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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.