Tristan Beckmann’s College Basketball Bracketology (2/4/2019)

Welcome back to my second edition of College Basketball Bracketology, where I project the NCAA Tournament field and matchups as we head into the weeks up to Selection Sunday. We witnessed another fun-filled week in college basketball, as some big upsets occurred and we saw some ranked teams battle. In this edition, per usual, I’ve projected seeding and matchups for all tournament teams, and I plan on continuing to release one of these every Sunday or Monday for the rest of the college hoops season heading up to Selection Sunday.

College basketball fans and experts abroad have started to gain a decent understanding of the contenders and pretenders in each college basketball conference, and I’m as big of a college hoops fan as you’ll find. Some teams are distancing themselves from the bubble, but some teams continue to remain clustered around it.

My process is pretty simple actually. Firstly, I’ve compiled a list of college basketball teams who realistically still have a chance at making the NCAA Tournament. Secondly, I’ve used the brand new NCAA Evaluation Tool (NET) Rankings as a seeding criteria for all teams, which will also be heavily used by the actual selection committee. Lastly, I’ve looked at every team’s current record and used the NCAA’s Quadrant Wins System to analyze the quality of their respective wins and losses.

After I have made a judgment on all teams, I begin to seed the 68 chosen teams from 1 to 68. Ranking them this way allows me to separate them into seed lines (#1 to #16). Finally, I place the teams into regions based on their respective seeds, conferences, and game location (for higher seeds). I tried my best to keep conference opponents from playing until at least the Sweet 16, but there may have been situations where this wasn’t realistically possible.

All in all, the process I went through definitely isn’t easy, but it’s fun to look at the possibilities already. I’ve tried my best to simulate what the actual selection committee would be doing if the tournament had to be seeded today. So after another crazy week in the college hoops world, let’s check into my second-ever Bracketology projection!

East Region (Washington, D.C.):

Columbus, Ohio

#1 Virginia vs. #16 Prairie-View/Robert Morris

#8 Minnesota vs. #9 Oklahoma

Hartford, Connecticut

#4 Villanova vs. #13 Murray State

#5 Wisconsin vs. #12 New Mexico State

Tulsa, Oklahoma

#3 Marquette vs. #14 Bowling Green

#6 Florida State vs. #11 Indiana

Des Moines, Iowa

#2 Michigan vs. #15 UC-Irvine

#7 Buffalo vs. #10 Arizona State

West Region (Anaheim, CA):

Salt Lake City, Utah

#1 Gonzaga vs. #16 Princeton

#8 Syracuse vs. #9 Ole Miss

Jacksonville, Florida

#4 Purdue vs. #13 New Mexico State

#5 LSU vs. #12 Lipscomb

Salt Lake City, Utah

#3 Kansas vs. #14 Montana

#6 Maryland vs. #11 VCU/Temple

Columbia, South Carolina

#2 North Carolina vs. #15 Lehigh

#7 Washington vs. #10 Wofford

South Region (Louisville, KY):

Columbia, South Carolina

#1 Duke vs. #16 Rider/Norfolk State

#8 Auburn vs. #9 TCU

San Jose, California

#4 Nevada vs. #13 Vermont

#5 Texas Tech vs. #12 Davidson

Hartford, Connecticut

#3 Michigan State vs. #14 Northern Kentucky

#6 Mississippi State vs. #11 UCF

Columbus, Ohio

#2 Kentucky vs. #15 Georgia State

#7 Cincinnati vs. #10 St. John’s

Midwest Region (Kansas City, MO):

Jacksonville, Florida

#1 Tennessee vs. #16 Sam Houston State

#8 Baylor vs. #9 NC State

San Jose, California

#4 Louisville vs. #13 Old Dominion

#5 Iowa vs. #12 Hofstra

Tulsa, Oklahoma

#3 Houston vs. #14 Radford

#6 Iowa State vs. #11 Alabama/San Francisco

Des Moines, Iowa

#2 Virginia Tech vs. #15 Loyola-Chicago

#7 Kansas State vs. #10 Ohio State

Bubble Breakdown:

The tournament bubble continues to simmer down as each day of conference basketball passes, but it’s still a very log-jammed one like it has been in recent years. Here’s a breakdown of the last few teams that made it and the last few that are just outside the cut line right now:

IN:

Last Team In: San Francisco Dons (17-5, 5-3 WCC)

San Francisco is still hunting hard for an at-large berth as Gonzaga continues to dominate the WCC. The Dons lost by six on the road against a decent Saint Mary’s team on Saturday, and they need to end their two game losing streak fast. They may just be watching as their at-large chances go up in smoke, barring a miracle where they win at Gonzaga on Thursday night. Pray for the Dons, because they’re on their last legs.

Second To Last Team In: Temple Owls (16-6, 6-3 AAC)

The bubble was intensely shaken up this week, so Temple stayed on the good end of things. Losing by seven on the road at Houston wasn’t terrible, but the Owls have a horrible schedule the rest of the way. A loss to any teams that they should beat will kill their at-large hopes, forcing them to go on a run in the AAC Tournament. Blowing the 14 point second half lead to Cincinnati two weeks ago really hurt the Owls resume and it will continue to do so.

Third To Last Team In: VCU Rams (15-6, 6-2 A10)

A big home win against a decent George Mason team certainly will help VCU, but it’s what happened to other teams on the bubble that allowed the Rams to jump onto the right side of things this week. If they want to stay on the right side, they’ll likely have to win out or win most of their remaining games. Losing to Davidson shook off a huge resume opportunity for them, but they still have a Quadrant 1 win from defeating Texas on the road in December. They may very well just have to win the Atlantic 10 to get a bid to the big dance.

Fourth To Last Team In: Alabama Crimson Tide (13-8, 4-4 SEC)

The Crimson Tide looked to be safely in the field on Tuesday after a huge home victory over Mississippi State. But on Saturday, they were rocked by Auburn in a 21 point road loss. They still have a good chance to get an at-large bid, especially with great opportunities at resume-building wins such as Arkansas and Mississippi State on the road, as well as Auburn and LSU at home. They definitely do need to continue winning games that they are supposed to, however, because they can’t afford too many more losses.

OUT:

First Team Out: Seton Hall Pirates (13-9, 4-6 Big East)

Seton Hall suffered a tough two point loss on the road to Butler on Saturday, but they’re still firmly alive in the race on the bubble. With St. John’s on the road in late February and home games against Marquette and Villanova to close out the season, the Pirates definitely will get their fair share of chances to boost themselves off the bubble. Wins over St. John’s at home, Kentucky on a neutral floor, and Maryland on the road have helped them to this point, but they cannot continue to slide in the Big East in the next month.

