About College Basketball Eye Test

There is no replacement for actually watching the games. My name is Matty D. I am a college basketball junkie. And, although I respect big data stat gurus like kenpom.com, this website is the antithesis of that. Talk hoops with me and tell me what you've actually seen. What players step up in clutch situations? Which coaches make the right adjustments? Who disappears when the lights get bright? The "college basketball eye test" is a chat dedicated to storylines bubbling below the surface before they become national trends. Check the first-ever article I wrote on this website. I listed UCONN as one of 5 underdogs I could see winning the NCAA title. They did. Last season Darren Rovell tweeted visual proof of how I predicted upset victories for UAB and Georgia State together. Watch the games and join the conversation. Tweet @CBBEyeTest and have your observations added to the mix!

CollegeBasketballEyeTest.com Author Matty D’s March Madness 2021 Picks

BY MATT DE SARLE

When it comes to college basketball experts, I am the 15 seed. I play with an independent league of opinionated amateurs on Facebook and Twitter, but I am also the budget bettor that no sports book “wants to see” in its bracket. There’s no major sponsor or platform here.

Now that we got that out of the way, let’s roll into my official picks for March Madness 2021!

Predictions for the NCAA Men’s Basketball West Region

When it comes to this West Region, I agree with CBS’s Gary Parrish. There is no imagination coming from the committee when you have the possibility of rematches between Gonzaga and either/all of Kansas, Iowa, and/or Virginia. And that’s why I think only one of those rematches will happen: the most important one. This is also why I think Iowa is the first sexy futures bet at 16-1 as of March 16th. A rematch is always tricky for any victor. And in the December showdown between Iowa and Gonzaga, the Hawkeyes were simply blown out. Although Iowas has since lost Jack Nunge, the cliche is true when you can say they are “battle tested” by a historically great Big 10. I mean, to put the greatness of the Big 10 into context, this COVID-19 shortened season still cost the jobs of Indiana coach Archie Miller and 8 year head man at Minnesota, Richie Pitino. But I digress. Iowa can legitimately beat Gonzaga, I would comofortably have them covering any 2-3 possession line, but I have to go with Jalen Suggs and Gonzaga to advance.

READ ALSO:  Injuries to Consider or Sons of NBA Players Dancing

Everyone is picking against Creighton, and they clearly had a rough start to the month of March. But maybe they’ll be the team that goes in like a lamb and out like a lion. Its win against a popular UConn team showed us what telnet they have. I am also taking Ohio because Jason Preston is someone I cannot root against. As ESPN documented in the game telecasts, he lost his mother as a 16-year-old to cancer. And he plays like the moniker says, “life is short.” His imagination passing the ball and risk taking could capture the nation’s imagination. That’s the emotional side of my brain on that pick. The logical side of my brain also says that UVA is having a rough patch with COVID-19 scares and may not even play the game as the 4 seed there.

The West Region can include a Sweet 16 of two Pac-12 teams

Oregon and USC will represent the PAC-12 well in this region. Each had disappointing losses in the conference tournament, but should not be the judge of how talented each team is.

Predictions for the NCAA Men’s Basketball East Region

I watched Colorado and Texas all season. They’re too talented to come up short in this tournament. And I also watched Saint Bonaventure shred VCU in the A-10 Championship game. That game was not as close as the score would lead you to believe. I have major upsets happening in this region, because you’re not truly picking a March Madness bracket without the madness part. I will have 9 seed advance to the Elite 8 and 3 seed Texas represent the region in the Final Four.

The triangles that you see on my bracket are the underdogs who I like to cover the point spread along the way.

Skip all the clicking steps. HERE’S THE PRINTABLE BRACKET.

Predictions for the NCAA Men’s College Basketball South Region

When you look at the history of the bracket, the cumulative total when you add up all the seed number is the Final Four is normally almost always 10 or more. And so this is where I am picking the hometown team Purdue Boilermakers to represent the South region as the highest seed to enter the Final Four and get my cumulative seed count up to 10 exactly. Everyone and their mom expects UNC’s size and muscle to give Baylor a run for their money. But I am looking a step ahead and saying that Purdue’s size will actually give Baylor trouble, paired with the Boilermakers outstanding freshmen class. Players like Jaden Ivey just haven’t gotten enough publicity this season. I expect this team to be March Madness-ready after, again, the rigors of the Big 10 Conference have prepared them.

I also like 6 seeds to show up in the Sweet 16 this year and won’t be surprised if one of them break into the Final Four. A 6 seed hasn’t made the Final Four since 1991-1992 with the Fab Five.

Predictions for the NCAA Men’s College Basketball Midwest Region

The committee did Illinois no favors in its draw. If we are looking for a 1 seed to have a difficult time, I think this would be the region for it. And who better to spoil the party than Cinderella herself, Loyola Chicago and Sister Jean? I would love to see a field of 32 matchup between Cam Krutwig and Kofi Cockburn. It would harken back to my childhood and watching giants tussle in the WWE (formerly WWF). Here are 8 other field of 32 player matchups I am hoping to see.

