2016 NCAA TOURNAMENT SOUTH REGION: Bracket Breakdown

3 Comments

Kansas is the No. 1 seed in the South Region after winning the Big 12 by two full games and taking home the Big 12 tournament title. The Jayhawks have the best profile of anyone in the country; they had a No. 1 seed locked up weeks ago. No one can complain about the Jayhawks being a top seed, but the Jayhawks may have a gripe about their region.

The South is stacked, with a No. 4 and No. 5 seed with the ability to get to a Final Four, a No. 7 seed that spent much of the season ranked in the top ten and play-in game participants that can both legitimately win three or four games in the tournament.

THREE STORYLINES TO WATCH

  1. Kansas is the best team in the country this season. Will it carry over into March?: The Jayhawks have been terrific all season long. They won the toughest conference in the country by two full games and followed that up by winning the Big 12 conference tournament as well. But here’s the thing about Kansas and the Big 12 in general: a relative lack of NCAA tournament success has led some to believe that the conference isn’t all that good. The Jayhawks haven’t been out of the first weekend of the tournament since 2013, and in five of the 11 years that Bill Self has won the Big 12, the Jayhawks were upset before the Sweet 16.
  2. Is this the year Villanova makes a run?: The Wildcats have developed a nice little reputation for themselves for being the high seed that chokes in March. They lost to UConn in the second round as a No. 2 seed in 2014. They lost to N.C. State in the second round as a No. 1 seed last year. This season, they’re looking at a second round matchup against a Temple team they blew out in January and an Iowa team that hasn’t been good in a month. Is this the year the narrative dies? One key thing to monitor: The status of Daniel Ochefu’s ankle. He was limited during the Big East tournament.
  3. Which under-achiever will have postseason success?: Maryland, on paper, may have the best starting five in college basketball. They’re a No. 5 seed. Cal has one of the five most talented teams in the country. They’re a No. 4 seed. Iowa, the No. 7 seed, spent much of the season ranked in the top ten. Play-in game participants Vanderbilt and Wichita State were both considered Final Four teams in October. Can any of them put together a run in this tournament?

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

South

THE ELITE 8 MATCHUP IS … ?: No. 1 Kansas vs. No. 3 Miami (FL)

The more that I look at this region, the less intimidating it seems. While the tendency will be there to call it “loaded” or the “bracket of death”, the truth of the matter is that people are only going to say that because the South is chock-full of teams that we thought were going to be good at some point this season — Cal, Maryland, Vandy, Iowa. None of them have proven anything this season beyond being unable to live up to those expectations.

That’s why I have Kansas making it to the Elite 8. I don’t think they get challenged all that much, either. I think I like Miami coming out of the bottom-half of the South, but that’s as tough as any Elite 8 pick to make. Villanova caught a break with some friendly matchups, Arizona has the pieces — and the coach — to win three games, Vandy and Wichita State are dangerous. I’m rolling with the Hurricanes because I love their guard play and they’re a veteran group with a head coach that knows how to get to a Final Four.

FINAL FOUR SLEEPER: Vanderbilt/Wichita State winner

I think I predicted both of these teams as Final Four teams at some point during the preseason. Wichita State has done nothing but win during the careers of Fred VanVleet and Ron Baker, and there’s no reason to believe they can’t continue to do that in March, even if it comes as an underdog this season. Vandy, on the other hand, has three future NBA players and a boat-load of knock down shooters. They’re tough to matchup with because of their size and because Wade Baldwin IV can go into takeover-mode. Their issue this season as simply been showing up to play. They don’t always do that.

UPSETS THAT CAN HAPPEN

  • No. 12 South Dakota State over No. 5 Maryland: I’m just not sold on Maryland being able to turn this thing around. The pieces don’t fit. SDSU is no pushover. They have a really good back court and a big man in Mike Daum that is as productive on a per-minute basis as anyone in the country. Don’t let Max Landis get it going from three.
  • No. 13 Hawai’i over No. 4 Cal: Hawai’i is going to have a long way to travel to get to Spokane, but once they get there they’ll give Cal some trouble Stefan Jankovic is a matchup problem up front with Eran Ganot has a couple guards that can really lock up in his back court. If good Jabari Brown shows up, however, how does Hawai’i stop him?
  • No. 7 Iowa over No. 2 Villanova: I have zero faith in Iowa being able to win this game — get to this game? — but on paper, they really do matchup well with the Wildcats. If he can handle Josh Hart’s physicality, Jarrod Uthoff is a tough cover for Hart, while Villanova’s guards and Iowa’s guards are similarly limited.