Second Team Out: Arkansas Razorbacks (13-8, 4-4 SEC)

After being out of the picture for a few weeks, Daniel Gafford’s Razorbacks are back in the mix on the bubble with a huge road victory over LSU in overtime. They added that to their resume along with a early season win over Indiana, but they might end up being hurt by extremely bad home losses to Georgia Tech and Western Kentucky. The Razorbacks are certainly talented enough to make the tournament, but it’s up to them to fight for their chance to shine.

Third Team Out: Nebraska Cornhuskers (13-9, 3-8 Big Ten)

Nebraska’s 3-8 record in the Big Ten isn’t as bad as it looks, considering how tough the conference is this season, but it still should and could be better. They have some good wins and some bad losses, but they’re skidding as of late, and honestly shouldn’t even be on the bubble come next week. They are fighting to keep their hopes alive this week, and a loss or two could kill them indefinitely. The opportunities are there, as the Huskers have Maryland at home on Wednesday and Purdue on the road on Saturday. Let’s see what the Huskers got!

Fourth Team Out: Florida Gators (12-9, 4-4 SEC)

I’m torn on Florida and the question of whether the Gators are a tournament team. They earned a gritty home win on Wednesday over a good Ole Miss squad, but then blew a chance to build some ground off the bubble in the home loss to Kentucky. They’ve got an extremely difficult schedule the rest of the way and I don’t know if they’re capable of winning enough games to secure an at-large bid to the big dance.

Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed my second ever Bracketology Breakdown. If you want to continue to see more content like this, let me know on my Twitter @TBeckmann24. Feel free to ask questions and share thoughts to me there as well. Have a great and blessed day! Peace!

Advertisements

Tristan Beckmann’s College Basketball Bracketology (1/27/2019)

It was a chaotic week in college basketball, as many upsets occurred and we saw some ranked teams battle. That’s why I’m bringing you my first ever College Basketball Bracketology Breakdown. I’ve projected seeding and matchups for all tournament teams, and I plan on releasing one of these each Sunday for the rest of the season heading up to Selection Sunday.

College basketball fans and experts abroad have started to gain a decent understanding of the contenders and pretenders in each college basketball conference, and I’m as big of a college hoops fan as you’ll find. Some teams are distancing themselves from the bubble, but some teams continue to remain clustered around it.

My process is pretty simple actually. Firstly, I’ve compiled a list of college basketball teams who realistically still have a chance at making the NCAA Tournament. Secondly, I’ve used the brand new NCAA Evaluation Tool (NET) Rankings as a seeding criteria for all teams, which will also be heavily used by the actual selection committee. Lastly, I’ve looked at every team’s current record and used the NCAA’s Quadrant Wins System to analyze the quality of their respective wins and losses.

After I have made a judgment on all teams, I begin to seed the 68 chosen teams from 1 to 68. Ranking them this way allows me to separate them into seed lines (#1 to #16). Finally, I place the teams into regions based on their respective seeds, conferences, and game location (for higher seeds). I tried my best to keep conference opponents from playing until at least the Sweet 16, but there may have been situations where this wasn’t realistically possible.

All in all, the process I went through definitely isn’t easy, but it’s fun to look at the possibilities already. I’ve tried my best to simulate what the actual selection committee would be doing if the tournament had to be seeded today. So after this crazy week in the college hoops world, let’s check into my first-ever Bracketology projection!

East Region (Washington, D.C.):

Columbia, South Carolina

#1 Duke vs. #16 Robert Morris/Norfolk State

#8 Kansas State vs. #9 Ole Miss

Tulsa, Oklahoma

#4 Texas Tech vs. #13 Yale

#5 Purdue vs. #12 Wofford

Salt Lake City, Utah

#3 Marquette vs. #14 Loyola-Chicago

#6 Iowa vs. #11 Alabama

Des Moines, Iowa

#2 Kansas vs. #15 UC-Irvine

#7 Wisconsin vs. #10 Texas

Midwest (Kansas City, MO):

Columbus, Ohio

#1 Michigan vs. #16 Rider

#8 Mississippi State vs. #9 St. John’s

Hartford, Connecticut

#4 Louisville vs. #13 Northern Kentucky

#5 LSU vs. #12 Lipscomb

Tulsa, Oklahoma

#3 Houston vs. #14 Radford

#6 NC State vs. #11 Ohio State/Baylor

Des Moines, Iowa

#2 Kentucky vs. #15 Weber State

#7 TCU vs. #10 UCF

South (Louisville, KY):

Jacksonville, Florida

#1 Tennessee vs. #16 Sam Houston State/Prairie-View

#8 Nebraska vs. #9 Florida State

San Jose, California

#4 Villanova vs. #13 Davidson

#5 Iowa State vs. #12 Murray State

Jacksonville, Florida

#3 Virginia Tech vs. #14 South Dakota State

#6 Oklahoma vs. #11 Indiana

Columbus, Ohio

#2 Michigan State vs. #15 Stony Brook

#7 Cincinnati vs. #10 San Francisco

West (Anaheim, CA):

Columbia, South Carolina

#1 Virginia vs. #16 Cal State Bakersfield

#8 Auburn vs. #9 Minnesota

Salt Lake City, Utah

#4 Nevada vs. #13 Texas State

#5 Buffalo vs. #12 Hofstra

Hartford, Connecticut

#3 North Carolina vs. #14 North Texas

#6 Washington vs. #11 Syracuse/Temple

San Jose, California

#2 Gonzaga vs. #15 Lehigh

#7 Maryland vs. #10 Florida

The Bubble Breakdown:

The tournament bubble continues to simmer down as each day of conference basketball passes, but it’s still a very log-jammed one like it has been in recent years. Here’s a breakdown of the last few teams that made it and the last few that are just outside the cut line right now:

IN:

Last Team In: Temple Owls (15-5, 5-2 AAC)

Temple was on the verge of pulling out a must-needed quality win today at home against Cincinnati, but they folded under pressure, blowing a 14 point lead in the second half. They’re squarely on the bubble and will likely be kicked off if they lose to Houston on the road on Thursday night. They don’t have the schedule to make up for a loss there, and so it’s up to the Owls to earn their spot on this list for next week and beyond.

Second To Last Team In: Baylor Bears (13-6, 4-2 Big 12)

Baylor has quietly put itself on the bubble radar after not being taken seriously when Big 12 conference play began. They sit at 4-2 thus far in the conference, and nearly beat Kansas at home a few weeks ago. They did beat Texas Tech, however, which added a huge Quadrant 1 victory to their schedule. Going on the road to beat West Virginia was good for them as they didn’t suffer a bad loss, and it was also impressive to see them beat fellow tournament squad Alabama yesterday.