If Illinois avoids a field of 32 upset from a scrappy Georgia Tech or Ramblers bunch, they have #1 overall NBA pick Cade Cunningham and Oklahoma State to look forward (potentially).

Texas wins the National Tittle among a Final 4 of Houston, Purdue and Gonzaga.

A team often overlooked is Houston because it plays in the American Athletic Conference (which got weaker with UConn’s exit). I also think the college basketball powers to be aren’t trying to promote Kelvin Sampson, a once-disgraced coach for NCAA infractions. However, with the shooting stroke of Quentin Grimes, return of Fabian White, and a great balance among other upper/underclassmen in the rotation, I think this team is destined for the Final Four. They return really the entire nucleus from a canceled 2019-2020 season with exception of Caleb Mills.

8 Intriguing Potential Player Matchups for Field of 32

BY MATT DE SARLE

The bracket is in. And, as always, a bunch of couch potatoes like myself are predicting the future. And if my Crystal Ball is on point this season, below are a bunch of second round matchups that would be extra fun to watch.

READ ALSO: Injuries to Consider or Sons of NBA Players Dancing

8. Corey Kispert vs. Michael Almonacy

This would be the David versus Goliath, Three Point Competition Edition. Gonzaga is the #1 overall seed in March Madness. Corey Kispert is their golden boy three point shooter who can go on a tear. However, Michael Almonacy at App State shouldn’t be overlooked when it comes to his three point efficiency. Check out our top 8 sharpshooters in the tourney.

7. DJ Burns vs. Trevion Williams

If Winthrop upsets Villanova and rolls into the field of 32, they could have a matchup against Purdue. And that would pin two heavyweights against each other. Trevion Williams had shed some pounds after coming into the Purdue program a few years ago. DJ Burns might have ticked up a few pounds during this COVID-19 off-season. Whatever the pre-fight weigh in might be, watching these two athletic whirling dervishes down low would be amazing. DJ Burns is coming off a Conference Championship game where he looked like Zach Randolph with his rolling around the paint and sticking quick left-handed hook shots. Williams almost completed a massive comeback victory against Ohio State in the Big 10 tournament. And so both these big boys come rolling into the Big Dance.

6. Moses Moody vs. Mac McClung

If you like shooting guards who can score, this matchup would be for you. Mac McClung is a YouTube sensation for his dunks. Moses Moody is probably an NBA Lottery pick next year. Each guy can fill it up. And each team feeds them when they’re hot. This would be a classic 3 vs. 6 seed matchup, in where whichever team’s highest scorer gets hot late might just advance.

5. Franck Kepnang vs. Luka Garza

Franck Kepnang is from Cameroon and just reclassified in high school so that he can be playing for Oregon this season (and in this tournament). Meanwhile, Luka Garza is from the nation’s capital, a national player of the year, and 22-years-old. If you think experience always wins, this might be a game where your theory gets a scare. Kepnang is an enforcer on the defensive end and definitely doesn’t look like he should be a high school senior at this point. It could be fun to watch the 6-11 freshman battle the 6-11 senior. That is, if things play according to script and the 2 seed takes on the 7 seed.

Photo courtesy GoDucks.com

4. Cameron Krutwig vs. Kofi Cockburn

See, if you’re a fan of the NBA, you might think the traditional post up big man is extinct. Yet, this would be another fantastic matchup of two mammoth men. Cameron Krutwig was a starter on the Loyola Chicago team that made a Cinderella Final 4 run in 2018. Cockburn is a player who has slowly progressed for an Illinois team that earned its place as a #1 seed. These guys are, again, players who their teams know to feed when it’s evidence they’re hungry down low. Help defenders might need some armor in this one.

3. James Bouknight vs. Jahvon Quinerly

Both of these guards are silky smooth and surrounded with other talented guards in their respective backcourts. If 2 seed Alabama plays 7 seed UConn, you might see what equates to pickup basketball highlights here. Quinerly is another YouTube star because of his handles and finger rolling. Bouknight has a ridiculous wingspan for a guard and uses it to finish while seemingly staying in the air forever. These guys would have been a mainstay matchup in the Big East had Quinerly stayed at Villanova. Now we might be treated to this matchup if each team holds its end of the bargain on the first round of games.

2. Kai Jones vs. Aaron Henry

Doesn’t it feel like destiny that Michigan State will advance and play another mainstay NCAA team? How about a second round matchup between 3 seed Texas and 11 seed Michigan State? Aaron Henry is an established forward for Michigan State who can guard, defend, rebound, do it all. Kai Jones is like a track-and-field athlete with a basketball in his hand. He can run for days and finish strong on a fast break. As a freshman, he is already talked about as a top NBA pick. It would be fascinating to watch Tom Izzo’s team try and clog down this game, and athletes like Kai Jones at Texas. It’s how the Spartans got into the tournament: slowing the games down and playing a more physical brand of basketball. With Aaron Henry having played in the national championship game two years ago, he is the type of player who it would be fascinating to watch display his game savvy over some of the lesser experienced top prospects with the Longhorns.

