The March Madness Narrative: About More than the Champion

The NCAA Tournament is known as March Madness for its fast-paced, unforgiving mad rush to the cutting of the nets over an abbreviated three weekend period. There is so much more to the story than just the one team rushing the court and lifting the trophy. Each weekend hits teams like a hurricane. Within moments of their celebrations ending coaches must have players turn on a dime for the next game less than 48 hours away.

At the end of the tournament, we are left with one winner. This year, that is the North Carolina Tar Heels. However, that is nowhere near the full story. The tournament produces things that can supersede even the Final Four or the champion of the season.  This type of environment forges stronger memories that last. It produces magical runs, heart-pounding and tense action as well as singular moments that capture our hearts. What is made in March lasts forever.

Bryce Drew hit one of the more memorable shots in tournament history. (Photo courtesy of usatoday.com)

Throughout the years, many things have surpassed the champions in our memories, but certain moments continue to captivate us. Many people could not name the 1998 Final Four of Kentucky, North Carolina, Utah and Stanford but the vast majority of basketball fans know the phrase “Drew, for the win!” and the Ole Miss loss to Valparaiso that accompanies it. This is now a moment etched in stone. It speaks to the fact that the chaos of March Madness can create a generational memory that lasts far beyond winning a game or the championship.

There are countless examples of this. For small schools, moments such as these can define a program.  They can be the thing that coaches point to when attempting to recruit against bigger schools. Need a better example of this? Look no further than the legendary Davidson run to the Elite 8 with now NBA All-Star, Steph Curry. Big moments for small schools are part of what defines March.

Even Blue Blood programs, however, can also see their drama elevate fan folklore to a higher level. Take what is arguably the most iconic moment in NCAA history: Christian Laettner hits his shot to beat Kentucky in the 1992 championship game…the championship game for the region that is. Duke and Kentucky each have amazing programs in their own respects but every time these two share the court together, this is brought up by fans and broadcasters alike. Laettner had a less than stellar career in the NBA and was a forgotten part of the 1992 NBA Olympic “Dream Team” but he is forever immortalized for one shot in a game that was only to make the Final Four. Making the Final Four is certainly something to be remembered, but that game is referenced far more than the Blue Devils championship victory over the Michigan Wolverine’s “Fab Five.”

It is not just moments that capture our hearts, but runs as well. The 1983 run by Jim Valvano’s North Carolina State Wolfpack is a true story that moves far beyond the 40 minutes on the game clock. That year’s title run was capped by one of the more inconceivable upsets of the Houston “Phi Slamma Jamma” team that featured future hall of famers Hakeem Olajuwan and Clyde Drexler. This Memory of March moved beyond 1983 into the life of the late Valvano and seemed to mirror his outlook on the impossible battle for his life.

March Madness is just prone to stories such as this. With the tense nature of the one and out tournament, drama is sure to elevate the intensity. Yet, time and time again teams put together seemingly impossible roads to the Final Four. Shaka Smart and VCU became the first team to go from the NCAA’s First Four play in game to the Final Four. Though they were unable to bring home the title, this is remembered just as fondly. George Mason’s historic run to the Final Four in 2006 made a career path for Jim Larrañaga much easier to achieve.

Chris Chiozza (11) lets a prayer fly. (Photo courtesy of fansided.com)

This year’s tournament is no exception in either case. Several moments have grabbed our attention. Thus far there are two points in time that stand out the most. The first is The Wisconsin-Florida ending. The game came down to the final second of regulation and eventually led to overtime.  With Wisconsin leading by two points, Florida had one final chance. Enter Chris Chiozza. Going the length of the floor, Chiozza let a leaning, running, impossible shot fly. Buckets. This gives Florida fans that, “Hey, remember when…?” for years to come.

Luke Maye’s shot to beat Kentucky is an example of just how the tournament can become something wholly other than itself. Maye originally was to be a walk on at North Carolina. With some roster shifting, Roy Williams found one for him and he has torn it up in the NCAA tournament. This season he averages 5.8 points and 4.2 rebounds per game. In these past four NCAA Tournament games he sits at 12.5 points and 6.7 rebounds per contest. This includes arguably the most important shot in the tournament thus far.

The Kentucky and North Carolina game was marred by officiating woes but did not lack in end of game drama. The Wildcats surged back from a nearly double digit deficit with two minutes to go. Freshman Malik Monk’s three tied the game with under 8 seconds to go. Roy Williams commented that the team knows to push the ball with this amount of time left.  It worked. Forward Theo Pinson took the ball 80 feet and used his body to create separation for Maye who drained a mid range jumper with Minimal time left.  He showed up to an early class the next morning and received a standing ovation.

