East Region Preview: Indiana didn’t get Indy, which is a good thing?

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Indiana didn’t get Indianapolis.

The Hoosiers lost to Wisconsin in the semifinals of the Big Ten tournament, meaning that they sat at home on their couch and watched as Louisville beat Notre Dame and then Syracuse to win the Big East tournament title. As a result, the Cardinals played their way into the No. 1 overall seed, meaning that they got a preferential locale and a spot in the Midwest Region.

So Indiana heads East, meaning they could end up playing Syracuse in DC in the Sweet 16, a game that could feature more orange in the stands than red.

That said, when you look at the East Region, it’s tough not to think that the Hoosiers may have actually lucked out. The Midwest is the Region of Doom, where the East Region is more talented-but-enigmatic. NC State? Syracuse? UNLV? They won’t strike fear into Indiana’s heart. Neither will No. 2 seed Miami, or No. 3 seed Marquette. Butler, the No. 6 seed in the East, could end up being dropped by a Bucknell team that matches up really well with them.

All things considered, Indiana got a pretty good draw.

Here’s your East Region breakdown:

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(CLICK HERE: To browse through the rest of our 2013 NCAA Tournament Previews)

Three story lines to watch

  • We could end up getting a conference matchup in the round of 32 if Butler and Marquette both advance, which is not guarantee. At some point this week, Butler is expected to announce that they are leaving the Atlantic 10 and joining up with the Catholic 7 in the new Big East. Throw in the fact that, you know, they’re Butler, and there will be a lot of hype surrounding that game. Oh, and who can forget this game?
  • Will UNLV prove that it deserved the No. 5 seed gift the committee gave them? Most agree that the Rebels probably got overseeded by the committee. Were they really within two natural seed lines of New Mexico and three natural seed lines better than Colorado State? That’s a tough call. You know what else is tough? Drawing Cal in the opening round in a game that will be played in San Jose. I guess it all evens out.
  • James Madison’s leading scorer became the first player to be arrested before tournament play starts. Who’s next?

The Elite 8 matchup is…?: No. 1 Indiana vs. No. 2 Miami

When I actually sit down to fill out my bracket, things may end up shaking out differently, but I’m just not sure who in the East is going to be able to take down IU or UM. I know the Hoosiers went 3-3 down the stretch, but they were also arguably the best team in the country before then, and I’m not quite sure how much has changed since. Victor Oladipo, the nation’s preeiminent role-player, has been so good at what he does this season that people have completely forgotten about the fact that Cody Zeller is the best post scorer in the country. He’s surrounded by shooters, he’s getting more aggressive by the day and he won’t have to deal with the overly in-depth scouting reports of the Big Ten anymore.

I have a theory about making the Final Four. I think you need four things: a quality point guard, size up front, the ability to lock down defensively, and a stud to give the ball to in the clutch. Miami is 4-4 on that list. It would be nice if Reggie Johnson hopped out of the funk that he’s been in recently, but the bottom-line is that there is a reason that Miami won the dual-ACC titles. Some of it is Ryan Kelly’s injury and North Carolina’s struggles early-on, but a lot of it has to do with the fact that the Hurricanes are actually a really good basketball team and Shane Larkin is the real deal at the point.

Final Four sleeper: Illinois

I’m not betting this will happen. I’m certainly not going to have it in my bracket. But hear me out. Illinois has proven they can win big games, knocking off Gonzaga in Spokane and Indiana at home. They are a dangerous three-point shooting team on the nights that they get hot. They can spread the floor on Miami in the round of 32 and take away the effectiveness of their big men. Neither Butler nor Marquette is overpowering. And they’ve already beaten Indiana. So you’re telling me there’s a chance?

Best opening round matchups

  • No. 8 NC State vs. No. 9 Temple: The Wolfpack have a ton of talent and an overpowering front line. But Temple has a kid named Khalif Wyatt that is as clutch as anyone in the country.
  • No. 6 Butler vs. No. 11 Bucknell: This is going to be a great watch for x’s-and-o’s junkies. Both teams are exceedingly well-coached and execute their offense. but how does Butler deal with Mike Muscala, Bucknell’s 6-foot-11, double-double machine?

