Grading college basketball’s coaching hires

This post will be updated throughout the next few weeks, as programs look to fill voids at their head coaching position. While there are a lot of teams and conferences out there, this article will grade college basketball’s coaching hires in the AAC (select programs), ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big XII, SEC and Pac-12.

Louisville Cardinals: Chris Mack

Chris Mack has made the tough decision to leave his alma mater to go to a school that is currently under investigation by the FBI. Mack posted a 215-97 record while at Xavier and was the program’s all-time winningest coach. He made the tournament in eight out of his nine years as the head coach of the Musketeers, which includes three Sweet Sixteens and one Elite Eight appearances.

He is a great offensive coach and really excels at drawing up good offensive plays out of timeouts. This season he used those skills to lead Xavier to the eighth most efficient offense in the country. Defensive coaching is not his forte, which will seem odd at a place like Louisville, but he did implement a variety of defenses (including a 1-3-1 zone that was tough to deal with) to try to change things up on opponents.

With everything going on at Louisville right now, they hit a home run with this hire. Mack is a top 10 offensive coach in the country and can recruit well. If Mack doesn’t succeed at Louisville, it is likely more due to what sanctions are given to them than Mack’s coaching ability. To top it all off, Louisville is only paying him $4 million in annual salary. With a program in its current state, many thought the price tag would be almost double that.

Grade: A

Pittsburgh Panthers: Jeff Capel III

Grading college basketball's coaching hires

Jeff Capel (Photo by zagsblog.com)

Pittsburgh is another program in an interesting situation, but it is mostly their own doing. After Jamie Dixon left to take the job at TCU, they replaced him with Kevin Stallings, a coach that underachieved given his talent at Vanderbilt. Stallings depleted all the talent in Pitt’s program and coached them to a 0-18 ACC record this season (0-19 if you include the ACC Tournament). They reportedly had the job turned down by a few coaches that normally would have taken the job in a heartbeat.

Jeff Capel will be another Duke assistant leaving the program for a head coaching job. He was formerly a head coach at VCU and Oklahoma. He has made three NCAA Tournaments in his time and even an Elite Eight with Blake Griffin leading the Sooners. Unfortunately, the program was found to have committed major NCAA infractions while he was in charge. He reportedly didn’t know about the violations happening but was still fired. As a head coach, he has recruited players like Blake Griffin, Willie Warren, Eric Maynor and Larry Sanders.

Capel has been credited with helping Duke get some of the country’s top prospect since he joined the staff in 2011. Recruiting is his major calling card. He has filled in for Coach K on occasion, who has had a few issues with his health over the last few seasons.

It seems like, over the past several years, Capel hasn’t been talked about as a major candidate for jobs. That is probably due to the NCAA infractions that happened under his watch and the bad season he had in his last year at Oklahoma with some talented players on his roster. Pittsburgh, who doesn’t have much talent, will need his recruiting abilities and decided to take the risk.

Grade: C

UConn Huskies: Dan Hurley

Hurley has been the coach of Rhode Island since the 2012-2013 season. Before that, he was at Wagner as the head coach for two seasons. In his last season at Wagner, he posted a 25-6 record but was unable to make the NCAA Tournament. At Rhode Island, he went from an 8-21 record in year one to a 26-8 record in his final season. He has made two straight NCAA Tournaments, but the Rams were bounced in the second round each year.

UConn fired Kevin Ollie after winning a championship only four seasons ago. He was unable to find sustained success and was fired due to a pending investigation. The program isn’t in the best shape at the moment and is stuck in a lackluster AAC. Hurley should be able to find some decent success at UConn, but bringing the program back to national prominence probably isn’t in the cards.

Grade: B

Memphis Tigers: Penny Hardaway

Memphis firing Tubby Smith after a 20 win season seemed like it was a bit too soon, but they wanted Hardaway the whole time. While he was an iconic player in the NBA and for Memphis, he has no coaching experience in his background.

Hardaway should be a good recruiter, as some recruits will recognize him and he will be able to relate to the situation they are in. The program should have more interest in it, but it is hard to tell how a coach will do in his first go at it. This is probably too good of a job for a first-time coach (he hasn’t even been an assistant yet at the college level).

Grade: C

Georgia Bulldogs: Tom Crean

Grading college basketball's coaching hires

Tom Crean (Photo by indystar.com)

Tom Crean spent one year at ESPN and is now back in the college game. He is 356-231 overall in his two coaching jobs at Marquette and Indiana. This includes one Final Four and three Sweet Sixteen finishes. Crean was one of the most experienced and accomplished coaches on the market, even though he was fired by Indiana.

He is a great offensive coach, with his last two seasons at Indiana ranking in the top ten in efficiency in the country. Crean also is a solid recruiter and will get some talent to Athens.

Mark Fox had the program in contention for an NCAA Tournament bid at the end of the season, but they came up a bit short. The team was based on one great player in Yante Maten, who is now gone. Crean will have to turn around a program in a conference that is currently really strong in basketball.

Grade: B+

Ole Miss Rebels: Kermit Davis

Davis may not be as known as other coaches on this list, but he has a lot of experience as a head coach. He has had stops at Idaho, Texas A&M and Middle Tennessee with a record of 403-238. He has recently led Middle Tennessee to three NCAA Tournaments in six years, with two of those resulting in round one wins.

Ole Miss parted ways mutually with Andy Kennedy, who made two NCAA Tournaments and several NITs. The Rebels do have some players returning, but they went 12-20 this past season. Davis was given a long time (he started coaching there in 2002) to get the Blue Raiders on track and likely won’t get as much time at Ole Miss, with the SEC have so many good teams and coaches.

Grade: C-

Xavier Musketeers: Travis Steele

Mack leaving Xavier, his alma mater, was a surprise. In the last thirty years or so Xavier has done a great job of targeting and hiring coaches, which has helped lead the programs to new heights in the 21st century. It is hard to replace a Xavier legend, but they have found a guy who should keep the Xavier tradition alive.

Steele was one of Mack’s assistants and had been with the program for ten years. A lot of the current and former players publicly vouched for Steele to be the next head coach on Twitter. He is great at drawing up plays and recruiting.

He has no head coaching experience, but neither did Mack or Sean Miller when they were hired for the same job. While it was reported that a lot of big-time division one coaches were interested, Steele is a good fit and should be able to keep the program steady.

Grade: B+

 

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2018 NFL mock draft March 27

Free agency and trades have turned the NFL on its head. With a lot of team needs being addressed, fans can look forward to the draft in just under a month. Here is the 2018 NFL mock draft March 27.

1. Cleveland Browns- Sam Darold, QB, USC

The Browns have done a great job of keeping who they prefer at quarterback under wraps. First, it was Baker Mayfield, but now Sam Darnold is the favorite at quarterback. Hue Jackson has loved big, strong-armed quarterbacks in the past. Darnold struggled this season with his decision-making which led to a lot of turnovers. He also has a flawed throwing motion. Although he went to the NFL Combine, he didn’t compete on the field and just interviewed with teams. Some have Darnold as their top quarterback, but his decision-making needs to improve.

2. New York Giants- Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA

No major questions about Rosen arose from the NFL Draft Combine interviews, which is good news for him. Rosen had to carry UCLA and ended up having a successful season. He needed to have a good year to clear up any doubts about his shoulder injury he suffered during his sophomore season. Eli Manning will need an heir apparent, as Davis Webb isn’t the answer.

2018 NFL mock draft March 27

Baker Mayfield (Photo by predominantlyorange.com)

3. New York Jets- Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma

The Jets have moved up to number three to get a quarterback, but who will they draft? Mayfield has defied all the critics who have mentioned his size as a reason not to draft him. He can make all the throws and is athletic enough to avoid pass rushers. His main calling card is his accuracy, which is the best in this draft class. He said as much in his interviews with the media in Indianapolis.

4. Cleveland Browns- Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State

Yes, the Browns did just sign Carlos Hyde, but Barkley is still the best player in the class. With the trades for Jarvis Landry and Tyrod Taylor, Cleveland is making a concerted effort to improve the offense and with Barkley, they would have a lot of options in 2018.

