally in defensive efficiency. New Mexico State ranks fourth nationally and will look to stifle Marcquise Reed in their first round match-up.

Sleeper: North Carolina State Wolfpack

As a nine seed in the Midwest, NC State is my pick to be a sleeper in this region. The Wolfpack have been giant killers all season and have wins over Arizona, Duke, Clemson, and North Carolina. Allerik Freeman leads the team in scoring at 15.4 points per contest. With the resume and the wins they have, NC State will be ready and if they can beat Seton Hall, they will be a tough out for Kansas in the second round.

Pick to Win the Midwest Region: Duke Blue Devils

bagley midwest
herosports.com

I expect chalk to prevail in the Midwest Region until the Elite Eight, where Duke will defeat Kansas and earn a trip to San Antonio for the Final Four. The Blue Devils are the most talented team in the country and enter the NCAA Tournament winners of seven of their last nine games. The key down the stretch for Duke has been their commitment to playing defense. The use of the 2-3 zone has allowed the Blue Devils to hold their opponents to 61.1 points per game over that stretch. Duke will rely on the senior leadership of Grayson Allen, but freshman big men Marvin Bagley III and Wendell Carter Jr. will be the key to the Blue Devils’ success if they can make it to the Final Four at the Alamo Dome.

Now that I’ve made my picks for who will advance to the Final Four, its time to discuss who will cut down the nets.

Prediction:

North Carolina def. Arizona

Villanova def. Duke

Villanova will defeat North Carolina in a rematch of the 2016 National Championship and the Wildcats will be crowned the Kings of College Basketball.

2018 NCAA Tournament—East Region Preview

Upsets, Sleepers, Pick to Cut Down the Nets

east
ncaa.com

The NCAA Tournament is upon us. Let’s take a look at the East Region. The one seed in the East, Villanova, will look to cut down the nets in Boston on their way to the Final Four in San Antonio. However, there are 17 other teams looking to do the same thing. Here’s what to watch for.

Upset Pick: #13 Marshall over #4 Wichita State

Marshall enters the NCAA Tournament winners of their last four games, including Middle Tennessee and Western Kentucky, and champions of C-USA. Dan D’Antoni, brother of Houston Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni, has his team ready to pull off an upset over Wichita State, who, once upon a time, played Cinderella in their own right. The Thundering Herd has two players, Jon Elmore and C.J. Burks, who are averaging more than 20 points per game and average 84.3 total points per game. Wichita State was once one of my picks for the Final Four, but the Shockers enter the “Big Dance” having lost two of their last three games to Cincinnati and Houston—the only other teams in the American Athletic Conference to make the Tournament. Wichita State has not been the defensive team it has been in recent years. The Shockers give up 71.3 points per game. If they cannot stop Elmore and Burks, they will be in trouble in San Diego.

Sleeper: Alabama Crimson Tide

As a nine seed in the East, Alabama is my pick to be a sleeper in this region. Collin Sexton is the type of player that could be this year’s Kemba Walker. Sexton dropped 27 points, including a buzzer beater in their second round win over Texas A&M in the SEC Tournament and 31 points on Auburn in the quarterfinals before the Crimson Tide fell in the semifinals to Kentucky. If Alabama can get past Virginia Tech in the first round, the Crimson Tide, led by Sexton, will present a tough test for Villanova on their path to the Final Four in the second round.

Pick to Win the East Region: Villanova Wildcats

mikal east
Elite Sports NY

I expect chalk to prevail in the East Region and the one seed Villanova to defeat the two seed Purdue in the Elite Eight, allowing them to advance to the Final Four in San Antonio. Villanova has two of the best players in college basketball this season—Jalen Brunson and Mikal Bridges, who combine for 37.4 points per game. Specifically, Bridges is on a tear, and averaging 22.7 points and 5 rebounds per game at Madison Square Garden where he won the Big East Tournament MVP. The supporting cast of Donte DiVincenzo, Phil Booth, Omari Spellman, and Eric Paschall combines for 45 points per contest. Villanova, who ranks first in the nation in offensive efficiency, is my pick to win the East Region.