2018 Postseason All-Americans

2018 First Team All-Americans

With the season behind us, let’s dive in and take a look at the five best players in college basketball this season who earned the right to be called All-Americans.

Jalen Brunson, G, Villanova

Michigan v Villanova
aol.com

Jalen Brunson was the Player of the Year in college basketball, so naturally he is a First Team All-American. The junior guard served as the floor general of the nation’s best team and eventual National Champion, Villanova. Brunson averaged 18.9 points and 4.6 assists per game and shot 52.1% from the floor and 40.8% from three. He posed a tough match-up for opposing defenses as he could shoot the three, take it to the hole, post-up and be a threat in the mid-range. After the Wildcats defeated Michigan in the National Championship game, Brunson decided to forego his senior season and enter the NBA Draft, where he is projected as a late first round or early second round pick. He has etched his name in Villanova lore as he was a starter on two National Championship teams in three years.

Trae Young, G, Oklahoma

trae young
Liberty Ballers

When Trae Young decided to stay home in Norman, Oklahoma and play for the Sooners rather that head off to Kentucky, very few people predicted that he would have the success he did in his only year in college. Young became the first player ever to lead the nation in both scoring and assists. The freshman scored 27.4 points per game and dished out 8.8 assists per game, leading Oklahoma to the NCAA Tournament where they fell in the first round to Rhode Island in overtime. Oklahoma relied on Young’s scoring and play-making. Although his numbers dipped toward the end of the season, he shot 42.2% from the floor and 36% from three. Young’s NBA Draft stock improved more than any other player in the country as he is now projected to be a top-ten pick in the NBA Draft.

Devonte’ Graham, G, Kansas

devonte graham
SI.com

Devonte’ Graham’s decision to return to Lawrence for his senior season was a good one as the guard led his team to the Final Four for the first time since 2012 where they lost to Villanova. Graham led Kansas in scoring with 17.3 points per game on 40% shooting from the floor and 40.6% from beyond the arc. The senior point guard also corralled 4 rebounds and 7.2 assists per contest. After graduation, Graham will likely be chosen in the NBA Draft—he is projected to be an early second round selection.

Marvin Bagley III, F, Duke

marvin
newsday.com

The reclassification of Duke’s Marvin Bagley III was one of the biggest stories in college basketball heading into the 2017-18 season. Bagley III certainly did not disappoint as he led the nation’s most talented team in both scoring and rebounding. He also won ACC Player and Rookie of the Year honors, despite missing four games during conference play due to injury. The freshman averaged 21 points and 11.1 rebounds per game and led the Blue Devils to the Elite Eight where they lost to Kansas. The big man shot 61.4% from the floor and was a beast on the offensive glass. Bagley III will likely be a top five pick in this year’s NBA Draft. If he can improve his shooting from distance and his defense, he has all the ability to be an impact player at the next level.

Deandre Ayton, F, Arizona

deandre ayton
azcentral.com

Arizona’s Deandre Ayton rounds out the 2018 First Team All-American selections. Ayton is a physically imposing big man that shined in his one year in the Desert as he picked up both Pac-12 Rookie and Player of the Year honors. The freshman big man led the Wildcats to the Pac-12 Regular Season and Tournament Championships before getting upset in the first round of the NCAA Tournament by Buffalo as he posted a double-double per contest at 20.1 points and 11.6 rebounds. Ayton shot 61.2% from the floor during his freshman campaign. He is projected to be a top-three pick in this year’s NBA Draft. Scouts will hope that Ayton can develop a jumper and improve his shot blocking ability in order to become an elite NBA player.

Second Team All-American

Keenan Evans, G, Texas Tech

Trevon Bluiett, G, Xavier

Mikal Bridges, F, Villanova

Miles Bridges, F, Michigan State

Keita Bates-Diop, F, Ohio State

2018 NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 Preview—East Region

The Sweet Sixteen

mikal ncaa
Sporting News

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 East Region—TD Garden, Boston, MA, March 23 & 25

The East Region is the chalkiest regional left as the top three seeds, Villanova, Purdue, and Texas Tech, all advanced to the Sweet Sixteen. The 5-seed West Virginia will join them in Boston after they knocked out 13-seed Marshall who upset 4th seeded Wichita State in the first round on Friday. All four teams have a legitimate chance to punch their ticket to the Final Four in San Antonio.

