Doubting the King is never a good idea, and last night’s Laker win over Boston proved just that

On Thursday, February 7th, much of the talk in the NBA was surrounding the trade deadline. It usually is always like this on this big day, but this year it seemed somewhat different. Perhaps the biggest headline was the fact that it looked as if the Lakers weren’t going to acquire disgruntled superstar center Anthony Davis from the Pelicans. There had been a week of negotiating and leveraging between New Orleans and LA, but Pelicans general manager Dell Demps wasn’t ever seriously considering dealing the NBA’s best big man to the Lake Show.

Demps seemingly made his mind up on waiting to trade Davis until the summer, when the draft pick stacked Boston Celtics can enter the bidding war for the star. Demps also looks to love the idea of acquiring 2017 top three draft pick Jayson Tatum from the Celtics in a potential trade package. It became clear the Lakers were done for the day when they made a move to trade 21 year old center Ivica Zubac and veteran forward Michael Beasley to the rival Clippers for floor stretching center Mike Muscala. It might’ve been a panic move to trade away a young player who’d been contributing a ton for the team while LeBron James was out, but many are saying it was a move made primarily to add more shooting and create a roster spot for the buyout market.

A few days ago, the Lakers made their first trade deadline move, acquiring experienced shooting and defense from the Pistons in the form of forward Reggie Bullock. The buyout market name they’ve been connected to most is Carmelo Anthony, who isn’t as good as he once was, but still could be an impactful bench player for the Lakers. But enough of discussing players who aren’t yet on the roster or are possible additions, what happened last night at the TD Garden was a big statement for the Lakers and one that was much needed.

It honestly felt like there wasn’t even a game on this trade deadline day, but the Lakers were continuing their Eastern Conference road trip against the Boston Celtics, renewing a longtime rivalry between two NBA powerhouses. The Lakers were two and a half games out of the 8th seed in the West, and were just now getting healthy with LeBron James having returned a few games ago. But fans were worried, they hadn’t made a big splash at the deadline, and they were coming off a 42-point road loss to the Indiana Pacers on Tuesday night.

It looked as if another big blowout loss was going to be handed to the Lakers on Thursday night in the early stages of the game. The Lakers came out ice cold, missing shots inside the paint and out, and also struggling to shoot free throws. In the second quarter, Boston started connecting on open shots, and opened up a 53-35 lead when Luke Walton called for a timeout with less than seven minutes remaining. Social media was calling for Walton to be fired in order to send a message to the team, but what happened after this timeout was something no one could’ve expected.

The Lakers started playing fast-paced basketball, getting back to their preferred style of play. They also began hitting shots and making plays on defense, as they finished the half on a 22-13 run to cut the Celtics lead in half. The hot stretch continued as the Lake Show came out for the second half, taking the lead early in the third quarter. The Lakers hit nine threes in the quarter, including four from young rising star Kyle Kuzma, who is still finding a feel for his jumper. The Lakers led by six at the end of the third quarter, which by the way was a 42-point third quarter, and likely the team’s best quarter of the season.

But NBA fans knew that Boston wouldn’t let up easily, as they stormed back to take the lead and it looked as if they wouldn’t let it slip a second time. Kyrie Irving was getting hot, and the Celtics couldn’t seem to be stopped by LA. But they also couldn’t seem to stop the King, as LeBron made the fourth quarter his. He first hit a three with less than six minutes to go that got the Lakers within two. Two minutes later, James stepped back to make a 27 foot three point jumper to cut the lead to one.

The three was quickly answered by Kyrie Irving’s step back three pointer that put the lead back to four points. A possession later when Irving hit two free throws, many fans thought the Celtics were in a safe position and wouldn’t blow a six point lead in the final three minutes. With Boston doubling up on LeBron, the Lakers young core had to step up in the bright lights, and they proved to be ready for the challenge. Brandon Ingram hit a quick pull-up jumper to make it a four point game, and after Jayson Tatum missed a jumper, Ingram assisted on a sweet Kyle Kuzma floater.

The Celtics led 119-117 with less than three minutes remaining. They possibly could’ve put a dagger in the Lakers when Marcus Smart got open twice on their next possession. Smart, the most accurate shooter in the East since the new year, came up short on both attempts before the Lakers secured the rebound. Brandon Ingram drove inside and got fouled by Kyrie Irving, but the Lakers free throw struggles continued as Ingram only managed to hit one of two. After missing the second, Ingram committed a silly foul on an inbounds pass by basically tackling Kyrie, who made both free throws to give the Celtics a three point lead.

