Articles By David Fox

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Some of the best storylines in the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament will be settled in the final day before the Sweet 16.

Wichita State’s first game of the season against a national power will be a big one as the Shockers face the preseason No. 1 team in Kentucky.

Mercer took out Duke on Friday and gets to face a No. 11 see for a chance to reach the second weekend. But that No. 11 seed happens to be one of the most impressive statistical teams in the country. Mercer isn’t alone among small schools trying to reach the Sweet 16 when Stephen F. Austin faces UCLA.

Injuries, though, also will be a key factor in the day as Kansas tries to advance despite the absence of Joel Embiid. Meanwhile, Iowa State will need to recalibrate in a major way with a tournament-ending foot injury to Georges Niang.

NCAA Tournament Sunday Viewer’s Guide
All times Eastern

No. 2 Kansas vs. No. 10 Stanford
TV: 12:15 p.m., CBS
Site: St. Louis
Region: South
Announcers: Jim Nantz, Greg Anthony
Kansas weathered the absence of Joel Embiid in the round of 64 game against Eastern Kentucky, but it wasn’t easy. The Jayhawks didn’t begin to pull away until the final seven minutes. KU won 80-69 thanks in part to major contributions from role players — guard Conner Frankamp scored 10 points and forwards Tarik Black and Jamari Traylor combined for 29 points and 19 rebounds.

No. 1 Wichita State vs. No. 8 Kentucky
TV: 2:45 p.m., CBS
Site: St. Louis
Region: Midwest
Announcers: Jim Nantz, Greg Anthony
On Selection Sunday, this was one of the top potential matchups of the first weekend ... provided Kentucky could make it past Kansas State. Kentucky handled K-State, and now the Wildcats draw the 35-0 Shockers. Wichita State gets its shot against a traditional power program and one filled with plenty of pro talent, even if Kentucky underachieved this season. The Wildcats have been more efficient in the defensive end in the postseason, but Wichita State point guard Fred VanVleet is one of the best floor generals in the country.

No. 3 Iowa State vs. No. 6 North Carolina
TV: CBS
Site: San Antonio
Region: East
Announcers: Marv Albert, Steve Kerr
Iowa State’s Final Four chances took a major hit when one of the Cyclones’ top three players was lost for the remainder of the tournament with a broken foot. Sophomore forward Georges Niang gave Iowa State versatility with his ability to play around the basket and shoot from the perimeter, leading Iowa State in overall shots from the field and 3-point attempts. Fred Hoiberg is one of the nation’s top offensive coaches, but he’ll have to adjust on the fly. North Carolina struggled in the defensive end against Providence, winning the game thanks to 17 offensive rebounds and 26 second chance points.

No. 11 Tennessee vs. No. 14 Mercer
TV: 6:10 p.m., TNT
Site: Raleigh, N.C.
Region: Midwest
Announcers: Kevin Harlan, Len Elmore and Reggie Miller
The stakes are quite different from the last time these two teams met in an NIT game in Knoxville after last season. Mercer won that meeting 75-67. The Bears are trying to become the second Atlantic Sun team to reach the Sweet 16 in the last two seasons, joining Florida Gulf Coast. Tennessee is looking to prove its own point. The Volunteers were a top-20 team according to Ken Pomeroy’s analytics, but Tennessee was an up-and-down team all season. With two wins in this Tournament already (UT beat Iowa in the First Four), Tennessee is performing closer to the analytics than its checkered regular season resume.

No. 4 UCLA vs. No. 12 Stephen F. Austin
TV: 7:10 p.m, TBS
Site: San Diego
Region: South
Announcers: Andrew Catalon, Mike Gminski
A coach who has struggled to defeat underdogs in the NCAA Tournament now faces the hottest mid-major in the country. Defensive-minded Stephen F. Austin defeated VCU in overtime despite losing the turnover battle (VCU turned the ball over 17 times, SFA lost the ball 11 times). The Lumberjacks won instead by 60 percent inside the 3-point line. Stephen F. Austin will try to carry that over against UCLA team that ranked 133th in 2-point defense.

No. 3 Creighton vs. No. 6 Baylor
TV: 7:45 p.m., truTV
Site: San Antonio
Region: West
Announcers: Marv Albert, Steve Kerr
This matchup has the potential to be the best offensive showcase of the first weekend. Both Baylor and Creighton rank in the top 10 nationally in offensive efficiency, and neither are known as defensive stalwarts. Creighton has stalled in this round in both NCAA trips during the Greg/Doug McDermott era, but both times, Creighton was the lower-seeded team against Duke in 2013 and North Carolina in 2012.

No. 1 Virginia vs. No. 8 Memphis
TV: 8:40 p.m., TNT
Site: Raleigh, N.C.
Region: East
Announcers: Kevin Harlan, Len Elmore and Reggie Miller
Virginia trailed by 5 at the half against No. 16 seed Coastal Carolina in the round of 64, in part because the Chanticleers shot 9 of 19 from 3-point range. Virginia won 70-59, but the early stumbles set up an intriguing game against Memphis. The Cavaliers play stingy defense by forcing opponents to work deep into the shot clock, but Memphis likes to score in transition.

No. 1 Arizona vs. No. 8 Gonzaga
TV: 9:40 p.m., TBS
Site: San Diego
Region: West
Announcers: Andrew Catalon, Mike Gminski
While the main storyline Friday was how dangerous a No. 9 seed Oklahoma State would be, Gonzaga snuck in and defeated the Cowboys 85-77. Maybe flying under the radar is a good thing for the Bulldogs, which earned a No. 1 seed last season before losing in the round of 32. Arizona leads the nation in defensive efficiency on KenPom, but Gonzaga may have the inside-outside balance to cause problems.

Teaser:
NCAA Tournament Sunday Viewer's Guide: TV, Times and the Skinny on Every Game
Post date: Sunday, March 23, 2014 - 07:00
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Jordan Sibert and Dayton had more to conquer that defeating Ohio State.

After a nail-biting finish, Dayton defeated Syracuse 55-53 to reach the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1984.

A bubble team entering the Atlantic 10 Tournament, 11th-seeded Dayton took its biggest win of the season down to the wire, giving Syracuse several opportunities to tie or take a lead late.

Sibert, an Ohio State transfer, had the dagger 3-pointer, but a few possessions later, he stepped out of bounds under pressure in the baseline corner after an in bounds pass. Dayton also went 10 of 18 from the free throw line.

Down by 1, Syracuse’s Tyler Ennis missed the long 2-point jumper with 11 seconds left. After Dayton made 1 of 2 free throws, Ennis’ final 3-point attempt bounced off the rim as Dayton sealed its win.
 

The loss ends a dismal final five weeks of the season for Syracuse. The Orange started 25-0 but lost six of their final nine games, including losses to Boston College, Georgia Tech, NC State and now Dayton.

Syracuse’s struggles on offense persisted until the end of the season. The Orange went 0 for 10 from 3-point range in their final game of the season.

Teaser:
Dayton takes out Syracuse, flies into Sweet 16
Post date: Saturday, March 22, 2014 - 22:02
Path: /college-basketball/louisville-ready-sweet-16-after-rough-first-weekend
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Louisville handled the best shot from a coach who knew what the Cardinals were going to do before they did it. In the next game, Louisville handed the champions of the Atlantic 10, a league with six NCAA bids, its worst loss of the season.

Louisville had one of the most stifling defensive performances of the NCAA Tournament so far, holding Saint Louis to 16 points in the first half and 0 of 15 from 3-point range.


Then why does Rick Pitino seem so frustrated?

That defensive performance wasn’t enough. His star player is still struggling to adjust to how opponents guard him. His team is too turnover happy.

“The past three years have been one of the more wonderful experiences of my life in terms of the quality young men I'm coaching, but this is a difficult team to coach, very difficult.”

Louisville will head into the Sweet 16, a stage of the NCAA Tournament where Pitino is 11-0, with a handful of questions exposed by the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament.

“The past three years have been one of the more wonderful experiences of my life in terms of the quality young men I'm coaching, but this is a difficult team to coach, very difficult.”
-Louisville coach Rick Pitino
After facing Manhattan on Thursday and Saint Louis on Saturday, Louisville will be on its biggest stage since last year’s title game when the Cardinals draw either an undefeated Wichita State team they faced in last year’s Final Four or rival Kentucky.

Russ Smith also had his moments, but the tug of war between Louisville’s star player and the Cardinals’ coach has resurfaced at the worst time.

“Russ Smith has grown so much as a basketball player, but he still has one thing left,” Pitino said. “I tried to explain this to him at halftime, but he has a very difficult time. He's a distracted young man, understanding this. ...

“He doesn't understand the scouting of the other teams. He's all Michael (Jordan), all Kobe (Bryant). But he doesn't get that those guys in the other locker room are a lot smarter than me. He doesn't get it."

Smith shot 6 of 19 from the field and turned the ball over 16 times during the weekend. Louisville’s 31 team turnovers in two games kept Manhattan and Saint Louis in striking distance.

The concerns didn’t end with the Cardinals enigmatic guard. Louisville shot 36 percent from the field against Manhattan, including a mere 38 percent from 2-point range. The ratios were better against Saint Louis, but turnovers meant Louisville averaged less that a point per possession for the first time since a March 1 loss to Memphis.

“Every team can play defense at this stage,” Pitino said. “So you've got to have great offense to win, and you've got to really execute and make free throws, do smart things.”

For a team that entered the NCAA Tournament with legitimate aspirations of repeating as national champions, those are major concerns.
 

Teaser:
Is Louisville ready for the Sweet 16 after rough first weekend?
Post date: Saturday, March 22, 2014 - 18:55
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If Thursday brought chaos, Saturday is the aftermath.

The first full day of the NCAA Tournament brought four overtime games, three double-digit seeds advancing and two title teams in trouble.

Saturday is what’s left, starting with a Florida team that stumbled through a win against Albany and then a Louisville team that survived Manhattan.

In the later games, a trio of mid-majors will try to reach the second weekend of the Tournament as Dayton, North Dakota State and Harvard continue to embrace their underdog roles.

Here’s your guide through the round of 32 with most of the action taking place in the evening.

NCAA Tournament Saturday Viewer’s Guide
All times Eastern.

No. 3 Syracuse vs. No. 11 Dayton
TV: 7 p.m., TBS
Site: Buffalo
Region: South
Announcers: Verne Lundquist, Bill Raftery
Dayton did not need a great offensive performance to defeat Ohio State, averaging 0.91 points per possession and shooting 23 percent from 3. The same might not be true against Syracuse. The Orange closed the season with a host of problems scoring, but Syracuse in the round of 64 against Western Michigan had its best offensive game in terms of efficiency since the Feb. 1 win over Duke. A big reason: Trevor Cooney found his outside shot (4 of 8 from 3-point range).

No. 2 Wisconsin vs. No. 7 Oregon
TV: 7:30 p.m., CBS
Site: Milwaukee
Region: West
Announcers: Ian Eagle, Jim Spanarkel
Two of the more streaky regular seasons meet in Milwaukee for a chance to go to the Sweet 16. Oregon started 13-0, dropped eight of 11 and is now riding a 9-1 streak. Wisconsin started 16-0, lost five of six and finished 10-2. Oregon was the most efficient offensive teams in the Pac-12, but slumped because it couldn’t defend. This season’s Wisconsin team is not the typical Bo Ryan team — the balance and athleticism for the Badgers will cause Oregon problems.

No. 4 Michigan State vs. No. 12 Harvard
TV: 8:30 p.m., TNT
Site: Spokane, Wash.
Region: East
Announcers: Spero Dedes, Doug Gottlieb
Michigan State is surging, no doubt. Big man Adreian Payne is coming off the best scoring performance in the NCAA Tournament in a decade by scoring 41 points against Delaware. Harvard, though, is chasing its own history. The Crimson are seeking to become only the second Ivy League team to reach the Sweet 16 since Penn went to the Final Four in 1989.

No. 1 Villanova vs. No. 7 Connecticut
TV: 9:30 p.m., TBS
Site: Buffalo
Region: East
Announcers: Verne Lundquist, Bill Raftery
The Big East has been reconfigured for less than a year, and already we’re getting some nostalgia for the old league. The game will be guard heavy with Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright facing Villanova’s big guards James Bell and Darrun Hilliard.

Teaser:
NCAA Tournament Saturday Viewer's Guide: TV, Times and the Skinny on Every Game
Post date: Saturday, March 22, 2014 - 07:00
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Dunk City may have only been an appetizer.

The same league that sent Florida Gulf Coast to the NCAA Tournament last year also provided the biggest upset so far when 14th-seeded Mercer took out Duke in the round of 64.

Mercer joined Lehigh, VCU and Eastern Michigan as the only teams in the last 20 years to hand Duke a one-and-done exit from the NCAA Tournament with a 78-71 win in the round of 64 Thursday.

The Bears, though, are not a fluke. Mercer has won back-to-back Atlantic Sun championships and won 78 games the last three seasons. Though the Bears haven’t been able to get to the Tournament until 2014, they have been a dangerous team to programs from major programs, including wins over Ole Miss, Seton Hall, Tennessee, Alabama, Florida State and Georgia Tech in the last three seasons.

