Author: Daniel Martin

Nate Austin, Kelly Olynyk

NCAA Picks: A quick breakdown of some 2013 Final Four possibilities


This has been a season of upsets, underdogs, and unpredictability. The conventional wisdom has been that the NCAA tournament will follow suit. But will it? Will we see four No. 1 seeds in Atlanta, or none at all? Check out the tiered preview below:

The Top: These are the teams that, when judging by seed alone, should have the best shot at making the Final Four


The Hoosiers began the season as the No. 1 team in the country and are looking to come full circle and win a national title in Atlanta. Yes, they have weapons like Cody Zeller, Victor Oladipo, Christian Watford, and Yogi Ferrell, but the key will be how each of those gets involved. Oladipo will be the do-everything forward, but Zeller needs to be assertive and physical down low. Because of that, beware of a team that can push the Hoosiers around on the interior.


The Cardinals pulled off an immaculate comeback to beat Syracuse in the Big East title game, but it will ultimately come down to guard play for Louisville. If Russ Smith and Peyton Siva are clicking offensively and the defense is forcing turnovers, they’re very tough to beat. If those two are off track for a game, though, the Cardinals could be sent home early.


Gonzaga hasn’t gotten as much national respect as it perhaps should have, even when it reached No. 1 in the national polls. This is their time to prove their worth. Kelly Olynyk is one of the country’s most mobile and versatile big men and will be at the center of everything the Zags do. Expect an early challenge from Pittsburgh in the Round of 32.


Kansas powered through the Big 12 on the backs of Ben McLemore and Jeff Withey but turnovers will be the biggest stumbling block for the Jayhawks on the road to the Final Four. Especially if Kansas meets VCU in the Sweet 16, we could have an upset. If they keep that under control, though, coach Bill Self’s team has the firepower to make a Final Four push.

The Non-No. 1s: Just because they’re not No. 1 seeds doesn’t mean they can’t challenge for a Final Four

Ohio State

The Buckeyes won the Big Ten title the same way they have won games all season: defense. Their ability to defend on that end of the floor will never be in question, but we’ll need to see how they work offensively to get a good taste of how far this team can go. Deshaun Thomas cannot be the only scoring option. Lenzelle Smith, Jr., Aaron Craft, Shannon Scott, LaQuinton Ross, Evan Ravenel, and the rest can all find ways to contribute.

New Mexico

The Mountain West has been as brutally competitive as nearly any conference in the country this year and from it emerges a Final Four sleeper pick, New Mexico. How are the Lobos a sleeper pick as a No. 3 seed? Because many know little about them. Keep an eye on Kendall Williams, Tony Snell, and Alex Kirk, all of whom need to be going offensively for the Lobos to shift into gear. The major concern will be shooting percentage. New Mexico has to hit shots consistently to advance.


At the beginning of the season, Miami was not expected to do what it has done. Point guard Shane Larkin is a big reason for that, but it has also been a matter of team cohesiveness and the ability to play at different paces. Reggie Johnson needs to be a factor on the interior and the Hurricanes have a chance to make life tough for opponents if Kenny Kadji is stretching the defense from the power forward spot.


Otto Porter, defense, and more Otto Porter. That will be Georgetown’s gameplan in the NCAA tournament. Porter does a little bit of everything well, but will need help from Markel Starks and D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera offensively for the Hoyas to make it to the Final Four being in the same regional as Kansas.

The Mid-Majors: These teams are dangerous in March. They might have come from smaller leagues, but watch out.


Coach Shaka Smart and the Rams live off of turnovers. They force close to 20 per game and it becomes the lifeblood of a transition offense that can put points on the board in a hurry. Against Saint Louis in the Atlantic 10 championship game, VCU erased a 13-point deficit in close to three minutes.

Saint Louis

Saint Louis, the team that beat VCU to win the A-10 title, is efficient, poised, and smart with the basketball. In a region like the Midwest where Louisville is the No. 1 seed, the Billikens match up favorably. If they can control turnovers, it hurts what Louisville can do offensively. Kwamain Mitchell against Peyton Siva would be one to watch.


When your team features one of the country’s best players, you’ll always in a position to be dangerous in the NCAA tournament. Doug McDermott will be the centerpiece of this team, but Grant Gibbs, Gregory Echenique, and Austing Chatman aren’t to be discounted, either. We all should be rooting for a Creighton-Duke matchup in the Round of 32, if for no other reason than to see Ryan Kelly go head-to-head with McDermott.


If you don’t know Mike Muscala’s name yet, you likely will when this NCAA tournament tips off. The Bucknell big man anchors the paint for the Bison and is part of a defensive team that likes to grind teams down to a halt. It’s not always an easy way to win, but Muscala will be the engine behind a push.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

What are the Round of 32 and Sweet 16 matchups to root for?

Creighton Tournament
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Round of 32

No. 7 Creighton-No. 2 Duke (Midwest)

Doug McDermott has been one of the most dominant players in the country this season and will now be able to play on a national stage against a universally recognizable program in the NCAA tournament if the Bluejays and Blue Devils meet in the Round of 32. McDermott would likely go head-t0-head with Duke’s Ryan Kelly. Both Kelly and McDermott have proven themselves to be the quintessential stretch-power forward, able to pull the defense away from the basket and hit shots out to the three-point line.

