The CBT Bracket Breakdown: Midwest Region

Leave a comment

See the rest of our regional breakdowns here.

Final Four Favorite: No. 1 North Carolina: The Tar Heels have as much talent on their roster as any team in the country. They are loaded, and they have a point guard that is perfect for the uptempo system that they run. The question I have about UNC has to do with their toughness. They get smacked by Florida State twice, largely because the Seminoles were more physical than UNC. One thing to follow with the Tar Heels heading into the NCAA Tournament is whether or not John Henson’s wrist is healthy. I believe that it is. While he didn’t play in the ACC Tournament final, he was available to play.

And if they lose…?: No. 2 Kansas: For the first time, the tournament selection committee released their s-curve on Selection Sunday, which allowed us to see where they actually had teams ranked. Kansas was fifth, meaning that if Ohio State had won the Big Ten Tournament, Kansas and not Michigan State would have been the final No. 1 seed. Thomas Robinson is a hoss and Jeff Withey is a defensive playmaker, but Tyshawn Taylor is going to be the guy that determines how far Kansas goes. When he’s great, Kansas is very, very good. But when he’s the inconsistent turnover machine that he’s been at times throughout his career, the Jayhawks are very ordinary.

Sweet 16 sleeper (9 or lower): No. 14 Belmont: One of the trendiest upset picks since the bracket was announced was the Bruins knocking off Georgetown. While I, personally, don’t see it — its just not a good matchup — the fact of the matter is that Belmont is a very good basketball team. They push the tempo through pressure and they shoot a lot of threes. When those threes are going down, they are good enough to pick off a higher-seeded team.

Final Four sleeper (5 or lower): No. 5 Temple: The Owls have flown under the radar for much of the season, but this is a good basketball team. They have a dangerous perimeter attack, with two of the best scorers in the Atlantic 10 in Ramone Moore and Khalif Wyatt, and they now have their starting center Michael Eric back in the fold. The thing about the Owls this season is that they aren’t as perimeter oriented as they have been in the past. They push the ball more and they are oriented around their ability to put up points.

Player to watch (top 8 seeds): Jamaal Franklin, San Diego State: Franklin was rightfully chosen as the Player of the Year in the Mountain West. An athletic, 6’5″ slasher, Franklin not only is capable of going for 30 points on a given night, but he averaged 9.9 rpg in league play. SDSU’s issue is their lack of interior size, and his ability to clean the glass is a hugely important.

Player to watch (bottom 8 seeds): DJ Cooper, Ohio: Cooper has already led the Bobcats to a first round upset in the NCAA Tournament, going for 23 points and eight assists as Ohio beat Georgetown in 2010. Did I mention he was a freshman then? Ohio is a dangerous team for Michigan. They are excellent at defending the three, something that Michigan thrives on. And Cooper is an excellent on-ball defender, meaning he will likely get the assignment of covering Trey Burke.

Best potential matchup: No. 1 North Carolina vs. No. 2 Kansas: Again, I know this is a cop out, but with the lack of elite teams outside of the top two seeds, its really difficult to find marquee matchups to get excited out. What I love about this matchup — besides the fact that it will be between two of college basketball’s blue-blooded programs — is the idea of seeing Jeff Withey and Thomas Robinson do battle with John Henson and Tyler Zeller. I love me a good post battle, and it may not get better than this in the 2012 NCAA Tournament.

So who is getting upset?:

– I think Ohio has a very good chance to take down Michigan. The Wolverines looked very average in the Big Ten tournament, and they are very average when they don’t hit threes. Ohio is very good at defending the three.

– If Cal can get by USF in the play-in game, I think they have a chance to knock off Temple. The Bears have one of the best perimeter defenders in Jorge Gutierrez and have been written off by a lot of folks due to their loss to Missouri by 30 earlier in the year.

– Frankly, I’m not buying the two trendy upset picks in this region. I don’t think Belmont gets past Georgetown. The Bruins shoot a ton of threes and shoot them well, but Georgetown has terrific perimeter length and is one of the best in the country at defending the three. I also think SDSU gets by NC State. I know the pro-Wolfpack arguments, but what have they done this season to make me believe they can win a tournament game against the co-champ of the fourth-best conference in the country?

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.

Arizona lands Pitt transfer forward Ryan Luther

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Arizona landed a key addition for its frontcourt on Wednesday as Pitt transfer forward Ryan Luther pledged to the Wildcats.

The 6-foot-9 Luther is expected to receive a hardship waiver that would give him immediate eligibility, a source confirmed to NBCSports.com, as Arizona gets some much-needed help up front.

Playing in 10 games last season before a stress reaction in his right foot ended the season, Luther averaged 12.7 points and 10.1 rebounds per game for the Panthers. In his final game of the season, Luther went for 13 points and 12 rebounds in a Pitt loss to West Virginia. Luther shot 45 percent from the field and is a noted perimeter threat as he was 38 percent from behind the three-point line.