None of which compares to Duke, so now, Mercer dances.
 

The best part of Kevin Canevari’s dance? He’s a senior who has averaged a point per game in his career. He attempted one shot against Duke.

Now, he’s the face of Mercer’s upset. And he’s not the only one excited.
 

After the upset, Florida Gulf Coast and Lehigh, the No. 15 seed that defeated Duke two years ago, welcomed Mercer to the club of Cinderellas.
 

 

 

Although Mike Krzyzewski’s team endured one of the biggest flops of the postseason — star wings Rodney Hood and Jabari Parker combined to go 6 of 24 from the field and the Duke defense fell apart — the Blue Devils coach offered his own congratulations.
 

 

Teaser:
Mercer upsets Duke. Celebration ensues
Post date: Friday, March 21, 2014 - 15:11
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The NCAA Tournament began in earnest Thursday with three double-digit seeds advancing, four overtime games and two national championship contenders looking mighty vulnerable.

All in all, a fairly eventful day.

Maybe Friday’s games will be just as interesting, starting when Duke opens against Mercer, a team hoping to replicate Florida Gulf Coast’s run out of the Atlantic Sun.

The day that starts with one team hungry for an upset will end the same way when UCLA faces Conference USA champion Tulsa in the nightcap.

Navigating the whole day can be tough with games crossing four different networks. We’ll help you get through it here.

NCAA Tournament Friday Viewer’s Guide
All times Eastern

No. 3 Duke vs. No. 14 Mercer
TV: Noon, CBS
Site: Raleigh, N.C.
Region: Midwest
Announcers: Kevin Harlan, Len Elmore and Reggie Miller
The first matchup of Friday pairs two of the most prolific 3-point teams in the field. Both Duke and Mercer are in the top 10 in the NCAA Tournament in terms of 3-pointers per game. Mercer hails from the same conference as Florida Gulf Coast, which reached the Sweet 16 last season, but the Bears may have trouble getting a shot from long range. Duke allowed the fewest 3-pointers this season.

No. 6 Baylor vs. No. 11 Nebraska
TV: 12:30 p.m., truTV
Site: San Antonio
Region: West
Announcers: Marv Albert, Steve Kerr
Nebraska is in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1998, and many fans might pick the Huskers just because of Baylor’s unpredictability. The Bears, though, closed the season on a hot streak at 10-2. The 7-foot-1 center Isaiah Austin, an NBA Draft hopeful, may be the key here after averaging 14 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.5 blocks in the final three games.

No. 7 New Mexico vs. No. 10 Stanford
TV: 1:30 p.m., CBS
Site: St. Louis
Region: South
Announcers: Jim Nantz, Greg Anthony
Stanford is making its first NCAA Tournament appearance in six seasons under Johnny Dawkins, and the prize is the Mountain West Tournament champions. New Mexico will find out if it has a better chance to advance with Steve Alford’s right-hand man, Craig Neal, than with Alford himself.

No. 1 Arizona vs. No. 16 Weber State
TV: 2 p.m., TNT
Site: San Diego
Region: West
Announcers: Andrew Catalon, Mike Gminski
Weber State can shoot the 3, but this has the look of a typical No. 1 vs. No. 16 mismatch.

No. 6 UMass vs. No. 11 Tennessee
TV: 2:30 p.m., CBS
Site: Raleigh, N.C.
Region: Midwest
Announcers: Kevin Harlan, Len Elmore and Reggie Miller
Tennessee may be the most underrated team in the bracket, at least as far as seeding and the RPI go. The Volunteers are 11th in KenPom, yet needed to enter the proper bracket via an overtime win over Iowa in Dayton. In UMass, Tennessee will face a team similar to Iowa, one that likes to push the tempo and didn’t finish the season nearly as well as the Minutemen started it.

No. 3 Creighton vs. No. 14 Louisiana-Lafayette
TV: 3 p.m., truTV
Site: San Antonio
Region: West
Announcers: Marv Albert, Steve Kerr
Doug McDermott has 3,105 career points and 1,074 career rebounds. He’ll be a three-time consensus All-American and the national player of the year. And all through his career, he has only two NCAA Tournament wins. He can start to chip away at that barring an upset against the Ragin’ Cajuns, who are led by their own superstar in Elfrid Payton.

No. 2 Kansas vs. No. 15 Eastern Kentucky
TV: 4 p.m., TBS
Site: St. Louis
Region: South
Announcers: Jim Nantz, Greg Anthony
Kansas will try to weather the weekend without center Joel Embiid. The Jayhawks will miss his defense around the rim. Eastern Kentucky prefers to play on the perimeter, but the Colonels shoot 56.2 percent from 2-point range, second in the nation.

No. 8 Gonzaga vs. No. 9 Oklahoma State
TV: 4:30 p.m., TNT
Site: San Diego
Region: West
Announcers: Andrew Catalon, Mike Gminski
Oklahoma State could be the most dangerous No. 9 seed in the field — and we say that knowing what Pittsburgh did to Colorado on Thursday. Marcus Smart is averaging 18.7 points per game, 6.0 assists and 5.7 rebounds in seven games since returning from his suspension.
 
No. 8 Memphis vs. No. 9 George Washington
TV: 6:45 p.m., TBS
Site: Raleigh, N.C.
Region: East
Announcers: Kevin Harlan, Len Elmore and Reggie Miller
Memphis is more or less a known quantity with coach Josh Pastner in his fifth season, Joe Jackson and Chris Crawford seniors and Shaq Goodwin and Geron Johnson sophomores. George Washington is back in the Tournament for the first time since 2007 thanks to a third-year coach (Mike Lonergan) and two transfers (Maurice Creek from Oregon and Isaiah Armwood from Villanova).

No. 1 Wichita State vs. No. 16 Cal Poly
TV: 7 p.m., CBS
Site: St. Louis
Region: Midwest
Announcers: Jim Nantz, Greg Anthony
Enjoy this for what it is: An NCAA Tournament game between a 34-0 team and another with 19 losses. Only in college basketball can the same teams compete for a national title.

No. 6 North Carolina vs. No. 11 Providence
TV: 7:15 p.m., TNT
Site: San Antonio
Region: East
Announcers: Marv Albert, Steve Kerr
North Carolina’s Roy Williams and Providence’s Ed Cooley put together two of the better coaching jobs this season to meet in the round of 64. Williams rallied a North Carolina team that's less talented than most to a 12-2 finish after a wildly inconsistent start. Meanwhile, the Providence native Cooley has rebuilt his hometown program into Big East Tournament champions.

No. 5 VCU vs. No. 12 Stephen F. Austin
TV: 7:30 p.m., truTV
Site: San Diego
Region: South
Announcers: Andrew Catalon, Mike Gminski
This is perhaps the best round of 64 games, even if it doesn’t involve classic power programs. VCU continues to be one of the best teams in the country at forcing turnovers while Stephen F. Austin is right behind the Rams at No. 3 in turnover rate. VCU is used to being the spoiler, but Stephen F. Austin, which hasn’t lost since Nov. 23, could be the giant killer in this case.

No. 1 Virginia vs. No. 16 Coastal Carolina
TV: 9:15 p.m., TBS
Site: Raleigh, N.C.
Region: East
Announcers: Kevin Harlan, Len Elmore and Reggie Miller
Virginia coach Tony Bennett was 6 years old when Coastal Carolina coach Cliff Ellis took his first Division I head coaching job at South Alabama. Youth will have the upper hand Friday.

No. 8 Kentucky vs. No. 9 Kansas State
TV: 9:30 p.m., CBS
Site: St. Louis
Region: Midwest
Announcers: Jim Nantz, Greg Anthony
The round of 32 game in this pod will be much more interesting, considering Wichita State likely will draw a team full of NBA talent (Kentucky) or an in-state foe from the Big 12 (Kansas State). For now, this will be one of the most surprising freshman guards in the country in Marcus Foster to face two of the more disappointing in Kentucky’s Andrew and Aaron Harrison.

No. 3 Iowa State vs. No. 14 North Carolina Central
TV: 9:45 p.m., TNT
Site: San Antonio
Region: East
Announcers: Marv Albert, Steve Kerr
Iowa State has become a trendy Final Four team, but North Carolina Central shouldn’t be overlooked. Riding a 20-game win streak, the Eagles are one of the strongest MEAC teams in the field in several years. They’re in the top 75 on KenPom and the top 100 of the RPI. Iowa State will run into a team that ranks fifth nationally in defensive turnover rate.

No. 4 UCLA vs. No. 13 Tulsa
TV: 10 p.m., truTV
Site: San Diego
Region: South
Announcers: Andrew Catalon, Mike Gminski
It’s 80s night in the final game of the round of 64 when a two-time All-American from 1986-87, Steve Alford, coaches against the 1988 national player of the year, Danny Manning. Alford will be hard-pressed to shake his reputation as a coach who struggles in March when he faces a team that had a losing record as recently as Feb. 8

Teaser:
NCAA Tournament Friday Viewer's Guide: TV, times and the skinny on every game
Post date: Friday, March 21, 2014 - 06:00
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The first night of the NCAA Tournament brought one of the biggest upsets of the day, the biggest collapse and an upset avoided.

Here’s what you may have missed.

Most clutch performance: Luke Hancock, Louisville
Luke Hancock was the NCAA Tournament's Most Outstanding Player during the Cardinals' title run last season. He's apparently going for another award. Hancock finished with 16 points including the go-ahead free throws and two 3-point baskets to hold off Manhattan. The Jaspers, led by Pitino's former ball boy/walk on/assistant Steve Masiello, led the Cardinals by 3 with less than four minutes to go.

Best finish: Cameron Ridley’s garbage basket

As far as buzzer-beating game-winners go, Cameron Ridley did not have one of the most graceful, but it was effective enough. Texas beat Arizona State 87-85 when Ridley cleaned up a Jonathan Holmes’ missed 3 for the Longhorns to advance to play Michigan.


Image of the Night: Arizona State's bench
Arizona State's bench, immediately following the Ridley game-winner:
 


Upset of the night: North Dakota State

Another sport, another Big 12 team to fall to North Dakota State.

The Bison picked up their first NCAA Tournament win in a wild 80-75 win over Oklahoma. The football program, which won the FCS tittle, opened the 2013 season with a win over Kansas State.

With Tyler Braun the face of the team for the day — a face that was kicked in the forehead by OU’s Cameron Clark in a scrum at the baseline — North Dakota State led by 8 at half, gave up a tie game with 11:40 to go and then traded leads until Lawrence Alexander hit the game-tying 3 with 12 seconds left.

The win set off the celebration of the evening:



Collapse of the night: NC State

NC State, seemingly looking for a way to lose, achieved its goal.

The Wolfpack took on a postseason collapse that will loom over the program and coach Mark Gottfried at least for the offseason but probably longer.

Trailing by 16 with 8:13 to go, Saint Louis fouled NC State ... again and again and again. NC State led the Billikens chip away thanks to 20-of-37 free throw shooting, but it would get worse.

First, the Wolfpack could not find a way to get ACC leading scorer T.J. Warren the ball in overtime. Then, a lane violation on a free throw negated a a shot that would have cut NC State’s deficit to two in the final minute.

And Warren, for some reason, was on the floor in a fouling situation in the final seconds with four fouls. He did his job, but the disqualification meant NC State would take the final shot without its best player.

Upset avoided: UConn

Saint Joseph’s led from the tipoff until the final 9:14 of the second half against Connecticut before the Huskies went 15 of 16 from the free throw line in the final 9:37 of regulation and overtime.

UConn’s perfection from the line was ruthless. The lone miss didn’t come until the final nine seconds of overtime in the 89-81 win.

Most disappointing departure: Phil Martelli’s grandson
 

Teaser:
NCAA Tournament Thursday Night Recap: Oklahoma upset, NC State's collapse
Post date: Thursday, March 20, 2014 - 23:35
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The early session in Orlando displayed two scores not uncommon for a No. 1 seed against a No. 16 and a No. 8 against a No. 9.

Pittsburgh, though, looked like the top seed in the region while No. 1 Florida looked more like a team that slogged through a win against similarly matched team.

While there may be little reason to recalibrate expectations of Florida’s ability to advance deep in the NCAA Tournament, the results in Orlando suddenly make Saturday’s round of 32 game that much more interesting.

"Our margin for error as a team is not great."
-Florida coach Billy Donovan
With 14:32 left, Florida was tied at 39 with No. 16 seed Albany, a team that went 9-7 in the America East. The Gators pulled away to win 67-55, but the remained troubling for a national title contender.

“I've always said this: Our margin for error as a team is not great,” Florida coach Billy Donovan said. “So when you see what you see today, we were able to overcome it and win the game, but we were not the same defensive team I think that we've been in the past.”

Florida’s halfcourt defense was an issue, especially early. Albany made 12 of its first 20 shots, but the Great Danes finished 20 of 51 from the field.

Also troubling for Florida’s championship prospects was the Gators’ struggles from 3-point range. Michael Frazier II, Scott Wilbekin and Dorian Finney-Smith were a combined 3 of 11 from 3-point range against an opponent ranked 208th defending the 3-point line.

