Eyetestlopedia 2016 March Madness A-Z

Arkansas Little Rock 

And we’re off!  This team can win.  When you read below you will find plenty of reminders about how underdogs are undersized.  But, in UALR’s case, they are not that small.  6-11 Lis Shoshi plays a lot minutes at center and is a viable threat for defensive rebounds. Senior Roger Woods is 6-5 but defends with power and substance.  Speed kills.  That’s the story when you watch their guards.  In short, this team could quickly find itself in a Sweet 16.  It just happens that one of our favorite underdogs is also at the top of the alphabet.

Arizona

Arizona is in a bit of a transition year.  Which, for them, means a top 25 ranking and a 6 seed.  That’s how good coach Sean Miller has been.  Ryan Anderson, a transfer from Boston College, has platooned really well as longtime Wildcat Kaleb Tarczewski was injured midseason.  Tarczewski and Gabe York are holdovers from an NBA All-Star team type of Arizona team.  York is handling more of the ball-handling duties as the younger backcourt running mates have developed.  The X-factor player for this team is Allonzo Trier.  He’s a freshman guard who has been a child prodigy from the Seattle area.  He has shown flashes late this season.  However, a matchup against an athletic Vanderbilt team or a superior defensive backcourt of Wichita State in the second pairing would be tough.

Ausitn Peay 

Two stars introduced themselves to the nation during Austin Peay’s unlikely run to an Ohio Valley Conference championship.  Center Chris Horton registered 30 points and 16 rebounds in an overtime win against Belmont in the semifinal.  At 6-8, Horton may give up some size to a power 5 front line.  But this senior can angle inside with the best of them.  Horton sprained his ankle in the championship game (but returned after a brief absence), so his status is worth monitoring.  Meanwhile, a freshman caught fire in the championship game.  Jared Savage went 8 of 14 from the 3 point line.  At 6-5, Savage reminds us slightly of another recent mid-major gunner, R.J. Hunter.  Savage finished with 24 points in that game.  His three point efficiency was not an anomaly.  He shot 41% on the season.

Baylor 

Rico Gathers Jr. may be able to bully his way down low with enough rebounds to make the first weekend, but it’s tough for us to see this team going very far.  It has a lot of length on the outside, but lacks that true point guard to dictate the offense.  Coach Scott Drew is one of America’s least appreciated coaches.  This isn’t his most talented team.

Buffalo

Florida Gulf Coast, this Cinderella favorite is back in the tournament, but much different from the team we remember.  Of course, coach Bobby Hurley defected to Arizona State.  There were many more departures from Buffalo in one short year.  Power forward Justin Moss was excused from the program after being arrested for theft on campus over the summer.  There are really only three players from that 12 Buffalo versus 5 West Virginia game that remain in the rotation.  Lamonte Bearden is the best player returning.  He plays point.  Bearden made the right decision in the last possession versus Akron.  He was doubled and kicked the ball out for a hockey assist that became the game-winning (and unlikely) three pointer.  Another lesson learned from the upset of the Akron Zips in the MAC Tournament is the way the Bulls handled Isaiah Johnson, a 6-10 295 lbs. center who passes fantastically out of the post.  Whatever the Bulls’ recipe was to get that defensive effort done will need to be employed in the inevitable 3-14 or 2-15 matchup coming down the pike.

California

This is your quintessential young team that has matured over the course of the season and is ready to strike.  Ivan Raab is the version of Kevin Garnett who you never witnessed play in college.  Jaylen Brown is kind of like Harrison Barnes was at UNC.  Both are freshman.  Caoch Cuonzo Martin has high aspirations for this program, and they might come sooner than expected in his second season.  In addition to Raab’s length, the Bears have two other 7-footers.  There is upperclass leadership on the wings with Tyrone Wallace, Jordan Matthews and Jabari Bird.  All those Cali-natives have had their moments hitting big shots in big moments this season.  In fact, when Wallace was out mid-season with an injury, junior Sam Singer from Miami came up clutch playing great defense and really feeding the big dogs down low.  The eye test has shown a full-length motion picture throughout the season that could result in best screenplay.

