Bryan’s Final Four Preview

Bryan Mauro-Contributing Writer (@threecolorbeard)

This has been one of the most exciting tournaments in recent memory.  The Final Four should be no different.  It all gets started again on Saturday night, and then a champion will be decided on Monday April 3rd.  I expect Phoenix to be hopping.


The Matchups:

Gonzaga vs. South Carolina: These two schools are both making their first final four appearance.  Gonzaga finally getting there after 19 straight years in the tournament.  South Carolina made a miracle run to the final four.  If defense wins championships then this game should give all us a look into the eyes of the future champions.  Gonzaga leads the country in defensive efficiency and doesn’t give up much on that end of the floor.  Gonzaga can also score with the best of them.  That is why Gonzaga’s margin of victory is so eyepopping.  Gonzaga is long, athletic and they run their defense and offense with conviction.  They also may be the team with the best coach in this entire tournament.  South Carolina has made their miracle run possible with their defense.  They have a philosophy on defense of run you off the three point line, and you won’t get into the middle. They make teams take 17 foot jump shots, and usually when that happens you have a nice recipe for success.   South Carolina is going to have to muddy up this game if they want to win.  They must force Gonzaga to turn the ball over, and take bad shots.   Word of Advice: Bet on South Carolina.  Even if they don’t win, their defense and Sindarious Thornwell should keep them in this game.  I believe this one will go down to the wire.

Prediction: Gonzaga-81 South Carolina-80


Oregon vs North Carolina:  Two of the most athletic and skilled teams in this tournament square off, for their right to play for the title.  Oregon made the Final Four without their leading big man in Chris Boucher.  It actually has hurt their depth, but Tyler Dorsey and Dillon Brooks have helped lead the way.  Those two have hit clutch shot after clutch shot the entire tournament.  Oregon survived a scare in the Sweet 16 as Michigan missed a three at the buzzer.  That game seemed to give them some new life.  They absolutely dominated Kansas in the Elite Eight matchup.  North Carolina has been one of the best teams all year.  They were the runner-up in last year tournament, and I know they want to get the sting of Kris Jenkins buzzer beating three out of their minds and win a title.  They have virtually the same team on the court as they had last year.  Word of Advice: Don’t count out Oregon.  Oregon plays a style of basketball that gives a lot of teams trouble, they like to spread the floor and run up and down.  They are filled with shooters, rim protectors, and they can play a zone defense, that will get any offense out of sorts.  Just ask Kansas.

Prediction: North Carolina-91 Oregon-82


Players to Watch:

Przemek Karnowski:  The Gonzaga big man is a load inside.  He is 7’1” and weighs 304 pounds.  If South Carolina lets him into the paint it could be a long night for them.  Karnowski can score, he anchors this defense, protects the rim, and doesn’t foul.  He will be able to neutralize the front court for South Carolina which has been so good in this tournament.  That is one matchup to watch.

PJ Dozier:  You were probably expecting me to say Sindarious Thornwell is the player to watch for South Carolina, right?  Well Sindarious Thornwell is the best player, that before this tournament only the avid basketball fan had ever heard of.  PJ Dozier is his wingman.  These two together can take teams down by themselves.  Dozier is so critical to the success of the South Carolina and what they are trying to do.  Why?  Teams are trying to take Sindarious Thornwell out of games, few have succeeded but he draws a crowd on defense.  Dozier is a good shooter, he gets to the rim, and shines at the key moment when Sindarious has not done much for a few possessions.


Jordan Bell: There are so many players on this Ducks squad who can beat you.  I have already talked about Tyler Dorsey and Dillon Brooks in previous tournament write-ups.  Jordan Bell is one of the main reasons Oregon has been able to survive until this round of the tournament.  Jordan Bell is not the flashiest player but boy can he protect the rim and rebound the basketball.  He also plays high level defense, He was a monster against Kansas.  If he continues his play in the Final Four, the North Carolina big men may have some trouble.  If that is the case it will bode very well for Oregon’s chances at a Championship game appearance.


Theo Pinson: When looking at the stat sheet, Theo Pinson will probably never be the leading scorer, leading rebounder, or even lead the team in assists.  What he does bring is stability to the defensive end of the floor for Roy Williams bunch.  The Tar Heels rely on Theo Pinson to take the best player on the other team completely out of the game.  When they played Kentucky he had the task of keeping Malik Monk in check he did that, and held Monk to one of his lowest point totals of the season.  Without Pinson and his ability to handle the ball and make a great pass to Luke Maye, North Carolina may not even be here.  Theo Pinson does not do many great things, he does many things well and is a pest on defense.  Should be a fun matchup between him and Tyler Dorsey.


National Champion:

North Carolina gets the monkey off their back and win the title.  This team has many weapons and too much experience for the rest of the field.  Gonzaga will give them a game, but in the end the best overall team in my eyes at the start of the tournament, is the team walking away with the Hardware at the end of the tournament.


Zac’s Final Four Predictions


Zac’s Final Four Predictions

By Zachery Bonzheim

The Final Four is among us. We have two teams from the West in Gonzaga and Oregon and two teams from the south in South Carolina and North Carolina. Gonzaga and North Carolina have continued to roll as their expectations have only led us to expect them here in the first place. South Carolina went from 22-10 to on the verge of winning it all and Oregon showed why you can’t count out a team for a mid-season slump. Let’s look at what is going to happen, who to watch, and who will win it all.

#1 Gonzaga vs #7 South Carolina, Saturday, April 1, 6:09 PM, CBS, Glendale, Arizona, University of Phoenix Stadium
Gonzaga has proven to be the most balanced team in the country all year with Williams-Goss playing at his AP All-American 2nd team level. Sindarius Thornwell has led his underdog South Carolina team on a roll as they beat the likes of Duke, Baylor, and Florida. Gonzaga has finally made it to the Final Four as it was a long time coming. Look for South Carolina to face its first balanced offense and for Gonzaga to play another fast paced good defending squad.