5. Denver Broncos- Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming

Denver got Case Keenum in free agency, but he’s already 30 years old. While Allen certainly has flaws in his decision-making and accuracy, he does have a strong arm and is athletic. John Elway went to Boise, Idaho to watch him in his bowl game personally. He competed in all the drills at the combine and got some audible cheers when he displayed his arm strength. The Broncos have a solid roster and can afford to use a pick on a developmental quarterback. If they don’t select a quarterback, they will likely go with Quenton Nelson to help their offensive line.

6. Indianapolis Colts- Bradley Chubb, DE/OLB, N.C. State

The Colts pulled off a fantastic trade and will likely still get their first target in the NFL Draft. Frank Reich will be looking forward to working with Andrew Luck. When he is back, the offense will figure itself out. They can improve the defense to make the team more complete when Luck comes back. Chubb is a great pass rusher who has 10 sacks in each of the past two seasons. He displayed a good combination of size and speed at the combine.

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers- Quenton Nelson, G, Notre Dame

Tampa Bay needs to protect Jameis Winston to ensure that he has a good year. Nelson is one of the best players in the class and will be drafted early despite playing a position that doesn’t usually get talked about this soon.

8. Chicago Bears- Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State

Chicago has signed Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel to bolster its wide receiver core. This means they may choose to address the secondary. The Ohio State product is a good cover corner, who isn’t afraid to get physical. He is a little slight and will need to put on some weight.

9. San Francisco 49ers- Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama

Ridley is the best route-runner in the class and only lacked production in college because of the system he played in and inconsistent quarterback play. If they want to have a good offense, they will need to have a good target for Jimmy Garopolo.

10. Oakland Raiders- Minkah Fitzpatrick, S/CB, Alabama

Tahir Whitehead was signed at linebacker in free agency, so the Raiders may elect to go in a different direction. With some of the trades and signings that occurred, Fitzpatrick could slip to this pick. He likely fits in best as a safety in the NFL, but can also play corner. Whichever he needs to play, he will excel at. His 4.47 40 yard dash time at the combine was right in line where he should have run.

11. Miami Dolphins- Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia

Smith was the best linebacker in college football this year and does a little bit of everything well. He is especially fast, which is crucial for his coverage and tracking down of ball carriers. The Dolphins have Raekwon McMillan and Kiko Alonso, but McMillan got injured before his impact could be seen. They will still need a third linebacker.

2018 NFL mock draft March 27

Lamar Jackson (Photo by boltsfromtheblue.com)

12. Buffalo Bills- Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville

The Bills moved up this far with their trade with the Bengals, but don’t be surprised if they move up again to get a better quarterback. They signed A.J. McCarron, but there really wasn’t a reason to move up unless they were taking a quarterback.  Some people are questioning whether Jackson can play quarterback, but he showed improved accuracy this season and is a dynamic playmaker. He should be given a shot to play the position in the NFL.

13. Washington Redskins- Vita Vea, DT/NT, Washington

Vea can play both defensive tackle and nose tackle, depending on the scheme a team runs, which is valuable. He has great size at 6’5″ and 340 pounds, which makes him disruptive. Vea did suffer a hamstring injury at the combine. Washington’s interior of the defensive line can be improved, as they allowed the most rushing yards per game in the NFL.

14. Green Bay Packers- Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech

Edmunds does just about everything on the football field well, as a good cover linebacker, rusher and run stopper. The Packers need to make the defense better for when Aaron Rodgers gets the offense going again and he has alluded to it as much this offseason.

15. Arizona Cardinals- Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU

Sutton is a great outside receiver, who produced a lot at SMU. The Cardinals could go quarterback here, but that would be a reach, so they should find a wide receiver to put aside Larry Fitzgerald.

16. Baltimore Ravens- Da’Ron Payne, DL, Alabama

Payne’s stats aren’t eye-popping, but he often gets double teamed. The Ravens don’t have many good defensive linemen and can immediately get an upgrade if they select Payne.

17. Los Angeles Chargers- Derwin James, S, Florida State

Some of the trades that have happened in the last few weeks have helped teams that weren’t even in them. Now James might fall to the Chargers, who need a safety. He is athletic but doesn’t necessarily have a set position, which is turning some teams off. He ran a 4.48 at the combine and has great size for a defensive back, making him valuable.

18. Seattle Seahawks- Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame

Orlando Brown had a rough combine, while Connor Williams has some questions about his length. McGlinchey might be the safest pick because even if he can’t be a great left tackle, he can move over to the right and be successful. The Seahawks need a few good offensive linemen and might elect to go for the player with the highest floor.

19. Dallas Cowboys- Rashaan Evans, LB, Alabama

Evans is a quick, run stopping linebacker that can help out right away. The Cowboys current linebackers all have played different positions throughout their career, so Evans should be able to slide in and produce alongside them.

20. Detroit Lions- Taven Bryan, DT, Florida

The Lions could go with an offensive lineman or running back, but they do have some holes on the defensive line. Taven Bryan could take some pressure off of Ziggy Ansah.

2018 NFL mock draft March 27

Billy Price (Photo by hogshaven.com)

21. Cincinnati Bengals- Billy Price, G/C, Ohio State

Cincinnati got Cordy Glenn with their trade down to this pick, but their offensive line is still very weak. Price has tons of experience at guard and center for Ohio State and will start right away.

22. Buffalo Bills- James Daniels, C, Iowa

When Eric Wood had to retire, the Bills lost a great player. They also traded Cordy Glenn to Cincinnati and need to upgrade their offensive line. Daniels has risen up draft boards lately and can immediately fill in for Wood. This pick may be traded if they move up higher to draft a quarterback.

23. Los Angeles Rams- Marcus Davenport, DE/OLB, UTSA

Los Angeles has good inside pressure in Aaron Donald and Michael Brockers, but need better outside pass rushers, especially after trading Robert Quinn to Miami. Davenport has the build of a great pass rusher, but reports are the media like him more than NFL teams do.

24. Carolina Panthers- Harold Landry, DE/OLB, Boston College

The Panthers signed Julius Peppers, but he won’t last much longer and they aren’t very deep at defensive end. Landry had a great 2016 season that put him on the map and followed it up with a solid season this year.

25. Tennessee Titans- Isaiah Wynn, OG/C, Georgia

Wynn played well in the Senior Bowl and the College Football Playoff for Georgia. The Titans need to improve the interior of their offensive line to help their young players at skill positions.

26. Atlanta Falcons- Josh Jackson, CB, Iowa

Jackson turned into an All-American corner at Iowa this season and has shown the ability to make acrobatic interceptions.  If Jackson falls this far, the Falcons will run to the podium to draft him. Atlanta needs another corner to pair with Desmond Trufant and should try to take one early.

27. New Orleans Saints- Leighton Vander Esch, LB, Boise State

Vander Esch is another player that has been moving up draft boards. The Saints don’t have much at linebacker and can get a starter from day one here

28. Pittsburgh Steelers- Ronnie Harrison, S, Alabama

Harrison is a good strong safety prospect, who plays physically. Despite being known for all of their great safeties throughout their history, the Steelers are very bad at the position right now.

29. Jacksonville Jaguars- Christian Kirk, WR, Texas A&M 

Kirk is dynamic when he has the ball in his hands and can play in the slot or on the outside. Jacksonville really doesn’t have too many needs and have said they are sticking with Blake Bortles at quarterback. The Jaguars have a decent crop of young receivers, but they rarely stay healthy.

2018 NFL mock draft March 27

Orlando Brown (Photo by sbnation.com)

30. Minnesota Vikings- Orlando Brown, OT, Oklahoma

Brown had a bad combine, which may hurt his stock a little, but his game tape is great and shows a mauler. He may not have the athleticism to play left tackle in the NFL but could be a great right tackle. The Vikings’ offensive line is much better than last year, but can still be improved. With a good offense and defense, they can afford to make a good unit better.

31. New England Patriots- Donte Jackson, CB, LSU

With Malcolm Butler leaving, the Patriots need more help at corner. Jackson is a fast corner who is good in man to man coverage.

32. Philadelphia Eagles- Connor Williams, OT, Texas

They just won the Super Bowl with a backup quarterback and have a very solid roster. This pick could depend a lot on the health status of left tackle Jason Peters. If he isn’t healthy they’ll need a tackle. Williams’ draft stock has been all over the place, going from early first round to third round back into the first round.