Chattanooga 

What is a Moc?  Well, Chattanooga has the athleticism to get it done.  The Mocs got wins this season at Georgia and at Dayton this season.  They made it look easy in the SoCon tournament.  ETSU really didn’t have the scoring punch that Chattanooga displayed.  The Mocs are playing without their leading scorer, Casey Jones, who will reportedly get a medical redshirt to play next year.  The Mocs pass the eye test on defense and share both the offensive and rebounding workload.  Tre’ McLean is a solid shooting guard at 6-5.  Justin Yuoyo is a legit 6-10, has good hands and athleticism to finish in traffic.  This is an athletic team that has experienced a lot of change, including three coaches over the last three years.  Their current coach is 34-year-old Matt McCall, a former assistant under Billy Donovan with the champion Florida Gators.  If Chattanooga is to have a first round win, it’d be even more of a Cinderella story given McCall’s first season as head coach.

Colorado

Josh Scott is a pro center.  The frontline around him is America’s 8th best rebounding team.  Coach Tad Boyle turns out tournament teams every year by having his teams hit the glass and gets little credit.  They don’t have a reputation of a fast break-oriented team, but have many athletes who can grab a rebound and start their own break.  This team already plays angry on the offensive glass.  If they’re overlooked with all the love given to UCONN, that could compound the aggression.

CSU Bakersfield 

The Roadrunners have a good defensive center.  They handled New Mexico State’s size upfront well in the WAC Championship game.  In fact, they’re a good defensive team according to the numbers.  They play a fluid pick-and-roll offense with smaller guards who can quickly hit an elbow extended jumper.  We can’t make the argument for them winning a tournament game, but there are analytics that could tempt you.  You’ll have to read another site for that, so click here.

Duke 

The thing that scares us about Duke is the early start.  The Blue Devils are literally playing the first game of the tournament.  Oftentimes that does not bode well for the favorite.  In 2010, Matthew Dellavadova and the 14-seeded St. Mary’s Gaels knocked off #3 Villanova in a morning game on the West coast.  Okay, now for the basketball side of the ledger.  Duke missing Amille Jefferson is a big deal.  They are a poorer defensive team without Jefferson playing safety and calling shots on the back-line.  Brandon Ingram has elevated his game as the season has progress.  Some have even discussed how he is now in contention for the number one overall pick in the NBA Draft.  We know about Grayson Allen.  He will have to have an impact immediately, as UNC Wilmington plays a full court press throughout the game.  The guards will need to be sharp.

Farleigh Dickinson 

This is your prototypical NEC Champion.  The Knights are perimeter-oriented, with multiple guys having the green light.  In their championship performance against Wagner, Farleigh Dickinson got a lot of easy buckets with their wings leaking out on defensive rebounds.  Of course, any team can win on any given day, but Farleigh Dickinson might have to shoot 60+% from behind the arc to make it happen.

Florida Gulf Coast

The skeptic in us is saying to ourselves, “Sure, Dunk City will be the vogue pick to compete for a tourney upset, but they can’t really do it again.”  Then we turn on the tape and watch this team in action.  There is only one holdover player from that magical 2013 run.  This Dunk City is nothing like Dunk City.  According to the eye test, the first thing that pops out is FGC’s two big men in the middle.  Marc Eddy Norella and Demetris Morant set the tone against Stetson in the Atlantic Sun championship game.  Those guys, and this team, however, are not a track meet, slam dunk, high possession team.  They take few threes.  Freshman point guard Zach Johnson might be the x-factor for this team.  He had a spectacular game against Stetson, penetrating and creating for teammates.  Johnson, a Miami native, not only finished with 19 points and 5 assists.  He had the game-winning block on the final possession.  Don’t overlook, also, the fact that they clobbered North Florida in the semifinal game.  North Florida finished first in the Atlantic Sun and has a decent backcourt themselves.

Fresno State 

The Mountain West is a one bid league this season, but is only two years removed from being a four bid league.  Fresno State overcame the best statistical defensive team in the nation by winning over titan San Diego State in the championship.  San Diego’s enigmatic pro prospect Malik Pope had the game of a lifetime.  It didn’t matter. Fresno State out-toughed San Diego State and showed a lot of grit by entering this tournament.   Marvel Harris was the player of the year in the Mountain West and took his opportunities to drive and score when San Diego dared him to.