#1 North Carolina vs #3 Oregon, Saturday, April 1, 8:49 PM, CBS, Glendale, Arizona, University of Phoenix Stadium
North Carolina is back in the final four for the second year in a row and looking to get the title that eluded them last year. Oregon cruised to this point and Dillon Brooks is determined to bring greatness back home. North Carolina has struggled against teams with a small four so Dillon Brooks will be the most important person to watch. If Oregon can get him the ball as the stretch four, North Carolina may in trouble.

Who to Watch:
Dillon Brooks, Oregon- The small four is the hardest position for North Carolina to cover. He will make or break this game for both teams.
Sindarius Thornwell, South Carolina- He has led South Carolina to this point. His leadership on and off the court along with his elite play has bested the likes of may of college basketball’s blue bloods.
Nigel Williams-Goss, Gonzaga- Goss is going to be key because he has finally brought the Zag’s to the Final Four. Will the spotlight hurt his play or will succeed like never before?
Justin Jackson, North Carolina- Jackson has been here before, possibly in a lesser light to Marcus Paige to last year, but now the show is his. Jackson needs to not just elevate his game, but elevate his teammates game come Saturday.

Final Four Predictions
#1 Gonzaga vs #7 South Carolina
Gonzaga moves on to their first title game and South Carolina’s run ends.

#1 North Carolina vs #3 Oregon
North Carolina moves on in a close game with Oregon.

National Championship
#1 North Carolina vs #1 Gonzaga
North Carolina and Gonzaga will battle it out and in the end… North Carolina adds another title to their collection.


South Region: Sweet 16

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The South was the only region to live up to all chalk. Although there was the “upset” of 12-seeded Middle Tennessee over 5-seeded Minnesota, the top four seeds all held their own and advanced to the Sweet 16.

First Round: 

#1 North Carolina (103) vs. #16 Texas Southern (64)

#2 Kentucky (79) vs. #15 Northern Kentucky (70)

#3 UCLA (97) vs. #14 Kent State (80)

#4 Butler (76) vs. #13 Winthrop (64)

#5 Minnesota (72) vs. #12 Middle Tennessee (81)

#6 Cincinnati (75) vs. #11 Kansas State (61)

#7 Dayton (58) vs. #10 Wichita State (64)

#8 Arkansas (77) vs. #9 Seton Hall (71)

Summary: Wichita State and Middle Tennessee were the only lower seeds to win in the first round games, and as it turns out, the entire South Region thus far. The biggest controversy came in the Arkansas win over Seton Hall, when a flagrant foul was called on Seton Hall’s Desi Rodriguez with just 18.3 seconds left with Arkansas was up just two. They made their two free throws, got the ball back and made two more. Kentucky’s performance against Northern Kentucky was the biggest shock of the region’s first round as the Wildcats seemed flat at times and couldn’t blow Northern Kentucky out of the water. The best performance of the first round belonged to Middle Tennessee’s Reggie Upshaw who dominated the games final 8 minutes and gave the Gophers no chance to comeback. Continue Reading


Midwest Region: Sweet 16



Bryan Mauro- Contributing Writer (@threecolorbeard)


The first two rounds of the Midwest region presented some of the most excited basketball in this years tournament. This side of the bracket had some of the highest scoring games as well as some of the best shooting.  Let delve right back in with a preview of the second weekend of games.


Kansas Vs Purdue: Thursday March 23rd, 9:39 EST:

This is a game that potentially everyone picked when filling out their brackets.  The two styles of basketball these teams play is extremely different.  However, Kansas can adapt to and play many different styles.  Purdue led by Caleb Swanigan and Isaac Haas, like to throw the ball inside and grind you out for 40 minutes.  Once Purdue gets the defense to suck in on their big men, they will kick the ball out to the perimeter to their sharpshooters Ryan Cline and The Midwestern Cowboy himself Dakota Mathias.  Kansas is best suited to play in an open style in which both teams are going to run the floor.  If you choose to play like that against Kansas, they will be harder to beat.  Kansas is already hard to beat as they are a tradition rich program who can beat teams in many ways, but they like to score and get up and down the floor.  Frank Mason and Josh Jackson are the two players who make Kansas go.  Word of Advice:  Bill Self has not always done very well in the round of 16.  Purdue is capable and can shoot just enough to give Kansas a scare.  Make sure you don’t underestimate Purdue’s ability.                                         Score Prediction:  Kansas 91- Purdue-79


Michigan vs Oregon:  Thursday March 23rd, 7:09 Pm EST:


These two teams are so much fun to watch, that I think we are in for a real treat with this game.  A recurring theme in games with Michigan in them is points.  Michigan can score a lot of them and really fast.  I have not seen many teams who can shoot the ball like the Wolverines can.  Their head man John Beilein loves offense.  He recruits it, coaches it, and refines it.  Oregon also likes to spread teams out and shoot a lot of threes.  Their guard Tyler Dorsey was a force against Rhode Island to get them this far.  I look for him to lead the charge against the Wolverines as well.  Dana Altman is the head man for Oregon and he has never beaten a Big Ten team in the round of 16.  I think that continues this year.  Word of Advice: Don’t count out the Wolverines, because of their lack of defense.  Teams the shoot the ball as well as they do can beat anyone.  Oregon is without their super big man Chris Boucher which could finally loom large in this game.
Score Prediction: Michigan 77- Oregon 75


Best One on One Matchup:

Caleb Swanigan/Isaac Haas vs. Carlton Bragg/Dwight Coleby:

I picked this matchup because it pits the best vs the worst.  Purdue has the best big man in the entire tournament.  Caleb Swanigan is a lottery pick in the NBA draft.  He is a matchup nightmare for anyone, much less a team who does not have very good big men in Kansas. Kansas has so much talent, and Bill Self is such a good coach, that it is why it is so strange to see him lack a quality big man. Carlton Bragg was a big time recruit for Bill Self, but he has just never panned out.  This matchup just like the others that Swanigan finds himself in, will be a win.  If he continues to dominate and take over games like he has the first two rounds, Purdue may find themselves winners and headed to the Regional Final.

