Rob Dauster

Sweet 16 Preview: Everything you need to know about the East Region

5 Comments

The East Region is going to give us what is probably the best matchup of the Sweet 16. North Carolina and Indiana are two blueblood, powerhouse programs that would be the favorite to get to the Final Four should they win this game. The Tar Heels have been the favorite all season and are peaking at the right time, while Indiana fans may love this team as much as any in recent years given their improvement and what the expectations were for them as recently as December. 

The one downside to this region? The best game is going to be played on Friday night. 

KEY STORYLINES

  1. Is this the last time that we’ll see Roy Williams in the Sweet 16?: North Carolina has an NCAA Investigation hanging over its head. Roy Williams is old, he’s got bad knees and he’s been battling vertigo for years. He’s got a team that can legitimately win a national title. If he does, is there a better way to ride off into the sunset? I don’t know if it is going to happen. But it is going to be something that is talked about.
  2. Can Tom Crean actually get Indiana through the Sweet 16?: Tom Crean changed the way that he is viewed by Indiana fans when a win over Kentucky in the second round of this NCAA tournament. No longer is he the coach of a team that couldn’t find a way to guard anyone in December. He’s the coach of a Big Ten champion that beat the biggest thorn in the Hoosier side en route to Philly. This is now the third time he’s been this far in the tournament since he’s been in Bloomington. It’s the furthest he’s been in the tournament with a team that didn’t have Dwyane Wade. Does that qualify as a monkey on his back?
  3. Is the UNC-Indiana winner the region winner?: Let’s call it like it is: North Carolina and Indiana are hands-down the two best teams in his region. Beyond the whole talent angle, both Notre Dame and Wisconsin are probably lucky to be where they are right now. The Irish beat Stephen F. Austin on the back of a fluky tip-in at the buzzer by a kid that hadn’t made a shot all postseason, and Wisconsin needed a pair of threes and a questionable charge call in the final 15 seconds in order to get past Xavier. It will be interesting to see what the line is on the Elite 8 game in the East.
North Carolina forward Brice Johnson (11) reacts after dunking the ball against Providence guard Jalen Lindsey (21) during the second half of a second-round men's college basketball game in the NCAA Tournament, Saturday, March 19, 2016, in Raleigh, N.C. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
North Carolina forward Brice Johnson (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

WHY THEY’LL GET TO THE FINAL FOUR

No. 1 North Carolina: There may not be a team in the country with a higher ceiling that North Carolina. When they’re hitting their threes — they have been the last two weeks — and when they’re playing defense the way that they have since the start of the ACC tournament, they could every well be the best team in college basketball.

No. 5 Indiana: The Hoosiers may have the best player in the region in Yogi Ferrell. And if he’s not the best, he’s arguably the most-capable of putting a team on his back and carrying them to two wins. But there’s more to it than that: The Hoosiers are finally defending like a Big Ten champ, Troy Williams has been a nightmare in transition and O.G. Anunoby suddenly looks like a guy that is going to end up getting looked at heavily by NBA scouts. And that defensive improvement didn’t come at the expense of their ability to score or to play in transition. Indiana is a dangerous team.

No. 6 Notre Dame: There are a couple things to like about this Notre Dame team: Demetrius Jackson can take a game over, Zach Auguste is a hoss in the paint, Steve Vasturia has developed into a pretty good shut-down defender. Throw in a roster full of guys that can shoot the heck out of the ball, and this is a group with a high ceiling that can beat good teams.

No. 7 Wisconsin: I honestly have no idea. I can’t figure out how Wisconsin turned their season around and earned a No. 7 seed, let alone how they managed to play their way into the Sweet 16. It almost feels like they’re playing with house money right now. But I will say this: Nigel Hayes — when he’s not trying to prove that he’s a jump-shooter — and Ethan Happ are a formidable front court duo while Bronson Koenig has proven that he is one of the best clutch-shooters in college basketball. Throw in a coach that has them running the Swing Offense well, and what you have is a team that has surprised us for two months straight. Why would they stop now?

The Wisconsin bench celebrates a basket during the first half of a second-round men's college basketball game against Xavier in the NCAA Tournament, Sunday, March 20, 2016, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
The Wisconsin bench (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

BUT THIS IS WHY THEY WON’T

No. 7 Wisconsin: Nigel Hayes is supposedly the best player on this roster, and he’s shooting 36 percent from the floor and 29 percent from three on the season. It’s not like he’s taking over in the tournament, either. He’s 5-for-27 from the floor in two games. How many more good teams can they beat when Hayes plays that way?