 

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Cleveland Browns 2018 NFL Draft profile

The 2018 NFL Draft is just over a month away, which means that Draftmas is back. Draftmas will take a look at each NFL team heading into the NFL Draft, what their needs are and who they could be targeting. You will find it here. Draftmas will be kicked off with the Cleveland Browns 2018 NFL Draft profile. 

Summary

It was another rough year in Cleveland, but this season was capped off with a parade for the imperfect 0-16 season. The Browns had some young talent in 2017, but lacked the veteran experience at a lot of key positions, especially after left tackle Joe Thomas went down. More veterans have already been added to the roster for 2018 as Cleveland has started the offseason already having vastly improved their team.

Cleveland Browns 2018 NFL Draft Profile

Tyrod Taylor (Photo by yahoo.com)

The offense was the worst in the league, averaging 14.6 points per game. DeShone Kizer was traded to Green Bay after a rough rookie season, and Tyrod Taylor was acquired to, at the very least, be a stop gap quarterback for the Browns. They will also have a new running back as Isaiah Crowell has been replaced by Carlos Hyde via free agency. Duke Johnson will likely continue his role of being a running back and slot receiver.

At wide receiver, fans can get excited about having Josh Gordon, if he can stay on the field. The Browns also acquired Jarvis Landry, who has the most receptions through four seasons to start an NFL career. With Gordon being a threat over the top and Landry being a good possession receiver, Taylor should be salivating over his weapons. Add in David Njoku as a young tight end and the Browns have some solid pieces at the skill positions.

Joe Thomas did decide to retire, and the Hall of Famer will now need to be replaced. He had a great career, but the Browns still have a decent line without him. They could address the tackle spot with one of their many picks in this draft.

Defensively, Cleveland gave up the second most points in the league at 25.6 per game. A lot of the points given up were a result of being on the field so often since the offense struggled to move the ball. They ranked seventh in the league in total rushing yards allowed and 19th in passing yards allowed. If the offense can control the ball more, the defense could see vast improvements in 2018.

On the edge, they have good young pass rushers, including Myles Garrett. The Browns will need to find some defensive tackles after trading Danny Shelton to the Patriots, especially if they plan to continue having a good rush defense.

The linebacker position was disappointing for the Browns in 2017, but it isn’t the biggest need for the Browns to focus on. At corner, T.J. Carrie and Terrance Mitchell were both signed, but more corners might be needed. In Cleveland’s trade with the Packers, the Browns netted Damarious Randall, who will be paired with Jabrill Peppers at safety.

It’s been an active offseason for the Browns, and it will continue to be during the NFL Draft with all of their picks. They have filled some needs through free agency and trades, but can really put the icing on the cake of a nice offseason with a good draft.

Picks and Needs

After all of their offseason trades, the Browns have nine picks in the 2018 NFL Draft. Five of those will be in the top 64 picks of the draft, meaning they should be able to get a lot of quality players.

First round (2 picks): 1, 4

Second round (3): 33, 35, 64

Third round (0)

Fourth round (1): 114

Fifth round (1): 150

Sixth round (2): 175, 205

Seventh round (0)

Offensive needs:

Quarterback – Tyrod Taylor is a good quarterback for the Browns to have right now, but they will want to secure one for the future.

Wide receiver – If the Browns don’t have faith that Josh Gordon can stay on the field, they will need to find a partner for Landry.

Offensive tackle – With the retirement of Joe Thomas, the Browns will have the tough task of replacing a first-ballot Hall of Famer.

Defensive needs:

Defensive tackle – The Browns likely needed defensive tackle help before trading Danny Shelton away, but now it is one of their biggest needs.

Linebacker – While this isn’t a huge need, none of their linebackers were great in 2017.

Cornerback – Carrie and Mitchell were decent signings, but Cleveland needs more corners and possibly some better ones.

Targets

The picks in this section are players the Browns could realistically get where they are drafting.

First round:

Pick No. 1: Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State

Cleveland Browns 2018 NFL Draft Profile

Saquon Barkley (Photo by pagesix.com)

This is an odd position for the Browns because they have the fourth pick too. Do they take the quarterback of their choice and see if Barkley falls to four? Do they risk it and take their quarterback and see if the Giants (The Jets couldn’t possibly take a running back with their pick after trading away so much for the third pick, could they?) pass on Barkley to take a quarterback? Barkley is the best player in the class, so he is the target for No. 1, as he reportedly hasn’t been ruled out as being selected by the Browns. Ultimately, it might not matter, as they might get who they want at quarterback at pick four.

Even with Hyde, Barkley could be an option for a team that has made a concerted effort to improve the offense. While Hyde is a solid back, he wanted to stay with the 49ers and they decided to let him walk in order to go with Jerick McKinnon, Joe Williams and Matt Breida at the position for this season.

Other options would be any of the top quarterbacks in the class or Minkah Fitzpatrick.

Pick No. 4: Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma

What quarterback will the Browns choose? Sam Darnold and Josh Rosen have both allegedly said things about not wanting to play for the Browns. It is possible that neither makes it to pick four anyways. Mayfield is the most accurate quarterback in the class, but, like all quarterbacks in this class, could use a year of maturing before taking over as the starter. He has competitive fire that would love the chance to help turn the Browns around.

Second round:

Cleveland Browns 2018 NFL Draft Profile

Connor Williams (Photo by profootballfocus.com)

Pick No. 33: Connor Williams, OT, Texas

Here is the replacement for Joe Thomas. None of the tackles in this class have stood out, which means that the Browns can get a decent one with one of their third-round picks. Williams isn’t the biggest or strongest and does not have the longest arms, but is very athletic for a tackle. He is similar to Garett Bolles from last year’s draft.

Pick No. 35: Jaire Alexander, CB, Louisville

Although he was injured in 2017 for a few games, Alexander had a great 2016 season for Louisville. While corner was addressed in free agency, improving the secondary can still be done through the draft. Alexander would be a good player to grab early in round two.

Pick No. 64: Rasheem Green, DT/DE, USC

Green had a great combine and showed he can either play on the edge or the interior. If he adds some weight, he can be a nice fit for Cleveland at defensive tackle after the Shelton trade. His athleticism will allow him to be disruptive in the run game and allow him to stay on the field for pass rushing situations.

Conclusion

The Browns can fill more needs through the draft to wrap up a great offseason. With a good draft and the moves already made, Cleveland should see a big increase in wins from 2017 to 2018.

Make sure to tune in tomorrow for the New York Giants 2018 NFL Draft Profile.

 

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2018 NFL mock draft March 20

Free agency and trades have turned the NFL on its head. With a lot of team needs being addressed, fans can look forward to the draft in just over a month. Here is the 2018 NFL mock draft March 20.

1. Cleveland Browns- Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State

Yes, the Browns did just sign Carlos Hyde, but Barkley is still the best player in the class. With the trades for Jarvis Landry and Tyrod Taylor, Cleveland is making a concerted effort to improve the offense and with Barkley they would have a lot of options in 2018.

2. New York Giants- Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA

No major questions about Rosen arose from the NFL Draft Combine interviews, which is good news for him. Rosen had to carry UCLA and ended up having a successful season. He needed to have a good year to clear up any doubts about his shoulder injury he suffered during his sophomore season. The Giants may be without Eli Manning next year and even if he does stay, will need a quarterback of the future.

2018 NFL mock draft March 20

Sam Darnold (Photo by nj.com)

3. New York Jets- Sam Darnold, QB, USC

The Jets traded up for the this pick, which means they are drafting a quarterback, despite now having Josh McCown and Teddy Bridgewater. Darnold struggled this season with his decision-making which led to a lot of turnovers. He also has a flawed throwing motion. Although he went to the NFL Combine, he didn’t compete on the field and just interviewed with teams. Some have Darnold as their top quarterback, but his decision-making needs to improve. The Jets did well this season for the talent they had on the roster, but need a franchise quarterback.

4. Cleveland Browns- Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma

Although they signed Tyrod Taylor, Cleveland still needs a quarterback of the future. Baker has defied all the critics who have mentioned his size as a reason not to draft him. He can make all the throws and is athletic enough to avoid pass rushers. His main calling card is his accuracy, which is the best in this draft class. He said as much in his interviews with the media in Indianapolis.