Waiting for Florida on Saturday is a Pittsburgh team that just played its best game of the year. The Panthers beat Colorado 77-48 in a game that rarely seemed even that close.

The bottom fell out for a Colorado team that’s been playing for more than a month without its best player in Spencer Dinwiddie, but Pitt played a major role in embarrassing the ninth-seeded Buffaloes.

In Talib Zanna, Pitt has a big body on the glass who can go head-to-head with Florida’s Patric Young.

By the start of March, Pittsburgh had the look of a bubble team with few precious wins. Since the regular season finale against Clemson, the Panthers defeated North Carolina in the ACC Tournament and topped 80 points three times in the last five games.

That kind of momentum may spell trouble for a Florida team whose defensive performance Thursday baffled its head coach.

“Last week was kind of the eye‑opener for us,” Pittsburgh coach Jamie Dixon said. “We didn't win the tournament, but we played well. We felt we should have won it, and we came out of there feeling that we should have won the tournament, so I think our confidence has built up.”

Teaser:
Should Florida worry after slow start to NCAA Tournament?
Post date: Thursday, March 20, 2014 - 20:20
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
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Tommy Amaker’s remake of Harvard basketball continued as the Crimson defeated No. 6 seed Cincinnati 61-57 for Harvard’s second NCAA Tournament win in two seasons.

Harvard upset No. 3 seed New Mexico last season in the Crimson’s first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1946.

Amaker’s team, which returned nearly every key player from last season, controlled most of the game against Cincinnati, but the Bearcats had a chance in the final minutes when Harvard’s Laurent Rivard missed a 3-point shot that could have put the game out of reach.

In one of many Cincinnati misses around the rim, Titus Rubles missed a layup that would have narrowed the game to 1.

Harvard is the first Ivy League team since the field expanded in 1985 to win NCAA Tournament games in back-to-back seasons.

 

NCAA Wins by Ivy League teams since 1984-85
YearTeamNotesCoach
2014HarvardUpset No. 6 CincinnatiTommy Amaker
2013HarvardUpset No. 3 New MexicoTommy Amaker
2010CornellReached Sweet 16Steve Donahue
1998PrincetonDefeated UNLVBill Carmody
1996PrincetonUpset No. 4 UNLVPete Carril
1994PennUpset No. 6 NebraskaFran Dunphy

 

Teaser:
Harvard adds to upset tally with win over Cincinnati
Post date: Thursday, March 20, 2014 - 16:58
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
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Thanks, Dayton.

Only one game into Thursday and the amount of people crowing about a billion dollar bracket has been slashed to a minimum.

Dayton defeated Ohio State 60-59 for the first upset of the NCAA Tournament, sending off a deluge of people disappointed, apparently, to have lost out on a 1 in 9,223,372,036,854,775,808 to win a billion dollars as part of a Quicken Loans promotion backed by Warren Buffett.

 

The wild finish in Buffalo — an Aaron Craft reverse layup, the game-winning drive by Vee Sanford and Craft’s miss as time expired — ended Ohio State’s season, Craft’s college career and a ton of billion dollar bracket talk.

 

Let’s all take a moment to be thankful that we got Tweets like these out of the way before 3 p.m. on day one of the round of 64.
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Teaser:
Dayton upsets Ohio State. Farewell, billion dollar brackets
Post date: Thursday, March 20, 2014 - 15:08
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
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One of the greatest sports weekends of the year arrives Thursday at noon Eastern, and while we can’t tell you where to find truTV (program guide, folks), Athlon Sports can guide you through the day in March Madness.

The day starts with an All-Buckeye State matchup between Ohio State and Dayton, finally giving the Flyers, their coach and a transfer a chance to prove themselves against the big in-state program.

The 16th and final game of the day will be in Spokane when San Diego State and New Mexico State tip at roughly 10 p.m. Eastern.

Navigating the whole day can be tough with games crossing four different networks. We’ll help you get through it here.

NCAA Tournament Thursday Viewer’s Guide
All times Eastern

No. 7 Connecticut vs. No. 10 Saint Joseph’s
TV: 6:45 p.m., TBS
Site: Buffalo
Region: East
Announcers: Verne Lundquist, Bill Raftery
UConn is back in the field after a one-year absence due to NCAA sanctions. St. Joe’s is back for only the second time since 2005, when Jameer Nelson and Dalonte West led a 30-2 team. Will Shabazz Napier’s do-it-all ability outweigh a more balanced St. Joe’s team?

Related: A must-follow Twitter account for each team in the field

No. 2 Michigan vs. No. 15 Wofford
TV: 7 p.m., CBS
Site: Milwaukee
Region: Midwest
Announcers: Ian Eagle, Jim Spanarkel
The last time Wofford went to the NCAA Tournament, the Terriers lost by 4 to Wisconsin in the round of 64. This team is not as good as that one.

No. 5 Saint Louis vs. No. 12 NC State
TV: 7:15 p.m., TNT
Site: Orlando
Region: West
Announcers: Brian Anderson, Dan Bonner
Saint Louis is ranked eighth in the country in defensive efficiency thanks to its ability to lock down the 3-point line. NC State star T.J. Warren, though, wants to get to the basket. For a guard averaging 24.8 points per game, it may be a surprise that Warren gets only 11 percent of his points from 3-pointers.

Related: The NCAA Tournament by the numbers

No. 5 Oklahoma vs. No. 12 North Dakota State
TV:
7:30 p.m., truTV
Site: Spokane, Wash.
Region: West
Announcers: Spero Dedes, Doug Gottlieb
Another Dakota team will be a popular upset pick, but this one is different from last year’s team. First, last season’s upset special was South Dakota State, not North Dakota State. And that team was led by guard Note Wolters. The Bison are led by two forwards in Taylor Braun (6-7) and Marshall Bjorklund (6-8) who can score inside. The battle on the glass, then, may be one of the most intriguing matchups with OU featuring one of the nation’s best rebounders.

No. 2 Villanova vs. No. 15 Milwaukee
TV:
9:15 p.m., TBS
Site: Buffalo
Region: East
Announcers: Verne Lundquist, Bill Raftery
Milwaukee has a standout guard with a standout sports name in Jordan Aaron, who was suspended late in the season. The Panthers went 1-3 without him and won the Horizon League Tournament when he returned. Villanova handled every team not named Syracuse or Creighton on it schedule ... until a puzzling loss to Seton Hall in the Big East Tournament knocked the Wildcats out of No. 1 seed contention.

No. 7 Texas vs. No. 10 Arizona State
TV: 9:30 p.m., CBS
Site: Milwaukee
Region: Midwest
Announcers: Ian Eagle, Jim Spanarkel
Every season, the selection committee seems to find a way to get two slumping teams playing each in the round of 64. This is that game. Texas and Arizona State may have saved the jobs of Rick Barnes and Herb Sendek, respectively, and then went a combined 5-10 after Feb. 18.

No. 4 Louisville vs. No. 13 Manhattan
TV: 9:45 p.m., TNT
Site: Orlando
Region: Midwest
Announcers: Brian Anderson, Dan Bonner
Louisville may have the most curious seeding of any team in the field. The Cardinals are one of the hottest teams in the country, rising to the top five in the poll and No. 1 in KenPom. But here are the Cardinals as a No. 4 seed, in part because if a weak non-conference schedule. To boot, Rick Pitino will face a former player and assistant in Manhattan coach Steve Masiello.

No. 4 San Diego State vs. No. 13 New Mexico State
TV:
truTV, 10 p.m.
Site: Spokane, Wash.
Region: West
Announcers: Spero Dedes, Doug Gottlieb
New Mexico State may be one of the strangest NCAA Tournament regulars of the last five seasons. Consider this: The Aggies haven’t won a regular season WAC title since 2008, earning a spot in the field in four of the last five seasons as a spoiler in the conference tournament. What has New Mexico State done with all those winning streaks entering the Tournament? Nothing. The Aggies haven’t won a Tournament game since 1993.

Teaser:
NCAA Tournament Thursday Viewer's Guide: TV, times and the skinny on every game
Post date: Thursday, March 20, 2014 - 07:00
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The Athlon Sports Cover 2 Podcast took a quick break from college football spring football previews to quickly delve into college basketball.

Before delving into picks for every game in the NCAA Tournaments, co-hosts Braden Gall and David Fox give their quick reaction to Bruce Pearl’s hire at Auburn. Pearl will undoubtedly bring interest to the Auburn basketball program, but does he immediately give Auburn the best coaching duo in the league.

Then it’s on to picks for every game in the NCAA Tournament, region by region. All the upsets and storylines for every game through the title game.

(Ed. note: Fox got flustered and said Sean Kilpatrick doesn't from 3-point range. He does. A lot. Sorry, Cincinnati fans.)

The podcast can be found on athlonsports.com, iTunes and our podcast RSS feed.

Please send any comments, questions and podcast topics to @AthlonSports, @BradenGall and @DavidFox615 on Twitter or email [email protected].

Teaser:
Athlon Sports Cover 2 Podcast: NCAA Tournament picks
Post date: Wednesday, March 19, 2014 - 12:33
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
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The five-man All-America team is just too constricting.

That’s why in each year’s preseason annuals, Athlon Sports awards the top 10 players at each “superlative.”

Rather than stick a player at guard or forward, these superlatives are broken up by skill sets — floor leaders, scorers, shooters, slashers and inside-out and post.

We’ve taken a similar tact with the players in the field for the NCAA Tournament for the players you need to watch as the final three weeks of the season leading into the national championship game on April 7.

FLOOR LEADERS

1. Scottie Wilbekin, Florida
The SEC Player of the Year sets the tone for one of the least selfish (or is it most selfless?) teams in the country. The Gators have plenty of potential scorers from Casey Prather to Michael Frazier II to Patric Young to Dorian Finney-Smith, but Wilbekin is the one in charge. He doesn’t have the assist numbers of other players on this list (3.8 per game), and his shooting numbers could be better (39.6 from the field). But No. 1 overall seed Florida would be lost without him.

2. Fred VanVleet, Wichita State
A part-timer on last year’s Final Four team has become indispensable on an undefeated team.

3. T.J. McConnell, Arizona
The other impact newcomer for the Wildcats this season alongside Aaron Gordon, McConnell arrived from Duquesne to average 5.5 assists per game.

4. Tyler Ennis, Syracuse
For a while, he was the nation’s top freshman. He’s still an unflappable point guard for a team that started 25-0.

5. Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State
The three-game suspension seemed to re-energize Smart after a frustrating stretch at midseason.

6. Aaron Craft, Ohio State
7. Keith Appling, Michigan State
8. Xavier Thames, San Diego State
9. Ryan Arcidiacono, Villanova
10. Chaz Williams, UMass

SHOOTERS

1. Nik Stauskas, Michigan
The sophomore has a more well-rounded game than he did when last season he was 3-point specialist for a team that reached the national title game. He averaged 17.5 points per game with 3.3 assists, but his bread and butter is still long-range shooting. Stauskas went 80 of 178 (44.9 percent) from 3-point range this season.

2. Gary Harris, Michigan State
With Adreian Payne, Keith Appling and Branden Dawson ailing at different times this season, Harris has been the one to carry the Spartans for stretches. Harris shot only 35.1 percent from 3-point range, but he had to take 208 shots. That workload has diminished with everyone healthy. Look for him to be better for it.

3. Ron Baker, Wichita State
Baker hit 9 of 16 3-pointers during last year’s Final Four run and continued to be a go-to player from 3 for the Shockers.

4. Marcus Paige, North Carolina
The Tar Heels need Paige to hit shots, which he did late in the season. He shot 42.7 percent from 3 since Jan. 20.

5. Brady Heslip, Baylor
How’s this for a specialist: Heslip took 274 shots this season, 237 from beyond the arc.

6. Ethan Wragge, Creighton
7. Michael Frazier II, Florida
8. Ben Brust, Wisconsin
9. Joe Harris, Virginia
10. Luke Hancock, Louisville

SCORERS

1. T.J. Warren, NC State
The sophomore has put NC State on his back for a surprise inclusion in the NCAA Tournament as an at-large in the First Four. Warren’s credentials as an elite scorer aren’t in doubt, but just to add to the case, Warren hasn’t failed to score fewer than 20 points since Jan. 11, including back-to-back 40-point games.

2. Russ Smith, Louisville
Smith is still one of the national leaders in usage rate, and he’s been even more efficient (47.5 percent shooting, 40.5 percent from 3).

3. Shabazz Napier, UConn
Perhaps its tough to pigeonhole Napier as a shooter as he leads the Huskies in rebounding in assists, but his 17.4 points per game can’t be ignored.

4. Sean Kilpatrick, Cincinnati
Kilpatrick is, in essence, Cincinnati’s only scorer. The senior guard makes up more than 25 percent of their scoring.

