- North Carolina
Sleeper team to win:
Houston enters the Midwest region as the #3 seed but seems
to be overlooked in a region full of bluebloods Kansas, North Carolina and
Kentucky. Houston losing to Cincinnati in the American Conference Championship
game is the last thought we have of the Cougars, but this team is legit. Winning their conference regular season championship
while also having non-conference victories over Utah State, LSU and Oregon (with
Bol Bol). Houston has a legit star in
Corey Davis Jr. and a veteran coach in Kelvin Sampson. They are also very deep, playing 9 players
over 20 minutes per game. A potential third
round matchup with the offensive minded Iowa State and Kentucky will make their
road difficult but being a upperclassman lead team will put them in great shape
to make a run.
Potential first round
upset: New Mexico State over Auburn
Auburn is riding high after their dominate victory over Tennessee
in the SEC Championship game. They now
have to face a New Mexico State team that has quietly been playing some of the
best basketball in the country. New Mexico State has not lost since January 3rd
and ran through their conference tournament dominating Grand Canyon in the
Auburn has great talent but they rely a lot on the three
ball, they will also be traveling to Salt Lake City which will force them to
deal with the elevation change. New Mexico State has experience playing in that
atmosphere. Bruce Pearl’s team cannot
look past the Aggies, if they do they will be ripe for the upset.
Who will win:
A fully healthy Kentucky team has shown what they can do on
the national scene. The Wildcats have a strong leader in Reid Travis and have
seen great development from Ashton Hagans and Tyler Herro. The potential
matchup with North Carolina would be an epic battle between two teams that can
easily see themselves winning it all. The advantage I see for the Wildcats is their
depth. This bracket is the most
competitive and will feature some great matchups.
Second Round Picks:
New Mexico State
- Kansas St.
Sleeper team to win:
I am going to contradict myself by saying my sleeper is the
same team that I think could be on upset alert.
The Villanova Wildcats had a rollercoaster season, ultimately though the
ride was enjoyable for Jay Wrights crew as they took home the Big East regular
season and tournament title. Phil Booth
and Eric Paschall are big time players that can carry the load for the Wildcats
that lost literally their entire lineup to the NBA last season. They will face off with upset minded St.
Mary’s fresh off a destruction of heavily favored Gonzaga in the Mountain West
Conference tournament. St. Mary’s will
have another upset on their mind in this matchup that currently seems like a
toss- up according to most insiders. If
Jay Wrights crew does get by St. Marys they have a cast of unproven but solid
teams in their way including a Purdue team that is basically a one man show and
a Tennessee team that can be unfocused at times.
Potential First Round
Upset: Oregon over Wisconsin
This is popular. Both
teams play a slow and defensive game.
Oregon has caught fire at the right time though running through the
Pac12 tournament and forcing their way on to the scene. Louis King has emerged as a playmaker on the
offensive end and they get great point guard play from Payton Prichard. While I want to see Ethan Happ get a great
run in the tournament his problems from the free throw line could lead to an
early exit for the Badgers.
Keep an eye on the
health of Dean Wade. If he cannot play
another potential upset could be UC Irvine over Kansas State. UC Irvine is very good at defending the
Who’s going to win
The Cavaliers will come into the 2019 tournament motivated. Virginia lost three games during the season
to Duke (2) and Florida State in the ACC tournament. They have their issues on
the offensive end but the bracket breaks down well for them. A potential third round matchup with Ole Miss
or Oklahoma will be a walk in the park with only a potential matchup with
K-State or Wisconsin whom doesn’t have the athletes to beat Virginia. Tennessee
is the only team that realistically has the players to matchup with Virginia defense.
Second Round Picks:
John Calipari has become one of the most recognizable
coaches in college basketball. Bringing
the Kentucky Wildcats storied program back to the prestige it was held.
Calipari revolutionized the one and done rule to the point that other coaches
were forced to adjust their mentality to compete.
