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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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.

Grand Canyon lands Oregon graduate transfer guard Casey Benson

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Grand Canyon landed an important piece for its NCAA tournament push on Saturday night as Oregon graduate transfer guard Casey Benson pledged to the Antelopes.

The 6-foot-3 Benson will be eligible right away as spent the past three seasons with the Ducks as a key reserve guard, helping Oregon to multiple deep NCAA tournament runs. Benson picked Grand Canyon over Wisconsin for his final season of college basketball as Benson’s brother, T.J., is an assistant coach with the Antelopes.

Benson shot 40 percent from three-point range last season while also being a steady ball handler over the course of his career at Oregon as he has only 81 career turnovers in over 2,600 career minutes with the Ducks. While Benson wasn’t asked to score a lot for a loaded Oregon team that featured multiple bucket-getters, he could be asked to do more at Grand Canyon.

Grand Canyon is eligible for the NCAA tournament for the first time next season as the addition of Benson gives them an experienced guard who should be more of a factor in the WAC. The Antelopes are coming off of a 22-9 season in which they finished 11-3 in conference play.

With great facilities and a quickly-growing fan base, head coach Dan Majerle has the potential makings of a perennial mid-major conference contender if he continues to recruit well to Grand Canyon.

Colorado adds commitment from Class of 2017 point guard McKinley Wright

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Colorado landed one of the best available point guards for next season on Friday as Class of 2017 floor general McKinley Wright committed during an official visit.

A former Dayton commit who opted out of his recruitment after former head coach Archie Miller took the Indiana job, Wright was one of the best available point guards left as he played last weekend on the adidas Gauntlet in front of college coaches with D1 Minnesota.

The 6-foot-0 Wright gives the Buffaloes another ball handler and distributor as he was Minnesota’s Mr. Basketball during this past season. As a senior, Wright averaged 22.9 points, 8.1 rebounds and 7.8 assists per game.

It’s always hard to say if spring recruits who elevate a level in recruiting after decommitting are making the correct decision, but Wright looked the part of a high-major lead guard last weekend, and Colorado wasn’t the only high-major program that was pushing hard to add Wright at this late stage.

Oral Roberts to hire Baylor assistant coach Paul Mills

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Oral Roberts has found its new head coach as they will hire Baylor assistant coach Paul Mills, as first reported by NBCSports.com’s Rob Dauster.

Mills had been on staff with the Bears since 2003 as he’s been a big factor in why head coach Scott Drew has been able to turn around that program. A graduate of Texas A&M, Mills has been a full-time assistant at Baylor since the 2009 season.

“I am honored to accept this role of representing this historic institution, its students and its mission,” Mills said in a release. “Making this commitment today is a highlight of my career and I look forward with excitement to the basketball season directly ahead. Go Golden Eagles.”

Mills will replace former head coach Scott Sutton, who was relieved of his duties this offseason after 18 years at the helm.

 

Iowa commit Connor McCaffery to redshirt in basketball to pursue baseball

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Iowa commit Connor McCaffery is in a unique spot when he starts his freshman year in Iowa City next year.

Not only is the 6-foot-4 guard the son of basketball head coach Fran McCaffery, while being a four-star national basketball prospect, but Connor also has a bright future in baseball.

There was a lot of speculation as to what Connor might do for his future in athletics and he gave more clarification on what he might be looking to do on Friday.

McCaffery has decided to redshirt in basketball next season to focus on the beginnings of his baseball career at Iowa. A walk-on for both sports, the move enables Connor McCaffery to potentially play three years of basketball with his younger brother, Patrick, who is also a heralded basketball recruit for Iowa. This move also gives Connor the best chance to pursue both sports while he’ll also help out a young Iowa basketball team with its tough scholarship scenario.

Butler, Chris Holtmann agree to a contract extension

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Butler has agreed to a contract extension with head coach Chris Holtmann, the school announced on Friday, that will keep him under contract through 2025.

“Butler truly is a special place, and my family and I are thankful to be part of a great academic institution and an athletics department that is a source of pride for those who embrace Butler and The Butler Way,” said Holtmann. “Our student-athletes, our staff, and so many throughout our campus are remarkable at what they do, and I’m excited to continue to work alongside them.”

Holtmann was named Big East Coach of the Year after leading the Bulldogs to a 25-9 record and a spot in the Sweet 16. In three years with the program, Holtmann has a record of 70-31.

“Chris is a tremendous ambassador for Butler and the Butler Way, and his leadership has resulted in success both on and off the court for the talented young men in our program,” said Butler Vice President/Director of Athletics Barry Collier. “This commitment – both by our university and by Chris – allows the momentum within our program to continue.”

Holtmann was in the mix for a couple of jobs this spring, including N.C. State and Missouri.