After Kyle Kuzma missed an easy inside shot, the Celtics ran the fast break and Irving found a wide open Marcus Morris in the corner for three, and he drilled it. With the Celtics up six with nearly a minute to play, it felt over. But it wasn’t over, and the Lakers didn’t fold under pressure. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope answered with an open corner three on an inbounds pass from Rajon Rondo. Then when Kyrie Irving lost control of the ball, Brandon Ingram stole it and ran the fast break. The former number two overall pick dished it off to LeBron, who nearly lost the ball out of bounds while driving to the rim on Kyrie and Al Horford. The older James made an acrobatic save that ended up in the hands of KCP, who quickly saw James getting back into the play in the corner. And just like we would expect from the greatest ever, James silenced the TD Garden crowd with a three pointer to tie the game at 124.

After the Celtics called a timeout, Jayson Tatum drew a foul on the inbounds play and was able to hit two free throws to give them the lead. The Lakers called a timeout and Luke Walton drew up a beautiful play that would get the focus on LeBron and open up Kuzma for three. It worked to perfection as Kuzma drilled the go-ahead three pointer with 18.5 seconds left. Kyrie Irving didn’t let up though, as he drove to the basket and got an angle for the go-ahead layup with 11 seconds left.

The Lakers had no timeouts, and Marcus Morris wasn’t letting LeBron get the ball, so Brandon Ingram brought the ball up quickly. He drove into the paint and went for an up and under layup that was heavily contested by Al Horford. The ball was batted around before Tyson Chandler hit it towards Rajon Rondo, who caught it and swished the game-winning mid range jumper as the buzzer sounded.

It was a huge win for a Lakers team that really needed it. They’d battled all night and came out on top with a storybook ending for the former Celtic point guard in Rondo. The floor general had a game for the ages in his return home, scoring 17 points on 7 of 11 shooting, dishing out 10 assists, and grabbing 7 rebounds. He also hit three of four three point attempts. The King dominated this game as well, scoring 28 points, grabbing 12 boards, and dishing out 12 assists in a great performance.

It was a team effort however, as the young guys continued to produce despite having all of this drama surrounding them as of late. Kyle Kuzma looks to be gaining confidence in his jumper, scoring 25 points and hitting five three pointers. Brandon Ingram struggled from the field (4 for 14), but he played tremendous defense on Kyrie Irving for a long portion of the night, and he made impact plays away from his scoring, recording seven assists. The veterans were contributors as well, with JaVale McGee putting up 17 points and 8 rebounds, Lance Stephenson scoring 14 points off the bench, and KCP hitting five threes in a 17 point bench performance.

After this win, it has certainly become clear that these Lakers are a playoff team with this mix of veterans and rising young players, but they’ll have to continue winning over the final two months of the season to secure their spot. And don’t forget that they played last night’s game without any of their new trade deadline additions and Lonzo Ball. The road to the playoffs won’t be easy, but it certainly got easier with the Clippers seemingly tanking by trading star forward Tobias Harris to Philly. This win could be the game that turns the season around, but we will all have to wait and see.

The team celebrated this win together and nobody could’ve expected this from a team that looked terrible and had no chemistry in that awful loss to the Pacers. With the trade deadline behind them, the Lakers young core was still in tact and they played more confidently on this night. Being embroiled in trade deadline rumors for a week had to have been tough and it definitely took a toll on these young guys, but they overcame these hardships and won this game, together. But the main takeaway from last night’s thriller is simply this: don’t doubt LeBron James, he’s playing some of his best basketball of his career, he’s finally healthy, and he’s still the King.

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What if Kobe came back?

As fans celebrate Mamba turning the big 40 he went ahead and made it clear that he is never returning to the game of basketball, well at least not as a player.

 

Last week rumors starting flying of Kobe  coming out of retirement to play in the BIG3 league but his agent went and shut that down as well. People thought that he may come back to play along Lebron in LA but now that will forever be a dream. The fans will continue to hope but one day we have to let that dream die….but what if? What if Kobe came back?

 

What if Kobe played alongside Lebron in LA?

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This is all hypothetical fun but you can not do anything but wonder what would that be like. For years we anticipated Kobe and Lebron battling each other for rings but we never got that chance. Kobe dominated on his time and when his time of dominance ended Lebron took over. These 2 players are in 2 different classes but there different skill sets could make music on the court if they played together.