 

Gonzaga

With its Elite 8 backcourt gone and Przemek Karnowski out for the season with a back issue, this team has a lot of odds stacked against it.  Kyle Wiltjer is still one of America’s best pure scorers.  Domantas Sabonis is an NBA lottery pick in the making with his ambidextrous handle, awareness, and power down low.  The key for Gonzaga, as it always is, is the guard play.  If freshman Josh Perkins can perform well, as he did in the Battle for Atlantis tournament, this team should not be counted out.  Gonzaga has improved greatly on its defense of the three point line with the new regime in the backcourt.  The Bulldogs now rank fifth overall in the nation in that category.

Hampton

Hampton returns four of five starters from the lineup that played in last year’s tournament.  As a 16 seed, they beat Manhattan and then lost to Kentucky.  The Pirates star player is a 6-6 senior from Chicago named Quinton Chievious.  The Tennessee Volunteers transfer has the type of skills to take over a game.  In that Kentucky game, he scored 22 as the Pirates were only outscored 38-34 in the second half.  In the MEAC Championship game against South Carolina State, Hampton pulled away by bullying its way to the basket and finishing the game on a 14-2 run.

Holy Cross 

Congrats to the Crusaders on a tournament bid.  However, don’t fill out your bracket with Holy Cross making the field of 32.  This is the champ of a weak conference in a weak year for the Patriot League.

Indiana 

We know all about Yogi Ferrell.  He could easily be the Kemba Walker, or Shabazz Napier, type.  We shouldn’t be surprised if he leads this team to a Final 4.  Point forward Troy Williams has had a tenuous tenure with the Hoosiers.  But he is a 6-9 forward who can handle the ball and defend the opponent’s best player.  Speaking of defense, the Hoosiers have had serious issues with it.  During the holiday tournament they were embarrassed by Wake Forest but have seemed to fix things since James Blackmon Jr.’s season-ending injury.  OG Anunoby is a freshman who has made a splash since that injury.  He, like Troy Williams, can score without plays called for him.

Iona 

Take the over.  Iona can shoot lights out.  They won’t guard the 3 point line.  A.J. English has Kemba Walker-like efficiency.  He can score from everywhere.  In the championship effort against Monmouth, it was an unlikely performance from a Gael big man, Jordan Washington, that may have been the difference.  Iona comes into the tourney with a lot of experienced guys entering their first big dance.

Iowa

The collapse of Iowa against Iowa State really bothers us.  Senior forward Jarrod Utoff played like Dirk Nowitzki in the first half.  He disappeared in the second.  This is another team that features two point guards in its starting lineup, so pressure and full court defense won’t bother the Hawkeyes.  It’s more the overall look of this team in big spots that raises flags.  They are also thin on the inside, with center Adam Woodbury having earned a reputation (fair or not) as a dirty player over his career.  Fear a big team against Iowa.

Kansas

Word around Lawrence, Kansas is that coach Bill Self held a late season meeting with his senior players.  He asked the group what big man they want to finish games with.  Their answer, according to town legend, was Landen Lucas.  The big man from Oregon has since come through.  He is a committed defender and rebounding, but that’s what chemistry is calling for at this point.  As a result, talented freshmen such Carlton Bragg and Cheick Diallo have seen little time on the floor.  Coach Self has leaned on his seniors like Lucas and Jamari Trailor, especially on the interior.  D’Vauntes Graham is playing the best basketball of his short career right now.  He and Frank Mason III are part of a rare but effective two point guard starting (and finishing) lineup.  Kansas is not known as a fast-break playing ball club, but can play that game well when tested.  Perry Ellis Jr. is America’s least talked about pro at power forward.  Wayne Selden Jr. brought his game to the next level in a nationally televised game hosting Kentucky, but has been quiet since.  As you can tell, the Jayhawks are one of America’s deepest teams.  Brannen Greene and Svi Mykhailiuk are serious three-point threats.  A lot of times you will either see one guy or the other in a game, because there are not enough minutes to go around.