#5 West Virginia vs. #1 Villanova, Friday, 7:27pm., TBS

Aside from their senior leader Jevon Carter, West Virginia struggled mightily shooting the ball during the regular season, but the Mountaineers have dominated the offensive glass so far in the Tournament. Led by Sagaba Konate, West Virginia has pulled down 29 offensive boards over their first two games. The dominance on the glass has allowed the Mountaineers to shoot better than 50% from the floor in the “Big Dance” and put up, on average, 89.5 points per game in the first weekend. Carter versus Jalen Brunson is the best point guard match-up in the Sweet Sixteen. If Carter and West Virginia can speed up Brunson and Villanova and force turnovers and lead to easy transition baskets, the Mountaineers have a chance to pull off an upset and make it to the Elite Eight.

brunson ncaa
Sports News from around the World

Villanova steamrolled Radford and Alabama in the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament. With Virginia out, the Wildcats have emerged as the team to beat. Villanova’s offense seems unstoppable—the Wildcats are shooting 53% from two and 46% from three in their first two games in the Dance. As good as that is, that’s right on par with their shooting numbers during the regular season, only now, the trio of Brunson, Mikal Bridges, and Donte DiVincenzo is shooting a greater volume of threes than they had throughout the first four months of the season. Expect the Wildcats to handle West Virginia’s press and emerge victorious on Friday night.

Villanova 84, West Virginia 78

#3 Texas Tech vs. #2 Purdue, Friday, 9:57pm., TBS

Texas Tech arrives in Boston after taking care of Stephen F. Austin in the first round and surviving a scare from Florida in the second round. The Red Raiders have themselves in the Sweet Sixteen thanks to their defensive performance. Texas Tech held the Lumberjacks and the Gators to 0.93 points per possession in Dallas last weekend, giving them a chance to muster up enough points to win the game. Keenan Evans and Zhaire Smith have emerged as stars of the Tournament thus far. There are pros and cons for the Red Raiders who will be facing Purdue, a team that will likely be without their 7-foot-2” center Isaac Haas. Texas Tech doesn’t have a 7-footer of their own to defend Haas in the post, but if the Boilermakers elect to go small and shoot a barrage of threes, things could get ugly for the Red Raiders.

isaac haas ncaa
WTHR-Isaac Haas trying to shoot with a brace on his broken elbow that was not cleared by the NCAA prior the Purdue’s game with Butler.

Despite losing Haas in their opening round win over Cal State Fulerton, Purdue overcame Butler’s 60% shooting performance from inside the arc to advance to the Sweet Sixteen. Although the engineers on campus in West Lafayette, Indiana have been tasked with trying to design a brace for Haas’ elbow that meets NCAA standards, it is unlikely that the Boilermakers will have their big man this weekend. Purdue will need to rely on Carsen Edwards, Vincent Edwards, Dakota Mathias, and P.J. Thompson to pick up the slack on the offensive end. Matt Maarms (and his perfectly groomed hair) will need to be a factor in limiting Texas Tech’s offensive threats inside the paint. Look for Purdue to get hot from three and advance to the Elite Eight in a close one.

vincent edwards ncaa

 

Purdue 71, Texas Tech 70

Winner of the East Region: Villanova

jay wright
NBC Sports

Unlike the South and the West, the East Region has been immune to upsets so far and I expect that to continue at the TD Garden this weekend. Jay Wright will have his team ready to get back to the Final Four in search of the program’s second National Championship in three years.

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.

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.

Big Ten Tournament Preview

Big Ten Tournament: February 28-March 4, Madison Square Garden, New York, NY

big-ten-logo.jpg
logodesignlove.com

The Big Ten will host their men’s basketball conference tournament in the “Mecca” for the first time in its history. The Tourney will feature four teams destined for a run in the NCAA Tournament and teams fighting to build their resume for an at-large bid or to secure an automatic bid. The first three rounds will be televised on the Big Ten Network, while the semifinals and finals will be viewable on CBS.

NCAA Tournament Locks: Michigan State, Ohio State, Purdue, Michigan

Michigan State, Ohio State, Purdue, and Michigan each have a legitimate chance for bragging rights within the conference as they compete for a postseason conference title.

