Rob Dauster

2016 NCAA TOURNAMENT BRACKET BREAKDOWN: The six teams that can win a national title

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No. 1 (South) Kansas: The Jayhawks had the best season of any team in college basketball this season. I hesitate to call them the best team in college basketball because teams that lack a true go-to star always worry me in a one-and-done tournament like this. That said, what Kansas has proven this season is that they have a number of different guys that can step up and have monster games in big moments. Wayne Selden, Perry Ellis, Frank Mason. Those are good, veteran basketball players that have been through some battles with the Jayhawks, and Devonte’ Graham may actually end up being the key to their national title hopes. So while it is nice having an all-american you can count on, sometimes a team is more dangerous if their are four options offensively; teams can’t key in on one guy.

I also think the bracket that Kansas is in is easier than people realize. I can’t see them losing to Colorado or UConn, and while Cal or Maryland might give them some fits, it’s important to remember that there is a reason teams with that much talent are on the No. 4 and No. 5 seed lines, respectively. Cal is a different team away from Haas Pavilion and the only thing Maryland has consistently proven this season is that they are not the team we thought they were going to be in October.

No. 2 (Midwest) Michigan State: For me, the Spartans are the best team in college basketball right now. For starters, they have Denzel Valentine, who is the nation’s best player. He can take over a game unlike anyone else in the sport right now. But beyond that, the Spartans have shooters on the perimeter in Eron Harris and Bryn Forbes, they have a pair of big bodies inside in Matt Costello and Deyonta Davis and they have enough of a bench that they don’t need to play their starters 39 minutes a night. Throw in the fact that the Spartans will be playing in front of a friendly crowd in Chicago in the regionals, and I think this is the best chance that Izzo has had to win a title since he won a title in 2001.

And this is where I should mention Izzo is Mr. March, right?

Right?

[   BRACKET BREAKDOWNS: East | South | Midwest | West   ]

No. 1 (East) North Carolina: I was sitting courtside for UNC’s run to the ACC tournament title in D.C. this week, and I got an up close view of some of the changes that that team has made in the last two weeks. They’re defending better, they’re rebounding better, they’re executing in the clutch more effectively. That said, I still have questions about Marcus Paige and his shooting slump and there are still red flags about the way that the Tar Heels defend ball-screens. Quite frankly, I’m not convinced that the UNC we saw last week is a “new” UNC. But I will say this: If they play the way they did against Notre Dame and Virginia in the NCAA tournament, they’re going to have a great chance watching One Shining Moment from a podium.

No. 4 (East) Kentucky: There is no better back court in college basketball than Kentucky’s. Flat out. Jamal Murray and Tyler Ulis are a problem, and when those two play the way that they have over the course of the last month, Kentucky can literally beat anyone in the country. It helps, however, to have Derek Willis knocking down threes and Skal Labissiere playing the way he did in the last week of the regular season instead of the way he played in the SEC tournament. But the ceiling is there for Kentucky. John Calipari can get his second ring.

[ CBT Podcast | Who won’t win it all | Dummy’s Guide for filling a bracket  ]

No. 1 (West) Oregon: The Ducks are such a matchup nightmare for opponents given their ability to play small ball and spread the floor. Dillon Brooks is one of the most under-appreciated talents in the country, and Chris Boucher some how managed to fly under the radar for this long. But the most promising thing for the Ducks — their toughest matchup before the Elite 8 will likely end up being the St. Joe’s-Cincinnati winner. I’m not convinced that they’ll even see Baylor or Duke in the Sweet 16. Talent plus an easy draw is a promising recipe.

No. 3 (East) West Virginia: I hate trusting pressing teams to do anything against high-caliber competition, but I do think the Mountaineers got some favorable matchups on their way to through the bracket. No. 2 seed Xavier’s biggest issue is that they can’t handle pressure. No. 1 seed North Carolina’s question marks involve toughness, and no one is tougher than West Virginia. Michigan State doesn’t have a true point guard. Bobby Huggins’ return to the Final Four is not as crazy as I thought it would be.

Kansas' Perry Ellis cuts a piece of the net (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Kansas’ Perry Ellis cuts a piece of the net (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

The Dummy’s Guide to filling out an NCAA Tournament Bracket

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Well, hello again, March Madness.

The time of year where every single eyeball of every single sports fan across the country falls upon our underappreciated sport for three glorious weeks.

The people that read this site religiously (Hi, Grandma!) will already know a thing or two about college basketball. If you don’t, we got you covered. Click here. Read every word. You’ll be good to go.