In addition to these brief stops in time, there have been more lengthy runs in this tournament that were less than expected. The South Carolina Gamecocks reached the Sweet 16 this year for the first time in school history,  Then they made the Elite Eight. No reason to stop there, so they made the Final Four. This is a team that was off the radar for so many. South Carolina was picked in 0.6% of brackets to reach the last weekend.

Michigan made do with their practice jerseys. (Photo courtesy of sportingnews.com)

There is one more storied run in this tournament that will go down in the history books. The Michigan Wolverines are the epitome of what March Madness is supposed to be. They got hot coming in to the tournament. Considering the fact that they almost did not make their conference tournament, they are a surprise. The Wolverines plane from campus to the Big 10 tournament skidded off the runway and caused some minor injuries. Due to the nature of the investigation, John Beilein’s squad were forced to play in practice jerseys. Their regular equipment remained on the scene of the incident. They did  not just play well, they won the whole thing. They rode that momentum all the way into the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament. Their last win was over a Louisville team that many experts believed talented enough to make the Final Four.

Now, the Wolverines went on to lose in fantastic fashion to the eventual champion of the region, the Oregon Ducks. Even though they were just inches away from continuing the magic, there is still plenty to rejoice in here. You see, faced with a less than ideal situation the team found a way to put a string of wins together and make something out of it. This is nothing short of the stories that March creates each and every year. This year it happened to be Michigan.

For some schools, just making the tournament is the ultimate goal. So when a school like Lehigh takes down Duke there is more magic present than the powerhouse making it all the way. March is beautiful because of things within it, not just because of the last team left standing’s victory. College sports entail a high level of passion whether it is a family tradition or an alma mater. That is why reaching a little higher than expectations or completing that wonderful play at the end of the game often gets remembered longer.

On title night, there is a reason that it does not end with the presentation of the trophy. There is still one last piece of business to attend to. When “One Shining Moment” plays it is different every year.  New images are now engraved in our minds of that year’s tournament. March is the time when the ordinary becomes extraordinary.  Every moment has the potential to become something eternal, and that is what this month is all about.

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North Carolina and Joel Berry Victorious

North Carolina Wins and Berry Bounced Back

If you haven’t heard, the North Carolina Tar Heels and Joel Berry are National Champions 365 days after losing a heartbreaker to Villanova. Justin Jackson made the go-ahead three point play in the final minutes, and Joel Berry put on a performance. It was not a pretty game, as Gonzaga and UNC combined for 45 fouls and 46 field goals.

Yet, a champion had been crowned.

North Carolina gets the win

This is Roy Williams’ third national title and sixth in Tar Heel history, yet North Carolina didn’t play a great game. They shot 29.4 percent from the three point line, which was very evident in the first half.

North Carolina and Joel Berry Victorious

Joel Berry II celebrates victory over Gonzaga (Photo Courtesy of Sporting News)

The win was a team effort, and players stepped up when they needed to. Isaiah Hicks didn’t play his best against Oregon in the Semifinal, however he added 13 points, which is just above his season average. Speaking of seniors, Kennedy Meeks came up with 10 rebounds for the Tar Heels and was a large presence in the post when he wasn’t in foul trouble.

So what made the difference? UNC grabbed three more offensive rebounds and won the turnover battle 14-4. Joel Berry II and Justin Jackson combined for 38 points while Nigel Williams-Goss and Przemek Karnowski only combined for 24 points for Gonzaga. North Carolina also shot better inside than Gonzaga shot outside. Overall, the Zags had one of their worst offensive showings while the Tar Heels had one of their best defensive performances. Put all of this together and somehow, we have a UNC victory.

The best part for the Tar Heels is they have one more National Championship than Duke. How’s that for bragging rights?

berry got his redemption

It was on this day, just one year ago that Joel Berry II tied the game with Villanova only to lose on a buzzer beater from Kris Jenkins. Needless to say, he has been waiting for this very moment and he didn’t let it slip away. It was a sort of Cinderella moment for him.

North Carolina and Joel Berry Victorious

North Carolina Tar Heels guard Joel Berry II celebrates beating the Gonzaga Bulldogs in the national championship game Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

Joel Berry III was named Most Outstanding Player of the tournament and when asked about his success, he simply said his teammates had faith in him.