Matchups to root for

  • No. 1 Indiana vs. No. 6 Butler: It might have been cooler if this were to take place in Indianapolis again. ‘Big brother’ gets a shot at revenge after a former walk-on for ‘little brother’ hit a game-winner in their first matchup.

The studs you know about

  • Victor Oladipo and Cody Zeller, Indiana: Oladipo was a Player of the Year candidate. Zeller was the Preseason Player of the Year. Both are all-americans.
  • Anthony Bennett, UNLV: The Rebel big man has deep range and dunks as ferociously as anyone in the country, but his dominance only comes in spurts.
  • Shane Larkin, Miami: He’s the engine that makes Miami run, and may be the nation’s best point guard this side of Trey Burke.
  • Allen Crabbe, Cal: It’s a shame if you haven’t seen this Rip Hamilton-clone play. He’s liable to go for 30 on any given night.

The studs the nation will find out about

  • Mike Muscala, Bucknell: The Bison big man is a throwback, low-post scorer. He can go over either shoulder and score with either hand, he’s got a soft touch on his jump shot, he blocks shots, be rebounds and he’s tough. Throw in the fact that he’s 6-foot-11 and a rapper, and we’ve got ourselves a tourney hero if Bucknell can get out of the first weekend.
  • Khalif Wyatt, Temple: It will take a Herculean effort from Wyatt to get out of the first weekend of the tournament, but he’s up for the task. He’s a slow-footed, big-bodied two-guard that lumbers his way around, using his strength and craftiness to make some ridiculous shots.
  • Will Cherry and Kareem Jamar, Montana: The Grizzlies have a very, very good back court.

Upsets that ARE happening

  • No. 14 Davidson over No. 3 Marquette: Davidson has size. They execute offensively. They can shoot the ball. They are a veteran group that went into Kansas City and beat Kansas last season. Believe it.
  • No. 11 Bucknell over No. 6 Butler: Heresy and sacrilege, I know, but Bucknell might be the nation’s best mid-major program that no one pays attention to.

Upsets that AREN’T happening

  • No. 13 Montana over No. 4 Syracuse: I love Will Cherry and Kareem Jamar, but when people talk about the Grizzlies winning this game, ask them about Mathias Ward. They’ll say, ‘Who is that?’, and then you can say, ‘He’s Montana’s leading scorer who isn’t playing because of a foot injury.’

CBT Predictions: I just don’t see anyone in this region picking off Indiana.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

Thursday’s Three Things To Know: Nebraska, Saint Mary’s land big upsets

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Thursday nights are slow in the college basketball world, but that doesn’t me we don’t have stuff to talk about.

Here are the three things you need to know about.

1. TIM MILES IS WELL ON HIS WAY TO SAVING HIS JOB

One of the most underdiscussed storylines of the college basketball season to date is that the coaches that entered the year on the hot seat are winning.

Clemson’s Brad Brownell might get back to the NCAA tournament. Bruce Pearl has made people at Auburn forget – briefly – about the internal investigation into the FBI allegations against the program. Even Jim Christian looks like he’s going to force BC to give him more time.

But Tim Miles might be the best example of this. After a flurry of transfers in the offseason and a change in athletic director, things looked pretty bleak for Miles. But he now has his Nebraska team sitting in a position where they are at least in the conversation for the bubble at beating No. 23 Michigan at home by 20 points.

The Huskers are not quite there yet. Monday’s game at No. 22 Ohio State is huge because it is the last ranked team on Nebraska’s schedule.

But that’s a ways off.

As of now, Nebraska fans can enjoy the fact that they’re 14-7 on the season and 5-3 in the Big Ten.