Luther hasn’t logged heavy minutes as a contributor through a full season. Mostly a role player at Pitt until last season, Luther was the team’s most productive player when he was on the floor. But that production also didn’t come during ACC play and through the course of a full season.

Thankfully at a program like Arizona, Luther should have a bit more help around him. He could be a nice addition to the Wildcats, particularly if he rebounds and spaces the floor in the frontcourt as he did at Pitt. Arizona needed someone like Luther to provide more stability after losing players like Deandre Ayton and Dusan Ristic.

In the last few weeks, Arizona has rebounded nicely to land three commitments for next season — including freshmen Devonaire Doutrive and Omar Thielemans. The group isn’t as heralded as some past Arizona recruiting efforts. Given where the Wildcats were in recruiting a few weeks ago, however, this isn’t a bad turnaround.

TCU extends Jamie Dixon’s contract by two more years

Getty Images
Leave a comment

TCU has given head coach Jamie Dixon a two-year contract extension through the 2023-24 season, according to a release from the school.

Dixon took the Horned Frogs to the NCAA tournament for the first time in 20 years this season as he’s done a great job of turning around his alma mater. The release also notes that TCU had the highest average attendance in program history this season. Fans are also taking notice of a revitalized team.

With back-to-back 20-win seasons and postseason appearances, Dixon and TCU have a lot of positive momentum going on right now. The two-year extension for Dixon should help a bit in recruiting when it comes to overall stability, as well, as he’s been able to attract some quality talent so far.

Report: Kevin Ollie claims UConn violated rights with firing

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Fired former UConn head coach Kevin Ollie is claiming that the school violated his constitutional rights during his departure.

Ollie sent a letter to UConn school president Susan Herbst which was obtained by ESPN’s Myron Medcalf in a report released on Wednesday. Ollie’s lawyers are claiming the school proceeded with his firing before giving Ollie a proper chance to contest his termination — which was guaranteed in his contract and also the collective bargaining agreement with the University of Connecticut’s branch of the American Association of University Professors. Ollie was fired, with cause, in late March as the school mentioned an NCAA inquiry as the reason why. According to Medcalf’s report, the NCAA has not sent a notice of allegations to the school.

Ollie’s union membership includes thousands of faculty members around the country as the collective bargaining agreement demands a hearing process before any employee can be terminated for allegations of serious misconduct. Ollie claims he didn’t receive a letter he was supposed to get to begin the termination process.

“From our review of the facts and circumstances relating to Coach Ollie’s employment status, it is apparent that the University of Connecticut has already violated [Coach Ollie’s] rights under the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution by subverting Coach Ollie’s opportunity to respond to charges and evidence in a meaningful way in advance of the decision to terminate his employment,” said the letter dated April 3.

“The public record, action taken, and authorized communications by representatives of the University of Connecticut, demonstrate that the decision to terminate Coach Ollie has already been made and therefore the University of Connecticut has effectively negated Coach Ollie’s property right protected by the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.”

This letter to UConn likely begins a long legal battle to try to get an eight-figure payout back as Ollie is going to do everything he can to clear his name.

South Carolina’s Brian Bowen, still ineligible, to declare for draft

David Banks/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Former Louisville forward and current South Carolina Gamecock Brian Bowen will declare for the NBA draft without signing with an agent as a safety measure in case the NCAA does not clear him to play in the 2018-19 season.

Bowen is the former top 25 prospect that was forced to leave the Louisville program after the FBI’s investigation into corruption in college hoops turned up evidence that his family had accepted the first payment of what was supposed to be a $100,000 fee to get him to be a Cardinal.

That investigation was ultimately what got Rick Pitino fired.

“I just felt that it was the right decision,” Bowen told ESPN. “My goal is still to play college basketball, but I felt as though it makes sense to cover my bases.”

Bowen is in a tough spot right now.

On the one hand, he has already missed an entire season of college basketball and there is no guarantee that he will be cleared to play next season, if at all.

On the other hand, the fact that he has not played in a year and that he has not played against any collegiate level competition is one of the reasons that NBA front offices are going to be hesitant to draft him, and that’s not a good thing for a player that was considered a second round pick before he spent a year on the sidelines.

North Carolina’s Cam Johnson undergoes hip surgery

Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
Leave a comment

For the second time in the last six months, North Carolina wing Cam Johnson has undergone the knife.

On Wednesday, North Carolina announced that Johnson underwent an arthroscopic procedure on his hip on Monday, and that he is expected to make a full recovery and return to school in time for the start of the 2018-19 season.

The 6-foot-9 Johnson was UNC’s third-leading scorer a season ago, averaging 12.4 points while shooting 34.1 percent from three. He only played 26 games, however, after missing time due to a surgery to fix a torn meniscus.