Prior to the start of the NCAA tournament last week few people gave No. 10 Stanford a chance of advancing out of the Round of 64. With No. 7 New Mexico having won the Mountain West tournament and No. 2 Kansas without the services of Joel Embiid, much of the Sweet 16 talk centered on the Lobos prior to their matchup with the Cardinal. But it would be Stanford who emerged from St. Louis, and their defense in both games was a major reason as to why.
After limiting New Mexico to 36.5% shooting from the field the Cardinal were even better against Kansas, as the Jayhawks shot just 32.8% from the field and committed 14 turnovers. With their interior tandem of Stefan Nastic and Dwight Powell and a talented combo guard in Chasson Randle, Johnny Dawkins’ team seemed to have the pieces needed to make life difficult for No. 11 Dayton.
However things didn’t work out that way for Stanford, as Dayton used quality ball movement to find open shots throughout the night in their 82-72 victory.
Stanford tried the 2-3 zone look that gave Kansas fits on Sunday, and Dayton responded by making six three-pointers in the first half and scoring 42 points. And in the second half with Stanford going back to its man-to-man the Flyers were able to break the Cardinal down off the dribble, resulting in multiple opportunities at the basket. Dayton scored 22 points in the paint in the second half, and for the game the Flyers made 48.3% of its field goal attempts.
Stanford didn’t defend at the level they did against either New Mexico or Kansas, and the disadvantageous match-ups certainly factored into that. But the defense wasn’t the only reason why Stanford fell short of reaching the Elite Eight, as Randle was anything but efficient offensively.
Randle scored a team-high 21 points but did so on 21 field goal attempts, making eight. Add in his three assists and five turnovers, and the player entrusted with running the show since Aaron Bright was lost early in the season due to injury struggled at the worst possible time. Add in Stefan Nastic picking up his fourth foul just over six minutes into the second half after taking advantage of his size against Dayton’s front court, and the Cardinal found themselves fighting uphill the rest of the way.
While the finish to the season was a disappointing one for Stanford, that shouldn’t take away from what they were able to accomplish last week in St. Louis. But this time of year one off night leads to doom on most occasions, and that proved to be the case for the Cardinal.
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Cameron Johnson scored 27 points, and eighth-ranked North Carolina scored the game’s first 18 points in Saturday’s 95-57 win over Wake Forest.
Freshman Coby White added 10 points, five rebounds and six assists for the Tar Heels (20-5, 10-2 Atlantic Coast Conference), who dominated from the tip following their first loss in a month.
The Tar Heels, who lost to fourth-ranked Virginia on Monday, ran out to leads of 18-0, 25-3 and 35-7. They shot 74 percent in the opening half and finished at 62 percent while making 16 of 25 3-pointers, with Johnson making his first eight shots and six from behind the arc.
Freshman Jaylen Hoard scored 17 points in an ugly afternoon for the Demon Deacons (9-15, 2-10), who suffered their most lopsided loss in three decades at Joel Coliseum.
Wake Forest shot 33 percent.
UNC: The Tar Heels got anything they wanted to start a game that resembled more of a November tuneup than a February league date. Johnson led that effort by making 10 of 13 shots and 7 of 10 3-pointers. Still, there was at least one apparent concern: the health of freshman reserve Nassir Little. He was a gametime decision after rolling his right ankle early against Virginia and felt good enough to play 11 first-half minutes, but he wasn’t on the bench after halftime.
Wake Forest: The Demon Deacons found reason for hope with a Jan. 15 win against then-No. 17 North Carolina State, but they had won just once since with five losses coming by at least 16 points. Things began badly Saturday when Hoard didn’t start after arriving late for a pregame shootaround. And they got no better, most notably with leading scorer Brandon Childress (15.1 points) going scoreless on 0-for-12 shooting with six turnovers.
ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Charles Matthews scored 14 points and Iggy Brazdeikis added 13 to lift No. 6 Michigan to a 65-52 victory over No. 24 Maryland on Saturday.
