Articles By David Fox

All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/arizona-overcomes-slow-start-reach-elite-eight

All year, it seems Arizona has been waiting for one thing or another to catch up to the Wildcats to prevent them from making a deep run in the postseason.

First, the injury to veteran forward Brandon Ashley was supposed to hamper Arizona. Then, the Wildcats’ poor free throw shooting was going to be the liability.

If Thursday’s 70-64 win over San Diego State proved anything, Arizona can continue to win under less than perfect conditions all the way to the Elite Eight.

The Aztecs opened the first half in a drastic reversal of the first meeting between these two Western powers, when San Diego State lost 69-60 on Nov. 14.

Dwayne Polee, whom coach Steve Fisher left on the bench in that first game,   scored 13 points. Led by Josh Davis, San Diego State dominated the glass early. The Aztecs had nine offensive rebounds through the entirety of their first meeting, but 10 in the first half of the Sweet 16.

On Arizona’s side, Wildcats star guard Nick Johnson missed his first 10 shots from the field, and Kaleb Tarczewski picked up his fourth foul early in the second half. San Diego State led by 4 at the half and by as much as 6 early in the second half.

San Diego State played one of its best games of the year, but Arizona found a way.

An athletic dunk by Aaron Gordon, one of the top freshmen still playing in the Tournament, was part of an Arizona rally that brought the Wildcats back to a 2-point deficit.

Johnson capped the game by making his final two shots, including a 3-pointer. More important, for a team that struggles at the line, Johnson was 10 of 10 on free throws.

Johnson’s free throw prowess was one of the few perfect performances in the Sweet 16 for Arizona, but it was enough.

Arizona Overcomes Slow Start to Reach Elite Eight
Post date: Friday, March 28, 2014 - 01:27
Path: /college-basketball/arizonas-aaron-gordon-has-ridiculous-dunk-against-san-diego-state

Arizona's athletic freshman forward Aaron Gordon brought the Wildcats back to a 2-point deficit against San Diego State with this ridiculous alley oop and dunk.



If the video isn't enough, check the still frames.



Post date: Friday, March 28, 2014 - 00:10
Path: /college-basketball/wisconsin-bucking-history-offensive-showcase-sweet-16

The best way for Wisconsin to prove this Badgers team is different was the kind of game that encouraged viewers to tune out.

Wisconsin has struggled to advance in the NCAA Tournament in the past thanks in part to a methodical offense that hit a snag in the second round or Sweet 16.

Wisconsin in the NCAA Tournament
YearUW SeedLost in..To..
20135Round of 6412 Ole Miss
20124Sweet 161 Syracuse
20114Sweet 168 Butler
20104Round of 3212 Cornell
200912Round of 324 Xavier
20083Sweet 1610 Davidson
20072Round of 327 UNLV
20068Round of 648 Arizona
20056Elite Eight1 North Carolina
20046Round of 323 Pittsburgh
20035Sweet 161 Kentucky

Not this time. Wisconsin demolished Baylor from beginning to end in a 69-52 win to send the Badgers to their first Elite Eight since 2005. Wisconsin led 18-8 early and led by at least 10 for the rest of the game.

Wisconsin hinted at it for most of the season, but the Sweet 16 win was further proof of this year’s Wisconsin team isn’t the same as the ones that stalled in the NCAA Tournament during most of Bo Ryan’s tenure.

Wisconsin picked apart the Baylor zone, the same that stymied Creighton and eventual national player of the year Doug McDermott in the round of 64. When Baylor finally switched to man-to-man in the first half, it made little difference.

Wisconsin’s ball movement was crisp as the Badgers picked up 18 assists on 26 field goals. The Badgers shot 52 percent from the floor, including 8 of 11 by Frank Kaminsky in his matchup against pro prospect Isaiah Austin.

That’s only part of the big picture of the best offensive team of the Ryan era. Wisconsin has topped 70 points per game for the first time since 2007 and hitting its top scoring average since 1994-95.

Entering Thursday, Wisconsin’s 37.6 percent shooting from 3 is the Badgers best since 2005. Wisconsin’s 51.5 percent shooting from 2-point range is its best since 2003. Ryan’s teams rarely turn the ball over, but the Badgers have their lowest turnover rate of the Ryan era.

The next game will be against a strong defensive team — either Arizona or San Diego State — but Wisconsin’s turnaround may lead to something else the Badgers haven’t done in a long time, reach the FInal Four.

Wisconsin Bucking History with Offensive Showcase in Sweet 16
Post date: Thursday, March 27, 2014 - 22:12
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/star-studded-freshman-class-feeling-incomplete-sweet-16

After Mercer got the best of Duke and Jabari Parker, the Blue Devils’ star freshman told reporters he his college career was “incomplete.”

Parker, who could be the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA Draft, could have picked few words more loaded than “incomplete.”

Beyond Parker, though, incomplete would be the best way to grade the performance of a  class of freshmen that’s the best since at least 2008, and perhaps the best of the one-and-done era.

A senior forward from the state of Montana got the best of Andrew Wiggins. Parker couldn’t find a way to score consistently against the Atlantic Sun champions from Macon, Ga. And Tyler Ennis never found his shot against one of the last teams in the field from the Atlantic 10.