He didn’t just bounce back from last year, he had to bounce back from the previous game against Oregon. Berry II went 2-14 from the field, and 5-9 from the free throw line for a combined 11 points against the Ducks. In other words, he didn’t have the game he wanted but it was enough for his team to be successful.

Fast forward to Monday night, the atmosphere is electric and it’s the junior’s potential last game. Berry went out with a bang to say the least.

He scored 22 points, dished out six assists and threw away only one turnover. Not to mention, he scored or assisted on 34 of 71 points and the Tar Heels came away with a National Title.

As mentioned before, Joel Berry II bounced back, but more importantly North Carolina did.

 

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Tournament Madness for UNC: Luke Maye's Game-Winner

A Closer Look at Luke Maye: North Carolina’s Hero

One name: Luke Maye.

This isn’t the first name that comes to mind when talking about North Carolina basketball. However, it has been for the past 48 hours. Maye made the game-winning shot to send UNC to the Final Four, while simultaneously ending Kentucky’s season.

If you missed the last shot, you can watch it here. It’s well worth watching.

A quick recap: Kentucky comes down the court and Malik Monk hits a 3-pointer in Maye’s face to tie the game. Then Theo Pinson gets the ball up the court for UNC and pitches it to Maye for the last-second jumper. Rarely do you see two miraculous plays back-to-back like that, but it happened on Sunday.

There is normally discussion about Joel Berry II, Isaiah Hicks, Kennedy Meeks or Justin Jackson when talking about UNC. The avid watcher might recognize Kenny Williams or Theo Pinson as well, but not Luke Maye.

Maye madness

Luke Maye isn’t your standout player. The sophomore averaged four rebounds and 1.2 assists in 14.4 minutes per game this season. He averaged 5.6 minutes per game as a freshman.

He might be average at the Division I level. However, he joined Christian Laettner and Scottie Reynolds on Sunday as the only players since 1985 to hit a game-winning shot to get into the Final Four. The kid even got a standing ovation at his 8 a.m. class on Monday.

Tournament Madness for UNC: Luke Maye's Game-Winner

Luke Maye shoots the game-winner for the Tar Heels on Sunday (Photo Courtesy of The Comeback)

His best game prior to the tournament was against NC State on Feb 15 when he scored 13 points and made 6 of his 11 shots from the floor. In other words, he hasn’t been consistently “killing it” for the Tar Heels.

However, he has picked the right games to show up for. Maye had a season high of 16 points against Butler and a new season high of 17 against Kentucky.

He might seem like the most unexpected player to win it for the Tar Heels, but Coach Roy Williams had him in for a reason. He shoots 41 percent from 3-point land (the highest on the team). He has only attempted 39 on the season, but he has made those count. He also shoots the fourth highest field goal percentage on the team.

It’s no accident he was on the court. It also isn’t a miracle he made the shot. Nonetheless, he is still a hero.

the tar heels are right where they need to be

As a team, this moment is everything that North Carolina has been working for. Marcus Paige hit a 3-pointer to tie the championship game last year, only for Kris Jenkins to come down and hit a buzzer beater to win it all for Villanova.

The Tar Heels are simply good at what they do. The are ranked first in rebounds per game (they pull down 43.7 per game). They also average 85 points per game (ninth overall) and dish out 18.2 assists per game (ranked third in Division I).

Roy Williams is confident in his team because they have the experience and the talent. This is their 20th Final Four, and they have all the reason to fight.

Isaiah Hicks was asked about their loss to Villanova last season, and he said: “We [were] four seconds away from that. Just to see your dream taken away right in front of you, that’s all the motivation you need. Of course nobody likes to lose, but that one, when you’re right there, all of us, we just need that second chance.”

Hicks and the rest of his teammates want that second chance. At this point, it is in their hands. Only Oregon stands in their way. The guys are playing some quality basketball and unexpected players like Luke Maye are peaking at the right time.

Catch all the action on April 1, 2017 at 8:49 PM ET on CBS.

 

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NCAA Tournament: Is South Carolina Winning a Fluke?

Is it a Fluke that South Carolina is Still Dancing?

Everyone is wondering how South Carolina made it to the Sweet 16. In fact, only five percent of brackets had them making it this far, and 2.1 percent of those people picked the Baylor-South Carolina matchup. Not many people expected them to get here. Honestly, this small percentage could just be loyal fans that picked them out of obligation.