5. Tyler Haws, BYU
The next big-time scorer for BYU averages 21.7 points per game, tied for seventh nationally.

6. DeAndre Kane, Iowa State
7. Markel Brown, Oklahoma State
8. Bryce Cotton, Providence
9. Nick Johnson, Arizona
10. Roy Devyn Marble, Iowa

SLASHERS

1. Andrew Wiggins, Kansas
Will the NCAA Tournament be Wiggins’ time to shine as a college player? With Joel Embiid hurt for the first weekend, it might need to be. His 41-point game and 30-point game late in the season shows the nation’s top incoming freshman might be ready.

2. Melvin Ejim, Iowa State
The Big 12’s Player of the Year led Iowa State’s prolific offense with 18.1 points per game while averaging 8.5 rebounds.

3. Terran Petteway, Nebraska
The Texas Tech transfer spearheaded Nebraska’s return to the NCAA Tournament with 18.1 points per game, including 26 points and 10 rebounds in the regular-season finale against Wisconsin.

4. Jordan McRae, Tennessee
McRae had a career year at 18.6 points per game and career-high 43.2 points per game as UT ended its NCAA Tournament drought.

5. Casey Prather, Florida
Prather was one of the nation’s surprise players with a hot start this season. Now, he’s the Gators’ top mid-range weapon on a balanced team.

6. Caris LeVert, Michigan
7. Cory Jefferson, Baylor
8. Le’Bryan Nash, Oklahoma State
9. Sam Dekker, Wisconsin
10. Cleanthony Early, Wichita State

INSIDE-OUT

1. Doug McDermott, Creighton
The no-brainer national player of the year is playing some of his best basketball at the end of the year, which is saying something. McDermott is more than his 3,000 points. He leads the nation’s most efficient offense thanks to his 52.5 shooting on 17.9 shots per game. And let’s not forget that he’s an above average rebounder at 7.0 per game, a career low.

2. Jabari Parker, Duke
Parker has 14 double-doubles this season, but he can also be lethal from 3-point range if it’s asked of him.

3. Adreian Payne, Michigan State
Here’s the cool thing about Payne: He only became a 3-point threat in the last season and a half.

4. Kyle Anderson, UCLA
It’s tough to find a spot for this 6-foot-9 point guard. He might be a floor general or a scorer. We’ll stick him here thanks to his 8.8 rebounds.

5. Rodney Hood, Duke
The Mississippi State transfer gets overshadowed by Parker. Hood might be an All-American elsewhere.

6. C.J. Fair, Syracuse
7. Lamar Patterson, Pittsburgh
8. Georges Niang, Iowa State
9. Aaron Gordon, Arizona
10. Mike Moser, Oregon

POST

1. Julius Randle, Kentucky
No question Kentucky didn’t expect to be a No. 8 seed, but Randle has been one of the few consistent pieces for the Wildcats this season. The star freshman averaged 15 points and 10.5 rebounds.

2. Joel Embiid, Kansas
The Jayhawks have major questions if Embiid is not a factor when he returns next weekend, provided Kansas makes it that far.

3. Montrezl Harrell, Louisville
Since Feb. 22, Harrell is averaging 19.1 points and 8.5 rebounds per game.

4. Cameron Bairstow, New Mexico
A revelation this season, Bairstow emerged for 20.3 points and 7.4 rebounds per game.

5. Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin
No one could have tabbed Kaminsky as Wisconsin’s top scorer entering this season. The 6-foot-11 center

6. James Michael McAdoo, North Carolina
7. Isaiah Austin, Baylor
8. Patric Young, Florida
9. Jarnell Stokes, Tennessee
10. Alex Kirk, New Mexico

Teaser:
Who are the top players in the NCAA Tournament? Superlatives on 60 of them
Post date: Wednesday, March 19, 2014 - 07:00
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Plenty of cases can be made for the anatomy of an upset and all the great things about potential Cinderellas.

At the same time, maybe not enough of the focus goes to the other half of the upset, the losing team heading back from the NCAA Tournament with its championship dreams shattered.

Certainly, plenty of lower seeded teams are talented enough and good enough on a particular day to win, but a handful of major programs are courting an upset. With the way some of these teams finished the season, they’re practically begging to lose early.

For the teams we’re breaking down as potential upset targets, we’re looking primarily at teams seeded seventh or higher that could lose their first game or teams seeded fourth or higher that could lose in the round of 32. Why not the No. 8 seeds? The 8-9 game is practically a toss up anyway, and No. 9 seeds historically have the advantage at 56-48 all time against the No. 8s.

A quick reaction to the exercise: The South region topped by Florida may be the most chaotic, starting with the injury to Kansas’ Joel Embiid and the slump to finish the season.

Meanwhile, the West region topped by Arizona appears to have the most chalk with only one team (Baylor) on our list for an early loss.

In true NCAA Tournament fashion, then, the favorites will rule the South and the West will destroy your bracket.

SOUTH REGION (No. 1 seed Florida)
No. 2 Kansas
Round of 64 opponent: Eastern Kentucky
Without Joel Embiid around the rim, Kansas’ defense has been a problem, allowing 92 points to West Virginia (1.26 points per possession) and 94 to Iowa State (1.2 per possession). Eastern Kentucky is one of the better 3-point shooting teams in the field, and upsets by No. 15 seeds are far less rare than they used to be. If EKU can’t pull the mammoth upset, then the inside-out duo of Alex Kirk and Kendall Williams at New Mexico could give KU trouble.

No. 3 Syracuse
Round of 64 opponent: Western Michigan
Even before Syracuse’s first loss of the season, that shocker to Boston College, the offense for the Orange had started to slip. Since Feb. 15, Syracuse averaged less than a point per possession (95 per 100). Only Virginia Tech averaged worse during that span in the ACC. The Syracuse slump helped Virginia get a No. 1 seed and NC State claim a bid, while serving as the season highlights for Boston College and Georgia Tech. Western Michigan and either Ohio State or Dayton are plenty capable knocking out Syracuse.

No. 4 UCLA
Round of 64 opponent: Tulsa
This is perhaps the top-four seed that has received the least amount of attention this season despite Kyle Anderson’s phenomenal close to the year. Maybe it’s East Coast bias, but maybe it’s because UCLA’s most recent loss was by 18 to a Washington State team that just fired its coach. UCLA didn’t win the second leg of a Pac-12 road game this season, so the round of 32 game is just as problematic. At New Mexico and Iowa, UCLA coach Steve Alford has presided over three losses to double-digit seeds in his last four trips to the Tourney.

No. 5 VCU
Round of 64 opponent: Stephen F. Austin
In one of the most fascinating first round games, VCU faces the hottest team in the country not named Wichita State. Regardless of opponent, VCU may not be the team you remember making NCAA Tournament runs in years past. Even though the Havoc defense is still creating problems, the Rams have the lowest-rated team in offensive efficiency of the Shaka Smart era. Stephen F. Austin forces turnovers at a rate similar to VCU.

No. 6 Ohio State
Round of 64 opponent: Dayton
Ohio State finished the season with a pair of encouraging wins over Michigan State and Nebraska before a 72-69 loss to Michigan in the Big Ten Tournament.  But this is also a team that lost five of six in January and dropped back-to-back games to Penn State and Indiana. The Buckeyes lack shooters, which is something Dayton has in Jordan Sibert. Incidentally, Sibert started his career at Ohio State in a signing class with Jared Sullinger, Deshaun Thomas and Aaron Craft.

EAST REGION (No. 1 seed Virginia)

No. 5 Cincinnati
Round of 64 opponent: Harvard
Harvard was the upset few people pegged last season when the Crimson defeated No. 3 seed New Mexico. Now, Harvard, with nearly every key player back, is one of the most trendy upset picks. If Harvard can shut down Sean Kilpatrick, Cincinnati has few other options to score.

No. 6 North Carolina
Round of 64 opponent:
Providence
Providence is a classic case of a team that either has all the momentum after winning the Big East tournament or spent all its energy trying to get into the NCAA Tournament in the first place. The Friars have their offensive issues, but you won’t find a game with a greater disparity at the free throw line: Providence is second nationally at 78.1 percent while North Carolina is 344th at 62.5 percent.

No. 7 Connecticut
Round of 64 opponent: Saint Joseph’s
UConn is a flawed enough team to lose to the Atlantic 10 Tournament champions. Shabazz Napier can be wild with his shot, and the Huskies have been at a size disadvantage all season. St. Joe’s counters with a pair of senior 6-8 forwards in Ronald Roberts and Halil Kanacevic.

WEST REGION (No. 1 seed Arizona)

No. 6 Baylor
Round of 64 opponent: Nebraska
This may not be the time to start picking against Baylor, given that the Bears have reached the Elite Eight in the last two Tournaments in even-numbered years (while missing the Tournament in the last three odd-numbered years). But Baylor is notoriously streaky and will be facing a Nebraska team with plenty of big wins on its ledger this season. The Bears can’t neither afford center Isaiah Austin to return to one of his funks nor poor free throw shooting.

MIDWEST (No. 1 Wichita State)

No. 1 Wichita State
Round of 64 opponent: Cal Poly or Texas Southern
First off, there’s no way Wichita State will lost its game against the No. 16 seed. How the Shockers will hold up against the winner of the No. 8-9 game is another matter. Kentucky would be the more talented team on the floor if the Shockers face Big Blue in the second game, but Kansas State is a tough opponent, too, especially in the defensive end.

No. 5 Saint Louis
Round of 64 opponent: NC State
The offense has been a liability for Saint Louis all season, even as the Billikens won their first 12 games in the A-10. Saint Louis averages 1.01 points per possession and less than a point per possession in conference play. That didn’t start to bite the Billikens until late in the season when they lost four of their last four, including the A-10 tourney opener against St. Bonaventure.

No. 6 UMass
Round of 64 opponent: Iowa or Tennessee
UMass is seeded here largely because of a non-conference resume that included wins over Nebraska, New Mexico, BYU and Providence. While that’s impressive, consider UMass was inconsistent in A-10 play, going 11-7. This is a team that often struggles to find its shot, which could spell trouble against Iowa or Tennessee.

Teaser:
12 Teams Begging to be Upset in the NCAA Tournament
Post date: Wednesday, March 19, 2014 - 07:00
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The concept of a mid-major may be out of date thanks to the last few seasons.

Think about it: Butler and VCU have routinely put up high-major program results. Wichita State invests in its program in ways some programs in major conferences do not. Creighton and Xavier now share the Big East banner.

Even the pool of potential Cinderellas this season even seemed to take a hit. A dozen regular season champions in one-bid leagues lost in the conference tournaments. That either means the hottest teams from the low-majors are in the field or the most capable teams are playing in the NIT.

We’ll find out soon enough, but there’s still no shortage of teams that look like they can make a run in the NCAA Tournament even if they’re not household names. Here’s what we like about some of the best candidates.

SOUTH REGION (No. 1 seed Florida)

Dayton
Record: 23-10, 10-6 Atlantic 10
Seed: 11
Round of 64 opponent: Ohio State
Is Dayton too good a program to be considered a potential Cinderella? Perhaps. The Flyers play in a first-class arena and claimed one of the Atlantic 10’s six NCAA bids. But Dayton also has one NCAA Tournament win since 2004. The Flyers started the season in fine form, beating Gonzaga in the Maui Invitational and taking Baylor to the wire, and then won 10 of the final 12. This is a team that can hang with major programs. Dayton’s not a great defensive team, but the Flyers’ pod includes Ohio State and Syracuse, teams that haven’t exactly lit up the scoreboard during the final stretch of the season.

Stephen F. Austin
Record: 31-2, 18-0 Southland
Seed: 12
Round of 64 opponent: VCU
The Lumberjacks rolled through the Southland Conference for a second consecutive season, this time under a first-year coach. Former Kansas State assistant Brad Underwood took over for the successful Danny Kaspar to lead Stephen F. Austin to 28 consecutive wins to finish the season. The Lumberjacks were rarely tested in the Southland, where they won their conference games by an average of 15.7 points per contest. The drawback to this 31-2 record: SFA’s best win all season was over Towson. Look for the round of 64 game against VCU to be a wild one: Both rank in the top three nationally in defensive turnover rate.

Tulsa
Record: 21-12, 13-3 Conference USA
Seed: 13
Round of 64 opponent: UCLA
Tulsa didn’t make much noise in Conference USA until late in the season, but there’s plenty to like about the Golden Hurricane. Tulsa is the home of eventual national championship coaches Bill Self, Tubby Smith and Nolan Richardson and has another intriguing name on the bench in Kansas legend Danny Manning. This season’s team has been tested plenty. Even if the Golden Hurricane didn’t win many games against big-time competition early, Tulsa has been tested against top-five seeded teams Wichita State, Creighton and Oklahoma.

Western Michigan
Record: 23-9, 14-4 MAC
Seed: 14
Round of 64 opponent: Syracuse
The Broncos won 12 of their last 13 games, the only loss coming in overtime on the road to the next best team in the MAC in Toledo. Western Michigan has a pair of potential pros in 6-11 center Shayne Whittington and 6-3, 210-point guard David Brown. Throw in a first-round matchup against a Syracuse team that has fallen apart since the 25-0 start, and Western Michigan will be a popular pick for a 14-3 upset.