5. Denver Broncos- Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming

Denver got Case Keenum in free agency, but he’s already 30 years old. While Allen certainly has flaws in his decision-making and accuracy, he does have a strong arm and is athletic. John Elway went to Boise, Idaho to watch him in his bowl game personally. He competed in all the drills at the combine and got some audible cheers when he displayed his arm strength. The Broncos have a solid roster and can afford to use a pick on a developmental quarterback.

6. Indianapolis Colts- Bradley Chubb, DE/OLB, N.C. State

The Colts pulled off a fantastic trade and will likely still get their first target in the NFL Draft. Frank Reich will be looking forward to work with Andrew Luck. When he is back, the offense will figure itself out. They can improve the defense to make the team more complete when Luck comes back. Chubb is a great pass rusher who has 10 sacks in each of the past two seasons. He displayed a good combination of size and speed at the combine.

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers- Quenton Nelson, G, Notre Dame

Tampa Bay needs to protect Jameis Winston to insure that he has a good year. Nelson is one of the best players in the class and will be drafted early despite playing a position that doesn’t usually get talked about this soon.

8. Chicago Bears- Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State

Chicago has signed Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel to bolster its wide receiver core. This means they may choose to address the secondary. The Ohio State product is a good cover corner, who isn’t afraid to get physical. He is a little slight and will need to put on some weight.

9. San Francisco 49ers- Vita Vea, NT, Washington

The 49ers got Richard Sherman, which likely takes corner out of the equation at this pick, unless they are still concerned about his health. They can address the nose tackle position and improve their run defense. ea can play both defensive tackle and nose tackle, depending on the scheme a team runs, which is valuable. He has great size at 6’5″ and 340 pounds, which makes him disruptive. Vea did suffer a hamstring injury at the Combine.

2018 NFL mock draft March 20

Minkah Fitzpatrick (Photo by gridironnow.com)

10. Oakland Raiders- Minkah Fitzpatrick, S/CB, Alabama

Tahir Whitehead was signed at linebacker in free agency, so the Raiders may elect to go in a different direction. With some of the trades and signings that occurred, Fitzpatrick could slip to this pick. He likely fits in best as a safety in the NFL, but can also play corner. Whichever he needs to play, he will excel at. His 4.47 40 yard dash time at the combine was right in line where he should have run.

11. Miami Dolphins- Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia

Smith was the best linebacker in college football this year and does a little bit of everything well. He is especially fast, which is crucial for his coverage and tracking down of ball carriers. The Dolphins have Raekwon McMillan and Kiko Alonso, but McMillan got injured before his impact could be seen. They will still need a third linebacker.

12. Buffalo Bills- Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville

The Bills moved up this far with their trade with the Bengals, but don’t be surprised if they move up again to get a better quarterback. They signed A.J. McCarron, but there really wasn’t a reason to move up unless they were taking a quarterback.  Some people are questioning whether Jackson can play quarterback, but he showed improved accuracy this season and is a dynamic playmaker. He should be given a shot to play the position in the NFL.

13. Washington Redskins- Da’Ron Payne, DL, Alabama

Payne’s stats aren’t eye-popping, but he often gets double teamed. Washington’s interior of the defensive line can be improved, as they allowed the most rushing yards per game in the NFL. His combine workout helped display the physical freak he is.

14. Green Bay Packers- Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech

Edmunds does just about everything on the football field well, as a good cover linebacker, rusher and run stopper. The Packers need to make the defense better for when Aaron Rodgers gets the offense going again and he has alluded to it as much this offseason.

15. Arizona Cardinals- Mason Rudolph, QB, Oklahoma State

The Cardinals find themselves behind the eight ball if they want a quarterback and will need to trade up or reach for one. Rudolph is the best quarterback available so he will be slotted here for now. Not everyone likes Rudolph, but he has a lot of experience and quite possibly the best deep ball in the class.

16. Baltimore Ravens- Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama

Baltimore was able to sign Michael Crabtree and John Brown, but might want to get a young player to help out their offense. Ridley is the best route-runner in the class and only lacked production in college because of the system he played in and inconsistent quarterback play.

17. Los Angeles Chargers- Derwin James, S, Florida State

Some of the trades that have happened in the last few weeks have helped teams that weren’t even in them. Now James might fall to the Chargers, who need a safety. He is athletic, but doesn’t necessarily have a set position, which is turning some teams off. He ran a 4.48 at the combine and has great size for a defensive back, making him valuable. At the end of the day he plays well and some team will give him a shot.

18. Seattle Seahawks- Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame

Orlando Brown had a rough combine, while Connor Williams has some questions about his length. McGlinchey might be the safest pick, because even if he can’t be a great left tackle, he can move over to the right and be successful. The Seahawks need a few good offensive linemen and might elect to go for the safest pick.

2018 NFL mock draft March 20

Rashaan Evans (Photo by sports.yahoo.com)

19. Dallas Cowboys- Rashaan Evans, LB, Alabama

Evans is a quick, run stopping linebacker that can help out right away. The Cowboys current linebackers all have played different positions throughout their career, so Evans should be able to slide in and produce alongside them.

20. Detroit Lions- Taven Bryan, DT, Florida

The Lions could go with an offensive lineman or running back, but they do have some holes on the defensive line. Taven Bryan could take some pressure off of Ziggy Ansah.

21. Cincinnati Bengals- Billy Price, OG/C, Ohio State

Cincinnati got Cordy Glenn with their trade down to this pick, but their offensive line is still very weak. Price has tons of experience at guard and center for Ohio State and will start right away.

22. Buffalo Bills- James Daniels, C, Iowa

When Eric Wood had to retire, the Bills lost a great player. They also traded Cordy Glenn to Cincinnati and need to upgrade their offensive line. Daniels has risen up draft boards lately and can immediately fill in for Wood.

23. Los Angeles Rams- Marcus Davenport, DE/OLB, UTSA

Los Angeles has good inside pressure in Aaron Donald and Michael Brockers, but need better outside pass rushers, especially after trading Robert Quinn to Miami. Davenport has the build of a great pass rusher, but reports are the media like him more than NFL teams do.

24. Carolina Panthers- Harold Landry, DE/OLB, Boston College

The Panthers signed Julius Peppers, but he won’t last much longer and they aren’t very deep at defensive end. Landry had a great 2016 season that put him on the map and followed it up with a solid season this year.

25. Tennessee Titans- Isaiah Wynn, OG/C, Georgia

Wynn played well in the Senior Bowl and the College Football Playoff for Georgia. The Titans need to improve the interior of their offensive line to help their young players at skill positions.

26. Atlanta Falcons- Joshua Jackson, CB, Iowa

Jackson turned into an All-American corner at Iowa this season and has shown the ability to make acrobatic interceptions.  If Jackson falls this far, the Falcons will run to the podium to draft him. Atlanta needs another corner to pair with Desmond Trufant and should try to take one early.

2018 NFL mock draft March 20

Leighton Vander Esch (Photo by nj.com)

27. New Orleans Saints- Leighton Vander Esch, LB, Boise State

Vander Esch is another player that has been moving up draft boards. The Saints don’t have much at linebacker and can get a starter from day one here.

28. Pittsburgh Steelers- Ronnie Harrison, S, Alabama

Harrison is a good strong safety prospect, who plays physically. Despite being known for all of their great safeties throughout their history, the Steelers are very bad at the position right now.

29. Jacksonville Jaguars- Christian Kirk, WR, Texas A&M 

Kirk is dynamic when he has the ball in his hands and can play in the slot or on the outside. Jacksonville really doesn’t have too many needs and have said they are sticking with Blake Bortles at quarterback. The Jaguars have a decent crop of young receivers, but they rarely stay healthy.

30. Minnesota Vikings- Orlando Brown, OT, Oklahoma 

Brown had a bad combine, which may hurt his stock a little, but his game tape is great and shows a mauler. He may not have the athleticism to play left tackle in the NFL, but could be a great right tackle. The Vikings’ offensive line is much better than last year, but can still be improved. With a good offense and defense, they can afford to make a good unit better.

31. New England Patriots- Carlton Davis, CB, Auburn

With Malcolm Butler leaving, the Patriots need more help at corner. Davis is a lengthy corner for Auburn, who has withstood a lot of good SEC competition.