The Wolverines (23-3, 12-3 Big Ten) rebounded from their loss at Penn State earlier in the week. Michigan raced out to a 14-2 advantage and led by as much as 15 in the first half. It was a struggle for the Wolverines after that, but the fast start was too much for Maryland (19-7, 10-5) to overcome.
Bruno Fernando scored all 12 of his points in the second half for the Terrapins.
Michigan led 27-18 at halftime. Maryland turned the ball over 13 times in the first half. The Terps had only three turnovers in the second, but the damage was done.
With Maryland down five, Anthony Cowan Jr. had a chance to cut further into the lead, but he missed an easy layup, and Brazdeikis made a 3-pointer at the other end to make it 50-42.
Maryland: The Terrapins are 6-3 when trailing at halftime this season, including 5-2 in Big Ten games. But that’s a tough trend to rely on against good teams on the road. Fernando was impressive early in the second half, but that wasn’t enough, and Maryland missed a bunch of 3-pointers toward the end.
Michigan: This was a crucial win for the Wolverines in their chase for the Big Ten title. Michigan still has two games left against Michigan State and a rematch at Maryland. When the Wolverines defend like this, they can win in spite of poor outside shooting, but their 7-for-26 showing from 3-point range Saturday leaves plenty of room for improvement.
WATCH LIVE: Triple-header of A-10 action highlighted by VCU-Dayton
There is a triple-header of Atlantic 10 games on NBCSN on Saturday afternoon, capped by one of the best games of the day.
It starts with George Washington paying a visit to Duquesne at noon and is following by Fordham taking on Rhode Island at 2:00 p.m., but the highlight of the day is VCU’s trip to Dayton at 4:00 p.m., a game that has very real Atlantic 10 title and bubble implications.
VCU is currently sitting just a half-game out of first place in the conference, one win off of Davidson’s pace, and they are playing for a shot at getting an at-large bid as well. A win at Dayton would be a very, very nice win for the Rams resume, and it would also keep them on pace to win the league title. Dayton is just a game out of first place themselves, and they happen to have one of the very best home court environments in the country.
Here is the full schedule:
GEORGE WASHINGTON at DUQUESNE, Sat. 12:00 p.m. (NBCSN)
FORDHAM at RHODE ISLAND, Sat. 2:00 p.m. (NBCSN)
VCU at DAYTON, Sat. 4:00 p.m. (NBCSN)
Bubble Banter: All of the weekend’s bubble action in one spot
There is not just under a month left in conference play, so it is time for us to go all-in on the “who’s-in-who’s-out” discussion. Bubble Banter has never been more important!
Some quick housekeeping before we dive into it:
This page will be updated throughout the weekend, so be sure to check back on Friday, Saturday and Sunday as the games get played.
We’ll update them best that we can, but the NET rankings will be accurate through Friday morning.
If you see something we missed, if you have an issue with a team we left out or if you want to congratulate us on a job well done, drop a comment below or hit us up here: @RobDauster.
The cut-off we will be using this year for teams that are “on the bubble” is the No. 9 seed line. If your favorite team is seeded as a No. 9 or better in our most recent bracket, they will not be discussed below. This does not mean that those teams are locks, but it means they need to do something dumb before they are in danger of missing out on the tournament.
On Thursday, our Dave Ommen released an updated bracket, and these eight teams were placed in an 8-9 game: Mississippi State, Washington, Oklahoma, Ole Miss, Auburn, Texas, Baylor and Syracuse.
Onto the weekend’s action.