If this was to be the year of superstar freshmen, it sure found an interesting way to stage its endgame.

Fred VanVleet’s 3-point attempt ensured the rookies from Kentucky would continue to advance. Otherwise, the major freshman contributions in this year’s Sweet 16 would be led by Arizona’s Aaron Gordon and a handful of freshmen who aren’t their team’s best two, three or four best players.

One of the major storylines of the season was the cast of talented freshmen across the country — from Duke to Kentucky to Kansas to Arizona. This year’s freshman class occupies the top four spots on DraftExpress’ top 100 and six of the top seven for ESPN’s Chad Ford.

Beyond Kentucky and Arizona, the freshman class didn’t translate draft prospects to postseason success. If this was the Year of Freshmen, the results may not be borne out in the Final Four.

No more Jabari Parker. No Andrew Wiggins. No Tyler Ennis. With a back injury, Joel Embiid didn’t make it to the conference tournament, and his team didn’t last long enough to see if he’d return in time for the Sweet 16. Embiid declared for the NBA Draft before the second weekend of the Tourney even began.

Indeed, if freshmen are to lead teams to the Final Four, it’s more than likely going to be in a secondary role ... unless Kentucky reaches Monday night.

Top Freshmen in Sweet 16 (by minutes played)
1. Aaron HarrisonKentucky32.414.12 apg
2. James YoungKentucky32.314.24.3 apg
3. Andrew HarrisonKentucky31.410.93.8 apg
4. Aaron GordonArizona30.812.47.8 rpg
5. Julius RandleKentucky30.614.810.5 rpg
6. London PerrantesVirginia29.95.53.8 apg
7. Monte MorrisIowa State27.96.63.7 apg
8. Derrick WaltonMichigan26.68.12.8 apg
9. Rondae Hollis-JeffersonArizona25.08.95.7 rpg
10. Zach LaVineUCLA24.49.92.6 rpg


Star-Studded Freshman Class Feeling Incomplete in Sweet 16
Post date: Thursday, March 27, 2014 - 16:51
Path: /college-basketball/sweet-16-preview-and-picks-arizona-wildcats-vs-san-diego-state-aztecs

No one would doubt the coaching credentials for Sean Miller and Steve Fisher. Nor would anyone discount Arizona and San Diego State as two of the nation’s top programs right now West of the Rocky Mountains.

Still, a bit of legitimacy is on the line.

At Xavier and Arizona, Miller had advanced to the Sweet 16 or better five times. All that’s missing is a Final Four, Arizona’s first since 2001. Since taking over in 1999, Steve Fisher has supervised one of the best rebuilding jobs in college basketball by turning San Diego State into an NCAA regular. The next step is the Aztecs’ first regional final.

A win over Arizona, viewed as a national title contender since the preseason, would serve a dual purpose.

“We think we're one of the best teams (in the West),” San Diego State forward Dwayne Polee said. “Now that we've proven that we can hang with the big dogs and not only the West coast but in the nation, I think that we can be mentioned among the Arizonas and UCLAs.”

The two teams have changed a bit since their first meeting, a 69-60 Arizona win on Nov. 14. Arizona has recovered from the season-ending injury to forward Brandon Ashley while Aztecs forward Dwayne Polee II has become one of San Diego State’s most valuable players despite sitting out the first meeting on a coaches’ decision.

What hasn’t changed is both teams’ defensive prowess, as the two teams in Anaheim rank in the top 10 in defensive efficiency.

Arizona vs. San Diego State
Time: 10 p.m.
Announcers: Marv Albert, Steve Kerr
Region: Anaheim (West)

Athlon Editor Picks
David Fox: Arizona 67-60
Braden Gall: Arizona 72-59
Mitch Light: Arizona 84-74
Nathan Rush: Arizona 72-66
How Arizona got here:
The Wildcats continued to play stifling defense in the first weekend of the Tournament. Arizona held Weber State to 25 percent shooting from 2-point range in the round of 64 and held Gonzaga to 42.1 percent. Freshman Aaron Gordon locks down the inside while Nick Johnson guards on the outside. Both are among the national elite.

How San Diego State got here:
San Diego State survived a poor shooting day against New Mexico State to beat the Aggies in overtime in the round of 64. The Aztecs came back to make 7 of 16 3-point shots against North Dakota State in the round of 32, led by 30 points from Xavier Thames.

Other Sweet 16 previews:
Stanford-Dayton | Wisconsin-Baylor | Florida-UCLA

Key for Arizona to get to the Elite Eight: Say it again, shoot free throws
Arizona shot 13 of 18 from the line against Gonzaga in the round of 32, helped largely by Rondae Hollis-Jefferson making all eight of his attempts. This is still the worst 3-point shooting team left in the NCAA Tournament. Arizona shoots 65.5 percent from the line.

Key for San Diego State to get to the Elite Eight: Find a way to score on the interior
Let’s assume Thames can’t get 20 points against Arizona. That means forwards Winston Shepard, Josh Davis and J.J. O’Brien will need to play a bigger role. Arizona holds opponents to 40.1 percent shooting from inside the 3-point line, ranking second nationally. San Diego State ranks 303rd in that offensive category.