No. 6 Notre Dame: The Irish needed a fluky late-game run and last-second shot to beat Stephen F. Austin. They barely got by a Michigan team playing without Caris LeVert. They lost by 31 to North Carolina in the ACC semifinals and needed a miraculous, 16-point comeback to beat Duke and get to the ACC semis. That’s their last four games. Why should we be impressed?

No. 5 Indiana: The major concern for this Indiana is getting past North Carolina, and the reason that is a concern is because of the size that the Tar Heels have on their roster. When Indiana has their best lineup on the floor, they have Troy Williams and O.G. Anunoby at the forward spots. One of them is going to be tasked with guarding Kennedy Meeks or Isaiah Hicks? That could get ugly, but …

No. 1 North Carolina: … the flip side of it is that Meeks, Hicks or Brice Johnson is going to be asked to guard one of them. My guess is that it will Anunoby, simply because Williams is far too dangerous in transition or slashing to the rim to risk him being guarded by a slow-footed big man. That is why …

THE X-FACTOR

  • Power Forwards: … that particular matchup is so interesting. Will North Carolina’s size win out? Will Tom Crean be forced to play Max Biefeldt and Thomas Bryant together? Will the Tar Heels punish the offensive glass and prevent run outs? Or will Williams and Anunoby be able to hold their own well enough in the paint that they’ll be able to get out in transition and score with the floor spread? To me, whoever wins that matchup will win that game, and that, in turn, will be what gets them to the Final Four.

CBT PREDICTION: North Carolina gets past Indiana and steamrolls whoever they end up playing in the Elite 8.

Sweet 16 Preview: Breaking down what’s left of the Midwest Region

Leave a comment

The Midwest Region is the bracket that makes the least amount of sense as we head into the second weekend of the NCAA tournament. No. 11 seed Gonzaga steamrolled Seton Hall and Utah to get this far, while No. 10 Syracuse dispatched Dayton and then took care of a Middle Tennessee State team that knocked off tourney favorite Michigan State.

No one outside of Murfreesboro was happier about MTSU’s win than Virginia. The Wahoos had lost to the lower-seeded Spartans in the last two tournaments, and it looked like they were headed down that road again. Now, they look like the favorites to get out of the region. Here is the full Midwest preview:

KEY STORYLINES

  1. Is this the year that Tony Bennett’s system finally pays off?: If you include the two wins that the Cavaliers landed last weekend, Bennett now has five NCAA tournament wins in seven seasons in Charlottesville. The past two tournaments, he got knocked out in the Sweet 16 as a No. 1 seed and the second round as a No. 2 seed. That system that he’s become so well-known for hasn’t exactly produced tournament results, but the draw he got this season couldn’t possibly be any better. Get past Iowa State and he’ll be playing a double-digit seed for the right to get to Houston.
  2. Depth, depth, depth, depth, depth: That’s unequivocally this biggest issue for Iowa State, right? They play seven guys, and while there are six of them that get the majority of the minutes, legs isn’t really the biggest issue here. It’s the number of fouls. The only big man they have in that rotation is Jameel McKay. Virginia loves to throw the ball into Anthony Gill and Mike Tobey in the post. Gonzaga, if they face off with the Cyclones in the Elite 8, has Domas Sabonis and Kyle Wiltjer. Can McKay be a defensive presence and avoid fouling out for the fourth time in the last 11 games?
  3. Can a double-digit seed actually get to the Final Four?: There are two in the Midwest, and they’ll be playing each other in the Sweet 16, meaning that we’ll have at least one double-digit seed with a Final Four berth on the line on Sunday. Can Syracuse or Gonzaga pull it off?
Virginia guard Malcolm Brogdon (15) and forward Anthony Gill (13) cheer their team during the second half against Georgia Tech in an NCAA college basketball game in the Atlantic Coast Conference men's tournament, in Washington on Thursday, March 10, 2016. Virginia defeated Georgia Tech 72-52. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
Virginia guard Malcolm Brogdon (15) and forward Anthony Gill (13) (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

WHY THEY’LL GET TO THE FINAL FOUR

No. 1 Virginia: The Cavaliers are the best team in the region and they have the best player in the region. No one in college basketball can do the things that Malcolm Brogdon can do. He can take over a game offensively — he’s the best in college hoops when it comes to reading screens off the ball — and he’s capable of totally shutting down just about any opponent that’s not a true center. He’s locked up everyone from star point guards to Duke’s Brandon Ingram to Butler’s Andrew Chrabascz. When will he get a crack at Georges Niang?