GAMES LEFT TO PLAY
CLEMSON (NET: 39, SOS: 38) at No. 16 Louisville, Sat. 12:00 p.m. (ESPN) OKLAHOMA (NET: 41, SOS: 14) at TCU, Sat. 12:00 p.m. (ESPN2)
Oklahoma State at TEXAS (NET: 34, SOS: 6), Sat. 1:00 p.m. (CBS) BAYLOR (NET: 32, SOS: 53) at No. 15 Texas Tech, Sat. 2:00 p.m. (ESPN) INDIANA (NET: 49, SOS: 36) at MINNESOTA (NET: 58, SOS: 62), Sat. 2:00 p.m. (ESPN2) FLORIDA (NET: 42, SOS: 43) at ALABAMA (NET: 44, SOS: 19), Sat. 2:00 p.m. (ESPNU) VCU (NET: 43, SOS: 41) at Dayton, Sat. 4:00 p.m. (NBCSN) UTAH STATE (NET: 38, SOS: 126) at Air Force, Sat. 4:00 p.m. LIPSCOMB (NET: 30, SOS: 188) at Kennesaw State, Sat. 4:30 p.m. N.C. STATE (NET: 37, SOS: 239) at No. 2 Duke, Sat. 6:00 p.m. (ESPN)
Memphis at UCF (NET: 45, SOS: 83), Sat. 6:00 p.m. (ESPN2) TEMPLE (NET: 55, SOS: 58) at South Florida, Sat. 6:00 p.m. UNC GREENSBORO (NET: 46, SOS: 191) at WOFFORD (NET: 28, SOS: 167), Sat. 7:00 p.m. (ESPN+)
DePaul at BUTLER (NET: 53, SOS: 25), Sat. 8:00 p.m. (FS1)
Northwestern at NEBRASKA (NET: 40, SOS: 70), Sat. 8:30 p.m. (BTN) BELMONT (NET: 60, SOS: 166) at Tennessee Tech, Sat. 8:30 p.m. (ESPN+)
Mississippi State at ARKANSAS (NET: 63, SOS: 45), Sat. 8:30 p.m. (SECNET) ARIZONA STATE (NET: 72, SOS: 67) at Utah, Sat. 10:00 p.m. (FS1) SETON HALL (NET: 69, SOS: 39) at CREIGHTON (NET: 57, SOS: 16), Sun. 3:00 p.m. (FS1)
Best Bets: Previewing Tennessee-Kentucky, Iowa State-Kansas State, weekend’s biggest games
There are a number of reasons that this battle of top five teams is one of the most interesting matchups of the season, and perhaps the most relevant is the obvious: These are both top five teams! I know Kentucky just lost to LSU in Rupp Arena, but that still doesn’t really change the fact that Kentucky is, legitimately, one of the eight-to-ten teams that are the most likely to earn a spot in Minneapolis for that first weekend in April.
Kentucky still gets two shots at Tennessee, who also must travel to LSU. A SEC regular season title is still very much in the cards for the Cats.
And all of that is before you get to the actual personnel matchups here, which should be terrific. Grant Williams, for my money, is No. 2 in the National Player of the Year voting. He’s been dominant on the block for the Vols this season, and he will be asked to go up against P.J. Washington and Reid Travis on Saturday afternoon. The more intriguing matchup of the two will be Washington, who himself has been playing like a first-team All-American over the course of the last three weeks.
It is precisely that frontcourt battle that is going to play a major role in determining the outcome of this game. For starters, it will be strength on strength. Tennessee’s offense runs through Williams. Kentucky’s offense runs through Washington and Travis. We also need to note that the Wildcats can be absolutely dominant on the offensive glass. They are third nationally in offensive rebounding percentage. They know that there are times where their best offense is a missed shot, and the Vols have not been great on the defensive glass this season.
The perimeter battle may actually end up being more interesting. As we discussed on the Why Your Team Sucks podcast, the concern for both of these teams is whether or not there is enough firepower in their backcourts to win at the level they expect to win. For Kentucky, the concern is obvious: Ashton Hagans, as good as he is defensively, is not a threat on the offensive end of the floor while Tyler Herro and Keldon Johnson have gone through the bouts of inconsistency that you expect out of freshmen.
The conversation is a bit more nuanced with Tennessee. Their backcourt is not overloaded with high-end talent, and if there is an issue standing between them and a national title, it’s whether or not those guards are going to be able to win them close games against elite teams. We will get that answer on Saturday night.