 

Plus we cannot forget the level of young talent all around him that all have a little bit of mamba mentality in them.

Would Kobe still be Kobe?

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Kobe will always be Kobe and even 2 years removed he would probably still be one of the best scorers in the game. Over his long and legendary career Kobe averaged:

 

25 PPG/5REBs/4.7AST

 

Not too mention he is a 5 time NBA champion along with other accolades in his career. In his final year in the league is he averaged 17.6PPG/4REBs/3AST. But he went out with a bang dropping 60 against the Utah Jazz in his final game of his NBA career. 2 years removed i dont think Kobe would drop under 15 ppg if he came back and played alongside Lebron. Like i said this is all hypothetical so if i had to say Kobe would average 19/4/5 this upcoming season if he had returned. Lebron and Lonzo are both really good playmakers and i’m sure they would set up easy buckets for Kobe.

 

When it comes to 5 assist, Kobe would have Lebron of course who could score, Lonzo can knock down the 3 and create his own shots( even if he is inconsistent at times) and Kobe would be loaded with a bunch of scorers and shot creators that would make it easy for him to average 5 assist a night while playing maybe 25-30 mins a game.

 

Business or Passion?

A Kobe Bryant return to play alongside Lebron James would be all passion on his end but could it be a little bit of business? Seriously just think about how much the tickets would go up just to see both of these guys dawning purple and gold together for a season. Jersey sales, endorsement deals, commercials, hell even a LeKobe shoe would be created for witnessing history.

Never would we ever get to see 2 high profile hall of famers that stand alongside jordan as GOATs play on the same team ever again so you bet that it’s all passion for Kobe but you better believe that Jeanie and Magic would take that opportunity to make the most money out of this situation.

 

Could they win a championship?

The Lakers are automatically a playoff team with the addition of Lebron James. In the wild wild west even with Kobe they would probably finish 3rd seed at best but just to be safe lets say they are the 4th seed. They would probably make it out of the first round and i think Kobe’s ppg would go up to 22 ppg just because of his playoff experience and hunger.

 

A first round exit wouldn’t happen with this revamped Lakers team but i think a 2nd round exit would be the end of Kobes come back campaign as they would drop to the Rockets 4-2. Even with Kobe and Lebron and all of the talent that Magic has on this Lakers team i don’t think it would be possible for them to take down the Rockets and not even the Warriors.

 

*What if he joined the BIG3 league?

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The BIG3 league is growing and a lot of the vets are apart of it, but none i think would want any part of Kobe. I mean come on man it’s Kobe, even the best players in the BIG3 league wouldnt be able to do anything with him. Just because its 3 on 3 does not change the fact that Kobe is one of the best scorers in the game and defenders.

 

Ice Cube said he is not stopping, he wants Kobe in the BIG 3 league plus Kobe in the BIG3 league will bring more viewership and more hall of famers coming out of retirement to show they can still ball. Kobe would be just the beginning, Ice Cube should go for Uncle Drew’s entire team from the movie minus Nate Robinson because he is already there.

 

Hands down Kobe would come in the best player in that League and whatever team he plays for will be championship favorites. I think Kobe would score the most points per game, win the league MVP and the championship in his first year.

 

We all miss Kobe and it’s hard not to want him back especially after dropping 60 in your final game of your career showing shades of vintage Mamba. He may have said never but never say never. The only thing we can wonder is what if? What do you think would happen if Kobe came back?

Steve Kerr is right: “we can beat anybody in the league without Steph”

Steve Kerr is right and please dont think he is being cocky. The NBA season is about to be over and the Warriors will most likely walk in to the first round without Steph Curry. Thats ok Dub nation you guys are in good hands.

“Our guys know that. It’s going to be hard to beat anybody in the league without Steph, KD, Klay and Draymond. I’m going to have coach a lot better for that to happen. But we’re very confident we’re going to get the other three guys back here soon.”

No team in the NBA has a better chemistry than the Warriors and can make adjustments better than the Warriors. The numbers are completely different when Curry is not on the floor but GUESS WHAT they are still winning.

The Warriors are currently 13-8 without Curry and the team is plagued with injuries at the moment but thats all about to change. This Week they should be getting back Draymond Green and Kevin Durant. Plus Klay Thompson should be returning before the playoffs start.

