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2018 NCAA Tournament Conference Breakdown: ACC, Big 12 make up half of Sweet 16

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With a crazy first weekend of the 2018 NCAA tournament in the books, it is time to examine the field’s conference breakdown heading into the Sweet 16.

While some multi-bid leagues like the AAC, Atlantic 10 and Pac-12 were shut out of the second weekend after miserable tournament showings, other leagues like the ACC and Big 12 lived up to the hype.

Here’s a look at the tournament’s conference breakdown before the Sweet 16.

4 — ACC

  • No. 2 Duke
  • No. 5 Clemson
  • No. 9 Florida State
  • No. 11 Syracuse

Notes: It’s not surprising to see the ACC with four teams in the Sweet 16 after getting nine teams in the Field of 68. What is surprising is that Clemson, Florida State and Syracuse are three of the four teams still left. The ACC could have dominated the field if No. 1 seed Virginia and No. 2 seed North Carolina held up their end of the bargain. Both were upset in blowout fashion. No. 6 seed Miami, No. 8 seed Virginia Tech and No. 9 seed N.C. State were all dropped in the first round as well. It’s also worth noting that three of these four teams (sorry, Florida State) reside in the Midwest Regional as the ACC will be guaranteed at least one Elite Eight team from Duke and Syracuse’s Sweet 16 matchup. The Blue Devils won the regular season matchup, 60-44, at Cameron Indoor Stadium in February as they’re looking like the best Final Four contender left from the bunch.

4 — Big 12

  • No. 1 Kansas
  • No. 3 Texas Tech
  • No. 5 West Virginia
  • No. 9 Kansas State

Notes: Many people considered the Big 12 the best (and toughest) top-to-bottom conference in America this season. By tying the ACC with the most teams still left in the field, the Big 12 backed up that sentiment with its first-weekend performance. Getting 40 percent of your conference into the Sweet 16 is a major accomplishment. It’s also notable that the top four teams in the Big 12’s regular season standings are all still playing basketball. The regular season results actually stayed true-to-form during the tournament. The league’s only disappointments stem from No. 6 TCU’s upset loss to No. 11 seed Syracuse, Trae Young and No. 10 seed Oklahoma falling in overtime to No. 8 seed Rhode Island and No. 10 seed Texas blowing a double-digit lead No. 7 seed Nevada.

2– Big Ten

  • No. 2 Purdue
  • No. 3 Michigan

Notes: This is a decent showing for the Big Ten as all four tournament teams won in the first round while two of the teams advanced to the second weekend. Purdue lost big man Isaac Haas to an elbow injury but the No. 2 seed Boilermakers still beat No. 10 seed Butler for the second time this season. Amidst all of the chaos on the left side of the bracket in the South and West Regionals, No. 3 seed Michigan is the highest remaining seed among that group of eight teams. It was stunning to see No. 3 seed Michigan State get bounced by a double-digit seed for the second time in three years as they fell to No. 11 seed Syracuse. The Spartans were a credible national title threat, as their early exit does tarnish some of the Big Ten’s success. No. 5 seed Ohio State also finds themselves out after losing to No. 4 seed Gonzaga in the Round of 32. The Big Ten was certainly down this season. Michigan State’s loss is a major letdown. But it could have been much worse. At least the Big Ten might have a dark horse Final Four contender pan out in red-hot Michigan and Purdue is still dangerous without Haas.

2 — SEC

  • No. 5 Kentucky
  • No. 7 Texas A&M

Notes: The SEC finally might have showed its true colors after a bizarre regular season that nobody could have predicted. Only two of eight NCAA tournament team are still left as the SEC was gutted after losses. After both failing to live up to preseason projections for most of the season, No. 5 seed Kentucky and No. 7 seed Texas A&M are both peaking at the right time. It’s hard to believe, but the Wildcats are now the favorite in the South Regional now that the top four seeds have all been eliminated. And after the Aggies earned a blowout win over defending champion and No. 2 seed North Carolina, they should also be taken seriously. It’s the rest of the SEC that is hard to take seriously after this weekend. Co-conference regular season champions No. 4 seed Auburn and No. 3 seed Tennessee were both ousted — the Tigers were flat-out embarrassed by No. 5 seed Clemson. No. 6 seed Florida and No. 9 seed Alabama both won openers before bowing out in the second round. No. 7 seed Arkansas and No. 8 seed Missouri both exited the event after the first round. With only two of eight teams left in the field, this wasn’t what the SEC had in mind after a resurgent season for basketball. The two remaining teams could still salvage the SEC’s season with a deep tournament run. Both of those inconsistent teams could implode at a moment’s notice.

1 — Big East

  • No. 1 Villanova

Notes: The 2018 NCAA tournament has been brutal for the six-bid Big East. The Wildcats have shot the ball at an extremely high level for two games. The rest of the conference was a disaster. Xavier, the league’s second No. 1 seed, was upset by No. 9 seed Florida State. No. 8 seed Seton Hall and No. 10 seed Butler were both bounced in the second round as well by No. 1 seed Kansas and No. 2 seed Purdue, respectively. Creighton and Providence couldn’t even make it out of the first round after losses to No. 9 seed Kansas State and No. 7 seed Texas A&M. This was a year to forget for the Big East.

1 — Missouri Valley Conference

  • No. 11 Loyola

Notes: The Ramblers advancing to the Sweet 16 is important for the Valley because it signifies that the league can still make noise in March without Wichita State. It probably feels even better for the Valley knowing that the Shockers also lost in the first round to No. 13 seed Marshall. One Valley head coach even made sure to mention all of that on Twitter.