  1. Scottie Barnes vs. McKinley Wright IV

Scottie Barners is the modern NBA point guard. He’s a freshman and about 6-7. So he looks like a point forward, but he is transitioning well into a role for Florida State as a point guard (he did not play the position in high school). On the opposite end of the origin story spectrum, senior McKinley Wright IV may look like an undersized point guard to an NBA scout, but his heart and determination are like Kobe Bryant. Don’t sell Wright IV and his Colorado Buffs short because they lost to Oregon State in the PAC 12 Championship game. These things happen in college basketball and, besides, Colorado was clearly celebrating its semifinal victory against USC. And so they just had a let down game. This would be a matchup between point guards that you could look back on 10 or 15 years from now with at least one if not both of these guys making a day job for themselves on the next level.

8 Sharpshooters Who Can Torch Your March Madness 2021 Bracket

BY MATT DE SARLE

The college basketball is unique and completely different from the NBA game. In a short 40 minute game clock, a hot streak by an unconscious shooter can put an opponent away. And, in March Madness, it can light a fire to your bracket.

Here are eight sharpshooters to beware of before you sharpie that bracket of yours.

8. Mitch Ballock, Creighton Bluejays

The fun thing about watching Mitch Ballock is that he can knock down three pointers from feet back from the 3 pt line and also while running the fast break. While watching a Creighton game mid-season, Ballock’s ability to change the mood of a game actually had Fox1 color commentator (and former Big East great) Donny Marshall actually lamenting aloud how he needs to be more selfish. Ballock is actually the only Creighton player who was on its 2018 team that lost to K-State in the Big Dance. In that game, he knocked down 4 of 11 three point shots and finished with 16 points. His threes normally come in droves, which is the name of the game and the theme of this article. Let’s continue to get hotter.

7. Michael Almonacy, App State Mountaineers

Michael Amoncacy jumped on this list with his stellar performance against Georgia State in his conference championship performance. The cool thing about the tournament is that one guy can get hot and an entire team can get on his back and ride his hot play to advance. We’ve seen this a lot with mid-majors. And what Almonacy did against Georgia State can transfer in the NCAA Tournament.

6. Johnny Juzang, UCLA Golden Bears

Johnny Juzang is back at home in the Golden State after a brief season with Kentucky. The sophomore is one of those shooters who doesn’t touch rim when he gets hot. He is not just a three point threat, but can also light it up from mid-range. As UCLA struggled down the stretch in the regular season, perhaps its time to turn more volume over to Juzang.

5. Quentin Grimes, Houston Cougars

Quentin Grimes’s jump-shot can remind you of Alan Houston’s. The technique is as pure as you can see. When his feet are set, the motion is super fluid. He also doesn’t need to be behind the three point line to get hot and alter the pace of a game. There were many moments in this season when Grimes got hot in NBA Jam-type style, where the Cougars couldn’t feed him the ball quick enough. One of those moments was on national TV as he scored 18 of 34 points in an important statement game against Western Kentucky.

4. Duane Washington, Ohio State Buckeyes

We just saw this guy go off against Michigan in the Big 10 semifinal game. On this list, Duane Washington Jr. has the quickest release. And the Buckeyes know to feed him from behind-the-line when it’s that time.

Photo courtesy Big 10 Network

3. Jared Bulter, Baylor Bears

Jared Butler is voted the Big 12 Player of the Year and its best shooter of the year. You’ll have to have a strong argument to keep his team out of the Final Four in your bracket. And if you’re an opponent, check the heat map of “his spots” on the floor.

2. Jordan Schakel, San Diego Aztecs

San Diego State’s senior glue guy does so much on the floor, and is also one of America’s most efficient three point shooters. Jordan Schakel has shot 47% from three this season, dropping 77 baskets from beyond the arc.

  1. Corey Kispert, Gonzaga Bulldogs

    Corey Kispert is just an amazing college basketball shooter. And when BYU shot 70 percent form the field in the WCC Championship game, a quick sequence in the second half where Kispert knocked down three 3’s reminded everyone what’s up. You better double team this guy from behind the arc if you plan on winning a national championship this year. He can put on a clinic real soon.

Honorable mention: John Petty Jr. of Alabama is a familiar face in the NCAA Tournament and a usual suspect when it comes to getting hot. He hits about 2.5 of 6-and-a-half three pointers every game and averages only 12 points. However Petty Jr. can go off on big games. He shot 8 of 10 from three against LSU this season and 4-4 against Tennessee.

Meanwhile, at Oral Roberts Max Abmas is the nation’s leading scorer and has made the third highest amount of three point baskets nationwide this season.

Why Juwan Howard’s Ejection Epitomizes White Privilege That Needs To Stop

AN EDITORIAL BY MATT DE SARLE

The Black Lives Matter college basketball jerseys, with equality slogans instead of last names, and public service announcements between every TV timeout, mean nothing. That is, unless we call out white privilege when we see it.

