2018 NCAA Tournament Bracket Breakdown: Is Chris Mack going to be how the West Region is won?


For me, the West Region is the most interesting of them all, and for some reason, it feels like it plays out this way every year.

It starts with the simple fact that Chris Mack, the head coach of the No. 1 seed Xavier Musketeers, has never made a Final Four. He’s also never been a No. 1 seed before, so if he is in the mood to end his personal bugaboos, this may be the last time we mention his name in the “Best Coach Without A Final Four” category.

But if Xavier is going to make it to the final weekend of the college basketball season, they are likely going to have to go through at least one of a trio of Hall of Fame-caliber coaches to do it.

Mark Few and Gonzaga is the No. 4 seed in the West.

John Beilein and Michigan is the No. 3 seed.

Roy Williams and North Carolina is the No. 2 seed.

There are a lot of wins — and a lot of wins in March — on the resumes of those gentlemen.

We shall see how it all works out. Until then, enjoy what should be the most open region of them all.


  1. Is this the last we’ll see of Chris Mack at Xavier?: Ooooh boy, are Xavier fans not going to like me for this. But at this point, I think it may be the biggest question of the region. It’s not a secret that Louisville has an opening, nor is it a secret that Louisville and Mack may have a mutual interest in each other. The fit makes sense. Will Mack be willing to leave his alma mater to take over a program that could be facing another lengthy NCAA investigation?
  2. Mark Few and Roy Williams are back in the mix again: Few and Williams squared off for the national title last April, and I think everyone more or less assumed that both of those teams would take a step back this year with the unexpected talent drain and the loss of key seniors. But they’re back, Roy Williams as the No. 2 seed and Few as the No. 4. There’s a reason Williams is in the Hall of Fame, and there’s a reason that Few will likely end up joining him there one day.
  3. Which Michael Porter Jr. is going to show up?: Porter is back. He played in the SEC tournament opener. He looked like a kid that missed four months following back surgery. I’m not sure what a week-long layoff without any games is going to do for someone that needs game-action to shake off the rust, but here we are. The good news? There’s absolutely nothing scary about Florida State as a No. 9 seed. Porter should get two more games.

THE ELITE 8 MATCHUP IS … No. 1 Xavier vs. No. 2 North Carolina

This is the hardest Elite 8 matchup to pick because the Sweet 16 out West should be tremendous. Xavier-Gonzaga has the chance to be a shootout with Trevon Bluiett going up against a trio of versatile, athletic future NBA forwards, while North Carolina-Michigan is a matchup between an offensive juggernaut winning games with their defense and a team known for their overpowering big men playing small(ish) ball.


It’s hard to pick a sleeper in this region because I don’t think that any of the top four seeds can count as sleepers. I also don’t think that Ohio State gets out of the first round (more on that in a second) or that Texas A&M has the guard play to do anything of relevance. So I’ll go with Kelvin Sampson and the Cougars, who have one of college basketball’s most underrated lead guards in Rob Gray — who has one of college basketball’s most underrated hairdos — and that came one errant pass away from potentially ending Championship Week with an AAC tournament title. They’re coming in hot, and you know how much I love picking teams that are doing just that.

(Al Bello/Getty Images)


  • No. 12 South Dakota State over No. 5 Ohio State: This is my favorite upset pick of the entire bracket. The Jackrabbits have the four things that I think you need to have to win a game as a smaller school: 1. A stud in Mike Daum; 2. A team that shoots the leather off the ball; 3. A back court that doesn’t commit turnovers; 4. A front line that clears the defensive glass. Throw in the fact that Ohio State’s bigs are immobile, and this has upset written all over it.
  • No. 10 Providence over No. 7 Texas A&M: Ed Cooley is a masterful head coach who has a sensational point guard in Kyron Cartwright going up against a team that has had their back court miss more games than they’ve played.
  • No. 11 San Diego State over No. 6 Houston: The only team in the country that may actually be hotter than Houston right now is San Diego State. They beat MWC regular season champ Nevada by 30 in the conference tournament and are playing their best basketball in years.


I think it’s very difficult to picture a scenario where Michigan is not in the Sweet 16. Their point guard, Zavier Simpson, can absolutely snuff out any kind of success that an opposing ball-handler will have, and both Montana and Houston are teams whose best players is the lead guard. That’s a tough matchup for them.