In the first round, the Gamecocks defeated Marquette 93-73. In the second round they took care of Duke with a seven-point margin, beating the Blue Devils 88-81. Here are three reasons why it is not a fluke and how they’ll match up with Baylor.

1. Coach Frank Martin has done his Homework

Following the win on Sunday night Coach Frank Martin said he was impressed by his team’s fortitude.

“I am unbelievably proud of my guys and they have become mentally-tough as mentally-tough can be,” Martin said.

This team and their recent wins aren’t a byproduct of luck.

Coach Martin has put in his time. His philosophies on offense and defense have been developed over time. They were implemented at Kansas State University where he was Big 12 Coach of the Year in 2010 and have now carried over to South Carolina.

He preaches an early offense attack. This means that in order to have success in scoring, you have to run and run all the time, not just when you are up.

The other benefit of having a high-energy pace all the time, is that the defense has to foul in order to slow it down. As a result, the Gamecocks have shot 799 free throws this season and made 556 of them.

When asked about his defense, he commented on modeling it after past, legendary Duke teams. He knows that defense leads to his fast-paced offense. He stresses not letting the opposing team set up plays, because then you are already beat. Make the other team work for their points.

2. they are peaking at the right time

The Gamecocks finished off the regular season with back-to-back losses to Ole Miss and Alabama. They also went 4-6 on the last 10 games of the season. Now they are playing some of the best basketball that fans have seen all season.

Despite being down in the first half against Duke, the team rallied to score 65 points in the second half. South Carolina out rebounded the Blue Devils 37-34 and had 10 more shots overall. Duke turned over the ball 18 times while the Gamecocks limited themselves to 11 turnovers.

NCAA Tournament: Is South Carolina Winning a fluke?

P.J. Dozier brings the ball up the court for South Carolina (WLTX.com)

South Carolina wants it more. That was evident in their second half effort against Duke. Chris Silva scored 13 of his 17 points in the second half. Duane Notice also scored 14 of his 17 points in the second half. P.J. Dozier has also been giving good production for the Gamecocks and freshman Maik Kotsar struggled with Duke but added seven points against Marquette.

The Gamecocks are in fact playing some of the best defense in the country. As many coaches say, “defense propels the offensive end of the floor.”

Sindarius Thornwell has made this obvious as he scored 24 points in the second round against Duke while pulling down six rebounds. It’s the same story for Marquette as he scored 29 points while grabbing 11 rebounds and getting three steals.

If South Carolina can keep up the defensive prowess, than there isn’t any reason they can’t move on past Baylor.

3. Possible Home Court advantage

Anyone who says home-court advantage isn’t a factor, probably hasn’t played in a true home environment. Madison Square Garden is closer to South Carolina than Baylor and fan base is everything in a big game.

Let’s go back to Duke for example. The second round game was played in Greenville, South Carolina roughly two hours from the Gamecocks’ campus. In other words, it was practically a home game and that environment definitely didn’t help Duke.

South Carolina fans have every reason to be at this game. The program isn’t exactly known for its tournament history. Two years ago they didn’t make it to the NIT and last year they lost in the second round of the NIT. Coming into the weekend, South Carolina had not won a NCAA tournament game in 44 years.

Needless to say, South Carolina should have some serious backing in New York.

baylor matchup

Unfortunately South Carolina is a young team, as they have a lot of freshman. The past two games have proved that they can play on the big stage, but will the success continue for another game?

The Gamecocks have in fact taken it upon themselves to keep winning. Coach Martin told his players, “We are not responsible for the drought but we are responsible for this moment.”

His players can be the ones to keep making history.

This is compared to a Baylor team who has been in the spotlight all year long, and rightfully so. They have some very impressive guys but they have also had some scoring droughts.

Jake Trotter commented, “Superior talent allowed them to overcome such dry spells in their first two tournament games, but that won’t be easy moving forward.”

NCAA Tournament: Is South Carolina winning a fluke?

Johnathan Motley finishes a dunk for Baylor (Photo courtesy of Houston Chronicle)

Baylor’s lengthy zone can be intimidating and the combination of Johnathan Motley, Manu Lecomte and Jo-Laul Acuil Jr. is also reason for fear. However, South Carolina isn’t necessarily the underdog.

If Baylor can establish a good inside game to pair with their three-point shooting, they will be hard to stop. On the other hand, if Thornwell can have another game for himself with some help then South Carolina is equally as deadly.

Make sure you are watching 7:29pm ET on TBS to see all the action.