On Friday afternoon during a closely contested conference tournament game between Michigan and Maryland, Wolverines head coach Juwan Howard got ejected after a verbal altercation at mid-court. Mark Turgeon, a white coach who also was very animated during the discussion, was not ejected.

And if you’re a fellow white person shaking your head ‘no’ at this point, consider this.

How many times have you been watching a Michigan Wolverines basketball game during this 2020-2021 regular season and heard something like this: A commentator discusses how much success Juwan Howard has enjoyed during his second season as the Wolverines head man…

That is, until shortly thereafter you see the camera cut to assistant coach Phil Martelli. The television commentator continues on about how the success Howard has enjoyed has been backed up by the mentorship of Martelli, a veteran head coach who saw some success at Saint Joseph’s. In 24 seasons, Martelli led Saint Joseph’s to the NCAA Tournament less than one third of the time, 7 in total. However, you’ll hear how Martelli is almost like this “Godfather” character. It’s almost as if Juwan Howard, a living legend as an NCAA player, member of the “Fab 5,” longtime National Basketball Association professional (and champion), and seven year assistant coach in the NBA, couldn’t do it by himself.

When a white coach enjoys success early in his head coaching career, does the camera cut to a black assistant coach to discuss how his mentorship has boosted the head man’s abilities?

No. It doesn’t work the other way around.

An aerial camera telecast by Big 10 Network shows coach Mark Turgeon leaving his “coaches box” while yelling back towards Michigan.

Still, on this Friday afternoon Juwan Howard went to mid-court to protest a ball deflecting out of bounds. As he explained since in a postgame interview, he felt the ball was out off of a Maryland players hands. Whatever Howard was saying to the referees, and/or the Maryland sidelines at the time, it was not a physically demonstrative act. However, it was met by Mark Turgeon’s storming over towards Juwan Howard, pointing his finger and fist down, and scolding him as if he were a naughty little boy. It’s as if Juwan Howard needs an adult in the room. It’s as if he needs a Godfather looking over him.

And so, when at that point Juwan Howard responded in a pissed-off fashion, the refs probably made the right call to eject him. However, to not eject Mark Turgeon at the same time is a very basic form of white privilege that can’t go un-seen.

Juwan Howard discusses confrontation that resulted in an ejection Friday

In my opinion, the white privilege is enjoyed when the black coach is ejected and the white coach is not. Both men approached one another. Juwan Howard started the protest, whatever it may have been. And both coaches showed a tremendous amount of class, not surprisingly, in their postgame interviews. Each showed some remorse for how things transpired, but both talked about needing to defend themselves and their teams. Instead of punishing only one of these two coaches in the heat of the moment, would it be possible to have some more tolerance and understand how each human being might get “heated” in that moment? I think that would be a more common sense solution.

Mark Turgeon discusses confrontation that resulted in an ejection Friday

Obviously most of us will never know what was said, or what backstory really set this off. But if Mark Turgeon’s gripe was that Juwan Howard left “the coaches box,” were two wrongs made right when he himself clearly left his coaches box to tell Juwan Howard off? Again, both head coaches acted demonstratively. But are we really excusing Mark Turgeon because he spent the last 24 years as a college head coach while Juwan Howard spent those 24 years as an NBA player and/or coach?

This blog is written by a huge college basketball fan. The whole theme of the blog is about what is being observed. However, its author is not a “let’s stick to sports to escape from reality,” type of person. The basketball highlights seen on TV are secondary if we can’t really see each other as equals. If we set boundaries where we can and cannot talk about race, we are inherently “talking our ball and going home” as a society.

The Black Lives Matter movement has made more people aware of micro-agressions. These are the seemingly innocent benign comments, behavior or treatment of one another that, in a subtle way, reiterate certain dominance or perceived superiority in society. The white player or coach who can yell and not be punished in the same fashion as the counterpart person of color might seem innocent at face value. But it’s not. Or, as basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar wrote in a Los Angeles Times editorial:

“Racism in America is like dust in the air. It seems invisible — even if you’re choking on it — until you let the sun in,” writes Abdul-Jabbar. “As long as we keep shining that light, we have a chance of cleaning it wherever it lands.”

11 Tickets Punched So Far for March Madness 2021

BY MATT DE SARLE

We know about Gonzaga’s dominance.

So let’s talk about tickets 7, 8, 9, and 10 punched for March Madness 2021.

Cleveland State Rides Emotion And Adrenaline into March Madness

If you like teams with even the equipment guy on the sidelines efforting energy forces that can force turnovers on defense, then Cleveland State is your team. They look like the best, most active and supportive bench in college basketball. It took a lot of tough defensive possessions to stop the momentum that 8 seed Milwaukee was riding into its semifinal championship game (on the heels of the triumphant comeback win against #2 seed Wright State). This Horizon League 1 Seed lost its first three games of the regular season before finishing 19-7 before the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. The team plays with a lot of effort. The Vikings do not have a center on its roster and have a balanced scoring distribution among mostly guards. Tre Gomillion is a fun player to watch, as he plays larger than his 6-4 frame. He averages about 50 percent from the field with 10 points, five rebounds and two assists, although as a guard he is not much of a three point threat.