With 3 of the 4 All-Stars returning the Warriors should be able to ride out the rest of the season and get past the first round of the playoffs with Steph Curry hopefully returning in the second. CURRY JUST HEAL UP YOU ARE IN GOOD HANDS!!!

The Warriors maybe built around Curry but they have the 2nd best player(in my eyes the BEST player in the world) in Kevin Durant. Durant has stepped up to the plate every time the Warriors was without Curry this season before dealing with injuries of his own.

Durant is the leader of the Warriors anytime Curry is absent. He averaged 28.5 points when Curry went down with an ankle sprain back on Dec. 4 and missed 11 games. Plus don’t forget he put up 30 or more in 5 of those games. Oh snap did i forget that he had a triple double and a couple of double-doubles during that stretch( #Beastmode)?

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Durant continues to step up to the plate and elevate his game when Curry goes down and i expect nothing less

He then went on to put up MVP numbers during another stretch of games that Curry missed. Unfortunately he started to deal with his own injuries during that stretch. He averaged 35 points per game( shooting 45%), 7.3 rebounds and 4.6 assist before dealing with a rib injury. The Morale of the story is Steve Kerr is absolutely right!!!

The Warriors beat anybody without Curry. No team has better chemistry, more confident, and can adjust better than the Warriors. The will have Draymond, and Klay back but Durant will be the huge difference maker because of the way he scores and creates plays on both sides of the ball. They are projected to play the Timberwolves in the first round of the playoffs.

 

 

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.

NBA Free Agency: Should the Cavs consider a sign and trade for Lebron?

The NBA season is almost over and the Playoffs are just around the corner. The Cavs have a problem and his name is LeBron James. LeBron is once again a free agent and it’s already been speculated that he could once again leave Cleveland. LeBron is an attraction within himself. Players around the league all want to play alongside him even if they have to come to Cleveland. But the Cavs organization cannot bet their money on him staying while he is considering the Los Angeles Lakers, Houston Rockets and the Philadelphia 76ers.

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There is only one solution for the Cavs if LeBron decides to walk out again. They have to try and do a sign and trade with whichever team he decides to take his talents to.

Why Sign and trade?

The Cavs already have some youth and a top 5 pick with the net’s pick but I wouldn’t let LeBron leave a second time without getting something in return. Every team he is considering has some remarkable pieces that they can try and get out of the deal so that they can have more assets to either work with or use as trade bait. Now we have to be honest with ourselves. The Cavs are not going to get a Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, Ben Simmons, or a Joel Embiid. Most likely they will end up with Role players or Draft picks.

The Bad side and why they have to convince LeBron to do it

Now even though this is a possibility it is definitely a long shot. LeBron has 2 teams on his radar that can give him a max contract without losing a single asset. The tricky part to a sign and trade is if LeBron leaves then I know he wouldn’t want to give up anything on his new team in a sign and trade if he doesn’t have to. But with his love for the city of Cleveland I think he will consider it so that they can at least have something to either build around or use as trade bait in the offseason.

Now the best bet for this to happen is if LeBron chooses Houston. They already don’t have the cap to sign LeBron to a max but they have leverage over all of candidates because his best friend Chris Paul plays in Houston and LeBron would love to play alongside him. They would have to make some room on the roster to make this happen and Cleveland can take advantage of that to add some more pieces to their team.

Now LeBron staying is still a possibility for all my cavs fans but just in case he doesn’t this would be a good chance to secure your future. You guys are in good hands with GM Koby Altman whom I think will consider this option if LeBron chooses to walk. But what do you think?

Will LeBron walk once again this offseason? Should the Cavs try to do a sign and trade if he decides to walk?

 

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.

2018 NCAA Tournament Breakdown: Tristan Beckmann’s Scouting Report for Each Sweet 16 Team

It was an absolutely crazy weekend of college basketball in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Upsets happened, cinderella stories emerged, and some of the favorites were actually able to conquer like they were expected to. Yes, I’m looking straight at you, North Carolina, Cincinnati, Tennessee, and Virginia. But in all seriousness, literally almost everything happened that fans wanted to see, from buzzer-beaters to the same old top programs getting ran out of the building by new arrivals.