  • TREVON BLUIETT, Xavier: There is not a player in the tournament that I feel more comfortable saying will put the team on his back for three, four, five or six games than Bluiett.
  • JOEL BERRY II, North Carolina: Luke Maye is UNC’s all-american, but Berry is their rock, their heartbeat, their soul. He’s all the clichés.
  • MOE WAGNER, Michigan: Wagner is going to be a March darling if the Wolverines make a run because of his story: He’s German, he plays like Dirk and he also has a big goofy smile on his face that makes him look like the world’s largest nine-year old.


  • MIKE DAUM, South Dakota State: The big fella averaged 24 points and 10 boards while shooting better than 41 percent from three, and he plays on a team that could very well end up winning a game or two in the Big Dance.
  • KYRON CARTWRIGHT, Providence: The Friars aren’t exactly a mid-major, but they are a No. 10 seed that has a chance to win a couple of games.


For me, the best first round matchup is between Ohio State and South Dakota State, but I also think that Houston-San Diego State has a chance to be really good as well.


I just want the Sweet 16 out West to be the top four seeds. All the matchups in that situation would be perfect.


North Carolina. I’ll bet on Joel Berry II, Roy Williams and the Tar Heels, but you can pick any of the top four seeds and I’d probably be fine with it.

Report: Notre Dame closing deal with PSU’s Shrewsberry

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Notre Dame is finalizing a deal to make Penn State’s Micah Shrewsberry its new men’s basketball coach, two people with direct knowledge of the situation told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

The people spoke on condition of anonymity because contract details were still being completed and needed school approval.

Shrewsberry, in his second season at Penn State (23-14), led the Nittany Lions to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2011 and a tournament victory for the first time since 2001.

The Nittany Lions beat Texas A&M and were eliminated by Texas in the second round.

Notre Dame has been searching for a replacement for Mike Brey, who spent the last 23 season as coach of the Fighting Irish. He announced in January that this would be his last season with Notre Dame

The Irish finished 11-21.

Shrewsberry grew up in Indianapolis and went to school at Division III Hanover College in Indiana.

He was the head coach at Indiana University South Bend, an NAIA school located in the same city as Notre Dame, from 2005-07.

He later worked as an assistant coach at Butler and Purdue, with a stint as an assistant with the Boston Celtics in between.

ESPN first reported Notre Dame was close to a deal with Shrewsberry.

Bacot says he’s returning for fifth season at North Carolina

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – North Carolina forward Armando Bacot is returning to play a fifth season for the Tar Heels.

Bacot announced his decision Wednesday, giving North Carolina fans a bit of good news after the Tar Heels failed to reach the NCAA Tournament.

The 6-foot-11 Bacot is North Carolina’s career leader in rebounds, double-doubles and double-figure rebounding games.

Bacot led North Carolina to a runner-up finish in last year’s NCAA Tournament, and his decision to return was a major reason the Tar Heels were ranked No. 1 in the preseason Associated Press Top 25.

The Tar Heels didn’t come close to meeting those expectations. They went 20-13 and opted against playing in the NIT. Bacot earned Associated Press All-America third-team honors and averaged 15.9 points and 10.4 rebounds.

He averaged 16.3 points and 13.1 rebounds in 2021-22. He capped that season by becoming the first player ever to have six double-doubles in one NCAA Tournament.

Bacot participated in North Carolina’s Senior Night festivities this year. He has a fifth year of eligibility because of the waiver the NCAA granted due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ed Cooley takes over at Georgetown with lofty aspirations

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WASHINGTON – Ed Cooley’s task at Georgetown is to bring a once-storied program back to prominence in a competitive conference that has three teams still part of March Madness in the Sweet 16.

Cooley’s lofty aspirations go beyond lifting the Hoyas up from the bottom of the Big East Conference. After leaving Providence, which he took to the NCAA Tournament seven times in 12 years, he already is talking about trying to coach Georgetown to its first championship since 1984.

At his introductory news conference Wednesday that felt like a pep rally, Cooley said he wanted current and former players to envision cutting down nets and watching “One Shining Moment” with the nets hanging around their necks. He promised wins – many of them – and plotted a path forward that he knows will involve some tough times.