But knowing teams and names and stats isn’t what’s going to win you your Bracket Pool. We’ve all been in a pool where the girlfriend of the dude that hates sports and was only involved in the first place because he got a pity invite ends up taking home the jackpot. You know that pain. I certainly do.

That’s why we’re here, to give you all the tidbits and insider knowledge you can handle while trying to pick 67 winners. Here are 15 things you need to know while filling out your bracket, and when you win, my cut is 3%.

[   BRACKET BREAKDOWNS: East | South | Midwest | West   ]

1. Always stick to a single bracket even if you’re in more than one pool. If you feel the need to fill out multiple brackets, just walk away from the computer for five minutes. Everyone knows that Sports Karma is at its strongest when you’re all-in pulling for one team. We don’t hedge our bets around here.

2. Never fill out your bracket with permanent ink on the first go-round. You will change your mind. And then change it back. And then change it back again.

3. A No. 16 seed has never beaten a No. 1 seed. As in never, ever. And it’s never, ever going to happen. So just don’t.

4. That said, it’s OK to be reckless. No one likes the guy that has all chalk in the Sweet 16. Can’t stand the thought of No. 4 Duke winning a game? Pick No. 13 UNC Wilmington! Does your Pittsburgh fandom preclude you from ever rooting for No. 3 West Virginia? Well, two No. 14 seeds won a game last season. Hello, Stephen F. Austin! Gamble away …

5. … but be smart the further you get. Only five times since 1979, when the tournament was first seeded, has someone lower than a No. 3 seed won the National Title: No. 4 Arizona (1997), No. 6 Kansas (1988), No. 6 N.C. State (1983), No. 7 UConn (2014), No. 8 Villanova (1985). …

6. … and only 10 times in those 37 years has someone lower than a No. 8 seed made the Final Four …

7. … but it has happened three times in the last five seasons, and that doesn’t include No. 5 Butler or No. 5 Michigan State making the Final Four in 2010. Or No. 7 UConn squaring off with No. 8 Kentucky in the 2014 national title game. Or No. 7 Michigan State playing in last year’s Final Four. So if you fall in love with a sleeper, go ahead and roll the dice. You’ll have endless bragging rights if you’re right.

[ CBT Podcast | Expert Brackets | Guide a bracket pool  ]

8. There are no locks for a Round of 64 upset … this year. Georgetown missed the tournament.

9. Kansas will do one of two things: They’ll make a run to the Final Four, or they’ll get dropped at some point in the first weekend of the tournament. Guess right and your bracket will be thankful.

10. Reggie Jackson is Mr. October. Derek Jeter is Mr. November. Tom Izzo is Mr. March. Always trust in Tom Izzo and Michigan State.

11. Take one of those No. 11 seeds playing the First Four and put them in the Sweet 16. Trust us on this. La Salle and Tennessee both played in the First Four and ended up reaching the Sweet 16 in 2014. And we cannot forget about VCU in 2011, too.

12. Everyone loves the 12-5 upset picks, but feel free to swing away at those 11 (Wichita State? Vandy? Northern Iowa?) and 13 seeds (UNC Wilmington? Iona?) as well because …

13. … you’ll have no soul if you don’t do the right thing and make sure to have at least one double-digit seed in the Sweet Sixteen.

14. If you’re stuck, never, EVER flip a coin. There has to be logic. Any kind of logic. Which mascot would win in a fight. Which school’s colors would better match the shirt you’re wearing. Which coach’s wife is the hottest. It doesn’t matter. Just find your system, and always trust your system.

15. If you’ve reached your limit and you can’t make a decision, put the bracket down for a few hours. Leave your office (like you’re actually going to be working this week) and go hit Happy Hour. Three ice cold brewskis and a dozen wings later, your decision won’t be any easier, but you might have realized it’s stupid to work yourself into a tizzy worrying about who would win an 8-9 game when you have the No. 1 seed in that region winning the National Title.

Point being, have fun with it. And what’s more fun than filling in brackets with a solid buzz and a belly full of chicken wings?

hieldscream
AP

Cornell parts ways head coach Bill Courtney

Cornell head coach Bill Courtney angry with a call in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Syracuse in Syracuse, N.Y., Saturday, Dec. 19, 2015. Syracuse won 67-46. (AP Photo/Nick Lisi)
(AP Photo/Nick Lisi)
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Cornell has opted not to retain head men’s basketball coach Bill Courtney, the school announced on Monday.