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Kentucky

Tyler Ulis is the best point guard in this tournament.  Point guards win this tournament.  They start out by playing 6-8 center Jameel Warney of Stony Brook.  UK has three dudes who can guard him including Marcus Lee, an experienced and quick leaper.  Jamaal Murray, shooting guard, exploded this summer at the Pan American games for team Canada.  We saw there he has the flair for a big moment.  Kentucky is one of few teams that can look more athletic on a given night against UNC.  That might be the matchup as the bracket makes it possible in the Sweet 16.

Maryland 

Listed as a 5 seed, this team is dangerous!  Diamond Stone is one of the nastiest players down low in this tournament.  Compare him to a Devin Williams.  And, when he goes to the bench, Damonte Dodd comes in and they don’t skip a beat.  Melo Trimble has suffered a sophomore slump as he has suffered ankle issues.  Senior Jake Layman is like a Wally Szczerbiak stretch-four.  This team has at least two pros.  The Terps haven’t peaked yet and has the talent to outmatch Cal in a potential first weekend matchup.

Miami

For some odd reason, Ja’Quan Newton is a bench player.  Miami has a lot of creators but not a lot of balls to go around.  As is mentioned below in the Virginia paragraph, Miami has serious lapses defensively.  They have a rim protector in Tonye Jakiri, a versatile big man with Kamari Murphy (an Oklahoma State transfer), and an up-tempo point guard in Angel Rodriguez.  The question is whether wings Sheldon McClellon and Devon Reed can play at an Elite 8 level, especially on the defensive end.

Michigan State

The Spartans came back to beat the Jayhawks in November during the “First Four” behind Denzel Valentinte’s triple double, and that’s the bottom line.  Your feelings about Michigan State shouldn’t have changed since that win.  They have a superstar.  They have shooters everywhere.  Bryn Forbes had an electric shooting performance against Oakland at the Palace at Auburn Hills while Valentine was out with injury.  Eron Harris, a West Virginia transfer eager for a tournament breakout, is also one of the best shooters in the Big 10.  Those guards can play the role Travis Trice did last season.  They also have freshmen who can burst on the scene in a big spot.  Deyonta Davis is a stud at 6-10 and playing about 18 minutes a game at power forward.  At center, Matt Costello has raised his game to a new level and showed in the Maryland game that he can will his team to victory solo.  And their are about 3-4 other guys we haven’t even mentioned by name who could be trending on your Twitter feed in early April.  Michigan State heads into the tournament as the odds-on favorite, and collegebasketballeyetest.com agrees.  Coach Tom Izzo is a Godfather figure of the tournament.  The rest of the field will sleep with the fishes.

Michigan

The Wolverines losing Caris Levert is a big deal.  Levert is one of the nation’s best shooting guards when healthy.  It also doesn’t help that Michigan really doesn’t even have a center on its roster.  Your folk legend from 2013, Spike Albrecht, is still eligible but also sidelined with a hip injury.  6-8 Duncan Robinson has come on as of late with his incredible range and pure shot, but that will be something defenses are aware of.

Notre Dame 

It bothers us that Notre Dame had Georgia Tech beat 60-54 with less than 3 minutes left late in the season.  Notre Dame failed to close that deal.  The Irish continue falling short in tight spots.  They got embarrassed against UNC in the ACC Semifinal.

North Carolina

This is the most athletic team in America.  What else do you want us to say?  Senior point guard and preseason All-American Marcus Paige has taken heat recently for a cold streak shooting the ball.  But his absence midseason with injury let the other guards, Nate Britt and Joel Berry II, get more reps.  The only team that can get in this team’s way, is itself.

Oklahoma

Oklahoma’s Final 4 aptitude just got a whole lot more interesting.  During the Big 12 Tournament, in a quarterfinal game, seldom used freshman Christian James has a coming-out party.  As West Virginia pressured player of the year Buddy Heild and Isaiah Cousins, there was suddenly a third wing option to score the rock.  As you probably know, the post players for the Sooners aren’t known for creating their own shots.  The best offensive punch from the interior comes from Ryan Spangler (6 foot 8), who is more of a stretch high-low player than a traditional banger.  Watch for whether James gets an equal opportunity again early in the tournament.  He averaged only 8 minutes per game throughout the season.  With Isaiah Cousins’s strength being on the defensive end on as a distributor, having another budding Buddy Hield on the outside could be just what the doctor ordered.