Mount St. Mary’s Mounts a Defensive Effort to Bounce Bryant’s Potent Offense

As this championship game introduced both teams to America, ESPN’s TV crew built it as a battle between defense and offense. And defense won. Mount St. Mary’s controlled the defensive glass. And they stopped the nation’s highest scoring offense from getting in any type of rhythm. This team has some respectable size in the post, and lots of strength as is evidence of its NEC Championship performance. Mount St. Mary’s basketball roster fills out with a bunch of 6-7, 6-8 and 6-9 guys. In past NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament brackets, the NEC teams have won the 16 seed “play in game,” but have never won a game in the round of 64. They had some close calls, including a tight game that saw 15 seed battle 2 seed Villanova in 1994. The NEC also had some NIT successes, including Nerlens Noel’s Kentucky team losing at Robert Morris.

Oral Roberts Brings Nation’s Leading Scorer to the Big Dance

If you love leading scorers from 15 seeds like CJ McCollum going off for life-altering landmark performances in March Madness, Oral Roberts could be your team. Max Abmas is a 6-1 combo guard who leads the country in scoring at 24-and-change per game. He went over 40 twice this season. He might not have the NBA skill of a CJ McCollum, but his chance for one shining moment is as good as any mid-teen seed.

Oral Roberts shot under 30 percent in the second half of its tournament title game as it allowed 3 seed North Dakota State to battle back into the game.

Drexel Clutch Against 8 Seed Elon

The Drexel Dragons extinguished Elon’s Cinderella hopes. The 6 seed was clutch in hitting its free throws down the stretch to enter the Big Dance.

Click here to see observations about the first 6 tickets punched for March Madness 2021.

About the First Six Tickets Punched for March Madness 2021

BY MATT DE SARLE

The first six tickets punched for the 2021 Men’s Basketball “March Madness” are revealed by their play on national TV. And I would argue that the “first four in” are more important than the “last four” bubble teams. The first four teams in were Loyola Chicago, Winthrop, Morehead State, and Liberty, followed by App State and UNC Greensboro. Liberty has won an NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament game in recent years, and the teams whose tickets that proceeded theirs are passing the eye test in a major way. Let’s recap.

Loyola Chicago Ramblers Return to March Madness

The Loyola Chicago Ramblers got a fortunate draw with their MVC Championship Tournament layout, but any team will be unlucky to face them in the NCAA Men’s College Basketball Tournament. Loyola made it look easy at times against this year’s bitter in-conference rival, Drake. Unfortunately for college basketball fans, Drake finished the season without its leading scorer and without its starting point guard. And so Drake put up a fight in this championship game, but Loyola Chicago capitizaed on every mistake that Drake did make. And so now Cameron Krutwig and a small handful of holdovers from the 2018 Final Four team returns to March Madness to defend its Rambling reputation. One of those hold-overs is of course coach Porter Mosier, who did not entertain the major conference inquiries that of course would follow his Cinderella run in 2018. This team is actually better on paper than the 2018 Final Four team.

Winthrop Men’s Basketball Marching in 2021

For college basketball fans nationally, this Winthrop Eagles team has already been a celebrated mid-major focus of fascination. And they didn’t let anyone down during their conference tournament. Center DJ Burns looked like a vintage Zach Randolph, rolling around his defender down low and dropping left handed hook shots easily. In a COVID-19 shortened season, Burns’ minutes and his production had both decreased slightly as compared to the 2019-2020 season. And so it was a great sign to see Burns especially carry Winthrop in the first half. However, this program is not about one individual. In fact, this team literally plays in shifts as head coach Pat Kelsey likes to exhaust his players before quickly giving them full relief with a substitution of 4 or 5 guys. Winthrop has a 6-7 point guard who can operate, a freshman big man who can vault onto the national stage, and wings who can defend, rebound, and finish. Watch more eye test analysis of this team on YouTube where I interview super fan Michael Covil.

Morehead State Dominates Mid-Major Darling Belmont Bruins

When it comes to mid-major teams that college basketball fans were eager to see entering the tournament, Belmont and Winthrop probably entered Championship neck-and-neck. But Belmont’s conference tournament championship game was not neck-and-neck. Morehead State dominated from start to finish. Its guards took advantage of loose perimeter defense to begin the game. And Morehead State’s freshman big man star Johni Broome got some back-breaking put backs and dagger baskets down the stretch. He came into the game averaging about 12 points and 9 rebounds. The two Coopers on the perimeter are not brothers, but their point production brings a family of trouble to defenders. Ta’lon and DeVon average 8 and 12 points respectively. They garnered the respect from Bruin defenders after knocking down some early threes, and so their rim runs late caused problems. I can see this team being a 15 seed with similarities to recent successful 15 seeds in Florida Gulf Coast and Middle Tennessee State. Like them, this will not be a 15 seed that lacks size and lives-or-dies from three point land.