“I appreciate Coach Courtney’s diligent efforts and his dedication to our student-athletes over the past six years,” said athletic director Andy Noel in a statement. “He is a first-class individual and I wish him success in his future endeavors.”

Courtney replaced Steve Donahue with the Big Red in 2010, after Donahue had led Cornell to the Sweet 16. But he never finished better than 7-7 in Ivy League play and went just 2-26 in 2013-14. He never won more than 13 games and never finished in the top half of the conference.

Johnny Dawkins has been fired as head coach at Stanford

Stanford head coach Johnny Dawkins reacts after a play against Washington during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in the first round of the Pac-12 tournament, Wednesday, March 9, 2016, in Las Vegas. Washington won 91-68. (AP Photo/John Locher)
(AP Photo/John Locher)
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Johnny Dawkins has been fired as the head coach at Stanford.

Dawkins’ Cardinal team finished this season 15-15 overall and just 8-10 in the Pac-12. It was the second straight season that the Cardinal missed out on the NCAA tournament following 2014’s run to the Sweet 16. Dawkins only made one tournament in his eight years in Palo Alto.

Dawkins has won a pair of NITs while at Stanford, including last season. His run to the second weekend of the NCAA tournament saved his job in 2014.

When he was in college, Dawkins won the 1986 National Player of the Year award while with Duke. Prior to getting the job at Stanford, he was an assistant coach with the Blue Devils.

Some names to keep in mind to replace Dawkins: Jamie Dixon will likely see his name pop up, as it seems he’s chasing just about every job available right now. Saint Mary’s head coach Randy Bennett should get a call from Stanford, and if the Cardinal are doing their job the right way, Tommy Amaker of Harvard should get a call as well. Another name that’s popped up: Golden State assistant coach Jarron Collins, a former Stanford player.

ESPN.com was the first to report the news.

Berkeley moves to fire assistant coach over sex harassment

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Cal-Berkeley Athletics
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SAN FRANCISCO (AP) The men’s basketball coach at the University of California, Berkeley, said Monday that he is moving to fire an assistant coach who violated the school’s sexual harassment policy.

It comes as the university has faced criticism for its handling of substantiated sexual harassment allegations involving an astronomy professor and the dean of its law school.

Assistant coach Yann Hufnagel has been suspended pending termination proceedings and will not be traveling with the team during the upcoming NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, the athletic department said in a statement.

The person who accused Hufnagel of sexual harassment is not affiliated with the school, university spokesman Dan Mogulof said. Hufnagel didn’t immediately reply to an email seeking comment on head coach Cuonzo Martin’s decision to fire him.

University of California President Janet Napolitano announced on Friday a new process for reviewing sexual harassment claims against administrators. A new systemwide committee would review and approve all proposed penalties for high-level administrators who violate sexual assault and harassment policies. She also ordered university leaders to complete sexual assault and harassment training by March 25.

This was Hufnagel’s second year as an assistant coach. He worked with the university’s guards last year and the team’s backcourt was considered one of the best in the Pac 12 conference, the school said.

Before a year at Vanderbilt University and his two years at UC Berkeley, Hufnagel spent four years as an assistant basketball at Harvard University. He was credited with helping develop guard Jeremy Lin, a Harvard graduate who now plays for the NBA’s Charlotte Hornets.

The NCAA tournament selection committee on Sunday made the 23-10 Bears a fourth seed in the South Region. It’s the school’s first appearance in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament since 2013. They face Hawaii Friday.

Associated Press writer Paul Elias contributed to this story.

Matt Brady out at James Madison as men’s basketball coach

James Madison coach signal Matt Brady signals to his team during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Northeastern in Harrisonburg, Va,, Thursday, Feb. 18, 2016. (Daniel Lin/Daily News-Record via AP)
(Daniel Lin/Daily News-Record via AP)
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HARRISONBURG, Va. (AP) Matt Brady is out as the men’s basketball coach at James Madison.

The school announced Monday that it will begin a national search for a new coach immediately after Brady and JMU agreed to part ways after eight seasons.

Brady compiled a 139-127 record with the Dukes and guided them to the 2013 Colonial Athletic Association championship and an NCAA Tournament berth.

Athletic director Jeff Bourne says Brady helped James Madison recover from “a long period of drought” but added that the Dukes have not advanced past the CAA quarterfinals in seven of eight seasons and have experienced a decline in home attendance.

With the school seeking to raise money for a new convocation center, Bourne says, “It is imperative that we have the right coach in place.”