Player to watch: Nick Johnson, Arizona
Johnson will be Arizona’s counterpoint in the key matchup of the game. As one of the country’s best perimeter defender, Johnson will be tabbed with containing the heart of San Diego State’s offense. Xavier Thames averages 17.3 points and 3.3 assists per game. Either by field goal or assist, Thames has accounted for 55.6 percent of the Aztecs’ baskets in the first weekend of the Tournament.

Sweet 16 Preview and Picks: Arizona Wildcats vs. San Diego State Aztecs
Post date: Thursday, March 27, 2014 - 07:00
Path: /college-basketball/sweet-16-preview-and-picks-wisconsin-badgers-vs-baylor-bears

Perhaps it’s inevitable Wisconsin and Baylor would meet in the Sweet 16 with the way the season has gone.

Both teams started on hot streaks — Wisconsin at 16-0 and Baylor at 12-1 — before falling apart early in conference play.

In the last month or so, both teams have rediscovered the magic from early in the season, powering the Badgers and Bears to a Sweet 16 game Thursday. Meanwhile, both have arrived here in unexpected ways: Wisconsin scoring 85 points in a win over Oregon, Baylor blowing out Creighton 85-55.

“You don't beat Creighton by 30, but it happened,” Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan said. “That's a pretty formidable foe. But every team that's in it now has done some things during the year. They played well towards the end of the year. We think we have. So it's two teams that get a chance.”

Wisconsin vs. Baylor
Time: 7:30 p.m.
Announcers: Marv Albert, Steve Kerr
Region: West (Anaheim)

Athlon Editor Picks
David Fox: Wisconsin 74-71
Braden Gall: Wisconsin 79-76
Mitch Light: Baylor 78-72
Nathan Rush: Wisconsin 65-64
How Wisconsin got here:
This Wisconsin team is flipped from the typical Bo Ryan squad, ranking fourth in offensive efficiency and 55th on defense. The Badgers can score in a variety of ways, from Frank Kaminsky around the basket to Ben Brust and Josh Gasser on the outside. In Wisconsin’s 85-77 win over Oregon, the highest-scoring NCAA Tournament game, all five starters scored in double figures.

How Baylor got here:
Isaiah Austin is playing like a potential NBA Draft pick, and point guard Kenny Chery is expertly guiding the Baylor attack. Baylor has lost once in March — to Iowa State in the Big 12 title game — and drilled both of its NCAA Tournament opponents in Nebraska and Creighton by a combined 44 points.

Other Sweet 16 previews:
Stanford-Dayton | Florida-UCLA | Arizona-San Diego State

Key for Wisconsin to get to the Elite Eight: Shooting against the zone
Baylor handled Creighton, the nation’s best offensive team, with the zone defense. That will put pressure on Badgers guard Ben Brust, and to a lesser extent Sam Dekker and Josh Gasser, to hit 3-point shots. If Creighton couldn’t do it, Wisconsin might struggle, too.

Key for Baylor to get to the Elite Eight: Score from the perimeter
Chery’s return from a toe injury has been one of the keys to Baylor’s turnaround late in the season. The junior college transfer will try to take advantage of Wisconsin’s poor perimeter defense. Against Oregon, guard Jason Calliste scored 20 points, partly due to an 11-for-11 performance from the free throw line.

Player to watch: Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin
Baylor’s Isaiah Austin has been one of the most improved players in the country in the last few weeks. The 7-foot-1 center anchored Baylor’s zone against Creighton. The 7-foot Kaminsky may be able to challenge Austin in a way the Bluejays could not.

Sweet 16 Preview and Picks: Wisconsin Badgers vs. Baylor Bears
Post date: Thursday, March 27, 2014 - 07:00
Path: /college-basketball/sweet-16-preview-and-picks-florida-gators-vs-ucla-bruins

Florida and UCLA are as familiar as two teams from opposite ends as the the country can be.

The Gators and Bruins will meet in the NCAA Tournament for the fourth time since 2006, each at a different stage. Florida defeated UCLA in the 2006 title game, the 2007 Final Four and the 2011 round of 32. Moreover, Florida and UCLA could have met again in the round of 32 had the Bruins defeated Minnesota in Ben Howland’s last game.

This Sweet 16 matchup will be different, perhaps, from the other three, primarily due to a coaching change on the other bench.

Steve Alford took over for Howland this season and has brought the Bruins to their first regional semifinal since 2008. The biggest difference will be UCLA’s offensive approach as the Bruins excel at grabbing quick baskets in transition. The matchup may be the toughest defensively for Florida since non-conference play.

“The name on the jersey happens to be the same one that we've maybe played three different times in the NCAA Tournament, but everything else is really a lot different,” Florida coach Billy Donovan said. “I don't think the last time we played UCLA in the NCAA Tournament any of our guys were even on that team.”

Florida vs. UCLA
Time: 9:30 p.m.
Announcers: Kevin Harlan, Len Elmore and Reggie Miller
Region: South (Memphis)

Athlon Editor Picks
David Fox: Florida 62-59
Braden Gall: Florida 75-53
Mitch Light: Florida 78-67
Nathan Rush: Florida 68-60
How Florida got here:
The Gators responded to a sluggish game against No. 16 seed Albany with a 61-45 thumping of Pittsburgh in the round of 32.