 

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Players That Can Lead Their Team to an Upset Victory in the 2017 NCAA Tournament

The best part of the NCAA Tournament year in and year out are the upsets. The unheralded team knocks off the national powerhouse and goes down in history. Every team that pulls off the upset has a player that leads them to victory. C.J. McCollum scored 30 points on Duke in Lehigh’s upset. Sherwood Brown dropped a total of 41 points in Florida Gulf Coast’s run to the Sweet 16.

Not all upsets have to be extreme as a 15 seed beating a two seed, like the ones previously mentioned, but every upset needs a star. Here are some players that can be that catalyst for their team:

Trevon Bluiett, Xavier Musketeers

The Xavier Musketeers are a popular pick to beat Maryland in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. The Musketeers will be without point guard Edmond Sumner, who is out for the season with a torn ACL. If they do pull off the upset it will be in no doubt because of Bluiett.

Bluiett is averaging 18.1 points per game and shooting 44% from the floor. He has the ability to get hot in an instant and can go from no points to 20 within minutes as a classic shooter, who hardly ever drives to the basket. Bluiett has been in the NCAA Tournament before, but has yet to score more than 10 points in a game in five career tournament games.

His crowning moment this year was his performance against cross-town rival Cincinnati. He scored 40 points on 12 of 15 shooting. He made nine of 11 three pointers in that game, in an unbelievable shooting night. Xavier ended up losing the game, but had he gotten more shots up, things could’ve been different.

With not having scored a lot in the NCAA Tournament, Bluiett is going to have all the motivation he needs to have a good game and lead his team to victory.

Chris Flemmings, UNC Wilmington

Flemmings has one of the best backstories in college basketball. He had to email UNC Wilmington to get a chance to play for them after playing at nearby Barton College, a division II school. Last season he came close to helping the Seahawks pull off an upset over Duke with 18 points.

Chris Flemmings

Photo courtesy: foxsports.com

UNC Wilmington has made it back to the dance and Flemmings has had another good season. He has averaged 15.8 points per game on 47% shooting. He hasn’t been as good at defense, as last year, but that is because he is tasked with guarding bigger players all the time. The Seahawks lack height and Flemmings usually has to pick up the slack by guarding power forwards.

The first round match-up for UNC Wilmington will be tough as they play an elite defensive team in Virginia. Flemmings will need to score a lot (which may not be as much as usual against such a good defensive team), and guard players bigger than him well.

JaCorey Williams, Middle Tennessee

After starting his career at Arkansas, Williams has played his last year of eligibility at Middle Tennessee. He didn’t do much with The Razorbacks, playing behind Bobby Portis and only averaging 4.8 points per game his junior season.

Williams sat out last season because of the NCAA transfer rules, but has been lighting up the scoreboard for the Blue Raiders this season. He is averaging 17.3 points per game and has given them another big presence in the paint, averaging 7.3 rebounds. He is shooting 54 percent on the season, which is about the percentage that will be needed for Middle Tennessee to advance.

The Blue Raiders will need him to be at his best, as they are playing a Minnesota team that has a lot of size. He may not need to score every basket, but does need to find the open man, if the Golden Gophers choose to double him in the post.

Keon Johnson, Winthrop

Johnson is one of the shortest players in college basketball at 5 feet 7 inches tall, but can score with the best of them. He is by far the most important player for the Eagles.

Keon Johnson

Photo courtesy: whri.com

His average of 22.5 points per game is good enough for 10th in the country. He steps up in big games, scoring 38 at Illinois and 24 at Dayton. Johnson is shooting 40% from behind the arc, but also does his part getting to the basket to amass his points.

Butler is an above average defensive team, but Johnson should be able to get his shots up. If he converts, Winthrop can take Butler to the wire.

Marcus Marshall, Nevada

Nevada has been a trendy pick to pick Iowa State and Marshall is the reason why. Marshall played his first three seasons at Missouri State before transferring to Nevada.

Marshall averages 19.8 points per game and hits 3.3 three point field goals per game. He scored 32 points at Washington, against future top draft pick Markelle Fultz. He can score against premier talent and will have to do so against Iowa State.

He will be matched up against Monte Morris, one of the best point guards in the country. If he can match him shot for shot, Nevada has a chance to win.

 

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NCAA Tournament Teams to Cheer For

Tournament Time: Who You Should Cheer For

As Dick Vitale would say, “It’s tournament time baby!” I don’t know who is more excited, the fans or the players. Even if your team didn’t make it to the dance, there is still a lot to cheer for.