EAST REGION (No. 1 seed Virginia)

George Washington
Record: 24-8, 11-5 Atlantic 10
Seed: 9
Round of 64 opponent: Memphis
Like some of the other A-10 teams, George Washington may or may not qualify as a Cinderella. The Colonials are seeded ninth and defeated Creighton early in the season in a tournament in Anaheim. They also defeated high-majors Georgia and Maryland, for what that’s worth. Affable coach Mike Lonergan has two players recruited by major powers. Maurice Creek has flourished at G-Dub after his career at Indiana was cut short by multiple injuries, and Isaiah Armwood has been a double-double machine since transferring from Villanova.

Harvard
Record: 26-4, 13-1 Ivy
Seed: 12
Round of 64 opponent: Cincinnati
Harvard returns nearly every key player from the team that upset No. 3 seed New Mexico last season. The Crimson are a solid enough team to take advantage of a Cincinnati team that struggles to score. The Bearcats are one of the best teams in the defensive end, but they ranked worse than 200th nationally in shooting from 2-point and 3-point range.

North Carolina Central
Record: 28-5, 15-1 MEAC
Seed: 14
Round of 64 opponent: Iowa State
North Carolina Central enters the NCAA Tournament on a 20-game winning streak, but the Eagles have a more impressive non-conference profile than previous MEAC champions. North Carolina Central defeated NC State on the road and faced Cincinnati, Wichita State and Maryland in guarantee games.

WEST REGION (No. 1 seed Arizona)

North Dakota State
Record: 25-6, 12-2 Summit League
Seed: 12
Round of 64 opponent: Oklahoma
North Dakota State on paper has an offense that can hang with Oklahoma. The veteran Bison are 20th in adjusted offensive efficiency and 11th in effective field goal percentage. North Dakota State isn’t a great 3-point shooting team, but the Bison don’t need to be, shooting 56 percent from inside the arc.

Louisiana-Lafayette
Record: 23-11, 11-7 Sun Belt
Seed: 14
Round of 64 opponent: Creighton
Few players are more valuable to their teams than Creighton’s Doug McDermott. Louisiana-Lafayette’s Elfrid Payton may be one of them. The Ragin’ Cajuns’ guard averages 19.1 points per game, 5.9 rebounds, 6.0 assists and 2.2 steals. Throw in a forward averaging a double-double (Shawn Long) and UL Lafayette has a twosome that maybe able to counter McDermott.

MIDWEST REGION (No. 1 seed Wichita State)

Mercer
Record: 26-9, 14-4 Atlantic Sun
Seed: 14
Round of 64 opponent: Duke
Looking for another example of a Cinderella team that can get hot from 3-point range? Try Mercer. The Bears made an average of 8.1 3-point attempts per game. Mercer won the Atlantic Sun regular season title last season and tied for the crown this season. If Duke’s defensive lapses from early this season return, Mercer could be a team to watch.

Teaser:
Potential Cinderella Teams in the 2014 NCAA Tournament
Post date: Tuesday, March 18, 2014 - 07:00
All taxonomy terms: by-the-numbers, College Basketball, News
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March Madness allows for a handful of programs each season to enjoy their moment in the sun for the teams making the field for the first time, ending a long drought or continuing a tradition.

And thanks to another expansion in 2011, the NCAA Tournament gives us 68 data points each season.

One season the Big Ten has bragging rights, the next the Big 12. One season, California has plenty of state representation in the field. In others, even a state like Indiana can be shut out.

That’s part of the beauty of the first Thursday and Friday of the NCAA Tournament, where 64 programs from coast to coast have a chance to be the major sports story of the day.

As usual, Selection Sunday gave us another set of superlatives to watch for this year's NCAA Tournament.

COMPLETE REGION PREVIEWS
East | Midwest | South | West


The 2014 NCAA Tournament By the Numbers

4. Teams in the top 20 of offensive and defensive efficiency
Ken Pomeroy’s adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency ratings have been kingmakers of sorts for the national title. Every champion since 2003 has ranked in the top 20 nationally in both offensive and defensive efficiency. Four teams are in that category this season: Florida, Louisville, Villanova and Wichita State.

8. Coaches with Final Four experience in Wichita State’s region
Wichita State earned the No. 1 seed in the Midwest region, which may be the toughest as far as coaching goes. The 17 teams in the region feature eight coaches with a combined 27 Final Four appearances and seven national champions. The tally includes Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski (11), Louisville’s Rick Pitino (7), Kentucky’s John Calipari (4) and Wichita State’s Gregg Marshall, Texas’ Rick Barnes, Michigan’s John Beilein, Texas Southern’s Mike Davis and Kansas State’s Bruce Weber (1). No other region has more than 14 Final Fours among its coaches.

7. Bids for the Big 12, the most represented conference
The Big 12 had the look all season as the nation’s most balanced conference through the top nine. TCU, which finished without a conference win, was the only easy out in the league. The Big 12 sent seven of its 10 teams to the NCAA Tournament in Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas. It’s the most for the league since 2010 when the Big 12 had 12 members.

6. Bids for the Atlantic 10
Three NCAA Tournament regulars left the Atlantic 10 before this season (Butler, Temple and Xavier), and only the Musketeers, now in the Big East, are in the field. The A-10, though, got the better end of conference expansion as far as the NCAA Tournament was concerned. The A-10 garnered more bids than the the Big East and the SEC and as many as the ACC and Pac-12. The conference tournament was a major boon for the league as St. Joseph’s, a bubble team entering championship week, won the league’s automatic bid. Meanwhile, Dayton and George Washington completed their at-large resumes to join Saint Louis, VCU and UMass.

4. Bids from California and Ohio, the most represented states.
UCLA and San Diego State were locks entering the final weekend. Stanford played its way in during the Pac-12 Tournament. But the most surprising bid out of the delegation from California was Cal Poly. The seventh-seeded Mustangs won the tournament in the Big West, a league with eight teams from the Golden State. Ohio also had its own bubble teams play their way in with Dayton and Xavier earning two of the final bids to join Ohio State and Cincinnati from the Buckeye State.

0. Teams from the state of Indiana
No Indiana. No Purdue. No Notre Dame. Not even Valparaiso. The Hoosier State is without an NCAA team for only the second time since the field expanded in 1985. The only other year Indiana was shut out was 2005.

1. Team with a losing record in the field
Speaking of Cal Poly, the Mustangs erased a lackluster season with a hot streak in the Big West Tournament. After going 13-19 overall and 6-10 in the Big West, Cal Poly defeated No. 2 seed UC Santa Barbara, No. 1 seed UC Irvine and No. 5 seed Cal State Northridge to become the only team with a losing record in the field. This marks three seasons in a row a team with a losing record made the field as an automatic bid (Western Kentucky in 2012, Liberty in 2013). Northeast Conference champion Mount St. Mary’s needed to win its league tournament to achieve a .500 record at 16-16.

2. Teams making their first appearance in the NCAA Tournament
Cal Poly is one. The other is MEAC champion North Carolina Central, which shares Durham, N.C., with Duke.

5. Teams with the nickname Wildcats
So this wasn’t a great year for Kentucky, but it was a great season to be the Wildcats. Five teams with the nickname are in Tournament: Arizona, Kansas State, Kentucky, Villanova and Weber State. Other mascots with strong representation include the Bears (Baylor and Mercer), Eagles (American and North Carolina Central), Panthers (Milwaukee and Pittsburgh) and Tigers (Memphis and Texas Southern).

25. Consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances for Kansas, the active record
Maybe it’s easy to take an NCAA Tournament bid for granted. Something that shouldn’t be overlooked is going year in and year out. Kansas has played in every NCAA Tournament since 1990 making the Jayhawks the active leader for most consecutive appearances. Make the field in 2015 and 2016, and Kansas will tie North Carolina for the all-time record. Only eight teams have played in the last six Tournaments with streaks for Marquette (since 2006), Temple (since 2008) and Missouri (since 2009) snapped this season.

Most consecutive NCAA appearances, active streaks only:
Kansas, 25
Duke, 19
Michigan State, 17
Gonzaga, 16
Wisconsin, 16
Louisville, 8
Ohio State, 6
Syracuse, 6

1985. Last NCAA appearance for Mercer, the longest drought ended in 2014
Mercer was the first upset victim of Florida Gulf Coast’s postseason run last season as the Bears won the Atlantic Sun regular season title only to lose to FGCU in the league tournament. That didn’t happen this time around as Mercer captured the league’s automatic bid.

1998. Last NCAA appearance for Nebraska, the longest drought ended by a power conference team in 2014
Nebraska’s celebration after defeating Wisconsin to cap the regular season was not in vain. Coach Tim Miles led Nebraska to its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1998. Nebraska’s absence has included three coaching changes and two conference affiliations.

Longest droughts ended in the 2014 NCAA Tournament
Mercer, last appeared in 1985
Coastal Carolina, 1993
Nebraska, 1998
UMass, 1998
Delaware, 1999

25. AP rank last week for NIT-bound SMU
The Mustangs spent four of the last five weeks of the season ranked in the AP top 25, but SMU was not able to end an NCAA Tournament drought that dated back to 1993. SMU is the first ranked team not to make the field since Utah State in 2004.

12. No. 1 seeds from conference tournaments playing in the NIT
Even the NIT bubble was tough this season for at-large teams. The glut of upsets in the conference tournaments created a crunch for NIT spots. Regular season conference champions that don’t receive NCAA bids are guaranteed a berth in the NIT. That means 12 teams received automatic bids for the NIT, leaving only 20 spots for at-larges.

Teaser:
The 2014 NCAA Tournament By the Numbers
Post date: Monday, March 17, 2014 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/need-bracket-advice-our-best-tips-your-2014-ncaa-tournament-pool
Body:

The day after Selection Sunday is not a great time to get caught up on the college basketball season.

As you start to fill out NCAA Tournament brackets for your pools, Athlon Sports did some of the homework for your basketball cram session. March Madness is unpredictable, and we expect it to be again.

But there are some tried and true trends in the Tournament, and we’ll break them down here.

These are our favorite rules for picking our brackets, along with some of the examples from this year’s field.

COMPLETE REGION PREVIEWS
East | Midwest | South | West


Advance all the No. 1 seeds (and probably all of the No. 2 seeds)
A No. 1 seed has never lost in the round of 64. We have little doubt it will happen one day, but you’re more likely to wreck your bracket by advancing a No. 16 seed.  The No. 2 seeds have been more vulnerable in the last two seasons than ever before. Two No. 2 seeds lost in 2012 and No. 15 seed Florida Gulf Coast advanced all the way to the Sweet 16. If you must drop a No. 2 before the Sweet 16, do your homework. Find a vulnerable No. 2 and a No. 15 that either dominated its low-major conference or scored an upset over a major team earlier in the season. None of this year's No. 15 seeds fit that profile.

Consider dropping a No. 1 or a No. 2 in the round of 32
In the last four Tournaments, eight of the 32 No. 1 or No. 2 seeds lost before the Sweet 16. The teams in seeds 7-10 are talented but streaky, capable of knocking off a top seed on a quick turnaround. Take a look at the names in the 8-9 games alone: Kentucky, Oklahoma State, Memphis, Pittsburgh and Gonzaga.
Our picks for vulnerable top-two seeds: Arizona, Villanova, Wisconsin

Don’t fall in love with upsets
Wichita State, Butler, VCU and George Mason in the Final Four are all memorable. So is Florida Gulf Coast’s run to the Sweet 16 last year. Still, don’t get too caught up trying to look smart by advancing a double-digit seed to the Final Four. Of the last 52 Final Four teams, 44 were top-four seeds, and four of the seven who were not top-four seeds were No. 5 seeds. Butler, VCU and George Mason (and last year’s ninth-seeded Wichita State) are memorable because they're outliers.

Don’t go chalk all way the Final Four
Statistically, advancing every higher seed every round might not be a bad idea, but what’s the fun in that? Only once have all four No. 1 seed advanced to the Final Four. Want to know if your Final Four is risky or too safe? Add up the seeds of your Final Four. The median for the last 20 Final Fours is 14. If the seeds for your Final Four add up to 10 or fewer, you’ve picked a safe Final Four. If the Final Four seeds add up to 20 or more, you’re picking the kind of Final Four that has happened only three times in 20 years.