Liberty Re-appears in March Madness Two Years Later with Totally New Look

Credit Liberty for returning to March Madness for a consecutive tournament, but this team looks a lot different from the 2019 team that beat Mississippi State. This year, it’s star is 5-9 guard Darius McGhee. He played only 12 minutes two years ago when the 12 seed knocked off the 5 seed. That team featured current G League player Caleb Homesley and do-it-all power forward Scottie James. This Liberty team also defended a North Alabama team that was a 5 seed in its own conference and ineligible to play in March Madness because its program hasn’t aged into the Division 1 circuit quite yet, according to another mind-numbing protocol by the NCAA. And so Liberty shouldn’t scare a high seed the way it should have two years ago, but this program has to be respected at this point.

App State Knocks Off Talented Georgia State To Enter March Madness

If you are looking for a super duper super sleeper in March Madness, App State is your ticket. They had a senior shooting guard absolutely go off against a talented Georgia State team, whose roster is laced with transfers from bigger schools. This championship game featured crisp play from both ends, with a freshness you would not expect for a fourth game in four nights. Both teams looked efficient on offense. App State’s Michael Almonacy, a former Division 2 player who missed (not just COVID-19 related) all of last season, scored 32 points in the win.

UNCG Spartans Make March Madness Old Hat

It seems like yesterday UNC Greensboro and head coach Wes Miller gave #1 seed Gonzaga a scare in 2018. Now Miller and his star player Isaiah Miller (no relation) return to March Madness. The 7 seed in-conference, Mercer, showed some fight, but Miller was too strong down the stretch both on the defensive and offensive end. Miller is the lone holdover from that 2018 bunch. His senior night of sorts for this championship game was fun to watch, while his mother was masked-up in attendance and looking to enjoy every moment of it!

Morehead State Looks Legit Punching the first March Madness Ticket

BY MATT DE SARLE

So much is going to happen between today’s OVC Championship and March 19th, so do not forget that this Morehead State basketball team is for real.

But first, here’s a Final Four of the Favorite Blog Posts, According to our Readers…

  1. Sons of NBA Players in College Hoops vs. 4. Injuries to Monitor
  2. Best Hair in College Hoops vs. 3. Suspect Spreads Saturday

More Context About Morehead State’s March Madness Entrance

The Eagles won 19 of their final 20 games of the season. Those of you who watched the OVC Tournament knows there aren’t just “cupcakes” in that conference. Jacksonville State, Eastern Kentucky, and Belmont are real competition and highly athletic for mid-major programs.

During the OVC Semifinal game against Eastern Kentucky, the Eagles took absolute haymakers from the Colonels. Eastern Kentucky played a legitimate full court press throughout the entire game. The Eagles were worn down some after nursing a lead throughout, but they did not succumb the lead to Eastern Kentucky. The Eagles lead the nation in steals and the Eagles were still able to stand the pressure.

A nice thing to watch during Morehead State’s impressive win against defending champion and veteran bunch Belmont was its wire-to-wire victory. It never shied away from an open shot. The Eagles put the game on ice by knocking down clutch threes or gut-punching put backs every time Belmont responded with a run.

The headliner for Morehead State is probably Johni Broome, a freshman who has clearly put the work in and operates with a lot of skill in the post. If you like Evan Mobley’s game at USC, consider his mid-major cousin Johni Broome at Morehead State. His footwork is impressive, working the baseline and his pivot foot to perfection at times.

Four players scored double digits in the OVC Championship win.

At 22-years-old Nick Muszynski is a high level established post scorer for Belmont, and the Eagles neutralized him.

Click here to check out Morehead State’s roster. Tyzhaun Claude is still listed, although he has long been out for the season with a knee injury.

Now, the nation will need to wait a full 13 days to show the same gumption that the Eagles had during its championship and take the Eagles in a humungous upset (or at least a cover).

Will Winthrop Basketball Be the Cinderella of 2021 March Madness?

BY MATT DE SARLE

Winthrop Basketball super fan Michael Covil recently joined the podcast to discuss a team that’s playing under the radar only because the radar machine hasn’t hit the high seas yet.

Winthrop basketball is every bit of what a mid-major March Madness rock star looks like. It has a memorable point guard, wings for days, a rising star in the coaching ranks, a freshman that attacks the rim, and even a burley center who spins to the hole. The team is a whirling dervish of entertainment.

Covil chats with Matty D. about some of the Eagles best qualities, and what, if anything, its weak on. Watch below….

Injuries to monitor and replacements to consider for March Madness 2021

BY MATT DE SARLE

Nagging injuries and absences still plague the nation’s best college basketball season, despite everyone enduring the virus-plagued season. Here’s a list of the top injuries in college basketball and how replacements are filling some voids. See our top 8 list below.