Oregon

We never got to Witness LeBron James play college basketball.  So enjoy what Elgin Cook is doing at Oregon.  Wearing number 23, this guy obviously fashions his game after the King.  But we digress.  Oregon, the team, is kind of like Iowa State when it had Naz Long.  They aren’t ridiculously deep.  They aren’t huge at the rim with any 7-footers.  However, they have eight guys who can all ball.  Oregon is (and has been) our value pick to make a Final 4 and perhaps swipe a championship in a season that is wide open.

Oregon State

Gary Patyton Jr. II is a point guard who plays great defense and is more of a scorer than a distributor.  Oregon State is likely over-seeded as a 7.  They have struggled to finish games by drawing up a play with their star player.

Providence

We love this team because Kris Dunn is like Dwyane Wade.  Click here to read more.   Ben Bentil is one of America’s (not just the Big East’s) most improved players.  He is not only a difficult matchup down low, but has developed a Charles Oakley-like stroke late in his Big East career.

Purdue

This is A.J. Hammons’s final interview before the NBA Draft.  For this 7-foot senior, he is showing an all-around game and an intensity that he hasn’t over his Boilermaker career.  And, if he isn’t showing his best game, Isaac Haas, another 7-footer, is eager to come off the bench and eat the opponent’s lunch.  The one game that was really perplexing this season was the game while hosting Iowa when Purdue was dominating at halftime, then let the Hawkeyes sneak back and steal a road victory.  Nonetheless, this is a better version of the squad we expected from Vanderbilt heading into the season.  They’re huge, have range, and can defend their way to a victory if and when they struggle.

Seton Hall

Seton Hall has been a favorite of collegebasketballeyetest.com for weeks.  Derek Gordon sets the table on defense.  They have a cast of sophomores, led by Isaiah Whitehead, who can challenge with a “city game” you hear so much about.  Angel Delgado anchors the defense inside.  He averages a double-double.  You might have watched in the Big East Championship game, Seton Hall effectively plays 6 guys.  In that game, Whitehead answered the bell any time Villanova made a charge during its comeback.  He fed off the Madison Square Garden crowd and looked like the stud that can throw a team on his shoulders.  The fall-away jump shot that he banked in on an and-one epitomizes that performance.  Watch out for Seton Hall.  And, if they don’t make a Sweet 16 push this year, don’t discount this young bunch next season.

Southern 

After a 2-year ban, Southern returns to the dance.  They got there in a brutally ugly game against Jackson State in the SWAC Championship.  Southern shot a lousy 27% from the field in the first half.  At the end of the day, 6-1 junior guard Trelun Banks made enough buckets to get the job done.  This team will likely be in the “first four,” and we don’t see it likely they play a second time.

South Dakota State

If you’re reading about the Jackrabbits, you might be reading about how 6-9 power forward Mike Daum is able to get to the free throw line among the best in the country.  Yet, we’re talking Summit League competition.  Daum also leaves a lot to be desired on the defensive end.  This is not exactly the experienced North Dakota team that beat Oklahoma a few years back in the tourney.  We will say that Deandre Parks, the point guard wearing number 0, is a pretty savvy prober on offense.  Check the highlights:

 

Stephen F. Austin

Solid forward Thomas Walkup returns with a program that beat VCU as the 12 seed back in 2014.  Similar to that team, this team cannot be sped up.  Stephen F. Austin has no shortage of ball-handlers.  And they look like Lumberjacks on the interior.  Where they give up some in terms of length, they make up for in girth.  Given how “wide open” the tournament is this year, this team will literally compete with everyone.  Fun fact:  Larry Johnson’s kid is on this team, but doesn’t play.

Syracuse 

We, and you, probably watched the two wins this season for the Orange which dictate their template to make a deep run.  The first was against Texas A&M in the Battle for Atlantis.  The second was the win at Duke.  Of course, we all know by now about that “stifling” 2-3 zone.  The two wins we referenced showed that junior Tyler Robinson can be the X-factor.  The junior just needs to hit the boards and play great defense.  Michael Gbinijie and Trevor Cooney can be trusted to get points from deep.  We don’t feel like this team deserves to be in the tournament, especially with it losing 5 of its last 6 games.  If they win the first matchup against Dayton, suddenly they are a scary, experienced, well -coached team playing with house money.