The real upset potential starts at the No. 5 seeds
Since the field expanded in 1985, the No. 4 seed wins 78 percent of the time. That drops to 64.7 percent for the No. 5 seed, 66.4 percent for the No. 6 and 60.3 percent for the No. 7
12-5 Upsets We Like: Stephen F. Austin over VCU, Xavier/NC State over Saint Louis, Harvard over Cincinnati
11-6 Upsets We Like: Nebraska over Baylor, Tennessee over UMass, Providence over North Carolina
10-7 Upset We Like: Arizona State over Texas

Related: March Madness by the numbers

Pay attention to extreme free throw numbers
Expect closer games in the NCAA Tournament. That means free throws will play a critical role. If you’re on the fence about a team, give free throw numbers a look. Avoid falling in love with teams that can’t hit free throws.
Key teams with high free throw percentages: Connecticut, Creighton, Michigan, Oklahoma, Oregon, UCLA
Key teams with low free throw percentages: Arizona, Kansas State, Louisville, Memphis, North Carolina

All that talk about bubble teams, forget it
We spent the last six weeks talking about bubble teams. Time to stop paying them any mind, especially bubble teams from major conferences. Teams had trouble clinching a Tourney bid because they couldn’t win consistently. Teams from major conferences had chances all year to prove they were Tourney teams and didn’t do it until the last week of the season. Knock them out early. The exception: Bubble teams from mid-major conferences. The inclusion of VCU and George Mason in recent years were criticized ... until they reached the Final Four.
Bubble teams to avoid beyond round of 32: Arizona State, BYU, NC State, Providence, St. Joseph’s, Xavier

When picking a mid-major to advance, do your homework
Look beyond the record. We like mid- and low-major teams that tested themselves against major competition, whether or not they won games. In this space last year, we told you to watch Florida Gulf Coast and Wichita State based on regular season schedules. Also make sure to look at a mid-major team's conference record. Did a team play well during its conference season, or did it wait until the conference tournament to get hot?
Teams that challenged themselves in the non-conference: Dayton, George Washington, Mercer, New Mexico State, Tulsa, UMass
Teams that didn’t: American, Manhattan, Stephen F. Austin, Texas Southern, Western Michigan

Use caution with teams that faded since February and early March
Are teams tired? Was there a major personnel change? Was there an injury? Did opponents catch up? In any case, we don’t like teams limping into the Tournament, no matter what they did from November through January. On the flip side, give credit to teams that got better as the season went along.
Teams that faded: Arizona State, Iowa, Saint Louis, Syracuse, Texas, UMass
Teams that improved through the season: Baylor, Dayton, Louisville, Nebraska, Oregon, Tennessee, Virginia

Find balance on offense and defense
Defense wins championship is a football saying. Don't let it take over your bracket. The key to winning in March is balance on both sides of the court, especially for teams that can play multiple tempos and styles. The last 10 national champions ranked in the top 20 in both of Ken Pomeroy’s adjusted offensive and defensive rankings. Steer clear from advancing teams to the Elite Eight or Final Four if they have a great offense and questionable defense or vice versa.
The teams in the top 20 in both this season are: Florida, Louisville, Villanova, Wichita State
Good offense, bad defense: Baylor, BYU, Creighton, Iowa, Michigan
Good defense, bad offense: Kansas State, Ohio State, San Diego State, Saint Louis

Teaser:
Need bracket advice? Our best tips for your 2014 NCAA Tournament pool
Post date: Monday, March 17, 2014 - 09:00
Path: /college-basketball/ncaa-tournament-selection-sunday-reaction-virginia-nc-state-smu-louisville-down
Body:

As usual, the first surprises of the NCAA Tournament start with Selection Sunday. The brackets you’ve just printed may still be warm, and a few teams are still in shock.

NC State is in. SMU is out. Virginia is No. 1. And Louisville is not happy.

Those aren't the only teams taking a long look at the next three weeks. Here's what stood out from the Selection Show and what we learned about the NCAA selection committee this time around.

No one will doubt Wichita State if the Shockers advance
The Shockers maybe hoped to get Kansas as the No. 2 seed in their region. They won’t get the Jayhawks, but they’ll get darn near everyone else. Provided Wichita State advanced to the round of 32, the Shockers will draw Kansas State ... or an eighth-seeded Kentucky team filled with McDonald’s All-Americans. Also in Wichita State’s region: Big Ten regular season champion Michigan, Duke and defending national champion Louisville. The Midwest is arguably the toughest region.

Virginia got the last No. 1 seed
Florida, Arizona and Wichita State had been sure things for No. 1 seeds for at least two weeks. The wild card was the last one that went to ACC regular season and tournament champion Virginia over Michigan, Villanova or Wisconsin. Anyone who started following the season in January would think this makes perfect sense since Cavaliers went 16-2 in the league and defeated Syracuse, Duke and North Carolina. Anyone who paid attention back in November and December might be perplexed. The earlier version of Virginia lost to VCU, Wisconsin, Green Bay and by 35 to Tennessee.

The most controversial seeding belonged to Louisville
Louisville is the defending national champion, the American Tournament champion, fifth in the polls and second in Ken Pomeroy’s ratings. Yet the selection committee slapped the Cardinals with a No. 4 seed. The seeding is more in line with Louisville’s rank of No. 18 in the RPI. Rather than Louisville’s recent results, the Cardinals’ overall body of work, which includes the 149th-ranked non-conference schedule, played a role here. The committee also hammered American Athletic Conference co-champion Cincinnati with a No. 5 seed.

NC State was the most shocking name in the field
And this is funny because the argument against ACC leading scorer T.J. Warren winning league player of the year was that he played for a team going to the NIT. The Wolfpack benefitted from a late push that included a win over Pittsburgh on the road and against Syracuse in the ACC Tournament. NC State will face Xavier in the First Four.

SMU was the biggest snub
Congratulations, NIT, you’ll have a ranked team in your event. SMU is 25th in the Associated Press poll but won’t be in the NCAA Tournament field. SMU only two RPI top 100 teams out of conference, losing to Virginia and defeating Arkansas. The flimsy non-conference schedule and weak bottom half of the American Athletic Conference contributed to 22 games against teams outside the RPI top 100. Losses to three of those (Houston, Temple and USF) certainly didn’t help.

Florida’s region will be interesting, but we’re not sure if it will be competitive
The Gators benefited from being the No. 1 overall seed by drawing a region with a No. 2 seed in Kansas with an ailing Joel Embiid and a No. 3 seed in Syracuse that has lost five of its last seven since starting 25-0. The first two weekends also have their share of flawed teams: The 8-9 winner will be either a Colorado team without point guard Spencer Dinwiddie or a Pittsburgh team with one top-50 win all year.

Arizona got the 8-9 game no one wanted
Oklahoma State seemed destined for an 8-9 game since Marcus Smart returned from suspension and proved the Cowboys were a solid NCAA team. The Pokes will face Gonzaga in the round of 64 before a likely matchup against Arizona.

Dayton will not play at home ... but Xavier kind of will
A major question for a Dayton team on the bubble was if the selection committee would allow the Flyers to play on their home court in the first four. Sending Dayton to Buffalo to face Ohio State to prevent a First Four game. Instead, the committee pegged No. 11 seed Xavier in the First Four, playing NC State 46 miles away from campus.

Best round of 64 games
VCU vs. Stephen F. Austin: The Lumberjacks are a threat to be a Cinderella ... against a VCU team that knows about surprises.
Ohio State vs. Dayton: Flyers coach Archie Miller faces his old boss in Thad Matta.
Kansas State vs. Kentucky: Bruce Weber’s Wildcats are the kind of tough defensive team that will give Kentucky trouble.
Cincinnati vs. Harvard: Much of the same cast that upset New Mexico last season returns.
North Carolina vs. Providence: Big East tourney champs have a superstar guard in Bryce Cotton.

Best potential round of 32 games
Wichita State vs. Kentucky: The team that hoped to go 40-0 vs. the team that can actually do it.
Cincinnati vs. Michigan State: Provided the Bearcats can get past Harvard
Creighton vs. Nebraska: A state title game pitting Doug McDermott against coach Tim Miles.
Villanova vs. UConn or St. Joseph’s: Nova draws either a former Big East foe or a Big 5 rival.
VCU vs. UCLA: UCLA couldn’t pry Shaka Smart from the Rams before hiring Steve Alford.
Arizona vs. Oklahoma State: Marcus Smart faces Aaron Gordon and a tough Wildcats defense.

Teaser:
NCAA Tournament Selection Sunday Reaction: Virginia, NC State up. SMU, Louisville down
Post date: Sunday, March 16, 2014 - 19:59
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Big 12, News
Path: /college-football/athlon-sports-cover-2-college-football-podcast-big-12-rankings-preview
Body:

Preparations for the 2014 Athlon Sports preview magazines have started, and this season, we’re taking you inside the debates that shape our rankings.

The first in a series that will cover every major conference covers the Big 12. Athlon Sports writers and editors Braden Gall, David Fox and Steven Lassan cover every team in the Big 12 and what we’re watching in the league.

Oklahoma and Baylor have separated themselves as favorites, but there’s some debate as to which team should be the preseason pick in the league. We also debated what Texas can expect in its first season with Charlie Strong and if this will be a down year for Oklahoma State.

The podcast can be found on athlonsports.com, iTunes and our podcast RSS feed.

Please send any comments, questions and podcast topics to @AthlonSports, @BradenGall, @DavidFox615 and @AthlonSteven on Twitter or email [email protected].

Teaser:
Athlon Sports Cover 2 College Football Podcast: Big 12 Rankings Preview
Post date: Friday, March 14, 2014 - 14:42
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketballs-not-coach-year-every-major-conference
Body:

Three weeks ago, Athlon Sports profiled the the top contenders for coach of the year in every league. This is not that story.

For every yin there’s a yang, and these are what we’re going to call the Not Coach of the Year for every major conference.

In general, we’ve tried to stay away from programs where things have happened beyond their control such as injuries or coaches of programs expected to be bad this season.

To be a Not Coach of the Year, the coach probably saw his program slip below expectations to a major degree. A few probably won’t return for 2014-15. But others are fine coaches who have just had one of those seasons where anything and everything could go wrong.

League-by-League Not Coach of the Year

ACC
Contenders: Jeff Bzdelik (Wake Forest), Steve Donahue (Boston College)
Not coach of the year: Donahue
Bzdelik continues to be the king of ACC hot seats, even though Wake Forest defeated both Duke and North Carolina this season. The nod, though, has to go to Donahue despite one of the most out-of-nowhere upsets in 2014 when the Eagles beat then-undefeated Syracuse in the Carrier Dome. Boston College scheduled aggressively in the non-conference, facing Providence, UMass, Toledo, UConn, Purdue, USC, Maryland, VCU and Harvard. BC lost them all. Boston College had two veterans in Olivier Hanlan and Ryan Anderson but few other players able to hold up during the ACC season. Despite hopes for playing in a postseason of some kind, Boston College finished 8-24.

American
Contenders: Fran Dunphy (Temple), Eddie Jordan (Rutgers)
Not coach of the year: Jordan
Even in a rebuilding year, Dunphy had to expect better than 9-22 at Temple. Rutgers and Jordan, though, inched ahead of Dunphy and Temple with a 92-31 loss to Louisville in the American Tournament. The Scarlet Knights had one top 100 win all season — over Canisius on Nov. 18 — and their last three wins were over USF. Jordan, a former NBA coach, now has to take this broken team into the Big Ten.

Big 12
Contenders:
Trent Johnson (TCU), Travis Ford (Oklahoma State)
Not coach of the year: Ford
When Marcus Smart was suspended for three games for a fan altercation, Smart and the Texas Tech fan took plenty of criticism. But Travis Ford didn’t come out of that incident looking great, either. Teammates, not Ford, escorted Smart from the playing surface or from the bench, where he lingered until the end of the game. The combustable situation never escalated beyond the original shove, but the possibility of the incident becoming uglier remained. Since then, Oklahoma State more or less recovered from that incident after Smart’s return, but this has still been a disappointing season nonetheless. Ford dealt with a short bench for most of the season without an injured Michael Cobbins and dismissed Stevie Clark. The result was an 8-10 Big 12 season from a team that expected to contend for the league crown.

Big East
Contenders: John Thompson III (Georgetown), Buzz Williams (Marquette)
Not coach of the year: Thompson
It’s tough enough to contend for a conference title after the do-it-all league player of the year (Otto Porter) heads to the NBA. Georgetown, though, never found a groove this season and wasn’t helped by the dismissal of Greg Whittington in November and ineligibility of Josh Smith in January. With the possibility of the NCAA Tournament still alive, Georgetown flopped against DePaul, handing the last-place Blue Demons their first Big East Tournament win since 2009.

Big Ten
Contenders: Tom Crean (Indiana)
Not coach of the year: Crean
A drop off was inevitable for Indiana, which lost two top-four picks off of last year’s team (Cody Zeller and Victor Oladipo). Still, this team had enough returning veterans including Yogi Ferrell and Will Sheehey and a decorated freshman class led by Noah Vonleh to make the NCAA Tournament. After going 17-15, Indiana will head to the NIT only a year after being a No. 1 seed. The Hoosiers found a way to lose to Northwestern, Penn State and Nebraska all at home.

Pac-12
Contenders: Ken Bone (Washington State)
Not coach of the year: Bone
In recent decades, only Tony Bennett and Kelvin Sampson have won at the toughest job in the Pac-12. In the last two seasons at Washington State, Bone went 23-40 overall and 7-30 in the Pac-12.

SEC
Contenders: John Calipari (Kentucky), Anthony Grant (Alabama), Frank Haith (Missouri), Johnny Jones (LSU)
Not coach of the year: Calipari
Was the preseason No. 1 ranking premature for Kentucky? Certainly. But it was understandable. The Wildcats brought in the most decorated signing class in college basketball history with six McDonald’s All-Americans with a coach who had won a national title with a freshman-laden class two seasons earlier. This Kentucky team never found a way to play together and became the first preseason No. 1 team to fall out of the rankings since 1980. It’s rare for a preseason No. 1 to fall out of the top 10 during the course of the season. Kentucky hasn’t been there since Dec. 2.