“It’s a process, and the process now, because you have a changing landscape in athletics, you’ll have an opportunity to probably move it quicker than you would have 10, 20 years ago,” Cooley said. “We’re going to lose some games. It’s OK. Losing’s part of growth. But over the course of time, it will pay off.”

Georgetown has lost a lot the past couple of years under Patrick Ewing, who was fired earlier this month after six seasons. The team went 7-25 this season after going 6-25 last season and lost 37 of 39 games in Big East play.

While Cooley at Providence was responsible for four of those defeats, the 53-year-old distanced himself from Georgetown’s recent run of losing.

“I don’t have anything to do what happened yesterday,” he said. “My job is to move us forward from today.”

Cooley’s mere presence is an acknowledgement that Georgetown needed a major change to become relevant again. After late Hall of Fame coach John Thompson’s 27-year-old run led to longtime assistant Craig Esherick succeeding him and then son John Thompson III and Ewing getting the head job, Cooley is the school’s first outsider in the position in a half-century.

His only connection to the Hilltop – beyond coaching in the Big East – is his daughter, Olivia, attending Georgetown. Cooley, a Providence native, said her desire to live in the Washington area played into his decision to leave for a conference rival.

It was certainly no accident that athletic director Lee Reed and school president John J. DeGioia used phrases like “new era” and “new chapter” when discussing Cooley. DeGioia said he believes Cooley will “uplift and restore this team” to compete at the highest levels of the sport.

“He has a proven record of success,” Reed said. “We knew we needed a leader, someone who understood our identity and could reimagine Georgetown basketball to fit today’s unique basketball landscape.”

That landscape, including players being able to profit off the use of their name, image and likeness (NIL) and more easily transfer schools, are the biggest changes Cooley has seen since landing his first head job at Fairfield in 2006. He expects to be aggressive, and given the high volume of Georgetown players coming and going via the transfer portal, could rebuild the roster in his image sooner rather than later.

“You have to find student-athletes that fit the way you want to play, your style of play, that fit you as a coach,” Cooley said. “We need to find players that can play for me that can attend Georgetown, not the other way around.”

Cooley acknowledged that some luck is needed but also stressed recruiting local talent to keep the best players in the region around. That’s just one building block to putting Georgetown back on the map, which Cooley wants the time and latitude to do.

“The word patience is always hard because everybody wants it and they want it right now,” he said. “Everybody wants it right now. Have a little bit of patience.”

Texas’ Arterio Morris plays amid misdemeanor domestic violence case

Amy Kontras-USA TODAY Sports

AUSTIN, Texas — In a season when Texas fired coach Chris Beard after a felony domestic violence arrest, it has allowed a reserve guard to keep playing while he awaits trial on a misdemeanor charge of assaulting an ex-girlfriend.

Second-seed Texas has advanced under interim coach Rodney Terry to the program’s first Sweet 16 since 2008, and the Longhorns play No. 3 Xavier in Kansas City, Missouri.

Arterio Morris, a freshman who was one of the top recruits in the country last year, was initially scheduled to stand trial March 29, three days before Final Four weekend. Denton County prosecutors were granted a delay to an unspecified date.

Beard was fired Jan. 5, about three weeks after he was arrested on suspicion of a felony charge of choking his fiancée in a fight during which she also told police he bit, and hit her. She later recanted the choking allegation and the Travis County district attorney dismissed the case, saying prosecutors were following her wishes not to got to trial and that the charge could not be proved beyond a reasonable doubt.

Morris is charged with Class A misdemeanor assault causing bodily injury to a family member, which in Texas includes dating relationships. It stems from a June 2022 confrontation in the Dallas suburb of Frisco. The charge carries penalties ranging from probation and fines to up to a year in jail if convicted.

Morris’ attorney, Justin Moore, said the charges against Beard and the player are different.

“(Beard) was charged with a felony family assault,” Moore said. “That was far more serious as to what Arterio was alleged to have to committed. We maintain Arterio’s innocence.”

According to police, the ex-girlfriend said Morris grabbed her arm and pulled her off a bed, and later pulled the front of her sports bra, causing an injury to her neck and shoulder area. Police reported seeing a sizable bruise or scratch.

