NCAA Sweet Sixteen Previews – Thursday
March 24th, 2016
The tournament’s No. 1 overall seed beat Austin Peay in the first round and ninth-seed Connecticut in round two. Kansas is rolling and will be tough to beat. The Jayhawks have one of the most balanced lineups in all of college basketball. Guards Frank Mason III, Wayne Selden Jr., and Deonte Graham all average in double figures and have the ability to take control of a game all by themselves. Leading scorer and senior Perry Ellis (16.7 ppg) can play inside and out and is a solid rebounder.
Head coach Bill Self is getting quality minutes from 6-10 Landen Lucas.
On the other end, Maryland has been up and down all year. They also have an impressive lineup led by their leading scorer Melo Trimble (14.5 ppg). They are big up front with Robert Carter, Jake Layman, and freshman Diamond Stone. All three can rebound and Layman can hurt you from the perimeter. Are they the Terrapins that beat Iowa and Purdue or the Terps that lost to Minnesota? Playing against a tough Jayhawks defense won’t help… Kansas 85, Maryland 80
There may not be a team in the tournament playing better than Villanova right now. The Wildcats defeated UNC-Asheville and Iowa rather easily to reach the Sweet 16. They will face a Miami team that is not flashy, but very well-coached and disciplined enough to beat anyone in the country. Villanova has been quicker and more athletic than its first two opponents. That will not be the case against the Hurricanes. Guards Sheldon McClellan and Angel Rodriguez are hot and have carried Miami in their wins over Buffalo and Wichita State. Head coach Jim Larranaga will need production from center Tonye Jekiri and forward Kamari Murphy if the ‘Canes are to advance to the Elite Eight.
Villanova has finally made it past the second round after exiting early the last two seasons. Josh Hart and Ryan Arcidiacono are experienced and can score. Kris Jenkins is shooting very well in the tourney and big man Daniel Ochefu is a force inside. The Wildcats need to force the tempo against Miami, which is very good on the defensive end… Villanova 79, Miami 77
Oregon has proved that they are deserving of a No. 1 seed. The Ducks versatility has benefited them greatly in wins over Holy Cross and Saint Joseph’s. Dillon Brooks can score from inside and out as he showed with 25 points in the win over St. Joe’s. Elgin Cook plays much bigger than 6-6 and Chris Boucher (6-10) is the nation’s leader in blocked shots. The Ducks are quick and athletic and it shows on the defensive end.
Their opponent in the Sweet Sixteen is last year’s national champion, Duke. The Blue Devils have had a somewhat tumultuous season and some early injuries have led them to rely on sophomore guard Grayson Allen. Allen can do it all and is especially good from behind the 3-point line. Freshman Brandon Ingram is 6-9 and can shoot from the perimeter and drive to the basket and score. Senior center Marshall Plumlee (7-1) has been a factor in wins over Yale and UNC-Wilmington. Duke does have problems with athletic teams like Oregon… Oregon 82, Duke 81
It was one of the great comebacks in NCAA tournament history. Texas A&M, down by 12 with just 44 seconds to play against Northern Iowa, forced overtime and beat the Panthers to advance to the Sweet Sixteen. Now, they must face Buddy Hield and the Oklahoma Sooners. Hield averages over 25 points a game and had 36 along with seven rebounds in the Sooners second-round win over Virginia Commonwealth. But, Oklahoma is not a one-man show. Hield, Jordan Woodard, Isaiah Cousins, and Ryan Spangler have played together for three years-plus. All average in double figures and can pick up the slack when teams try crazy defensive schemes to slow down Hield.
The Aggies are led by 6-7 senior guards Danuel House and Jalen Jones. Alex Caruso, another senior, scored 25 points and had nine rebounds in the win over Northern Iowa. Texas A&M can score in droves, but will need their freshman center Tyler Davis to be a presence on the inside if they are going to play with Oklahoma… Oklahoma 83, Texas A&M 77
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NCAA Sweet Sixteen Previews – Friday
March 25th, 2016
The Tar Heels are big and strong up front and have guards that can score. They also proved that they can go small and play a more athletic lineup when needed. Head coach Roy Williams did just that in the second-round win over Providence. Now, North Carolina will take on Indiana for a berth in the Elite Eight. The Tar Heels leader is Brice Johnson, a 6-9 senior, who averages a double-double per game. Justin Jackson is a 6-8 freshman and Kennedy Meeks, at 6-10, completes the frontcourt. Marcus Paige and Joel Berry II average in double figures and can score from anywhere.
Indiana is one of the nation’s highest scoring teams led by senior point guard Yogi Ferrell (17.5 ppg). Center Thomas Bryant is 6-10 but is just a freshman. He may have a tough time with Johnson. For the Hoosiers, the key may be the play of Troy Williams and O.G. Anunoby. Both are athletic and score from anywhere. Indiana must continue to shoot well as it has all season. The Tar Heels athleticism on defense is why they will move on… North Carolina 82, Indiana 79
Who would have thought Notre Dame and Wisconsin would make it to the Sweet Sixteen? Well, both teams did. The Badgers were 9-9 at one point during the season before winning 12 of 13 games down the stretch in the Big Ten. Few teams in the nation play with as much heart as the Irish which finished 11-7 in the brutal ACC. Wisconsin continues to impose its will on its opponents. The Badgers help Pittsburgh to 43 points in a first-round win and then beat No. 2 seed Xavier 66-63 in round two.