I know the term bandwagon fan carries a lot of negative connotation, however for bragging rights, you want to be cheering for the right teams. Now fair warning, these might not be the teams that have the best statistics or record. Half of the battle is figuring out how the bracket is set up, which has a large impact on how teams do rather if it is admitted or not. Here are the teams to root for if yours didn’t make the cut.

The underdog: Middle Tennessee State

The beauty of tournament time is that anyone can win on any given day. Pay attention to the season statistics but also expect the unexpected when the final buzzer sounds.

Middle Tennessee State is that Cinderella team that could get out of the first round and surprise us all. The Blue Raiders are 20-1 in its last 21 games and they only have three underclassmen. So if they want it to happen, this is the year to do it.

Their team is ranked in the top 50 for overall defensive efficiency. All four of their losses this season have been relatively close and they only allow 63.3 points per game (ranked 21st). Let’s not forget MTSU beat Michigan State last year and could very well do the same to Minnesota.

NCAA Tournament Teams to Root For

Giddy Potts of Middle Tennessee State (DNJ.com)

Giddy Potts is leading the charge for his talented squad. Potts is averaging 15.8 points per game and 5.5 rebounds per game. What makes him special is his work effort and ability to score at all three levels consistently.

He was named MVP for their conference tournament after putting up 30 points against Marshall. Potts is the guy who will hit contested threes, but burn his opponent with a quick first step if they close out too hard.

Potts may be getting buckets, but he isn’t out on an island. He has the help of JaCorey Williams who is shooting 54.1 percent from the field right now.

Reggie Upshaw and Tyrik Dixon are also contributing large minutes and statistics for the Blue Raiders.

After beating Minnesota, the Blue Raiders will take on either Butler or Winthrop. Butler is a good tournament team and known for upsets in the past, but Middle Tennessee State has proven to be a tough team.

Keep an eye on notre dame

The Irish have proven to be a wholesome team over the duration of this season. They are coming off a close loss to Duke which should propel them throughout the tournament.

The key to success for Notre Dame is sharing the ball. They are 37th in the nation for assists, averaging 16 per game. They have strength at all positions and when they share the ball, they can’t be stopped.

NCAA Tournament Teams to Cheer For

Bonzie Colson of Notre Dame (Photo Credit to Zimbio.com)

If Bonzie Colson is having a game for himself, Notre Dame is just as good as any team in nation. Duke may have won the ACC tournament but Colson put up 29 points and pulled down nine rebounds in a stellar performance.

Colson isn’t putting on a one man show though. Matt Ferrell is a special point guard dishing out 5.5 assists per game and shooting 41.3 percent from behind the arc.

The Irish are killer from behind the arc because of Ferrell and a few other key players. Steve Vasturia and V.J. Beachem are shooting over 36 percent from three-point range. This will be tough to guard for their opponents.

The Irish often are over looked when it comes to tournament time. Last year they made it to the Elite 8 and lost to UNC. This year they have a better record coming out of regular season play and more experience.

Arizona deserves a lot more respect than they’re getting

All of the talk regarding the PAC-12 has been about UCLA mostly because of Lonzo Ball and his father’s interesting comments. Most recently LaVar Ball said he could’ve beaten Michael Jordan in his hay day and his son is better than Steph Curry. One could see why the press would jump on that. UCLA is also ranked 78th in adjusted defensive efficiency according to pre tourney data (kenpom.com) which is a weakness for sure.

However the real team to watch from the PAC-12 is Arizona. They just won the conference tournament, and beat Oregon and UCLA to do so. They likely won’t see any true competition until the Sweet Sixteen if they play to the best of their ability.

Right now it’s the combination of Lauri Markkanen and Allonzo Trier that are making offense flow for the Wildcats. Markkanen is a freshman with the skills to play inside and out. Trier is basically doing it all from scoring and rebounding to distributing the ball. Both guys are shooting over 40% from behind the arc.

The team itself is highly efficient from three point and on offense in general. Their top five player of Allonzo Trier, Lauri Markkanen, Rawie Alkins, Dusan Ristic and Kadeem Allen are all shooting over 37% from three-point land. They are also all over 44% from the field. Not only that, they also allow only 65.4 points per game on the defensive end.

The west is a tough region but the Wildcats have the personnel to do some damage.

Iowa state could go far in the midwest

Lots of people are saying that Kansas has a cake walk to the National Championship game. Everyone seems to forget that Iowa State has gone 10-2 in its last 12 games including a road win against Kansas.