How UCLA got here:
The Bruins are one of the least turnover-prone teams in the country and proved it against Stephen F. Austin with only three giveaways (compared to 22 assists on 29 field goals). Kyle Anderson is UCLA’s MVP, but Jordan Adams has been on a hot streak. After missing the NCAA Tournament last season, Adams has averaged 19.7 points per game going back to the Pac-12 final against Arizona.

Other Sweet 16 previews:
Stanford-Dayton | Wisconsin-Baylor | Arizona-San Diego State

Key for Florida to get to the Elite Eight: Solve the matchup with Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams
Florida is one of the top defensive teams in the country, but they’ll have two tough matchups against Kyle Anderson and Adams leading an explosive UCLA offense. Anderson is a 6-9 guard starts UCLA on the fast break while averaging 8.7 rebounds. Adams is another big guard at 6-5, 220 pounds

Key for UCLA to get to the Elite Eight: Beat Florida in transition
If there’s a spot where UCLA matches Florida strength for strength on offense, it’s the Bruins’ game in transition. UCLA is one of the best teams in the country in scoring out of the fast break while Florida is adept at making teams work for their shot. Transition baskets could be the equalizer for UCLA.

Player to watch: Scottie Wilbekin, Florida
Wilbekin is embracing his role as Florida’s go-to player. He scored 21 points against Pittsburgh, with no one else scoring more than 10. That’s a rarity for this balanced Florida team. UCLA was below average defensively in Pac-12 play.

Sweet 16 Preview and Picks: Florida Gators vs. UCLA Bruins
Post date: Thursday, March 27, 2014 - 07:00
Path: /college-basketball/sweet-16-preview-and-picks-stanford-cardinal-vs-dayton-flyers

The first game of the Sweet 16 is a classic example of why bubble talk is so captivating.

All a team has to do is get into the field and anything can happen.

In early March, neither Stanford nor Dayton were assured of spots in the field. Only a late push by both landed these teams in the NCAA Tournament, and now they’ve taken out Kansas, Syracuse, Ohio State and New Mexico.

For only the second time in Tournament history, a No. 10 seed will face a No. 11 in the Sweet 16 (the other was VCU’s win over Florida State in 2011 on the way to the Final Four).

And now one of them will be a game away from the Final Four after Thursday

Stanford vs. Dayton
Time: 7 p.m.
Announcers: Kevin Harlan, Len Elmore and Reggie Miller
Region: South (Memphis)

Athlon Editor Picks
David Fox: Dayton 62-58
Braden Gall: Stanford 60-58
Mitch Light: Stanford 67-66
Nathan Rush: Dayton 65-55
How Stanford got here:
Stanford’s defense has been outstanding in two games. The Cardinal baffled Kansas with 1-3-1 and 2-3 zones, preventing Andrew Wiggins and the Jayhawks’ athletic forwards to get good looks. New Mexico struggled in a round of 64 loss to get outside shots against Stanford as well (4 of 21 3-point shooting).

How Dayton got here:
Both Aaron Craft and Tyler Ennis had the ball in their hands with a chance to beat Dayton, and neither were able to capitalize. Maybe Dayton’s a little lucky, but the Flyers proved during the regular season they could compete with major programs.

Other Sweet 16 previews:
Wisconsin-Baylor | Florida-UCLA | Arizona-San Diego State

Key for Stanford to get to the Elite Eight: Limit Dayton on the perimeter
Despite the results against New Mexico, Stanford was not a great team defending 3-point line during the season. If Jordan Sibert, Khari Price and Devin Olver get hot from outside, Stanford will be in trouble.

Key for Dayton to get to the Elite Eight: Limit Stanford’s size advantage
Dayton can score in a handful of ways, but the Flyers have few regulars taller than 6-7. With Dwight Powell, Stefan Nastic and Josh Huestis, Stanford will have a significant size advantage.

Player to watch: Chasson Randle, Stanford
Stanford has the big forwards, but an undersized point guard leads the Cardinal attack. Randle scored 23 points against New Mexico and 13 against Kansas, but the key will be the 3-point shot. Stanford went 0-of-9 from long range against Kansas. It’s tough to see Stanford advancing if it extends that drought into the Sweet 16.

Sweet 16 Preview and Picks: Stanford Cardinal vs. Dayton Flyers
Post date: Thursday, March 27, 2014 - 07:00
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketballs-top-coaches-without-final-four

The NCAA Tournament will go on without Mike Krzyzewski, Jim Boeheim and Roy Williams.

At least as far as the Final Four is concerned, that means new blood.

Of the 16 coaches left in the NCAA Tournament, only six have been to the Final Four. Some of the others are young coaches making their first major impression (Dayton’s Archie Miller, UConn’s Kevin Ollie), but the Sweet 16 is more notable for the coaches who have accomplished nearly everything they can in their career without reaching the Final Four.

Bo Ryan and Sean Miller may be on anyone’s top 10 or 20 coaches in the country, but neither have reached the Final Four. That may change, perhaps in a meeting between the two of them in the Elite Eight.

As the NCAA Tournament moves into the regionals, we’d be shocked if one coach does not reach his first Final Four, though it’s certainly possible all of them get left out yet again.

Suffice to say, no one wants to be on this list next season.