Now after this incredible weekend, basketball fans will have to live without the NCAA tournament for a few days. Bummer. But if you’re missing basketball that much, at least try watching the NIT, my Louisville Cardinals are still alive in that tournament. But we now know the teams that will be in the Sweet 16. I’m here to give you a scouting report for each team. The scouting report includes their best player, biggest x-factor, strengths, and weaknesses. If you feel like I missed anything drastic, feel free to let me know on my Twitter @TBeckmannPSF! I also will be releasing my Sweet 16 Game Previews & Predictions article in a few. Be sure to check that out! I hope you enjoy!

Table of Contents:

Page 2: South Region Scouting Reports

Page 3: West Region Scouting Reports

Page 4: East Region Scouting Reports

Page 5: Midwest Region Scouting Reports

2018 NCAA Men’s Basketball Bracket Breakdown: Sweet Sixteen Game Previews And Predictions

Well, if you have a bracket that’s not busted by now, you might be a genius. This has been the craziest NCAA tournament ever in my opinion. A 16 seed finally did the impossible and beat a one seed (handily I might add). Only two of four #2 seeds remain after Nevada rallied from a huge deficit to knock out Cincinnati, and Texas A&M absolutely destroyed the defending champion North Carolina Tar Heels. Third seeded Michigan State was knocked out by eleventh seeded Syracuse in a massive upset that shook up the Midwest Region. Ninth seeded Florida State rallied to knock off top seeded Xavier, 75-70. West Virginia avoided an upset and did the job against Marshall. Even without their star big man, Purdue narrowly survived and defeated Butler 76-73 to advance to the Sweet Sixteen. Fifth seeded Clemson demolished fourth seeded Auburn, 84-53, to advance to the second weekend.

On Saturday, top seeded Villanova asserted its dominance with a blowout victory over ninth seeded Alabama. Tournament favorite Duke did the same against seventh seeded Rhode Island. Fifth seeded Kentucky avoided any upset complications and ran away with a 95-75 victory over Buffalo. Loyola-Chicago continued its magical cinderella run with another game-winning shot in the waning moments to push them past third seeded Tennessee, 63-62. Angel Delgado did all he could for Seton Hall but the Pirates ultimately fell short to top seeded Kansas, 83-79. Gonzaga used a hot start and late splurge to get past Ohio State, 90-84. Third seeded Texas Tech stormed back in the second half to avoid an upset against sixth seeded Florida in a 69-66 win. The shot of the night cane when Michigan’s Jordan Poole hit a deep off-balance game-winning three pointer over a Houston defender as time expired in Michigan’s narrow 64-63 win.

There were so many great moments from the first weekend of the tournament. It’s already the greatest tournament ever in my opinion and we are only through the first and second rounds. Basketball fans, get ready, because we will probably be in for even more March greatness. So there’s the quick rundown of all the games from the second round. We’ve got much more basketball to come later this week and I’m here to give full previews and predictions for each Sweet Sixteen game on Thursday and Friday. Let’s get this thing started! Oh yeah, and before I forget, be sure to check out my Scouting Reports for Each Sweet 16 Team article, I’ll leave the link to that below!

2018 NCAA Tournament Breakdown: Tristan Beckmann’s Scouting Report for Each Sweet 16 Team

SOUTH

(Thursday, March 22nd)

#5 Kentucky vs. #9 Kansas State

(9:37 p.m. EST, CBS; Atlanta, GA)

Preview: The South Region has completely collapsed. Kansas State was a team that not many people even picked to win their first round game, but here they are. A matchup of Wildcats will be a very boring one in my opinion. Kansas State is one of the most lackluster offenses I’ve seen in a while and their star, Dean Wade, is still dealing with an unknown when it comes to his health. Kentucky has NBA level talent and Bruce Weber’s team will not be able to match that. Kentucky. SHARPIE.

Pick: #5 Kentucky 89, #9 Kansas State 62.

#7 Nevada vs. #11 Loyola-Chicago

(7:07 p.m. EST, CBS; Atlanta, GA)

Preview: Two cinderella stories will collide on Thursday night when the Loyola-Chicago Ramblers go face to face with the Nevada Wolfpack. This game should be a battle of two extremely efficient offenses and quite frankly I think Loyola-Chicago has an advantage with its defense compared to that of Nevada’s. It will come down to which team can force more turnovers and I see that team being the Ramblers. SISTER JEAN! LOYOLA-CHICAGO BABY!

Pick: #11 Loyola-Chicago 79, #7 Nevada 74.

