Freshly Squeezed (3/19)

Dancin’

ehdu
Syracuse.com

Syracuse entered the ACC Tournament feeling pretty good about their NCAA Tournament chances for the first time since 2013.

Despite being without leading scorer Tyus Battle due a lower back injury, the Orange defeated Pittsburgh, 73-59, in the first round of the ACC Tournament on Wednesday night. Syracuse trailed the Panthers, 36-30, at halftime, but used an 8-0 run with all 8 points scored by Buddy Boeheim to take a 43-39 lead early in the second stanza. The Orange would not relinquish the lead the rest of the way.

After shooting 60-percent from three-point range in the first half, Pittsburgh cooled down and shot just 30.8-percent from deep after the break. Conversely, Syracuse heated up from beyond the arc down the stretch, shooting 54.6-percent from three in the second half.

Jared Wilson-Frame led the Panthers with 24 points, on 8-of-16 from three-point land, and seven rebounds. Sidy N’Dir added 10 points in the losing effort.

Boeheim paced Syracuse with 20 points, on 6-of-13 shooting, six rebounds, four assists, and two steals. Elijah Hughes and Frank Howard scored 18 points apiece. Hughes also grabbed four rebounds, dished out three assists, and came away with two steals.

bbp
Democrat and Chronicle

The Orange squared off with Duke in the quarterfinals of the ACC Tournament on Thursday night. Battle missed his second straight game with a lower back injury. After rallying back from as much as a 17 point deficit in the first half, Syracuse tied the game at 46 on a triple by Boeheim with 13:02 to go. The Blue Devils pulled away down the stretch to win 84-72.

In a turnover plagued affair, Duke outshot the Orange as the Blue Devils shot 53.7-percent from the floor, compared to 48.1-percent shooting for Syracuse.

The real difference in the game was that Duke has the best player in the country and the likely #1 pick in the NBA Draft Zion Williamson. Williamson, who returned after missing five consecutive games with a sprained knee, erupted for 29 points on a perfect 13-of-13 from the floor, 14 rebounds, and five steals. Fellow freshman phenomenon RJ Barrett tallied 23 points, on 8-of-16 from the field, and six rebounds. Freshman point guard Tre Jones finished with 15 points and eight assists.

Howard led the Orange with a career-high 28 points, on 11-of-2o shooting, and three assists. Boeheim poured in 15 points, while Oshae Brissett finished with 15 points and seven rebounds.

Despite the loss, Syracuse entered the NCAA Tournament with a record of 20-13. Howard was named to the ACC Tournament Second Team, while Williamson was named the MVP after Duke won the championship game over Florida State, 73-63, Saturday night.

Battle is expected to return in the NCAA Tournament, but playing without him in the ACC Tournament gave others the opportunity to step up, specifically, Howard and Boeheim.

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Syracuse.com

Player of the Week: Frank Howard

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The Daily Orange

This week’s player of the week for Syracuse was Frank Howard. After a lower leg injury caused him to miss the first four games of the season, Howard did not play to the form he showed he was capable of during his junior campaign. The senior point guard averaged 23 points on 50-percent shooting in Battle’s absence at the ACC Tournament. With Battle back and Howard and Boeheim shooting with confidence, the Orange just might be poised to make another run in the “Big Dance.”

Up Next: The NCAA Tournament vs. #9 Baylor

For the first time since 2013, Syracuse did not have to sweat it out on Selection Sunday. This year, the Orange were firmly in and earned the 8-seed in the West Region. Syracuse will take on the 9-seed Baylor in Salt Lake City, Utah. Tip-off is set for Thursday night at 9:57pm. The game will be seen on truTV. The Bears are 19-13 overall and are coming off an 83-66 loss to Iowa State in the Big 12 Tournament quarterfinals. Baylor is led by Tristan Clark who is averaging 14.6 points and 6.3 rebounds per game.

If the Orange were to defeat the Bears, they would take on the winner of the game between the 1-seed Gonzaga and the 16-seed Fairleigh Dickinson, who defeated Prairie View in the First Four Tuesday night.

