The Little Dances: Championship Week Day 13 Peview

Leave a comment

The NCAA Tournament doesn’t get going until March 19, but for the real college hoops fans, the days leading up to Selection Sunday is when the madness really begins. Over the next two weeks teams will fight for the postseason lives. Bubbles will burst and tickets will be punched, and Cinderellas will be born. This is the real March Madness.

Today is the day we bid farewell to the past and welcome in the madness. It’s Selection Sunday, the most joyous and painful day of the season. But before the brackets are released, the final four automatic bids need to be distributed.

(CLICK HERE to browse through all of our conference tournament previews)

Here’s what to watch for on Sunday.

Game of the Day: Wisconsin vs. Ohio State
The final game in what has been arguably the greatest Big Ten season of the past decade will be decided by two finalists that not many expected to make it to Chicago. But both teams are deserving of playing for the opportunity to cut down the nets. This will be a low-scoring, beat ’em up, drag ’em out slugfest. But Aaron Craft, Deshaun Thomas, Jared Berggren and Mike Bruesewitz are all big-game players. After this game finishes, Selection Sunday ceremonies commence.

– Watch this too: North Carolina vs. Miami
A win over the Tar Heels today would be the third of the season for Miami and would give them their first ACC tournament championship in school history. North Carolina enters the contest having won eight of their last nine games. A win would be vindicating for the Tar Heels, who were written off half way through the season for not having the chemistry or personnel to compete at a high level.

Player to Watch: Marshall Henderson, Ole Miss
College basketball’s resident bad boy has the Rebels one win away from a NCAA tournament appearance. Ole Miss desperately needs this win, as they still sit firmly on the tournament bubble. Henderson has scored 50 points through the first two SEC tournament games, and is averaging 24 ppg over the past four games. If Henderson can lead the Rebels to a SEC tournament championship, his perceived status as being a loose cannon will largely be forgotten and he will etch his name into college basketball lore.

He’s good too: Dwayne Evans, Saint Louis
The junior forward has scored 49 points in the Billikens first two Atlantic 10 tournament games and will be called on to handle a brunt of VCU’s havoc defense on the interior. But Evans does more than just score. He’s a defensive stalwart and a unusual match-up assignment for defenses. Saint Louis is playing their best basketball of the season, and its due largely to the play of Dwayne Evans.

Sunday’s Schedule:

Atlantic Coast Conference Semifinals
1 p.m. – North Carolina (3) vs. Miami (1)

Atlantic 10 Conference Semifinals
1 p.m. – VCU (2) vs. Saint Louis (1)

Big Ten Conference Semifinals
3:30 p.m. – Wisconsin (4) vs. Ohio State (2)

Southeastern Conference Semifinals
1 p.m. – Ole Miss (3) vs. Florida (1)

You can find Troy Machir on Twitter at @TroyMachir

Florida State picks up late commit from McDonald’s All-American

Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
Leave a comment

The losses sustained by Florida State have been numerous and significant. Three players declared early for the NBA Draft. Another two contributors were lost to graduation. All in all, the Seminoles haven’t had the greatest of springs.

Wednesday, though, they got some good news.

McDonald’s All-American wing M.J. Walker committed Leonard Hamilton’s program to give Florida State a late, and important, addition to its 2017 recruiting class, beating the likes of Ohio State, Georgia Tech and UCLA.

Walker, a 6-foot-5 guard, gives the Seminoles yet another five-star prospect after landing Dwayne Bacon and Jonathan Isaac in the last two recruiting classes. Walker will help Hamilton and Co. reboot after both Bacon and Isaac, along with Xavier Rathan-Mayes, all left school to pursue professional careers after the Seminoles’ 26-9 season that saw them advance to the second round of the NCAA tournament.

Walker becomes the sixth member of Hamilton’s 2017 recruiting class that was previously headlined by four-star 7-footer Ikechukwu Obiagu. That group will be tasked to retool a team losing not only major NBA-level talent, but also major production. The Seminoles won’t return a single player who averaged double-digit points per-game last year and just one who played at least 20 minutes per night.

