NCAA Tournament Recap

2018-19 NCAA Tournament in Review

villanova
beIN SPORTS

If you’re like me, you’re probably feeling a little empty not having any college basketball to look forward to this weekend. Let’s take a step back to remember the 2018 NCAA Tournament.

This year’s “Big Dance” featured an upset for the ages, a Cinderella run that made a nun an international sensation, buzzer beaters, the agony of defeat and, most importantly, the best team won it all.

The National Champs: Villanova

Michigan v Villanova
The Denver Post

Jay Wright did it. Two National Championships in three years. Villanova has become the program to beat in college basketball. The Wildcats dominated in March as they won all of their games in the NCAA Tournament by double-digits. Wright joined an exclusive club by cutting down the nets for the second time in his career as he joined Coach K and Roy Williams as the only active coaches to win multiple championships. National Player of the Year Jalen Brunson and Mikal Bridges will likely forego their senior seasons and enter the NBA Draft, but Coach Wright will bring back three starters, Phil Booth, Eric Paschall, and Omari Spellman, and Donte DiVincenzo, who came off the bench and scored 31 points in the title game on Monday. The Wildcats have been the most dominant program over the last five years and with Wright at the helm, there is a culture of winning in Philadelphia. Villanova will be back next year to defend their title and create a dynasty.

The Runners-Up: Michigan

michigan
ClickOnDetroit

Michigan was the hottest team in the country entering the NCAA Tournament and rode their streak all the way to Championship Monday where they ran into the buzz saw that was Villanova. Mo Wagner’s decision to return to Ann Arbor paid dividends as he led his squad back to the National Championship game for the first time since 2013. John Beilein had the best defensive squad of his career that gave opponents fits throughout the month of March. The run to San Antonio almost didn’t happen as the Wolverines needed a buzzer beater by freshman Jordan Poole to get past Houston in the second round and led to one of the best celebrations of the Tournament. Wagner and seniors Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman and Duncan Robinson will depart, but Michigan will be back with a talented recruiting class next season.

The Surprises: UMBC, Kansas State, Buffalo, Loyola-Chicago, Nevada, Florida State, Texas A&M, Marshall, Syracuse

UMBC Shocks the World—Upsets Virginia

umbc
WTOP.com

We witnessed history in the 2018 NCAA Tournament. For the first time in history, a 16-seed upset a 1-seed in the first round. Many had hinted at the fact that an Ivy League school, Penn, presented the best chance for a 16-seed to take down a 1-seed in their match-up with Kansas. When that didn’t happen on the first Thursday of the Tournament, many thought we would have to wait at a chance for history until next year. Enter Jairius Lyles and the UMBC Retrievers. In the final set of first round contests, UMBC took the world by storm—both on the court and on Twitter. The Retrievers stayed with Virginia and did not back down when the game was tied at 21 at halftime. UMBC outscored the #1 overall seeed 53-33 in the second half, busting pretty much every bracket filled out this year as the Cavaliers were a favorite to win it all. The three point shooting and defense by the Retrievers sent Kyle Guy and the rest of the Virginia team home crying as the first #1 to lose to a 16-seed in NCAA Tournament history. Tony Bennett was without a key piece, De’Andre Hunter, that Friday night in Charlotte. Maybe this would not have happened with him in the lineup, but Bennett will have to wait another year for a chance at the Final Four.

K-State to the Elite Eight

k state
K-State Athletics

Kansas State got past Creighton in the first round and instead of having to face Virginia, they were up against Cinderella UMBC in the second round. The Wildcats dispatched the Retrievers and then took down Kentucky in Atlanta to make the Elite Eight for the first time since 2018. More impressively, Kansas State made their run without the services of their leading scorer, Dean Wade, who suffered a foot injury in the Big 12 Tournament. Although they were unable to get past Loyola-Chicago and make the Final Four, the Wildcats may have saved Bruce Weber’s job.

Buffalo Beats Zona

ub
Hartford Courant

Buffalo knocked out Arizona in the first round. The Wildcats were a favorite to make a run to the Final Four, but an impressive shooting performance and stout defense by the Bulls made for an early exit for Sean Miller’s team. With the outcome of the FBI investigation still unknown, the future of Arizona basketball is uncertain as they will lose Deandre Ayton, Allonzo Trier, and Rawle Alkins to the NBA and Parker Jackson-Cartwright and Dusan Ristic to graduation.