Top 20 active coaches who have never been to the Final Four

1. Bo Ryan, Wisconsin
Closest call: Wisconsin lost to North Carolina in the 2005 Elite Eight.
Ryan’s approach is consistent as they come, going back to when he won four Division III titles at Wisconsin-Platteville. Thanks to unflinching player development and disciplined defensive play, Ryan's teams have never finished worse than fourth in the Big Ten. Success in the NCAA Tournament has eluded him. Ryan’s Wisconsin teams have made it out of the first weekend three times since 2005 and stalled in the Sweet 16 each time. With a No. 2 seed, only the second time he’s been seeded this high, Ryan may have his best chance to reach the Final Four of his career.
Can he reach the Final Four this year? Yes, but he’ll have to go through Scott Drew (2-0 in the Sweet 16) and either Sean Miller or Steve Fisher to do it.

2. Sean Miller, Arizona
Closest call: Arizona lost by 65-63 to Connecticut in the 2011 Elite Eight, and Xavier lost to UCLA in the 2008 Elite Eight.
In 10 seasons as a head coach, Miller has reached the Sweet 16 five times and the Elite Eight twice with two schools. He has restored Arizona to its place as one of the premier programs in the West and should reach the Final Four sooner rather than later. At 45, Miller's first Final Four probably won’t be his last.
Can he reach the Final Four this year? Yes, with a No. 1 seed, Miller’s Arizona team will be the favorite in the region.

3. Jamie Dixon, Pittsburgh
Closest call: A No. 1 seed in 2009, Pitt lost on a buzzer-beating layup by Villanova’s Scottie Reynolds in the Elite Eight.
Dixon has been remarkably consistent at Pittsburgh in the Big East and the ACC, missing the NCAA Tournament only once in his 11 seasons as a head coach. Dixon’s two best teams, though, lost in heartbreakers in the NCAA Tournament. His 2009 team lost on a buzzer-beater by Villanova in the Elite Eight. And two years later, Pittsburgh committed two late fouls that enabled eighth-seeded Butler to hit the free throws to advance to the Sweet 16.
Can he reach the Final Four soon? Probably not. Pitt may be heading into another rebuilding year with Lamar Patterson and Talib Zanna leaving next season.

4. Mark Few, Gonzaga
Closest call: An Adam Morrison-led Gonzaga team lost in a 73-71 heartbreaker to UCLA in the 2006 Sweet 16.
Gonzaga was a Tournament darling when the Bulldogs reached the Elite Eight under Dan Monson in 1999. Now, Gonzaga may be more well known for busting your brackets. The Bulldogs’ first No. 1 ranking and No. 1 seed was marred in 2013 when Gonzaga lost to Final Four-bound No. 9 seed Wichita State. Few has reached the Sweet 16 only once since 2006.
Can he reach the Final Four soon? Probably not, and it will take a special group to get him there. Gonzaga has been seeded higher than seventh only twice since 2006.

5. Bruce Pearl, Auburn
Closest call: Tennessee lost 70-69 to Michigan State in the 2010 Elite Eight.
Pearl’s second exile from coaching ended a week ago when the former Tennessee coach was hired at Auburn. He’ll have an uphill battle at one of the SEC’s least successful programs over the last 10 years, but if Pearl can’t win at Auburn, few coaches could. Pearl has reached the Sweet 16 four times in his career, three times at Tennessee and once at Milwaukee.
Can he reach the Final Four soon? No, but making Auburn relevant in basketball may be a bigger challenge anyway.

6. Buzz Williams, Virginia Tech
Closest call: Williams led Marquette to the Elite Eight in 2013, where the Golden Eagles lost 55-39 to Syracuse.
After missing the postseason for the first time in five seasons at Marquette, Williams decided to try his had at the ACC by taking one of the league’s toughest jobs at Virginia Tech. Williams has a style all his own, with a focus on on advanced statistics and finding players with chips on their shoulders. Given Williams’ own background, he’ll grab more players from the junior college ranks than the typical major-program coach.
Can he reach the Final Four soon? No. Virginia Tech went from a perennial bubble team to winning six ACC games in two seasons under James Johnson.

7. Tony Bennett, Virginia
Closest call: Bennett led Washington State to the Sweet 16 in 2008 where the Cougars lost to top-seeded North Carolina.
Bennett led Washington State to its first regional semifinal in 67 years and Virginia to its first regional semifinal in 19 years. He can coach, but running a slower offense doesn’t always translate to NCAA Tournament success, as Bo Ryan can attest.
Can he reach the Final Four this year? Yes, but his toughest game will be in the Sweet 16 against Michigan State.

8. Fred Hoiberg, Iowa State
Closest call: Iowa State lost on a late basket by Ohio State’s Aaron Craft in the round of 32 in 2013.
The Mayor returned to Ames to revitalize Iowa State basketball, leading the Cyclones to three consecutive NCAA Tournaments. This year’s team is Iowa State’s best since 2001 when the Cyclones lost to 15th-seeded Hampton in the first round.
Can he reach the Final Four this year? It will be tough. Iowa State looked like a Final Four contender at the end of the season, but that was before Georges Niang was lost for the remainder of the year.

