Peppers at 10, which seems low.
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]
Zak Irvin making plays late. pic.twitter.com/R5Ia8IbGsp
— Big Ten Geeks (@bigtengeeks) March 17, 2016
Zak Irvin had been, for lack of a better word, terrible. His last shot had barely grazed the rim. His last drive had resulted in a depressingly predictable turnover. He'd made one three-pointer all game.
But when Irvin's defender ducked under a Moe Wagner screen, he didn't hesitate to rise and fire with Michigan down a point and less than a minute on the clock. Despite some trepidation from onlookers...
The look on John Beilein's face on that Irvin 3 pic.twitter.com/FbrqNjs3gH
— Patrick Barron (@BlueBarronPhoto) March 17, 2016
...Irvin's shot found twine. A couple stops and five free-throws later, Michigan booked a trip to Brooklyn to face six-seed Notre Dame.
While the game got the desired result, it's not one Michigan fans are likely to want to relive. Both teams went through first-half scoring droughts that exceeded six minutes. After the Wolverines finished the half on a drawn out 19-4 run to take an eight-point lead, they gave it all back in the first three minutes of the second before both teams went ice-cold.
John Beilein played Andrew Dakich for five frustrating minutes while Derrick Walton sat on the bench with foul trouble. For murkier reasons, he sat Wagner—Michigan's biggest bright spot all game—in favor of Mark Donnal and Ricky Doyle before rectifying that error for the home stretch.
While the Wolverines were effective when they attacked the basket against an undersized Tulsa squad, only Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman—and on a couple surprising occasions, Wagner—was willing to drive to the paint with any consistency. MAAR wasn't a paragon of efficiency with 16 points on 5/16 FG, but he created havoc on the Tulsa defense that led to putback opportunities and drew enough contact to get extra points at the line (6/8 FT).
Wagner, meanwhile, played like he should be the clear-cut starter at center. After recording two blocks all season, he had four tonight in addition to pulling down eight rebounds and making both his shot attempts, including a poster-worthy slam on a second-chance opportunity to give M a late three-point lead. Michigan functioned better on both sides of the court with Wagner on the floor.
Duncan Robinson opened the game with a three; while he wouldn't hit another until late in the game, he found other ways to contribute—he grabbed 11 rebounds, dished out a team-high four assists, and finished a few forays to the hoop to tally 13 points. The contributions of MAAR, Wagner, and Robinson—a sophomore no major program wanted, a freshman who barely clung to a role this season, and a D-III transfer—allowed Michigan to overcome underwhelming performances from their two go-to guys.
Then, with the pressure on, Irvin delivered. It wasn't pretty. It was, in fact, cringeworthy, as Beilein's face can attest. At this point in the year, however, the final score is all that matters.
Now somebody grab me a drink.
You will probably have to create your own copy but then you can type in any two teams and make a comparison. Thank you to Kenpom for the data and helpful Google Sheets script writers for helping me calculate distances. Drive times are calculated as 1.3 minutes per mile.
To get a copy:
Follow this link and play around with it on google sheets.
Follow this link to the spreadsheet.
Go to "File" and "download as". Choose a format and the rest is up to you.
To use it just put the two teams you're trying to compare and the round (it will return wonky stuff if those two teams aren't able to meet there). It'll show you things like Off and Def rank on Kenpom and a win confidence based on a factor of the average 1 seed will be 100% to beat an average 16 seed. It'll also bring up the site of the game and, new this year, the distance for each team in driving hours. Last it'll show any injuries I knew about when I made it last night.