UPSETS THAT WON’T HAPPEN

  • No. 1 Kansas losing first weekend: Famous last words, I know, but I just don’t see it happening this season. I think Kansas is too good and too balanced. The emergence of Devonte’ Graham of late has been enormous for this team.

FEEL LIKE GAMBLING?: Maryland-Cal winner in the Final Four

Maryland was the preseason No. 1 team in the country, according to some. Cal was a preseason top 15 team. Both of them, when they’re playing their best basketball, are legitimate Final Four picks. I just don’t think that we are ever going to see those teams show up. The Terps don’t have enough guards and they can’t find a way to effectively get Robert Carter, Diamond Stone and Jake Layman on the floor at the same time. And what has Cal done away from Haas Pavilion to make you think that they’re going to be able to beat Kansas anywhere but Haas Pavilion?

THE STUDS YOU KNOW ABOUT

  • Jabari Brown and Ivan Rabb, Cal: Brown is a top five pick and Rabb will go in the lottery. They’ve played like it down the stretch of the season as well.
  • Josh Hart, Villanova: Hart had an all-american season and beat out Kris Dunn and Ben Bentil for the NBCSports.com Big East Player of the Year. What doesn’t he do well?
  • Melo Trimble, Maryland: Big shot Melo has looked like anything-but the nation’s best closer the last month. Good Melo makes the Terps good enough to overcome their flaws.
  • Wayne Selden’s uncle, Kansas: He is a national hero.

THE STUDS YOU’LL FIND OUT ABOUT

  • Kris Jenkins, Villanova: Jenkins has been near-unstoppable for the last month. His ability to score on the perimeter as a small-ball four is such a weapon for Jay Wright, because opponents cannot hide their four-man on Hart defensively.
  • Devonte’ Graham, Kansas: Graham capped off the Big 12 tournament with a sterling 27-point performance in a win over West Virginia, and he’s about the fifth-most famous member of the Jayhawk back court.
  • Shelden McClellan, Miami (FL): McClellan is an insanely talented guard who has spent his entire college career flying under the radar.

BEST OPENING ROUND MATCHUP: No. 6 Arizona vs. Wichita State-Vanderbilt

Everything about that game is awesome to be. The First Four battle will be thrilling on Tuesday night, while Arizona is going to get a fight from whoever advances.

MATCHUPS TO ROOT FOR

  • No. 5 Maryland vs. No. 4 Cal: So much talent will be on the floor for this one, because if they square off someone is going to have to win.
  • No. 1 Kansas vs. No. 11 Wichita State: Wouldn’t this be fun? The two in-state rivals who refuse to play each other get a rematch of last year’s second round, when the Shockers knocked off Kansas.

CBT PREDICTION: Kansas rolls through the region, and frankly, I think they roll through relatively unchallenged.

Duke edges North Carolina 63-57 behind Roach, Lively

Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports
0 Comments

DURHAM, N.C. — Jeremy Roach scored 20 points, Dereck Lively II had career highs of eight blocks and 14 rebounds and Duke defeated North Carolina 63-57 on Saturday night.

Kyle Filipowski added 14 points and Tyrese Proctor 11 for the Blue Devils (17-6, 8-4 ACC), who won their third straight and beat the Tar Heels (15-8, 7-5) for the first time in three meetings, including in last year’s Final Four in the NCAA Tournament.

North Carolina’s Armando Bacot had 14 points and 10 rebounds for his 63rd career double-double, extending his own program record, Leaky Black had 13 points and 10 rebounds, Caleb Love added 12 points and RJ Davis 11.

Roach scored eight of Duke’s final 10 points, including the last four after Lively’s tiebreaking dunk with 1:35 to go. North Carolina missed its last five shots, including a trio of 3-point tries in the final minute.

The Blue Devils’ six-point winning margin matched their largest lead.

Neither team reached 40% shooting but Duke outscored North Carolina 20-2 off fast breaks and was 11 of 15 at the free-throw line to only 2 of 3 for the Tar Heels.

The stat sheet was fairly even at halftime when Duke led 33-32 except for one telling stat, a 16-0 advantage for the Blue Devils on fast-break points as they scored repeatedly off transition.

A 14-5 run erased a seven-point North Carolina lead — the Tar Heels’ largest — and put Duke in front 26-24 with just under four minutes left in the half. A Proctor 3-pointer broke the fourth tie before Bacot cut it to the one-point margin at the break. Bacot had 12 points in the first half. Roach had 10.

