Kansas

Fan-i Bracketology: South Region

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. 

Sleepers

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

(Nick Krug/KUsports.com)

(Nick Krug/KUsports.com)

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. 

(DAN SANGER/ICON SPORTSWIRE)

(DAN SANGER/ICON SPORTSWIRE)

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. 

(AP Photo)

(AP Photo)

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. 

(Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports)

(Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports)

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. 

(Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports)

(Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports)

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. 

Potential Matchups

  • #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. 

                                                                                                                     

 

Fan-I Bracketology: Midwest Region

It's finally that time of year again, the best time of the year in my opinion. After two weeks of some great conference tournaments, all 68 teams have been selected for the NCAA Tournament. Similar to last year, the Midwest region is the toughest of the four, also the #1 seed in this region walks in with 0 losses. 

(courtesy of ESPN.com)

(courtesy of ESPN.com)

I am very surprised that the NCAA Selection committee gave the Wildcats the toughest draw out of all of the #1 seeds, but for the sake of entertainment, I am happy that they did this. My guess is that, the committee thought in order to really find out if the Wildcats are the greatest team in college basketball history, put them in the toughest region. Usually the #1 overall seed gets the weakest of the regions but not this year. 

One thing I can say about the Wildcats is they have one of the toughest non-conference schedules. They faced and defeated 7 teams that are in this year NCAA Tournament, two of them being Buffalo and Kansas. Just in case you don't remember, Kentucky defeated the Jayhawks 72-40 in the Champions Classic back in November, which sparked the phenom that is Kentucky. 

Like I said though, this is a tough draw for the Wildcats, who are 6 games away from completing their pursuit on perfection. Purdue, who has two seven footers on their roster, Freshman Issac Haas and junior A.J Hammons give the Boilermakers a chance, matching the Wildcats size in the paint, but can Hammon and Haas match the intensity of Karl Anthony-Towns and Willie Cauley-Stein, which I don't think they can. 

In the Sweet 16, Maryland or West Virginia could get an opportunity to end the Wildcats run, unless one of those are shocked in their 2nd round matchups. Maryland will face Valparaiso, who I think they should beat, while the Mountaineers will face Buffalo. Buffalo is the Mid-American Conference champs, entering the tournament 23-9. 6'7 forward, Justin Moss, who averages 18 points and 9 boards with 15 double-doubles this season, could pose a problem for the Mountaineers who struggle to score at times. I think Maryland will get that opportunity to meet the Wildcats in the Sweet 16 but it all depends on how well the Mountaineers can score and how the Terps react to the full court press of the Mountaineers 

In the bottom half of the region, the Kansas Jayhawks look to be the favorite but not for me. Kansas hasn't impressed me too much this season, especially in the final stretch, going 8-5 since February 1st.  People say that the Big 12 is the toughest conference in the country, reason why the committee blessed them with a #2 seed but I disagree with everything about this. For me, the ACC was the best conference this season, and Notre Dame, ACC Champs should have been the recipients of that #2 seed. I like the Irish to come out of this bottom half of the region. I think the Irish are set up perfectly for the tournament with great balance plus they beat Duke twice along with 6 other Tournament teams.

Wichita State is a very tough #7 seed. Their big 3 of Fred Van Vleet, Ron Baker, and Tekele Cotton all have tournament experience and was apart of that 2012-13 team that made it to the Final Four. It's not to often you see a #7 seed with that kind of experience and only 4 losses. 

Sleepers

  • Buffalo Bulls, 23-9 MAC Champions - The Bulls won't be an easy win for whoever step on the court with them. They have a tournament type of player in Moss, along with Shannon Evans who averages 15 points a game. The Mountaineers will have to score some points in order to advance past the Bulls, who average 75 points a game (28th in the country). 
  • New Mexico State, 23-10 WAC Champions - The Jayhawks are very shaky and I don't trust them in the tournament this year. The Aggies, on the other hand, are on a 13 game win streak and have 4 players that score in double figures. I don't think the Jayhawks can afford to have an inconsistent outing against them. 
  • West Virginia Mountaineers, 23-9 - I think the Mountaineers are a sleeper because people don't think they can score efficiently enough to make a run in the dance. The thing about WVU is they play defense and use a full court press that could really irritate a few teams, and if they do start knocking down shots consistently, watch out. 

