Indiana v Michigan State

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.

No. 3 Gonzaga improves to 20-0 with win over Portland

SPOKANE, WA - DECEMBER 07:  Nigel Williams-Goss #5 of the Gonzaga Bulldogs drives against the Washington Huskies in the first half at McCarthey Athletic Center on December 7, 2016 in Spokane, Washington.  Gonzaga defeated Washington 98-71.  (Photo by William Mancebo/Getty Images)
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PORTLAND, Ore. — Zach Collins had 13 points and No. 3 Gonzaga remained the nation’s only undefeated Division I team with an 83-64 victory over Portland in a game Monday night that was rescheduled because of a winter storm earlier this month.

The Bulldogs have won 20 straight games, their longest streak since winning that many in the 2005-06 and 2003-04 seasons. Gonzaga is now 8-0 in West Coast Conference play.

Silas Melson and Jordan Mathews each added 12 points for the Zags, who led by as many as 33 points and had four players in double-digits.

Rashad Jackson and D’Marques Tyson had 15 points apiece for Portland, which won its first two games in conference but has lost six straight since then. The Pilots (9-11, 2-6 WCC) are playing their first season under former NBA player and coach Terry Porter.

The game was originally scheduled for Jan. 7, but a winter storm in Portland forced it to be postponed. Portland opened up extra seats and Gonzaga’s fans outnumbered the home team’s crowd.

The two teams had met just two days ago in Spokane, with Gonzaga leading from the start to win 73-52. But Portland, playing without top scorer Alec Wintering, out-rebounded the Zags 41-33 and held them to 45 percent shooting.

The Zags fared better on Monday, out-rebounding Portland 41-36 and shooting 42 percent.

Gonzaga guard Nigel Williams-Goss, who left the game against Portland because of a left hip injury with about five minutes left, was questionable against Portland but started.

But freshman forward Killian Tillie appeared to injure his right leg under Portland’s basket with 9:38 to go in the game, and teammates helped him from the floor. The 6-foot-10 Tillie, who is from France, is averaging 4.8 points this season.

Wintering, a senior, was hurt in last Thursday’s game against San Francisco and the Pilots announced this weekend that his college career was over because of a torn left ACL.

Wintering averaged 19.5 points and 5.6 assists a game this season. He was on Portland’s bench in street clothes, but during warmups before the game and at the break he was on the court, offering his teammates advice and encouragement.

Gonzaga jumped out to a 9-0 run but the Pilots closed within 9-8 following Philipp Hartwich’s dunk. Portland was competitive, answering Melson’s 3-pointer for Gonzaga with Jackson’s 3 that got the Pilots within 22-19.

But the Bulldogs responded with an 8-0 run to go up 30-19 and went into halftime with on a 16-4 run for a 38-23 lead. Melson and Jonathan Williams led Gonzaga at the break with eight points apiece. Jackson’s 13 first-half points for Portland were a new career high for a game.

Gonzaga extended the lead to 50-26 on Przemek Karnowski’s layup with just under 16 minutes to go, the Bulldogs were on the way to their 20th straight win.

THE BIG PICTURE:

Gonzaga: The Zags have won eight straight against Portland. … The Bulldogs’ longest winning streak was 22 games, set in the

Portland: Portland Trail Blazers President Neil Olshey was at the game. … The game, originally scheduled to be played over winter break, was sold out. So despite school being back in session, the usual student section wasn’t as large for the televised game.

POLL IMPLICATIONS: Gonzaga rose a spot from No. 4 and only trails No. 1 Villanova (19-1) and No. 2 Kansas (18-1) in the AP rankings released earlier in the day. The Bulldogs were also ranked No. 3 in the Feb. 23, 2015 poll.

VIDEO: Andrew Jones nails deep three to give Texas win over Oklahoma

AUSTIN, TX - DECEMBER 27: James Banks #4 and Andrew Jones #1 of the Texas Longhorns react during the game between the Texas Longhorns and the Kent State Golden Flashesat the Frank Erwin Center on December 27, 2016 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Chris Covatta/Getty Images)
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Texas freshman Andrew Jones nailed one of the most heroic game-winners of conference play with a dagger against Oklahoma on Monday night.

The Longhorns put together an 84-83 win over the Sooners as Jones took the final possession off of a missed free throw to dribble across the floor and fire an NBA-range bomb over a defender.

This win isn’t going to save a struggling Texas season, but it’s a nice win and a confidence-boosting shot for a McDonald’s All-American who has the potential to be a big-time player with some more seasoning. Jones finished with 16 points in the win as the Longhorns are now 8-12 and 2-6 in the Big 12.

(H/t: Mike Leslie)

VIDEO: Dennis Smith Jr. caps N.C. State win with thunder dunk

DURHAM, NC - JANUARY 23:  Dennis Smith Jr. #4 of the North Carolina State Wolfpack drives in for a dunk as time expires during their win against the Duke Blue Devils at Cameron Indoor Stadium on January 23, 2017 in Durham, North Carolina. North Carolina State won 84-82.  (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
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Dennis Smith Jr. showed why he is a potential top three pick in this year’s draft and why he was the reason many thought that the Wolfpack could be an Elite 8 team coming into the season on Monday, popping off for 32 points and six assists as N.C. State won at No. 17 Duke, 84-82.