Sister Jean and Loyola-Chicago

sister jean
Uproxx.com

Loyola-Chicago became the fourth 11-seed to make the Final Four and in doing so, their Team Chaplain Sister Jean became an international sensation at 98 years young. Donte Ingram’s buzzer beater to beat Miami was one of the highlights of the first round, but the Ramblers proved they weren’t done yet. They took down the 3-seeed Tennessee on a jumper in the waning seconds by Clayton Custer. Marques Townes’ dagger was enough to beat Nevada and advance to the Elite Eight where they blew out Kansas State. Their run came to an end with a loss to Michigan in the Final Four, but the Missouri Valley Champs took the world by storm in the month of March.

Nevada’s Comeback

nevada
The Undefeated

Nevada led for only 1:56 of its first two games of the NCAA Tournament, but managed to make the Sweet Sixteen. The Wolfpack trailed Texas by 14 points in the second half, but came back to win in overtime to advance to the Round of 32. There, Nevada erased a 22 point Cincinnati lead and came back to eliminate the second seeded Bearcats from the “Big Dance.” The Wolfpack lost to Loyola-Chicago in the Sweet Sixteen, but they will return most of their core from this year’s team and could be a top ten team next season.

Florida State to the Elite Eight

fsu
Zimbio

Many were saying that Florida State was the worst at-large team to receive an NCAA Tournament bid this year. The Seminoles proved the haters wrong and took down Missouri in the first round before they pulled off one of the biggest upsets in the Tournament, knocking off top-seeded Xavier in the second round to advance to the Sweet Sixteen. Florida State’s run would not end there, as they took down a Gonzaga team without Killian Tillie. The Seminoles ended their season just short of the Final Four as they fell 58-54 to Michigan. If nothing else, they proved they belonged.

Texas A&M Takes Down the Tar Heels

texas am
The Portland Press Herald

In a season filled with ups and downs, Texas A&M’s NCAA Tournament run proved to be just that. The Aggies battled through injuries and suspensions to earn a 7-seed in the “Big Dance,” but drew the 10-seed Providence, who was one of the hottest teams entering the Tournament. Texas A&M ended the Friars’ season and went on to the Round of 32 where they pummeled North Carolina. In a poetic end to their tumultuous season, the Aggies were crushed by Michigan in the Sweet Sixteen. With Tyler Davis and Robert Williams both declaring for the NBA Draft, it will be interesting to see what the future looks like in College Station.

Marshall Shocks Wichita State

marshall
Uproxx

In a year where there were no 12-5 upsets, the 13-seeds stole the show. Buffalo beat Arizona and Marshall knocked off Wichita State. Jon Elmore’s sharp-shooting led the Thundering Herd past the Shockers and into the second round where they were ousted by in-state rival West Virginia, but an upset win in the first round of the NCAA Tournament is definitely something that Marshall, who finished fourth in Conference USA, should be proud of.

The 2-3 Zone Did it Again

cuse
SportSpyder

Syracuse snuck into the NCAA Tournament as the last team to make the field, but the Orange were not satisfied with only receiving a bid. Jim Boeheim’s patented 2-3 zone puzzled opponents as Syracuse defeated Arizona State, TCU, and Michigan State, three teams averaging over 80 points a game to less than 60 on their way to the Sweet Sixteen. Their run was cut short as they fell 69-65 to Duke, but the NCAA Tournament run put a positive ending on a season where the Orange remained on the Bubble to the very end. If leading scorer Tyus Battle and Oshae Brissett return, Syracuse could be poised to make another run in next year’s Tournament. Darius Bazley’s decision to decommit from the Orange and enter the G-League was unfortunate and leaves the team’s status for next season more uncertain, but Jalen Carey, Buddy Boeheim, and East Carolina-transfer Elijah Hughes will provide more depth at he guard position for next year’s team.

Game of the Tournament: Duke vs. Kansas—Elite Eight

kansas duke
Kansas guard Malik Newman drew a block on Duke’s Wendell Carter Jr. in overtime–a pivotal turning point in the game that the Jayhawks won to advance to the Final Four. The Japan Times.