WEST

(Thursday, March 22nd)

#4 Gonzaga vs. #9 Florida State

(9:59 p.m. EST, TBS; Los Angeles, CA)

Preview: Gonzaga and Florida State will combat in the Sweet 16, which is a surprising matchup. But there have been so many crazy upsets and the Seminoles rallied to knock off number one seeded Xavier last night. Gonzaga is much more talented and experienced and I don’t believe Florida State will have the defense and shot making ability to keep up with Gonzaga in a fast-paced basketball game. Zach Norvell Jr. will expose the Seminole guards. Give me the Zags!

Pick: #4 Gonzaga 78, #9 Florida State 69.

#3 Michigan vs. #7 Texas A&M

(7:37 p.m. EST, TBS; Los Angeles, CA)

Preview: Texas A&M shocked the world yesterday when they demolished North Carolina in the Round of 32. Now they’re set to face a Michigan team that squeaked past Houston due to a buzzer beating three pointer. Texas A&M has two extremely dominant bigs in Robert Williams and Tyler Davis. But Michigan is a team that has a rare key to stopping the Aggies loaded frontcourt. Moritz Wagner is another tremendous big man and I believe he will be one of the first to put pressure on Davis and Williams all tournament. Michigan is experienced and John Beilein is hungry for a championship.

Pick: #3 Michigan 66, #7 Texas A&M 59.

EAST

(Friday, March 23rd)

#1 Villanova vs. #5 West Virginia

(7:27 p.m. EST, TBS; Boston, MA)

Preview: This will be the best game of the entire Sweet Sixteen. You’ve got Jay Wright’s Villanova Wildcats who I believe are the best team in the country. They are going up against Bob Huggin’s West Virginia Mountaineers who play as hard nosed of a defensive style as they come. I believe the game will be slow-paced just like West Virginia wants it to be. But in the end, Villanova has too much starpower and will be able to make clutch shots down the stretch. Give me NOVA!

Pick: #1 Villanova 65, #5 West Virginia 60.

#2 Purdue vs. #3 Texas Tech

(9:57 p.m. EST, TBS; Boston, MA)

Preview: Purdue will possibly be without star center Isaac Haas in this game. We won’t know about his status until later on in the week. But honestly I don’t think Haas’s potential absence will affect the Boilermakers too much. They can outduel Texas Tech offensively and I truly believe Carsen Edwards and Vince Edwards will be able to easily score against Chris Beard’s top notch Red Raiders defense. Keenan Evans and Zhaire Smith will compete but Purdue’s depth and experience will prove too much for Texas Tech in the end.

Pick: #2 Purdue 77, #3 Texas Tech 74.

MIDWEST

(Friday, March 23rd)

#1 Kansas vs. #5 Clemson

(7:07 p.m. EST, CBS; Omaha, NE)

Preview: Kansas is the top seed in the Midwest and they’ve looked capable of making that Final Four run most of the season. Clemson was a solid ACC team this season and looks to be this year’s Jayhawks destructor. I think Bill Self’s coaching experience will be the pivotal factor in this game. Devonte’ Graham will be too much for Clemson to handle and Udoka Azubuike figures to be pretty healthy come game time next week. Marcquise Reed and Shelton Mitchell will keep it close for Clemson early, but Kansas will break it open down the stretch.

Pick: #1 Kansas 78, #5 Clemson 66.

#2 Duke vs. #11 Syracuse

(9:37 p.m. EST, CBS; Omaha, NE)

Preview: Duke bested Syracuse 60-44 in Durham in February. I believe it will be much closer this time around. Coach K’s high powered Blue Devils Offense will go up against Jim Boeheim’s dreaded Syracuse zone defense. Both teams are in full form right now and are hitting their strides at the perfect time. In the end, I believe that Syracuse has not one player capable of guarding Marvin Bagley III, and his low post play will be the difference-maker in an extremely close ACC matchup.

Pick: #2 Duke 74, #11 Syracuse 69.

Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed! Peace!

