well that's just, like, your opinion, man
WELL MICHIGAN STATE LOST TO MIDDLE TENNESSEE STATE. THAT WAS FUNNY.
[clears throat] and now on to the evening games:
7. Wisconsin – 10. Pitt (6:50, TNT)
In one of the better games of the day, Wisconsin takes on Pittsburgh in Greg Gard’s first game as the head coach of the Badgers. UW had been playing extremely well until the Big Ten Tournament, where they dropped a surprising L against Nebraska. Wisconsin is the type of team that can grind it out against Pitt: Nigel Hayes, Vitto Brown, and Ethan Happ are a powerful front line, and all three can score from multiple places on the floor. Wisconsin’s calling card is still its impressive defense – the Badgers actually have allowed a very high % on opponents’ three-pointers, which would suggest that their defensive efficiency is weighed down by that randomness. It’s still kind of hard to get a grasp on Wisconsin because of their iffy guard play, but they should play better than they did against Nebraska.
Pitt was a middling team in the ACC this year, but between a good non-conference showing and a few solid wins in conference play (including three wins over former Big East rival Syracuse), they made it safely into the field. Contrary to what you’d expect from a Jaime Dixon team, Pitt is actually better on offense than they are on defense; predictably, their strength on the offensive end is derived from a strong collective offensive rebounding presence led by Michael Young and Sheldon Jeter in the frontcourt. The Panthers’ best offensive option is swingman Jamel Artis, though Young is definitely an able sidekick.
As far as 7/10 games go, this one is pretty even – Kenpom gives Wisconsin a 56% chance of advancing to the next round to (probably) face Xavier.
[After the JUMP: the rest of the 1st round]
What led to the decision to come here?
“It was just a great opportunity to work with coach Harbaugh. He’s had a lot of success everywhere he’s been, so honestly I just wanted to be a part of that and learn from him. And also the chance to work with coach Brown, who I’ve worked with before and I’ve played with. It was a chance to meet up with him again and work side by side, so I couldn’t pass up that opportunity.”
Difficult transition at all going straight to Florida like that and not even knowing any of the player’s names at this point, it’s such a quick decision?
“Yeah, I mean, everything happened fast. The whole process, just learning names out on the field the first day. But like I said, I’ve worked with coach Brown before in the past so that made the transition a lot easier for me. But just spending extra time trying to get in the playbook myself, learning it along with the players, was a fun process.”
What was Jim’s pitch to you coming to Michigan?
“Well, he didn’t really have to pitch too much. Michigan kind of speaks for itself. It’s a great university and they’ve had a lot of success in the past, and just the opportunity to be here I couldn’t pass up.”
More enjoyable to play for coach Brown or to work with him?
“Well it was great to play for him in that defense that he has. It’s changed a little bit over the years but not much. It’s still the same philosophy, so as a player you love that style of defense.”
We’ve heard a lot about the front seven in his defense. How does that impact the back four?
“He always does a good job stopping the run and it makes teams one-dimensional, so it helps us out.”
MGoQuestion: What are the characteristics of the ideal free and strong safety in this defense?
“Well, we like guys that have length, that are athletic, that can play man-to-man. You know, those are some of the things that we look for. At the end of the day, football players- guys that are football players, tough, [and] love to play the game.”
[After THE JUMP: it’s a press conference of course Jabrill comes up]
While Thursday was a good start to March Madness – shout out to Yale for knocking off Baylor and Arkansas Little-Rock for coming back to shock Purdue – let’s hope that Friday’s games are even better. Here’s a look at the first slate of games:
7. Dayton – 10. Syracuse (12:15, CBS)
A few things about Syracuse’s coaching legend:
The NCAA on Friday suspended Syracuse basketball coach Jim Boeheim for nine ACC games, took away 12 scholarships, and ordered that 108 wins be vacated as a result of a multiyear investigation into the university's athletic programs.
The NCAA said that the violations, which were self-reported by Syracuse and dated back to 2001, included academic misconduct, extra benefits, failure to follow the drug-testing policy and impermissible booster activity.
Other violations included impermissible academic assistance and services, Boeheim's failure to promote an atmosphere of compliance and monitor his staff, and the school's lack of control over its athletics program.
I’m sure he didn’t know about anything that was going on.
Even after those sanctions were announced, he flipped shooting guard Tyus Battle, a 5* potential one-and-done 2016 Michigan commit, under potentially shady circumstances and set off a chain reaction that basically pushed 5* wing Josh Langford to Michigan State instead of Michigan.
The targets of Boeheim's latest bluster are two of his former players, Tyler Ennis and Jerami Grant. Ennis left Boeheim and Syracuse after one tremendous season as a freshman; Grant stayed two years but eventually opted for the draft after taking time to consider returning to school. Asked about how his two former players are preparing for the NBA, Boeheim essentially said he's cut off contact with them.