9. Dana Altman, Oregon
Closest call: Oregon lost 77-69 to Louisville in the Sweet 16 in 2013.
Altman has taken three teams to the NCAA Tournament and failed to win 20 games only once since 1999. Though he wasn’t the first choice at Oregon, he’s breathed new life into the program in the last two seasons.
Can he reach the Final Four soon? Maybe. Oregon is still a notch below Arizona and UCLA, but Oregon is the kind of program that could catch fire in a season or Tournament to reach the Final Four.

10. Scott Drew, Baylor
Closest call: Baylor lost in the Elite Eight in 2010 and 2012
Drew is a divisive coach for some reason, despite taking over one of the toughest situations in college basketball and creating a viable Big 12 program. Drew has twice led Baylor to the Elite Eight where the Bears lost to the eventual champions (Duke in 2010 and Kentucky in 2012)
Can he reach the Final Four this season? Sure. Baylor has the talent to compete with Arizona and Wisconsin in its bracket and just blew out Creighton.

The next 10:

11. Fran McCaffery, Iowa
Iowa is the fourth program McCaffery has taken to the Tournament, which has yielded two wins, both at Siena.

12. Kevin Stallings, Vanderbilt
One of the best offensive Xs and Os coaches in the league, Stallings may have missed a window for a deep Tournament when John Jenkins, Jeffery Taylor and Festus Ezeli left.

13. Mick Cronin, Cincinnati
Cronin needed four seasons to pull the Bearcats out of the cellar, but he’s reached four consecutive Tourneys since.

14. Matt Painter, Purdue
Like Stallings, Painter may have missed a window when his nucleus of Robbie Hummel, JaJuan Johnson and E’Twaun Moore couldn’t stay healthy.

15. Leonard Hamilton, Florida State
Hamilton has seven NCAA appearances at Miami and Florida State, two programs not used to going to the Tournament.

16. Tad Boyle, Colorado
Have we mentioned how much luck is involved in going to the Final Four? This was Boyle’s best team until Spencer Dinwidde got hurt.

17. Tim Miles, Nebraska
Miles is a rising star who has built Colorado State and Nebraska into NCAA contenders.

18. Steve Alford, UCLA
Alford wrestled some demons by defeating lower-seeded teams from Tulsa and Stephen F. Austin. Beating Florida is another matter.

19. Mike Anderson, Arkansas
If only NCAA Tournament games were played in Fayetteville...

20. Bob McKillop, Davidson/Rick Byrd, Belmont
Two great coaches in one-bid leagues continue to pile up wins, but their ceilings are limited. Unless Stephen Curry happens to be on the roster.

College basketball's top coaches without a Final Four
Post date: Wednesday, March 26, 2014 - 07:00
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/amazing-stats-first-weekend-ncaa-tournament-0

After six days, the field of 68 has been whittled to 16, but some of the absences seem more notable than who is left.

No more undefeated Wichita State. No more Doug McDermott. No more teams from North Carolina or Kansas.

Streaks ended but some others continued, including those for Michigan State and the state of Ohio.

With the first week of the NCAA Tournament, these are the statistical superlatives that struck us as the most important and most interesting.

14. Lead changes in Kentucky’s win over Wichita State
After the game, Kentucky coach John Calipari called this an Elite Eight-type of game. That’s not too far off. The game featured 14 lead changes before Kentucky finished with a 78-76 win to go to the Sweet 16. The Wildcats and Shockers combined to shoot  54.5 percent in the most tense game of the Tournament so far.

15. Points for Creighton’s Doug McDermott in his final game
McDermott’s career did not end with the fanfare it deserved as McDermott scored only 15 points in an 85-55 loss to Baylor in the round of 32. McDermott scored 15 or fewer points for only the second time as a senior and the 14th time in the final three years of his career. McDermott finished as the fifth-leading scorer in Division I history with 3,150 career points.

5. Teams to eliminate Duke in the first round under Mike Krzyzewski
Mercer joined an elite group of teams Friday, becoming the fifth team during the Mike Krzyzewski era to send Duke home from the NCAA Tournament after only one game. No. 14 seed Mercer defeated Duke 78-71 for the Tournament’s biggest upset in terms of seeding.

Duke first-round exits from the NCAA Tournament under Mike Krzyzewski
2014No. 14 MercerAtlantic Sun
2012No. 15 LehighPatriot
2007No. 11 VCUColonial
1996No. 9 Eastern MichiganMAC
1984No. 6 WashingtonPac-12

3. SEC teams in the Sweet 16, most since 2007
The SEC was one of the weakest major conferences — or at least one of the most inconsistent after Florida. The Gators, Kentucky and Tennessee, though, went a combined 7-0 in the first weekend of the Tournament, starting with the Volunteers’ win over Iowa in the First Four. The last time the SEC sent three teams to the Sweet 16 in 2007, Florida won the national title and Vanderbilt and Tennessee topped out in the regional semifinals.

3. Pac-12 teams in the Sweet 16, most since 2008
Another formerly maligned major conference placed three teams in the Sweet 16 with the Pac-12 sending Arizona, UCLA and Stanford to the regional semifinal. That’s the most for the league since it sent Stanford, UCLA and Washington State to the Sweet 16 in 2008.