Third To Last Team In: Ohio State Buckeyes (13-6, 3-5 Big Ten)

It’s crazy how fast Ohio State has fallen from being ranked #13 in the nation to being unranked and struggling in the gauntlet that is the Big Ten. Losing to the Big Ten bottom-feeder in Rutgers didn’t help this case. They are 3-4 in Quadrant 1 Games, and 2-2 in Quadrant 2 Games, which certainly doesn’t make for a terrible resume. But they’ll definitely have to be picking up some more solid wins in the regular season to help pick them up off the bubble.

Fourth To Last Team In: Syracuse Orange (14-6, 5-2 ACC)

Until Saturday night’s blowout loss to Virginia Tech, Syracuse continued to claw its way further from the brink of the bubble. They are 2-2 in Quadrant 1 games and certainly display the talent of a tournament squad, but they’ve had some tough losses to swallow. Losing to Old Dominion at home will hurt them, as well as losing to one of the ACC’s worst teams in Georgia Tech at home. Beating Duke on the road was huge towards their chances, but they need to keep winning in order to really feel safe from the bubble.

OUT:

First Team Out: Pittsburgh Panthers (12-8, 2-5 ACC)

With wins against Louisville and Florida State, the Panthers are definitely in the bubble conversation but they still need to win some more games to get over their losing record in ACC play. Oh, and their non-conference schedule was brutally easy, so that won’t get them any favors from the selection committee. The good thing for Pittsburgh is that they’ve played their hard part of the ACC Schedule, and there are plenty of winnable ACC games on the schedule in February and March.

Second Team Out: VCU Rams (14-6, 5-2 A-10)

To get a bid in the big dance, VCU will probably have to just go out and win the Atlantic 10 to secure an automatic bid. But there’s a small shot for an at-large berth if the Rams can win out or win most of their remaining games. Losing to Davidson shook off a huge resume opportunity for them, but they aren’t dead yet. They still have a Quadrant 1 win from defeating Texas on the road in December, but they’ll need more of a resume than that to make the tournament.

Third Team Out: Arizona State Sun Devils (14-6, 5-3 Pac-12)

Arizona State has been struggling in the weak PAC-12, so that has started to offset what was a really solid non-conference resume. Losing to a weak Utah club at home to start the month of January really hurt the Sun Devils, as did losing to Stanford on the road a few weeks ago. They are 3-1 in Quadrant 1 games, but they do have a really bad Quadrant 4 loss that they suffered to Princeton at home. They’ve certainly got their work cut out for them as we near the start of Fabulous February.

Fourth Team Out: Butler Bulldogs (12-9, 3-5 Big East)

Butler’s 0-2 week was very tough for their bubble hopes, as they slid from inside the field to farther on the outside than they’d like to be. They’ve got a huge resume building opportunity on Wednesday at home against #12 Marquette. With road games at Marquette and Villanova still left in February/March, Butler has some great chances to grab some pivotal wins as they remain on the tournament bubble.

Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed my first ever Bracketology Breakdown. If you want to see more content like this, let me know on my Twitter @TBeckmann24. Feel free to ask questions and share thoughts to me there as well. Have a great and blessed day! Peace!

The Obstructed College Basketball Thoughts-January 6

I have ignored one of my newest passions on here in terms of writing about it this season. Though I have not written about it since the season as begun, I have been following it fairly close and have really dug into the college season. People say “oh, I only care about college basketball when it comes to March.” I hate that. Yes, I know in college basketball it is a different vibe and tone to college football (i.e. if you lose once or twice, nothing bad happens to the big schools). But just watch a game on TV at Duke, Kentucky, Virginia, Butler, Indiana, etc. Tell it to those people. So let’s do some talking about the college basketball season as I am going to try to make it a weekly update now.

MORE CONFERENCES ARE REALLY INVOLVED IN COLLEGE BASKETBALL: What I mean is that we are not just seeing the ACC being the leaders of the pack. Or the Big East. Or the Big Ten. Conferences like the SEC (outside of Kentucky), Mountain West, and others joining the fray. We even see Buffalo from the MAC conference in the top 25 and for a few weeks we saw SoCon power Furman in there (keep an eye on this conference as well). The one conference that hasn’t been as strong is the PAC-12 (this conference has been getting black eyes lately haven’t they?). I have a feeling the tournament will be very wide open for a lot of teams.

ZION WILLIAMSON HAS BEEN THE MOST EXCITING PLAYER IN RECENT MEMORY FOR COLLEGE BASKETBALL: One of the few teams I will never cheer for (unless I take a visit to Cameron Indoor Stadium for a game) is Duke. But Zion Williamson is must-see TV for me. I know this isn’t much of a surprise as many love to see what this guy can do, but for me, I don’t see any one player in college basketball stopping this guy. He is probably the #1 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, but do yourself a favor and watch this guy play if you haven’t.

Tennessee is rolling.

THE SEC MAY BE STRONGER IN BASKETBALL THAN IN FOOTBALL: We always have the vibe of hearing the SEC is Kentucky’s conference like the Big 12 is Kansas’s conference. However, after yesterday’s loss to Alabama Kentucky may have four other SEC schools ranked ahead of them. Tennessee is looking very strong while Auburn and Mississippi State are all ahead of them (or in Mississippi State’s case, will be ahead when the new rankings come out). As for Kentucky, it seems like the “one-and-done” players aren’t as prevalent there and they are adjusting more to playing a team game. Something just doesn’t seem right, but honestly once they get it figured out, I’d be worried on the Cats too. Another team to look at will be Alabama as it looks like Avery Johnson is quietly building a decent program there.

Michigan routed Villanova in the rematch this season.

IS THIS THE YEAR THE BIG TEN BREAKS THEIR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP DROUGHT? Michigan is undefeated and ranked #2. Michigan State is ranked #8. Ohio State is probably playing above their heads right now and ranked in the top 20 (even after their loss to the Spartans yesterday) and then you have Nebraska and Iowa ranked. Michigan looks super tough to beat and may be the one team that could bring down Duke in the tournament. And you figure Michigan State to be in the mix. The good news is with Michigan getting the love, Michigan State can really do some damage quietly. But right now the lone two teams to really have the best shot at cutting the nets in early April are from the Great Lake State.

DON’T SLEEP ON THE AMERICAN CONFERENCE: Houston is the lone team in the conference ranked. However, you have a few other teams in there creating a lot of noise, such as UCF. The Knights could make a lot of noise the rest of the way too and be ranked really soon. They have a great backcourt in BJ Taylor and Aubrey Dawkins. And then they have a skyscraper in Tacko Fall (7’6) who can do some damage. The only thing standing in their way is any injury issues as Taylor and Fall were hurt all last year. Other teams to keep an eye on will be Cincinnati and the surprise team in the American so far South Florida (who wasn’t expected to do anything this year).