1 — Mountain West

  • No. 7 Nevada

Notes: The Wolf Pack are in the Sweet 16 for the second time in program history (2004) as the tournament’s comeback kids are a dangerous bunch. With two double-digit second-half comebacks already, Nevada is a team that you can never count out. No. 11 seed San Diego State, the league’s only other tournament team, got Rob Grayed against No. 6 seed Houston in the first round, but the Aztecs at least made a respectable second-half comeback before losing.

1 — West Coast Conference

  • No. 4 Gonzaga

Notes: Back in the Sweet 16 for the fourth consecutive season, Gonzaga has remained one of the tournament’s most consistent teams in recent years. Even after losing multiple pieces from last season’s national runner-up, the Zags managed to be the last Final Four team from last season still in the 2018 field.

Minnesota adds Vanderbilt transfer Payton Willis

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Minnesota has added some depth for the future.

The Golden Gophers received a pledge from Vanderbilt transfer Payton Willis over the weekend, giving him a guard with two seasons of eligibility remaining starting in 2019-20.

Willis will sit out the upcoming season under NCAA transfer rules.

The 6-foot-4 guard played a limited role in two seasons in Nashville, never averaging more than 18. 5 minutes or 5.2 points per game. He scored in double figures in three games as a sophomore.

Willis was a top-150 prospect in the Class of 2016 coming out of Fayetteville, Ark. with offers from the likes of Tulsa, Rice and Dayton. Vandy and Minnesota were his two high-major offers.

After being ranked in the top-15, Minnesota was beset by injury and suspensions last season as they limped to the finish line in a 15-17 season that featured losses in 12 of its last 13 games.

Richard Pitino still has two available scholarships for the 2018-19 campaign.

Report: Quade Green returning to Kentucky

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John Calipari just landed a critical recruit for 2018-19, and he was already on the roster.

Quade Green, who averaged 25 minutes per game last season, is returning to Kentucky for his sophomore season, his mother told the Lexington Herald-Leader on Monday.

Given that six Wildcat players have entered the draft (Kevin Knox, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Hami Diallo are signing with agents), getting the 6-foot point guard back for a second season is a massive deal for Calipari and Co. The Wildcats have always been at their best under Calipari with returning players as the cornerstones of the roster with talented one-and-dones providing the extra boost. Getting one such returner at the point guard position is even more critical.

Green, who came to Kentucky as a five-star recruit last year, averaged 9.3 points and 2.7 assists per game while shooting 45.1 percent from the field and a respectable 37.1 percent from 3-point range, an area where Kentucky continually needs help.

With Green back in the fold, Kentucky will now await the decisions of PJ Washington, Wenyen Gabriel and Jarred Vanderbilt, who are all going through the pre-draft process without hiring agents, which will potentially allow them to return to school and bolster a Kentucky roster has the look of a top-five team.

CBT Podcast: NBA Draft Early Entry Deadline: Winners, losers and who has the most on the line?

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The NBA Draft Early Entry Deadline came and went on Sunday night, meaning there are now roughly 60 college players that have signed with an agent and another 100 or so that have declared for the draft while retaining their college eligibility. Who were the winners? Who were the losers? Who has the most on the line? Sam Vecenie of the Game Theory podcast joined Rob Dauster to talk through all of it. The rundown:

OPEN: What do NBA teams value in players these days?

10:00: Villanova has more on the line during this testing the water process than anyone

19:00: Just how important was De’Andre Hunter’s decision to return to Virginia

25:25: Gonzaga getting Rui and Killian Tillie back makes them a title favorite

32:10: Nevada has a top ten season on the line with the Martin twins and Jordan Caroline

36:15: #RANTALERT – The decision to turn pro is so much more complicated than “is he a first round pick”

48:30: Rapid fire: Maryland, Kansas, Syracuse, Nebraska, Purdue and Michigan. What do they have on the line?

North Carolina’s Luke Maye declaring for NBA draft without hiring agent

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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina junior Luke Maye has declared for the NBA draft but isn’t hiring an agent.

The 6-foot-8 forward was a third-team Associated Press All-American after averaging 16.9 points and 10.1 rebounds. He was named the Atlantic Coast Conference’s most improved player after increasing his scoring average by 11.4 points from his sophomore to junior seasons.

Coach Roy Williams says in a statement that it’s ”a great opportunity” for Maye to work out for NBA teams and get feedback on what to improve in his game.

The deadline for college players to declare early for the draft was Sunday night. Players who don’t hire an agent can maintain their college eligibility as long as they withdraw by May 30, which is 10 days after the NBA draft combine.

Gonzaga star undergoes surgery on his shoulder

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The most important players for Gonzaga heading into the 2018-19 season will have an offseason dedicated to rehabilitation.

Josh Perkins, Gonzaga’s starting point guard, underwent surgery on Friday to repair a shoulder that he injured back in December. According to the Spokesman-Review, Perkins expects to be healthy and ready to play by the start of next season.

Perkins averaged 12.3 points and 5.3 assists during the 2017-18 season despite playing through those shoulder issues. After December’s win over Washington, a game in which Perkins left wincing in pain and clutching his shoulders, Perkins said “Just popped out a little bit. It’s not very strong right now, but everything is good.”

For my money, Perkins is the player that is going to be the x-factor for the Zags next season. They have a terrific front court with Rui Hachimura and Killian Tillie returning, and with the likes of Zach Norvell and Corey Kispert back, there is plenty of talent on the wings. Perkins, the senior point guard, is the blue that is going to be needed to hold it all together.

Gonzaga is a top five team heading into next year. They have national title aspirations. Perkins might end up being the guy that determines whether they live up to those goals or get knocked out of the field in the Sweet 16.