The game matched two men who played in this rivalry and are now leading the programs they played for: first-year Duke coach Jon Scheyer and Hubert Davis, in his second year for North Carolina.

The teams will meet again in their regular-season finale at Chapel Hill on March 4. Duke plays at No. 23 Miami on Monday. North Carolina is at Wake Forest on Tuesday.

No. 13 Iowa State rolls past eighth-ranked Kansas 68-53

Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports
0 Comments

AMES, Iowa – Jaren Holmes scored all 15 of his points in the second half as No. 13 Iowa State rolled past No. 8 Kansas 68-53 on Saturday.

Osun Osunniyi added 13 for the Cyclones (16-6, 7-3 Big 12), who stayed within at least a game of front-running Texas in the conference standings. Tamin Lipsey added eight rebounds and 10 assists.

“Today, we came out and played desperate,” Holmes said.

Jalen Wilson led the Jayhawks (18-5, 6-4) with 26 points for his sixth straight game with at least 20. No other Kansas player had more than 8 points.

“It’s not a formula for success for us,” Jayhawks coach Bill Self said. “We need balance from our starting five. If one guy feels like he’s got to go do it all on his own, it crashes the offense.”

The Cyclones led for all but 1:14 of the game, building a 34-16 scoring edge in the paint. Kansas struggled early, making just two of their first 10 shots and committing 11 turnovers in the first 20 minutes.

Iowa State shot 46% for the game.

“From the beginning, we gave them some easy buckets,” Wilson said. “That’s something we’ve struggled with (defensively) … the easiest way to get comfortable is easy buckets, layups, stuff like that.”

Iowa State was up 33-21 at the break.

Holmes missed all four shots in the first half, but after getting sick at halftime, he helped the Cyclones stretched the lead to 42-31 early in the second half with a 3-pointer and layup.

“I felt a little nauseous the whole day,” he said. “I’ve been dealing with some sickness over the past week and a half.”

BIG PICTURE

Kansas: The Jayhawks dropped to 3-4 during a stretch in which six of its seven opponents were ranked. The lone unranked foe was Kentucky. … Kansas committed a season-high 20 turnovers Saturday. … The loss to Iowa State was Self’s first in five meetings with second-year Iowa State coach T.J. Otzelberger.

Iowa State: Improved to 12-0 at home this season and 5-0 in the Big 12. It was also the Cyclones’ fifth win over a top-10 opponent in the past two seasons.

UP NEXT

Kansas: Hosts No. 10 Texas on Monday.

Iowa State: Travels to West Virginia on Wednesday.

Bishop helps No. 10 Texas rally past No. 7 K-State, 69-66

Scott Sewell-USA TODAY Sports
0 Comments

MANHATTAN, Kan. – Christian Bishop was as frustrated as anyone in a Texas jersey in the first half Saturday. He’d been held without a point by Kansas State and, not surprisingly, the No. 10 Longhorns were facing a double-digit deficit on the road.

Maybe that’s why he punctuated every bucket in the second half with a fist pump.

Bishop poured in 14 points after the break to lead the Longhorns’ comeback, including the go-ahead lay-in with 37 seconds to go, and the new Big 12 leaders held on for a 69-66 victory over the No. 7 Wildcats on Saturday.

“Christian’s been working really hard over the last couple of games to get him back to the level he was playing four or five games ago,” interim Texas coach Rodney Terry said. “He really came out and rebounded and gave our team an incredible lift the way he played the second half.”

Red-hot guard Sir’Jabari Rice also had 14 points and 10 rebounds for the Longhorns, and it was his two free throws with nine seconds left that forced the Wildcats into needing a 3-pointer to send the game to overtime.

After a quick timeout, the Wildcats’ Ismael Massoud got an open look from the wing but came up well short of the basket, allowing the Longhorns to hold on for their fifth win over a Top 25 team this season.

Tyrese Hunter and Marcus Carr added 10 points apiece for Texas (19-4, 8-2), which took over sole possession of first place in the rough-and-tumble Big 12 by avenging its overtime loss to the Wildcats (18-5, 6-4) early last month.

“Our league, we don’t have any bad teams,” Terry said. “To come in on a home court against a top-10 team and have this kind of performance, I’ll stack it up with one of the best wins I’ve been part of in 30 years of coaching.”

