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The South is without a doubt the toughest region in the tournament, and oddly, the overall #1 seed has to play in it. Usually the top overall seed is placed is the less stressful bracket, along with playing in a region that is close to their university.
Not this time.
For Kansas to be the top seed, they receive the worst bracket a top seed can get, but Bill Self and his Jayhawks are ready for the challenge. The Jayhawks haven’t loss a game since January 30th and just won their 12th consecutive Big 12 title. The Jayhawks are a deep squad with both youth and experience. Senior Perry Ellis leads the team in scoring, junior wing Wayne Selden is the athletic guard that can change momentum with a great play, and sophomore Devonte’ Graham is shooting 44% from the three point line. Many of the college basketball “experts” are calling the Jayhawks one of the most complete teams in the tournament, but we’ve seen this story before. Bill Self has been the #1 six times during his tenure at Kansas dating back to 2003 but only one National Championship. The Jayhawks have become one of the hardest teams to gauge in March and with this bracket, this could be another tough year.
Miami somehow received a #3 seed after losing in the ACC semi-finals - higher than the SEC champs Kentucky. The Hurricanes has more experience than anyone in the country with a unit that combines for over 200 starts in college basketball. They have victories over Virginia, Duke, Utah, Butler, and Notre Dame. Consistent is the best word to describe the Canes. Sheldon McCllean will do his best to lead the Hurricanes to deep run in this tough region. Head coach Jim Larranega isn’t a stranger to deep runs, taking the George Mason to the Final Four in 2006, defeating Michigan State, North Carolina, UConn on the way.
The Terps make this region tough but it depends on which Terps team is going to show up. In the last month the Terps have been very inconsistent and overall haven’t lived up to the pre-season expectations. If the Teprs can somehow turn it on, then they will be dangerous and a tough challenge for anyone. Melo Trimble is playing in his second NCAA Tournament, Melo has been on a slump but the Terps can not afford to have their best offensive player struggling during this time of the year. The last time we seen him in this situation he was walking off the court with a concussion in the Sweet 16 round. Rasheed Suliamon brings the experience that the Teprs missed last season, but is it enough? The Terps talent level puts them as a favorite to walk out of this region but turnover and rebounding issues makes it hard for you to trust them to make it out of opening weekend.
The young and exuberant Cal Bears are walking into the tournament with a lot of momentum and support. The Bears are a young but very talented group, led by Pac-12 Freshman of the Year, Jaylen Brown. Cal has wins against Arizona, Utah, and Oregon and since February 6th, they are 8-2. Cal has not reached the round of 16 since 1997 but this is probably the most exciting team in Cal’s history. The other freshman star, Ivan Rabb, gives the Bears an inside presence that you need in the Tournament. Rabb averages 12 points and 8 boards with 11 double-doubles this season. Even though they are young, senior leadership is still there, with senior guard Tyrone Wallace and junior Jordan Matthews, but even for them a deep run is new terrain. It will be interesting to see how the Bears work out of this region.
Villanova was a Big East championship away from being a #1 seed. The Wildcats haven’t loss more than 4 games in the regular season since 2013 but they haven’t reached the round of 16 since 2009. Similar to Kansas, Nova is another hard team to gauge come tourney time. Those games that you think they will win, they end up losing like in the Big East Championship.
- Vanderbilt and Witchita State will be a tough matchup for most teams. The committee did a great job with providing good matchups for the play-in games, this will be another one.
UCONN: UConn snuck into the tournament this year thanks to a deep run in the American Athletic Conference tournament. Jalen Adams half-court prayer against Cincinnati seemed to ignite the Huskies and we know what can happen when the Huskies are inspired.
Players to Watch
F Perry Ellis, Kansas, 17 points, 6 boards, 52%FG
The true senior is looking to cap off his stellar college career with a national championship. Ellis game is smooth and has not limits. Enjoy this senior while you can.
G Melo Trimble, Maryland, 14 points, 5 dimes, 3 boards
A very similar player to Steph Curry as far as style of play. Very quick, with great handles and bounces on his toes, not to mention a deadly shot. Trimble has been on a slump for the past month, so maybe the big lights will get him out.
G/F Jaylen Brown, CAL, 15 points, 5 boards
Brown favorite player is Kobe Bryant but Brown game is a lot more physical. Brown is strong and attacks the basket with aggression. This is one of the future lottery picks.
G Josh Hart, Villanova, 15 points, 7 boards, 51%FG
Hart is one of the top scorer in the Big East and has an all-around game. He can pretty much score from anywhere on the court and doesn’t struggle to find a shot.