The line in “One Shining Moment”—In the blinking of an eye that moment’s gone, couldn’t be more of a reality for the Duke Blue Devils as Grayson Allen’s potential game-winning rolled off the rim and out at the end of regulation. Kansas’ Malik Newman scored all 13 of the Jayhawks’ points in the overtime period to punch their ticket to San Antonio where they lost to eventual champion Villanova in the Final Four. Both Duke and Kansas will be title favorites heading into next season. Coach K and the Blue Devils have adopted the one-and-done strategy. The 2018-19 roster will look completely different for Duke. All five are their starters from this season’s team will be first round draft picks. Duke has the top recruiting class in the country next season as they welcome four of the top fifteen recruits in the country, including all of the top three recruits, R.J. Barrett, Zion Williamson, and Cam Reddish, to Durham next fall. Tre Jones, the 12th ranked recruit and younger brother of 2015 Final four Most Outstanding Player, Tyus Jones, who also played at Duke, will also join the squad. Kansas is the way-too-early preseason #1 with Udoka Azubuike and Lagerald Vick returning. The Jayhawks have a pair of five-star guards coming to Lawrence in the fall: Devon Dotson and Quentin Grimes. Bill Self will also add Memphis-transfers K.J. Lawson and Dedric Lawson and Cal-transfer Charlie Moore, all of which will be eligible to play next season.

Duke v Kansas
Grayson Allen’s career ended with an Elite Eight loss to Kansas where he missed a potential game-winner at the end of regulation. Dirtfork.

The Road Begins Now

final four logo
ncaa.com

The 2017-18 season has come and gone and it was surely a wild one. Congratulations to the Villanova Wildcats who reign superior this year. The Road to the 2019 Final Four in Minneapolis begins now.

The Final Four

The Road Ends Here

Four teams have arrived in San Antonio—all with hopes of winning the National Championship. Find out who will advance to Monday night and who will win it all.

#11 Loyola-Chicago vs. #3 Michigan, Saturday, 6:09pm., TBS

Loyola-Chicago of the Missouri Valley Conference has taken the world by storm and is the fourth 11-seed in the history of the NCAA Tournament to make the Final Four. With wins over Miami, Tennessee, Nevada, and Kansas State, the Ramblers have proven that although they are small in stature, they can play with anybody in the country. Defensively, Loyola-Chicago has trumped their opponents—limiting them to 63.5 points per game in the Tournament. Four players, Clayton Custer, Aundre Jackson, Marques Townes, and Ben Richardson, have each led Loyola-Chicago in scoring over their four games in the “Big Dance.” Sister Jean is in San Antonio and the Ramblers want nothing more than to cut down the nets on Monday night.

clayton custer
The Des Moines Register

Entering the NCAA Tournament, Michigan was one of the hottest teams in the country. The Wolverines have won 13 consecutive games, including wins over Montana, Houston, Texas A&M, and Florida State. The best seed Michigan has faced in the Tournament was 6-seeded Houston, who they needed a buzzer beater to get past. The Wolverines have a top five defensive team and have proven to be stout throughout their run to the Final Four. Michigan has held their opponents to 59 points per contest over the past two weeks. Mo Wagner, Charles Matthews, and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman will look to lead the Wolverines to their first National Championship game appearance since 2013.

Loyola-Chicago 69, Michigan 66

#1 Kansas vs. #1 Villanova, Saturday, 8:49pm., TBS

Kansas has powered past Penn, Seton Hall, Clemson, and Duke through the use of the three point shot. Mississippi State-transfer, Malik Newman, has stepped up in March, providing a third scoring option in addition to the veteran guards Devonte’ Graham and Svi Mykhailiuk. Lagerald Vick can also shoot the three. With a healthy Udoka Azubuike, the Jayhawks have been unstoppable on offense in the NCAA Tournament. Kansas is averaging 81 points per game over their first four contests in the NCAA Tournament. The Jayhawks are a formidable foe that will look to beat Villanova with a taste of their own medicine Saturday night.