Michigan State has battled through a brutal end to their season off the court, but rattled off 12 straight victories after losing to Michigan on January 13. First-Team All-Big Ten performer, Miles Bridges, is in the All-American conversation, averaging 16.8 points and 6.9 rebounds per game, and Cassius Winston has been brilliant down the stretch. The sophomore guard is averaging 12.5 points, 6.9 assists, and is shooting 56.5% from three. After clinching the Regular Season Big Ten crown, the Spartans will look to follow that up with another trophy in Garden and a one-way ticket to a one seed in the NCAA Tournament. The Spartans will open Friday at noon against the winner of nine seed Wisconsin and the eight seed Maryland.

Ohio State is one of the best surprises in college basketball, let alone the Big Ten, this season. The Buckeyes are the two seed in this year’s conference tournament and are poised to make a run in New York and in the “Big Dance.” Led by Big Ten Coach of the Year, Chris Holtmann, and Big Ten Player of the Year and potential All-American, Keita Bates-Diop (averaging 19.2 points and 8.9 rebounds per game), Ohio State has already beaten both Michigan State and Purdue as part of their 15-3 mark in conference. A Big Ten Tournament title would be a nice addition to the trophy case. The Buckeyes will open Friday at 6:30pm against the winner of seven seed Penn State and ten seed Northwestern.

keita
The Pantagraph

Purdue was perfect in conference play before they lost three straight to Ohio State, Michigan State, and Wisconsin. As the three seed, the Boilermakers will look to make their case for a one seed in the NCAA Tournament with a strong showing at MSG. The balanced attack, led by First-Team All-Big Ten performer Carsen Edwards (averaging 18.2 points per game), will have a chance for revenge against both the Buckeyes and the Spartans in the semifinals and the finals if chalk holds in hopes of attaining the title of Big Ten Champion. Purdue will open at 9pm on Friday against the winner of #14 Rutgers/#11 Minnesota vs. the six seed Indiana.

Michigan is my sleeper pick in both the Big Ten Tournament and the NCAA Tournament. The Wolverines will look to defend their conference tournament title. Michigan is the five seed and will have to play an extra game in the “Big Apple” as Nebraska controlled the tie breaker to claim the four seed. The Wolverines are riding a five game win streak into the Big Ten Tournament. Michigan is outscoring its opponents 77.6-63.4 over that stretch. Look for Mo Wagner and Muhammad-Ali Addur-Rahkman, who combine to average 26.7 points per game, to lead the Wolverines to back-to-back Big Ten Tournament Championships. Michigan will open at 2:30pm on Thursday against the winner of twelve seed Iowa and thirteen seed Illinois.

mo wagner
WOODtv.com

On the Bubble: Nebraska, Penn State

Nebraska is 13-5 in conference play. Normally, that record in a major conference means your ticket to the NCAA Tournament is already punched prior to your conference tournament, but a weak nonconference schedule, combined with a lackluster bottom of the Big Ten this year has Nebraska on the outside of the bubble looking in. The Cornhuskers will likely need two wins at the Garden to feel good about their chances at an at-large bid. If chalk holds, wins over Michigan and Michigan State would put them in a good position. Although Nebraska’s highlights have mainly come from the reactions of their bench, the Cornhuskers are led by First-Team All-Big Ten performer, James Palmer Jr.—the junior guard averaging 17.4 points and 4.4 rebounds per game. With the Big Ten Tournament a week earlier than the rest of the major conference tournaments, an early exit could mean for a long, anxious week for Nebraska. The Cornhuskers will open Friday at 2:30pm against the winner of #13 Illinois/#12 Iowa vs. the five seed Michigan.

palmer jr
Lincoln Journal Star

Penn State is further off the bubble than Nebraska is. At 19-12 overall, 9-9 in conference play, the Nittany Lions will likely need to cut down the nets in NYC to get to the Dance. Penn State is the seven seed after losing the tie-breaker for the six seed to Indiana. The Nittany Lions are led by First-Team All-Big Ten performer Tony Carr, who is averaging 19.9 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 4.8 assists per game. The journey to the automatic bid begins Thursday at 6:30pm against the ten seed Northwestern.