G Wayne Selden, Kansas, 13 points 3 boards, 2 dimes
His uncle alone makes him a must see player.
Upset to Watch
#13 Hawaii over #4 Cal - The guys from the Big Island could catch the Bears slipping, both teams inexperienced NCAA tournament play. The Rainbow Warriors have wins against Auburn and only loss to Oklahoma by three points.
- #1 Kansas vs. #9 UConn, round of 32 - Two programs with deep history.
- #2 Villanova vs. #10 Temple, round of 32 - The two schools from Philly could meet up in Brooklyn. Villanova is 12-0 against Philadelphia schools since 2013.
- #1 Kansas vs. Maryland/Cal, Sweet 16 - Whoever the Jayhawks face between the two, it will be an interesting matchup.
- #1 Kansas vs. #2 Villanova, Eliete 8 - I will be shocked if both teams make it to the regionals finals.
March Madness is finally here!
As the regions were announced, one can not help but to realize how wide open the tournament is. This is not say that a 16th seed has the chance to go to the Final Four, but the top seeds are not locks. Creating the perfect bracket will be harder than ever.
At first glance the East region look like it would be the toughest but after breaking it down, it seem like North Carolina could be the only #1 seed to make it to the Final Four.
The Tar Heels are coming into the tournament champions of the ACC regular season and tournament. For coach Roy Williams, this is his 25th trip to NCAA tournament. The Tar Heels have a very deep squad with a stellar guard in Marcus Paige. Paige has been one of the top point guards in college basketball but this season he has relied on his supporting cast to help elevate the Tar Heels to their first #1 seed since 2012. Brice Johnson leads the Tar Heels in points and rebounds and will likely lead them to a Final Four trip. The rest of the cast includes shooter Joell Berry II, Justin Jackson, and Kennedy Meeks. The Tar Heels are a for sure favorite to win it all.
Xavier is coming into the tournament off one the best seasons in the program’s history. For head coach, Chris Mack, he is making his 6th trip to the big dance since taking over as Musketeers coach in 2009. If it wasn’t for their loss to Seton Hall in Big East tournament, Xavier would be a #1 seed in one of the four regions. They have 7 players returning from last years team that made it to the Sweet 16, 3 of which were starters. The Musketeers are a balanced team and have solid guard play, which can compete with any team in the country. It will be interesting to see they can take the program to the next level, never advancing past the Elite 8.
Kentucky drops to the #4 seed after they entered the tournament last year 34-0 and the #1 overall seed. They also lost 7 players to the NBA from that team. This season Calipari has relied on a new set of “Young Cats” led by Jamal Murray, who is averaging 20 points per contest. The Wildcats haven’t proved to be a dominant team or a solidified Final Four contender but they did win the SEC for the 4th time since 2010. Coach Calipari has once again criticized the selection committee for putting his squad in a tough for a another season, which I find amusing being that he brings in the top recruiting class every season. Oddly enough, I actually agree with Coach Cal. The selection committee didn't do a great job with their seeding process, placing Texas A&M as a #3 seed less than an hour after they loss to Kentucky in the SEC championship. The selection process is rarely consistent but this season it was most obvious.
West Virginia is bringing their frantic full court press back to the NCAA Tournament. The Mountaineers reached the Elite 8 last season but suffered a heartbreaking loss to Kentucky. West Virginia will rely on big man in the middle, Devin Williams, who is coming off of a 31 points and 10 rebounds performance in the Big 12 championship. For the Mountaineers to really jump to the Final Four they will need their guards and depth to step up.
- Everyone is a fan of Indiana but I think they will disappoint a lot of people. Stay away from picking them to go deep your bracket.
- The #11 seed will be a tough game for Notre Dame with Michigan and Tulsa playing for the spot. Michigan is walking into the tournament with some momentum from Kameron Chatman buzzer beater against Indiana but will it be enough.
Providence: The Friars started the season off 17-3 in their first 20 games with wins over Arizona, Butler, and Villanova. Kris Dunn, who is potentially the best player in the region, will also give the Friars a fair chance against anyone.
Players to Watch
G Kris Dunn, Providence, 16 points, 5 boards, 6 dimes
Dunn decided not to jump for the NBA, coming back for his senior season. The decision turned out to be a good one with his lottery draft stock still in tact. For now, he will look to lead Providence to the promise land.
G Marcus Paige, North Carolina, 12 points, 4 dimes, 2 boards
Paige’s numbers has dropped since his sophomore season but the talent is still there. Paige has been one of the most exciting players in college basketball, and with this being his senior season, expect him to provide a few more memorable moments.
