Tourney Preview: Burke vs. Wolters, Marquette’s upset watch, how many 11s lose?

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GAME OF THE DAY: 7:15 p.m. – South Dakota State (13) vs. Michigan (4) – CBS

I’m not sure if South Dakota State has the horses to run with Michigan for 40 minutes, but what I’m sure of is that regardless of how long they hang around, the Jackrabbits are going to keep things interesting. By now, you should have heard the name Nate Wolters before. Wolters is the point guard for SDSU, and while his style of play is quite different than that of Trey Burke, the way that he is used and is productivity is quite similar.

Both the Wolverines and the Jackrabbits spread the floor with shooters, putting the ball in the hands of their point guards, allowing them to create. Neither plays much defense, and both can put up points in a hurry. This should be fun. And hopefully it will come down to the final possession.

Three more games you cannot miss:

  • 1:40 p.m. – Wichita State (9) vs. Pittsburgh (8) – TBS: This won’t be a pretty basketball game, but these are two big, physical teams that can grind it out with the best of them. It may look like a rugby match, but it’ll be close.
  • 2:45 p.m. – Saint Mary’s (11) vs. Memphis (6) – CBS: They might play the same position, but I’m not sure there are two point guards that more different than Joe Jackson and Matthew Dellavedova. They’ll be going head-to-head as Josh Pastner tries to win his first career NCAA tournament game.
  • 7:20 p.m. – Belmont (11) vs. Arizona (6) – TNT: Belmont is legit. They have arguably the best back court in their region with Kerron Johnson and Ian Clark. Can Mark Lyons and company be enough to slow them down?

WHO’S GETTING UPSET: 3:10 p.m. – Davidson (14) vs. Marquette (3) – tru TV

I picked this one in my bracket. Davidson is a veteran team that’s been together for a while. This is the same team that went into Kansas City last season and knocked off a Kansas team that went to the national title game. They can play with the big boys. Davidson’s two best players are De’Mon Brooks and Jake Cohen, two forwards that will be tough for either Chris Otule or Davante Gardner to matchup with.

WHO’S NOT GETTING UPSET: 12:40 p.m. – Bucknell (11) vs. Butler (6) – Tru TV

I just don’t see this one. Bucknell’s star is Mike Muscala, but Butler not only has the best game-planner in the country this side of Tom Izzo in Brad Stevens, but they also have a 6-foot-11 center named Andrew Smith that’s just as big and even more physical than Muscala. I don’t see the Bulldogs losing this one.

BEST INDIVIDUAL MATCHUP: 9:57 p.m. – Montana (13) vs. Syracuse (4) – Tru TV

The best individual matchup is Trey Burke and Nate Wolters, but since we already talked about that, I’ll go with Will Cherry and Kareem Jamar squaring off against Michael Carter-Williams and Brandon Triche. A lot of people have picked Montana to pull the upset, and it will take a big game from the Grizzlies back court to make that happen.

EXPLOITABLE MATCHUP: 9:20 p.m. – Missouri (9) vs. Colorado State (8) – TBS

It works both ways here. Colorado State has been lit up by scoring points guards of late, and Missouri has a kid by the name of Phil Pressey. I don’t know if you heard of him. But Missouri’s front line has had their issues rebounding the ball and handling big, physical opponents. Colorado State is as big and as physical as anyone in the country. This will be interesting to watch play out.

THURSDAY’S FULL SCHEDULE

12:15 p.m. – Valparaiso (14) vs. Michigan State (3) – CBS
12:40 p.m. – Bucknell (11) vs. Butler (6) – Tru TV
1:40 p.m. – Wichita State (9) vs. Pittsburgh (8)- TBS
2:10 p.m. – New Mexico State (13) vs. Saint Louis (4) – TNT
2:45 p.m. – Saint Mary’s (11) vs. Memphis (6) – CBS
3:10 p.m. – Davidson (14) vs. Marquette (3) – tru TV
4:10 p.m. – Southern (16) vs. Gonzaga (1) – TBS
4:40 p.m. – Oregon (12) vs. Oklahoma State (5) – TNT
6:50 p.m. – North Carolina A&T (16) vs. Louisville (1) – TBS
7:15 p.m. – South Dakota State (13) vs. Michigan (4) – CBS
7:20 p.m. – Belmont (11) vs. Arizona (6) – TNT
7:27 p.m. – California (12) vs. UNLV (5) – Tru TV
9:20 p.m. – Missouri (9) vs. Colorado State (8) – TBS
9:45 p.m. – Akron (12) vs. VCU (5) – CBS
9:50 p.m. – Harvard (14) vs. New Mexico (3) – TNT
9:57 p.m. – Montana (13) vs. Syracuse (4) – Tru TV

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

Gonzaga’s Mark Few named AP Coach of the Year

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Gonzaga head coach Mark Few has added to his program’s banner season with an individual award, being named AP Coach of the Year on Thursday afternoon.