Players to Watch:

Frank Mason III.- Kansas:  Many feel he is the front runner for College Basketball player of the year.  Frank has been in the system at Kansas for 4 years.  He runs their offense and is also their best offensive player.  He teams up with true freshman Josh Jackson and they make quite an unstoppable duo.  Frank Mason averages 20.3 Points, 5.2 Assists and 4.1 Rebounds per game.  He also shoots nearly 50% from the three point line.  Kansas is averaging 95 points a game in this tournament and Frank Mason is a huge reason why.


Caleb Swanigan- Purdue:  The Big Ten Player of the year in many eyes.  Swanigan is a match up nightmare for just about every team he plays against.  Biggie as he is called is going to get a double-double in this game, because he gets a double-double in every game.  If this is the first time you are watching Caleb play, you are in for a treat.  It’s not every day that you see a player of Swanigan’s size and stature, move like he does.  He can extend out and shoot the three as well.  He is a rebounding machine. Swanigan averages 19 points, 13 rebounds, 3 assists. He shoots 43% from three and 79% from the foul line.  At 6’9” and 250 pounds he can do a lot.  He is one of the most exciting players to watch in this tournament because he can do everything.  He will be a lottery pick in the draft.


Derek Walton Jr.- Michigan: If you notice that Michigan has been one of the hottest teams in the country over the past month.  The play of their Point Guard Derek Walton Jr. is one of the reasons why they have been on a recent surge.  However, it’s a pretty relative statement because when you shoot the ball as well as Michigan does hot and cold streaks will happen.  If Derek Walton Jr.  is distributing the ball and not turning the ball over, that makes Michigan so much harder to beat.  Walton Jr. has really upped his level of play over the last month and a half.  Michigan can score from anywhere on the floor and their offense if fast paced, well coached and beautiful to watch when rolling on all cylinders.  Michigan will go as far Derek Walton takes them.  It is looking like that could be all the way to the final four.


Dillon Brooks- Oregon: Dillon Brooks along with Tyler Dorsey are quite the 1-2 punch.  Oregon needs Dillon Brooks to have a huge game for Oregon especially against a team like Michigan.  Oregon’s big man Chris Boucher is out for the remainder of the season with an injury and Oregon has survived so far. Earlier this year when Brooks was out for Oregon, they looked out of sorts, unorganized and dropped some games they would have normally won.  Now that Dillon Brooks is fully healthy, Oregon’s offense is a well-oiled machine.  Dillon Brooks has hit some really big shots for Oregon this year, as well as last year’s buzzer beater in the tournament.  He is seasoned and has the clutch gene.  He averages 16 points, 4 rebounds per game.  He shoots 40% from the three-point line and 74% from the Free Throw line.


West Region: Sweet Sixteen

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West Region: Sweet Sixteen

By Zachery Bonzheim

The first weekend of the Big Dance has ended and the tournament was full of upsets, close games, surprise, and broken brackets. The West has seen its fair share of drama as an 11 seed in Xavier has cruised to the Sweet Sixteen and the number one, Gonzaga only beat Northwestern with the help of the refs. Let’s begin by recapping round one and two.




Round One

#1 Gonzaga beat #16 South Dakota State (66-46)

#8 Northwestern beat #9 Vanderbilt (68-66)

#5 Notre Dame beat #12 Princeton (60-58)

#4 West Virginia beat #13 Bucknell (80-86)

#11 Xavier beat #6 Maryland (76-65)

#3 Florida State beat #14 Florida Gulf Coast (86-80)

#7 Saint Mary’s beat #10 VCU (85-77)

#2 Arizona beat #15 North Dakota (100-82)

Round One Summary: There was only one upset… All of the higher seeds won in the first round with the exception of the highly anticipated and greatly regarded Maryland/Xavier game. Many bracketologists and experts had Maryland around the 8 seed and Xavier higher than an 11 seed. What happens when a highly overseeded team plays one of the most underseeded teams? An upset… that was expected. The Trevon Bluiett and Melo Trimble matchup were everything we hoped for and more. It is worth noting how easily Saint Mary’s cruised over VCU and how Florida State and Notre Dame struggled against much worse opponents.

P.S. Northwestern left the first round of the West Region with a 100% winning percentage in the NCAA Tournament.




Round Two

#1 Gonzaga beat #8 Northwestern (79-73)

#4 West Virginia beat #5 Notre Dame (83-71)

#11 Xavier beat #3 Florida State (91-66)

#2 Arizona beat #7 Saint Mary’s (69-60)

Round Two Summary: There was only one upset… XAVIER AGAIN. This region has been as chalk as possible with the major exception of Xavier. The top two seeds, Gonzaga and Arizona struggled to beat a pair of 8 and 7 seeds. Northwestern was in the game with huge momentum until a missed goaltend and a technical in reaction handed the game to Gonzaga. Northwestern’s record year was cut short due to poor officiating. In the official’s defense, they could not review the play and none had the angle to see the goaltend. Saint Mary’s was under-seeded as a seven and proved it by taking #2 Arizona to the breaking point. Notre Dame and Florida State, two teams perhaps overseeded that struggled in the first round against much lower opponents got demolished in round two against competitive teams. Xavier’s whopping of Florida State was historic. A huge storyline to follow into the Sweet Sixteen is that the lower seeds, #4 West Virginia and #11 Xavier have cruised to this point while #1 Gonzaga and #2 Arizona struggled in the second round. How could momentum affect the next round?