Calipari is kind of a turd. He’s cocky, loud, conceded and a
winner. These traits, are the traits of
a coach that can make it in the league now.
His confidence makes him relatable to players. He has the confidence that is the way society
is, most recently shown by the comments of the “GOAT” Lebron James.
Let’s look at the potential for Cal in the NBA. The Washington Wizards will most likely move
on from Scott Brooks at the end of the season.
Why not make a call to coach Cal and see if he would be interested in
working with his old buddy John Wall again? Wall has shown immaturity
throughout his career, but he has a respect for his old college coach. If the
Wizards are committed to making it work with Wall bringing in a coach of his
choosing like Calipari would be a smart move. They can move Bradley Beal for a
mid-level player and clear some cap space for impending free agent DeMarcus
Cousins in 2019 or potentially wait for the big piece in two years with Anthony
Davis. Both former Calipari guys and both would show interest in matching up
with their former coach.
Let’s not act like bringing Calipari to the LA Lakers wouldn’t
be completely crazy. Luke Walton has not
made himself indispensable. Adding Cal
would work to help them recruiting Anthony Davis as well as make huge headlines
for an organization
Ok, maybe that idea is farfetched. Why would those guys want to go to
Washington? Well why would Paul George
stay in Oklahoma? Why did Lebron go back
to Cleveland? What is the deal with
Kawhi Leonard? There are a lot of things
that are hard to explain, the NBA continuously has players, coaches and teams
that make questionable decisions. Is it
so crazy to think that these players aren’t drawn to Calipari and his loose
style and demeanor?
Why would Calipari leave Kentucky? Being one of the most successful college
coaches of my generation is no joke. He
was able to take UMass and Memphis to heights that they have never been. Now he is at one the most prestigious
universities of all time. The reason he
may leave is that the one and done rule is on its way out. New developmental leagues are going to
attract players that want to make money instead of spending a year being forced
to go to classes that they do not care about.
This change will have an impact on the way Calipari has been building
While the changes in the NCAA can have an impact, I think it
is the past failures in the NBA that will drive Calipari to the NBA. During his time in New Jersey he was the
definition of inconsistency finishing with a career record of 72-112. This has to sit in his mind. His personality will drive him to make an
impact in the NBA before he calls it quits.
If Calipari was going to the NBA it should happen now.
The last time the city of St. Louis had a professional basketball team was in 1976. The ABA’s St. Louis Spirits did not make it into the NBA when the two leagues merged. As the Spirits left so did the spirit of professional basketball in the Gateway City. It is time for the city to recapture its passion for the sport by watching one of its native sons emerge on the grandest stage professional basketball has to show.
Celtics GM Danny Ainge made a controversial move when he traded away the #1 overall pick to the 76ers. Washinton’s Markelle Fultz was looked at as the can’t miss star of the draft. His length and athleticism was thought to be elite on all levels. Ainge took the gamble moving down to draft Duke Freshman and St. Louis native Jayson Tatum. Jayson Tatum has emerged as an underrated rookie star for the Boston Celtics. If you are not sure who Jayson Tatum is, he is the guy from the Imo’s commercials.
While flashier rookies like Ben Simmons and Donovan Mitchell have been getting the headlines Tatum has quietly brought his team to the verge of the the Eastern Conference finals. Tatum, a graduate of Chaminade Preparatory School in Creve Coeur, Missouri, has given St. Louis sports fans a reason to watch the NBA playoffs. With key stars, Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward going do with season ending injuries Tatum was forced to take a more prominent role on a team that finished with the #2 seed in the Eastern Conference. His scoring and defense have transitioned perfectly into the professional level. Unlike most lottery draft picks Tatum has not been forced to be the savior of the organization. Instead he was put in a position that allowed him to play a role, he was able to develop throughout rather then burden himself with the weight of the organization. The regular season went well for Tatum averaging 13.9 PPG, 5 RB, shooting 43% from three and an astounding 53% shooting overall. Tatum’s production has been taken to the next level for the Celtics in the playoffs.