Buffalo has been dominant to this point.

THE MAC IS MAKING A PUSH: Buffalo we know (13-1 so far) and ranked #20 (and probably higher after today). But Central Michigan (12-2), Toledo (12-2), and Kent State (11-3) all have strong starts themselves. There are certain conferences in this area that are starting to fall backwards a good bit (Conference USA, A10) and the MAC could be that “next” rung of conferences that could be a tough out in tournament time.

Furman’s upset over Villanova was one of the biggest moments in the season so far.

CAUSE FOR PANIC AT VILLANOVA? The defending champions are currently unranked. However, some can attribute to the slow start when they got smacked by Michigan at home in the rematch while the next game Furman nailed them. An upset by Penn and a road loss in Kansas has given the Wildcats an unrank. But Jay Wright is an excellent coach and come March that team will right the ship when all is said and done.

ST. JOHN’S IS BACK: Chris Mullin is finally getting the Red Storm rolling. The lone loss has been a buzzer beater to rival Seton Hall, but they have been playing tough ball. Shamorie Ponds is becoming a star in college and Auburn transfer Mustapha Heron has been a godsend. They could be playing late in the tournament with those two alone.

-Fan in the Obstructed Seat

Twitter

Facebook

Rebuilding not an issue as Chris Mack’s Louisville career started off nearly perfect in 2018

When the news broke that Chris Mack would become the new head coach for the Louisville Cardinals men’s basketball team, most fans were very excited. The longtime Xavier coach was a proven winner, but had yet to make a Final Four run in eight NCAA Tournament appearances. Mack compiled an impressive 215-97 record at Xavier, and his Musketeer teams only missed the big dance once, while making it to the second weekend of the tournament four times.

Despite the hire and Mack’s past success, some fans and people around college basketball stayed the course, worrying about possible further ramifications from the FBI probe that helped Rick Pitino find his way out. These people worried of the difficulties that the new leader of the Cardinals would encounter when recruiting. How would Mack recruit with the ongoing FBI investigation and the lingering possibility of future sanctions for the program?

Mack answered that question with a definitive answer, saying he wasn’t worried about this and had confidence in his ability to recruit top tier talent to play for the historic basketball program. He wasn’t wrong at all, as he landed his first commitment of the new era at Louisville before June began in Josh Nickelberry. Nickelberry, a four star 6’4 guard from North Carolina, is ranked as the 99th best recruit in the 2019 class. Mack landed him over top 25 programs such as Auburn, North Carolina, and Virginia Tech.

In September, Mack continued to load up on the class of 2019, this time by getting a commitment from four star forward Jaelyn Withers. Withers stands in at six feet eight inches and hails from the city of Cleveland, Ohio, ranking as the 86th best player in the class. The phenomenal month of September continued as Mack landed a Texas product in 6’6 forward Samuell Williamson. Williamson became Mack’s best commit yet, as he ranked as the 47th best player in the entire 2019 class, and Mack landed him over Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas A&M, and Texas Tech.

Mack’s great month didn’t stop there, as he picked up two more commitments from Louisville Trinity four-star combo guard David Johnson and three-star Huntington Prep forward Quinn Slazinski. Johnson is the best player in the state of Kentucky, and ranks as the 73rd best player in the nation. Slazinski is lesser known by recruiting services but has good potential to thrive in Chris Mack’s system.

Mack closed out his 2019 recruiting class with a commitment from his most prized recruit yet. Meet Aidan Igiehon, a 6’10 big man from Lawrence Woodmere Academy in New York. Igiehon is a consensus top 50 prospect on all recruiting services and ranks as the best player in the entire state of New York according to 247sports.com. He’s already a fan favorite amongst the Cardinal faithful and he closed out the impressive recruiting class that was nicknamed the “Super 6”. There was no longer any doubt about whether Mack would be able to recruit immediately when he came into Louisville.

Now it was the time for Mack to answer the other question that was asked by many fans when he was hired: How would this upcoming Louisville team fare with the new system and no new recruits coming in? Mack had brought in graduate transfers to help the team in Samford guard Christen Cunningham, Richmond guard Khwan Fore, and SMU big man Akoy Agau. All three players had the opportunity to make a significant impact in their one season with the program.

It’s not to say that Mack came into a program devoid of talent however, as there was still plenty of young talent that hadn’t played much in 2017. Jordan Nwora, Darius Perry, and Malik Williams were all former four-star recruits in the class of 2017, and they all ranked in the top 100 of their class. Mack also had a few talented veterans returning in combo guard VJ King, hustling forward Dwayne Sutton, and sharpshooter Ryan McMahon. He would also be able to coach Steven Enoch, a 6’10 big man who transferred to Louisville from Connecticut two years ago and was now eligible to play.

They were ready to start the new era of Louisville Cardinal basketball, but the schedule would be tough, and they weren’t projected to win very many games. They were picked to finish 11th in the ACC in the preseason and were not projected to make the NCAA Tournament in any preseason projections. Experts felt that it would be a rebuilding year for Coach Mack and the Cardinals. They were going to face a good number of ranked opponents in their non-conference schedule, including #5 Tennessee, and #9 Michigan State. But they weren’t backing down from the challenge.

The Cards opened the season with three victories at the KFC Yum! Center over Nicholls State, and Southern. The third win was a mildly impressive victory over America East Conference favorite Vermont. Mack’s team was now set to hit the tough stretch of the non conference slate as they headed to Brooklyn for the NIT Season Tip-Off. They contended in the semifinals with #5 Tennessee, but ultimately ran out of gas in the final five minutes of a hope inspiring 92-81 loss. Two nights later, they took on a very talented Marquette squad. While the Cardinals led most of the game, some bad late game calls swung the game into the favor of the Golden Eagles, and Louisville lost both of its games in Brooklyn.

Sitting at 3-2, Chris Mack’s squad was still in search of their signature non-conference win as they headed home to host #9 Michigan State. The Cardinals got off to a hot start, leading by six at the half. Michigan State didn’t go away however, but neither did these Cards. With a career-high 24 points, junior guard Ryan McMahon led the team to a gutsy 82-78 overtime victory to spark hope for the fans. Fans were pumped when the buzzer sounded, as Louisville basketball looked like it was back with the team’s first win over a ranked team in nearly a year.

The Cardinals continued to feed off the energy from the big win the following Saturday when they traveled to New Jersey to take on Seton Hall in a true road game. Louisville struggled early, but another gutsy performance by the team and a late dagger from McMahon helped them to a big resume building 70-65 road win over the Pirates. As they returned back home, they continued their hot stretch with an 86-41 rout of Central Arkansas led by 21 points for sophomore forward Jordan Nwora.

