4 Gonzaga Bulldogs (-5.5) vs. 8 Florida State Seminoles
The Gonzaga Bulldogs have not made this tournament easy for themselves. Twice letting half time leads evaporate quickly. The Zags overcame through strong play from most everyone, especially Josh Perkins, Zach Norvell, and Rui Hachimura, are now gathering the bulk of Final Four chatter after the rest of the bracket was decimated in the first weekend.
While the Zags got through the Big Ten regular season champion Ohio State Buckeyes most assumed they were set for a matchup with Big East regular season champion and region #1 seed Xavier. As this tournament has proved, seeds don’t mean anything. Despite the Musketeers dominating a large portion of the game, they fell to a late surge from the Florida State Seminoles. The Seminoles’ pure size created issues for both Trevon Bluiett and Quentin Goodin on the offensive end for Xavier. Florida State’s shocking win set us up with a rather interesting matchup. Florida State’s high pace offensive strategy accompanied by their length on defense versus a high powered offensive Gonzaga team.
These two teams have very differing styles, while Florida State has multiple players that play a bulk of the minutes, Gonzaga has NBA level talent that they stick with for the larger portions of the game. Determining a victor for this game is going to be about pace. Florida State has to keep this game up tempo and not let Gonzaga utilize their advantage down low. Killian Tillie and Jonathon Williams will attack the offensive glass all game, I can’t see Florida State being able to handle the power down low.
Florida State has shocked me after literally not showing up in the ACC tournament, they have turned it around defeating two teams that were highly regarded. Problem is the Zags have more players to lean on then the Seminoles have dealt with. Multiple scorers means multiple points. I have the Zags winning but I won’t bet it.
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 Midwest Region will give us a matchup of blue blood teams. Featuring three of the teams that participate in the Champions Classic at the beginning of the season. Kansas, Duke and Michigan State will compete in a bracket that is clearly top heavy. Matt Boeding and I looked at this region, we are ready to break it down!
First Round Upsets to watch: New Mexico State over Clemson, College of Charleston over Auburn, Kansas second round (Seriously)
Potential Bracket Buster: New Mexico State Aggies
Clemson had a great season, but they have been scuffling down the stretch, 3-5 in their last eight games. New Mexico State plays aggressive defense they are 6th in the nation in effective field goal percentage defense. New Mexico State has proven that they can hang with the power conferences this season. The Aggies upended Miami on Dec. 23 and fell by only five points to USC two days later. We saw recently in Clemson’s matchup with Virginia that they can be held in check on offense. New Mexico State will bring it, Clemson will have to have a big performance from Gabe Davoe. This will be our 12 over 5 upset.
Most Intriguing Potential Matchup: Duke Blue Devils vs The Fighting Trae Young’s
I am a believer that Oklahoma shouldn’t have made this tournament. But they are in so who doesn’t want to see Trae Young vs, Marvin Bagley? Rhode Island might have a backcourt that can combine to rival Young’s offensive firepower. In Jared Terrell, the Rams have a first-team all-Atlantic 10 guard who can strain defenses by knocking down three-point shots, getting to the free-throw line and converting his attempts once there at a favorable rate. And at full strength, fellow senior E.C. Matthews gives Rhode Island another dangerous perimeter scorer. The Rams are going to have their hands full trying to contain Young, but Oklahoma also has to reckon with a big defensive challenge. But when you have the dynamic talent of Trae Young you have to think that Young will overcome a Rhode Island team that we believe is a bit overrated.
Duke has had a problem with dominate guards for the last few seasons.Grayson Allen’s length will be an asset if Coach K decides to go man to man vs Oklahoma, but with Duke’s tendencies to switch on screens we may see a lot of Young vs Bagley which will be a problem for Marvin. Duke should handle an Oklahoma team that is a one trick pony. Still this game will be marketed through the roof.
Bracket Winner: Duke-Kansas
I know this isn’t a pick but we couldn’t agree on a winner of this bracket. Kansas has looked dominate over the last few weeks. There is no way the Jayhawks should have won the Big12 Tournament without Azubuike, but they did. Devonte Graham is a true leader in college basketball, he can lead this team very far.
The problem I see with Kansas is Duke or Michigan State can be a tough matchup for them. The bigs will be dominate against KU. Whether it is Bagley and Carter or Michigan States 20 different bigs they throw at you Kansas does not have the depth to handle the offensive skill sets. I love a senior guard, I picked KU, Matt picked Duke.
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.