No. 4 Iowa State: The Cyclones have the ability to be absolutely lethal offensively. Monte’ Morris and Georges Niang are flat out studs. They can take over a game offensively and carry Iowa State to a win individually. And that’s before you factor in the likes of Matt Thomas, Abdel Nader and Deonte Burton, all of whom are capable of going off for 20 points on any given night. When the Cyclones get it rolling offensively, they’re very difficult to stop.

The Cyclones also matchup really well with Virginia’s defense; the things they do well are what you have to do to be able to beat the Pack-Line. They can hit threes over the top of it, they have a talented four-man that can create a mismatch and they play in transition, which would let them get down the floor before UVA can set their defense.

No. 10 Syracuse: The 2-3 zone that Jim Boeheim has made famous is not an ideal matchup for the Zags given their issues in the back court this season. Can they avoid turnovers? Will they make enough shots to create space for Sabonis in the paint? And if the Orange can get to the Elite 8, all they have to do is win one game to get to the Final Four.

No. 11 Gonzaga: The Zags arguably have the best front line left in college basketball. Kyle Wiltjer is a nightmare to try and cover on the perimeter for opposing big men, and he’s not even the best big man on the roster. Domas Sabonis is. And while their guard play has been inconsistent, it doesn’t necessarily have to be all that great for them to advance. That’s the luxury of having a front line that can go for a combined 55 points and 25 boards without surprising anyone.

Gonzaga forward Domantas Sabonis, front, drives past Utah forward Jakob Poeltl during the first half of a second-round men's college basketball game Saturday, March 19, 2016, in the NCAA Tournament in Denver. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)
Gonzaga forward Domantas Sabonis (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)

BUT THIS IS WHY THEY WON’T

No. 11 Gonzaga: The resurgence that Gonzaga has made in the last three weeks has been the result of much-improved back court play. Eric McClellan has scored more than 20 points in three of the last five games, while Josh Perkins is finally starting to show some of he’s able to do as a former top 50 prospect. When those two play well — when they hit jumpers and avoid turnovers — the Zags are dangerous. But if the only time that they’ve played that well has been recently. Will they stay hot, or will they regress back to the mean.

No. 10 Syracuse: The only thing that Syracuse doesn’t do well defensively is rebound the ball. They’re one of the 15 worst teams in the country when it comes to corralling an opponents’ missed shots. The Zags have one of the best rebounders in the country in Domas Sabonis, and it’s not outlandish to think he could get 10 offensive rebounds. The Orange also rely heavily on shooting threes, and like Oklahoma, they’re one off-night away from getting smacked around.

No. 4 Iowa State: I hate to belabor the point, but Iowa State’s front court depth is a real issue. Virginia has one of the most underrated front courts in the country — Anthony Gill is a nightmare to try and guard while Mike Tobey is a 7-footer that has NBA-level low-post moves — and we all know how good Gonzaga’s big men are.

No. 1 Virginia: Slowing down the tempo plays into the hands of a team trying to land the upset. It’s simple math. The fewer possessions that are played, the more likely it is that the lesser team can keep a game close. Virginia is the slowest team in college basketball. Literally. 351st.

THE X-FACTORS

  • Malcolm Brogdon vs. Georges Niang: The most fascinating part of the most interesting Sweet 16 matchup is going to be this particular one-on-one battle. Brogdon can shut anyone down that doesn’t play the five. He did it against Brandon Ingram. He did it against Andrew Chrabascz of Butler. He’s not going to keep Niang scoreless, but at some point he’s probably going to have to be the guy tasked with guarding him. When does that happen, and how successful will Brogdon be? That could be the difference in the game, and for my money, the winner of that game will be the team that is headed to the Final Four.
  • Eric McClellan and Josh Perkins: We touched on it a little bit earlier, but the difference between this Gonzaga team and the Gonzaga team that we had seen for much of the season has been the play of McClellan and Perkins. When they’re offensive threats, Gonzaga is a far more dangerous team.
  • Tyler Lydon, Syracuse: Lydon is the guy that makes Syracuse hard to guard. He can play the five for the Orange because of his length, but he’s also a sniper from three. The one issue? His ability on the glass. He weighs roughly 78 pounds. If he can hold his own on the defensive glass, the Orange might have a shot of getting out of the region.