2. SAINT MARY’S WON THE MOST IMPORTANT GAME OF THEIR SEASON

Jock Landale went off for 26 points, 12 boards and three assists as Saint Mary’s extended their winning streak to 13 games and put themselves in a position where making a run at an NCAA tournament bid looks likely.

Our Travis Hines has a column up on this game here.

3. VIRGINIA CONTINUES TO LOOK LIKE THE BEST TEAM IN THE ACC

The Wahoos went into Atlanta and beat down Georgia Tech, 64-48, on Thursday night.

The most impressive thing about this season for Virginia isn’t that they are winning these games or that they are playing great defense or whatever. It’s that all of these wins they are collecting are impressive.

Georgia Tech never looked like they were really in this one, and the Yellow Jackets have been playing better of late and were at home. They beat N.C. State by 17. They handled North Carolina fairly easily. They embarrassed Virginia Tech on the road.

Virginia is really, really good, and the truth is that they are probably a year away from being their best selves.

CBT Podcast: Wichita State’s a mess, Trae Young’s struggles, Jamion Christian on transfers

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Rob Dauster was joined on Friday by Jamion Christian, the head coach of Mount St. Mary’s, for an enlightening and honest discussion about college basketball and transfers. There is a push to get transfers to be allowed to be immediately eligible, a push that many believe will have drastic, negative effects on coaches like Jamion. The two talk for 30 minutes about the ramifications of changing the rules before Rob is joined by Reags from the Fundamentally Sound podcast to go over the what happened to Trae Young, what happened to Wichita State’s defense and the weekend’s biggest games.

OPEN: Jamion Christian interview

30:22: Trae Young’s offensive issues

44:50: Does Wichita State have the most pressing defensive worries?

52:45: Weekend preview and picks ATS

Craft Beer Of The Week: Stone Xocoveza

Hunter scores 17 points, No. 2 Virginia beats Ga Tech 64-48

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ATLANTA (AP) — Virginia got off to a sluggish start offensively.

Fortunately for the Cavaliers, their defense never takes a night off.

De’Andre Hunter came off the bench to score 17 points and No. 2 Virginia turned in another defensive masterpiece Thursday, stretching its winning streak to nine in a row with a 64-48 victory over Georgia Tech.

The Cavaliers (17-1, 6-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) limited Georgia Tech to 40.5 percent shooting and forced 18 turnovers, leading to 16 points.

“The defense held us in there until we got a little rhythm and hit some shots,” coach Tony Bennett said. “We were stingy to score against. That always carries you on the road.”

Virginia snapped a four-game winning streak for the Yellow Jackets (10-8, 3-2).

After making the first basket of the game, Georgia Tech quickly got an idea of what kind of night it would be. The Jackets missed their next eight shots and turned it over four times before Josh Okogie finally broke a nearly eight-minute scoreless drought with a dunk off a backdoor pass.

Virginia shot just 40 percent in the first half but still led 28-19 at the break.

Georgia Tech never got any closer the rest of the way.

“They’re just a very disciplined team offensively and defensively,” Yellow Jackets center Ben Lammers said. “That makes it very difficult. You can’t make a mistake or you’ll pay for it.”

The last gasp for the home team essentially came in the closing seconds of the first half. It looked as though the Jackets would go to the locker room on a bit of a high after Curtis Haywood hit his second 3-pointer from far beyond the stripe, closing the gap to 24-19.

But Hunter got free in the corner and knocked down a trey with 0.1 seconds left in the half, turning it into a four-point play when Abdoulaye Gueye foolishly went for the block and sent the Virginia player sprawling to the court .

The free throw gave the Cavaliers their biggest lead of the opening period.

“That’s definitely not the way you want to end a half,” Lammers said. “We were on a little bit of a roll. It’s definitely a bit of a downer for our team. I think it helped their momentum.”

Virginia steadily pulled away over the final 20 minutes, dominating the inside for a 44-20 edge on points in the paint. Ty Jerome added 12 points, while Devon Hall and Kyle Guy had 11 apiece.

Tadric Jackson led Georgia Tech with 14 points. No one else was in double figures.