Sweet Sixteen Preview

#1 Gonzaga vs #4 West Virginia- March 23rd, 7:39 PM, San Jose, TBS

#2 Arizona vs #11 Xavier- March 23rd, 10:05 PM, San Jose, TBS

Both games will be held Thursday, March 23rd, on TBS, in San Jose at the SAP Center. SAP holds 18,543 for basketball games. Gonzaga’s McCarthey Athletic Center holds 6,000; West Virginia’s WVU Coliseum holds 14,000; Arizona’s McKale Center holds 14,644, and Xavier’s Cintas Center holds 10,250. All teams will be playing in front of crowds larger than their average home games.



#1 Gonzaga vs #4 West Virginia

This game will be very good. Press Virginia’s nationally recognized press defense against the amazing offensive firepower of Gonzaga will be on display. Right now momentum is with West Virginia as they cruised past Notre Dame. Gonzaga struggled against Northwestern who is great in their own right and could have won that game, but they are not the quality of West Virginia. I expect this to be a very close game. Gonzaga will have the crowd to their advantage, but West Virginia will have the momentum. The matchup to watch will be in the guard play. Nigel Williams-Goss will need to lead the Zags while Jevon Carter will be going all out at 100 miles a minute.

Prediction: West Virginia 81-80



#2 Arizona vs #11 Xavier

Xavier is cruising. They have looked flawless so far and Trevon Bluiett has looked like an All-American. Arizona will have a huge advantage in location and the dominance of Lauri Markkanen. Bluiett has been the best player in the West Region so far and he will be the player to watch closely all day. Allonzo Trier and Trevon Bluiett will battle it head to head. Expect a battle similar to that of Josh Jackson and Miles Bridges’ in the Kansas/Michigan State game. This game is a huge toss up, Arizona was my personal favorite to make it out of the region, but Xavier has made me a believer.

Prediction: Xavier 88-85



Top 5 Players in the West Sweet Sixteen

Trevon Bluiett, Xavier, Junior, Guard
Jevon Carter, West Virginia, Junior, Guard
Nigel Williams-Goss, Gonzaga, Junior, Guard
Allonzo Trier, Arizona, Sophomore, Guard
Lauri Markkanen, Arizona, Freshman, Center


This region is exceptionally special because the talent the top two teams carry is unmatched. Xavier and West Virginia’s overall dominance has been unmatched creating some huge matchups. The best part is that the four most important players left in this region are all guards. At this point, nothing in the region would surprise anyone. If Xavier or West Virginia won by 20, people would just note their momentum. If Arizona or Gonzaga won by 20 people would just look at their talent. The close game is of course expected at this point, but nothing would be a surprise.


March Madness 2017: Previewing the East Region First and Second Rounds

The East is surely not a beast compared to the other regions, but the presence of two of the nation’s best teams – one being the season’s most consistent and the other being the hottest – makes the upper left portion of the bracket formidable.

The issue with the East region is its strength after the top two seeds. The next three highest seeds – Baylor, Florida and Virginia – look ready for the taking. They all started the season strong, accumulating impressive metrics, only to falter mightily down the stretch.

Best First Round Match-Up

(9) Virginia Tech vs. (8) Wisconsin

The 8/9 games are often the most compelling of the first round games because they obviously match up teams of similar strengths against each other. This game definitely fits that description. The Badgers were grossly under seeded, despite a disappointing second half of the season. However, Wisconsin is a senior-laden team with players such as Bronson Koenig and Nigel Hayes, who have been here before (Sweet 16 last season) and are led by Big Ten Player of the Year contender in Ethan Happ.

Virginia Tech is formidable in their own right. The Hokies, led by one of the best coaches in the business, in Buzz Williams, finished 10-8 in the vaunted ACC, including wins over the likes of Virginia, Miami and Wake Forest towards the end of the regular season. Look for this game to be a close, physical and mental battle, with the winner having a solid chance to upend Villanova in the next round.

Best Potential Upset

(13) East Tennessee State over (4) Florida

This pick is as much about Florida’s vulnerability as it is about ETSU’s upside, though that exists as well. ETSU is long and athletic, led by guard T.J. Cromer’s 19 points per game. The Buccaneers won nine of their last ten games in the solid Southern conference and won at Mississippi State and suffered a close loss to Tennessee earlier in the season.

Florida has lost three of their last four games and don’t have many big wins on their resume. It could be argued that the Gators got fat off of mediocre SEC competition.

Best Player vs. Player Matchup

Wisconsin’s Nigel Hayes vs. Virginia Tech’s Zach LeDay

This forward matchup is a clash of team leaders, who each have to have big games in order for their respective teams to prevail. LeDay has had a great season for the Hokies, scoring 16 points per game and hauling in 7.4 rebounds per contest. Hayes has been somewhat disappointing this season, but is still averaging 13.5ppg, 6.5rpg and 2.8apg and is capable of even more.

Sleeper Team That Could Bust Your Bracket


If this sounds like a theme, it is. The committee did top-seeded Villanova no favors by seeding the Badgers as an 8, despite a solid showing in the Big Ten this season and all kinds of tournament experience on their roster. This is not a prediction that Villanova will lose in the second round, but they could, and regardless, such a matchup would not have a second round feel to it.