Villanova has been one of the favorites to win it all since the field of 68 was announced on Selection Sunday. The Wildcats arrive in San Antonio with wins over Radford, Alabama, West Virginia, and have made it to the Final Four despite a poor shooting performance from behind the arc in their win over Texas Tech in the Elite Eight. Villanova has averaged 82.3 points per game in the “Big Dance.” The Wildcats have a balanced attack that can do it all on the offensive end. All five starters are strong shooters from distance and have the ability to drive it to the hoop. Look for AP National Player of the Year Jalen Brunson and Mikal Bridges to lead Villanova to the title game.

jalen b poy
si.com

Villanova 84, Kansas 82

National Champion: Villanova Wildcats

mikal bridges
Newsday

Jay Wright has created a culture of winning at Villanova. The Wildcats are the most dominant program in the last five years, winning 88.4% of their games over that span. Look for Villanova to be on top of the college basketball world again and win their second National Championship in three years.

NCAA Tournament Regional Semifinal-Syracuse vs. Duke

Syracuse’s Season Ends with Sweet Sixteen Loss to Duke

tyus duke
syracuse.com

Syracuse’s 2017-18 came to an end with a 69-65 defeat at the hands of the Duke Blue Devils in the Midwest Regional semifinal in Omaha, NE Friday night.

Grayson Allen made a jumper with 4:16 left to open up a 62-53 lead for the Blue Devils. The Orange responded with a 7-1 run to trim Duke’s lead to 63-60 with 1:27 to go on a jumper by Oshae Brissett. Syracuse cut the lead to 67-65 on a free throw by Tyus Battle with 7 seconds remaining. Two free throws by Gary Trent Jr. iced the game for the Blue Devils.

The Orange took a 27-24 lead with 5:20 left in the opening stanza on a free throw by Frank Howard, but Duke closed the half on a 10-0 run and took a 34-27 advantage into the break.

Syracuse had their best shooting performance of the NCAA Tournament as they shot 49% from the field. The Orange held the Blue Devils to 39.3% shooting. The greatest disparity was at the free throw line. Duke converted 20-of-28 attempts from the charity stripe compared to just 11-of-17 for Syracuse. The Orange turned the ball over 16 times, which led to Duke’s 18-8 advantage in points off turnovers. Syracuse outrebounded the Blue Devils, 37-33.

Duke was led by Marvin Bagley III’s 22 points and 7 rebounds. Allen scored 15 points, on 4-of-15 shooting, and dished out 8 assists. Trent Jr. scored 14 points, on 5-of-13 from the floor, and grabbed 5 rebounds. Wendell Carter Jr. posted a double-double with 14 points and 12 rebounds.

The Orange were led by Battle who poured in 19 points, on 7-of-15 from the field, and distributed 5 assists. Brissett tallied 15 points, on 5-of-15 shooting, and corralled 7 rebounds. Marek Dolezaj added 13 points and 4 rebounds. Paschal Chukwu finished with 8 points and 7 rebounds.

oshae duke
syracuse.com

Howard struggled from the field, shooting just 1-for-6, and contributed with 6 points, 8 rebounds, and 5 assists.

Jim Boeheim commented on his team’s performance and reflected on the season and Syracuse’s NCAA Tournament run in his postgame press conference. “We knew we had our work cut out for us,” Boeheim said. “We started out playing as well offensively as we have in a long time. We had a little dead spot at the end of the first half that we just couldn’t quite come back from. These guys have had an incredible end of the year. I’ve never been any more proud of a team.”

The Orange finished their 2017-18 campaign with a record of 23-14, while Duke moved on to the Elite Eight where they fell to the 1-seed Kansas 85-81 in overtime on Sunday.

Syracuse exceeded expectations this year. If Battle and Brissett come back, the Orange could have a preseason top 10 team with a top recruiting class coming in. So far, the only player that will not return to the roster is Matthew Moyer. Syracuse will have Darius Bazley, Jalen Carey, Buddy Boeheim, and East Carolina transfer Elijah Hughes. The bar will be set much higher in 2018-19.

2018 NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 Preview—Midwest Region

The Sweet Sixteen

bagley iii ncaa
Duke Basketball Report

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 Midwest Region—CenturyLink Center Omaha, Omaha, NE, March 23 & 25

The Midwest Region has its top two seeds, Kansas and Duke, still alive. The 5-seed Clemson and the 11-seed Syracuse will join them in Omaha after they knocked off the 4-seed Auburn and the 3-seed Michigan State, respectively. All four teams will be vying to punch their ticket to the Final Four in San Antonio.