32. Philadelphia Eagles- Connor Williams, OT, Texas

They just won the Super Bowl with a backup quarterback and have a very solid roster. This pick could depend a lot on the health status of left tackle Jason Peters. If he isn’t healthy they’ll need a tackle. Williams’ draft stock has been all over the place, going from early first round to third round back into the first round.

 

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Teams most likely to make the Final Four

While choosing who can win some of the first round games is hard enough, picking the wrong team to make the Final Four can ruin your bracket. There are so many good teams every year who don’t end up making it to the final weekend of college basketball. With it being so tough to pick who will get there, this article should help pick the team from each region with the highest chances of reaching the Final Four.

South Regional: Virginia Cavaliers

Virginia and Kentucky are one of two teams in the region that rank in the top 25 in both offensive and defensive efficiency. Being ranked within those parameters, is a good indication of success in the 21st century, as all but one champion since 2002 were able to hit those marks.

The Cavaliers are really good defensively at 53.4 points allowed per game. The most points they have given up in a game this season is 68, which came on the road at West Virginia. Defense always travels, so even if they have a poor shooting game, the defense should be able to keep them competitive.

Stacking them up against everyone else in their region, Virginia is clearly the best and most battle-tested team. The two seed,Cincinnati, has some big wins over Wichita State and Houston, but were unable to beat good teams throughout the season. Tennessee, the three seed, is vastly undersized, which will make it easier for teams to match up with them. The four and five seeds in the region are Kentucky and Arizona, have potential, but are inconsistent.

Virginia has the best odds to win the whole tournament from the region at 5/1 odds. The next likely team from the region to win it all is Arizona at 12/1 odds, but they were only able to win a down Pac-12 by two games. They will be without sixth man De’Andre Hunter, but the Cavaliers should be able to cope without him.

East Regional: Villanova Wildcats

teams most likely to make the Final Four

Jalen Brunson (Photo by draftexpress.com)

Villanova is the number one seed and the most likely to advance out of the East. They had only four losses all season, which all came in conference play, and finished with 29 wins. While they fell short of winning the Big East in the regular season, they were able to win the Big East Tournament.

The Wildcats have the best offense in the country that scores 87.1 points per game. They are fueled by future NBA players Jalen Brunson and Mikal Bridges. Brunson is a point guard who can score, set up his teammates for easy shots and protect the basketball. Bridges is a mismatch for a lot of teams as a solid wing player that can shoot and drive.

Purdue will be a tough test as a two seed, but they have lost the last three games they have played against teams who made the tournament. The three seed, Texas Tech has not been able to beat a ranked team in over a month, when they beat a reeling Oklahoma team on February 13. Wichita State and West Virginia, the four and five seed in the region, but Wichita State hasn’t played the toughest competition this season and West Virginia hasn’t won four straight games (the number necessary to make the Final Four), since non-conference play.

Villanova is tied for the best odds to win the tournament with Virginia at 5/1. Purdue is the next likely from the region at 15/1 odds. They are a trendy pick to make the Final Four, but Villanova has the best chances to reach San Antonio.

 

Midwest Regional: Duke Blue Devils

Duke is just a two seed, but is the team most likely to come out of the Midwest. The Blue Devils finished the season at 26-7, but had a young team that had to take time to gel together. While they won neither the ACC regular season championship or the ACC Tournament, they have one of the most talented teams in the whole bracket.

The defense of Duke was criticized for most of the season, but Coach K then made the switch to go to a 2-3 zone, which has worked wonders for the Blue Devils. They are now one of the top ten most efficient defenses in the country. Their offense has never been in doubt, as they score 84.7 points per game and average the ninth most assists in the country at 17.5 per game. With Marvin Bagley III and Grayson Allen, along with a few other players who produce at a high rate, Duke has enough talent to win the whole thing.

Kansas is a solid number one seed, but they are very thin and have relied on point guard Devonte’ Graham all season. If he gets in foul trouble or injured, they are in some real trouble. Michigan State is a real threat, but Duke already beat the Spartans earlier in the year. Auburn and Clemson are both teams that are trying to overcome the loss of players, whether for injuries or the FBI investigation.

Duke has the third best odds to win the tournament at 6/1. Michigan State isn’t too far off in the region at 8/1. Duke has better odds by most sportsbooks, but Michigan State has a more experienced team. If you believe that Michigan State has a better chance at winning and want to get good value out of your wager, but don’t know where to start, take a look at Bovada sportsbook review. All the reputable reviews and user experiences will dampen any confusion that you may have.

West Regional: Michigan Wolverines

teams most likely to make the Final Four

John Beilein (Photo by usatoday.com)

Michigan came in fourth in the Big Ten, but got hot and were able to win the Big Ten Tournament. They finished the season at 28-7 and were rewarded with a number three seed in the West. While they are a three, they actually have the best chance to make the Final Four.

Under John Beilein, the Wolverines have always had good offenses. This year though, Michigan has a great defense that ranks ninth in the country allowing 63.5 points per game. Muhammed-Ali Abdur-Rahkman is a senior leader and scores from the perimeter, while Moritz Wagner is a do-it-all center, who is hard to stop.

The other teams in the region have their weaknesses. Xavier and North Carolina don’t have the best defenses and Michigan could take advantage. While Gonzaga has a good offense and defense, they haven’t faced the same level of competition as the rest of the region.

The Wolverines have the best odds in the region to win it all at 8/1 odds. North Carolina has the next highest odds in the region to take home the trophy at 18/1, which makes this region as rare as they come.

 

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The player you need to know from each team in the 2018 NCAA Tournament

With the NCAA Tournament looming, some players will blossom into stardom. Who they are is dependent on how far they can carry their team. Every team has one, if not more, players to keep an eye on. What players could have a huge impact in the Tournament?

South Regional

1. Virginia Cavaliers- Kyle Guy, G

Kyle Guy is not only the leading scorer on the number one overall seed, he made the All-ACC First Team. If the Cavaliers are able to make it to the Final Four, Guy will play a huge part in it.

16. UMBC Retrievers- Jairus Lyles, G

Lyles made headlines when he mad the game-winning shot in the AEC Tournament Final against Vermont to send the Retrievers to the big dance. The truth is he has been scoring at a high rate for thee years now at UMBC with over 20 points per game this season.

8. Creighton Bluejays- Marcus Foster, G

Well Foster’s name will be mentioned a lot in the first round because he is good and because he started off his career at Kansas State, who the Bluejays are playing. He averages 20.3 points per game and will be looking to pour it on his former school.

9. Kansas State Wildcats- Barry Brown, G

Both Barry Brown and Dean Wade are expected to play after sustaining injuries in the last few weeks. Brown is a floor general, who averages 16 points and 3.4 assists per game. He also called a team practice on a team off day to correct some problems, which helps his reputation as a coach on the floor.

5. Kentucky Wildcats- Kevin Knox, F

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander was also in contention here, but Knox is the x-factor and the player who will likely be drafted the highest. At times the Wildcats go as Knox goes. He is the teams leading scorer at 15.6 points per game.

12. Davidson Wildcats- Peyton Aldridge, F

Another tough call here, as Kellan Grady is a great freshman, but Aldridge is a senior who is averaging 21.5 points per game. If Davidson can upset Kentucky, he and Grady will be why.

Players you need to know in the 2018 NCAA Tournament

DeAndre Ayton (Photo by sportingnews.com)

4. Arizona Wildcats- DeAndre Ayton, C

This one was not as tough to pick. Ayton is a generational talent at center and is peaking at the right time of the season with his 32 points a piece in the last two rounds of the Pac-12 Tournament. He averages 20.3 points and 11.5 rebounds per game and should get a touch every time down the floor for the Wildcats.

13. Buffalo Bulls- C.J. Massinburg, G

Buffalo has a lot of solid players, but Massinburg is the teams leading scorer and rebounder with 16.9 and 7.4 per game respectively. The rebounding numbers are especially impressive for a guard.

6. Miami Hurricanes- Lonnie Walker IV, G

Walker has a chance to be a one and done player and has showed potential. While he has been inconsistent at times, if Miami makes a run, it’ll likely mean he is playing well.

