Welcome to March, the place Insanity is plentiful, buzzer-beaters are inevitable, and upsets are bountiful.
The tourney hasn’t even begun, and but we’ve witnessed Hunter Cattoor gentle it up in opposition to Duke en path to Virginia Tech’s first ACC Championship, Murray State earn their first match bid since Ja Morant was the Racers level guard, and Iowa secured their first Huge Ten Match Championship since 2006.
With Choice Sunday and convention tournaments wrapping up this previous weekend, there’s rather a lot to preview, and SLAM Newswire has received you coated.
The Heavy Hitters
This yr’s No. 1 Seeds: Gonzaga, Arizona, Kansas, and Baylor are loaded with expertise as we take a deep dive into how the heavy hitters on the lads’s facet received to the primary spherical of the match.
Led by two Picket Award Candidates whereas boasting a nation-best 87.8 factors per sport, the hype round Gonzaga (26-3) is actual. With WCC Participant of the 12 months Drew Timme, who averaged 17.5 factors and 6.3 rebounds per sport, and top-three projected decide on this yr’s draft Chet Holmgren patrolling the paint, the Bulldogs have been some of the dominant groups in faculty basketball this season – dropping simply three video games to tournament-bound groups (Duke, Alabama and St. Mary’s).
The No. 1 group within the West area boasts 10 Quadrant 1 wins, making their twenty fourth look as a program within the match with a matchup in opposition to No. 16 Georgia St (18-10) within the opening spherical.
Contemporary off of their twelfth Huge 12 match championship in program historical past, Kansas (28-6) enters the Midwest area as some of the battle-tested groups within the match. Invoice Self leads a loaded roster filled with skilled hoopers, headlined by conference-leading scorer and Participant of the 12 months Ochai Ogbaji. Ogbaji averaged 19.7 factors per sport whereas taking pictures 40.5 p.c from three – the Jayhawks lead the nation with 12 Quad 1 wins whereas snagging a Huge 12 regular-season and convention match championship.
Possessing one of many strongest resumes within the nation, Kansas ranks as the highest seed within the Midwest area, going through off in opposition to Texas Southern within the first spherical.
In his first season as a Division One coach and head honcho at Arizona, Tommy Lloyd led the Wildcats (31-3) by a famed season, securing the common season and Pac-12 match championship whereas gathering high quality wins in opposition to UCLA, Illinois, Michigan, and USC.
Led by Pac-12 Participant of the 12 months Bennedict Mathurin (17.1 factors and 5.6 rebounds per sport) alongside the convention’s Defensive Participant of the 12 months and its Most Improved in 7’1 junior Christian Koloko (11.9 factors and seven.2 boards per sport), the Wildcats are ranked as a one seed for a purpose, as their balanced offensive and defensive schemes have been giving groups bother all season lengthy.
First, although, they’ll meet the winner between Bryant and Wright State within the opening spherical.
Rounding out our heavy hitters is the Baylor Bears (26-6), defending their nationwide championship out of the East area. Scott Drew’s Bears characteristic a bevy of offensive expertise with six gamers averaging greater than 8.0 factors per sport, led by junior guard Adam Flager (13.4 factors and three.1 assists) and senior Huge 12 First Group choice, James Akinjo (13.4 factors and 5.7 assists). Snagging wins in opposition to Villanova, Iowa State, Texas, and Kansas contributed to this system’s 10 Quad 1 dubs. The Bears shall be matching up in opposition to No. 16 Norfolk St.
Greatest Not Be Sleeping
You can’t be caught sleeping in opposition to Tennessee, Murray St., Virginia Tech, or Iowa regardless of the seeding.
The No. 3 seeded SEC champions enter the tourney on a seven-game win streak, having defeated Kentucky, Auburn, and Arkansas since mid-February. Led by freshman sensation Kennedy Chandler, the Volunteers (26-7) are a two-seed for a purpose. The Volunteers are constructed to make a deep run this March in a stacked South area that options No. 1 Arizona, No. 2 Villanova, No. 4 Illinois, and No. 5 Houston. Behind 11 Quad 1 wins, Chandler’s 13.8 factors and 4.6 assists, and 53.8 p.c taking pictures splits, the Volunteers will face off in opposition to No. 14 Longwood this weekend.
Virginia Tech (23-12) is driving excessive after upsetting No. 1 Duke within the ACC Championship sport, grabbing their first match championship in program historical past. Regardless of dropping 9 video games in convention play, the Hokies’ 82-67 upset win over the Blue Devils behind senior Keve Aluma’s 19 factors and Hunter Cattoor’s 31, the No. 11 seeded Hokies are a veteran-heavy squad with sufficient momentum to hold them deep into the match. First, although, they’ll meet No. 6 seeded Texas within the first spherical of the East.
For the primary time since 2006, the Iowa Hawkeyes (26-9) are Huge Ten match champions. Sophomore All-Huge Ten First Group choice Keegan Murray has blossomed right into a projected lottery decide in late June, averaging 23.6 factors and eight.6 rebounds on 55.5 p.c taking pictures from the ground. Competing within the convention that leads the nation with groups seeded within the match, the Hawkeyes grabbed 9 Quad 1 wins, defeating Michigan St., Ohio St. and No. 3 Purdue within the Huge Ten Championship behind Murray’s 19 factors and 11 boards. With 4 gamers averaging above double-digits, No. 5 Iowa can have a battle on their fingers after they face off in opposition to No. 12 Richmond within the first spherical of the Midwest area.
In case you haven’t been following together with the mid-majors or Ja Morant’s Twitter this season, the Murray State Racers (30-2) are for actual. Since dropping a 71-58 street loss to Auburn in late December, the Racers have gone undefeated in convention play and are driving an 18-game win streak. The Ohio Valley Convention champions are led by junior Tevin Brown – who performed with Ja Morant and Murray State as a freshman through the Racers’ final match run in 2019 – is averaging 16.9 factors, 5.5 rebounds, three assists, and a conference-best 3.1 made threes a sport. The No. 7 seed within the East will see No. 10 San Francisco within the match’s first spherical.
Video games You Can’t Miss
With the primary spherical of the match set to begin this Friday, listed below are the video games you may’t miss.
No. 3 Texas Tech Vs. No. 14 Montana State
Texas Tech boasts a bevy of veteran gamers who cling their hat on defensive stress and home-court benefit – going undefeated in convention play at residence. However the No. 14 Bobcats can’t be counted out solely based mostly on their seeding luck as they’ve made their second nationwide match look in three years.
No. 6 Texas Vs. No. 11 Virginia Tech
Anchored by wins over Kansas and Tennessee, the Texas Longhorns are prepared to begin the match anew after dropping 3 of their final 4 regular-season matchups. Nevertheless, the No. 11 seeded Hokies and sharpshooter Hunter Cattoor might pose an upset degree risk, having simply crushed No. 2 seed Duke within the ACC Championship.
No. 8 San Diego State Vs. No. 9 Creighton
The 8/9 matchup is at all times intriguing. With each the Aztecs and Creighton shedding their respective convention match championships, each groups shall be trying to precise revenge and begin the match with a dub.
No. 5 Houston Vs. No. 12 UAB
Houston has weathered a storm of accidents and adversity all season lengthy. With one other AAC match championship underneath their belt, the Cougars must get previous UAB and Jordan Walker’s 20.2 factors per sport on 40 p.c from past the arc.
Images through Getty Photos.