Players to Watch 

Potential Matchups 

  • #4 Maryland v. #5 West Virginia, Third Round - It will be fun to watch the guards of the Terps go against the guards of the Mountaineers. 
  • #7 Witchita State v. Kansas, Third Round - Both schools are representing the state of Kansas, which will back heading back home first? 
  • #1 Kentucky v. #4 Maryland, Sweet 16 - A lot of Maryland fans are upset about the Terps being in the same region as the overall number 1 seed but no matter what region you're in, the road to the Final Four is never easy. 
  • #1 Kentucky v. #3 Notre Dame, Elite 8 - If there is a team that could end the Wildcats pursuit, it's the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame, who I think cause some matchup problems for Kentucky with their ability to spread the floor and shoot the rock. 

 

College Hoops Fan-i 12: Week 2

Welcome to the 2nd week of the Fan-i 12, where we rank the 12 best college basketball teams in the country. We decided to rank 12 teams because, one, it's a lot more convenient and quicker than 25, and two, this is an indication of who we think will be the top seeds come tourney time. So lets get the ranking.

Here is the AP rankings so you can compare the two. 

(courtesy of NCAA.com)

(courtesy of NCAA.com)

Fan-I 12 

  1. Kentucky (22-0) LW 1 - The Wildcats went through the week 2-0, defeating Georgia and Florida. The Gators gave the Wildcats problems, fighting to the finish, but the Wildcats pulled it out 68-61. 

  2. Virginia (21-1) LW 2 - The Cavaliers went 2-0 last week, defeating Louisville and North Carolina. UVA might have the best defense in the country, similar to last season. Against Louisville, they held the Cardinals scoreless for the final 10 minutes of the first half, Cards only scoring a total 13 points in the half. 

  3. Gonzaga (24-1) LW 3 - Not much competition for the Zags last week, defeating Santa Clara and San Francisco, both of whom are under .500 ball. 

  4. Duke (21-3) LW 4 - Duke finished the week 3-0 defeating Georgia Tech, Notre Dame, and Florida State Monday night. Their 30-point victory over Notre Dame was most impressive, redeeming their loss to the Irish January 28th. Justice Winslow and Jahlil Okafor combined for 49 points and 21 rebounds.

  5. Wisconsin (21-2) LW 5 - The Badgers continues to be one of the more consistent teams in the country. They defeated Indiana and Northwestern by large margins. 

  6. Villanova (21-2) LW 6 - Nova finished last week 2-0, defeating Marquette and Georgetown, both at home. Their victory over Georgetown revenged a 20-point loss to Georgetown January 19th. 

  7. Louisville (19-4) LW 8 - The Cards went 1-1 last week, defeating Miami and losing to UVA, both games on the road. Prior to their loss to UVA, Cardinals were on a 4 game win streak. 

  8. Arizona (20-3) LW 7 - In their only game this past week, the Wildcats loss to rival Arizona State on the road for the 2nd straight year. 

  9. Kansas (19-4) LW 10 - The Jayhawks moved ahead of Notre Dame, despite going 1-1 last week, defeating Iowa State and up-setted by Oklahoma State on the road.

  10. Notre Dame (21-4) LW 9 - The Irish went 1-1 last week, defeating Boston College and losing to Duke. The 30-point to Duke loss is one of the worst in school history. 

  11. Northern Iowa (22-2) LW 12 - The Panthers go 2-0 last week, moving up in the rankings due to West Virginia going 0-2. 

  12. Oklahoma (17-7) - The Sooners enters the 12 as one of the hottest teams right now, going 3-0 this past week, defeating two teams in the top 15, Iowa State and West Virginia. 

With West Virginia on a two game losing streak, it opened up a spot for another Big 12 team. Big 12 has 5 teams ranked in the top ten, not including Kansas, creating a log jam for 2nd place in the conference. 

 

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