Here’s a look at the 2018 Big Ten Tournament Bracket:

big ten
Big Ten Network

Prediction:

Semis: Michigan def. Michigan State, Purdue def. Ohio State

Final: Michigan defeats Purdue in the title game.

All-Tournament Team:

Mo Wagner, Michigan (Tournament MVP)

Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, Michigan

Carsen Edwards, Purdue

Keita Bates-Diop, Ohio State

Miles Bridges, Michigan State

Weekly Round-Up (2/24)

Winners, Losers, and What to Watch

Here’s a look at this week’s winners and losers and Saturday’s premier match-up.

Winner: Michigan Wolverines

mo wagner
SI.com

The Michigan Wolverines (23-7, 12-5 Big Ten) are winners of four consecutive games. Most recently, Michigan defeated their arch rival, #8 Ohio State, 74-62 and held the Buckeyes best player and potential All-American forward Keita Bates-Diop to 5-of-17 shooting. The Wolverines followed that up with a win at Penn State, 72-63. Mo Wagner is leading Michigan in both scoring and rebounding, averaging 14.6 points and 7.3 rebounds per game. The Wolverines are ranked 17th in the nation and are in fourth place in the Big Ten. Due to the earlier than normal conference tournament, Michigan wraps up their regular season when they travel to College Park, MD to take on the Terps at noon on Saturday. A win at Maryland combined with a strong showing at Madison Square Garden in the Big Ten Tournament could land the Wolverines amongst the top four seed lines come March. A four seed could allow Michigan to play in Detroit during the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament—setting them up for a deep run in the “Big Dance.”

Loser: Florida Gators

The Florida Gators (17-11, 8-7 SEC) were a top ten team at this season’s inception, but has slid out of the top 25 and onto the bubble. Florida has now lost three straight games, including bad losses to Georgia and Vanderbilt before falling 62-57 to #19 Tennessee on the road. The road does not get any easier for the Gators as their final three games of the regular season feature games against teams that should be headed toward the NCAA Tournament: Saturday at 8:30pm home versus #12 Auburn, at Alabama, and home against Kentucky. If Florida continues their recent slide into the SEC Tournament, the Gators could be on the outside looking in come March. With four players averaging double figures in scoring, (Jalen Hudson, Egor Koulechov, Chris Chiozza, and KeVaughn Allen) Florida has a balanced offensive attack and, has held opponent to 69.9 points per game, defensively. I still think that Florida is a tournament team, but they will need to prove they are worthy of a bid down the stretch.

Premier Match-Up: #8 Kansas at #6 Texas Tech (4:15pm ESPN)

evans
collegebasketball.nbcsports.com

Kansas and Texas Tech enter Saturday’s showdown with an eye on the Big 12 title. The Jayhawks hold a one game lead in the standings, but the Red Raiders won the first meeting between the two teams. Texas Tech will look to tie the standings with a win to give them the chance to snag the program’s first conference regular season title since it won the Southwest Conference title in 1996. If the Red Raiders were to do so outright, they would prevent Kansas from winning their 14th consecutive Big 12 Regular Season Championship. Texas Tech will need a big performance from Keenan Evans, who was playing at an All-American level prior to suffering a toe injury in last Saturday’s loss to Baylor. Evans was just 1-of-7 from the field for just 2 points in Wednesday’s loss to Oklahoma State. Texas Tech will look to protect home court and go a perfect 17-0 at home with a win on Saturday.

devonte graham
wibw.com

Kansas enters the contest winners of their last three games over Iowa State, #20 West Virginia, and, most recently, a 104-74 drubbing of Trae Young and Oklahoma on Monday. A Jayhawks win over the Red Raiders would clinch at least a share of the Big 12 Regular Season crown for the 14th straight season—which would give them the record for most consecutive conference championships. They are currently tied with UCLA (1967-1979). Senior guard Devonte’ Graham is making his push into the conversation for National Player of the Year honors as he is averaging 17.6 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 7.2 assists per game. Kansas will look to continue their impressive play late, add another Big 12 title, and make their case for a tenth straight season as a one or two seed in the NCAA Tournament. Look for history to repeat itself and for Kansas to win both the game and the conference championship.

Kansas 70, Texas Tech 63

Weekly Round-Up (2/17)

Winners, Losers, and What to Watch

Here’s a look at this week’s winners and losers and Saturday’s premier match-up.