#5 Clemson vs. #1 Kansas, Friday, 7:07pm., CBS

Clemson avoided the famed 5-12 upset in their first round win over New Mexico State and followed that up with a drubbing of the 4-seed Auburn, 84-53, in the second round. The Tigers arrive in Omaha for their first Sweet Sixteen appearance since 1997. Despite having lost their second leading scorer, Donte Grantham, to a knee injury in January, Clemson has continued to be one of the best surprises in college basketball this season. Brad Brwonell was on the hot seat, but following this season it looks like he is safe. The Tigers have been elite defensively, especially in the Tournament. Clemson has held their opponents to 35% shooting inside the arc throughout the first weekend. Big men Elijah Thomas and Aamir Sims blocked three shots apiece in their win over Auburn on Sunday. On the offensive end, the Tigers have struggled to score inside, but have been lifted by their guard play since Grantham went down. Marcquise Reed, Gabe DeVoe, and Shelton Mitchell are all averaging double figures in scoring and shoot better than 35% from behind the arc. This is a good match-up for Clemson to pull off an upset in hopes of making the Elite Eight for only the second time in school history. Kansas, too, relies heavily on their guards to make threes and has a limited interior presence. Expect a high scoring game in this one.

devonte graham ncaa
Zimbio

Kansas is in the Sweet Sixteen for the third year in a row and hopes to make it to the Final Four for the first time since 2012 when they lost to Anthony Davis and Kentucky in the National Championship game. Senior Devonte’ Graham and Svi Myhailiuk will look to use their sharp-shooting to avoid the disappointment of coming up just short again in March. Graham and Myhailiuk both average more than 15 points per contest and shoot better than 40% from three. Kansas will rely on their shooting to get them to the Elite Eight as they are weak on the inside. Starting center Udoka Azubuike suffered a sprained MCL prior to the Big 12 Tournament and played at total of 25 minutes over the course of the opening weekend. Azubuike scored 10 points in the top-seed’s win over Seton Hall in the Round of 32 and expected to start against Clemson. If he can play well, the Jayhawks should be in good shape against the Tigers. Expect the trio of Graham, Mykhailiuk, and Azubuike to be too much for Clemson and for the Jayhawks to advance in a close one.

Kansas 81, Clemson 76

#11 Syracuse vs. #2 Duke, Friday, 9:37pm., CBS

battle ncaa
Bleacher Report

Syracuse enters the Sweet Sixteen after barely even making the “Big Dance.” The Orange took down Arizona State in the First Four in Dayton before traveling to Detroit where they disposed of TCU and Michigan State. Jim Boeheim’s 2-3 zone stifled opponents. Syracuse limited three teams that averaged 80+ points a game to 56 points or less. The Orange have lured their opponents into playing a style they need to win games, as the offense has been lackluster all season long. Syracuse has hot just 37.8% from the field throughout their NCAA Tournament run. The Orange rely heavily on their “Big-Three” of Tyus Battle, Frank Howard, and Oshae Brissett, who score 72.8% of the team’s points. If Syracuse has any chance of upsetting Duke, the Orange will need to rebound and Marek Dolezaj will need to make plays in the middle of the Blue Devils’ 2-3 zone. Coach K is familiar with Boeheim’s zone as he runs it himself. With that being said, Syracuse’s run may be coming to an end on Friday.

carter ncaa
247Sports

Duke is the most talented team in the country and the Blue Devils romped through the first weekend of the Tournament without a scare from either Iona or Rhode Island. Since losing to North Carolina in February, Coach K switched to 2-3 zone and his team’s defensive performance improved drastically and now ranks 24th in defensive efficiency. Offensively, Duke’s big men, Marvin Bagley III and Wendell Carter Jr., have dominated in the paint, making 62% of their 2-point field goals in the Dance. When the two teams met in late February, the Blue Devils shot just 2-of-28 from three-point range. If Grayson Allen, Gary Trent Jr., and Trevon Duval get hot from distance it will be lights out for the Orange. Expect Duke to handle Syracuse’s zone and pull away in the second half.

Duke 62, Syracuse 51

Winner of the Midwest Region: Duke

allen ncaa
Los Angeles Times

Coach K adapts to his team’s strength and is a proven winner in March. Their NBA-ready talent on the interior combined with their elite guard play will lead them past Syracuse and Kansas in Omaha. The Blue Devils, along with Villanova, are the clear cut favorites to hear “One Shining Moment” played in San Antonio.

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.

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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—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.

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.