Texas officials declined comment. Beard said before the season that school officials he would not identify determined the freshman could play this season.

Moore defended Texas officials’ decision to not suspend Morris.

“I do believe Texas has taken this seriously. They’ve also allowed Arterio to enjoy his due process rights,” Moore said.

Morris has played in all 36 games this season, although his minutes and have been limited on a senior-dominated team. He averages nearly 12 minutes and 4.7 points per game. His biggest moment was a soaring alley-oop dunk against Kansas in the Big 12 Tournament championship game.

Attempts to reach Morris’ ex-girlfriend through family members were not successful. According to online records, prosecutors sought the trial delay to “procure witness availability.” Prosecutor Jamie Beck did not immediately return messages.

Wichita State hires ORU’s Paul Mills to lead program

Russell Lansford-USA TODAY Sports

Wichita State hired Paul Mills away from Oral Roberts to turn around its languishing men’s basketball program, landing what has been one of the hottest names among mid-major coaches.

The 50-year-old Mills led the the Golden Eagles to two of the past three NCAA Tournaments, engineering upsets of Ohio State and Florida as a No. 15 seed in 2021 before going 30-5 this past season and losing to Duke as a No. 5 seed.

He replaces Isaac Brown, who was fired after three seasons as the Shockers slowly slipped toward mediocrity.

“My family and I are extremely excited about being a part of Wichita State,” said Mills, who will be introduced during a news conference Thursday at Charles Koch Arena. “The rich history, winning tradition and unbelievable community support will keep us working on behalf of the greatest fans in all of college basketball.”

Mills got his break in coaching when he joined Scott Drew’s first staff at Baylor in 2003, working alongside future Kansas State coach Jerome Tang in helping to turn around a program that had been mired in controversy. Mills stayed for 14 years, helping to reach seven NCAA Tournaments, before replacing Scott Sutton at Oral Roberts before the 2017 season.

“I absolutely love Paul Mills. He’s like a brother to me. So happy for him and his family, for Wendy and the girls,” said Tang, who has Kansas State playing Michigan State in the Sweet 16 on Thursday night. “He’s going to be incredible because he is passionate about young people and about developing young men.

“There’s no throttle, like, hold-back governor on him in terms of love and what he pours into his guys.”

Mills went just 11-21 each of his first two seasons in Tulsa, but the seeds of a turnaround had been planted, and the Golden Eagles have not had a losing season since. The biggest step came two years ago, when Mills led Oral Roberts to the Sweet 16 of an NCAA Tournament played entirely within an Indianapolis “bubble environment” because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Golden Eagles slipped to 19-12 the following year before winning 30 games and the Summit League title this past season, when they were led by high-scoring guard Max Abmas, an honorable mention All-American selection.

“He’s the one that told me, he said, ‘Tang, 10s hangs with 10s and one hangs with ones,’” Tang said, “and he’s a 10 and he’s going to have some 10s around him.”

The hiring of Mills comes as the Shockers try to position themselves at the forefront of a new-look American Athletic Conference. Perennial powerhouse Houston is joining Central Florida and Cincinnati in leaving for the Big 12 after this season, and six new schools are due to arrive from Conference USA for the start of next season.

Wichita State, a power under Ralph Miller and Gene Smithson in the 1960s, returned to prominence when Mark Turgeon took over in 2000. But it was under Gregg Marshall, who resigned in November 2020 amid allegations of verbal and physical abuse of players, that it began to soar. The Shockers advanced to the Final Four in 2013, finished the regular season unbeaten the following year and at one point went to seven consecutive NCAA Tournaments.

Brown, who was Marshall’s top recruiter, led them back to the NCAA Tournament in his first year. But the Shockers were just 15-13 last year and 17-15 this past season, leading Saal to decide that a coaching change was necessary.

Turns out the answer Saal was looking for was just a few hours south at Oral Roberts.

“Paul Mills’ heart for people, passion for life and approach to the development of young people and programs is energizing,” Wichita State athletic director Kevin Saal said in a statement. “He aligns with Shocker Athletics’ core values, facilitates a first-class student-athlete experience and fuels broad-based competitive excellence.”