CBT PREDICTION: Virginia cuts down the nets in Chicago.

Sweet 16 Preview: Breaking down what’s left of the West Region

1 Comment

Prior to the start of the NCAA tournament, the West Region was the one that everybody predicted would end up with all the upsets. Instead, it’s the only region that saw each of the top four seeds make it to the Sweet 16. Now, that took Buddy Hield scoring 29 second half points, Northern Iowa’s epic collapse and Duke somehow avoiding blowing a 27-point lead, but here we are.

And frankly, I think I may be as excited for the West Region as I am for any region in the Sweet 16. So let’s get into it.

KEY STORYLINES

  1. Duke vs. Oregon will be awesome: This is my favorite matchup of the Sweet 16. For starters, I think that Duke will win this game. I’ve been over this on the podcast twice now, but I’ll make it simple here: Oregon doesn’t do anything that would take advantage of Duke’s weaknesses, and given that both teams essentially play the same way, I’m going to ride with Coach K when he has the two best players. But beyond that, there are so many interesting matchups. Does Brandon Ingram’s length bother Dillon Brooks? Will Chris Boucher’s ability to shoot pull Marshall Plumlee away from the rim? Who defends Ingram? Who, for that matter, defends Grayson Allen? I see this game being played in the 80s with defense at a minimum.
  2. Does Buddy go all #BuddyBuckets on us again?: The most under-appreciated performance of the first weekend was Buddy Hield doing the insane — 29 second half points, 26 of Oklahoma’s last 31 points in a 15 minute stretch — as the Sooners held off a VCU team that erased a 13-point halftime deficit. He quite literally threw Oklahoma on his back and dragged them into the Sweet 16. Will he be able to do it again if he has to?
  3. Will the SEC or the Pac-12 get frozen out of the Elite 8?: I always tire of the arguments over which conference is the best. Conference superiority simply isn’t something that interests me, I guess, but I also think that might leave me in the minority when it comes to the college basketball world. And right now, it is the Pac-12 and the SEC that have spent the past few days getting trashed because of their inability to win games in the NCAA tournament. Texas A&M and Oregon are the only members of their respective leagues still dancing. Will they still be around this weekend?
Oregon forward Chris Boucher dunks over Arizona forward Ryan Anderson (12) and center Dusan Ristic (14) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in the semifinals of the Pac-12 men's tournament Friday, March 11, 2016, in Las Vegas. Oregon won in overtime, 95-89. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Oregon forward Chris Boucher (AP Photo/John Locher)

WHY THEY’LL GET TO THE FINAL FOUR

No. 1 Oregon: The Ducks just create so many matchup problems. Dillon Brooks getting guarded by power forwards. Slower big men trying to stick with Elgin Cook and Dwayne Benjamin. Chris Boucher pulling centers away from the rim, creating all kinds of space and driving lanes. Tyler Dorsey’s emergence as one of the better freshman on the west coast. Throw in Dana Altman, who has proven to be one of the brightest offensive minds in the sport, and what you have is a team that is very, very hard to guard. Can you beat someone if you cannot stop them?

No. 2 Oklahoma: They have the best player in the tournament in Buddy Hield. We’ve already seen him carry the Sooners to a win. Why can’t he do it again? We also know how well the Sooners can shoot the ball as a team. All they need to do is get hot for one weekend in Anaheim and they’ll be on their way to Houston.

No. 3 Texas A&M: The Aggies are the most physical and the best defensive team left out west. Everyone else in the region is built around playing small ball and spreading the floor and shooting threes. The Aggies will get down and guard you. The other side of it is that they should be able to physically overwhelm all three West Region teams in the paint. They have guys that can score in the post, and it’s not like any of the other three teams in this region can get the ball out of post players hands the way that, say, Virginia can.