Winner: Michigan State Spartans

jaren jackson jr
theathletic.com

Michigan State (25-3, 13-2) has now won nine consecutive games after defeating #3 Purdue last Saturday at home on a three-pointer in the closing second by Miles Bridges and drubbing Minnesota by 30 on Tuesday thanks to 27 points, 6 rebounds, and 3 blocks from Jaren Jackson Jr. The Spartans climbed to #2 in the country and are tied for first place in the Big Ten with Ohio State. With a lower strength of schedule than the rest of the top teams in the country, Michigan State has kept themselves in the conversation by simply winning games and avoiding bad losses. The Spartans close out the regular season with games at Northwestern on Saturday at 2, home against Illinois, and at Wisconsin. A strong showing at Madison Square Garden in the Big Ten Tournament could land Michigan State a one seed. With a week off to prepare between the end of their conference tournament and the NCAA Tournament, the Spartans will be primed and ready for a deep run in March. Look for Michigan State to be motivated by the disrespect the selection committee demonstrated when they seeded them as a 3-seed in their bracket reveal last week.

Loser: Oklahoma Sooners

Oklahoma has now lost four games in a row (and seven of their last nine) and is proving that the selection committee’s choice to seed them as a 4-seed in the bracket reveal last week was an absolute joke. Trae Young has tried to keep his team afloat all season, but has fallen short recently. Despite the fact that Young is averaging 29.1 points and 9.3 assists per game, his percentages have slipped a bit recently. Specifically, Young has misfired on 18 of his last 19 attempts from three-point land. Aside from Young, Oklahoma only has two other double figure scorers in Christian James and Brady Manek. Oklahoma is in desperate need of a big game from Young or contributions from some of their supporting cast to get back in the win column. The Sooners (16-9, 6-7) have slid to #23 nationally and fifth place in the Big 12. Oklahoma will look to avenge an earlier loss to Texas when they take on Mohamed Bamba and the Longhorns at noon on Saturday. Although Young is still the leading candidate to win the National Player of the Year, I am skeptical of the Sooners’ reliance on him to take them far in March.

Premier Match-Up: #3 Villanova at #4 Xavier (4:30pm FOX)

jalen brunson
NBC Sports

Saturday’s premier match-up features a rematch between #3 Villanova (23-3, 10-3) and #4 Xavier (24-3, 12-2) in Cincinnati. The winner would all but win the Big East regular season championship. The Wildcats trounced the Musketeers in Philadelphia on January 10 when Phil Booth, who has been sidelined with a broken hand since late last month, led all scorers with 21 points. Villanova, who relies heavily on three pointers, struggled in their loss to Providence as they made just 3-of-20 of their attempts from deep. The Wildcats have lost two of their last three outings and will look to bounce back with a big win against Xavier. Villanova averages 11.3 successful three-point tries per game and their dreadful performance against the Friars snapped an 83 game streak where they connected on 4 or more shots from behind the arc. In light of their recent struggles, Jalen Brunson and Mikal Bridges have been spectacular this season as they are averaging 19.8 and 16.5 points, respectively. Prior to breaking his hand, Booth was third on the team in scoring at 11.6 points per game. Donte DiVincenzo has stepped into a starting role and is now averaging 14 points per contest. The other two starters, Omari Spellman and Eric Paschall are also averaging double figures. With Booth out, there is little bench production for Villanova. The Wildcats will have to rely heavily on their stars to leave the Cintas Center victorious.

trevon bluiett
UPI.com

Xavier enters Saturday as winners of their last nine games since losing to Villanova and have won those games by an average margin of 87-78. Most recently, the Musketeers went off for offensive explosion in their 102-90 victory over Seton Hall in which Trevon Bluiett lit it up for 37 points on only 12 shots. Bluiett, J.P. Macura, and Kerem Kanter have led Xavier to the top of the conference. Xavier ranks 9th nationally in points per game, but 239th in points allowed, while Villanova is 3rd and 133rd in those same categories. The Musketeers will look to make their case for a one seed by defending their home court against the Wildcats. Xavier is a perfect 16-0 at home this season. Expect Xavier to hold serve and take care of business at home in a fast, up-and-down, offensive game.