Teaser:
College Basketball's Not Coach of the Year for every major conference
Post date: Friday, March 14, 2014 - 07:00
All taxonomy terms: tall-americans, College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/athlon-sports-2013-14-college-basketball-tall-america-team
Body:

College basketball, especially this time of year, is all about mismatches.

In general, that means a power forward with quickness or a big guy who can step out to take a 3.

With 351 teams in college basketball, the sample size leads to size mismatches between a 5-foot-8 guard and a 7-6 center. And we’re not kidding. This is a matchup that actually happened.

That leads us to the Tall-America team, a collection of the best players at every height from a 5-7 point guard to a 7-6 center.

For sake of consistency, we used only the heights provided on school rosters for this season. We’re not ignorant to schools adding an inch or two to each player, but we also don’t have exact heights from the NBA Draft.

CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE

 

Athlon Sports 2013-14 Tall-America Team

5-7 Christopher Anderson, San Diego
Others: Keon Johnson (Winthrop)
San Diego coach Bill Grier has described Anderson with a word associated with most 5-7 players who thrive in college basketball: Fearless. The 150-pound point guard led the West Coast Conference in assists (5.9 per game), tied for the lead in steals (1.8) and shot 43.7 percent from 3-point range.
Photo courtesy of Brock Scott

5-8 Kendall Anthony, Richmond
Others: Johnathan Loyd (Oregon)
The 2012 A-10 Rookie of the Year set a career high with 16 points per game as a senior. With a shorthanded roster, Richmond moved Anthony to the starting point guard spot late in the year.

5-9 Chaz Williams, UMass
Others: Dre Mathieu (Minnesota), Nic Moore (SMU)
The standout career for Williams, who started his career at Hofstra, will finally end in the NCAA Tournament. Williams has shown a knack to take over games with his scoring (15.8 points per game) or passing (7.1 assists, third nationally).

5-10 Jahii Carson, Arizona State
One of the quickest guards in the country, the sophomore Carson is leading Arizona State to its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2009. Carson has averaged 18.7 points per game in his two seasons with the Sun Devils.

5-11 Fred VanVleet, Wichita State
Others: Keifer Sykes (Green Bay), Anthony Hickey (LSU)
After coming off the bench for 16 minutes per game as a freshman on Wichita State’s Final Four team, VanVleet is the floor general for the Shockers’ undefeated team heading into the Tournament. VanVleet averages 5.3 assists per game and 3.9 assists per turnover.

6-0 Russ Smith, Louisville
Others: Yogi Ferrell (Indiana), Trevor Releford (Alabama)
“Russdiculous” is having a season just as good as last year when the Cardinals won the national title and Smith earned Ken Pomeroy’s National Player of the Year award. The season has included highlights such as the game-winning shot against Cincinnati and 13 assists on Senior Night.


6-1 Shabazz Napier, UConn
Others: Joe Jackson (Memphis), Marcus Paige (North Carolina), Bryce Cotton (Providence), Scottie Wilbekin (Florida)
The American Athletic Conference player of the year leads the Huskies in points per game (17.8), assists (5.2), steals (1.8) and rebounds (6.0) as a point guard.

6-2 Tyler Ennis, Syracuse
Others: Billy Baron (Canisius), Aaron Craft (Ohio State)
Ennis’ torrid pace cooled near the end of the season like the rest of Syracuse’s roster, but there are few players who should be more trusted with the ball in his hands at the end of the game. Ennis had more than two turnovers in a game only once in his first 18 games.

6-3 Xavier Thames, San Diego State
Others: Ryan Arcidacono (Villanova), Ron Baker (Wichita State), Nick Johnson (Arizona)
One of the nation’s biggest surprises this season, Thames led San Diego State to a 27-3 season and a Mountain West championship. A role player the last two seasons, Thames emerged to average 16.9 points per game a senior.

6-4 Sean Kilpatrick, Cincinnati
Others: DeAndre Kane (Iowa State), Marcus Smart (Oklahoma State)
Kilpatrick has led Cincinnati in scoring for three seasons, culminating this season with an AAC-best 20.9 points per game.

6-5 Tyler Haws, BYU
Others: Lamar Patterson (Pittsburgh), Malcolm Brogdon (Virginia), Jordan Adams (UCLA)
Haws is sixth in the nation in scoring, topping 20 points per game for the second consecutive season. He’ll try for a third season above the 20-point milestone as a senior.

6-6 Melvin Ejim, Iowa State
Others: K.J. McDaniels (Clemson), Roy Devyn Marble (Iowa), Nik Stauskas (Michigan), Terran Petteway (Nebraska)
The 6-foot-6 group includes both the Big 12 player of the year (Ejim) and the Big Ten player of the year (Stauskas). Our nod will go to Ejim, who averaged 18.2 points and 8.6 rebounds.

6-7 Alan Williams, UC Santa Barbara
Others: Ethan Wragge (Creighton)
The UCSB star is the only player in the country averaging better than 20 points and 10 rebounds at 21.6 points and 11.5 rebounds.

6-8 Doug McDermott, Creighton
Others: Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood (Duke), T.J. Warren (NC State), Andrew Wiggins (Kansas)
The 6-8s are loaded: The national player of the year, the ACC’s leading scorer and perhaps the top two players to be taken in the NBA Draft. The nod can’t go to anyone but McDermott, though, who is one of eight players to top 3,000 points in his career.

6-9 Cameron Bairstow, New Mexico
Others: James Michael McAdoo (North Carolina), Ryan Anderson (UCLA), Julius Randle (Kentucky)
The Australian forward went from never averaging double figures to averaging 20.3 points and 7.2 per game for a team that finished 24-6.

6-10 Adreian Payne, Michigan State
Others: Noah Vonleh (Indiana)
Payne was injured for parts of 2013-14 but still managed 16.1 points per game. Most impressive has been the addition of long-range shooting to his game in the last year and a half.

6-11 Chad Posthumus, Morehead State
Others: Chris Otule (Marquette), Nnanna Egwu (Illinois), Amir Williams (Ohio State)
Posthumus is a fine player (9.7 points, 11 rebounds per game), but the limited group of 6-11ers may indicate most anyone who is close gets rounded up to 7 feet in the media guide.

7-0 Joel Embiid, Kansas
Others: Kaleb Tarczewski (Arizona), Frank Kaminsky (Wisconsin), Willie Cauley-Stein (Kentucky)
A shame Embiid may not be available until the later rounds of the NCAA Tournament if Kansas makes it that far. For a stretch this season Embiid was Kansas’ most impressive freshman, not Andrew Wiggins. Embiid averaged 11.2 points, 8.1 rebounds and 2.6 blocks per game this season.

7-1 Alec Brown, Green Bay
Others: Isaiah Austin (Baylor)

Green Bay appeared to be one of the top mid-majors that could make noise in the NCAA Tournament. After losing in the Horizon championship, Brown, who has averaged 13.4 points per game in his career, and the Phoenix will try to make noise in the NIT.

7-2 Jordan Bachynski, Arizona State
The Pac-12’s career leader in blocks had 24 blocked shots in a three-game span against Oregon State, Oregon and Arizona at one point this season.

7-3 Boris Bojanovsky, Florida State
The center from Slovakia averaged 5.9 points per game and 1.9 blocks in his first extended action for the Seminoles this season.

7-4 (Vacant)
Despite efforts, we couldn’t find a top player at the 7-4. Tweet us at @AthlonSports or leave a comment if we missed a good one.

7-5 Sim Bhullar, New Mexico State
At 360 pounds, Bhullar is huge, of course, but he’s also quite productive at 9.9 points, 7.6 rebounds and 3.5 blocks per game. He also has a “little” brother on the New Mexico State roster, Tanveer, who is 7-3.

7-6 Mamadou Ndiaye, UC Irvine
The center from Senegal led UC Irvine to a Big West championships, averaging 8.2 points, 6.1 rebounds and 3.0 blocks in 20.7 minutes per game.
Ndiaye photo courtesy of UC Irvine

 

Teaser:
Athlon Sports' 2013-14 College Basketball Tall-America Team
Post date: Thursday, March 13, 2014 - 15:30
Path: /college-basketball/weekly-tipoff-can-kansas-win-title-injured-joel-embiid
Body:

One of the nation’s best freshmen with a bright future and national title contending team received season-altering news this week when center Joel Embiid sustained a stress fracture in his back.

At first, Embiid was held out of the last two games of the regular season as a precautionary measure, but the news worsened when it was announced he’d be held out of the Big 12 Tournament and the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament.

The news could impact Embiid’s NBA Draft hopes, where he was a contender for the No. 1 spot, in addition to Kansas’ national championship hopes. With Selection Sunday a little more than a week away, our editorial staff ponders the latter.

Will Joel Embiid’s back injury prevent Kansas from contending for the national championship?

David Fox: An absence by Embiid won’t prevent Kansas from getting to the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament, which is when the seven-foot big man is set to return. The Jayhawks likely will be a No. 2 seed, and barring a bad matchup in the round of 32, KU is good enough to get to the Sweet 16 riding Andrew Wiggins. If Embiid can’t return or is limited — certainly possible given the nature of back injuries — Kansas might not be able to make it to the Final Four. Embiid averaged 11.5 points in Big 12 play, but his impact was more on the defensive end. He accounts for 40 percent of Kansas’ blocked shots when the next best contributor accounts for 16 percent. And he makes up 20 percent of Kansas’ rebounds, though Wiggins claims a better share of offensive rebounds. Simply put, Embiid is too big a piece and one with a dangerous skill set to not be a critical absence.

Braden Gall: My Kansas prediction for the first game — should it be a 2-15, 3-14 or 4-13 matchup — won't be affected at all by Joel Embiid's absence. In fact, I can almost guarantee that I am going to have the Jayhawks reaching the second weekend and the Sweet 16 regardless of matchups. But from there on, all bets are off if Embiid doesn't play or isn't at full strength. A championship run is incredibly fragile as it takes not only a great collection of talent and coaching but also some luck to win The Big Dance. And while Kansas has loads of depth and quality front court talent to pick up where Embiid left off (Perry Ellis, Tariq Black), this is a totally different team without an Olajuwonian presence in the lane. Could Kansas play their way to North Texas and the Final Four without their star freshman center? Possibly. Do I consider this team (sans Embiid) capable of winning six straight games in the tourney? I'll say no.

Mitch Light: Depends on our definition of contender. Without Embiid, Kansas is still in a group of about 10-12 teams that can win a national championship. But I don't believe the Jayhawks can be considered a favorite to win the title — or each the Final Four without the freshman big man in the lineup. This team still has plenty of talent, but Embiid is such an important piece to the puzzle in every facet of the game. He is known for his defense and rebounding, but he also has proven to be a skilled offensive player who can deliver team 10-14 points per game. If he is not able to play, there will be more pressure on KU's three other double-figure scores — Andrew Wiggins, Perry Ellis and Wayne Selden.  

Nathan Rush: Of course Kansas is still a national championship contender without 7-foot freshman phenom Joel Embiid. The Jayhawks have a 21–7 record with Embiid and a 2–1 mark without him. And the Embiid-less loss at West Virginia came on the same day that KU's "other" freshman, Andrew Wiggins, poured in a Kansas freshman record 41 points (although, don't forget Wilt Chamberlain played JV as a frosh, which was the style in 1955). Coach Bill Self's team still has all the pieces in place to cut down the nets at AT&T Stadium (the architecture formerly known as Cowboys Stadium). Kansas has a legitimate superstar in Wiggins, solid guard play from Naadir Tharpe and Frank Mason, wing scoring from Wayne Selden Jr. and plenty of size down low with Perry Ellis (6-8, 225), Jamari Traylor (6-8, 220) and Tarik Black (6-9, 260). No one should cry for KU heading into March Madness; they should fear the chant "Rock Chalk, Jayhawk."
 

Teaser:
Weekly Tipoff: Can Kansas win a title with an injured Joel Embiid?
Post date: Thursday, March 13, 2014 - 07:00
Path: /college-basketball/bubble-teams-most-gain-conference-tournaments
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The NCAA selection committee likes to remind us that a team’s entire body of work is being judged on Selection Sunday.

Why, then, does it seem that last impressions matter every season?

The conference tournaments give every team another chance to prove why they’re worthy of an NCAA Tournament slot or show why they were on the bubble in the first place.

Roughly 10 spots in the field may be up for grabs as the major conference tournaments begin Wednesday and Thursday. With 17 teams in play for those spots, these games could make all the difference.

The spotlight primarly will be on the Big East and SEC where the most teams could play their way in or out of the field, but those aren't the only leagues with bubble teams in critical spots.