Freshly Squeezed (3/11)

Syracuse amid Two-Game Skid Heading into the ACC Tournament

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Syracuse.com

After losing to #2 Virginia at home on Monday night, Syracuse traveled to Clemson on Saturday in hopes of avoiding two consecutive losses heading into the ACC Tournament. The Orange jumped out to an early 23-13 lead with 6:48 left in the opening stanza following a free throw by Oshae Brissett. Buddy Boeheim connected on a jumped with 14 seconds left in the frame to give Syracuse a 31-24 advantage at the halftime. Bourama Sidibe made a layup with 15:53 remaining to give the Orange a 38-33 lead. The Tigers responded with a 14-0 run, capped off by a free throw by David Skara, to take a commanding 47-38 advantage with 11:27 to go that would prove to be too much for Syracuse to overcome down the stretch. Clemson pulled away to earn a 67-55 win to improve their NCAA Tournament resume in the regular season finale for both teams.

It was an ugly game for both sides. The Tigers shot just 33.9-percent from the field, including just 5-of-20 from three, and turned the ball over 15 times. On the other hand, the Orange shot it at a 37.5-percent clip, including 6-of-19 from deep, and turned the ball over 18 times. The difference in the game was Clemson’s strength on the glass. The Tigers outrebounded Syracuse 45-30.

Marcquise Reed posted a double-double with 24 points, on 7-of-17 from the floor, 10 rebounds, and five steals to lead Clemson. Elijah Thomas posted a double-double of his own with 13 points, 11 rebounds, three blocks, and two steals. Shelton Mitchell added 10 points, three rebounds, four assists, and two steals.

Brissett paced the Orange with 15 points, seven rebounds, and three assists. Boeheim chipped in with 11 points off the bench, while All-ACC Third Team performer, Tyus Battle, finished with 10 points and three rebounds.

tbc
Democrat and Chronicle

With the loss, Syracuse finished the regular season with an overall record of 19-12 and 10-8 in the ACC. The Orange earned the six-seed and a first round bye in this week’s ACC Tournament when Louisville fell at Virginia on Saturday.

Player of the Week: Oshae Brissett

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The Greenville News

This week’s player of the week for Syracuse was Oshae Brissett. The versatile Canadian prospect has failed live up to the standard he set as a freshman averaging only 12.6 points and 7.5 rebounds per game this season, compared to 14.9 points and 8.8 boards a year ago. However, he is still an important piece to the puzzle for the Orange. Brissett’s efficiency has always been a question mark, but his shooting percentage has jumped from 35.4-percent last season to 39.1-percent this year. His free throw percentage and three-point percentage have both taken a hit this season though. He went from being a reliable 78.7-percent free throw shooter as a freshman to shooting just 66.7-percent from the charity stripe in his sophomore campaign. Brissett set his sights on possibly entering the NBA Draft this year, but a major strike against him will be that he has shot just 26.5-percent from three-point range, down from 33.1-percent a season ago. If he can buck these trends, as he did against Clemson when he shot 5-of-5 from the line and 2-of-2 from beyond the arc, the Orange will be poised to make noise in the postseason once again.

Up Next: The ACC Tournament vs. #11 Boston College/#14 Pittsburgh

Sixth-seeded Syracuse will take on either the 11-seed Boston College or the 14-seed Pittsburgh in the Second Round of the ACC Tournament in Charlotte, North Carolina on Wednesday night at 9:30pm. The Orange swept the season series from both the Eagles and the Panthers. Syracuse beat Boston College 77-71 in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts on January 30th and 67-56 in the Carrier Dome on February 9th. The Orange defeated Pittsburgh 74-63 at home on January 19th and 65-56 at the Peterson Events Center on February 2nd. The Eagles finished the regular season 14-16 overall, 5-13 in the ACC, while the Panthers are 13-18 overall and 3-15 in ACC play. Boston College is led by Ky Bowman who is averaging 19.2 points, 7.6 rebounds, and four assists per game, while Xavier Johnson leads Pittsburgh as he is averaging 15.6 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 4.5 assists per contest.

If Syracuse were to win their second round game, they would take on third-seeded Duke in the quarterfinals on Thursday at 9:30pm.

Freshly Squeezed (2/19)

Syracuse Stumbles at NC State

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Syracuse.com

Syracuse suffered their second loss in three games when they lost at North Carolina State last Wednesday night.

The Orange fell behind by as many as 12, 28-16, in the first stanza, but Syracuse trimmed their halftime deficit to just three, 30-27, at the break. Frank Howard connected on a three-pointer to pull Syracuse within one, 35-34, with 18:04 remaining, but the Orange would not get any closer the rest of the way. The Wolfpack ripped off a 16-3 run, capped off by a dunk by DJ Funderbunk, to put the game away for good. North Carolina State went on to win by a score of 73-58.