In Game 1 of the second round series against the third seed Philadelphia 76ers, Tatum had a career-high 28 points in a 117–101 win, becoming the first Celtics rookie to score 25 or more points in a playoff game since Larry Bird (Maybe you have heard of him) during the 1980 NBA Playoffs, also against the 76ers. Tatum continued his strong play in Game 2 of the series scoring 21 points, those points would be the fourth game in a row Tatum reached the 20 point mark, making him the youngest player ever to accomplish that surpassing a guy by the name of Kobe Bryant (Maybe you have heard of him). Brad Stevens has been called the best coach in the NBA for his ability to develop players, having them exceed expectations by putting them in a place the helps them excel. The best example of the Stevens approach has been the production of Jayson Tatum.
St. Louis has had its fair share of NBA talent over the last few years. Players like Larry Hughes, Darius Miles, and Bradley Beal have made an impact at the NBA level but Tatum is showing that he may end up being the best of the bunch. He goes about his business quietly and professionally. He plays in a major market and will be put in the spotlight as he develops and he will develop under the leadership of Brad Stevens. Next season the Celtics may be the favorite in the Eastern Conference when their injured stars return but for now Tatum is the guy leading the charge of the dynamic Boston offense. Tatum is the star that the St. Louis fan base needs, giving the fanbase a player and a team to follow.
Tatum is becoming the face of St. Louis basketball.
11 Loyola Chicago Ramblers vs. 7 Nevada Wolfpack (-1.5)
Cinderella rules the South region of the NCAA tournament, where Loyola-Chicago will take on Nevada in a Sweet 16 matchup Thursday night in Atlanta.
The Ramblers and Sister Jean have stolen the hearts of the viewing public. An under estimated, in my opinion and under seeded Rambler squad play grind it out team basketball. They have multiple players that can beat you on any night. Mo Valley player of the year Clayton Custer runs the offense to perfection, moving the ball to find the defenses weakness. They have been supremely efficient in their first two games, shooting 47 percent vs a stout Miami defense and an even more astounding 50 percent against a battle tested Tennessee squad.
Nevada pulled off one of the most amazing comebacks in NCAA tournament history overcoming a 22 point deficit to defeat the Cincinnati Bearcats Sunday night. They had similar sharp shooting in their two games thus far defeated two solid defenses to get to this matchup.
Both teams have played at an elite level the first two round of this tournament, right now the line sits at a slight edge in favor of the Wolfpack. I believe most money will be going with the Ramblers as we inch closer to the tip. The Ramblers have not played a team with this kind of offensive firepower. Cody and Caleb Martin will be a tough matchup, I look for Nevada to speed up the pace and take down the Ramblers. Sorry Sister Jean it’s over.
The #1 overall seed, the #1 NBA prospect in the NCAA, the #1 team in the American Conference and the #1 team in the SEC (tied with Auburn in regular season). The South region of the 2018 NCAA tournament has some real hard nosed competition. I Talk Sports and That’s It contributor talked with me about the highlights of these region. Let’s break it down!!
First Round Upsets to watch: Wright State over Tennessee, Loyola- Chicago over Miami
Potential Bracket Buster: Loyola- Chicago
Loyola-Chicago, champions of the Missouri Valley, come into the tournament with a lot of confidence. The Ramblers play a ball control and efficient style. MO Valley player of the year Clayton Custer leads a team with multiple long range threats, while freshman Center Cameron Krutwig plays at a 5 star recruit level. Miami can sometimes have problems scoring, this matchup favors Loyola. If they get by Miami , most likely Tennessee will be waiting, another matchup that can be favorable for the Ramblers. Remember this team took down Florida this year, they are not afraid of the big boys.