PICKS: All three metrics project this game to be play in the mid-70s with the line landing at Kentucky (-2). Frankly, I am not sure what side I want to be on here. On the one hand, Kentucky is coming off of a home loss, they are hosting the No. 1 team in the country in their building and they have a roster that has more talent on it. It’s also worth noting here that while Tennessee is on a 19 game winning streak, the only surefire NCAA tournament team they’ve beaten in that streak was Gonzaga on Dec. 9th. The best team they have played in the last two months was … Alabama? Florida? This will be their first major test in a long, long time.
That said, there is a very real difference in toughness and experience on these two teams. This is the same Tennessee roster that won the SEC last year. They have been through the rigors of a title race. They are also a much older and tougher group of guys that were overlooked throughout their career, and I can guarantee that there is nothing they would love more than pounding on some highly-touted freshmen that haven’t had to fight the fights they’ve fought.
Tennessee is the most complete team in the country, but I just cannot bring myself to pick against Kentucky after the way they lost on Tuesday. If the line opens at (-2), I’ll probably be on the Wildcats, but here’s to hoping the total opens in the high-140s and we can bet the under instead.
No. 23 IOWA STATE at No. 18 KANSAS STATE, Sat. 4:00 p.m. (ESPN2)
KENPOM PROJECTION: Kansas State 64, Iowa State 63
TORVIK PROJECTION: Kansas State 65, Iowa State 64
HASLAMETRICS PROJECTION: Iowa State 66, Kansas State 65
Might we be getting a battle between the two best teams in the Big 12 on Saturday afternoon? That could very well be the case.
The first time these two teams got together, Kansas State won 58-57 in Ames after an Iowa State defensive breakdown in the final seconds gave Barry Brown an easy bucket for the win. I do not expect the rematch to be quite as ugly as the first battle, and the reason for that is the return of Dean Wade. He played 22 minutes in the first game, but he was not back to being himself after battling a foot injury. He is now, and he’s playing the all-american we predicted him to be.
And for my money, he will be the most important player in this game, especially with Cartier Diarra out after undergoing surgery on his hand. Iowa State plays four perimeter players at almost all times, meaning that Wade is going to be the mismatch. He’ll have smaller players — Talen Horton-Tucker? — on his when he’s at the four and will be guarded by slower bigs when he is at the five. If he can win those matchups on the offensive end, it will be tough for Iowa State.
Wade’s return has boosted Kansas State offensively. There was one point this season where they ranked outside the top 200 in KenPom’s adjusted offensive efficiency metric, and while they are hardly last year’s Villanova with Wade — their best shooter and best passer — back, they have worked their way back to 109th in KenPom’s rankings. In conference play alone, they are the fifth-best offensive team, one spot in front of Kansas, and that includes their 0-2 start to league play where they scored 47 points against Texas and 57 points against Texas Tech.
PICKS: This could be the game that wins Kansas State the outright Big 12 title. They currently hold a two-game lead over the field in the loss column, and their schedule really lightens up down the stretch. Their next two games are at West Virginia and Oklahoma State at home. They still have to go to Allen Fieldhouse, but they end the season with Baylor at home, TCU on the road and Oklahoma at home.
Win on Saturday, and Kansas State can afford a loss at Allen Fieldhouse and still control their own destiny.
I will be very curious to see where this line opens. The metrics still are underrating Kansas State because of how dreadful they were without Wade, so if this opens around Kansas State (-1), then I will hammer the Wildcats.
This could be the worst possible time for anyone to play Michigan. The last time we saw the Wolverines, they were getting embarrassed by the last place team in the Big Ten as Penn State went up 13 points at halftime as John Beilein was tossed before he even made it back to the locker room for the break.
Michigan is now tied for first in the league instead of having sole possession of first place, and they’re heading home pissed off after a loss where they played terribly?
That’s a tough spot before you consider that Maryland just does not matchup well with Michigan. Anthony Cowan will have to deal with Zavier Simpson. Bruno Fernando will have Jon Teske to battle with. They are Maryland’s two major sources of offense.