The tough slate picked up once again as Louisville traveled to Bloomington to take on a young Indiana Hoosiers squad. They led the game for most of the afternoon, but the late game struggles remained a problem for Mack’s team. When Indiana took their first lead with under nine minutes to play, they never looked back. Jordan Nwora and Christen Cunningham were the only players who had consistent success scoring against the Hoosiers, as Nwora had 24 points and Cunningham had 16 in a tough 68-67 road loss. Fans still remained confident despite the loss, realizing that this team was young and still relatively inexperienced.

The Cardinals would be returning home for the rest of the non-conference slate and started off playing two tough mid-major programs in Atlantic Sun favorite Lipscomb and a talented Kent State team. Lipscomb played the Cards tough down the stretch, but Jordan Nwora scored 22 points and Malik Williams grabbed 13 rebounds in a 72-68 thrilling victory. Louisville dominated Kent State however, winning 83-70 as Christen Cunningham led the team in scoring with his season-high 17 points.

Louisville continued its winning streak earlier tonight with a gritty 73-59 victory over a tough nosed Robert Morris ballclub. Despite trailing Robert Morris by 11 during the first half and by 8 early in the second half, the Cards never panicked. They made a huge late run to run away with the victory. Jordan Nwora had another phenomenal game with 19 points and 13 rebounds while Steven Enoch and Dwayne Sutton had 16 and 14 points, respectively. And now they’ll close out the slate with a big game at home against the Kentucky Wildcats in the Battle of the Bluegrass. You won’t want to miss that one on December 29th at 2:00 p.m. on ESPN2.

The ACC is ridiculously tough this year as well and Louisville will face a rigorous conference slate that Mack expects they will be prepared for due to the difficult competition they experienced in the non-conference schedule. The first eye opening game is when they take on #9 North Carolina in Chapel Hill on January 12th. January will be their month to stockpile ACC victories as the only other game in the month that looks to be tough is a home game against NC State. But anything can happen in college basketball.

They’ll face an extremely tough stretch when they face the Tar Heels at home on February 2nd, and then have a quick turnaround to face #13 Virginia Tech in Blacksburg on the 4th. The stretch doesn’t end there though as the Cards will then head to Tallahassee to face #11 Florida State before coming back home for a prime time date with #2 Duke. They also will play #5 Virginia twice, along with playing a gritty Syracuse team on the road. So it’s safe to say the ACC won’t be a walkthrough by any means.

If Louisville goes far, I will bet that it will be due to the unprecedented rise of sophomore forward Jordan Nwora. Nwora is coming into his own as the premier impact player of this team. Thus far in 2018, he’s averaging 17.7 points, 8.1 rebounds, 1.4 assists, and 1.2 steals while shooting 49% from the field and 39% from beyond the arc. He can’t do it all by himself though, as he’ll need contributions from all of his teammates along the way. Christen Cunningham will have to be the point guard and captain that the team needs to run the offense down the stretch. Dwayne Sutton will need to continue hustling and playing hard and the bench as a whole needs to keep contributing. But all in all, for Chris Mack and Louisville, the future is bright.

The Pros & Cons of Trae Young

I posted this in part for two reasons: First reason was that ESPN put up an article on him whether or not he was superstar or bust (which ESPN pretty much decided he is the former-more on that).  The second reason the local radio show talked about him and how the Atlanta Hawks should take Trae Young at 3.

And one of the local personalities put on his Twitter site a vote saying should the Hawks draft Trae Young at #3?  72% said no.

So, why?  As talented as Trae Young is, why are a lot of people going sour on him and fast?

To me, Trae Young was the most polarizing player in college basketball last year, well over Duke’s Grayson Allen.  It is interesting given how Allen has been labeled as a dirty player/spoiled brat by many with his actions over the years at Duke while you never saw anything parallel to Young at Oklahoma.  But what made fans turn really sour was the overexposure by notably ESPN of Young from the minute the college basketball season started until Oklahoma was bounced in their first game of the tournament.  It was like anytime you saw a game, the announcers calling it were spending 5-10 minutes on Trae Young (even if the game was between Duke and North Carolina) and then if Oklahoma was playing a game on ESPN, there would be a box above the “bottom line” tracking Young’s stats the whole time (memo to ESPN, if they really wanted to see what Young was doing, they’d turn over to that game).  If Young had a big night but Oklahoma lost, it made the top story and pretty much ignored the fact the Sooners lost.  ESPN had already pretty much called him the next Steph Curry (and still has).

With the overkill of the media coverage on Young, the “smart” fans who have been very critical of ESPN over the years for their coverage of players, teams, etc. soured on Young to the point where he became a bad guy.  He was the poster boy for ESPN, therefore made fans have dislike for him, though it wasn’t HIS fault.  And when he had a bad game, fans rejoiced and pretty much pointed at ESPN via social media and other places saying “ha! told you so!”  (It was the similar thing we saw the year before with Lonzo Ball at UCLA but more people probably wanted him to fail more because of LaVar)

So now Young, after one year with the Sooners, is making the jump to the NBA.  And people are taking sides of what will he be, the next great thing or the next great bust?  To me, it is unfair to throw that onto a 19-year old.  My personal take is and has been that he needed to stay one more year in college to polish some parts of his game because I can see him being a great player in the NBA for years to come.  And yes, I can see him being a bust too.

So here are the pros and cons to Trae Young in my eyes.

PROS

Trae

HE CAN SHOOT:  No questions on this one.  Young can shoot anywhere from inside the arc to a little behind the arc.  Don’t leave him open for anything.  He will bury it.

HE HAS EXCELLENT COURT VISION:  Of all the things about Trae Young I liked, I REALLY liked how he saw the court in games.  To me it is the most underrated aspect of all his strengths.  I saw games where he just made passes that not many NBA players could see or make.  And he was passing the ball and seeing the court, Oklahoma was the most exciting team in college basketball.  He could net 13-14 assists per game in the NBA with a solid roster around him and he doesn’t necessarily need to be a 25 point per game player with it.

HE NEVER LOSES HIS COOL:  When conference play kicked in, Young was very much ridiculed on the road such as Kansas and Texas Tech (where they were especially rough on him).  Yes, he didn’t play well in those games but he also never snapped and pulled a Grayson Allen either.  For a 19-year old that is pretty good.

HE WON’T HAVE TO DEAL WITH FULL-COURT PRESSES IN THE NBA:  One knock was how teams started to adjust and press Young the whole way thus really limiting what he did as the season continued.  He won’t have that in the NBA where they press him as much which means he can set things up, see the court and do what is necessary.  Adding on, defenses in college are far different than in the NBA so he may be just fine.