11. Loyola-Chicago Ramblers- Clayton Custer, G

The junior leads the team in both points (13.4) and assists (4.3) per game. Loyola is a trendy upset pick and if they make a “Cinderella run”, Custer will have the ball in his hands the most.

3. Tennessee Volunteers- Grant Williams, F

Williams is an undersized forward, but he is tough and plays hard. He was rewarded with the SEC Player of the Year award for averaging 15.3 points and six rebounds per game.

14. Wright State Raiders- Grant Benzinger, G

At some point during the game they will mention that Grant’s dad Todd was a World Series champion for the Cincinnati Reds in 1990, but the real story is: Grant can play. The guard averages 14.5 points and 5.4 rebounds per game and exploded for 31 points in a big game against Northern Kentucky.

7. Nevada Wolfpack- Caleb Martin, F

Martin and his twin, Cody, may be remembered for their time at N.C. State, but they have both done well at Nevada this season. Caleb is averaging 19.1 points and 5.3 rebounds per game.

10. Texas Longhorns- Mo Bamba, C

Bamba missed the Big 12 Tournament with an injury, but said he is 100% now. He was one of the most coveted recruits in this past year’s recruiting class and is one of the best rim protectors in college basketball.

2. Cincinnati Bearcats- Gary Clark, F

The Bearcats are having their best season in recent memory and have one of the program’s greatest players as a senior. Clark won the AAC Player of the Year this season and leads the team in scoring and rebounding.

15. Georgia State Panthers- D’Marcus Simonds, G

Simonds is only a sophomore, but averages 21.1 points per game. He scored 27 in the Sun Belt Tournament Final, but will have a tough time scoring against a good Cincinnati team in round one.

West Regional

Players to watch in the 2018 NCAA Tournament

Trevon Bluiett (Photo by wcpo.com)

1. Xavier Musketeers- Trevon Bluiett, G

Bluiett had a good tournament run last year with Xavier, when they were an 11 seed. For his senior campaign he has averaged 19.5 points per game. If he plays up to his potential every game, the Musketeers could be heading to their first Final Four in school history.

16. (Play-in) NC Central Eagles- Raasean Davis, C

Davis averages 15 points and eight rebounds per game this season and helped lead NC Central on a crazy MEAC Tournament run to secure the auto-bid.

16. (Play-in) Texas Southern Tigers- Demontrae Jefferson, G

Jefferson does a little bit of everything for the Tigers with 23.5 points, three rebounds and 4.5 assists per game.

8. Missouri Tigers- Michael Porter Jr., F

Porter Jr. only played for a few seconds before sitting out most of the season with a back injury. The talented freshman came back for the SEC Tournament, but was rusty. With some more time, he can shake off the rust and show everyone why he was such a coveted recruit.

9. Florida State Seminoles- Terance Mann, G

He went cold in the ACC Tournament, but Mann is Florida State’s leading scorer with 13.2 points per game. Hopefully he can find his stroke again for the NCAA Tournament.

5. Ohio State Buckeyes- Keita Bates-Diop, F

Bates-Diop was one of the most improved players in the country this season under new coach Chris Holtmann. He’s averaging 19.8 points and 8.8 rebounds per game and is tough to guard.

12. South Dakota Jackrabbits- Mike Daum, F

Daum has been in the last two NCAA Tournaments with the Jackrabbits, but has not yet secured a win. The junior averages 23.8 points and 10.4 rebounds per game and is an inside-out threat.

4. Gonzaga Bulldogs- Killian Tillie, F

The Bulldogs have several good players, but Tillie is heating up at the right time. He’s scored over 20 points per game in each of the last three games. During that span he hit 13 of 14 three point shots.

13. UNC Greensboro- Francis Alonso, G

Alonso is from Malaga, Spain and averages 15.6 points per game. He has represented the Spanish National Team in FIBA competitions for the under 20 ranks.

6. Houston Cougars- Rob Gray, G

Houston has had a great season and Gray is the team leader. He had a turnover at the end of the AAC Tournament Championship game, which made him look as if he was physically sick. The 6’1″ guard averages 18.5 points per game and will want to make up for his mistake.

11. San Diego State Aztecs- Trey Kell, G

The senior only averages 10.4 points per game, but exploded for 28 against New Mexico in the MWC Tournament Championship. He is taking less shots than in years past, but is shooting more efficiently.

3. Michigan Wolverines- Muhammed-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, G

Mo Wagner was also in contention, but Abdur-Rahkman is coming off of a good Big Ten Tournamen, where he scored 21, 15 and 15 in three games. He is also a very good defender, which will be needed to shut down opponent’s best wing players.

14. Montana Grizzlies- Ahmaad Rorie, G

Montana has a do-it-all guard in Rorie, who averages 17.2 points, 3.8 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game. Rorie spent a year at Oregon before transferring to Montana and gets to the free throw line frequently.

7. Texas A&M Aggies- Robert Williams, F

Williams is the fourth leading scorer at 10.3 points per game, but is the difference-maker for the Aggies. He is the team’s best draft prospect, but has a questionable motor. If he plays hard, the Aggies can go on a run this March.

10. Providence Friars- Kyron Cartwright, G

While he is just the team’s third leading scorer, he proved that when he’s on, Providence can beat anyone. He averaged 15.7 points per game in the Big East Tournament and is looking good heading into the NCAA Tournament.

2. North Carolina Tarheels- Theo Pinson, F

Joel Berry and Luke Maye are both quality names, but Pinson does a little bit of everything for North Carolina. He averages 10.3 points, 6.4 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game and could be the key to a long tournament run for the Tar Heels.

15. Lipscomb Bisons- Garrison Mathews, G

Mathews averages 22.1 points per game for Lipscomb after averaging over 20 points per game last year. He is averagine 28.3 points per game over the last three games.

East Regional

players to know in the 2018 NCAA Tournament

Jalen Brunson (Photo by draftexpress.com)

1. Villanova Wildcats- Jalen Brunson, G

Mikal Bridges is also an option, but Brunson is in contention for Player of the Year. He scores and assists at a high rate and is an absolute floor general. He gained a lot of good experience when Villanova won the championship two seasons ago.

16. (Play-in) Radford Highlanders- Carlik Jones, G

Jones is the second leading scorer, but hit the game-winning shot in their conference tournament to get them into the NCAA Tournament.

16. (Play-in) LIU-Brooklyn- Joel Hernandez, G

Hernandez scores 20.9 points per game and is coming off a 32 point outing at Wagner to secure the automatic bid for the NEC.

8. Virginia Tech Hokies- Justin Robinson, G

Virginia Tech is a good offensive team and Robinson is their leading scorer and assist man with 13.8 and 5.6 respectively.

9. Alabama Crimson Tide- Collin Sexton, G

Another one of the most heralded recruits in the freshman class, Sexton is peaking at the right time. He averages 19 points per game and gets to the foul line a staggering 7.5 times per contest.

5. West Virginia Mountaineers- Jevon Carter, G

Carter is not only their leading scorer at 17 points per game, but is also their best defender. He helps make West Virginia into “Press Virginia”.

12. Murray State Racers- Jonathan Stark, G

The Munford, Tennessee product averages 21.8 points per game and scored 21 against Auburn in December. The game gave the Tigers a scare as the result was 81-77 in favor of Auburn.

4. Wichita State Shockers- Landry Shamet, G

Shamet leads the team in both scoring and assists. He has been around for a few years and can set his team up for a deep tournament run.

13. Marshall Thundering Herd- Jon Elmore, G

Talk about a guy who can do it all. Elmore averages 22.8 points, six rebounds and 6.9 assists per game. The last player to average 28/6/6 in college basketball? Evan Turner.

6. Florida Gators- Chris Chiozza, G

Chiozza hit the big shot for Florida in last year’s NCAA Tournament to beat Wisconsin and is back for more. He scores and passes well for the Gators.

11. (Play-in) St. Bonaventure Bonnies- Jaylen Adams, G

While he doesn’t get a lot of publicity, Adams produces at a high rate. He averages 19.8 points and 5.4 assists per game. The senior has been at St. Bonaventure has become an all-around offensive threat.

11. (Play-in) UCLA Bruins- Aaron Holiday, G

Aaron is the little brother of former UCLA standout, Jrue Holiday, who now plays for the New Orleans Pelicans. Aaron is a good player in his own right who averages over 20 points and five assists per game.