PICKS: I tend to lean towards Michigan here, even if the line opens at (-7) or so. I just don’t know where Maryland gets offense from.
No. 13 VILLANOVA at ST. JOHN’S, Sun. 5:00 p.m. (FS1)
KENPOM PROJECTION: Villanova 73, St. John’s 72
TORVIK PROJECTION: St. John’s 75, Villanova 74
HASLAMETRICS PROJECTION: St. John’s 76, Villanova 72
I actually think St. John’s is a difficult matchup for the Wildcats because of the way the Johnnies play. Like Villanova, they essentially role five switchable perimeter players out there without much, in any, interior scoring presence. For years, Villanova has thrived on their ability to create mismatches all over the floor, and I just don’t know if they’re going to be able to do that against the Johnnies. The first time they played this year, St. John’s led for most of the game before a late Villanova run won it.
That said, there is no comfort betting on a team that is as inconsistent as St. John’s is. They are currently 6-6 in Big East play with home losses to DePaul, Georgetown and Providence, but they’ve also swept Marquette this season.
PICKS: I have no idea what this line is going to be. KenPom is favoring Villanova by one point. Torvik has St. John’s winning by one. Haslametrics has the Johnnies winning by four. If St. John’s ends up favored, I’ll probably bet Villanova simply because I am not in the business of betting against Villanova, especially when Jay Wright is going up against Chris Mullin.
N.C. STATE at No. 2 DUKE, Sat. 6:00 p.m. (ESPN)
KENPOM PROJECTION: Duke 89, N.C. State 70
TORVIK PROJECTION: Duke 93, N.C. State 73
HASLAMETRICS PROJECTION: Duke 94, N.C. State 72
I have a feeling that this game is going to get really ugly, really quickly.
The way to beat Duke is proven. Defensively, you stay disciplined, you pack the paint, you gap them and you dare them to beat you with jumpers. Offensively, you need to slow the game down and control tempo, avoiding quick shots and live-ball turnovers that lead to layups. N.C. State wants to press, they want to run and they want to gamble to force turnovers.
I just don’t see that working out all that well.
PICKS: The projections suggest Duke should be roughly a 20 point favorite, although I think the line will be closer to (-17ish). I like the Duke side if that is the line, but I like the over even more, assuming it opens around 160. For perspective, when N.C. State played North Carolina, the final scores were 90-82 and 113-96.
BAYLOR at No. 15 TEXAS TECH, Sat. 2:00 p.m. (ESPN)
KENPOM PROJECTION: Texas Tech 66, Baylor 58
TORVIK PROJECTION: Texas Tech 67, Baylor 58
HASLAMETRICS PROJECTION: Texas Tech 68, Baylor 56
The question that you have to ask here is whether or not you buy the Texas Tech that we’ve seen of late. After a swoon in mid-January that saw Chris Beard’s club lose three in a row, they’ve won five of their last six, including a pair of blowout wins in the last two weeks that have seemingly given them their confidence back on the offensive end.
And that’s where I think this game will be won. Baylor runs a wonky zone that is somewhere between a 2-3 and a 1-3-1, and the issue that the Red Raiders face is that they can really go through droughts offensively, especially when Jarrett Culver isn’t on his game. They aren’t a great shooting team or a great passing team, and those are the two things you need to be able to do to beat a zone.
That said, the shots have been falling of late. They made 22 threes in their last two games.
Two other things to note: Baylor has lost two of their last three games, but Makai Mason returned to action on Monday after missing last Saturday’s game against Kansas State. There is no word yet on King McClure’s status. The first time these two teams played this year, Baylor won 73-62 in Waco.
PICKS: I’ve long been a believer in Texas Tech, and I think that the Bears are going to come back to earth hard over the final stretch of the season. They won three of their first four road games in Big 12 play, but those were wins at Oklahoma State, West Virginia and Oklahoma, the bottom three teams in the league standings. Their four road trips to end the season: Texas Tech, Iowa State, Kansas State and Kansas. If this line opens at (-8), I’ll be on the Red Raiders.