BIG PICTURE

Virginia: The Cavaliers held an opponent under 50 points for the eighth time this season. They came into the night allowing the fewest points of any Division I team, and actually improved on their 52.9 average. That helped to cover for a tough night from 3-point range on which the Cavs connected on just 3 of 13 attempts.

Georgia Tech: Okogie, averaging 18.8 points per game, struggled to get open and finished with just nine points on 3-of-8 shooting. But coach Josh Pastner is especially concerned about Lammers, who attempted only five shots, made one and finished with four points. “We’ve got to get more out of him offensively,” Pastner said. “When you’re not scoring, it sucks the life out of you.”

WILKINS STEPS UP

The Cavaliers switched things up a bit against Lammers, turning to Isaiah Wilkins to handle the bulk of the defensive duties.

When the teams met last season , 6-foot-10 Jack Salt limited Lammers to seven points on 3-of-12 shooting.

This time, it was the 6-foot-7 Wilkins — the stepson of former Atlanta Hawks great Dominique Wilkins — making life miserable for Georgia Tech’s big man.

“He played to his personality,” Bennett said. “He’s such a giver. He thinks help. He thinks cover for teammates. He knows how to anticipate. If you can find that, it’s worth its weight in gold for a defensive player.”

PACKED PAVILION

It was an especially disappointing performance for the Yellow Jackets, considering it came before their first sellout of the season at 8,600-seat McCamish Pavilion.

UP NEXT

Virginia: Plays its second straight ACC road game at Wake Forest on Sunday.

Georgia Tech: Faces a short turnaround before traveling to Chapel Hill on Saturday for another game against a ranked opponent, No. 15 North Carolina.

Palmer scores 19, leads Huskers in 72-52 rout of Michigan

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LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — James Palmer Jr. scored 19 points, Isaiah Roby had a career-high 14 and Nebraska beat No. 23 Michigan 72-52 on Thursday night for its first win over the Wolverines since joining the Big Ten.

Nebraska (14-7, 5-3), which needed Palmer’s 3-pointer to beat last-place Illinois 64-63 on Monday, led 32-21 at the half and never let Michigan get closer than 10 points in the last 17 minutes.

Michigan (16-5, 5-3), which had won nine of its last 10, suffered its most lopsided loss of the season and had a season-low for points. Charles Matthews had 15 points for the Wolverines, who shot 37.5 percent from the floor and a season-low 22.2 percent (4 of 18) on 3-pointers.

The Wolverines had come in 8-0 against the Huskers since Nebraska joined the Big Ten in 2011-12, and they had won 10 straight in the series.

In the final regular-season game last year, Michigan won 93-57 in Lincoln, the Huskers’ most lopsided home loss in program history. Michigan set the arena record for points by an opponent and matched the arena record with 14 made 13-pointers in that game.

Nebraska was in total control this time.

The Huskers played strong defense on the perimeter and forced nine of Michigan’s 12 turnovers the first 20 minutes. Roby, Duby Okeke and Jordy Tshimanga rendered Moritz Wagner a non-factor.

Wagner, who scored 27 points last Saturday against Michigan State and had reached double figures in all but two games, missed his only shot of the half. He finished with a season-low two points, his only basket coming on a dunk early in the second half.

Roby had two dunks and another basket during an 18-4 run that turned Nebraska’s 12-10 deficit into a 28-16 lead. The Wolverines went scoreless for more than 6 minutes and without a field goal for 7½ as the Huskers broke things open. The Wolverines missed 14 of their last 16 shots of the half.

The Huskers built the lead to 21 with less than 5 minutes to play.

Tshimanga, who missed the last two games for personal reasons, entered the game in the middle of the first half. The first time he touched the ball, he passed to Roby for a dunk.

BIG PICTURE

Michigan: Though the Wolverines have owned Nebraska, Pinnacle Bank Arena is a tough place to play, and they might have been out of gas after an emotional win over Michigan State and having to rally to beat Maryland 68-67 on Monday.