Keyontae Johnson struggled through foul trouble but still had 16 points to lead the Wildcats, who have lost back-to-back games for the first time this season. Desi Sills scored 11 points and Markquis Nowell had 10, but he also had six turnovers, including one with less than a minute to go and Kansas State down by one.

“I don’t want to wash this one. I want to live with this one for 36 hours,” Wildcats coach Jerome Tang said. “Everybody in our arena did our job except the coaches and players on the floor.”

Kansas State and Texas played one of the most entertaining games of the season in Austin, when they went bucket-for-bucket through regulation and into overtime. The Wildcats eventually escaped with a 116-103 victory.

Early on Saturday, Texas looked as if it would struggle to score half as much.

With the Wildcats clamping down on the perimeter, the Longhorns kept throwing the ball away, and at one point had seven turnovers against just five made shots. They also went a stretch of more than 7 minutes with just one field goal.

Kansas State took advantage of their offensive malaise.

Despite the sure-handed Nowell’s turnover trouble, and leading scorer Johnson picking up his third foul with 5 1/2 minutes left in the half, the Wildcats steadily built a lead. It reached as many as 14 before Texas made three free throws in the final second to get within 36-25 heading to the locker room.

It was the spark the Longhorns needed: They made their first six shots of the second half, and their run spanning the break eventually reached 17-4 while getting them within 40-39 with 15 minutes left in the game.

“There were points in the second half we did get rushed,” Nowell said, “and it led to turnovers and fast-break points.”

Rice’s 3-pointer a few minutes later gave Texas its first lead since the opening minutes. And when the Wildcats went on a nearly 5-minute scoring drought, Bishop began to assert control, the Creighton transfer scoring 11 points over a 6-minute stretch and punctuating each of them with a roar and a fist pump.

Just like their first meeting Jan. 3, though, the rematch Saturday was destined to go down to the wire.

“There’s no blowouts in our league,” Tang said.

BIG PICTURE

Texas could do nothing right in the first half and nothing wrong in the second, shooting 57% from the floor over the final 20 minutes. Most of the success came in the paint; the Longhorns were just 4 of 16 from the 3-point arc.

Kansas State couldn’t overcome 19 turnovers, including six by Nowell, who had 36 points, nine assists and eight rebounds when the teams met in Austin. He had just six rebounds and three assists on Saturday.

UP NEXT

Texas heads down Interstate 70 to face eighth-ranked Kansas on Monday night.

Kansas State wraps its homestand against No. 15 TCU on Tuesday night.

James leads No. 2 Tennessee over No. 25 Auburn, 46-43

Caitie McMekin/News Sentinel / USA TODAY NETWORK
0 Comments

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Josiah-Jordan James scored 15 points and 14 rebounds to lead No. 2 Tennessee to a 46-43 victory over No. 25 Auburn on Saturday in a game in which every point was difficult and nothing flowed.

“Both teams played as hard as they could,” said Tennessee coach Rick Barnes. “Every possession was a grind.”

The Volunteers (19-4, 8-2 Southeastern Conference) shot just 27% from the field and 9.5% from the 3-point line. They were recovering from a Wednesday loss to Florida in which they shot 28%.

Tennessee had a 47-42 edge on the boards and 15-8 on the offensive glass.

“A game like this shows a lot of character,” said James. “I knew coming in (rebounding) was what I’d be called to do. I had to use the body God’s given me.”

“Both teams did a fantastic job,” said Auburn coach Bruce Pearl. “To hold Tennessee to 27% … It doesn’t get any better than that.”

“I don’t think there’s a more physical league in the country,” said Barnes.

The Tigers (17-6, 7-3) were led by Johni Broome with 11 points and nine rebounds and K.D. Johnson off the bench with 10 points. Auburn managed only 24% from the field and 11% from the 3-point line.

Jaylin Williams made two free throws with 2:47 to play cut Tennessee’s lead to 40-38. Santiago Vescovi hit his first 3-pointer of the game and got a four-point play out of it for a 44-38 lead. A 3-pointer by Wendell Green Jr. cut the advantage to 44-41 with 30 seconds left.

A turnover on the inbounds play gave Auburn the ball with 23 seconds to play. Broome got a tip-in to make it a one-point game, and Zakai Zeigler made two free throws.

Green’s last-second 3-point to tie clanked out.

“At the end, Wendell Green got the shot off and got fouled,” said Pearl. “Nothing got called.”