Xavier 86, Villanova 84

Weekly Round-Up (2/10)

Winners, Losers, and What to Watch

Here’s a look at this week’s winners and losers and Saturday’s premier match-up.

Winner: St. John’s Red Storm

ponds

 

If St. John’s had a chance to make the NCAA Tournament this year, their performance this past week would go a long way in sealing their bid. Congratulations to the Red Storm for defeating #4 Duke and #1 Villanova over the course of the last week. Last place St. John’s, losers of their last eleven games before their win over Duke, will likely only make the “Big Dance” if they win the Big East Tournament. Sophomore Shamorie Ponds finished with 33 points and 7 rebounds against the Blue Devils and followed that up with 26 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists in the upset of the top-ranked Wildcats. The Red Storm will look to build a three-game win streak when they host Marquette on Saturday at noon.

Loser: Kentucky Wildcats

Just when Kentucky fans thought their team was growing up, the young Wildcats proved to be even more unpredictable that most thought. Kentucky lost at Missouri last Saturday and home to Tennessee on Tuesday for the first time since 2006. After averaging 81.3 points per game over the course of their three game win streak, Kentucky averaged just 60 points per game in their last two losses. The Wildcats’ leading scorer, Kevin Knox, averaged only 7.5 points per game in the two losses this past week. If Kentucky hopes to make a deep run in March, Knox will need to step it up. The Wildcats will travel to College Station, TX to take on Texas A&M on Saturday at 8:15pm.

Premier Match-Up: #3 Purdue at #4 Michigan State (4pm ESPN)

Purdue v Indiana
sports.cbslocal.com

Saturday’s premier match-up features a Big Ten battle between two of the nation’s top five teams. Purdue enters the game coming off a heartbreaking loss to #14 Ohio State on Wednesday—this snapped their program-record 19 game win streak. The Boilermakers were leading 63-62 until an offensive rebound put-back by Keita Bates-Diop with 3 seconds to go powered the Buckeyes past Purdue. The Boilermakers will look to rebound from Wednesday’s loss with a big win over Michigan State on the road. Purdue is the only team in the top five in both offensive and defensive efficiency in the country and have four players (Carsen Edwards, Vincent Edwards, Isaac Haas, and Dakota Mathias) averaging double figures in scoring this season. Purdue will face their toughest test to date on the road in the Breslin Center versus the Michigan State Spartans.

miles bridges weekly
Detroit Free Press

The Michigan State community has been under fire in the wake of the Larry Nassar trial, but the basketball team has given the school something to smile about recently. Michigan State is on a seven-game win streak and, most recently, defeated Iowa 96-93 on Tuesday. With all five starters (Miles Bridges, Nick Ward, Joshua Langford, Cassius Winston, and Jaren Jackson Jr.) averaging double figures in scoring, the Spartans have a chance to tie the Boilermakers in the Big Ten standings and pick up a win that would give them an edge to claim a one seed in March. If Michigan State is able to keep turnovers to a minimum, they will have a chance to beat Purdue. Purdue will be prepared for Michigan State and eager to avenge Wednesday’s loss. I expect the Boilermakers’ defense to be the difference in a close game.

Purdue 72, Michigan State 70

Weekly Round-Up (1/20)

Winners, Losers, and What to Watch

Let’s take a look at the winners and losers this week and what to watch for on Saturday.

Winner: Purdue Boilermakers

haas
Purdue Exponent

The Purdue Boilermakers are on a 14 game win streak—climbing to #3 in the country. Purdue is coming off back-to-back blowout wins where they defeated Minnesota 81-47 on the road and Wisconsin at home by a score of 78-50. At 18-2 overall and 7-0 in Big Ten play, the Boilermakers are an early favorite to win the Big Ten and have a chance at a one seed in March. Purdue has a balanced offensive attack with four players averaging double figures led by Carsen Edwards averaging 17 points, 4 rebounds, and 2.9 assists per game. Vincent Edwards is averaging 14.7 points, 8.1 rebounds, and 2.8 assists per game. Isaac Haas is averaging 14.2 points and 5.4 rebounds per game. Dakota Mathias is averaging 12.7 points, 4 rebounds, and 4.6 points per game. With all these options and their ability to pass and shoot threes, the Boilermakers are a tough out for most. Purdue puts their undefeated record on the line when they take on Iowa on the road on Saturday.