Most Vulnerable High Seed (1-4)

4-seed Florida has been discussed, but 3-seed Baylor and 5-seed Virginia look vulnerable, as well. Baylor was considered a top seed by the selection committee back in February, but has since fallen on tough times. The Bears are 3-4 in their last seven games and 5-6 in their last 11 games. Virginia lost 6 of 8 games in the meat of their schedule in February, including four straight, before seemingly straightening things out at the end of the season. All three of these schools look ripe for the taking if a lower seeded team comes to play.


March Madness 2017: Previewing the Midwest Region First and Second Round


Bryan Mauro
Contributing Writer

The Midwest Region in this years NCAA tournament is going to be exciting and fast paced.  Some of the best games in the tournament are in this region.  Lets get deep into this bracket, use this as your guide when watching the tournament.

Best Round of 64 Matchup:

Michigan and Oklahoma State:  Do you like scoring, and think defense is overrated?   If so this is the matchup for you.  This game is going to be fast paced, with a lot of scoring.  Both of these teams are near the top in the NCAA in points per possession, and near the top in total tempo.  These teams also rank near the bottom in total defense.  This game will have a little bit of excitement for everyone.  These teams are efficient, shoot a ton of threes and don’t turn the ball over much.  They also possess two of the best point guards in the country.  Michigan with Derek Walton Jr and Oklahoma State with Juwan Evans, these two guys can do it all, and are the bucket getters when crunch time approaches.  All five starters for Michigan have the green light to shoot wherever they are on the floor.  Michigan is hot after winning the Big Ten tournament and Oklahoma State is from the bang and grand Big 12.  Word of advice:  Take the Overs in this game.   Score Prediction:  Michigan 93-Oklahoma State 89. 

Second Best Game:  Iowa State vs Nevada

 Upset  Alert:

Creighton:  The Jays have really struggled without superstar point guard Mo Watson.  They did not get a favorable draw against the Rhode Island Rams.  Rhode Island won the automatic bid from the Atlantic 10, and is back in the tournament for the first time since 1999.  The Rams are now healthy and capable.  Oh yeah, did I mention they have won 9 in a row.  Creighton is not the same team without Mo Watson running the point.  Rhode Island will need to dictate the tempo in this one, and neutralize Justin Patton to win.  Kuran Iverson of Rhode Island sure will have his full.  If Rhode Island can get out to an early lead, they can extend their defense, which they do a lot and really get Creighton into some trouble.  Look for a tight game.  Rhode Island probably squeaks this one out, as they have the ability to get Justin Patton in some early foul trouble.  Something that could help Creighton avoid the potential Upset is the fact that their assistant coach played at Rhode Island, and coached there.  He recruited a lot of the guys on the Rhode Island team.  Could be an advantage.  Word of Advice:  Take the Rams to slow this game down and make an early run.

Score Prediction:  Rhode Island: 68 Creighton: 60

Second Best Upset Potential:  Purdue vs. Vermont


Best One on One Matchup:

Deonte Burton (Iowa State) vs. Jordan Caroline (Nevada):  I hope the NCAA packed a few extra backboards for this game.  These two guys turn every game into a dunk contest.  With these two matched up against other the rim better be on alert.  Deonte Burton is a monster inside and could have upwards of 15 dunks by himself in this game.  Jordan Caroline on the other hand, is a do everything guy for Nevada, he is known for his thunderous dunks, but he can step out and hit threes, he protects the rim, and is a really good rebounder.  If nothing else if I can at least Caroline dunk on Burton and Burton dunk on Caroline I will have gotten my money ‘s worth.  Word of Advice:  Learn about Jordan Caroline before watching this game.  He is a jaw-dropper.

Score Prediction:  Burton 20 points 10 rebounds Caroline: 18 points and 9 rebounds.  10 Dunks combined

Second Best: EC Matthews (Rhode Island) vs Marcus Foster (Creighton)

 3 Best Players You Have Never Heard Of:

 EC Matthews:  The Rhode Island point guard is a key cog to why Rhode Island is back in the tournament.  He was injured all of last year and Rhode Island had a bad season.  He’s back this year running the offense and Rhode Island could be a nice Cinderella.  The 6’5” lefty has averages of 15 points, 5 rebounds and 2 assists.  He makes Rhode Island go, and he is also the team’s best defender. He will always draw the team’s top scorer.  He can go get points and is a pain on defense.

Marcus Marshall:  The flashiest scorer in this tournament that potentially no one has heard of.  His Nevada team is loaded with talent and he is the best player on that team.  The transfer from Missouri State can flat out score, and score really fast.  He can beat you off the bounce, or he can take the ball out and bury a three.  He is going to be the focus of the Iowa State game plan.  If he and Jordan Caroline are having free reign to do what they want, Nevada can go a long way in this tournament.  Marcus averages 20 points, 3 rebounds and 4 assists.  He also shoots 81% from the foul line and 40% from three.  He’s an exciting player.

Jordan Washington:  The Iona big man is a load inside, and is a really skilled player for being as big as he is.  Hes an efficient scorer and really good rebounder, who should put up numbers in their first game. He will get the ball underneath a lot against Oregon.  Iona is going to be overmatched against Oregon and I don’t expect this to be much of a game, but Jordan Washington is really good.  His only downfall is that he is very prone to foul an awful lot.  I hope he doesn’t foul to much against Oregon so he can actually have a productive game.  Iona will need it.  Jordan averages 18 points and 8 rebounds, and shoots 55% from the floor.


16 Facts:

 NC Central: They are making their second tournament appearance of all time.  All within the last 3 years.  This team has dominated the MEAC conference for the last three years.

UC Davis: They are making their first tournament appearance in School History.  If they win the First Four game against NC Central they will survive to play Kansas.

Jacksonville State:  They are making their first appearance of all time in the tournament.  They were picked by the media and the coaches to finish in dead last in their conference this year.