On the Spot Thursday

Pittsburgh vs. Wake Forest
The Panthers have lost two of their last five games to Florida State and NC State and needed overtime to beat Notre Dame and Clemson. That’s not the issue as much as a paltry non-conference schedule. The Panthers’ schedule strength ranks 74th nationally, contributing to an RPI rank of 45 despite 23 wins. Both Notre Dame and Wake Forest are outside of the RPI top 100. Losing to either could be the end of Pitt.

SMU vs. Houston
SMU didn’t challenge itself in the non-conference schedule, so the Mustangs may sweat a bit even thought they defeated UConn twice and Cincinnati and Memphis in the conference schedule. After the No. 5 seed in the tournament the American has no other RPI top 100 teams, so a loss to Houston would qualify as a bad one. SMU has already lost to two such teams in the bottom half of the AAC in Temple and USF.

Dayton vs. George Mason
The Flyers have defeated Gonzaga in the Maui Invitational and A-10 regular season champion Saint Louis. Avoiding a bad loss in the first game of the league tournament may be all Dayton, 9-6 against the top 100, needs to seal a bid.

Kansas State vs. Iowa State
Here’s the good news: Kansas State has seven RPI top 50 wins. Here’s the bad news: They’re all at home. K-State is 0-6 against the top 60 outside of Manhattan. The wins may be enough to get the Wildcats into the field, but a win over Iowa State in the Big 12 quarterfinals would help Bruce Weber sleep easier.

St. John’s vs. Providence
This traditional Big East matchup sets up the first tournament in the league’s new alignment. It’s an important game, too, as a potential elimination game for both teams, but certainly for St. John’s. The RPIs just outside the top 50 and schedule strength are similar, but St. John’s has fewer top 50 wins (one) than Providence (two) and more bad losses (again, 2-1). St. John’s will be playing on its homecourt at Madison Square Garden.

Xavier vs. Marquette
A pair of double overtime heartbreakers against Providence and St. John’s ended Marquette’s hope to climb onto the bubble. Xavier may have the third-best NCAA profile in the Big East after Villanova and Creighton, but the Musketeers have too many losses (Seton Hall twice, USC) to think they can lose to Marquette and still feel safe in the field.

Minnesota vs. Penn State
All three of Minnesota’s big wins this season (Wisconsin, Ohio State and Iowa) have taken place in Minneapolis, so the Gophers’ goals will be two-pronged. First, beat Penn State again after crushing the Nittany Lions 81-63 in the regular season finale and then defeat the Badgers in the quarterfinals for a top 50 neutral site win. Defeating Penn State is a must. In the event of a loss to Wisconsin loss Friday, Minnesota will have to hope its seventh-ranked strength of schedule will hold up.

Arizona State vs. Stanford
The Sun Devils are yet another team that has a few good wins, but all of them at home. Arizona State is probably pretty safe given that one of those home wins is over Arizona, but beating Stanford on a neutral floor would be a nice final touch.

Arkansas vs. South Carolina
Arkansas flopped in a major way with an 83-58 loss to Alabama in the last day of the regular season. With an RPI of 60 and schedule strength of 80, the Razorbacks have all their hopes pinned on the sweep of Kentucky. Probably not a great idea to follow that Alabama loss with another defeat to Auburn or South Carolina, both ranked outside of the RPI 150.

Missouri vs. Texas A&M
If the 72-45 loss to Tennessee on Saturday wasn’t an eliminator for Missouri, a loss to Texas A&M certainly would be. Missouri may need to upset Florida in the semifinals to get back into the field. Good luck, Mizzou.

On the Spot on Friday

Tennessee vs. South Carolina/Arkansas
Beyond Florida, no team in the SEC has been hotter to close the season than Tennessee. The Volunteers may be safe after the rout of Missouri, but a potential quarterfinal matchup with Arkansas should have both teams under pressure.

St. Joseph’s vs. Dayton/Fordham
The best case for St. Joe’s, who received a bye to the Atlantic 10 quarterfinals, could be to face Dayton. A win for the Hawks would be the third this season over a fellow bubble team in the Flyers. A home loss to La Salle in the regular season finale — a fourth loss outside of the top 50 for St. Joe’s — put pressure on the Hawks to win an A-10 Tournament game.

Nebraska vs. Ohio State/Purdue
The Cornhuskers may have done enough with a win over Wisconsin in the regular season finale to seal an NCAA bid. Nebraska has three top 50 wins (Ohio State, at Michigan State) and three losses outside of the top 100 (at Penn State, at Purdue, UAB). A loss to Purdue — which faces Ohio State in the first round — would be the worst-case scenario for Nebraska.

Teaser:
Bubble Teams with the Most to Gain in the Conference Tournaments
Post date: Wednesday, March 12, 2014 - 08:00
Path: /college-basketball/10-teams-surging-march-madness
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A good rule of thumb for anyone filling out bracket is to ask one simple question: How many consecutive games against good teams can this team win right now?

Nearly every team in the field will have proven at some point in the year, even if it was in the conference tournaments, can win four or five games in a row.

Of course, we know teams like Wichita State and Florida can reel off wins better than any other team in the country. Here, we are highlighting some of the teams that are just now starting to show their true potential.

These are the teams heading into the postseason with the most momentum. Not all won their regular season finales, but these teams have shown since at least February that they can string together wins over quality teams.

10 Teams Surging into March Madness

Dayton
After starting the season with an impressive performance in the Maui Invitational defeating Gonzaga and taking Baylor to the wire, Dayton slumped to start conference play. Led by Sean Miller’s younger brother Archie, Dayton finished Atlantic 10 play with nine wins in 10 games. Recent wins over UMass and Saint Louis, both in the RPI top 20, likely have pushed the Flyers into the field barring an A-10 Tournament upset.

Louisville
The Cardinals capped the regular season with an 81-48 rout over Connecticut in one of Louisville’s best defensive performances of the season. Louisville has allowed only one opponent in the last nine games (Memphis on March 1) to average better than a point per possession, including a 0.71 points per possession against UConn. Montrezl Harrell, who had an out-of-nowhere performance in the Big East Tournament last year, has averaged 21.2 points and 9.4 rebounds in the last five games.

Nebraska
The celebration in Lincoln was only the culmination of the Cornhuskers’ turnaround since mid-January. Nebraska started 0-4 in the league, and it looked like the projected last-place finish could come to fruition. Instead, Nebraska finished the season on an 11-3 run. Nebraska has caught teams at the right time, defeating slumping Ohio State and Michigan State for two of the the Huskers’ best wins. But Sunday’s 77-68 win over Wisconsin was as convincing as any.

North Carolina
The Tar Heels might not be as concerned about Saturday’s 93-81 loss at Duke as they should be about three close calls against NC State, Virginia Tech and Notre Dame. Few teams could have won in Cameron on Saturday. North Carolina, though, should handle the Wolfpack, Hokies and Irish. Still, this is a North Carolina team that reeled off 12 consecutive wins after an inauspicious start to the season.

Oklahoma State
The Cowboys lost in overtime to Iowa State on Saturday, but it’s clear the Pokes are playing their best basketball since at least January. If anything, the three-game suspension seemed to re-focus Marcus Smart, who started the year as a player of the year candidate. He’s been improved as a facilitator (6.4 assists per game since his return), and at least against Iowa State, his 3-point selection was more reliable.

Oregon
Back in early February, Oregon lost a pair of heart breakers to the Arizona schools to start 3-8 in the Pac-12. Since then, Oregon regrouped to win the final seven games of the regular season, including relatively comfortable wins over Arizona State (by 7) and Arizona (also by 7). Mike Moser is averaging 17.1 points and 11.1 rebounds during the win streak, but the move to return sophomore Johnathan Loyd to the starting lineup also revitalized the Ducks.

Tennessee
With no room for error late in the season, the Volunteers responded with a near-perfect finish, defeating Vanderbilt, Auburn and Missouri by a combined 93 points. The final game was the most important as Missouri is also fighting for an NCAA bid. The Volunteers still have an iffy resume with losses to Texas A&M (twice), Vanderbilt, NC State and UTEP, but they are in the top 30 in both offensive and defensive efficiency on KenPom.

Villanova
The Wildcats are in the mix for the final No. 1 seed assuming Arizona, Florida and Wichita State are the other three. Villanova may need to defeat Creighton in the Big East Tournament to pick up a few believers. At least since the last loss to the Bluejays, the Wildcats have won six in a row. Villanova allowed only one team (Providence in double overtime) to score more than 70 since Creighton put up 101 points.

Virginia
The Cavaliers lost 75-69 in overtime to Maryland to halt a 13-game winning  streak, but it might not be a major point of concern. The Cavs, who had already clinched the ACC regular season title, lost in the final Maryland home game of the ACC era for the Terrapins. Better to pay closer attention to the team that led the ACC in adjusted defensive efficiency and finished second in the offensive end.

Wisconsin
We’re not making too much of Wisconsin’s loss to finish the season, either. Against a Nebraska team that needed a win Sunday, Wisconsin lost 77-68 in front of a raucous crowd in Lincoln. After a 1-5 skid in Big Ten play, Wisconsin recovered to win eight in a row, including wins over Michigan State, Michigan and Iowa.

Teaser:
10 Teams Surging into March Madness
Post date: Tuesday, March 11, 2014 - 07:00
Path: /college-basketball/10-teams-stumbling-march-madness
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As of today, the next two losses will be any team's last losses of the season.

With conference tournaments starting this week, no team can afford any kind of cold streak.

The following teams, though, need to hit the reset button in the worst way. These 10 teams have slumped late in February and into the early part of March.

Teams like Iowa, Michigan State and Kentucky were all considered potential Final Four contenders, but doubt has surfaced in recent weeks. And teams like Missouri and Pittsburgh are perhaps a loss away from going to the NIT.

As the major conference tournaments start this week, these are the 10 teams in most desperate need if immediate answers.

10 Teams Stumbling into March Madness

Iowa
The Hawkeyes aren’t in danger of missing the NCAA Tournament, but they are in danger of early exits in the postseason. Iowa has lost five of the last six games with losses to Big Ten also-rans Indiana and Illinois. The culprit has been an inept performance in the defensive end of the court. Since Feb. 1, iowa has allowed 78.2 points per game and 1.11 points per possession, both the worst in the Big Ten.

Kansas
Slumps are all relative. Kansas’ 1-2 finish to the season is evidence of that. The Jayhawks had already clinched the Big 12 title by the time they lost to Oklahoma State and West Virginia. Meanwhile, Andrew Wiggins showed he’s in postseason form with 41 points against the Mountaineers. Here’s what has to be a concern, though: Joel Embiid will be out until at least the Sweet 16 with back troubles.

Kentucky
John Calipari wants his team to rediscover the confidence it had a few weeks ago. That must happen between now and the first game in Atlanta. During the 1-3 skid to end the season, which included losses to South Carolina and Arkansas, Kentucky has averaged only 92 points per 100 possession, fourth-worst in the SEC in that span.

Michigan State
Point guard Keith Appling’s wrist may be the determining factor if Michigan State can make a run at the Final Four. Tom Izzo has backed off on his playing time, but even when he’s in the game Appling has struggled to shoot because of the injury. A season full of injuries for the Spartans' roster has contributed to a 5-7 slide since Michigan State started 18-1.

Missouri
The Tigers may have played themselves out of NCAA at-large contention with three losses in the last five games, including losses to two teams outside of the top 50 (Alabama and Georgia) and a drubbing to fellow bubble team Tennessee.

Pittsburgh
Perhaps this wasn’t a slump as much as it was an indication that the early record (16-1 on Jan. 14) was the product of an unimpressive stadium. Pittsburgh’s seeding hopes were going to take a hit with only one top 50 win, but the Panthers have landed on the bubble thanks to home losses in the last three weeks to Florida State and NC State.

Saint Louis
The Billikens started 25-2 with their only losses to Wisconsin and Wichita State before hitting a three-game skid late in the Atlantic 10 season. A Duquesne win at home was the real shocker as the Dukes hit 8 of 15 3-point shots on Saint Louis’ home court. The Billikens then lost 17 turnovers against VCU and lost a 10-point second half lead against Dayton. A season-ending win against UMass on a late layup by Jordair Jett may be good for the psyche, but Saint Louis still struggles to put up points at times.

Stanford
The outlook would have been even more bleak had Stanford lost to Utah on Saturday. The Cardinal pulled out the 61-60 to avoid a four-game losing streak to end the season. Stanford nearly blew and 11-point lead in the second half against Utah and gave up a lead earlier in the week to Colorado. Not a good trend for a team fighting for an NCAA berth.

Texas
Good for Texas that postseason games aren’t played on the road. The Longhorns lost their final five road games, including Saturday’s 59-53 loss to Texas Tech. The postseason isn’t played in Austin, either, and Texas opens the Big 12 Tournament against a West Virginia team that just defeated Kansas.

Xavier
In classic “this is why you’re on the bubble fashion,”  Xavier followed up a win over Creighton with a loss to Seton Hall and then another loss to Big East leader Villanova. The Musketeers will open the Big East Tournament without starting center Matt Stainbrook (knee) against a capable Marquette team.

Teaser:
10 Teams Stumbling into March Madness
Post date: Tuesday, March 11, 2014 - 07:00

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