READ ALSO: Potential Player Matchups or Sons of NBA Players Dancing

  1. Collin Gillespie Suffers MCL Knee Injury, Out for March Madness

This injury update jumped to the number one spot. Collin Gillespie is among the best five point guards in the nation, if not the best. His jump stop into the lane, pivot foot action, is unparalleled by anyone else. And Villanova will now be operating the postseason without him. Villanova was already thin in terms of body count for its normal rotation. A 5-star point guard who was in Villanova’s pipeline and next-up on its bench for one season, Jahvon Quinerly, is now on top ranked Alabama. This injury may demand that Jeremiah Robinson-Earl plays at the Player of the Year level he is capable of. He has POY talents and has had a great season, but he has not been in the discussion with the likes of Luka Garza and Jared Butler at the top of that list. Villanova went limping into the Big Dance on the heels of a Big East Tournament loss to 8 seed Georgetown, so it will definitely need Robinson-Earl to emerge if it still has ambitions for an elite 8.

2. Isaiah Livers Out for 1 Seed Michigan

The term “out indefinitely” can be a fluid situation in college basketball. And so here’s your friendly reminder to Google each specific injury hours before tip off and see where things stand. However, with this important injury, it seems the Wolverines are talking as if the season is over for Isaiah Livers. That’s so unfortunate. What basketball fans can love about Michigan is its mix of veteran program players and newcomers who have had an immediate impact. On the wing, Livers is one of the Wolverines most reliable playmakers and defenders. As the Detroit News reports, he is rehabbing a stress injury to his right foot and is in a walking boot. An obvious player who could and should step up in this absence is sophomore Franz Wagner, someone who has serious NBA aspirations.

3. Jack Nunge’s Season Cut Short for Iowa Hawkeyes

Everyone knows about Luka Garza, but Jack Nunge was quietly having a strong year as an Iowa big man. He offered a true stretch four options and could also spell Garza at the 5 spot. That versatility is sadly gone as Nunge suffered a season ending knee injury in March. Watch for how 6-8 freshman Keegan Murray can respond at the power forward position. He will not start during this roster re-shuffle, but the talented freshman ran the floor well and competed valiantly against bulldog EJ Liddell in a prime matchup against fellow top 10 team Ohio State (early into the adjustment period after Nunge’s loss).

Courtesy: ESPN Networks

4. De’Vion Harmon Tests Positive for COVID-19, Would Miss Oklahoma’s First Two Games

This is about as sad as it gets. Sure, breaking a bone or suffering a serious knee injury must be horrible. But to miss the first two games of a tournament you’ve fought so desperately to enter, on top of that virus stealing your postseason last year, is an inconceivable feeling to imagine. That’s what De’Vion Harmon might be feeling right now. As ESPN reports, De’Vion Harmon tested positive for COVID-19. The Sooners were top 8 or 9 seed earlier this season in the national AP Poll. Now they limp into the NCAA Tournament as an 8/9 seed and without their starting point guard. If you take into consideration Gonzaga would be Oklahoma’s next opponent if it beats Missouri without Harmon, you could make the argument that this is the most important injury of the current tournament.

5. ACC Player of the Year Moses Wright Out for Loyoyla-Chicago Game

Georgia Tech’s leading scorer Moses Wright is also out due to COVID-19 protocols for Georgia Tech in its opening round game against Loyola-Chicago. Loyola-Chicago enters the tournament as a 9 seed, but also ranked as KenPom.com’s ninth best team in the nation. Needless to say, this is a gigantic loss for the Yellow Jackets.

6. Drake Loses Point Guard Amidst Historically Great Season

This one really sucks for college basketball. The Drake Bulldogs were one of college basketball’s early undefeated teams. They and Loyola Chicago both looked like teams that could get at large bids punched for their tickets to the dance. Roman Penn, the Siena transfer and guard guard for Drake, was averaging 5.5 assists to only 2.3 turnovers per game. With just a few games left in the season Drake lost Penn for the season. Guard Joseph Yesufu saw his minutes increase, but responded with 5 assists to his first 10 turnovers in that immediate action. To steal a line from Drake himself, if you are reading this it’s too late for the Bulldogs. The unfortunate truth in college basketball is that taking a point guard away is like taking a starting quarterback away from a football team. Meanwhile, consider how Loyola Chicago might skate more easily in the NCAA Tournament without dueling its in-conference foe for a hard fought championship battle. You can decide (if that happens) whether it helps or hurts the Ramblers get prepped for a Final 4 repeat.

7. Vols Big Man John Fulkerson Catches an Elbow

The Tennessee Volunteers could be without big man John Fulkerson to start the Big Dance. He caught an elbow mid-way through the SEC Tournament and suffered a facial fracture. Like Ayo Dosunmo, maybe we will see him out there with a protective mask around his face. Follow local sites like Knoxnews.com for the latest updates.

8. Fabian White Jr. Clear for Takeoff in Houston?

The Houston Cougars potentially have landed a new addition in the rotation that could rocket them into another stratosphere. Fabian White Jr. is actually one of the most tenured Cougars. And the fact that the power forward (defacto center for this club) is back from an ACL knee injury in February is a game changer. According to The Daily Cougar, White has achieved a heroic effort to expedite his injury recovery in under 12 months. And while he was out, his front court mates really rebounded the ball and defended fantastic in his absence. Houston is a team that can play with great pace, but they have the muscle to hold down a push inside. Watch Fabian White Jr. in March because this is just the beginning of his season with lots of meaning.