The Wolfpack shot 49-percent from the field and held the Syracuse to a mere 35-percent from the floor to earn the win. North Carolina State dominated the Orange on the boards, winning the battle on the glass 42-31.

Braxton Beverly led the Wolfpack with 21 points. Torin Dorn posted a double-double with 16 points, on 7-of-14 shooting, and 12 rebounds. Dorn also dished out three assists and came away with two steals. Funderbunk came off the bench and scored 12 points.

Howard led the Orange with 21 points on 8-of-16 from the field. Marek Dolezaj came off the bench and tallied 10 points, pulled down five boards, and grabbed three steals.

With the loss, Syracuse fell to 17-8 overall and 8-4 in the ACC.

Player of the Week: Frank Howard

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Syracuse University Athletics

The one bright spot from the horrific loss at North Carolina State was the performance of Frank Howard. The 21 points he scored were his season high. The more puzzling result was that none of his teammates stepped up to support him. Syracuse needs to have all their players show up down the stretch if they want to stay in the top half of the conference and not have to sweat it out on Selection Sunday.

Up Next: Louisville and Duke

Syracuse begins an arduous stretch of games against three consecutive ranked opponents when they take on #18 Louisville in the Carrier Dome on Wednesday night. Tip-off is set for 7pm. The Cardinals are 18-8 overall and 9-4 in the league in Chris Mack’s first year at the helm. Louisville is coming off a narrow 56-55 win over Clemson on Saturday. The Cardinals are led by Jordan Nwora who is averaging 17.5 points and 7.7 rebounds per game.

The Orange will host #1 Duke on Saturday evening. ESPN’s College GameDay will be inside the “Loud House” for the rematch between the two schools. Syracuse won the first meeting, 95-91 in overtime, at Cameron Indoor Stadium on January 14th. The Blue Devils have not lost since falling to the Orange and are back at full strength. Duke is 23-2 on the season, 11-1 in conference, and is coming off a 94-78 win over North Carolina State on Saturday. The Blue Devils will take on arch rival North Carolina on Wednesday before traveling north to battle Syracuse. Duke’s star freshman have led them to take back the number one ranking. The Blue Devils are led by RJ Barrett who is averaging 22.7 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 4 assists per contest. Likely #1 NBA Draft pick Zion Williamson is averaging 22.4 points and 9.2 rebounds per game. Cam Reddish missed the first game against the Orange with flu-like symptoms, while Tre Jones exited the contest just over five minutes into the game after colliding with Howard as the two were diving for a loose ball. Syracuse will need to be ready for both players to see meaningful minutes in the rematch. Reddish is averaging 13.8 points and 3.5 rebounds per game, while Jones is Duke’s quarterback averaging 8.7 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 5.4 assists per contest.

The Orange have quite the tests on their schedule this week, but if they are up to the task, they will bolster their NCAA Tournament resume.

Freshly Squeezed (2/11)

Syracuse Secures Win Over Boston College

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The Daily Orange

Syracuse rebounded from Tuesday night’s blowout loss to #22 Florida State with a 67-56 win over the Boston College Eagles in the Carrier Dome on Saturday afternoon.

With Syracuse trailing 17-16 after three free throws by Boston College’s Jordan Chatman, the game changed when Buddy Boeheim entered the contest for the Orange. Boeheim connected on three triples and a pair of free throws to help Syracuse take a 31-24 lead into the break. The Orange pulled away early in the second half and opened up a 60-40 advantage on a dunk by Tyus Battle. The Eagles would not go away easily. Boston College used a 14-0 run to pull within six, 60-54, when Ky Bowman nailed a trey with 3:54 left. Syracuse closed the game with a 7-2 spurt to hang on for a 67-56 victory.

The Orange’s vaunted 2-3 zone perplexed the Eagles all afternoon. Syracuse held Boston College to just 33.3-percent shooting and forced the Eagles into 18 turnovers. The 24 points Boston College scored in the first half was their lowest scoring output in a 20 minute period all season. The Orange shot the ball at a 41.5-percent clip and took advantage of the Eagles’ carelessness with the basketball, outscoring the visitors 25-5 in points off turnovers.

Bowman led Boston College with 21 points, on 7-of-12 from the field, eight rebounds, two assists, and two steals. The junior guard came off the bench due to a violation of a minor team rule. Chatman added 12 points, while Nik Popovic finished with 10 points and five boards in the loss.

Syracuse was paced by Battle who tallied 21 points, on an efficient 8-of-13 from the field, corralled four rebounds, and came away with three steals. Boeheim scored a career-high 16 points and grabbed three steals, while Oshae Brissett recorded his third consecutive double-double with 12 points and 12 rebounds.