Texas

Coach Shaka Smart should be lauded for keeping a bunch of talented Longhorns on this roster.  He has four guards who get regular minutes and contribute.  Isaiah Taylor is one of them.  The point guard has definitely brought his game to the next level.  Click here to read more.   Eric Davis Jr. at shooting guard has been a guy who has brought this team to a new level when he is shooting well.  The freshman only played 12 minutes in his last contest against Baylor, so it remains to be seen if he will be a factor.  Big boy senior Cameron Ridley has been cleared to play.  He logged two minutes in the Big 12 Tournament, which was a welcomed relief for Longhorn fans.  As well as Prince Ibeh has been playing this season, short stints from Ridley could really help avoid foul trouble for this bunch.  As coach Smart has said, he is looking for this team to showcase more swagger.  With the flashes of greatness it has shown late this season, it wouldn’t be surprising to see that swagger smoke through a quadrant of the bracket.  But, for now, the Longhorns need to work their way out of a slump, losing 2 of the last three.

 

Texas A&M 

It feels like the SEC title game somehow slipped under the radar.  Yes, only three teams from the conference got an invite to the Big Dance, one of those a play-in game (Vanderbilt).  However, Kentucky and Texas A&M had an overtime battle that truly looked like an Elite 8 contest.  Texas A&M announced itself to the college basketball landscape last November when it beat Gonzaga in the Battle of Atlantis.  Texas A&M, though young, looked like a tournament team under those awkward yet wonderful blue ballroom lights. Before we get into the meat of the lineup, Tony Trocha-Morelos is an interesting player.  He plays center at times while A&M does fluctuate to smaller lineups.  He can surprise a defense by drifting to the 3pt line and knocking one down.  Danuel House is a house-name in-the-making.  The 6-6 senior attacks the rim as well as anyone in the nation.  Jalen Jones is a first team all-SEC player and another guy who can knock down an open jumpshot despite his size and wingspan.  Pure point guard Alex Caruso grew up in College Station, serving as a ball boy for the Aggies.  His game is about as textbook as it gets.  Texas A&M has a winable route to the Elite 8, especially because its size and versatility matches up well against a potential Oklahoma matchup (Sweet 16).

Tulsa

This team has two senior guards averaging above 40 points combined.  But they don’t have much skill on the inside.  Lots of us basketball observers are not even sure how they got into the field.  During a winter home game against national power UCONN, you’d be lucky if you could find 2,000 fans in the stands.  Players themselves had tweeted before Selection Sunday that not making the tournament was a foregone conclusion.  This team just doesn’t have high expectations.

University of Northern Iowa 

Shooting guard Jeremy Morgan is one of the best lockdown defenders in the nation.  Despite losing senior stud from last season, Seth Tuttle, this team is still a defensive force.  Sure, the Panthers had a brutal January, losing 6 of 7 at one point.  However, they also booked a behemoth schedule.  They’ve beat Iowa State and UNC, but also played BYU, Hawaii, Richmond, Colorado State and Stephen F. Austin, all contenders in their respective conference and most bubble-worthy.  For UNI, Wes Washpun is the straw that stirs the drink.  The left-handed, undersized point guard has been providing a much-needed scoring punch.  Sophomore Klint Carlson, another lefty, had a solid MVC Tournament.  This team seriously looks like the UNI club we’ve grown to respect.  I’d want no part of them in the first day of March Madness.  Their defensive intensity alone can keep them in games.  As with their loss last season in the tourney against Louisville, size on the front line could be a liability.

UNC Asheville 

This is a very young team with balanced scoring.  Five players average ten or more points.  In its championship win against Winthrop, these Bulldogs got the job done on the defensive end.  They outscored Winthrop by 18 in the second half, fueled by active hands in defensive passing lanes.  It was yet another come-from-behind victory in conference for UNC Asheville this season (trailed by 9 at half).  But, let’s keep it real.  Winthrop wasn’t Villanova.  Villanova plays UNC Asheville first round and the Wildcats have motives to shake the reputation of exiting the tourney early.

