CBT Roundtable: Sweet 16 surprises

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Connecticut v Louisville

Yesterday, we took you through what we believed to be the biggest surprise heading into the Sweet 16. Today, our stable of writers makes a prediction: What will be the most surprising thing that happens over the course of these next eight games?:

RELATEDSweet 16 Power Rankings | Top 16 Players | Eight Critical Individual Matchups

Rob Dauster: There will be no teams left from the state of Michigan and three schools left from the SEC by the time Saturday rolls around. It goes against everything that I picked in my bracket and everything that I’ve predicted in typing out the Sweet 16 previews, but the matchups all seem to lean in that direction. Tennessee’s playing their best basketball of Cuonzo Martin’s tenure and has the size and strength up front to overwhelm the Wolverines. The same can be said about Kentucky, assuming the Wildcats can find a way to slow down Russ Smith. And Michigan State’s Keith Appling still isn’t 100%, which will be a major problem against Virginia’s staunch half court defense. In other words, my bracket — which actually looks pretty good right now — will be one hot, steaming pile of garbage by the time the Sweet 16 is done and overwith.

Scott Phillips: I had Baylor getting past Creighton and into the Sweet 16 because I believed the Bears had the length and the athleticism to get past the Bluejays, but Baylor is playing great ball right now and looks like a team that isn’t done winning. The Bears have that aforementioned length and the athleticism to matchup well with Wisconsin and they won’t be concerned about the Badgers’ ability to space the floor as long as they can hit some shots of their own. Scott Drew’s team is playing with a lot of confidence down the stretch and Wisconsin isn’t playing in their home state anymore. I think Baylor gets by Wisconsin and gives a heck of a game against Arizona for the right to get to the Final Four.

SWEET 16 PREVIEWSDayton-Stanford | Wisconsin-Baylor | Florida-UCLA | Arizona-SDSU

Raphielle Johnson: These two teams have a lot in common with regards to their respective skill sets and athletic ability, as evidenced by the game they played in November that was closer than the nine-point margin. But here’s one difference now that wasn’t the case then: Dwayne Polee II is giving them quality minutes off the bench. That wasn’t the case in November, and while Arizona is different without Brandon Ashley they’re well-adjusted to not having him. If Polee can give SDSU quality bench minutes as he has the last few weeks, an upset is well within reach for the Aztecs.

Matt Giles: Florida has faced just one team this season with an offense as efficient as UCLA’s: the Gators allowed Wisconsin to score nearly one point per possession in the loss. It is worth noting that Scottie Wilbekin, UF’s best on-ball defender, was suspended and missed that game, and his presence drastically changes the team’s defense, but stopping Kyle Anderson & Company will still pose a challenge for Florida. There are so many potential mismatches — who guards Anderson? Will Travis Wear draw Patric Young away from the interior, or will Will Yeguete draw that assignment? — that Thursday night’s contest could result in an top-seed upset for the Bruins.

Terrence Payne: Biggest surprise of this week will be Tennessee continuing its run through the NCAA tournament to the Elite 8. The consensus was on Selection Sunday, that the Midwest Region was going to be the most difficult part of the bracket. Despite being loaded with top teams, I believe the Volunteers will punch one of the region’s two tickets to the Elite 8. Jeronne Maymon and especially Jarnell Stokes have been a handful on the boards, which is something Michigan could have trouble with in the Sweet 16. Add in Jordan McRae and Josh Richardson, who is averaging 19.3 points per game in the tournament, and it looks like Tennessee is poised for its fourth tournament win. We’ve seen it before with First Four teams causing chaos in the tournament, whether it’s VCU or La Salle. I think Tennessee can continue that trend on Friday night.

Tennessee lands impact graduate transfer James Daniel

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Tennessee and head coach Rick Barnes earned a commitment from one of the top graduate transfers on the market on Monday when Howard guard James Daniel pledged to the Volunteers.

The 6-foot-0 Daniel was the nation’s leading scorer at 27.1 points per game his junior season in 2015-16. Daniel played in only two games last season as a left ankle injury caused him to have surgery.

With nearly 2,000 career points to his name, Daniel gives Tennessee an additional perimeter scorer who should come in and make an immediate impact right away. While Howard has low shooting percentages and a high usage rate during his time at Howard, it’ll be interesting to see how the year off and more talented teammates will alter his game.

