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

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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:


  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?


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)


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.


  • 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.

Bubbles brewing with season on horizon

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

INDIANAPOLIS — With the coronavirus pandemic already forcing changes for college basketball, a bubble may be brewing in Indianapolis.

Indiana Sports Corp. released a 16-page proposal Friday that calls for turning the city convention center’s exhibition halls and meeting rooms into basketball courts and locker rooms. There would be expansive safety measures and daily COVID-19 testing.

The all-inclusive price starts at $90,000 per team and would cover 20 hotel rooms per traveling party, testing, daily food vouchers ranging from $30-$50 and the cost of game officials. Sports Corp. President Ryan Vaughn said the price depends on what offerings teams or leagues choose.

“The interest has been high,” Vaughn said. “I think as conferences figure out what conference and non-conference schedules are going to look like, we’re we’re a very good option for folks. I would tell you we’ve had conversations with the power six conferences, mid-majors, it’s really kind of all over the Division I spectrum.”

Small wonder: The NCAA this week announced teams could start ramping up workouts Monday, with preseason practices set to begin Oct. 14. Season openers, however, were pushed back to Nov. 25 amid wide-ranging uncertainty about campus safety and team travel in the pandemic.

There is already scrambling going on and some of the marquee early-season tournaments have already been impacted.

The Maui Invitational will be moved from Hawaii to Asheville, North Carolina, with dates still to be determined and organizers clear that everyone involved “will be in a bubble environment that limits their movement and interaction outside the venue.” The Batttle 4 Atlantis has been canceled. The Cancun Challenge will be held in Melbourne, Florida, not Mexico.

More changes almost certainly will be coming, including what to do with the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.

“I think we’re past the guesswork on whether we play 20 conference games or more than that,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said Friday. “We’re trying to get everybody set like in terms of MTEs (multi-team events), figuring out when to play the ACC-Big Ten challenge.”

Painter, who was part of the NCAA committee that recommended how to start the season, noted part of the uncertainty stems from differing protocols imposed by campus, city and state officials.

In Indianapolis, Vaughn believes the convention center, nearby hotels, restaurants and downtown businesses, many within walking distance of the venue, could safely accommodate up to 24 teams. The 745,000-square foot facility would feature six basketball courts and two competition courts.

Anyone entering the convention center would undergo saliva-based rapid response testing, which would be sent to a third-party lab for results. Others venues could be added, too, potentially with more fans, if the case numbers decline.

If there is a taker, the event also could serve as a dry run for the 2021 Final Four, also slated for Indy.

“It’s not going to hurt,” Vaughn said. “I can tell you all the planning we’re doing right now is the same for a Final Four that’s been scheduled here for any other year. But it would be nice to have this experience under our belt to see if it can be done.”

Maui Invitational moving to North Carolina during pandemic

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
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ASHEVILLE, N.C. — The Maui Invitational is moving to the mainland during the coronavirus pandemic.

One of the premier preseason tournaments on the college basketball schedule, the Maui Invitational will be played at the Harrah’s Cherokee Center in downtown Asheville, North Carolina.

Dates for the tournament announced Friday have yet to be finalized. The NCAA announced Wednesday that the college basketball season will begin Nov. 25.

This year’s Maui Invitational field includes Alabama, Davidson, Indiana, North Carolina, Providence, Stanford, Texas and UNLV.

All teams, staff, officials, and personnel will be in a bubble environment that limits their movement and interaction outside the venue.

Burton eligible at Texas Tech after 2 seasons at Wichita State

Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

LUBBOCK, Texas — Junior guard Jamarius Burton has been granted a waiver from the NCAA that makes him eligible to play this season for Texas Tech after starting 52 games the past two seasons for Wichita State.

Texas Tech coach Chris Beard announced the waiver Thursday, which came five months after Burton signed with the Big 12 team.

Burton has two seasons of eligibility remaining, as well as a redshirt season he could utilize. He averaged 10.3 points and 3.4 assists per game as a sophomore at Wichita State, where he played 67 games overall.

Burton is from Charlotte. He helped lead Independence High School to a 31-1 record and the North Carolina Class 4A state championship as a senior there.

NCAA season set to open day before Thanksgiving

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The NCAA men’s and women’s basketball season will begin on Nov. 25, the day before Thanksgiving.

The Division I Council voted Wednesday to push the start date back from the originally scheduled Nov. 10 as one of several precautions against the spread of coronavirus.

The later start date coincides with the decision most schools made to send students home from Thanksgiving until January out of concern about a potential late-fall and early-winter flareup of COVID-19. Closed campuses could serve as a quasi bubble for players and provide a window for non-conference games.

The maximum number of regular-season games has been reduced from 31 to 27. The minimum number of games for consideration for the NCAA Tournament was cut from 25 to 13.

Teams can start preseason practices Oct. 14 but will be allowed to work out 12 hours per week beginning Monday.

No scrimmages against other teams or exhibitions are allowed.

In other action, the council voted to extend the recruiting dead period for all sports through Dec. 31. In-person recruiting is not allowed during a dead period, though phone calls and other correspondence are allowed.

The men’s and women’s basketball oversight committees had jointly recommended a start date of Nov. 21, which would have allowed for games to be played on the weekend before Thanksgiving. The council opted not to do that to avoid a conflict with regular-season football games.

The council is scheduled to meet again Oct. 13-14 and could delay the start date and change other pieces of the basketball framework if circumstances surrounding the virus warrant.

UConn’s Tyrese Martin granted waiver to play this season

David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

STORRS, Conn. — UConn swingman Tyrese Martin, who transferred from Rhode Island in April, has been granted a waiver that will allow him to play for the Huskies this season.

The 6-foot-6 junior averaged 12.8 points and 7.1 rebounds and started every game last season for URI, where he was recruited by current UConn coach Dan Hurley.

NCAA rules require undergraduate transfers to sit out a season, but the organization has been more lenient in granting waivers during the pandemic.

Martin, 21, is expected to compete for playing time at UConn on the wing as both a guard and small forward.