3. Texas Tech Red Raiders- Keenan Evans, G

Evans has been the catalyst for a quick turnaround at Texas Tech. He averages 17.1 points per game and plays good defense for the Red Raiders.

14. Stephen F. Austin- Kevon Harris, G

He is the second leading scorer on the team, but Harris pulls down a lot of rebounds and shoots a scorching 43.2% from deep.

7. Arkansas Razorbacks- Daniel Gafford, F

The senior guards for the Razorbacks are great, but Gafford can help take the team to the next level. The freshman has shown flashes of being great, but still averages 11.9 points and 6.2 rebounds per game.

10. Butler Bulldogs- Kelan Martin, F

Martin has gotten better every year at Butler, but has really taken his game to the next level this season, as he is averaging 20.8 points per game.

2. Purdue Boilermakers- Vincent Edwards, F

Edwards is the choice for Purdue because of his versatility. The 6’8″ forward can play on the inside or on the outside and is tough to guard.

15. Cal State Fullerton Titans- Kyle Allman, G

He is shooting 43% from deep and takes 3.2 three point field goals per game. The Titans will need to get the best shooter on their team open for threes for a chance to knock off Purdue.

Midwest Regional

1. Kansas Jayhawks- Devonte’ Graham, G

Graham was the Big 12’s Player of the Year and has patiently waited to take over point guard duties from Frank Mason. He averages 17.5 points and 7.5 assists per game.

16. Penn Quakers- AJ Brodeur, F

In the Ivy League Tournament, Brodeur scored 25 against Yale and 16 against Harvard. He shoots 54.6% from the field and scores, rebounds and assists at a high rate.

8. Seton Hall Pirates- Desi Rodriguez, F

The senior has improved every year at Seton Hall and now is one of the best players in the Big East. He averages 17.8 points per game, but also helps out with rebounding duties.

9. N.C. State Wolfpack- Omer Yurtseven, C

The seven footer from Turkey is not easy to guard. He can shoot from the outside, as well as do damage on the inside. If the Wolfpack go far in the big dance, he will have to play well.

5. Clemson Tigers- Marcquise Reed, G

Donte Grantham, likely would have been the pick here, but Reed picked up the slack in his absence. He leads the team in points and assists, but also is one of the best rebounders on the team.

12. New Mexico State Aggies- Zach Lofton, G

Lofton is one of the best scorers in the country at 19.8 points per game. New Mexico State is a trendy upset pick and if they are to win their first round matchup with Clemson, Lofton will have to produce.

4. Auburn Tigers- Bryce Brown, G

While he is just the second leading scorer, when Brown shoots efficiently, Auburn does better. The Tigers aren’t deep, so Brown will need to play big and stay out of foul trouble.

13. College of Charleston Cougars- Joe Chealey, G

He is second on the team in points scored, second in rebounds and first in assists per game. Chealey is one of three big scorers on the Cougars, who can help get the job done.

6. TCU Horned Frogs- Alex Robinson, G

The Texas A&M transfer has been huge for the Horned Frogs, especially after the loss of Jaylen Fisher to injury. He scores 9.8 points and dishes out 6.1 assists per game.

11. (Play-in) Arizona State Sun Devils- Tra Holder, G

Holder has been a star for years at Arizona State and now gets to display this on the big stage. He and Arizona State have been slumping the last half of the season, so he has to pick it up.

11. (Play-in) Syracuse Orange- Tyus Battle, G

Battle is the best player for the Orange by far and is the reason Syracuse was able to make the tournament. He is only a sophomore, so this may not be the last fans see of Battle in the NCAA Tournament.

players to know in the 2018 NCAA Tournament

Miles Bridges (Photo by draftexpress.com)

3. Michigan State Spartans- Miles Bridges, F

Spartans fans were elated when Bridges decided to come back for his sophomore season. He is the best player on the team and one of the best in the country.

14. Bucknell Bison- Zach Thomas, F

He nearly averages 20 and 10 for Bucknell and can even stretch the floor with his three point shooting. He was cold the last two games of the Patriot League Tournament and will want to be at his best for the NCAA Tournament.

7. Rhode Island Rams- Jared Terrell, G

Terrell is a good defender and leads the team in scoring, which is aided by his great three point shooting. He will need to play well for the Rams to advance.

10. Oklahoma Sooners- Trae Young, G

Oklahoma has the only player in the history of college basketball to lead the nation in both points and assists per game. Trae Young is just a freshman and does turn the ball over at a high rate, but if he’s on, Oklahoma is tough to beat.

2. Duke Blue Devils- Marvin Bagley III, F

Bagley is a future NBA star who leads the team in points and rebounding. With his size and skill, there aren’t too many players who could guard him.

15. Iona Gaels- Rickey McGill, G

In his last three games McGill has only scored 12 points, but the game before that against Rider he poured in 40. Getting him the ball will be a priority for Iona.

 

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Teams in the 2018 NCAA Tournament who can pull off an upset

It’s tournament time and what makes the NCAA Tournament great are the upsets. This has already been a crazy year for college basketball and March Madness always brings about the unimaginable. What teams have a chance to pull off an upset in their first round matchups?

New Mexico State Aggies

The Aggies went 28-5 on the season and were able to win the WAC regular season and tournament titles. Earlier in the season New Mexico State was able to beat Miami and Davidson, who are both teams that made the field. They were awarded with a number 12 seed in the Midwest Regional and will play the number 5 seeded Clemson in the first round.

Rebounding and defense are the two calling cards of this team. They rank fourth in the country with 41.5 rebounds per game and allow just 63.8 points per game, which ranks tenth in the country. While their offense ranks outside the top 100 in efficiency, their defense ranks 14th in points allowed per 100 possessions.

The Aggies are led by Zach Lofton, who averages 19.8 points per game. He is 6’4″, which creates mismatches for smaller guards. Jemerrio Jones is undersized at 6’5″, but pulls down 13.2 rebounds per game. He also adds 11 points per game. If these two get going, the Aggies have a chance to win.

Clemson started off the year hot, but has only been able to beat three teams in the field since losing Donte Grantham for the year in mid January. While they still have the capability to beat good teams without Grantham, like North Carolina, but they are very inconsistent and New Mexico State might be able to steal a game against them.

College of Charleston Cougars

upset teams 2018 NCAA Tournament

Grant Riller (Photo by zimbio.com)

The number 13 seed in the same region is the College of Charleston Cougars. They are the champions of the CAA and posted a 26-7 record this season. While they haven’t beaten a team in the field, they got a matchup with a team that is limping into March Madness: The Auburn Tigers.

Charleston is a solid squad that doesn’t overly excel at either offense or defense, but does both at a decent level. The team does have three dynamic scorers who all average over 17 points per game. Grant Riller, Joe Chealey and Jarrell Brantley are the great scorers for the Cougars. This means if one player has a down game, the rest can pick up the slack. It also makes it hard for teams to pick which player to focus most of their defensive attention on.

Auburn has lost four of their last six games, as they are starting to feel the loss of players. Austin Wiley and Danjel Purifoy have been held out this season due to the FBI investigation. They have been successful without them, winning a share of the SEC title, but  they also lost some other players to injury. Forward Anfernee McLemore hurt his ankle in a game against South Carolina and is out four to six months.

Losing three scholarship players from any team’s rotation would be tough to deal with. Auburn now has even more limited size after the McLemore injury. If they get in foul trouble, an already thin Auburn team could be in trouble against the College of Charleston.

South Dakota State Jackrabbits

South Dakota State has made three straight NCAA Tournaments. While they didn’t win a game in any of those tournament appearances, the last time they were a 12 seed, they played Maryland close. This year they have gone 28-6 and were able to beat Buffalo, who is in the field of 68.

The offense and rebounding are reasons to pick South Dakota State in the first round. They average the sixth most points per game at 84.9 and are also a top 25 rebounding team with 39 rebounds a game. Mike Daum is a star who leads the team in both categories at 23.1 points per game and 10.4 rebounds per game. He has a nice inside-out offensive game that is tough to match up with.