Loser: West Virginia Mountaineers

The West Virginia Mountaineers lost back-to-back games to top 10 opponents in conference this week to fall to 15-3 overall and 4-2 in conference. The Mountaineers lost at #8 Texas Tech, 72-71, and suffered a 71-66 loss to Kansas at home. West Virginia is one of the best defensive teams in the nation, but they have struggled offensively down the stretch in their last two games. Poor shot selection in the final minutes has crippled the Mountaineers in their last two games. Moving forward, and they will need to rectify this problem if they hope to put an end to their losing streak. Jevon Carter is lucky to have Esa Ahmad back from suspension as a secondary scoring threat. West Virginia will look to get back to their winning ways when they host Texas on Saturday.

Saturday’s Premier Match-Up: #11 Xavier at #19 Seton Hall (2:30 FOX)

delgado
New York Post

The only game between ranked teams this weekend features the Xavier Musketeers and the Seton Hall Pirates. Xavier enters the game coming off an 88-82 victory at home over St. John’s, while Seton Hall is fresh off a loss at Creighton where they were blown out, 80-63, by the Blue Jays. The Musketeers, led by Trevon Bluiett’s 19.4 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 2.7 assists per game, have struggled on the road in conference play, losing to Providence and #1 Villanova. Seton Hall, led by Desi Rodriguez’s 17.5 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 2.1 assists per game, are undefeated at home so far this season. Look for Angel Delgado (averaging a double-double) to be a force in the paint and for the Pirate to remain perfect at home.

Prediction: Seton Hall 79, Xavier 74

Weekly Round-Up (1/13)

Trending Up, Down, and What to Watch

Let’s take a look at teams that are trending up and trending down based on their performances this week and what to watch for on Saturday.

Trending Up: Ohio State Buckeyes

keita
waitingfornextyear.com

After a tough non-conference slate where Ohio State lost four games, the Buckeyes are off to a 5-0 start in Big Ten play. This past week was their best one yet. Ohio State trounced then #1 Michigan State 80-64 and followed that up with a 91-69 blowout win against Maryland. Keita Bates-Diop is averaging 29 points and 7.5 rebounds over the last two games for the Buckeyes. Bates-Diop is averaging 20.3 points and 8.8 rebounds on the season and is a leading candidate for Big Ten Player of the Year. The junior forward was left off the midseason Wooden Award Watch List, which is an egregious mistake. Bates-Diop is a legitimate contender to be a First Team All-American and is leading his team back to the top of the Big Ten and onto the good side of the bubble. Ohio State will look to continue their winning ways when they take on Rutgers on the road on Sunday at 7pm.

Trending Down: Arizona State Sun Devils

Arizona State is coming back down to Earth after starting the season 12-0. The Sun Devils are off to a 1-3 start in Pac-12 play, including losses on the road to in-state rival Arizona and Colorado, and most recently a loss to Oregon at home. Once in the discussion for a one seed, Arizona State has fallen from grace and has not played well in a weak Pac-12. Despite the three recent losses, Tra Holder has continued to impress offensively as he is averaging 20.9 points, 4.9 rebounds, and 4 assists per game. The Sun Devils defense has failed them in their losses. The Sun Devils are giving up an averaging of 83 points per game in the games they have lost. Arizona State will look to get back on track when they host Oregon State on Saturday at 6pm.

What to Watch

esa

Saturday’s premier matchup features two Big 12 teams ranked in the top ten. The second ranked West Virginia Mountaineers travel to Lubbock to take on the eighth ranked Texas Tech Red Raiders. West Virginia enters the game undefeated in Big 12 play while Texas Tech is coming off their first loss in conference play to #9 Oklahoma. The Mountaineers will look to bother Texas Tech with the full court press, but the Red Raiders have the 6th lowest turnover rate in the country. If Texas Tech can handle West Virginia’s press, they will have a chance to win. The Mountaineers will have Esa Ahmad back for this game. This is the first time Ahmad will play this season as he was suspended for undisclosed reasons. Last year, Ahmad was the team’s second-leading scorer. Look for West Virginia to take care of business on the road. The game is at 2pm and can be seen on ESPN.

Prediction: West Virginia 77, Texas Tech 71