Michigan returns Mo Wagner, loses D.J. Wilson

Andy Lyons/Getty Images
Leave a comment

The best-case scenario did not take place for Michigan this week.

The Wolverines waited for four weeks to hear back from their pair of mobile big men, and the news on Mo Wagner was positive. The 6-foot-10 junior from Germany announced on Wednesday that he will return to school after testing the NBA Draft waters.

The news was not as fortunate with D.J. Wilson, who announced less than ten hours before the deadline that he will be signing with an agent and turning pro. Wilson is projected as a late first round or early second round pick.

Without Wilson in the fold, Michigan lacks some front court depth, which will probably be enough to keep them out of the preseason top 25.

Gonzaga to return Johnathan Williams III

Tom Pennington/Getty Images
2 Comments

Losing Nigel Williams-Goss and Zach Collins to the professional ranks probably torpedoed Gonzaga’s chance of making another run to the NCAA tournament national title game, but after Johnathan Williams III announced on Wednesday that he will be returning to school and withdrawing from the NBA Draft, Gonzaga does appear to be a favorite to win the WCC title again.

Williams is now Gonzaga’s leading returning scorer and rebounder, anchoring a front court that also loses Przemek Karnowski to graduation. He was expected to go undrafted.

With Williams back in the fold, the Zags should be right there with Saint Mary’s in the race for the WCC title. Josh Perkins, Silas Melson and Killian Tillie all return as well.

ESPN was the first to report the news.

Injured Gamecocks point guard Blanton gives up basketball

1 Comment

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — South Carolina guard TeMarcus Blanton is giving up basketball after struggling with a serious hip injury he suffered before his freshman season.

Gamecocks coach Frank Martin says Blanton told him he could not get his body to respond to a level that would allow him to continue playing basketball. Blanton is a 6-foot-5 junior from Locust Grove, Georgia, who hurt his hip during preseason for the 2014-15 season. He needed surgery and could not return to the court until his sophomore year.

Blanton played in 29 games, averaging 1.4 points a game.

He said on social media he is grateful to his coaches, teammates and South Carolina fans, “but my journey of basketball has come to an end.”

Blanton received a medical exemption from the Southeastern Conference to remain part of the Gamecocks’ program moving forward.

North Carolina’s Tony Bradley to remain NBA Draft

Chris Steppig/NCAA Photos via Getty Images
2 Comments

For the first time in a decade and just the third time in 14 seasons as UNC’s head coach, Roy Williams has a one-and-done player.

North Carolina’s Tony Bradley will sign with an agent and remain in the NBA Draft.

Bradley had an impressive freshman season, averaging 7.1 points and 5.1 boards in less than 15 minutes per game as the sixth-man for the national title-winning Tar Heels. He initially declared for the draft without signing with an agent, testing the waters, and the feedback was positive: He’ll likely be a late first round or early second round pick.

As the process dragged on, it became fairly evident that Bradley would keep his name in the draft, and that is a massive blow for a UNC team that is already losing Kennedy Meeks and Isaiah Hicks, not to mention Justin Jackson.

As it stands, Roy Williams will likely start the following lineup next season: Joel Berry II, Kenny Williams and Theo Pinson on the perimeter with Luke Maye and either Brandon Huffman or Garrison Brooks, both freshmen, alongside him. Williams is one of the few coaches left in the sport that still relies on playing two bigs and utilizing an overwhelming front court to win games, and that is not going to be an easy thing to do with that group of bigs.

UNC’s perimeter is strong. Berry will likely be a preseason all-american while Pinson and Williams are both above average role players on the wings.

But without that hoss in the paint — Bradley, like Berry, would have popped up on preseason all-american teams — the Tar Heels are going to have a tough time making a run at an ACC title, let alone a third straight trip to the national title game.

North Carolina is currently ranked 18th in the NBC Sports preseason top 25.