Auburn scored eight straight points to start the game. Tennessee followed with a six-point run and an eight-point spurt early in the second half. Those were the longest runs of the game.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Tennessee was in the No. 2 spot in the poll for two days before falling at Florida. Under Barnes, the Vols now have 25 wins over teams ranked in the Top 25. . Auburn had been clinging to the elite at No. 25 this week. The Tigers have been ranked as high as No. 11, coming in the fifth week of the season.

STAT SNACKS

Since statistics started being kept in 1999-2000, Tennessee is on pace to be the all-time leader in field-goal percentage defense (.348; Stanford, 1999-2000, is second .352) and 3-point defense (.225; Norfolk State, 2004-05, is second .253). . Through 22 games, the similarities between last year’s Vols point guard Kennedy Chandler (now with the Memphis Grizzlies) and this year’s Ziegler are striking (points per game: Chandler 13.5, Ziegler 11.4; rebounds: 3.0, 3.0; assists: 4.95, 5.05).

UP NEXT

Auburn: The Tigers will host Texas A&M on Tuesday night.

Tennessee: The Vols will tackle in-state rival Vanderbilt in Nashville on Wednesday.

Pedulla’s 22 points lift Virginia Tech past No. 6 Virginia

Lee Luther Jr.-USA TODAY Sports
0 Comments

BLACKSBURG, Va. – Sean Pedulla scored 22 points and Virginia Tech beat No. 6 Virginia 74-68 on Saturday, snapping the Cavaliers’ seven-game winning streak.

Pedulla made 6 of 13 from the floor as the Hokies (14-10, 4-8 Atlantic Coast Conference) posted their biggest win of the season. He added 8 of 9 from the free-throw line. Justin Mutts added 17 points.

Virginia Tech never trailed and shot 50% from the floor for the fourth straight game.

“There was no pouting (after the Miami loss). Just back to practice the next day,” Virginia Tech coach Mike Young said of his team, which lost 92-83 to No. 23 Miami on Tuesday. “Yeah, we’ve got Virginia coming in. Yes, in-state and all of that stuff. We’ve got another opportunity to play another really good opponent. We’ve got a chance to play Virginia Tech basketball and fight and compete and adhere to the things that are important to us – and we did that by and large on both ends of the floor.”

Jayden Gardner’s 20 points led Virginia (17-4, 9-3), which saw its usually stingy defense struggle. Kihei Clark finished with 17 points for the Cavaliers, while Reece Beekman had 15. Armaan Franklin, who had scored in double figures in 10 straight games, had six.

The Cavaliers tied the game at 38 on Gardner’s basket with 15:09 remaining, but the Hokies outscored Virginia 17-7 over the next seven minutes and never looked back.

Mutts hit 7 of 11 from the floor and added eight assists and four rebounds. Grant Basile had 14 points and Hunter Cattoor scored all 10 of his points in the second half for the Hokies.

“The heart was there, but to win in this setting against a team that’s playing good basketball, and Tech is, and they’ve got the players, you’ve got to be hard and smart,” Virginia coach Tony Bennett said. “You can’t just be all hard. We were (hard and smart) for stretches, and they made us make some adjustments that helped a little bit, but they made the big shots.”

TIP-INS

Virginia: The Cavaliers suffered a rare poor outing on the defensive end, and it cost them. They led the ACC in scoring defense (60.2 ppg) going in, but allowed the Hokies to score 74 points and shoot 50.9% (27 of 53) from the floor. The Hokies became just the third team this season to shoot better than 50% against Virginia and scored 40 points in the paint.

“They run a lot of action, whether it’s dribble handoffs, fakes, they keep you on your toes, and it takes an incredible, and I think disciplined (effort) to keep them in front and keep them out of the paint,” Bennett said.

Virginia Tech: After losing eight of their previous 10 games, the Hokies needed a big win to help their thin NCAA Tournament resume. Registering 19 assists and turning the ball over just eight times were keys.

“Obviously, we keep up with stuff throughout the year, like `Oh, this would be a huge win on our resume,”‘ Pedulla said. “We do think about (the NCAA Tournament), and we obviously want to get there again. We know our team’s capable of it. We’re focused on it and we’re just trying to stack those wins on top of each other. I think this win definitely helps us.”

POLL IMPLICATIONS

The Cavaliers were one-point underdogs going into the game, so they shouldn’t drop more than a few spots in Monday’s poll.

UP NEXT

Virginia: Hosts N.C. State on Tuesday.

Virginia Tech: Takes on Boston College in Blacksburg on Wednesday.