They beat Miami early on in the regular season. They only lost to Baylor by two early on, then beat them by three in late February. The Cyclones also beat Kansas in overtime in early February as previously mentioned. To sum up, they have the heart and the gumption to beat some high caliber competition.

NCAA Tournament Teams to Cheer For

Monte Morris flexes on the baseline after a big play (Photo Credits to YouTube)

The team itself is comprised of a bunch of guys who put up good numbers. They aren’t anything out of the ordinary, they just get the job done. Monte Morris leads the team with 16.3 points per game but the next few guys are all putting up anywhere from 12-16 points on average.

After a win over Nevada, they will likely see a very good Purdue team.

When it comes down to it, all the statistics in the world can only tell so much. March is the month of madness for a reason.

 

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NCAA Tournament Bracketology 3/11/17

March 11, 2017 Bracketology

The NCAA Tournament is fast approaching. March Madness is here. This NCAA Tournament bracketology is an outlook of what the bracket could look like in a few days. Click on the picture to zoom.

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NCAA Tournament Bracketology 3/8/17

March 8, 2017 Bracketology

 

The NCAA Tournament is fast approaching. March Madness is here. This bracketology is an outlook of what the bracket could look like in a few days. Click on the picture to zoom.

 

 

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Baylor and Kansas State: The Game You Need to Watch this Week

It is now March 7th and for college basketball fans, it’s like Christmas Eve. Fans all across the country are so excited anticipating the NCAA tournament, but there is one game in particular that should not be over looked. Kansas State and Baylor will go head-to-head on Thursday at 9pm ET in the Big 12 quarterfinal. Don’t miss it, I’ll tell you why.

past meetings

Kansas State has given the bears trouble all season. In their first meeting, the Wildcats had a two-point lead with ten minutes to go. However Baylor outscored them 32-21 from that point on. Another key factor was Johnathan Motley fouling out with 4:34 to go in the game, which definitely worked in the Wildcats’ favor. But not enough for the Wildcats to get the win.

In their second meeting Kansas State rallied to beat the Bears by two on their home home court in Waco, TX. They played some of the best first-half basketball that their coach had seen all year. The Wildcats shot 50% from the field and only had one turnover in the first 17:37 of the game. They held control for most of the game and outscored the Bears 26-22 in the paint.

The Bears tried to make a second half effort, and outscored Kansas State 32-19 in the second half. However when you put yourselves at a 15 point deficit at halftime, it’s hard to come back from that. Johnathan Motley also missed two shots towards the end to tie it.

What the bears have going for them

Baylor has quite a few names you want to know, if you don’t know them already. First Johnathan Motley who is averaging 17.5 points per game, 10 rebounds per game and it shooting 51.7% from the field. He has put on quite a show this season in big games. Most recently against West Virginia he put up 19 of his 23 points in the second half to get a nine point victory at home.

Next is Jo Laul-Acuil Jr. who is shooting 54.9% from the field which ranks fifth in the conference. He is a 7-0 junior averaging 9.2 points per game and 6.9 rebounds per game. But he is more than just statistics though. The kid knows how to play. In the Bears man defense, he parks it in the middle of the paint and deters anyone from getting too close to the hoop. On the offensive end, he has a nice touch around the rim to finish off any assists from Manu Lecomte.

Lecomte is former Miami Hurricane but he is doing big things for the Bears this year. As a junior he is averaging 4 assists per game (9th in the conference) as well as contributing 12.4 points per game. He also leads the team in overall assists with 115 and the senior Ishmail Wainright has a close 99. Both Lecomte and Wainright are great when it comes to distribution of the basketball.

As a team they have a big presence in the paint. Baylor leads the Big 12 as a team with 4.9 blocks per game and Jo Laul-Acuil Jr. single-handedly leads the Big 12 with 2.6 blocks per game. Their bread and butter is relying on defensive prowess to stop teams because they only average 75 points per game.

Kansas state has the right guys

The Wildcats are not short-staffed in any form. They have the right personnel to beat the Bears, and they have proven that in the regular season.

Wesley Iwundu looks to score (photo courtesy of collegian media group)

Wesley Iwundu is leading the way statistically averaging 12.6 points per game and 6.6 rebounds per game. But he can’t be mentioned without talking about D.J. Johnson and Barry Brown.

