Five role players that will make or break their teams.

Stars in college basketball will get the headlines. In college basketball the game is more about a team concept.  Rarely do you have a team that is star drive go win the whole thing. Virginia was loaded with key players that were all assets to their eventual championship.  I want to highlight the players people don’t talk about enough that could be the reason their team makes it deep into March Madness.  

*These players will be from power conference teams.

Quincy McKnight, Seton Hall

Most common college basketball fans know that Seton Hall is Myles Powells team.  When Powell is not on his game it is the senior point gaurd Qunicy McKnight that picks up the slack. McKnight is veteran that isn’t afaid of prime time competetion.  His ability to run the offense and create off the dribble will open up the floor for Myles Powell and Sandro (Not trying to spell last name). 

In the NCAA tournament McKnight will have to force the defense to pay attention to him, his 84% free throw shooting will also be a huge advantage for the Pirates.  He will be the guy forced to take the ball against top defensive teams that will not allow the ball into Powell’s hands.  

Marcus Garrett, Kansas

Who doesn’t know Devon Dotson and Udoka Azubuike.  The unsung hero of KU is Junior Guard Marcus Garrett.  Garrett is a solid two way player that has shown up in the big moments of the season. Garrett showed his potential this weekend taking over the game agaisnt Oklahoma after Kansas got off to a slow start.  Garrett’s defense has alwasy been his trademark but it was his ability to shoot the three that shocked most fans, knocking down nine of them.  

If Garrett can provide the outside shot to go along with his defense he will be the difference maker for Kansas in the tourney.

Chris Clarke, Texas Tech

The popular sleeper team in college basketball is Texas Tech.  They have flashy scorers in Jahmi’us Ramsey, Davide Moretti and Kyler Edwards steal the headlines. It’s the Virgnia Tech transfer Chris Clarke that provides the grit work for the Red Raiders. Texas Tech has the skilled players to compete with anyone.  What they lack is the power on the inside to compete with the big boys of college basketball. Clarke’s toughness is a necessity for last year’s runner up to the national title. His perfromances against K-State, Louisville and Kentucky all carried the team to victories or near victories (Kentucky).  

Toughness and experience are what seems to be lacking from Texas Tech.  His ability to help run the offense and help thems stay up tempo will be important downt he stretch. 

Daryl Morsell, Maryland Terrapins

Maryland has issues. Their ridiculous talent can overshadow their ineffeciencies. Daryl Morsell is a player that has become a key player in their big matchups.  Wins over Illinois and Rutgers showed off the potential stat stuffing ability of Morsell. Morsell is currently shooting 36% from three, which is a huge improvement over last season 28%.  The Terrapins have issues shooting the ball, if Morsell can provide the threat from distance it will make their ridiulously athletic point guard Anthony Cowan even tougher to defend.  

Morsell is the third leading scorer on Maryland behind the aforementioned Cowan and NBA prospect Jalen Smith.   Morsell will be the player that gets the open looks and if he hits this team has final four written all over them.

Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, Villanova

Jeremiah Robinson-Earl was a highly rated recruit, the freshman forward has lived up to the rating.  Averaging 10 points and nearly 9 boards a game is nice but his ability to play the five in an uptempo Villanova offense has allowed them to play at a faster rate.  

Robinson-Earl is matchup nightmare for traditional bigs and has the ability to post up opposing players that match his size.  Colin Gillespie and Saddiq Bey are the guys that catch the headlines but Robinson Earl is the guy that allows them to before by cleaning up the glass.  If you question the freshman at all check his game logs against higher level competition. His play will determine where this team goes.

National Championship Pick

The 2018 Men’s Basketball National Title game will take place Monday night. The Alomodome will become the Thunderdome as two teams enter but only one team will leave with the title.  The Michigan Wolverines will try and keep the Villanova Wildcats from winning their second title in a three year span.

Villanova opens up as a 6 and half point favorite after their thrashing of the Kansas Jayhawks Saturday night in San Antonio.  When Jay Wright sat down with his coaching staff and mapped out the game plan I am sure he had a great strategy.  I am sure they figured they would break the record for 3-pointers in a Final Four game, IN THE FIRST HALF! This Villanova team came out and punched Kansas right in the stomach and wasn’t going to stop until the final horn went off.  The Wildcats have taken an NBA approach to their college games and so far it seems to be working very well, they have been passing up on two’s for three’s and hitting them at an unstoppable rate. Through their five games in the NCAA Tournament, Villanova is hitting 42.3 percent of its three-pointers while sinking at least 13 treys on four occasions.  Villanova has had an amazing season going 18-0 in non-conference games Wildcats went 13-3 against the ESPN RPI top 25 and 50 teams, respectively, while also ranking No. 1 at KenPom.com, checking in with the top mark in adjusted offensive efficiency and top 15 on the defensive side. This is a team that has almost single handedly ended the season for ousted the nations top conference the BIG12 beating West Virginia, Texas Tech and Kansas in convincing fashion.  This is also a team that boasts multiple players that have been in this game before, including Phil Booth who put up 20 points against the Tar Heels just two years ago. It will be hard to make a case against the Wildcats walking through Michigan.