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Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician

With the win, the Orange improved to 17-7 overall and 8-3 in ACC play. Syracuse sits in a tie for fourth place in the conference with Louisville who is ranked #16 in the nation.

Player of the Week: Buddy Boeheim

NCAA Basketball: Boston College at Syracuse
The Juice Online

This week’s player of the week for Syracuse is Buddy Boeheim. “Daddy’s Boy,” as Pittsburgh students chanted last Saturday, is shooting 52.9-percent from three in the Orange’s last eight games. Boeheim’s prowess continued from beyond the arc will be key for Syracuse down the stretch to open driving lanes for Battle and Brissett.

Up Next: North Carolina State

Prior to their bye in ACC play this weekend, the Orange will travel to Raleigh to take on North Carolina State on Wednesday night. Tip-off is set for 8pm. The Wolfpack’s record is 17-7, 5-6 in league play. North Carolina State is coming off a 79-76 win at Pittsburgh on Saturday. Torin Dorn leads the Wolfpack in scoring, averaging 13.6 points and 6.6 rebounds per game.

2018-19 ACC Preview

The ACC should be one of the most exciting conferences in college basketball this season. How will it all shake out?

As the calendar turns to October, postseason baseball is in full force, but the college basketball season will soon be upon us, as many teams are opening their campaigns with practices and Midnight Madness events. The summer without college basketball is always long and grueling, but the season is right around the corner.

First, I would like to dive into what looks to be the best conference in basketball once again, the ACC. Here are my projections for the 2018-19 season.

1.)Duke Blue Devils

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Sports Illustrated

Duke will likely be atop the ACC again this year. Coach K brings in the top recruiting class in the country with the like of RJ Barrett, Cam Reddish, Zion Williamson, and Tre Jones making their way to Durham. The question mark for the Blue Devils is whether they will be able to generate any production from returners Marques Bolden and Javin DeLaurier. If this team can gel, it will be talented enough to win the ACC.

2.)Virginia Cavaliers

Virginia returns three key pieces from last year’s team that finished 31-3. It will be interesting how this team will rebound from being the first one seed to ever lose to a sixteen seed in the NCAA Tournament. The Cavaliers led by Kyle Guy and Ty Jerome will look to get back on the right track in 2018-19. Virginia’s X-factor is sophomore forward De’Andre Hunter who could be in the conversation for ACC Player of the Year, National Player of the Year, and the NBA Draft Lottery.

3.)North Carolina Tar Heels

Although overshadowed by Duke’s recruiting class only eight miles down Tobacco Road, North Carolina may have the 2019 NBA Draft number one overall pick in Chapel Hill this season. Nassir Little is the reigning MVP of the McDonald’s All-America game and he along with the rest of the Tar Heels, most notably Luke Maye, will look to be contenders in the ACC.

4.)Virginia Tech Hokies

The Hokies have an experienced senior class returning to Blacksburg this season that is one of the most successful in school history. Buzz Williams and company will look to make a run toward the top of the ACC and into the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament.

5.)Syracuse Orange

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Orange Fizz

Despite having NCAA Tournament success in 2016 and 2018, the Orange have struggled to finish near the top of the ACC since their inaugural season in the league (2013-14). Hall of Fame coach, Jim Boeheim, returns all five starters, including Frank Howard, Tyus Battle, Oshae Brissett, Marek Dolezaj, and Paschal Chukwu, from a team that made it to the Sweet Sixteen a year ago. Syracuse should be a contender for the ACC title this season and stay well away from the dreaded NCAA Tournament bubble.

6.)Florida State Seminoles

After a surprising trip to the Elite Eight last year, Leonard Hamilton’s team will look to be a force in the ACC this year and get back to the “Big Dance.” The Seminoles have an experienced group that will only get better. Look for sophomore MJ Walker to have a break-out year as he fills in for Brain Angola who graduated in 2018.

7.)Clemson Tigers

In a year where Brad Brownell was on the hot seat, Clemson had one of its best years in program history and advanced to the Sweet Sixteen for the first time since 1997. Marcquise Reed is one of the best players in the ACC and will look to build on his Second Team All-ACC campaign from a year ago. The Tigers should be an elite defensive team, but if they fail to make the NCAA Tournament, it will be because of their offense.