8. Consecutive seasons the state of Ohio has been represented in the Sweet 16, now the longest streak for any state
When Dayton defeated Syracuse 55-53 on Saturday, the Flyers ensured the state of Ohio would be represented in the Sweet 16. That’s impressive enough, especially considering that Dayton was the fifth school from the Buckeye State involved in that streak. Now, Ohio has the longest streak of any state in the Sweet 16. The regional semifinal will lack a North Carolina team for the first time since 1979 and a Kansas team for the first time since 2000.

Ohio teams in the Sweet 16 since 2007
2013Ohio State
2012Cincinnati, Ohio, Ohio State*, Xavier
2011Ohio State
2010Ohio State, Xavier
2007Ohio State*

*reached Final Four

85. Points scored by Wisconsin in an NCAA Tournament game, most since 1994
How many times could we reiterate that this is not the same kind of Wisconsin team that has lost early in the NCAA Tournament in years past? How about this: Wisconsin was able to keep up with an explosive offense in the round of 32 when it defeated Oregon 85-77. The Badgers topped 80 points in an NCAA Tournament game for the first time since an 88-82 loss to North Carolina in the 2005 Elite Eight. Wisconsin’s 85 points was the most in a Tourney game for the Badgers since a 109-96 loss to Missouri in the second round in 1994.

11. Consecutive wins by Michigan State over teams seeded eighth or worse
Tom Izzo’s credentials as a coach in the NCAA Tournament are pretty clear: 41 wins, six Final Fours and one national title. One sure way to develop that reputation is to avoid the early upset. Izzo’s teams simply don’t lose to the bottom half of the bracket. Michigan State has won 11 Tournament games in a row to team seeded eighth or worse. The only team at No. 8 or lower to beat Michigan State since 2004 is George Mason, the team that reached the Final Four in 2006.

Minus-1. Rebounding margin between Tennessee’s Jarnell Stokes and Mercer
Rebounding margin is not a terribly effective statistic, but it probably means something when a single player comes close to matching an entire team in rebounds. Tennessee’s Jarnell Stokes grabbed 18 rebounds against Mercer as the Bears claimed 19. Stokes alone had more offensive rebounds (eight) than his opponent’s entire squad (seven).

5. Overtime games in the round of 64, a record
The NCAA expanded the Tournament by four games two years ago, but this year’s round of 64 delivered the most basketball. With five overtime games in the round of 64, this year’s Tournament broke the previous record of three overtime games in the first two days. The first week of the NCAA Tournament featured six total OT games, including one in the First Four (Tennessee over Iowa)

The round of 64 overtime games were:
No. 7 Connecticut 89, No. 10 Saint Joseph’s 81
No. 5 Saint Louis 83, No. 12 NC State 80
No. 12 North Dakota State 80, No. 5 Oklahoma 75
No. 4 San Diego State 73, No. 13 New Mexico State 69
No. 12 Stephen F. Austin 77, No. 5 VCU 75

6-2. Record of the No. 12 seeds in the round of 64 in the last two seasons
The last two NCAA Tournaments have brought back the 12-5 upset with NO. 12 seeds going 3-1 in the last two Tourneys. No. 12 seeds were 5-8 from 2010-12. What’s most striking perhaps is the character of the No. 12 seeds. In 2014, the upsets have come from one-bid leagues (Stephen F. Austin, Harvard and North Dakota State). In 2013, the upsets came from power conferences (Cal, Ole Miss and Oregon).

41. Points by Michigan State’s Adreian Payne against Delaware, most in the NCAA Tournament since 2004
Payne’s 41 points in the round of 64 against Delaware set a number of marks, but the most interesting may have been that Payne scored the most in an NCAA Tournament game since Syracuse’s Gerry McNamara scored 43 against BYU in 2004. The 41 points set a Tournament record for Michigan State that stood since 1979, when Greg Kelser scored 34 against Notre Dame on the way to the national championship.

1987. Last time Dayton defeated Ohio State
One look at the front page of the Dayton (Ohio) Daily News shows why Ohio State doesn’t play Dayton if the Buckeyes don’t have to (or, for that matter, why Kansas won’t face Wichita State). Dayton upset Ohio State 60-59 in the round of 64 for the Flyers first win over Ohio State since 1987, a span of a paltry four games. He also scored the second-most of any Big Ten player in a Tournament game, trailing only Purdue’s Glenn Robinson (44 against Kansas in 1994).


2. NCAA Tournament wins by Harvard in two seasons, the first Ivy team with NCAA wins in back-to-back seasons in 20 years
Harvard scored a pair of upsets in two seasons to give the Ivy League its first team to advance in the NCAA Tournament in back-to-back seasons since 1983. Princeton won three Tournament games in 1983 and two in 1984, both seasons included wins in the opening round.

1. Coach ejected in the first weekend
Nebraska ended an NCAA Tournament drought going back to 1998 by facing Baylor on Friday. Tim Miles ended another streak by becoming the first coach to be ejected from an NCAA Tournament game in 16 years. Nebraska lost 74-60 and trailed by a significant margin for most of the game.

1. Player to have 20 points, 10 rebounds, five assists and five steals in a Tournament game
In a losing effort, Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart became the first player in NCAA Tournament history to stuff a stat sheet the way he did. Smart finished with 23 points, 13 rebounds, seven assists and six steals in an 85-77 loss to Gonzaga in the round of 64. Smart checked another box by airing grievances about officiating.