Iona College:  The little school out of New York is a tournament regular within the last couple of years.  Tim Cluess their coach is one of the hottest names among coaching circles out there.  Besides Jordan Washington they have a UCONN transfer in Sam Cassell Jr, and a really exciting sixth man named Deyshonee Much.

Vermont:  The Catamounts have not lost since December 21st.  They are a capable team who may have been under-seeded. They did not lose a game in the America East conference this year.

Nevada: The Wolfpack are coached by ex-NBA headcoach Eric Musselman.  He has relied on transfers to build up his team.  This team is exciting , and possesses two of the best mid-major players in the country in Jordan Caroline and Marcus Marshall.

Rhode Island:  Making their first tournament appearance since 1999.  That year led by Lamar Odom they made the Elite 8 and were two baskets away from the Final Four.  They beat Kansas to make the Elite 8.  Watch for EC Matthews to be a household name. Kuran Iverson is their big man and he is Allen Iverson’s cousin.

Oklahoma State:  You will break a sweat just watching this team play.  They can score, and then score some more.  Their first year head coach Brad Underwood led Stephen F. Austin to two straight NCAA tournaments and beat West Virginia last year.

Michigan State:  The frontcourt is loaded with NBA lottery picks.  Led by Miles Bridges.  Tom Izzo is one of the best in game coaches in College Basketball, its always tough to pick against the Spartans.  Their issue this year has been consistent guard play.

Miami (Fla):  Lots of talent.  They play in the ACC which was arguably the best conference in history this year.  They are battle tested.  Head Coach Jim Larranaga took George Mason to a Final Four.

Michigan:  Fast paced team, who believe Defense and rebounding are over rated.  All 5 starters on the floor can shoot threes and will shoot anywhere on the floor.  Derrick Walton Jr. is a future NBA superstar.

Creighton: Losing Mo Watson has really hurt this team.  Made a run to the Big East title game before falling to Villanova.  Has been a tale of two seasons this year for Creighton.

Iowa State:  Deonte Burton is a human highlight reel when it comes to dunking the ball.  They have one of the most consistent Point Guards maybe ever.  Marcus Morris never turns the ball over, which gives Iowa State more possessions.  They have a sharpshooter in Naz Mitrou-Long

Purdue:  They have a lot of height.  Caleb Swanigan is a NBA lottery pick and a double-double machine. Issac Haas is a 7’2” inch big man who can score and protect the rim.  They like to grind you out inside and kick it out to Dakota Mathias and Ryan Cline to get threes at the end of shot clocks.  Really lock you down on defense.

Oregon:  Dana Altman has the Ducks on the map.  This team is led by Dillon Brooks, they are a potential Final Four team.  Their big man Chris Boucher is out for the remainder of the season with an injury.

Louisville: Rick Pitino always becomes a force to be reckoned with when it comes to tournament time.  Louisville is trendy pick to make the finals and they have the talent and the coach to make that happen.

Kansas:  Kansas may have the best guards in the country in Frank Mason and DeVante Graham.  Bill Self is a Hall of Fame coach.  Have the potential first pick in the NBA draft in Freshman Josh Jackson.  He has a fierce Afro and a fierce game.


March Madness 2017: Previewing the South Region First and Second Round

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The South is this year’s group of death with North Carolina, Kentucky, and UCLA as the top three seeds. There is a lot to look forward to with this bracket as three major contenders for the Wooden Award will showcase their talents. So what should you be watching for in the South Region? Let’s take a look.

Best First Round Matchup – Friday, 7:10 ET (CBS)

It should come as no surprise that a 7 vs. 10 matchup is the best, but Dayton vs. Wichita State is going to be a dandy. Two storied mid-major programs that have gained the nation’s love recently in the past few seasons. Dayton with it’s Elite Eight run in 2014 and of course Wichita with it’s 35-1 season that same year. This game has it all, starting with two loyal and fantastic coaches who are in it for the long haul, Archie Miller and Gregg Marshall. It has a very nice guard matchup with Scoochie Smith and Charles Cooke for Dayton, facing Conner Frankamp and Landry Shamet. To make matters a little more interesting, Dayton gets this game just 117 miles away from their campus, so expect Flyer Nation to be out in strong numbers.

Biggest First Round Upset Potential – Thursday, 1:30 ET (TNT)

Everyone and their mother is talking about Middle Tennessee State beating Minnesota, but I am not buying into that. I think the biggest potential for a huge upset is 13-seeded Winthrop over 4-seeded Butler. Winthrop has Keon Johnson, the best three point shooter you’ve never heard of and he is hotter than ever after an outstanding Big South Tournament. He scored 88 points in three games and knocked down 14 three’s along the way. Johnson has scored more than 30 points in seven games this season including 38 in a win at Illinois. On the other side, Butler comes in on a 2-game losing streak in which they shot the ball very poorly, especially from behind the arc (25%). Winthrop likes to run up and down the floor and if they can shoot 40 percent from behind the arc in this one, Butler will be in trouble.

Best Individual Player vs. Player Matchup – Friday, 1:30 ET (TNT)

Seton Hall’s Khadeen Carrington against Arkansas’s Dusty Hannahs should be electric. Both players have scored in double-figures in all but four games this season. Both are local hometown heroes from their respective schools and both can score in electric ways. These two acrobatic guards will wow you with the different ways they can score, and will easily be the two best players on the floor. It is definitely also worth noting that Carrington is one of the best defenders in the Big East, so I give him a slight upper edge in the matchup.