Michigan has gotten to the national championship game thanks to its stellar defense and ability to slow the game down. The Wolverines are holding opponents to 58.6 points per game and a lousy 38.7 shooting percentage.  The perimeter defense has been dominate in the NCAA tournament, but they have not seen an offense with near the efficiency of Villanova.  For Michigan to be successful they will need to have better performances from Charles Mathews and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkmann.   They have to pick up their game so that Villanova can’t double and even triple team big man Mo Wagner.  Michigan will also have to hit from the line, which has been an issue all season. In Villanova’s four losses this season, the Wildcats have allowed opponents an average of 23 trips to the charity stripe. Michigan has been bad at free throws this season – shooting 66.2 percent as a team – but attacking the hoop may be the path of least resistance.

Michigan has had a great season, but Villanova has been dominate most of the season.  Jalen Brunson and company are just way to loaded on the offensive end, even though the Wolverines will put up a fight, this just doesn’t seem like an even matchup.  I like Michigan to stick around if they can shoot half as well as they did in the Texas A&M game but fall in the end due to their free throw shooting troubles. Villanova walks out of this one with the victory and Jay Wright’s second title in three years.

Prediction: Villanova wins 80- 74

Final Four Picks

Loyola- Chicago Ramblers vs. Michigan Wolverines (-5.5)

The Final Four begins on Saturday with a matchup of two teams that play a similar style.  Strong defense and efficient shooting will be the name of the game.  While this game is not considered the main course of the evening it will be the most expensive appetizer the menu can offer.

When breaking down the South Region of the NCAA tournament bracket I listed Loyola-Chicago as a potential bracket buster.  When I said that I really only saw them winning the first two rounds.  They have shocked myself and the world be making it all the way through the region.  Last second shoots and supreme offensive and defensive basketball lead them to the Final Four, no one can argue they earned it.  Miami had better athletes, Tennessee was better defensively, Nevada had multiple better scorers, and Kansas State was just bigger, but none of that mattered to the Ramblers besting each playing their brand of basketball.  Talk all you want about Sister Jean, this team is good and they have a great chance on Saturday. But I have to follow my instinct on this game.

While the Ramblers are a great story, every story has two possible endings.  Happy or Sad.  Saturday the Michigan Wolverines will play the role of antagonist.  Talk all you want about Michigan having an “easy” journey to the Final Four.  They took care of business in each game the way their fellow higher seeds could not.  They imposed their will on other teams by smothering them defensively and hitting the big shots.  Moritz Wagner will force the lone big man for the Ramblers Caleb Krutwig out of the paint which will open up lanes for Charles Mathews to drive with little to no resistance.  Clayton Custer will still make plays but to see another day of above 50% shooting against a John Beilen coached team is just not believable.

The Ramblers will keep it close but eventually Michigan will impose their will on the smaller team. I see Michigan winning by double digits, I will take the 5.5 and run with it.

Michigan to win and taking the points -5.5

Kansas Jayhawks vs. Villanova Wildcats (-5)

While chaos was the theme of the South and West sides of the bracket, two #1 seeds made their way out to the East and Midwest.  A battle of two top programs as well as top coaches of our generation takes place on Saturday as the Jayhawks take on the Wildcats. This is the main event of the evening and the world seems split on who will come out on top.

Senior guards will be the main focus with AP Player of the Year Villanova’s Jalen Brunson takes on All-Big 12 point guard Devonte Graham.  Villanova has made already taken down two top level Big12 teams defeating both West Virginia and Texas Tech on their way to the Final Four and all the advantages seem to lean towards Nova in this matchup.  Multiple scoring options for Villanova make them very dangerous. I believe they will look to attack Udoka Azubuike early to force Bill Self to put in freshman Silvio De Sousa.  De Sousa showed immaturity in the Elite Eight matchup with Duke nearly costing Kansas the game. If De Sousa is forced into actions and makes similar mistakes Villanova has the experience to bury the Jayhawks.

I am a huge fan of the job Bill Self has done this year. He has taken his least talented team in years to the Final Four.  That has to be respected.  Ultimately Villanova is the better team and will advance.  While I believe Villanova will advance I am looking at Kansas to cover the 5 points.

Villanova Wins, Kansas covers +5

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