Ennis and Grant signed contracts worth a combined $8 million dollars with NBA teams.
And, from a purely subjective standpoint, he has the annoying 2-3 zone as his staple – as much of a singular stylistic identity as any in college basketball. As Bomani Jones is fond of saying: “zone is for cowards.” He put it on a t-shirt.
This is my completely unsubtle attempt to convince you that Syracuse is Bad. I’m sure you’re rooting for your bracket regardless.
Anyways, as for the actual game itself, it should be a defensive slugfest. Dayton boasts one of the nation’s best defenses – one that’s good enough to mitigate their pretty mediocre offense. Dyshawn Pierre and Charles Cooke anchor the strong interior defense for the Flyers, while sparkplug point guard Scoochie Smith (one of the best names in the tournament), is the go-to guy to make things happen on offense. In the last two seasons, Dayton has made it to the Elite 8 and Sweet 16, so there’s plenty of March experience on the roster. As for Syracuse – who have lost five of their last six games – their 2-3 has been enough of a boost to get them into the tournament by the skin of their teeth; senior guards Michael Gbinije and Trevor Cooney, as well as 5* freshman swingman Malachi Richardson, are players to watch for the Orange.
2. Villanova – 15 UNC Asheville (12:40, tru TV)
UNC Asheville was the surprise winner of the Big South tournament after finishing tied for third in the conference during the regular season, and they shouldn’t be too much of a test for a veteran Villanova team that just fell off the one-seed line. Villanova is one of the rare teams with and offense and a defense that are good enough to win a title, and even though there’s been legitimate reason to be skeptical of the Wildcats in March, a team with Ryan Arcidiacono, Josh Hart, Kris Jenkins, and Jalen Brunson should be able to handle a team like Asheville with ease.
[After the JUMP: less editorializing, I promise]
Tourney Previews Have a Sponsor (via Seth): My good friend Matt Demorest has built himself a nice little niche mortgage business in Southeast Michigan. I had a rather complicated FHA refinance for my house last fall, and despite that it a) took less of my time than filling out my bracket, b) cost half of what I paid to do our original loan, and, c) saved me so much the refi's already paid for itself.
Last Friday I then watched him blow everything he's made from advertising here so far on a signed Jim Harbaugh Ann Arbor Pioneer helmet. If you're buying a house around here, or if you've got one and have "yeah I should look at getting in on these rates" rattling around in your head, give him a ring. His ticket offer is still going so if you close you can use them for football tickets this fall.
#11 Michigan (23-12, 10-8 B1G) vs
#6 Notre Dame (21-11, 11-7 ACC)
Brooklyn, New York
|WHEN||~9:40 pm ET, Friday|
|LINE||Notre Dame -2 (KenPom)|
PBP: Verne Lundquist
Analyst: Jim Spanarkel
Right: Notre Dame point guard Demetrius Jackson is a fringe lottery prospect. [AP photo]
Since this has somehow been a question I've had to answer multiple times: no, Caris LeVert is not playing tomorrow. Unless John Beilein gives Moe Wagner a more prominent role (please?), the rotation will be the usual.
Rivalry trash-talking rights and a spot in the second round on Sunday, most likely facing three-seed West Virginia.
KenPom gives Notre Dame a 55% chance to win, putting the spread at two points. FiveThirtyEight isn't as high on Michigan's upset chances, pegging the Irish as 66% favorites. The Vegas line opened at ND -1.5 and has since moved to ND -3.
THE LINEUP CARD
Projected starters are in bold. Hover over headers for stat explanations. The "Should I Be Mad If He Hits A Three" methodology: we're mad if a guy who's not good at shooting somehow hits one. Yes, you're still allowed to be unhappy if a proven shooter is left open. It's a free country.
|G||11||Demetrius Jackson||Jr.||6'1, 201||86||24||Kinda|
|Excellent passer, good finisher for a PG, iffy outside shooter, high steal rate.|
|G||32||Steve Vasturia||Jr.||6'5, 212||90||18||No|
|51/36/86 shooting splits, can be turnover-prone when he drives.|
|F||3||VJ Beachem||Jr.||6'8, 200||76||16||No|
|Takes more threes than twos, hits 43% of them. Despite size, not a rebounder.|
|F||35||Bonzie Colson||So.||6'5, 225||65||22||Very|
|Plays big. Excellent rebounder and shot-blocker, gets most of points in the paint.|
|F||30||Zach Auguste||Sr.||6'10, 245||74||27||Very|
|Outstanding rebounder, decent shot-blocker, good finisher who draws fouls.|
|F||4||Matt Ryan||Fr.||6'8, 217||39||15||No|
|Extreme Just A Shooter™ making 38% of his threes.|
|G||0||Rex Pflueger||Fr.||6'6, 198||28||11||Kinda|
|Barely utilized when on the court. 12/27 2P, 8/25 3P on the season.|
|G||5||Matt Farrell||So.||6'1, 175||21||14||Yes|
|Low-usage, turnover-prone PG with bad shooting numbers. Doesn't play much.|
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the preview.]