Best Potential Second Round Matchup

If all goes according to plan, we get the second round matchup of a lifetime of #2 Kentucky and #10 Wichita State. In case you have forgotten about the 2014 tournament, Kentucky was the 8-seed in Wichita State’s #1 seeded region. The game went back-and-forth as the Harrison twins battled Cleanthony Early. Down the stretch Early did everything he could to keep the Shocker’s perfect season going, but they fell just two points short. Fast forward to 2017 and Gregg Marshall gets his chance at redemption, something that Wichita State fans are now begging for.



March Madness 2017: Previewing the West Region First and Second Round



by: Zachery Bonzheim
With the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament bracket selected, it is time to over analyze, predict, over hype, and under estimate the field. There are 68 teams, all with one goal, to win out. Winning 6 games in a row (7 for some) will mean bringing joy to alumni, fans, players, staff, and students of one college for years. Who will win it all and how? Let’s take a step back and first of all just look at it region by region. The West region this year is headlined by Gonzaga and Arizona, but it goes much deeper than that. 11 of the 16 teams in the region have a legitimate shot of winning the region.  Let’s round up the region’s first weekend.

West Region Times:
Game One for all West Regional Teams will be March 16th
Game Two for all West Regional Teams will be March 18th

(Game Schedule in Order by Tip-off)
#5 Notre Dame vs #12 Princeton- March 16th, Buffalo, 12:15 PM, CBS
#1 Gonzaga vs #16 South Dakota State- March 16th, Salt Lake City, 2 PM, TBS
#4 West Virginia vs #13 Bucknell- March 16th, Buffalo, 2:45 PM, CBS
#8 Northwestern vs #9 Vanderbilt- March 16th, Salt Lake City, 4:30 PM, TBS
#6 Maryland vs #11 Xavier- March 16th, Orlando, 6:50 PM, TNT
#7 St Mary’s vs #10 VCU- March 16th, Salt Lake City, 7:20 PM, TBS
#3 Florida State vs #14 Florida Gulf Coast, March 16th, Orlando, 9:20 PM, TNT
#2 Arizona vs #15 North Dakota- March 16th, Salt Lake City, 9:50 PM, TBS

-Best First Round Matchup
For best first round match up, three games were considered. The St Mary’s/VCU, Maryland/Xavier, and the Northwestern/Vanderbilt games were the games considered. Northwestern may be the best story, but Maryland vs Xavier will be the best match up. Xavier and Maryland are very similar. Xavier averages 74.6 per game, Maryland is 73.5, and in their last three they have both averaged around 69 per game. The leading scorers are within 1 point of each other, leading rebounders are .4 rebounds of each other, and lead assist man is within .5 assists of each other. There will not be many matchups so close as this one. Both, Trevon Bluiett and Melo Trimble had great seasons but still have to prove themselves. Look for terrific guard play and many buckets in this game.

-Best Potential Second Round Matchup
The best potential second-round matchup could be of Maryland and Princeton. If Princeton beats Notre Dame in round one, a possible upset, Maryland will have to focus. If they come into the game with any sense of ease they will get jumped on. Princeton ranks 19th in assist to turnover while Maryland ranks 138th. Both average between 75 and 70 points per game. America will be watching the game as the potential Cinderella would be taking on a proven Melo Trimble led Maryland squad. A good match up for a high scoring offense with many mistakes against a moderate scoring team that takes care of the ball.

-Most Upset Potential
Princeton will take on Notre Dame in Buffalo, New York and they are going to need their fanbase to make the couple hour trek. Princeton is riding a 19 game win streak as they went undefeated in the conference this year. Notre Dame survived the onslaught that was the ACC this year, dropping a few along the way. How can Princeton win? If Princeton is able to spread the floor and share the rock, not allowing Bonzie Colson to get into his defensive groove and not allow him to get close to inside range shots, they will have a good chance. There are five players on Princeton capable of scoring in double figures every game. Notre Dame does not rely entirely on Colson, but he is the definite centerpiece. Notre Dame will have a hard time preparing for Princeton while every single of Notre Dame’s games will be available for the Princeton Tigers. Will the Ivy league win another first round game? Harvard beat Cincy in 2015 and Yale beat Baylor 2016. Do not be surprised if the Ivy League comes up big again.

-Most Exciting Player Matchup
The most exciting game one player vs player matchup is the Trevon Bluiett and Melo Trimble matchup. Two players who were on the national radar to begin this season both have played a great season, but both did not make the jump to All-American. Both juniors, Bluiett with 18.1 points per game, Trimble with 17, both leading their teams as not only the best play but the heart and soul of the team. They will be going head to head all game and it will create great matchups.

-Most Exciting Potential Player Matchup
This only covers round one and round two and even then, the matchup of tremendous bigs Jock Landale and Lauri Markkanen will take place. Two west coast teams will face off with their seven footers (Ok Landale is only 6’11”) will battle it out down low. This game offers a lot of excitement because it is a real trap game for Arizona. If they were to win this game they would be facing a lot of favorable matchups until the Elite Eight. Both average around 17 a game and Landale rebounds 9 a game to Markkanen’s 7.5. A great potential second round matchup.

-Best Player You Have Never Heard Of
Mike Daum, Sophomore, Forward, South Dakota State…. Does he sound familiar? He may not be well known but trust me, Daum can play. He is averaging 25.3 points per game, 8.2 rebounds, and 1.4 assists a game. These numbers would give you huge national spotlight at a larger college yet they still need to be recognized. Gonzaga may completely run over the Jackrabbits of South Dakota State, but Daum will still have the highest regular season scoring average of any player in the tournament.

-Best Storyline
The best storyline is the Northwestern and Vanderbilt matchup in the first round. Both sat on the edge of their seats on Selection Sunday. One team waiting to make history as their first NCAA tournament appearance ever and the other trying to get in with the most losses ever for an at-large bid. The nation will be split. Who do you root for? Do we want Vanderbilt to prove the doubters wrong and prove that they do belong or do we want Northwestern’s first bid to end past the first game? This game will be one to watch no only for the talent on both teams, but the storylines.

