Well that was fun, right? I’ll take a botched attempt at handicapping the bracket for excitement from noon to midnight over beers too. Who cares if all my upset specials failed to come through, or that one of my Final Four teams was eliminated from the field just two hours into the fun, it’s part of what makes this great, and I don’t feel different about myself.
Can today match the drama of yesterday? That remains to be seen, but the opportunity is certainly there, especially late at night when the first round comes to a close with a trio of “anything goes” match-ups.
The “St. Patrick’s Day Hangover” Session
- Best Game: #9 Villanova vs. #8 George Mason (2:10 EST; TNT) – Wanna know about a major guilty pleasure of mine? Watching implosions, and your Villanova Wildcats are just that, for a second consecutive season. There’s no reason they can’t down George Mason but, as losers of their last five, the odds are stacked against them. Corey Fisher scored 105 points in a summer league game last August; we’d love to see a bit of a spectacular scoring effort like that this afternoon.
- Lamest Game: #15 Akron vs. #2 Notre Dame (1:40; TBS) – Not the lamest game of the day, but the Zips are just happy to be here, finishing tied for fifth in the MAC this season. Given the Irish’s 1.15 PPP (points-per-possession) and their 40 percent three point shooting clip, this could be over early.
- Also be mindful of: #13 Oakland vs. #4 Texas (12:15; CBS) – I wasn’t sure if Morehead State could hang with Louisville because they relied too much on an interior player, and not a perimeter player, but they proved me wrong. Same rules apply here. Maybe the Grizzlies future pro, Keith Benson, will be too much inside for the Longhorns.
The “Hit the Gym” Session
- The best (and only) game you need to watch this late afternoon: #12 Memphis vs. #5 Arizona (2:45; CBS) – Claim a treadmill or something and get plugged in for this excellent 5/12 match-up, because there’s no need to channel surf for the next few hours. Unless you enjoy lopsided upsets (Duke-Hampton; Ohio State-UTSA), or low scoring snoozers (Texas A&M-Florida State) you can focus on Josh Pastner vs. his alma mater in what could be a nice up-and-down game.
The “The Weekend is Finally Here” Session
- Best Game: #11 Marquette vs. #6 Xavier (7:27; truTV) – Xavier and Michigan State are the only two schools to reach the Sweet 16 in each of the last three tournaments. The Musketeers have their work cut out for them here, though, as the Golden Eagles are a bit more physical and know how to get to the line. The best match-up? Anyone vs. Jimmy Butler. Marquette’s do-everything player can play just about every position. It will be interesting to see who checks him.
- Lamest Game: #16 Boston University vs. #1 Kansas (6:50; TBS) – Head to Faneuil Hall in Downtown Boston and ask 100 people at random which local school is in the field of 68. I’m willing to bet less than a third correctly name the Terriers. This will be over quick, and nobody will lose sleep over it.
- Also be mindful of: #15 Long Island vs. #2 North Carolina (7:15; CBS) – It won’t end in an upset, but the Blackbirds are the nation’s fourth highest scoring team at 82-points per game. Sure most of that came against lesser competition, but it will be fun to watch this likely 75+ possession game unfold.
The “Night Cap” Session
- Best Game: #11 VCU vs. # 6 Georgetown (9:50; TNT) – The Hoyas have always have the talent, but they’ve only one a single tournament game in the past two seasons, in which they were a No. 3 and No. 2 seed. They’ve underperformed, and CAA squads have a penchant for overachieving. Yesterday, Clemson was able to hang with West Virginia following their First Four game. I don’t think the Rams are going to be tired here, or not competitive.
- Lamest Game: #14 Indiana State vs. #3 Syracuse (9:57; truTV) – Only a 43 percent FG shooting team, the Sycamores will likely struggle against Syracuse’s zone. They also don’t have an impact player listed over 6’6″. Rick Jackson loves this.
- Also be mindful of: #10 Georgia vs. #7 Washington (9:45; CBS) – A lot of athleticism will be on display here, but I expect the Huskies depth to wear the Bulldogs down. They’ll force tempo, probably employ some pressing and enjoy a deeper rotation en route to a date with North Carolina. Plus, Lorenzo Romar’s kids didn’t travel 2,800 miles to lose.
Nick Fasulo is the manager of Searching for Billy Edelin. Follow him on Twitter @billyedelin
Jordan Caroline has opted to pull his name out of the 2018 NBA Draft as he will return to Nevada for his senior season, he announced on Saturday.
The 6-foot-7 Caroline put together a strong season for the Wolf Pack as he averaged 17.7 points, 8.6 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game as Nevada made the Sweet 16 behind one of the most talented offenses in the country.
Caroline’s return is a huge boost for Nevada as they still await the NBA draft decisions of Caleb and Cody Martin.