If Howard can be a more efficient scorer in his final season, then he has a chance to be one of the better players for the Volunteers this season.

Two workouts this week could alter Caleb Swanigan’s NBA Draft decision

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Purdue big man Caleb Swanigan has the most important decision among any college basketball player who could return next season from the 2017 NBA Draft process. If Swanigan comes back for his junior season, he’s the frontrunner for National Player of the Year. More importantly, Purdue would have a serious chance to repeat as Big Ten regular season champions, especially if Vince Edwards also returns from the same draft process.

Wednesday night is the decision deadline for players to return to college basketball for next season and Swanigan will use two more workouts scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday to help decide his future. According to multiple reports, Swanigan will workout for the Orlando Magic on Tuesday and the New York Knicks on Wednesday.

Tuesday’s workout with the Magic will also reportedly involve Cal big man Ivan Rabb — an important workout for Swanigan since Rabb is listed ahead of Swanigan on a lot of popular mock drafts. The Magic own three picks between No. 25 and No. 35 — which is listed slightly above the No. 40 slot that Draft Express has Swanigan listed. So if Swanigan has a good workout against Rabb for the Magic, then he could get himself some sort of guarantee from a Magic team that desperately needs talent and has a lot of picks in that range.

The Knicks also have Swanigan scheduled for a Wednesday workout as they own the No. 44 overall pick in the second round. Again, the Knicks are a team in win-now mode with current stars like Carmelo Anthony and Kristaps Porzingis openly feuding with the team’s front-office, so it wouldn’t be out of the question for Swanigan to land some sort of guarantee from New York in the second round.

Of course, guarantees for draft night are nice to have, but things can change quickly on draft night. Swanigan has to consider all of the information he is receiving before he makes his decision on Wednesday. But if Swanigan has two strong workouts and gets the information that he’s looking for this week, then he could easily bolt for a potential guaranteed contract.

Angel Delgado’s return to Seton Hall makes Pirates Big East contender

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Seton Hall got huge news on Monday when Angel Delgado announced that he would be returning to school for his senior season.

“I am coming back to school for my senior year,” Delgado said in a statement on Monday. “It’s very important to my family and me that I finish what I started. This was a difficult decision that took time and patience. Coming back feels just right.”

Delgado, a 6-foot-10 forward from the Dominican Republic, averaged 15.1 points and 13.2 boards last season for the Pirates. He was one of the best big men in the country over the last six weeks of the season.

And his return should bring about one of the best years that Seton Hall basketball has had in a long time.

The Pirates are loaded with talent, tough and, most importantly, old players, from Delgado to Khadeen Carrington to Ishmael Sanogo to Desi Rodriguez. They are going to be a nightmare to run offense against, and they may just be the best team in the Big East not named Villanova. Delgado should end up being a preseason all-american.

Seton Hall is currently ranked No. 17 in the NBC Sports Preseason Top 25.

Texas to return Andrew Jones for sophomore season

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Texas got another boost on Monday as former five-star recruit Andrew Jones announced that he will be returning to school for his sophomore season.

“I’ve matured and learned a lot through this process,” Jones said in a statement released on twitter. “I enjoyed the experience and opportunity that I had to be able to participate in the combine and team workouts.

“Time to go work out with my teammates. Hungry and Humble.”

This comes on the heels of Texas landing a commitment from a top five prospect in Mo Bamba. With all those pieces in the fold, including a recruiting class that features four more top 100 prospects, the Longhorns look like they are on track to be a borderline preseason top 25 team and heading back to the NCAA tournament.

This could end up being a narrative-changing year for Texas.

West Virginia returns potential Big 12 Player of the Year in Jevon Carter

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West Virginia got some great news on Monday as Jevon Carter announced that he will be returning to the Mountaineers for his senior year.

“I’m excited about coming back to West Virginia and playing with my teammates for my senior season,” he said. “The entire NBA process was a great experience for me and to gain valuable feedback that I can use to prepare for the future.”

This is massive for the Mountaineers. Not only is Carter the team’s leading scorer at 13.5 points, but he is a three-time all-Big 12 Defensive Team member and led West Virginia in minutes played last season. He’ll be a favorite to win Big 12 Player of the Year, with Devonte’ Graham of Kansas.