-Players to Watch

(* Predicted All-Region Team) (Players Listed in Order of Seeded Team)
*Nigel Williams-Goss, Gonzaga, Junior, Guard
Przemek Karnowski, Gonzaga, Senior, Center
*Lauri Markkanen, Arizona, Freshman, Center
Allonzo Trier, Arizona, Sophomore, Guard
*Dwayne Bacon, Florida State, Sophomore, Guard
Jonathan Isaac, Florida State, Freshman, Forward
Jevon Carter, West Virginia, Junior, Guard
*Bonzie Colson, Notre Dame, Junior, Forward
V.J. Beachem, Notre Dame, Senior, Forward
*Melo Trimble, Maryland, Junior, Guard
Jock Landale, St Mary’s, Junior, Center
Trevon Bluiett, Xavier, Junior, Guard
Mike Daum, South Dakota State, Sophomore, Forward

Who Moves On?
#5 Notre Dame vs #12 Princeton- March 16th, Buffalo, 12:15 PM, CBS
Notre Dame will come into this game with a huge advantage in player talent. But, the 5/12 matchup is one of the most upset-riddled and the Ivy league has upset two years in a row. I got Princeton moving on. Let it be known, Princeton is riding the second longest win streak in Division One Men’s Basketball, 16 games.

#1 Gonzaga vs #16 South Dakota State- March 16th, Salt Lake City, 2 PM, TBS
No sixteen seed has ever beat a one seed. Is this the year where it finally happens? No. Gonzaga moves on. Expect Williams-Goss and South Dakota State’s, Mike Daum, to have big games.
#4 West Virginia vs #13 Bucknell- March 16th, Buffalo, 2:45 PM, CBS
Last year Hawaii upset Cal in the 4/13 upset, can a team do it again this year? I think yes, but I do not see it here. West Virginia will press the lights out of Bucknell and never look back. West Virginia moves on.
#8 Northwestern vs #9 Vanderbilt- March 16th, Salt Lake City, 4:30 PM, TBS
Northwestern and Vanderbilt is a tough one to look at. They are very even in skill and statistically. Vanderbilt played the toughest schedule in the nation and was able to beat the tenth best RPI team, Florida, three times. Northwestern was able to climb the rough terrain of the Big Ten this year and had their fair share of rocky spots. Toss up!
#6 Maryland vs #11 Xavier- March 16th, Orlando, 6:50 PM, TNT
Maryland may be overhyped to a degree, but since Xavier’s Edmond Summer went down, they are 6-7 with three wins over the lowly DePaul. Maryland’s talent pulls through.
#7 St Mary’s vs #10 VCU- March 16th, Salt Lake City, 7:20 PM, TBS
Many saw both of these teams as higher seeds, but the only opinion that matters is the committees. This will be a great first round matchup but VCU will not have an answer for Jock Landale. St Mary’s will survive another day.
#3 Florida State vs #14 Florida Gulf Coast, March 16th, Orlando, 9:20 PM, TNT
Florida State should not have a problem with Florida Gulf Coast. The combo of Dwayne Bacon and Jonathan Issac should be enough to seal the victory. They are playing in Florida, which means there will be more FGCU fans, but there will overall just be more fans at the game. If FSU stumbles to get early buckets and can’t convert at the line, it will be closer than wanted.
#2 Arizona vs #15 North Dakota- March 16th, Salt Lake City, 9:50 PM, TBS
Arizona wins. In my opinion, this Wildcat squad is the most underestimated of the 2-seeds and the most talented non-one seed. North Dakota State could pull off the win, because hey it’s March, but I think this Arizona squad will at least make it to game two.


Initial Quick Thoughts On Bracket


So the field of 68 is set and here are five quick questions that come to mind. These are not in any particular order, just simple questions.

1. How did the committee determine the seedings for the Big Ten teams? Wisconsin an 8, Minnesota a 5, Maryland a 6? All three of those seem a bit strange. I thought Maryland a 7 at best, more likely an 8 after their struggles down the stretch. Minnesota is playing good basketball now, but hasn’t been nearly consistent enough to be a 5.. Wisconsin was the best team in the conference for all but the final three weeks and they fall below both Maryland and Minnesota?

2. Why UNC, UCLA, and Kentucky in the same bracket? Three teams that for the majority of the season (albeit at different times) were considered to be 1 seeds. So why would the committee take the best 3 seed in UCLA and throw them into the fire with Kentucky, a team they played and beat earlier in the season. Sticking with this region, did the committee purposefully try to destroy Wichita State again? A team that was much better than a 10-seed gets a great Dayton as their 7 and Kentucky as the two. Seems a lot like when they gave a then top-seeded Wichita State an 8-seeded Kentucky.

3. Would Oregon have been a 2-seed over Louisville if Chris Boucher didn’t get hurt? Some people had the Ducks as a 1 seed (led by Bill Walton) if they were to win the Pac-12 championship, but instead they fall all the way to the 3 and are going to be forced to play Louisville in their backyard instead of closer to home.

4. Why is West Virginia seeded higher than Iowa State. The Cyclones beat WVU in the conference championship and have 10 wins against teams in the field of 68, including at Kansas. West Virginia has 9 wins against teams in the field.

5. How did a 7-seeded South Carolina get their first and second round games less than 100 miles away from their campus and another 7-seeded Dayton get theirs 117 miles away? I am all for protecting your top 5 seeds in each region, but South Carolina’s trip is the shortest of any teams this season and Dayton’s is the 4th shortest.