He capped off the performance with the perfect exclamation point, a dunk contest-worthy throwdown:

Let’s get another angle of that dunk, shall we?:

Three Takeaways from N.C. State’s win over No. 17 Duke

DURHAM, NC - JANUARY 23:  Head coach Mark Gottfried talks to Dennis Smith Jr. #4 of the North Carolina State Wolfpack during their win against the Duke Blue Devils at Cameron Indoor Stadium on January 23, 2017 in Durham, North Carolina. North Carolina State won 84-82.  (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
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Freshman Dennis Smith Jr. had a monster performance as he scored 32 points and had six assists to lead the Wolfpack past No. 17 Duke for an ACC road win.

Here are three takeaways for an important win for N.C. State.

1. This is the Dennis Smith Jr. (and N.C. State) that we envisioned 

Before this season N.C. State received a lot of hype with some pundits — including NBCSports.com — because people knew that freshman Dennis Smith Jr. was a lottery pick talent and there were other pieces around him that could be productive. Smith has mostly lived up to his top-five hype this season but Monday night’s game saw the North Carolina native go to another level.

Smith comes from a family of N.C. State fans. It is part of the reason he selected the Wolfpack even though they aren’t a one-and-done factory like some other schools. The Wolfpack hadn’t won in Cameron Indoor Stadium since 1995 and this year’s N.C. State had lost four of five ACC games entering Monday.

And Smith went completely bonkers. He finished with 32 points and six assists as he was 4-for-6 from three-point range.

At the end of the first half when it looked like Duke might take a double-digit lead into the break, Smith converted a three-point play and followed it up with a tough, contested three to make it a six-point game. The second half saw more of the same from Smith as he nailed pull-up threes, got to the rim and finished through traffic. It was the type of mesmerizing performance that gets casual basketball fans excited about a player before March Madness begins.

Smith wasn’t the only good player for N.C. State on Monday. Freshman big man Ted Kapita gave crucial minutes inside as he registered his first career double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds. Abdul Malik-Abu was a great secondary option for Smith as he contributed 19 points and nine rebounds. Maverick Rowan (nine points) hit a key late three and some important free throws.

When this team has all of its pieces going you can see why so many people believed N.C. State was capable of the Sweet 16. It feels like this team could be in for a run and the road game at Louisville on Sunday is another major test.

2. Duke is still figuring out its ideal rotation (while getting some answers)

Interim coach Jeff Capel went to some interesting lineup choices on Monday night. Capel started the game by using the lineup that jumpstarted Duke’s second half against Miami. That meant increased minutes for freshman center Marques Bolden as he was paired with Jayson Tatum (16 points) and Frank Jackson.

Seniors Matt Jones and Amile Jefferson were the interchangeable parts who played the most minutes in the first half for the Blue Devils and the second unit included Grayson Allen (13 points), Luke Kennard (20 points) and Harry Giles.

The Blue Devils still have some disjointed sets and scorers are still struggling to play with Tatum at times but there were some promising signs. Giles (eight points, seven rebounds) continues to improve his natural timing and he knocked down a face-up jumper from 17 feet with ease that could help keep defenders honest on him.

There was some good but there was also some bad. Bolden regressed to being a non-factor once again and Allen struggled to find a consistent scoring touch with a 4-for-13 performance.

We still have yet to see the (mostly) full strength Blue Devils that make us believe they are a national title contender. It’ll be interesting to see which lineup ultimately plays the best for Duke but they’re struggling to figure out a consistent rotation.

3. Can N.C. State sustain this kind of effort on a nightly basis?

Monday night was N.C. State’s first road win of the season. So for as big as this win is, the Wolfpack still have a long way to go to becoming a consistent factor in a ridiculously deep ACC. Smith is going to get tested quite a bit by Louisville’s length and athleticism on Sunday and playing in front of that Cardinal crowd is one of the hardest things to do in college basketball.

It doesn’t get any easier for N.C. State and they can’t have a major letdown after the high of a road win like this. That losing stretch of four out of five games included some really bad losses. Boston College, Georgia Tech and Wake Forest are the kind of losses that tournament teams can’t sustain on a regular basis so the Wolfpack have to take care of  business against teams like that for the rest of the season.

Success on the road will also help N.C. State’s tournament cause. This Duke win is nice but now the Wolfpack get two more cracks at top-15 teams away from home with Louisville and Florida State in the next two weeks. If N.C. State can somehow split those road games and stay strong at home they’ll be in good shape the rest of the way.

PHOTO: Nevada wearing pink jerseys to honor Coaches vs. Cancer this week

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Nevada announced that they’ll be wearing special pink uniforms for the next two games to promote cancer awareness.

The Wolf Pack will wear the jerseys on Wednesday (Jan. 25) on the road against Boise State and at home on Saturday (Jan. 28) against New Mexico.

“We are extremely excited and honored to release our new Pink “Cancer-Awareness” Jerseys. It was apparent very early in our time here, that many members of our Nevada Wolf Pack Basketball Program and in our Pack community have been affected or are currently being affected by cancer,” Nevada head coach Eric Musselman said in the release. “We could not be more proud to help support the cause and unite to fight this horrible and devastating disease.”