3. Teams to fail to make a 3-point shot in a game during the weekend.
When was the last time you watched a good team fail to make a 3-point shot? It happened three times during the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament. Saint Louis went 0 for 15 in the second round against Louisville. Syracuse went 0 for 10 against Dayton. And Stanford went 0 for 9 against Kansas. Stanford was the only one to win its game.

Amazing Stats from the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament
Post date: Monday, March 24, 2014 - 07:00
Path: /college-basketball/wichita-state-win-kentucky-wildcats-show-signs-reaching-potential

Anointed as the No. 1 team entering the season thanks to the best recruiting of all time, maybe Kentucky needed to be the underdog to unlock its potential.

The Wildcats entered a game against undefeated Wichita State with seven seed lines separating them on the bracket not to mention a 2.5-point spread. The narrative of Kentucky’s roster full of decorated one-and-done players losing to a group of under-recruited veterans seemed to be on deck for the Monday conversations.

Instead, Kentucky played its best game of the season against a Wichita State team able to answer over and over again.

Kentucky’s reward for defeating Wichita State 78-76 in a game that came down to one last missed shot as time expired by Shockers point guard Fred VanVleet is a game against the defending national champions and UK’s biggest rival, Louisville, in the Sweet 16.

In the most dramatic game of the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament, Kentucky responded with the kind of game John Calipari has been trying to coax out of his team for months:

• Julius Randle, the most consistent freshman for Kentucky all season, plowed through Wichita State for 13 points and 10 rebounds, but more important six assists.

• James Young, who showed streaky shot selection all season, hit 3-of-5 3-pointers against Wichita State, answering Wichita State shot for shot for a sequence in the second half.

• Andrew Harrison, who never appeared ready to put his name alongside other great Calipari point guards, scored 20 points.

The true value of Wichita State’s 35-1 season will be up for debate in some circles, but on Sunday, the Shockers were prepared to face Kentucky at its best.

For one of the rare times this season, Kentucky was able to oblige.


With Wichita State win, Kentucky Wildcats show signs of reaching potential
Post date: Sunday, March 23, 2014 - 18:07
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/ncaa-tournament-sunday-viewers-guide-tv-times-and-skinny-every-game

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
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.

NCAA Tournament Sunday Viewer's Guide: TV, Times and the Skinny on Every Game
Post date: Sunday, March 23, 2014 - 07:00
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/dayton-takes-out-syracuse-flies-sweet-16

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.

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

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.

Is Louisville ready for the Sweet 16 after rough first weekend?
Post date: Saturday, March 22, 2014 - 18:55
Path: /college-basketball/ncaa-tournament-saturday-viewers-guide-tv-times-and-skinny-every-game

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.

NCAA Tournament Saturday Viewer's Guide: TV, Times and the Skinny on Every Game
Post date: Saturday, March 22, 2014 - 07:00
Path: /college-basketball/mercer-upsets-duke-celebration-ensues

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.


Mercer upsets Duke. Celebration ensues
Post date: Friday, March 21, 2014 - 15:11
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/ncaa-tournament-friday-viewers-guide-tv-times-and-skinny-every-game

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

NCAA Tournament Friday Viewer's Guide: TV, times and the skinny on every game
Post date: Friday, March 21, 2014 - 06:00
Path: /college-basketball/ncaa-tournament-thursday-night-recap-oklahoma-upset-nc-states-collapse

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

NCAA Tournament Thursday Night Recap: Oklahoma upset, NC State's collapse
Post date: Thursday, March 20, 2014 - 23:35
Path: /college-basketball/should-florida-worry-after-slow-start-ncaa-tournament

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.”

Should Florida worry after slow start to NCAA Tournament?
Post date: Thursday, March 20, 2014 - 20:20
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/harvard-adds-upset-tally-win-over-cincinnati

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
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


Harvard adds to upset tally with win over Cincinnati
Post date: Thursday, March 20, 2014 - 16:58
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/dayton-upsets-ohio-state-farewell-billion-dollar-brackets

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.









Dayton upsets Ohio State. Farewell, billion dollar brackets
Post date: Thursday, March 20, 2014 - 15:08
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/ncaa-tournament-thursday-viewers-guide-tv-times-and-skinny-every-game

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
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
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
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.

NCAA Tournament Thursday Viewer's Guide: TV, times and the skinny on every game
Post date: Thursday, March 20, 2014 - 07:00
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/athlon-sports-cover-2-podcast-ncaa-tournament-picks

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, 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].

Athlon Sports Cover 2 Podcast: NCAA Tournament picks
Post date: Wednesday, March 19, 2014 - 12:33
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/who-are-top-players-ncaa-tournament-superlatives-60-them

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.


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


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


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


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


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


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

Who are the top players in the NCAA Tournament? Superlatives on 60 of them
Post date: Wednesday, March 19, 2014 - 07:00
Path: /2014-march-madness/12-teams-begging-be-upset-ncaa-tournament
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 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.

12 Teams Begging to be Upset in the NCAA Tournament
Post date: Wednesday, March 19, 2014 - 07:00