UNC Wilmington 

The Seahawks are comfortable playing from behind.  They defeated a talented Hofstra team in the CAA Championship game after trailing by 7 at halftime.  (Earlier in the season, they stormed back also against Hofstra after trailing by 20).  Wilmington deploys a full-court, man press.  It’s not exactly Shaka Smart’s Havoc press, but gets the offense uncomfortable and eats into that shot clock.  In the middle, junior C.J. Gettys is a handful at 7 foot, 275 pounds.  He only plays about 15 minutes per game, but is a factor when in there.  In fact, the Seahawks play a deep bench.

VCU

We want to love this team, but shooting guard Melvin Johnson is struggling with an ankle injury as they enter the tournament and their best post player is being discussed more as a potential NFL tight end.  Havoc is gone.  Saint Joseph’s had their way against the Rams.  The final score did not indicate how Saint Joseph’s got to the basket at will.

Villanova

It’s that time of year.  The time of year where we look at Villanova on the 1 or 2 line, but don’t really believe in it.  Coach Jay Wright hasn’t changed much over the years, in terms of his team’s identity.  They have a bunch of guards who spread you out and can knock down a jumper.  Junior Kris Jenkins should never be left alone.  He can knock down a jumper from anywhere.  Freshman Jalen Brunson gets a ton of minutes at point guard, and handles the workload well.  Still, Kerry Kittles isn’t walking through that door.

Virginia

Very interesting team.  Malcolm Brogdon has brought his game to a whole new level at shooting guard.  He, Anthony Gill and London Pereanthes are as good a trio as there is nationwide.  UVA is always hailed for its defense, and rightfully so.  The “packline” defense means that it packs to baseline with defenders and swarms the ball when it enters the paint.  In a late season contest against Miami, the Cavaliers made the Hurricanes stars look pedestrian.  UVA bench player Marial Shayok made Sheldon McClellan look bad when he dared him to defend the drive.  Virginia is a team with an identity.  Not many teams nationwide have that.  The bench is developing a nice chemistry, forces a bunch of turnovers, and frustrates the opponents’ stars.

Weber State

Weber State can really shoot the rock.  A tournament upset is not out of the question.  When you look at Weber State’s history, there was the magical 1999 win versus 3-seed UNC with Harold “The Show” Arceneaux leading the way.  Of course, Damian Lillard is another  star shooting guard who played at  Weber State.  The new generation guy is Jeremy Senglin.  Senglin averages over 18 a game on a sweet 50% from the field.  The 6-2 junior from Arlington, Texas will be a handful for opposing defenses, but he’s not alone.  The Wildcats are 17th in the nation in field goal percentage.

West Virginia

West Virginia is built to get into a Sweet 16 because of its full court pressure, but a long-shot to get to a Final Four because it can withstand some serious scoring droughts.  Devin Williams is one of the most physical players in the nation.  He struggles at times with foul trouble because of that full-court game the Mountaineers play.  Williams dominated the Big 12 Championship game with 31 points and 10 rebounds against Kansas.

Xavier

This is about the toughest team to handicap.  Yes, you can talk about the depth.  However, if they’re so deep, why did they get stomped on by Villanova when they were without just one player (Edmond Sumner).  Jalen Reynolds is a gangster inside, and a 2nd round NBA draft pick if he has a solid tourney, but has shown signs of being flammable over his career.    Reynolds and James Farr, and the guards hit the boards well.  Xavier is 20th in the nation in rebounding margin.  JP Macura is a secret weapon as a bench player who can slither into the lane and really knock down 3’s.  Well, maybe not so much of a “secret,” seeing that he won the Big East 6th Man of the Year Award.  We just can’t sign off on Xavier’s top 10 ranking equaling an Elite 8 berth.

Yale 

This team started four seniors before point guard Jack Montague left the school in late February.  You can read plenty of rumors online about the reason, but the bottom line is that the Bulldogs admittedly enter the Big Dance without their captain.  Senior forwards Brandon Sherrod and Justin Sears pass the eye test.  Both can hit an open jumper and have nifty athleticism at the rim.  It’s their first tournament berth since 1962.  Like each Ivy League champ you’ve seen since 1962, the offensive acumen is high.  If Yale encounters a lazy or inexperienced defense, it can pick it apart.  This was on display as Yale controlled the first half of an early season game at Cameron Indoor.

 

 

 

 

 

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