At the time of this writing, we’re 2-for-3 in close games, with Duke getting everything they can handle from UNC Wilmington and UConn and Colorado heading down to the wire after a back-and-forth game. Without any further ado, let’s take a look at today’s later games:
3. Miami – 14. Buffalo (6:50, TNT)
After a down year in which Miami missed the NCAA Tournament, Jim Larranaga has quietly put together one of the better teams in college basketball: the Canes finished tied for second in the ACC and show good balance on both sides of the floor (though they’re slightly better on offense). I was actually lucky enough to catch a Miami game in person this year – unsurprisingly, attendance was sparse in Coral Gables – and they have three exceptional players: point guard Angel Rodriguez (formerly of Kansas State) is a consummate floor general, close to the platonic ideal of the undersized college PG; Sheldon McClellan is a fringe NBA prospect with great shooting splits on high usage; big man Tonye Jekiri is a long seven-footer who puts in the work as a rim-protector and offensive rebounder, but also can hit mid-range jumpers. Miami is a veteran team that could make a run.
Their opponents are back in the tournament for the second consecutive year, as Buffalo has been able to continue the momentum even after the departure of coach Bobby Hurley. The Bulls finished tied for third in the MAC East, but upset the class of the MAC – Akron – in the conference tournament championship. Miami is the best team that Buffalo has faced all year and the Bulls were blown out by all of their quality non-conference competition, but they return many of the same pieces that almost upset West Virginia a year ago.
[After the JUMP: more previews]
It’s the most wonderful time of the year. As we settle into our “sick” days or prep the clandestine CBS browser window, let’s take a look at which games we should keep an eye on for this, one of the most wonderful days in American sports. Even though – unfortunately – some of the best games look to be the latest (on St. Patrick’s Day, no less), take heart in the fact that these games rarely follow the script and chaos can erupt anywhere at any time.
Here’s a look at today’s first 8 games:
4. Duke – 13. UNC Wilmington (12:15, CBS)
A year after a national title, it’s been a pedestrian season by Duke’s standard: a frighteningly shallow rotation and inexperience left the Blue Devils tied for fifth in the ACC. Serial tripper and classic Duke White Guy Grayson Allen has moved from the end of the rotation to be the featured guard (and has since played at an All-American level); one-and-done freshman Brandon Ingram plays as a stretch-4 and his skill-set mixed with his extremely lanky frame has drawn optimistic Kevin Durant comparisons; yes, there is another Plumlee.
It’s a rare game where a have-not gets to take on an in-state blue-blood – UNC Wilmington split the CAA regular-season title and won the rubber-match against co-champion Hofstra in overtime in the conference title game. The Seahawks favor an egalitarian approach on offense and feature a deep bench, but allow the second-most free throws of any team in the country – and their opponents are known to get more than their fair share of whistles.
Once the next game starts, consider flipping to it, but Duke – UNC Wilmington is positively dripping with schadenfreude potential so don’t stray too far.
8. Texas Tech – 9. Butler (12:40, tru TV)
While Minnesota is the worst Big Ten team (outside of Rutgers, obviously) under Richard Pitino, former Gopher coach Tubby Smith has taken the Texas Tech Red Raiders to their first NCAA Tournament in almost a decade despite starting 3-7 in conference play. Tech boasts a strong trio of guards: senior Toddrick Gotcher is the team’s best shooter, Keenan Evans gets to the free throw line a ton, and Devaugntah Williams is a defensive specialist. As a team, TTU’s strength is their free throw shooting: they were the second-best in the Big 12 in getting to the charity stripe and the best at converting those opportunities.
Butler’s third season in the New Big East has mostly been a success: even though they were swept by the league’s elite (Villanova and Xavier), they have two wins over Seton Hall, and possess non-conference wins over Cincinnati and Purdue. The player to watch in this game is Roosevelt Jones, an anachronistic bully-ball lead guard who’s seemingly been at Butler forever and never shoots threes despite standing at just 6’4. He’s flanked by an array of shooters, most notably Kellen Dunham.
This 8/9 game is more appealing than the other one in this window; Texas Tech and Butler are decidedly offense-first teams and should provide a competitive game. One thing that could prove to be decisive is the Red Raiders’ weakness on the defensive glass.
[After the JUMP: more basketball]