WHOEVER DRAFTS HIM WILL HAVE AT LEAST A FEW GAMES ON ESPN:  Let’s face it: ESPN LOVES this kid.  Anywhere he goes, ESPN will try to put on national TV, whether it is the Hawks, Magic, Grizzlies, etc. He is their boy, just like Lonzo Ball was a year ago.  More national recognition will mean more of a lot of things: spike in home attendance, spike in revenue for jersey sales, etc.

CONS:

Alabama

SHOT SELECTION CAN BE A MASSIVE ISSUE:  Young is a good shooter, but sometimes he gets it in his head that he can shoot anywhere on the court.  There were more than a few games where he was near the half court line shooting the ball with a defender in his face and missing by a wide margin, wasting a possession for Oklahoma.  Or if he’s pretty much covered up, he will force a shot thinking he has to take that shot.  He has to be smarter with his shot choice in the NBA.

DEFENSE IS UNDERWHELMING:  Young had been beaten by a lot of point guards last year on the other end especially when conference play began and teams made adjustments on Young.  He was often found giving up 20 points to opposing point guards in the Big 12.  Granted it is the Big 12 and one of the top conferences in the nation, but dealing with the likes of Westbrook, Irving, Paul, and Curry are a far different animal.  He isn’t as aggressive on the defensive end and that is a major problem.  Size has been attributed to his issues on defense, but I’m tired of hearing that.  Chris Paul is a solid defender and has been, but he’s only 6 foot, an inch smaller than Young.  Some have said Young doesn’t have the muscle tone.  I don’t know about that, but he’s got to be more physical and aggressive on the defensive end (which he wasn’t at Oklahoma) regardless or else point guards will have big games every night on Young.

HE IS TURNOVER PRONE:  As crazy as this sounds, I don’t take Young’s turnover rate too high as we see Westbrook have it.  With Westbrook and then Young in college, they were major focal points to the offense so I do expect it to be higher than the normal rate.  However, and I don’t think it is all of Young’s fault here is I think how he sees the passing lanes, they are far more advanced than a regular point guard, especially in college.  If he’s with the right team with talented players on it, those turnover rates could drop.

DRIVEN FOR AN MVP OR A RING?  Young has said he wants to lead the NBA in points and assists.  Great.  But here is what I will say: what separates the likes of LeBron James, Kevin Durant, and Steph Curry from the likes of Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony, and a few others is the drive to win at any cost.  I felt like the divide between Westbrook and Durant in Oklahoma City was in part because Westbrook wanted to “get his” share in the 2016 Western Conference Finals against the Warriors after Durant had terrorized Golden State in the first 4 games.  After Durant left, Westbrook “got his” with Oklahoma City, being the stat guy and MVP.  However, two straight years of failing to get out of the first round.  For Anthony, it always has felt that he is willing to win, but only if the team revolves around him, even now despite his prime being well past him.  Now the big comparison that Young is getting is to Steph Curry.  I don’t ever remember a comment made like that from Curry.  And I don’t think Curry cares one bit if he leads the league in points and/or assists.  He is a team player on a team who has won 3 of the last 4 NBA championships because they do play a TEAM GAME.

HE IS STILL YOUNG:  19 years old we are talking here.  And this isn’t necessarily a “con” but I think with having the national media like ESPN, CBS, and FOX practically proclaiming you as the next “chosen one” in the NBA, you cannot help but to get an ego.  I think Young’s ego got a little out of hand.  But I also think he got gut-punched by social media as many ripped this kid over and over to the point where now he wants to show his “haters” that he can play at a top level.  I think the best thing he needs to do is tune ALL of it out, but it is a challenge for somebody his age.  It’s a challenge for even most veterans in the NBA.  So to me, he really doesn’t need to listen too much on the media, good or bad.

MY OBSTRUCTED TAKE:  I don’t see Young being a Steph Curry.  At all.  That isn’t to say he will be a poor NBA player or a bust.  However, I think that Young will have to hit a major learning experience on how to play in the NBA and how to run point guard in the NBA.  My concern is he is already thinking he will have to take the league by storm and try to overdo everything.  It is why I think he struggled at Oklahoma in the 2nd half of the season.  He has to stay within himself and his skills to be that star he hopes and not try to be somebody else.  And honestly I can see that.  But the biggest thing about Trae Young is going to be this: if he learns on how to play point in the NBA similar to Chris Paul, then a team will be very fortunate to draft him.

WHERE DOES HE GO?  It sounds like the Hawks may be the one team that seems very high on Young (given GM Travis Schlenk’s prior job of being in Golden State and drafting Curry), but not too high enough at the #3 spot.  Could Atlanta trade down with a team like Dallas where they are interested in Luka Doncic and then the Hawks pick up Young at #5?  It’s all hearsay at this point.  If the Hawks don’t get him, one mock by Sports Illustrated had Young to the Cavaliers, regardless of if they have LeBron next year.  Another place he could end up is New York, where he could be a nice duo with Kristaps Porzingis.  But time will tell come Thursday night.

-Fan in the Obstructed Seat

Twitter

Facebook

 

What if Lebron Went to College?

The NCAA Championship ended last night with Villanova dominating Michigan 79-62 and taking home the hardware for their second championship in three years. The tournament is one of my personal favorites when it comes to sporting events. It is where upsets happen regularly, legends can shine, and we get to see future NBA players competing for a trophy. As an NBA fan, seeing future young stars is one of my favorite parts of March Madness and this got me and some other writers at PSF thinking… What if Lebron had played in college? As many of you know, Lebron wasn’t the first NBA player to straight from high school to the NBA. There were many legends that came before him such as Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett, and Moses Malone just to name a few. Lebron is the most interesting though, as he is arguably the greatest player of all time and had a great rookie season playing for the Cleveland Cavaliers after they drafted him first overall. In honor of March Madness, I want to look at what could have been if Lebron went to college.

Recruiting

In the class of 2003, Lebron was ranked first at his position as well as first nationally among all high school recruits. He had many offers all around the country from the best schools but he had high interest in 6 of them. Those schools include Duke, Florida, Kentucky, Louisville, North Carolina, and Ohio State. Which one would he have chosen? Lebron has said before that he would have gone to Ohio State and has even shown his support for their athletic teams, especially football. In an interview done by ESPN, Lebron mentions specifically that he would have wanted to be a part of March Madness and says that is something that he thinks he would have enjoyed.