But McDermott-Kelly isn’t the only matchup to watch. We would also see Gregory Echenique and Mason Plumlee down on the block, as well as Grant Gibbs vs. Quinn Cook in a matchup of high-level offensive facilitators.

(CLICK HERE: To browse through the rest of our 2013 NCAA Tournament Previews)

No. 4 Michigan- No. 5 VCU (South)

Michigan-VCU would pit one of the most explosive offensive attacks in the country against one of the most agile and frenetic defenses. Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway, Jr., and Glenn Robinson III against coach Shaka Smart’s “Havoc” defense would be one of the best pairings in the Round of 32. Michigan has won all season in part because it is able to control pace and speed teams up. VCU  has the ability to speed teams up past even where the Wolverines would be comfortable. There could be a mid-major/high-major upset brewing.

No. 1 Kansas-No. 8 UNC (South)

North Carolina has been a different basketball team since switching to a smaller lineup and freeing up space for James Michael McAdoo down low. A Kansas-North Carolina pairing in the Round of 32 would make for a good test of how the Tar Heels’ new approach holds up. McAdoo would have one of his toughest tasks on the block against Kansas’ Jeff Withey, while North Carolina would have to contain Ben McLemore and the point guard duo of Elijah Johnson and Naadir Tharpe.

Sweet 16

No. 3 Florida vs. No. 2 Georgetown (South)

This matchup would feature two of the country’s best defenses going head-to-head. Perhaps it’s not going to be the offensive beauty many would like to see in the NCAA tournament, but it would be a good one. Otto Porter has proven himself to be a National Player of the Year candidate and against the stifling Florida defense, he would be Georgetown’s biggest scoring weapon. The biggest concern for Florida, though, is if they can make it to this point or beat Georgetown (if it came to it) considering the Gators’ difficulties closing out games late.

No. 11 Bucknell vs. No. 2 Miami (East)

In an NCAA tournament that is all about matchups dictating who will advance, this would be the perfect example. Earlier in the season, Miami proved that it could play at different paces and still win games. Bucknell wants to slow teams down and work the ball inside to All-Conference center Mike Muscala. At the same time, Bucknell could be run out of the gym in this hypothetical matchup, depending on how aggressive Miami is in setting the pace in the opening minutes. Bucknell does not have an easy road to get to the Hurricanes, though, if it were to happen. The Bison would have to beat Butler and the winner of Marquette/Davidson.

 No. 1 Gonzaga vs. No. 12 Ole Miss (West)

This is likely the most far-fetched because of the road Ole Miss has to go through, but it’s worth rooting for. Marshall Henderson against the region’s No. 1 seed for a chance to go to the Elite Eight? Sign me up. Henderson had some choice words for a number of critics after the Rebels won the SEC tournament title. Do you think those rebuttals would stop if Ole Miss kept advancing in the NCAA tournament?

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

Saint Louis wins A-10 tournament title, reflects on Rick Majerus

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BROOKLYN, N.Y.– Saint Louis was poised, calm, and in control of the tempo for nearly 30 minutes of game time in Sunday’s Atlantic 10 championship at Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Then Virginia Commonwealth’s signature “Havoc” defense hit like a storm, turning a 13-point Saint Louis lead at the 11:45 mark of the second half into a one-point game with 8:53 to play.

But after that flurry of turnovers, it was back to Saint Louis’ senior leaders Kwamain Mitchell and Cody Ellis to seal the A-10 championship with a 62-56 win and an automatic berth into the NCAA tournament.

Mitchell was the biggest key for Saint Louis on Sunday, finishing with 19 points on 7-of-9 shooting to go along with three steals. Ellis came alive in the second half after going scoreless in the first, scoring nine points, including key three-pointers down the stretch in the second half. His shot with 2:18 to play pushed the lead to six points, 57-51.

Saint Louis has now won the Atlantic 10 regular season championship and tournament championship in a year that was full of obstacles, including the death of former coach Rick Majerus.

“Rick’s footprints, fingerprints, his lessons are embedded in those guys,” Saint Louis coach Jim Crews said. “Because they’ve taught me things and brought light to this or that and when they take ownership like that, you have a chance to be a pretty good team.

“It would be great to say, ‘Hey this is for Rick, this is for Rick, this is for Rick, but…i just don’t buy into that,” he continued. “Rick’s life and friendship and his coaching the relationships that he had and the people he touched are a lot bigger than winning a game or winning a championship or having a good year.”

Mitchell, part of the group of seniors who he says felt compelled to help the team through the struggle, spoke about Majerus’ impact and legacy after the win.

“The quick reaction is to weep and feel sorry,” said Mitchell. “Coach Majerus meant a big part of the program and individually, including me.

“We didn’t let stuff like that affect the way that coach would want us to play. I could just hear him up there yelling with joy and just being part of a great group of guys.”

Saint Louis now waits for word Sunday of where it will be placed in the 2013 NCAA tournament.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_