Currently ranked No. 17 in the NBCSports.com Preseason Top 25 (without the Martin twins), the Wolf Pack will still have a ton of talent around Caroline next season. Five-star freshman center Jordan Brown recently committed to Nevada. The program also a number of talented transfers entering the mix, including Tre’Shawn Thomas, Nisre Zouzoua and Ehab Amin.
If the Martin twins return to school (and that is a big if) then Nevada could have a potentially elite offense next season. But even if the Martin twins go pro, Nevada should still be the favorite in the Mountain West and a threat to once again make the second weekend of the NCAA tournament.
Miami received some positive news on Saturday afternoon as the school announced the return of forward Dewan Huell for his junior season.
After testing the NBA draft waters without an agent, the 6-foot-11 Huell will be back for the Hurricanes. Starting all 32 games for the program last season, Huell averaged 11.4 points and 6.6 rebounds per game while shooting 57 percent from the floor.
“After getting feedback from NBA teams and talking it over with my family and coaches, I would like to announce that I will be returning to Miami for my junior season,” Huell said in the release. “I’m really excited to get back to work with my brothers so we can accomplish more than ever during the 2018-19 season.”
A former McDonald’s All-American coming out of high school, Huell’s return gives the Hurricanes stability in the front court for next season as he’ll play with other returning players like Sam Waardenburg and Ebuka Izundu. With Miami losing both Lonnie Walker and Bruce Brown early to the 2018 NBA Draft, Huell could be expected to provide more offensive production as a junior.
Kansas State and head coach Bruce Weber have agreed to a two-year contract extension, according to a release from the school.
After leading the Wildcats to a surprising Elite Eight appearance in March, Weber will be the head coach at Kansas State through the 2022-23 season, which gives him another five seasons to work with. Weber will be paid $2.5 million in 2018-19 and he’ll receive a $100,000 increase to his salary in each remaining contract year.
Weber had already signed a two-year extension in August 2017, but this move gives the veteran head coach more job security (and positive recruiting perception) for the next few seasons.
“We are very fortunate to have not only such an outstanding basketball coach but also a man in Coach Weber who conducts his program with integrity and class and is widely respected across the nation,” Kansas State Director of Athletics Gene Taylor said. “Certainly last season was one of the most memorable postseason runs in our program’s history, and we are excited for next season and the years ahead under Coach Weber’s leadership.”
With Kansas State returning most of its roster from last season, including the return of guard Barry Brown from the 2018 NBA Draft process, expectations are sky-high for Weber and the Wildcats this season. Currently ranked as the No. 8 team in the NBCSports.com Preseason Top 25, Kansas State’s veteran club could give Kansas a serious run for a Big 12 regular season title this season.
Northwestern and incoming freshman point guard Jordan Lathon are parting ways. The 6-foot-4 Lathon was viewed as a potential candidate to replace Bryant McIntosh at lead guard for the Wildcats this season, but Northwestern has reportedly revoked his offer of admission and basketball scholarship.
It is unclear why Lathon was unable to be admitted into Northwestern, but the school’s VP for University Relations, Alan Cubbage, gave a statement to Inside NU’s Davis Rich and Caleb Friedman.
“Northwestern University has revoked its offers of admission and an athletic scholarship for Jordan Lathon, a recruit for the Northwestern men’s basketball team,” the statement said. “Out of respect for the privacy of the student, the University will have no further public comment.”
Lathon later acknowledged the situation in a tweet explaining to fans that he will no longer be attending Northwestern.
While it is unclear why Lathon and Northwestern are parting ways, other high-major programs are already very interested in bringing in Lathon for next season. Oklahoma State immediately jumped in with a scholarship offer. There is also speculation that Lathon, a native of Grandview, Missouri, could also hear from the in-state Tigers as well.
It’ll be interesting to see where Lathon lands, and how this also affects Northwestern’s point guard situation. The loss of a four-year starter like McIntosh will be tough to fill, especially since Lathon was committed to Northwestern since last June. It wouldn’t be surprising to see the Wildcats and head coach Chris Collins seek out a veteran point guard graduate transfer to try and get some immediate help.
Nebraska received some important news on Friday night as senior guard James Palmer Jr. will be back for next season.
The 6-foot-6 Palmer had tested the NBA draft waters, but he decided to return to the Cornhuskers. After putting up 17.2 points, 4.4 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game last season, Palmer is expected to be an All-Big Ten candidate once again this season. Palmer shot 44 percent from the floor and 30 percent from three-point range last season.
After transferring in from Miami, Palmer became the Huskers’ go-to scorer last season in helping Nebraska to a 22-win season and NIT appearance.
With Palmer back, Nebraska will have some legitimate expectations for the upcoming season, especially if the team’s second-leading scorer, Isaac Copeland Jr., also returns from the NBA draft process.