For the Buckeyes, Chris Holtmann has turned the team completely around in year one. He has done a great job, but they are very thin and could be susceptible to an upset. Ohio State has lost three of their last five including two losses to Penn State, who could not make the field. Dealing with Daum and the Jackrabbits won’t be easy.

Loyola-Chicago Ramblers

upset teams 2018 NCAA Tournament

Porter Moser (Photo by chicagonow.com)

Loyola probably has the best chance at a first round upset on this list as an 11 seed. They finished the season at 28-5 and proved they could beat good competition. They won a home game against Wright State and an away game at Florida, both of whom are in the field of 68. They matchup with Miami in the first round.

The Ramblers are a good defensive team that ranks 24th in points allowed per 100 possessions and fifth in points per game allowed at 62.2. On offense they have five players averaging double figures, so this should be another situation where Loyola will be hard to prepare for. Four of the five shoot over 37% from deep, which should help equalize the game with an athletic Miami team.

Miami is a team that hasn’t truly reached their potential all season long. They have some NBA-level talent, but have some losses that don’t make sense, namely their losses to Boston College, New Mexico State and Georgia Tech. If they play up to their potential, they could even make a run to the Elite 8, but outside of a big win at North Carolina, they haven’t given fans too much hope.

 

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The 6 teams that can win the 2018 NCAA Tournament

While upsets happen all the time in the NCAA Tournament, there are usually only a handful of teams that can win the tournament. These teams are efficient on both ends of the floor and are usually battle-tested as well. The last team to win it all and not be top 25 in both offensive and defensive efficiency was UConn in 2014. That UConn team is the only team since 2002 not meet those parameters and still win the championship. With that being said, here are the six teams that can come out on top this March Madness:

Virginia Cavaliers

This is the most obvious of the teams because they are the number one overall seed and have just two losses on the season. They weren’t highly thought of at the start of the season, as they weren’t ranked in the AP or coaches polls. There have only been four teams to go from being unranked in the preseason to winning it all since the tournament expanded to 64 teams. Virginia was underrated, but is now the team to beat in this tournament.

Why are they one of a few select teams that can win the NCAA Tournament? They rank first in points allowed per 100 possessions and 21st in points per 100 possessions. Their style of play slows the game down for opponents. The Cavaliers play lock down defense, then take their time to get a good shot by running good half-court offense.

Their bracket will be tough, with possible matchups with Kentucky, Arizona, Tennessee or Cincinnati, but Virginia has proven to be able to beat just about everyone they play this season. Can Tony Bennett finally find the tournament success that he desires?

Villanova Wildcats

teams that can win the 2018 NCAA Tournament

Mikal Bridges (Photo by draftexpress.com)

Villanova did not win the Big East regular season title, but did win the Big East Tournament. The Wildcats have lost some questionable games this season, but have also beaten the best of the best. This includes two wins over number one seed Xavier, a win over number three seed Tennessee and a win over number four seed Gonzaga.

The Wildcats are the most efficient offensive team in the country, averaging 127.4 points per 100 possessions. They are also pretty good at defense, ranking 22nd in defensive efficiency. The offense is run by Jalen Brunson, who does a good job of setting up the offense from the point guard position. Villanova also has Mikal Bridges, a future lottery pick, who is a great two way player. His length helps him guard great wing players and limit their effectiveness.

They also have some difficult games that they will have to get through in their bracket. West Virginia, Wichita State, Texas Tech and Purdue are all possible matchups they could have in the second weekend of the tournament. At times they rely too much on three point shooting, but when they get good shots, they are capable of winning six straight games and taking home the trophy.

Duke Blue Devils

Duke had a great recruiting class, but was only able to obtain a number two seed. Even though they didn’t get a one seed, they have a better chance of winning the tournament than the one seeds not listed here. Like Villanova, Duke has beaten some great teams, but also has lost some head-scratchers.

A lot has been made about Duke’s defense this season, but has gotten much better the last month of the season. They rank seventh in the country in defensive efficiency now. The Blue Devils have gone to a zone defense and use their length to contest shots. They also rank third in the country in offensive efficiency, with great offensive threats like Grayson Allen and Marvin Bagley III.

With their defense fixed, they have every opportunity to cut the nets down in San Antonio. They have a possible rematch with Michigan State in the Sweet 16 that could be the game of the tournament. Duke won the first matchup 88-81, but that game was months ago.

Michigan State Spartans

teams that can win the 2018 NCAA Tournament

Miles Bridges (Photo by draftexpress.com)

The Spartans only had four losses all season, but got a four seed. This was partially due to scheduling, but also an effect of the Big Ten being down this season. They only lost to NCAA Tournament teams this season in: Duke, Ohio State and Michigan (2x).

Michigan State is both efficient on offense and defense ranking ninth in both categories. They have too many good players to get on the floor consistently, so they are deep and stay pretty fresh. Another key factor here is that Michigan State ranks first in points per game with 19.8. This has helped them have five scorers in double figures for the season.

With stars like Miles Bridges and Jaren Jackson Jr., the Spartans certainly have the talent to win it all. They will likely have to get past Duke in the Sweet 16, but if they get past that point, the Spartans will be more widely accepted as a favorite to win the whole thing.

Gonzaga Bulldogs

Gonzaga got a four seed with only four losses on the season, because they play in the WCC. Their only loss to a non-tournament team came to St. Mary’s, who was a bubble team. They also beat quality teams such as Ohio State, Creighton and Texas.

The Bulldogs rank 12th in offensive efficiency and 17th in defensive efficiency. While they may not have the stars like the last two seasons, Gonzaga has some solid players that can help them win the title. They have five players averaging over 10 points per game and have some matchup nightmares in Johnathan Williams and Killian Tillie. Point guard Josh Perkins has necessary tournament experience and has run the offense well in his first season taking over those duties.

The West region is there for the taking, as the number one seeded Xavier plays selective defense. The Musketeers rank 59th in defensive efficiency, which means Gonzaga should be able to do some damage on that defense. If they can get to the Elite 8 and play what will likely be UNC or Michigan, anything can happen.

Kentucky Wildcats

teams that can win the 2018 NCAA Tourrnament

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (Photo by draftexpress.com)

The Wildcats are peaking at the right time, but are still the least likely on this list to win the NCAA Championship. They won the SEC Tournament, showing that they have improved throughout the season. Kentucky has won games over Virginia Tech, Texas A&M, West Virginia, Alabama (2x), Arkansas, Missouri and Tennessee, who are all in the field of 68.

Surprisingly, Kentucky ranks 25th in offensive efficiency and 23rd in defensive efficiency. While their half-court offense still needs some work, they get out in transition very well. Their length is what helps them on defense, as there are times when the shortest person on the floor is 6’6″. They create matchup problems with 6’6″ point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Kevin Knox, who has the size of a big man, but plays mostly on the perimeter.

The South region is going to be tough to come out of, especially for a very young team like Kentucky. The second round features a matchup with DeAndre Ayton and Arizona. If they happen to get to the Sweet 16 to play Virginia, they will have to play the game of their lives to win.

 

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2018 NCAA Tournament bracketology: Selection Sunday

It’s March and the madness has already begun with conference tournaments. It is now Selection Sunday! The Game Haus will be updating a new bracketology every day and sometimes multiple times a day, so please check back! Here is the 2018 NCAA Tournament bracketology: Selection Sunday. Click to zoom.

 

Last four byes: Virginia Tech, St. Bonaventure, USC, UCLA

Last four in: St. Mary’s, Oklahoma, Texas, Florida State

First four out: Notre Dame, Louisville, Arizona State, Baylor

Next four out: Oklahoma State, Middle Tennessee, Syracuse, Marquette

 

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2018 NCAA Tournament bracketology March 10

It’s March and the madness has already begun with conference tournaments. There are still a lot of games to be played before Selection Sunday, but it’s always good to take stock of where the teams are standing. The Game Haus will be updating a new bracketology every day and sometime multiple times a day before Selection Sunday, so please check back! Here is the 2018 NCAA Tournament bracketology March 10. Click to zoom.

Last four byes: Virginia Tech, St. Mary’s, USC, UCLA

Last four in: Oklahoma, Texas, Florida State, Notre Dame

First four out: Louisville, Arizona State, Oklahoma State, Baylor

Next four out: Middle Tennessee, Syracuse, Marquette, Penn State

 

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