2018 NCAA Men’s Basketball Bracket Breakdown: Sunday’s Second Round Game Previews and Predictions

ABSOLUTE CHAOS. That’s the phrase that can describe the first round of the NCAA tournament, which all in all was nothing short of thrilling. Texas A&M used a late stretch run to prevail over Providence in a solid victory. Purdue dominated Cal State Fullerton like they were expected to but is going to lose big man Isaac Haas to a fractured elbow for the rest of the tournament. Jon Elmore led Marshall to a massive upset over Wichita State in an 81-75 shocker. Cincinnati and Georgia State played it close early but eventually the second seeded Bearcats pulled away for the victory. Similarly with the Cincinnati game, North Carolina struggled early with Lipscomb but eventually their experience proved too much to handle in an 84-66 second half drubbing. Butler used a hot 21-2 opening run to take the momentum all game long in a clean 79-62 upset win over Arkansas. West Virginia pushed away any upset complications by handling their business against Murray State in an 85-68 victory. Texas and Nevada played the most thrilling game on the afternoon slate but Caleb Martin took over the game late and led Nevada to an 87-83 overtime win.

Kansas State kicked off the evening slate with a forty minute dominant performance of Creighton. Michigan State was able to build a big lead early and held off a late rally from Bucknell to grab an 82-78 win. Auburn fended off an upset hungry Charleston program in a nail biting 62-58 victory. Top seeded Xavier dominated sixteenth seeded Texas Southern from start to finish in a 102-83 win. In a historic upset that shocked the entire world, sixteenth seeded UMBC knocked off the top overall seeded Virginia Cavaliers in a dominant 74-54 rout. Syracuse pulled off a rather expected 11-6 upset when it held off TCU late in a gritty and grinding 57-52 win. Clemson avoided an upset versus popular pick New Mexico State with hot shooting and balanced offense in a 79-68 victory. Florida State capped off the first round with a 67-54 dominant win over Missouri by forcing Michael Porter Jr. into a struggling performance all game long.

So there’s the quick rundown of all the games from yesterday. We’ve got much more basketball to come today and I previewed and predicted each of today’s games in a Bracket Preview released yesterday. I’ll leave the link to that below and you should be sure to check it out before today’s action tips off. But I’m here to give full previews and predictions for each second round game on Sunday. Let’s get the ball rolling!

#2 Purdue vs. #10 Butler

(12:10 p.m. EST, CBS, Detroit, MI)

Preview: Purdue was one of the top teams heading into the second round. That was until their massive big man Isaac Haas went down with a fractured elbow and was announced as out for the remainder of the NCAA tournament. Purdue looked great in their first round game against Cal State Fullerton but how will they play without Haas playing in the middle? Carson Edwards and Vincent Edwards will become the primary scoring options for the Boilermakers and while it’s not the worst outcome, this team would’ve been my pick if Haas was on the floor. Butler historically has successful runs in the postseason and they began the campaign successfully with a solid upset victory over seventh seeded Arkansas yesterday. Butler’s hopes will ride or die on the play of its star Kelan Martin, but I honestly don’t see this Purdue team stopping Martin or playing well without Haas on the court. Give me a major upset here with the Bulldogs.

Pick: #10 Butler 73, #2 Purdue 62.

#3 Michigan State vs. #11 Syracuse

(2:40 p.m. EST, CBS, Detroit, MI)

Preview: Syracuse has won two games in a span of three days so far and looks poised to make a tournament run. But that train stops where the Spartans come into play. Michigan State is just too darn talented and I see either (maybe both) Jaren Jackson Jr. and Miles Bridges going off in this one. Frank Howard and Tyus Battle are the Orange’s experienced guys but I just don’t see them helping their team upset a top team in the country like Michigan State has been. I think Miles Bridges will have one hell of a game and lead the Spartans to a huge win over Syracuse that advances them to the Sweet Sixteen.

Pick: #3 Michigan State 78, #11 Syracuse 63.

#2 North Carolina vs. #7 Texas A&M

(5:15 p.m. EST, CBS, Charlotte, NC)

Preview: Lipscomb played step by step with the Heels early but they ultimately were overpowered by Theo Pinson and Kenny Williams. Texas A&M used its NBA caliber frontcourt of Robert Williams and Tyler Davis to pull away from Providence late and advance to the second round. This will be one of the most exciting matchups in the second round and I honestly expect the Aggies to play really well. Williams and Davis have the size advantage over UNC and Luke Maye will have all he can handle down low. But I think that UNC’s coaching and experience, along with some great plays down the stretch by Joel Berry II and Kenny Williams, leads the Tar Heels to a close victory and sends them to the Sweet Sixteen.

Pick: #2 North Carolina 83, #7 Texas A&M 73.