Few led the Bulldogs to their first Final Four. The Zags enter the national semifinal with a 36-1 record. Up until Feb. 25, they were flirting with a perfect season. A loss to BYU is currently the only blemish on their season.

Few also won his 500th career game during the course of the 2016-17 season. Since 2014, two coaches from outside the major conferences have earned his honor. Gregg Marshall was named AP Coach of the Year in 2014 after leading the Shockers to a perfect regular season.

This was a very competitive race this season. Sean Miller lost two players expected to be key pieces this season — and had Allonzo Trier miss 19 games — but guided Arizona to the Pac-12 Tournament championship. Jay Wright led Villanova to another Big East title despite two cornerstone pieces — Ryan Arcidiancono and Daniel Ochefu — gone from last season’s national championship team. For a while, Baylor’s Scott Drew seemed to be the favorite. The Bears didn’t receive a single vote in the preseason top-25 poll but went on to earn a No. 1 ranking.

Few’s season continues on Saturday against South Carolina.

Frank Mason is named AP Player of the Year

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Kansas point guard Frank Mason III was named the AP Player of the Year on Thursday afternoon.

The senior floor general for the Jayhawks headlined the AP All-American team, which included UCLA point guard Lonzo Ball, Villanova Swingman Josh Hart, Purdue big man Caleb Swanigan and North Carolina small forward Justin Jackson.

Mason averaged 20.8 points, 4.1 rebounds, 5.1 assists, and shot 49 percent from behind the 3-point line during the 2016-17 season. He helped guide Kansas to its 13th consecutive Big 12 regular season title.

He becomes the fourth senior in a row to win the award, preceded by Michigan State’s Denzel Valentine, Wisconsin’s Frank Kaminksy and Creighton’s Doug McDermott.

He had previously been named player of the year by NBC Sports.

TJ Leaf declares for the 2017 NBA Draft

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UCLA freshman forward TJ Leaf announced he is declaring for the 2017 NBA Draft on Thursday afternoon.

The 6-foot-10 Leaf averaged 16.3 points, 8.2 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.1 blocks per game. His shooting numbers were also impressive, connecting on 62 percent of his field goals, including 27-of-58 from beyond the 3-point arc.

This news comes six days after Lonzo Ball officially announced he had played his last game at UCLA. Neither move is shocking, with Ball in the running for the No. 1 overall pick and Leaf also pegged as a first round selection.

The Bruins will have quite a bit of turnover next season with guards Bryce Alford and Isaac Hamilton exhausting their eligibility. UCLA head coach Steve Alford has a six-man recruiting class set to come in to help replenish the roster. It’s led by versatile forward Kris Wilkes, point guard Jaylen Hands, and big men Cody Riley and Jalen Hill.

CBT Fancast: Catching up with famous Final Four fans: Adam Morrison, Marcus Paige, Neil Everett

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For today’s episode, I spoke with the famous fans of the programs in the Final Four, from the greatest player in Gonzaga history to the almost-star of last year’s Final Four to the most famous dual Gonzaga and Oregon fan in the world.

Sindarius Thornwell misses practice on Thursday

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Sindarius Thornwell has been the best player in the NCAA tournament to date, yet he was not in the building on Thursday when the South Carolina Gamecocks practiced and he was nowhere to be found during South Carolina’s media availability.

A school spokeswoman told reporters that Thornwell was back at the hotel, that he was sick and resting.

Thornwell is averaging 25.7 points in four games in the NCAA tournament. He’s been sensational. If he’s not at his best this weekend, that’s a massive blow for South Carolina’s chances of getting to a national title game, but South Carolina head coach Frank Martin doesn’t seem too concerned.

“I’ve got a bug myself. Luckily I don’t have to play,” Martin said. “He had a little body temperature last night when we landed. And he was a little better this morning. But I kind of told our trainer, just feed him fluids, do what doctors do and let him rest rather than stress him right now. He’s our most intelligent player. And I don’t mean to say that demeaning the other guys. He understands basketball at a high, high level, he doesn’t need to be on the practice court to understand what we’re doing.”