Nebraska: This was a crucial win for a team that has hopes of returning to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2014. Michigan came into the game No. 30 in the RPI; no other opponent Nebraska has beaten is in the top 50. Another big opportunity comes Monday when the Huskers visit Ohio State (No. 18 RPI).

UP NEXT

Michigan hosts Rutgers on Sunday.

Nebraska visits No. 22 Ohio State on Monday.

St. Mary’s gets critical NCAA tourney resume win over No. 13 Gonzaga

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No one should probably get too worked about about one game in mid-January.

First of all, it’s one game. Forty minutes of small sample size randomness that could very well mean next to nothing.

Second, there is still nearly two months of regular season to play. What seems important now very well could fade to irrelevance come mid-March. It just doesn’t make a lot of sense to attach much meaning to one game between two teams well ahead of when the stakes are actually clear.

Unless you’re St. Mary’s and you’re at Gonzaga.

Then, you can get hyped.

The Gaels finally delivered a resume-boosting win this season by dispatching the 13th-ranked Bulldogs, 74-71, in Spokane to invigorate a season that seemed destined to end with plenty of wins but few – if any – that really mattered.

Yeah, it’s one game. Yeah, it’s mid-January. Yeah, a lot can happen between now and Selection Sunday to render this moot. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

But make no mistake about it, St. Mary’s beating Gonzaga at The Kennell is a monumental victory for Randy Bennett’s team when the Gaels lacked even a notable one before it.

St. Mary’s non-conference schedule has become a tired topic, but it is absolutely why they find themselves in such a high-stake game just a couple weeks after New Year’s. It’s also perhaps maybe less their fault than ever. Bennett can’t be faulted for Cal being awful and Dayton being down. Those should be solid wins. But they aren’t. Then there’s the loss to Washington State. That should have been an opportunity for a good win. Instead it’s become a blight on their resume with the Cougars unable to compete in the anemic Pac 12.The one true chance for a meaningful win came against Georgia, and the Bulldogs nipped them in OT.

Beyond that, there’s a lot of wins on the resume for the Gaels, but not a lot of substance. Beating up a couple times each the likes of Loyola Marymount, Pepperdine and Santa Clara doesn’t exactly move the needle.

That’s what made Thursday night so incredibly critical for St. Mary’s, and, if we’re being honest, for college basketball. The Gaels are absolutely one of the 68 best teams in the country. Conservatively, I’d say somewhere around the top 30. The NCAA tournament simply would have been worse off without them.

They showed why against Gonzaga.

The Bulldogs looked poised to pull away on numerous occasions, leading by as many as nine in the second half, but the Gaels wouldn’t let them gain comfortable separation. There was always an answer.

At least there was always Jock Landale.

The 6-foot-11 senior brought his All-American stuff to Spokane, going for 26 points on 12 of 15 shooting while also posting 12 rebounds and three assists. There’s not much flash to Landale’s game, but his fundamentals do the work for him. He established great position early and just went to work, abusing Gonzaga’s frontline time and again.

Landale is one of the most efficient offensive players in the country while simultaneously being one of its better rebounders. That’s a dude who in his senior year needs to be in the NCAA tournament. I won’t hear arguments to the contrary.

This win doesn’t guarantee a spot for the Gaels, obviously. They can’t afford a major slip-up, and another win against the Zags would go a long way, but it at least puts them in a tenable position with more than six weeks until March.

It’s the cruel reality of life in the WCC. Whether it would have won or lost Thursday night, St. Mary’s clearly established itself as a peer to Gonzaga, a team whom no one wonders about its NCAA tournament viability. St. Mary’s is right there with them. If they would have lost, it may not have mattered. The W-L, the RPI and the resume just wouldn’t have enough evidence to support what was so readily apparent to anyone watching.

They did win, though.

Sure, it’s still only one game. Sure, it’s still early. Sure, plenty can still go wrong.

Sure beats the alternative, though.