Most Intriguing Potential Matchup: Kentucky vs Arizona
If the south plays out a we all hope a potential Wildcat matchup could be the highlight of the first week of action. John Calipari seems to be pushing the right buttons of late for Kentucky as they impressively took care of business in the loaded SEC tournament. Arizona has the scandals behind them, while also featuring the hottest player in the Country right now Deandre Ayton. The future lottery pick led his team through the PAC12 tournament without breaking a sweat. NCAA fans coaches and multiple agents would really enjoy this matchup. A game of great talent and great controversy, but damn it will be fun. Keep your fingers crossed we get to see this.
Bracket Winner: Arizona Wildcats
The selection committee made it clear, if you are being investigated by the FBI we are going to make excuses why you don’t belong. Arizona got a 4th seed, most would argue that they really were more of a 2 or 3 seed. Arizona, has the best player in the country and is loaded with talent at multiple positions. Virginia is a great team but Arizona has so much size and athleticism, its is going to be tough to matchup. Virginia will breeze into this matchup but they do not possess the scoring necessary to stick with Alonzo Trier and Deandre Ayton. The PAC12 Champs toughest matchup will be Kentucky, but we believe Kentucky will be tested big time by Davidson. Deandre Ayton will dominate this bracket.
In 2010-11 Missouri State University was able to win its first and only Missouri Valley Championship behind Cuonzo Martin’s leadership. I was at JQH Arena storming the court as we took down the mighty Creighton Blue Jays and their star Doug McDermott on ESPN2. The Bears fell short of making the NCAA tournament despite an RPI of 44, Martin was able to transition his success to a job at the University of Tennessee, then University of California, finally ending up at his current position as Head Coach of University of Missouri. With Martin gone, Missouri State hired Purdue Assistant Paul Lusk, at the time a hiring made sense as Lusk came from a similar coaching tree as Cuonzo Martin. The results however have not been as favorable.
Paul Lusk entered the 2011-2012 season with lofty expectations as the Missouri Valley Player of the Year, Kyle Weems was returning for a senior season. The team did not live up to expectations finishing a feeble 15-16, highlighted only by their victory over 21 ranked Creighton. It was understandable that a first year head coach can have struggles out of the gate, but the struggles continued. Entering the 2012-2013 season Lusk had begun to rebuild his team, a roster of six incoming freshman and one returning senior made the Bears the youngest team in the Missouri Valley Conference. The Bears played like a young team, taking until December 30th to get their first Division 1 victory.
In Lusk’s third year at the helm, he lead the Bears to a 20-13 record and an invitation to the CIT (losing in the first round). That highlighted Lusk’s coaching career as over the next three season the Bears finished middle of the pack in the Missouri Valley.
As Missouri State entered the 2017-2018 season hopes were high. Missouri Valley’s last powerhouse team Wichita State had moved on to the American Conference, leaving the door open for the conference title. The Bears entered the season as the preseason favorites, winning their first game against a strong Western Kentucky team, beginning the season 15-3 (3-0 MVC). They then proceeded to take major steps in the wrong direction, finishing the season tied for 7th place. This marked the first time in the history of the Missouri Valley Conference that the team picked to win the conference in the preseason finished any lower then 5th place.
Lusk’s inability to even live up to the most modest of expectations has to be the final straw at Missouri State. Blessed with a roster that includes the only real NBA prospect in the Missouri Valley, forward Alize Johnson, he was unable to build around this superior athlete. Lusk will enter the Missouri Valley tournament on Thursday against Valparaiso, if this is anything less then a blowout, it has to be the final straw. As Missouri State continues to grow, exceeding previous years enrollment every year for the last three years, the sports programs have to grow with the university. Missouri State has made a commitment to improving itself it is time to stop settling in it’s athletic programs. Lusk’s time in Springfield has to come to an end unless he can make a miracle happen and get this team to play to it’s preseason expectations over a week in St. Louis. Missouri State is not Mizzou, the alumni and the fans understand that but 7 years with a combined record of 88-106 shouldn’t be acceptable. The time has come to fire Paul Lusk.