F Devin Williams, West Virginia, 13 points, 9 boards
Williams will have to be the best big man on the floor every night for the Mountaineers to exit out of this tough conference. So far he hasn’t disappointed, with 4 double-digit rebound games in the month of March.
G Jamal Murray, Kentucky, 20 points, 5 boards, 45%FG, 42% 3pt
Murray made coach Calipari adjust his dribble-drive offense, in order for Murray to work off of screens and it has made the Canadian one of the best scorers in the SEC.
Upset to Watch
#12 Chattanooga over #5 Indiana - #12 versus #5 matchups are always a tough one for the team that is supposed to be the favorite. Every season we see a #12 team send a #5 home and this year will be no different. The Mocs defeated Illinois, Georgia, and Dayton early in the season. Indiana has shown vulnerability in their loss to Michigan during the Big Ten Tournament.
- #4 Kentucky vs #5 Indiana, round of 32 - Last time the Wildcats and Hooisers played it was one of the best game in recent memory.
- #3 West Virginia vs #2 Xavier, Sweet 16 - Two teams with very different styles should make for a very interesting matchup.
- #1 North Carolina vs. #4 Kentucky, Sweet 16 - Since 2010, both teams have defeated each other twice and have had some memorable games, I would expect this to be the same.
UNC-Wilmington Seahawks defeated the #1 seeded Hofstra Pride 80-73, claiming their first title since 2006. The Seahawks came back from down 12 points to force overtime. Chris Flemings was named Most Outstanding Player for his 19 points 6 boards, 3 blocks, and 2 steals performance. The D-2 transfer completes an already dream season with the MOP award after already missing the 2014-15 season.
Denzel Ingram and Chris Ponder also had big games, both guards combining for 37 points. Ponder led the Seahawks in scoring while Ingram hit the biggest shot of the game when he knocked down a pull up three to give the Seahawks a 6 point lead with 30 seconds remaining in halftime.
The Seahawks will have to wait to see where, when, and who they will play in the NCAA Tournament. This will be the school's first trip to the tournament since 2006. The Seahawks uses 4 guards and a full court press defense which can cause issues for some teams in the tournament. Last year's CAA champs, Northeastern, took Jerian Grant and Notre Dame to the wire but fell short.
The CAA Semifinals last year featured two great games and 2016 had the same type of atmosphere…it even included the same four teams.
Hofstra and William & Mary played in one of the best games of the 2015 season, W&M knocking off Hofstra after Daniel Dixon go-ahead three pointer. Hofstra came into this rematch a year later, as the #1 seed and had revenge on their mind.
Juan’ya Green and Ameen Tanksley combined for 37 points in Hofstra’s 70-67 victory over William & Mary. Both players didn’t play their best game even though they got the win. Green - the 2015-16 CAA Player of the year - struggled in the first half shooting 1-5 from the field with two turnovers. Green was also on the wrong end of a highlight reel when Greg Malinowki made him stumble with a smooth crossover-stepback three pointer, that gave the Tribe crazy momentum to go into halftime with 34-30 lead.
Green would eliminate that play from everyone’s memory when he made the biggest play of the game, diming Denton Koon for the go-ahead layup.
“Lets get it out the way now, we thought about this game for 364 days,” Joe Mihalich, head coach of Hofstra, said about the rematch. “We thought about that loss for a year and I’m glad we got a chance to make up for it.”
“We should have loss that game today but it’s because of these guy I’m sitting next to [Green and Tanksley] and the other guys in white shirts.”
Hofstra in the first half struggled to stop the William & Mary due to the ball movement. The Tribe shot 48% from the field and 44% from the three point line. Malinowski led the Tribe with 22 points, shooting 5-8 from behind the arc, 3-4 in the first half.
Hofstra also seen their big man, Rokas Gustys, have a very tough game inside the paint, picking up his fourth foul at the 8-minute media timeout, with only two points. That turned out to be a blessing for The Pride because it forced them to play small ball which helped them defensively.
Desure Buie only played 15 minutes but his presence on the court helped the Pride on their rotation to nulify the Tribe’s steady ball movement. Buie, standing only 6’2, was able to be that scrappy defender that caused disruption in the Tribe’s fast pace Princeton offense.
William & Mary’s star player, Omar Prewitt, had his worst shooting performance of the season, going 1-12 from the field finishing with 5 points. For Prewitt this is the third time he has been eliminated from the conference tournament, losing in the championship game in his freshman and sophomore season. With DIxon and Malinowski - who had his best game of his career - returning, the Tribe will once again be one of the top contenders next season. The question is will they be able to get over the hump?