No. 4 Duke: Duke has the best coach left in the NCAA tournament and arguably the best college basketball coach of all-time in Coach K. He’s won five national titles. He knows how to handle himself in March, especially when you give him the two best players on the floor in Grayson Allen and Brandon Ingram. That will be the case against Oregon just like it will be the case against Texas A&M. It won’t be the case against Oklahoma, but like Oregon, the way Oklahoma plays is a perfect matchup for the way that Duke plays. The Blue Devils couldn’t have asked for a better Sweet 16 draw, all things considered.

Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield (24) drives to the basket around Cal State Bakersfield guard Dedrick Basile (5) in the second half during a first-round men's college basketball game in the NCAA Tournament in Oklahoma City, Friday, March 18, 2016. Oklahoma won 82-68. (AP Photo/Alonzo Adams)
Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield (AP Photo/Alonzo Adams)

BUT THIS IS WHY THEY WON’T

No. 4 Duke: As talented as Duke is, they certainly are flawed. It’s not exactly breaking news that they don’t have much depth at all. They essentially play a 6.5 man rotation, depending on how you feel about Chase Jeter. They also don’t get great point guard play, as Derryck Thornton isn’t quite ready to be more than a freshman and neither Grayson Allen or Matt Jones is a guy you want making decisions. We saw it with Yale’s pressure, as the Blue Devils very nearly blew a 27-point lead. None of these teams are known as pressing teams — and only Texas A&M has a truly physical front line — but as Yale showed up, you don’t have to be great at those things to expose Duke’s inadequacies.

No. 3 Texas A&M: The Aggies are simply at a talent deficit in this region. Are any of these guys NBA players? Maybe Danuel House. Anyone else? And playing in a region with three teams that can put up 90 points pretty easily on a good night, is this team A) Good enough defensively to slow down teams that can score like that, or B) explosive enough to be able to win a game that’s played in the 70s? I’m not sure, but knowing that they should have lost to Northern Iowa by double-digits doesn’t exactly leave me brimming with confidence.

No. 2 Oklahoma: How can Oklahoma beat you if they’re not making their jumpers? It’s really that simple. They are a jump-shooting team, and while they are an excellent jump-shooting team, jump-shooting teams still have nights where they, you know, miss jump shots.

No. 1 Oregon: The Pac-12 was not a great conference this season. I think it’s fair to say that after the league has lost five of the six teams that qualified for the NCAA tournament to a lower-seeded team. The RPI numbers the conference posted were exceptional and, at the end of the day, the biggest reason that the league members got the seeds they did was because their profiles looked better than they were. So if everyone else in the league was overrated, wouldn’t it make sense that the team that got a No. 1 seed for winning the league by a single game be overrated as well?

THE X-FACTORS

  • Chris Boucher, Oregon: Boucher has one of the most unique skill sets in all of college basketball. He blocks shots at the rim on one end of the floor and drills threes on the other end. He’ll be particularly important against Duke, who uses their center, Marshall Plumlee, as a safety net in front of the rim.
  • Tyler Davis, Texas A&M: The one real advantage that the Aggies have over anyone else in the region is that they have a big, physical bruiser that can score in the paint. That would be Davis. Does he play like something more than a freshman?
  • Luke Kennard, Duke: So here’s the thing about Duke: They’re not going to be a good defensive team this season. They just aren’t. It’s not going to happen. So they’re going to have to score a ton of points to win games, and they’re offense is absolutely lethal when Luke Kennard gets going offensively.
  • Ryan Spangler, Oklahoma: We know how good Oklahoma’s back court is. But what are they going to get out of their big men? Will Spangler be an option for them?

CBT PREDICTION: I’ve got Oklahoma coming out of the West by beating Duke in the Elite 8.

Sweet 16 Preview: Breaking down what’s left of the South Region

1 Comment

The South Region will kick off the 2016 Sweet 16 action, as No. 2 seed Villanova and No. 3 Miami matchup in a battle of Final Four head coaches; Jim Larrañaga went in 2006 with George Mason while Jay Wright was there in 2009 with his Scottie Reynolds-led Villanova team. The nightcap in Louisville’s KFC Yum! Center will feature the No. 1 overall seed Kansas Jayhawks squaring off with No. 5 Maryland, as Bill Self and Mark Turgeon renew a rivalry that stems from Turgeon’s Big 12 days at Texas A&M.