Ohio State

In the 2003-2004 season, Ohio State had a very disappointing year as they went 14-16 overall and had a record of 6-10 in conference play. They finished 9th in the Big 10 conference standings and lost to Indiana 83-69 in the first round of the Big 10 tournament. They did not make the NCAA tournament that year either. It’s pretty clear that Lebron would have had his work cut out for him if he decided to stay in his home state and go play for the Buckeyes that year.  Lebron had a great rookie season in the NBA as he was 1 of 4 players in the history of the league to average 20-5-5 (the others being Big O, MJ, and Tyreke Evans). With Lebron, the Cleveland Cavaliers won 18 more games than they did a season before without him. He clearly had value to add to a team and he potentially could have dragged this Ohio State team to the NCAA tournament. With the way Lebron played his rookie year, I have no doubt that Lebron would have dominated in college and it would have been fun to watch. On a team where he was far and away the best player, it would have been even more interesting to see what he could do.

Ring Chasing

Out of the 6 colleges Lebron showed high interest in, I think the best place for him to win an NCAA Championship would have been Duke. Duke had a great team that year lead by two young stars in J.J. Redick and Loul Deng who were both averaging 15 ppg.  Duke had an overall record of 31-6 as well as a conference record of 13-3 which allowed them to finish first in the ACC conference standings. Duke played well in their conference tournament and the NCAA tournament but fell short in both. They lost in the ACC championship game to Maryland 95-87 and then went on to lose in the Final Four to #2 UConn by only 1 point. UConn would go on to win it all in the championship game against Georgia Tech. There is no way anyone could know for sure what could’ve been but, both of those games were extremely close and could have easily been won by the Blue Devils with a player like Lebron James on their team. A game changer like Lebron James, surrounded by great players, and a Hall of Fame coach in Mike Krzyzewski orchestrating it all seems like a pretty safe bet to win a title.

 

The Obstructed Final Four Preview

I apologize for not putting this out earlier as I am a college basketball die-hard, but of course, busy week as always.

The Final Four has been a product of your favorites getting there (Kansas, Villanova), a team that many thought could be a sleeper (Michigan) and of course, your annual Cinderella team (Loyola Chicago) on their magical run.  So it has been a mix of upsets and great games.  So what should we expect in the games on Saturday?

Honestly, anything and everything.

Basketball.jpg

Loyola-Chicago vs. Michigan

Of course, outside of the first 16 seed to win a game in UMBC over Virginia, Loyola of Chicago has made an amazing run, really putting down teams in the tournament in a decisive manner, notably Kansas State to get to the Final Four.  The rallying cry has been Sister Jean, the 98 year-old nun who follows the Ramblers in her wheelchair and has been the feel-good story of the tournament.  Of course, the Ramblers have played great basketball, probably playing the best team ball among any of the 4 remaining teams (and that says something given how the others have played great as well).  But it is a seasoned group, a cohesive group, and a well-prepared group headed by coach Porter Moser.  He has built a program that had struggled until the last few years and had the breakout season this year going 32-5 and winning the Wichita State-less Missouri Valley Conference (ironic how Wichita State leaves, loses in the 1st round and the Valley gets a Final Four team all in the year after).  But the Ramblers are a very balanced team and can really frustrate others with that balance and a good passing team.  Michigan on the other hand, has been a sleeper for most of the season in part because of their in-state rival Spartans expecting to do big things while Purdue has been front & center and Ohio State came out of nowhere.  But right now Michigan has turned it on since conference tournament play began, being that team that plays like no tomorrow.  John Beilein is becoming a coach who also prepares his team very well and one of the best in-game adjustment coaches today.  And like Loyola-Chicago, Michigan is a very balanced squad who can shoot, attack the basket, rebound, play physical/aggressive defense, etc.  And they can beat you in a number of ways.  The questions will be can Loyola get baskets down low against the bigger Michigan players, notably Moritz Wagner and can stop Wagner from doing whatever he wants?  The other question is if the game is on the line and Michigan is ahead late, can they hit free throws?  The Wolverines struggled for the most part at the line for good fraction of the season, and have shot 69% in the tourney at the charity stripe.  However, they can have games where they can sink them at the right times.  Those are the key questions I have about the game.  Loyola’s key thing is to really find a way from keeping Wagner not to have a dominant game, and that may decide it.  I think Beilein will end up finding ways to get the ball to Wagner and he will have a game and it will take tons of pressure off of Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rhakman which may be too lethal for the Ramblers to handle.

MY PICK: Michigan 67, Loyola-Chicago 61.  I think Loyola-Chicago will have too many fits of finding a way to stop Wagner while the clock strikes midnight for Sister Jean’s squad.  But needless to say, whoever wins this I will be pulling for in the national championship.

 

Basketball

Kansas vs. Villanova

Despite all of the years since the Jayhawks last National Championship in 2008, Kansas has only made 1 Final Four appearance since and they’ve been pretty much the nation’s top dog for the last 10 years and been favored to be in this position EVERY YEAR.  Of course, the one year many went “yeah, they’re not that hot compared to prior years” is the year they do return.  And they get in with guard play and perhaps more reliant on the three than last year’s squad.  Villanova on the other hand, has probably made the argument of being the best team in the nation all year as they have put on clinic after clinic against opposing Big East squads and again in the conference tournament and their games against Alabama, West Virginia and Texas Tech.  They seem as well-oiled as any other team that has come through to cut the nets.  They play as versatile as any team in the nation as they are also a very trigger-happy squad from beyond the arc (as is Kansas), but has numerous guys to shoot the rock from beyond the arc, including their big men, which will create a problem for the Jayhawks big man Udoka Azubuike if he has to go out on the perimeter to defend, which means the Wildcats can attack the basket religiously and Kansas did have problems of letting Duke do that to them in the Elite Eight last week, and that’s when he was down low.  Of course, there will be a few things to me that will decide this game: which backcourt  will have the better game?  Will it be Villanova’s Killer B’s (Brunson, Bridges, and Booth) and Donte DiVincenzo or Kansas’s group of Graham, Newman, Svi, and Vick?  The other question will be, which team can stop the other’s 3-point shooting?  As good as both are, they are equally as good as defending the three.  So those will be my questions about this game, which to me will be must-see TV.

MY PICK:  Villanova 81, Kansas 77.  Of course anytime I ever pick Villanova they lose, so Kansas fans, you need to be happy.  That said, I think the fact that the Wildcats can post up and attack Kansas if they can get Azubuike out of the paint will create major problems for the Jayhawks and I think Nova has slightly more depth to their roster.  But I wouldn’t be surprised if Kansas wins.

That’s it for the Final Four round….will it be an all Catholic school championship, a Wildcat/Wolverine fight, a Final Four rematch from 2013, or will the Ramblers take on another mighty Kansas school?  Look forward to some great games!

-Fan in the Obstructed Seat

Twitter

Facebook  

Michael Porter Jr declares for NBA draft

Michael Porter Jr has declared for the NBA Draft after only playing  2 1/4  total. games in college. Yes you heard that right. Michael Porter jr was a stand out in high school but the same cant be said for his college career that was cut short due to injury. During his first game in college he went down after only 2 minutes due to a gruesome back injury. He did have surgery to repair that injury but was sidelined for the rest of the season.