8.)Louisville Cardinals

Amid the turmoil surrounding the program left by Rick Pitino, the Cardinals found themselves on the wrong side of the bubble last season. Interim head coach David Padgett was replaced by Chris Mack, who arrived in Louisville after leading Xavier to a Big East regular season crown and a one seed in the NCAA Tournament. VJ King and Malik Williams came to Louisville as possible NBA prospects, but failed to generate much hype under Padgett. King, Williams, and a myriad of graduate transfers under the guidance of Mack will look to make a run back to the NCAA Tournament.

9.)North Carolina State Wolfpack

Kevin Keatts led the Wolfpack to the “Big Dance” in his first year in Raleigh after taking over for Mark Gottfried. This year, North Carolina State will have nine newcomers on its roster, most notably CJ Bryce, who followed Keatts from UNC-Wilmington to NC State.

10.)Notre Dame Fighting Irish

NCAA Basketball: Chicago State at Notre Dame
The Athletic

Notre Dame found itself the first team left out of the NCAA Tournament on Selection Sunday last season. The Fighting Irish will look a lot different than they have in the past as they lost Bonzie Colson and Matt Farrell to graduation. TJ Gibbs Jr. and Rex Pflueger will need to step up and take leadership if Notre Dame has any chance of making an impact in the ACC and getting back on the right side of the bubble.

11.)Miami Hurricanes

The Miami Hurricanes lost to Cinderella story Loyola-Chicago in the first round of the NCAA Tournament last year. Following that defeat, the Hurricanes lost Lonnie Walker IV and Bruce Brown to the NBA Draft. Miami returns a core of players from last year’s squad that finished 22-10, but lack the talent that they had in Walker IV and Brown. Chris Lykes and Dewan Huell will need to step up in their absence.

12.)Boston College Eagles

Had Jerome Robinson returned to Chestnut Hill for his senior season, Boston College would have been a lot higher in the ACC Preseason standings. The reality is that the Eagles will need to replace one of the most prolific scorers in the conference’s recent memory. With Robinson gone, Ky Bowman is the lead man for Boston College for the first time in his career. He has been a consistent scorer throughout the first two years of his career, but will need to make a big jump to lead the Eagles in the post-Jerome Robinson era if they hope to get back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2009.

13.)Wake Forest Demon Deacons

Danny Manning is squarely on the hot seat after another disappointing season for the Demon Deacons a year ago. A tumultuous offseason saw Manning lose Bryant Crawford and Doral Moore to the NBA Draft, however, both of which went undrafted. Later in the summer, a member of Manning’s staff, Jamill Jones, was charged with third-degree assault for punching a 35-year-old man from Florida in the face in New York City. The man later died due to his injuries. Additionally, Keyshawn Woods transferred to Ohio State. The Demon Deacons are young and inexperienced. Aside from Chris Paul’s $2.5 million donation to the program, the future does not look bright for Wake Forest.

14.)Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

Georgia Tech will be in the basement of the ACC yet again. After the Yellow Jackets went 13-19 a year ago, their best player, Josh Okogie, to the NBA Draft and Tadric Jackson and Ben Lammers to graduation. Jose Alvarado will look to build on an impressive freshman season in hopes of keeping Josh Pastner’s squad relevant in the ACC.

15.)Pittsburgh Panthers

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PennLive.com

The Pittsburgh Panthers are in rebuilding mode after Kevin Stallings brought the program crashing down in only two seasons at the helm. The Panthers were the laughing stock of the ACC, and maybe even college basketball for that matter, a season ago as they failed to win a single conference game. Pitt went out and hired Coach K’s lead assistant Jeff Capel with hopes that his prowess on the recruiting trail could lead the program back to what it was under Jamie Dixon. For now, he is still left with the shambles that remain from the Stallings area. The good news for Pitt is that Jared Wilson-Frame and the rest of the Panthers have nowhere else to go, but up.

2018-19 ACC First Team

*RJ Barrett, Duke

Tyus Battle, Syracuse

De’Andre Hunter, Virginia

Nassir Little, North Carolina

Luke Maye, North Carolina

Second Team

Ky Bowman, Boston College

Marcquise Reed, Clemson

Kyle Guy, Virginia

Justin Robinson, Virginia Tech

Zion Williamson, Duke

Third Team

Ty Jerome, Virginia

Terance Mann, Florida State

Dewan Huell, Miami

Oshae Brissett, Syracuse

Cam Reddish, Duke

*Preseason ACC Player of the Year

NCAA Tournament Recap

2018-19 NCAA Tournament in Review

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

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.