Here is everything you need to know about the South Region:

KEY STORYLINES

  1. Can Kansas live up to the hype?: Bill Self has a national title and a Final Four on his rèsumè. The former came in 2008, when Mario Chalmers’ three and a slew of missed Memphis free throws earned him a ring in overtime. The latter came in 2012, when he rode Thomas Robinson’s coattails to the national title game. But the Jayhawks have won 12 consecutive Big 12 regular season titles, which is why two Final Fours and five first weekend exits in that timeframe makes people question Bill Self’s ability in March. Like the Jayhawks were in 2010, when they got Farokhmaneshed, the Jayhawks are the No. 1 overall seed and considered a favorite to win the title. Can they get it? Can they at least get to Houston?
  2. Will the real Maryland ever stand up? Or is this just who they are?: That’s basically been the story all season long with this group, right? They have as much talent as anyone in the country, but they just cannot find a way to get the pieces to work together. We see it in flashes: the first half against South Dakota State, that 14-0 run against Hawai’i. But that’s all we get from them. Flashes. At what point do we just accept that this is who Maryland is? Or will they eventually prove us wrong?
  3. The monkey is off of Jay Wright’s back. So … what now?: Villanova had lost in the first weekend of the NCAA tournament the past two seasons as a No. 2 and a No. 1 seed. They also lost in the first weekend in 2010, when Omar Samhan took the world by storm. This year, Villanova shook off that curse in impressive fashion, whipping Iowa into submission. So … where do the Wildcats go from here? Is a trip to the Sweet 16 enough to prove to people that their three-year run of dominance over the Big East means they’re really, really good, or will Villanova always be overrated until they get to another Final Four?

WHY THEY’LL GET TO THE FINAL FOUR

No. 1 Kansas: For my money they’re the best, and most trustworthy, team left in the NCAA tournament. They may not have the ceiling of, say, Maryland or North Carolina, but you’re never going to see their floor, so to speak. They have four guys that can take over a game and beat you, headlined by Frank Mason and Devonte’ Graham, two former mid-major recruits that have turned themselves into the nation’s most underrated two-way back court. You can’t game-plan to slow down one guy, because if you build your defensive game-plan around stopping, say, Perry Ellis, you’ll give Wayne Selden, Mason and Graham will find room on the perimeter to beat you. A punch does the most damage when you don’t know where it’s coming from.

No. 2 Villanova: People love to crush Villanova because of their league affiliation and the struggles that they’ve had in the postseason. I get that. But remember, this is a team with a senior point guard in Ryan Arcidiacono and a senior center in Daniel Ochefu anchoring the team. Jalen Brunson is a freshman that has the poise of a senior while Phil Booth and Mikal Bridges are impact guys off the bench. And then there is Kris Jenkins and Josh Hart, two matchup problems at the forward spots that make the Wildcats really hard to guard, especially with the way that Jenkins is currently playing.

No. 3 Miami: The Hurricanes are as big and athletic as anyone left in the tournament. Sheldon McClellan is one of the nation’s most underrated talents, Tonye Jekiri anchors a big and physical and old front line that understands their roles, and Jim Larrañaga is one of the best coaches in the country at fitting his offense and his players together. When Angel Rodriguez plays the way he did on Saturday — 28 points and three assists against Fred VanVleet and Ron Baker — they can beat anyone in the country.

No. 5 Maryland: I’d make the argument that Maryland is the most talented team left in the NCAA tournament. Their entire starting lineup could end up cashing an NBA paycheck at some point in their professional careers. Look at it on paper: Of the teams left in the tournament, which front court would you take over Jake Layman, Robert Carter and Diamond Stone? Which back court is definitively better than Melo Trimble and Rasheed Sulaimon? And I haven’t even mentioned the fact that Trimble has been one of the best big game and big moment players in the country for the majority of his career. They should be a real title contender.

Maryland guard Melo Trimble (AP Photo/Matt Hazlett)
Maryland guard Melo Trimble (AP Photo/Matt Hazlett)

BUT THIS IS WHY THEY WON’T

No. 5 Maryland: The Terps haven’t played up to their talent level for a consistent or extended period of time yet this season. They almost gave away their first round game against No. 12 South Dakota State and really only played well for a three-minute second half stretch against Hawai’i in the second round. Why, if this has been an issue all season long, should we believe that they are going to find answers against the best team in college basketball on Thursday night?