Notre Dame has one of the better big men in the tourney in Zach Auguste. He is a talented post player and has been putting up double-double numbers the latter half of the season. Demetrius Jackson is a smooth 6-4 guard who can attack defenses inside and out. The Irish have not seen a defense like Wisconsin though. Nigel Hayes, Wisconsin’s leading scorer, Bronson Koenig, and 6-9 freshman Ethan Happ all defend very well and average in double figures. Surprisingly, this may be the best of all the Sweet Sixteen games… Wisconsin 62, Notre Dame 60
The defense and half-court game of Virginia takes on the more up-tempo style of Iowa State in this Sweet Sixteen matchup. The Cavaliers are one of the top defensive teams in the nation giving up less than 60 points per game. They have the ACC’s Player of the Year in guard Malcolm Brogdon, who averages over 18 points per game. He can do it all and has a supporting cast that includes point guard London Perrantes and forward Anthony Gill. The Cavaliers rarely make mistakes and will force their tempo upon the Cyclones.
Iowa State was hot early in the season but cooled off while navigating a tough Big 12 schedule. All five starters average in double figures led by 6-8 senior Georges Niang, who averages nearly 20 per game. Monte Morris, who averages over seven assists a game, will battle with Brogdon. Abdel Nader is a 6-6 shooter as is Matt Thomas and Jameel McKay is a 6-9 beast inside who averages 12 points and nearly 10 rebounds a game. The Cyclones have had an easy time thus far in the tourney. This one will much more difficult… Virginia 73, Iowa State 70
This is the part of everyone’s bracket that is just a mess. Syracuse has been inconsistent all year long, but has picked the right time to come together. Their first two opponents – Dayton and Middle Tennessee – are not exactly basketball powerhouses, but the Orange have played well. Malachi Richardson became the first Syracuse freshman to score 20 points in a tournament game since Carmelo Anthony. Trevor Cooney gives head coach Jim Boeheim a long-range shooter, but it is the play of Michael Gbinije that has brought Syracuse this far.
Gonzaga is playing well after beating No. 6 seed Seton Hall in the first round and then humbling third-seeded Utah, 82-59, to get to the Sweet Sixteen. It is pretty simple for the Zags. Kyle Wiltjer is the team’s leading scorer averaging nearly 21 points a game and 6-11 sophomore Domantas Sabonis averages a double-double per game. These two plus guards Eric McClellan and Kyle Dranginis are quality scorers as well as defenders. The Zags defense harassed Utah all game long. The discipline and consistency of Gonzaga will carry them to victory… Gonzaga 66, Syracuse 63
March Madness Brackets & Predictions
As we await Selection Sunday, 2016 may be the first year in many where there is no clear cut favorite to win the national title. There were five No. 1 ranked teams to lose before the college basketball season reached February. That has not happened since 1949. In the month of January, an AP Top 10 team lost 14 times. The season started with Kentucky ranked No. 1. The regular season ended with Kansas in the top slot.
The Jayhawks (27-4, 15-3) won the Big 12 regular season title for the 12th year in a row (they have won or shared the championship) and are favored to be the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA tournament. Oklahoma (24-6, 12-6) was ranked first during the season and, depending on its showing in the Big 12 tournament, could also be a top seed. The Sooners feature the nation’s likely player of the year, guard Buddy Hield who finished second in the nation in scoring averaging 25.3 points per game.
Villanova (27-4, 16-2) of the Big East was also ranked in the top spot during the season. The Wildcats have struggled recently in the Big Dance. Last year as a No. 1 seed, head coach Jay Wright’s team failed to make it out of the first weekend losing to No. 8 N.C. State in the Wildcats second game.
The ACC is loaded with talent. North Carolina (25-6, 14-4), another top-ranked team during the season, is deep and experienced. Brice Johnson averages a double-double per game and the Tar Heels were the regular season champion. Miami (24-6, 13-5) and Virginia (24-6, 13-5) are also talented and could easily be alive on the second weekend of NCAA tournament play.
Kentucky, the SEC champ last year, is always a contender, but it was Texas A&M (24-7, 13-5) that was the surprise regular season champion in 2016. Out west, Oregon (25-6, 14-4) had a solid season and should garner a No. 3 seed in the tournament. Arizona (24-7, 12-6) could be a team to contend with and two or three teams from the Big Ten could challenge. Michigan State (26-5, 13-5) finished as the Big Ten runner-up and head coach Tom Izzo always has his team prepared for the postseason. Indiana (25-6, 15-3) surprised everyone and won the Big Ten. With guard Yogi Ferrell, the Hoosiers could be a No. 1 or No. 2 seed and a likely entrant into the Sweet 16.
Sleepers include everyone’s favorite Cinderella, Wichita State. The Shockers (24-8, 16-2) were the dominant team in the Missouri Valley Conference. Xavier (26-4, 14-4) lost just four games all season and a team like Wisconsin (20-11, 12-6) could surprise everyone. The Badgers won 11 of their final 13 games and beat five ranked opponents during the season.