Injuries 9 and 10 to Watch: Ankle Injuries Plaguing the Big 10’s Best

Both Big 10 powers Iowa and Michigan are dealing with nagging ankle injuries. Joe Wieskamp of Iowa is day-to-day with an ankle injury and Eli Brooks was nursing an ankle injury as he played in the Big 10 Tournament.

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Eye Test Post-Valentine’s Sweet 16

But first, here’s a Final Four of the Favorite Blog Posts, According to our Readers…

  1. Sons of NBA Players in College Hoops vs. 4. Championship Week Updates
  2. Best Hair in College Hoops vs. 3. Suspect Spreads Saturday

BY MATT DE SARLE

Shortly after Valentine’s Day, I have officially fallen in love with a few teams. In this article, I make the argument for why these teams would advance in a fictitious bracket designed by ESPN’s Joe Lunardi in his bracketology.

Big 10’s fifth through tenth best due to get snubbed

The headline for this February 16th simulation of a bracket is that the Big 10 teams, from the fifth best conference record to the tenth best record, will get snubbed. What I mean by that is the talent discrepancy among the Big 10 teams is not that large. Wisconsin is currently listed as a 5 seed, but it has lost to the tenth best team in the conference, Maryland. Right now Michigan and Ohio State occupy the hypothetical 1 lines. However, Ohio State lost to Minnesota, a projected 10 seed. It also lost to Purdue, a projected 6 seed. Those of us watching college basketball know that those higher seeded teams are nearly as dangerous as the Buckeyes. If the Buckeyes have a 80% chance of making the Sweet 16, you’d have to put the Purdue Boilermakers odds somewhere in the 60-70% range. That’s just my humble opinion in watching these games.

Defense can still win championships, even in College Basketball

Another trend that I am expecting by doing this mock bracket is the scarcity of elite defensive teams. When you look at the current Kenpom.com defensive analytics, there are many team in the top 30 of defensive efficiency that might not even make the tournament. For example, Memphis is the sixth best defensive team according to Kenpom’s measurement. Teams like Utah State, Mississippi, Maryland, VCU, Stanford and Kentucky are all firmly in the top 30, but half of those teams won’t make the tournament. Even Clemson, a projected 7 seed and 13th best Kenpom defensive team, is not guaranteed to make the tournament in a (historically) weaker ACC season.

I bring up the math test because it’s confirmed by my eye test. Even in just the left hand side of the bracket, I love the top defensive clubs to make the field of 32.

Defense wins championships and also makes the field of 32 in a hypothetical bracket.

Just on the left hand side of that bracket, you would have four of the best 7 defensive teams win their first game. And all those teams, Gonzaga, Houston, Loyola Chicago and Alabama, can score the rock!

Heavyweight matchups could litter the first two days of the NCAA Tournament

If this mock up is any indication, there could be some serious heavyweight fights in just the first 48. Creighton versus Utah State, Purdue versus Drake, and Wisconsin versus Belmont represent some match-ups where the winner could easily become among the Elite 8.

Conclusions from a February Eye Test Bracketology

These simulations, whether the ESPN or CBS publishing, continue to show a possible Baylor Illinois rematch in the Elite 8. I think that Illinois is actually among the three or four teams nationwide that can beat Baylor, because of its size and blossoming core of young guards. It’s also very difficult to sweep any legit basketball team 2-0 in any season. Ayo Dosunmo did not play well offensively in the first half of their first matchup in late 2020. That’s a matchup I am keeping a close eye on for March.

The Big 10 dominates my mock bracket one month before madness

Meantime, I am going to continue to trust my eyes and its perfect marriage (at least at the moment) with the analytics. That’s why Western Kentrucky, Loyola Chicago, Rutgers and Belmont is making my Sweet 16 as of February 17th.

Predicting a Final Four with Numbers that Mimic Recent History

This blog is all about the eye test, not necessarily the numbers. But sometimes your eye can’t avoid the usual suspect numbers. We know as college basketball fans that the Final Four is never a perfect grouping of 1 seeds. That has only happened once in history (2008 with Kansas, Memphis, UNC and UCLA).

And so the total sum of all the Final Four seeds added together is normally 10 or more. In the last five tournaments, it’s been more common to have a 7 seed than a 3 seed (two occurrences versus none). A 6 seed hasn’t made it since 1992 with the Fab 5 and Michigan.

The Final 4 normally has a combined seed count of 10 or more. This one has a sum of 12.

And so with this Elite 8, I followed my instinct of taking a high ceiling low seed Big 10 team (6 seed) in Purdue. My 5 seed is Creighton. Texas had two hiccups in its schedule during the dead of winter while navigating COVID-19 related absences. And so the Longhorns slipping to the 4 seed doesn’t deter me. They join Gonzaga, Illinois and Creighton in my Final 4. The total seed count is 12.