These are two exceptional players that you notice right away while watching the Wildcats play. Johnson is shooting 60.9% from the field, leading the Big 12 and a senior who doesn’t want his career to be over. Most recently he scored 19 against Texas Tech to keep their hopes of the NCAA tournament alive.

Barry Brown is a 6-3 sophomore averaging 2.4 steals per game (second in the conference). He’s a crafty guy who scored 15 against Texas to pull out a big win mid-February after losing six out of seven straight.

Dean Wade and Kamau Stokes also are big factors to the Wildcats’ success, so keep an eye on them too. Stokes especially who is averaging 4.3 assists per game.

Wednesday night’s matchup

What you can take from all the statistics, is that each team has respectable numbers in their given categories. When comparing the Bears and Wildcats side by side, they are identical in team statistics.

Each team has won one in the regular season, but Kansas State really needs this win for better consideration in the tournament. Baylor also could use the win to better their chances for a higher seed.

Now putting statistics aside, this will be a good game. It’s conference tournament time and everything is amped up. Seniors don’t want to be done, and players dream of going to the ‘ship. This will not be one you want to miss.

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

Cinderella Teams who can Win in the 2017 NCAA Tournament Part Two

As the college basketball season goes on, we are finding out more and more about teams that could end up being stories in the NCAA Tournament. Cinderella teams are teams that are commonly unexplored before March, but in order to be ahead of the curve, they most be studied now.

Cinderella Teams- Part One

Monmouth Hawks

A lot of people know about the Hawks from last year’s team. The bench had crazy celebrations and the team pulled off some good upsets. Unfortunately, they fell short of the NCAA Tournament and settled for the NIT. The Hawks are back this season and if they can make the tournament, can win.

They may not have the quality wins that they had last season, but the Hawks are 16-2 in conference and have a big win on the road against Memphis. The Tigers aren’t a great team, but it is a solid win for a MAAC team nonetheless. The Hawks are ranked 46 in RPI.

Monmouth is led by one of the best guards in the country Justin Robinson. Robinson averages 19.8 points and 4.8 assists per game. He is one of the most effective players in transition, which has fueled an offense that averages 81.1 points per game. With lanky guard Micah Seaborn and sharpshooter Je’lon Hornbeak, the Hawks have a lot of scoring punch from their guards.

Inside scoring is a bit of a problem for Monmouth, but with the guards firing on all cylinders, that isn’t too much to worry about. They are a great rebounding team, averaging 39.5 rebounds per game, which should help them do battle with good teams in the NCAA tournament.

Defense is the main issue with the Hawks, as they give up 73.5 points per game, meaning they will have to outscore their opponent(s) in March, rather than shut them down.

Illinois State Redbirds

Most of the time when people hear the conference Missouri Valley, they think of Wichita State, but Illinois State is having a great season.

Cinderella Teams

Deontae Hawkins (Photo courtesy: dudesonsports.com)

The Redbirds are 23-5 with an RPI of 33. At 15-1 in conference, they are on pace to share the MVC regular season title with the Shockers. Illinois State and Wichita State have split their two meetings, each winning at home. Right now the Redbirds are on the bubble, so they need to make the tournament first, but could be dangerous if they get in.

Illinois State has three players averaging over 10 points per game. Forwards Deontae Hawkins and MiKyle McIntosh both have inside-out games. Guard Paris Lee scores and sets up his teammates well with 5.2 assists per game. He also shoots well, hitting 42% of his three point field goals.

Those players will need to have big games in the NCAA Tournament scoring wise. If those players are able to score for the Redbirds, the defense will be able to hold up. Illinois State boasts the 10th best defense in terms of points allowed per game in the country at 61.9.

UT Arlington Mavericks

UT Arlington is a team that has already had an impressive season and looks to continue that into March.

Cinderella Teams

Kevin Hervey (Photo courtesy: NCAA.com)

The Mavericks have a great win over St. Mary’s, which improves their resume tremendously. The win was on the road, making it even more impressive. They have a record of 21-6 with an RPI of 34. Their conference record is 11-3 and they are in the driver’s seat to win the Sun Belt.

Kevin Hervey is the Maverick’s leading scorer and is a double-double threat every time he steps on the court. He is averaging 17.2 points and 8.3 rebounds per game. Two guards, Jalen Jones and Erick Neal, also help provide a scoring punch.

While the Mavericks don’t have anything they do extremely well, they are pretty good at offense, defense and rebounding. Their biggest competitive advantage is Hervey and he is going to have to be a star in order for UT Arlington to advance in the NCAA Tournament.

 

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