No. 3 Miami: Angel Rodriguez. He’s an inconsistent as he is talented. Even in that game against Wichita State, when he played so well, he finished with seven turnovers, five of which came in a four-minute first half stretch that allowed Wichita State to get back into it. This group does have the horses to get to the Final Four, but the question of whether or not they can trust Angel Rodriguez to carry them there is valid.

No. 2 Villanova: This is just not a team with an elite level of athleticism. Josh Hart is the exception. He’s as strong, explosive and tough as anyone left in the event. But beyond that? Kris Jenkins has to be hidden at times defensively. Ryan Arcidiacono and Jalen Brunson are big guards and savvy offensively but they can struggle at times when they have to guard quicker players. And the one thing about the teams in the South Region — they all have quality back courts, and all of those quality back courts include a pair of quick, talented guards.

No. 1 Kansas: The Jayhawks don’t have a star. Sometimes, that’s a good thing, because it means that you don’t know who is going to be their go-to guy in a given game or on a given possession. But it’s also nice to have that star power that you know you can rely on to carry your team if things get tough. To me, Frank Mason is that guy for Kansas, and as good as Frank Mason has been, is he good enough to be that guy for a team that’s going to win a national title? He might be. But we won’t know the answer to that for another two weeks.

THE X-FACTORS

  • Angel Rodriguez: Read this. It will explain it all.
  • Kris Jenkins: When Jenkins is scoring and shooting the way that he has over the course of the last month, Villanova is a nightmare to try and defend. He’s hit at least two threes in each of the last ten games and scored at least 15 points in nine of them. Good luck trying to guard him and Josh Hart with a big lineup.
  • Melo Trimble: Trimble is one of the nation’s best clutch performers and as good as anyone in ball-screen actions. You want him with the ball in close games, except … for the last month he’s really struggled shooting the ball. Maryland has to have good Melo to have any shot of beating Kansas.
  • Landen Lucas: Lucas has been a revelation for the Jayhawks, providing them with something of an anchor on their front line. His size allows them to better matchup against big men like Diamond Stone or Robert Carter or Tonye Jekiri or Daniel Ochefu or … you get the point. He’s the presence we thought Cheick Diallo would be.

CBT PREDICTION: Kansas wins. Kansas is barely challenged.

Former Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins to be hired at UCF

Johnny Dawkins
(AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Leave a comment

Former Stanford head coach Johnny Dawkins has landed a new job a week after getting fired.

Dawkins will be the next head coach at UCF, a source confirmed to NBCSports.com. ESPN.com previously reported that Dawkins was expected to be hired by the university.

UCF fired Donnie Jones earlier this month after six seasons with the program.

Dawkins had been the head coach at Stanford for eight seasons, but he was fired after being unable to get the Cardinal back to the NCAA tournament after reaching the Sweet 16 in 2014. He’s a former point guard and assistant coach at Duke, and the connection here is that UCF’s AD is Danny White, one of the sons of Duke AD Kevin White.

Memphis reviewing possible AD, coach conflict of interest

FILE - In this March 12, 2016, file photo, Memphis head coach Josh Pastner, left, watches from the sideline during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Tulane in the semifinals of the American Athletic Conference men's tournament in Orlando, Fla. Memphis is sticking with coach Pastner even though the school missed the NCAA Tournament for a second straight season, the school announced Friday, March 18, 2016.. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack, File)
(AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack, File)
1 Comment

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) Memphis is launching an investigation into whether athletic director Tom Bowen had a conflict of interest while negotiating basketball coach Josh Pastner’s 2013 raise and contract extension.

University President David Rudd said in a statement Tuesday the school is “aware of the accusations” and is “retaining an outside source to conduct the review.”

The (Memphis) Commercial Appeal first reported the investigation, noting that Pastner and Bowen were once both represented by Joey McCutchen’s NextLevel Sports. Bowen told the newspaper he ended NextLevel’s representation in 2012.

Pastner received a raise from $1.7 million to $2.65 million in 2013. Under terms of that raise, Memphis would have owed Pastner $10.6 million if it had fired him this month.

Rudd and Bowen issued a joint statement Friday saying Pastner would be retained.