He made his return in the SEC tournament and loss to Georgia posting 12 points off of 5-17 shooting and 8 rebounds. He rebounded a little in the opening round of the NCAA tournament with a double double(16 points and 10 rebounds) but also lost to the Florida State Seminoles.

Michael Porter doesnt have a college resume of great wins or anything to back him up but his stock has not dropped. Before he was injured he was projected to go #1 in this up coming draft and still after his injury he is expected to be in the top 5. I guess you can say that teams are hoping for a Kyrie irving like affect when he gets drafted but for now all we have is his high school days to build his resume off of until he is drafted.

2018 NCAA Men’s Basketball FINAL FOUR Game Previews And Predictions

The tournament shrunk from 64 to 32, from 32 to 16, 16 to 8, and now 8 to 4. As we head to San Antonio, four college basketball teams remain alive in the fight for the NCAA championship. There was a lot of tremendous action in the second weekend but personally I thought the first weekend was better, but it’s not really fair because there were about double the games in the first weekend.

Loyola-Chicago continued its cinderella story with a 78-62 victory over Kansas State that sent the Ramblers to the Final Four for the first time since they won the national title in 1963. Michigan withstood a late push by upset-hopeful Florida State and advanced to the Final Four with a 58-54 victory. Villanova played forty minutes of solid basketball en route to a 71-59 victory over Texas Tech. The best game of the weekend was hands down the final game, a matchup between blue blood programs in Duke and Kansas. It was a back and forth battle and Grayson Allen’s potential game-winning jumper at the end of regulation rimmed out in the most heartbreaking fashion. We got five extra minutes of basketball in this one and Malik Newman made it his five minutes. He took over in overtime and led the Jayhawks to the Final Four in an 85-81 nail biter.

Do you need advice on these Final Four Games? Well don’t fear because I am here to help. I’m going to preview and give you my pick for each of the Final Four games. Let’s get right into it!

(Saturday, March 31st, 2018)

#3 Michigan vs. #11 Loyola-Chicago

(6:09 p.m. EST, TBS; San Antonio, TX)

Preview: In the first Final Four Game, the Ramblers efficient offense will clash heads with a Michigan team ranked third in adjusted defensive efficiency. It will be Loyola-Chicago’s toughest matchup yet in the tournament and they may need more magic. Loyola-Chicago is no slouch on the defensive end either however, as no opponent of theirs has scored over 70 points in a tournament game. The Ramblers are fairly inconsistent when it comes to limiting turnovers, and this could pose a problem down the stretch against the Wolverines tough defense. Michigan defends the three pointer very well which has shown to be a must against Loyola-Chicago. If they can halt the hot shooting Ramblers just a bit, then Michigan may run away with this one. But they’ve gone so far and this cinderella story is one that I’m not sure is going to end just yet. LOYOLA!

Pick: #11 Loyola-Chicago 66, #3 Michigan 62.

#1 Villanova vs. #1 Kansas

(8:49 p.m. EST, TBS; San Antonio, TX)

Preview: This is a battle of the top remaining seeds and blue blooded programs in Kansas and Villanova. This will be the game of the tournament in my opinion and you could very well say the NCAA champion will be the winner of this Final Four matchup. Jalen Brunson and Mikal Bridges are expected to carry the load for the Wildcats and Villanova can get joy from three point range, which causes a bevy of problems for opposing defenses. Villanova can’t get stale on the defensive end either though and they must keep chomping at the bit defensively at the Jayhawks. Kansas certainly could use a player of the year type performance from Big 12 POY Devonte’ Graham. They could also use a performance like the one Malik Newman had in the second half and overtime periods against Duke in their Elite 8 win. Graham has struggled as of late and it hasn’t been fatal for Kansas, but against the star power of Villanova, Graham will have to show up for Kansas to keep it interesting.

Pick: #1 Villanova 77, #1 Kansas 72.

2018 NCAA Men’s Basketball Bracket Breakdown: Elite Eight Game Previews And Predictions

*This story will be updated*

Oh my goodness. What a night of college basketball to start off the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament. Loyola-Chicago kept the train rolling with clutch shots as they overcame Nevada, 69-68, to advance to the Elite 8. Michigan’s offense came alive as they absolutely destructed Texas A&M 99-72 in the Sweet Sixteen. Kansas State and Kentucky played one of the more intense defensive games of the tournament, and both teams struggled to get going on offense. It resulted in a major upset as Kansas State upended Kentucky 61-58 to advance to the Elite Eight. A hot start helped propel Florida State to its third win as an underdog in this tournament as they defeated fourth seeded Gonzaga 75-60 to advance to the Elite Eight.

All of these results just keep adding on to what many believe has been the most action packed NCAA tournament ever. We will see a 9 or 11 seed in the Final Four, which is pretty crazy, and who knows, we may see more upsets that lead to one of the most interesting Final Fours in recent history. I’m here to give you my full Game Previews And Predictions for Each Elite Eight Game. This story will be updated Saturday with Friday’s winners. Let’s get right into it!

(Saturday, March 24th, 2018)

#9 Kansas State vs. #11 Loyola-Chicago

(6:09 p.m. EST, TBS; Atlanta, GA)

Preview: This is what the South Region has come to. But honestly, this excites me, there’s always room for a new program in the Final Four. Loyola-Chicago is everyone’s favorite cinderella story, reminding me of the VCU Rams and Butler Bulldogs teams that went to the Final Four. Loyola-Chicago’s efficient offense will take the court against the physical defense of Kansas State. A lot of Kansas State’s game depends on whether star Dean Wade will play a lot with his health. If he plays a lot, I can see the Wildcats winning this game, but if he doesn’t see much action, I’m going with the Ramblers. I’ve personally fallen in love with the Ramblers over the last few weeks and I’ve got no choice but to pick them to go to the Final Four.

Pick: #11 Loyola-Chicago 73, #9 Kansas State 67.

#3 Michigan vs. #9 Florida State

(8:49 p.m. EST, TBS; Los Angeles, CA)

Preview: Michigan looked alive offensively last night in its rout of Texas A&M. They’ve got the firepower to win games and John Beilein’s teams historically play well in March. Leonard Hamilton’s Seminoles have won in their first three games and they were underdogs in all three. They will be underdogs again against the Wolverines and I just don’t know if Terance Mann and Phil Cofer can keep up with this Wolverines team at its best. I think Moritz Wagner will have a career game and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman will be the counterforce alongside him. I’ve got the Wolverines winning this game to advance to the first Final Four since their runner-up appearance in the 2013 Final Four to Louisville.

Pick: #3 Michigan 82, #9 Florida State 71.