Hofstra will make their first appearance in the championship game since 2006 and look to claim their first conference title since joining the CAA in 2001.
Only four schools have won back-to-back titles in CAA tournament history; Navy (1985-87) Richmond (1990-91), UNC-Wilmington (2002-03), and Old Dominion (2010-11). Northeastern was looking to be that fifth team to achieve the feat, but lack of paint presence and a division 2 transfer stopped the Huskies from playing for a consecutive CAA title.
UNCW knocked off the defending champs 73-70 to advance to their first CAA title game since 2006.
Like Hofstra, the Seahawks, avenged their semifinal loss, thanks to a Chris Flemings, a D-2 transfer from Barton College. Flemings led the Seahawks with 21 points, while shooting 4-5 from the three point line.
Flemings also made the biggest defensive play of the day when he tipped a hail mary pass with 1.4 seconds remaining, the ball ended up landing in-bounds, which drained the remaining time on the clock. The referees reviewed the play, and many in the arena thought Northeastern was going to get one last opportunity to send it into overtime, but the replay confirmed that the ball did land in-bounds before going out of play.
Northeastern was on the verge of of blow out midway through the 2nd half, going on a scoring drought that lasted over three minutes and committing 4 turnovers during that span. Inside the paint was a big problem for Huskies, who had to use 6’6 utility man Zach Stahl as their inside presence. The Seahawks took full advantage, using Devontae Cacok off the bench as the big man equalizer to the Huskies small lineup.
Cacok grabbed 7 boards, 4 of which on the offensive glass. Cacok played a major role in the Seahawks 16-2 run during Northeastern’s scoring drought.
Denzel Ingram didn’t have a great shooting night but he did contribute 14 points and 8 assist.
The Huskies did make a comeback to bring it down to one last possession. In the final two minutes they erased a ten-point deficit and was on the verge of shocking the Seahawks. In the final minute the forced two turnovers during the Seahawks attempt to inbound the ball. First they caused a 5-second then a steal, converting both turnovers into buckets.
The Seahawks will get set to take on Hofstra who they split games with earlier this season, gaining victories on each other’s home court. This is also a rematch from the 2006 CAA Championship game, where the Seahawks defeated the Pride, TJ Carter winning Most Outstanding Player. It will be interesting to see how both teams come out with a chance to go to the NCAA Tournament on the line.
“Last year we played in the #3 vs #6 matchup, the only thing different is we wore white jerseys.”
That's what Bill Coen, head coach of Northeastern, said about his team coming in as the lower seed. The Hukskies are the defending champs but only won 18 this season, which landed them the 6th seed in the conference tournament.
Seeding didn't matter for the Huskies, as they keep their season alive defeating the 3rd seeded Towson Tigers, 71-60.
“Our primary for the last three weeks was to really earn the bye and get out of that friday night game,” Coen said. We've been in tournament mode for the last three weeks. That's really made us stronger.
The Huskies went on a 6-game losing streak in the month of January which really put them in a tight spot but in the final six games of the season they went 5-1, which really prepared them for their quarterfinal matchup against the Tigers.
The first half was a back and forth battle between the two teams. There were seven lead changes in the and four ties. The Tigers controlled the paint early on, snatching 8 offensive rebounds in the first half and outscoring the Huskies 20-10 in the paint.
Timajh Paker-Rivera and William Adala-Moto were the enforcers down bottom for the Tigers. Adala-Moto finished with 18 points and 12 boards, leading the Tigers in both categories.
The Huskies dug themselves in an early hole also when they went 5-12 from the charity strike but still manage to go into halftime only down by 3 points.
The second half was a different story for the Huskies.
The Huskies opened the second half with two three pointers that gave the Huskies an early lead they wouldn't lose for the rest of the half. David Walker and Quincy Ford combined for 30 points in the second half, each contributing 15 points. The Huskies as a team shot 62% in the second half, 12-14 from the free throw line, and 4-7 from behind the arc.
While the offense was clicking for the Huskies so was the defense. The Huskies held the Tigers to under 40% from the field and 25% from behind the arc. Adala-Moto was the Tigers' only offensive threat in the second half, scoring 10 of the teams first 12 points, all in the paint. It wasn't enough for the Tigers.
Mike Morsell tried his best to start a rally for the Tigers, scoring 8 points in one minute span. Morsell finished with 16 points.
The Huskies will take on UNCW in the semi-finals, a rematch from last season.
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