#2 Cincinnati vs. #7 Nevada

(6:10 p.m. EST, TNT, Nashville, TN)

Preview: Cincinnati struggled throughout its first round matchup with Georgia State but eventually fended off any potential for a massive upset. Star forward Jacob Evans struggled in the opening game and only scored 10 points on 4 of 9 shooting. But the Bearcats were willed down the stretch by Jarron Cumberland and his game high 27 Points. Nevada went back and forth with Texas in a nail biting overtime victory. Caleb Martin and Kendall Stephens both put up tremendous numbers to eliminate the Longhorns, who were a trendy pick over the Wolfpack in many brackets. On Sunday against one of the premier squads in the nation, Martin and Stephens will have to be almost as productive as they were against Texas. Cincinnati would certainly benefit from a strong showing by Jacob Evans and another star performance from Cumberland. Cincinnati is deeper and more experienced than Nevada. Give me the Bearcats in a close one.

Pick: #2 Cincinnati 71, #7 Nevada 66.

#4 Auburn vs. #5 Clemson

(7:10 p.m. EST, TBS, San Diego, CA)

Preview: Hats off to both Auburn and Clemson, who avoided first round upsets. Auburn is led by guard Bryce Brown and expect him to be their ride or die in this tight 4-5 matchup. Clemson has multiple number one scoring options in Shelton Mitchell, Gabe DeVoe, and Marcquise Reed. I think the key for Clemson would be shooting the basketball very well as I believe both teams have stellar offenses. Brown will have to use his knack for scoring to his advantage to put Auburn on his back in this one. Clemson shot really well last night against New Mexico State but I don’t see them shooting as well against an Auburn team that I believe Bruce Pearl will have roaring to play. Give me Auburn in a close one.

Pick: #4 Auburn 69, #5 Clemson 67.

#9 Kansas State vs. #16 UMBC

(7:45 p.m. EST, TruTV, Charlotte, NC)

Preview: OH MY GOD. The number one overall seeded Virginia Cavaliers did what was not expected in last night’s blowout loss to sixteenth seeded UMBC. Now, the Retrievers get a second round matchup with a Kansas State squad that’s looked solid as of late but does not have their stars Dean Wade or Barry Brown at 100% health. The 16 over 1 upset never happened until last night. Now, I don’t know much about UMBC and I only have watched one full game (last night). I do know that they rely on Jairus Lyles speed to score points. They just handled the number one overall seed and I see the Retrievers miraculous run continuing past an unhealthy Kansas State squad. Jairus Lyles and company will lead UMBC to a victory and a Sweet Sixteen appearance, which is the first ever for a Sixteenth Seed.

Pick: #16 UMBC 61, #9 Kansas State 59.

#1 Xavier vs. #9 Florida State

(8:40 p.m. EST, TNT, Nashville, TN)

Preview: The top seeded Xavier Musketeers avoided a Virginia-like collapse and defeated Texas Southern handily in their first round game. Florida State denied the haters and beat a Nissouri team that was led by a struggling Michael Porter Jr., which probably doesn’t bode well for his NBA Draft stock straight out of college. Florida State was a program that roamed the top 25 at times this season but has been as inconsistent as they come. Xavier was one of the top teams in the country all season long. Terrence Mann will have to score more than two points in order for the Seminoles to stay within reach of the Musketeers. But in the end, Trevon Bluiett is an absolute stud and he will help Xavier prevail and advance to the Sweet Sixteen.

Pick: #1 Xavier 82, #9 Florida State 70.

#5 West Virginia vs. #13 Marshall

(9:40 p.m. EST, TBS, San Diego, CA)

Preview: The Marshall Thundering Herd knocked off fourth seeded Wichita State in a rather wild upset yesterday. The Herd were paced by star scorer Jon Elmore, who had 27 points and couldn’t be stopped by a usually very challenging Shockers defense. West Virginia handled its business extremely well yesterday by defeating Murray State, 85-68. The Mountaineers are home to one of the most suffocating defensive styles in the nation and are almost certain to give any opponent fits with their press defense. Jevon Carter is the glue guy for West Virginia, a veteran point guard who is their primary scorer, passer, and defensive star. Carter has and will be the key to a long postseason run for West Virginia. Marshall has a high powered offense and Elmore combines with C.J. Burks to create one of the most prolific scoring backcourt in college basketball. The world has fallen for Marshall and the big question is whether the Herd can score often against the tough Mountaineers defense. And let me tell you, I believe they can.

Pick: #13 Marshall 65, #5 West Virginia 62.