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Final National Championship Analysis: UNC vs Gonzaga

Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

The #1 seed (South division) North Carolina Tarheels are your 2017 NCAA Men’s College Basketball National Champions by beating the #1 (West division) Gonzaga Bulldogs with a 71-65 score. It was not a pretty game for either the Tarheels or the Bulldogs as they played very inefficient on both sides of the court. Both teams had problems getting the ball consistently into the basket. Outside the questionable refereeing, there were fouls that could have been avoided from both teams.

The Tarheels were 1st in the nation in rebounding as they accounted an average of 43.7 rebounds per game before the game of the season against Gonzaga. They were also 12th in points per game (84.8 points) and 4th in assists per game (18.1 assists). They would need to rely on the rebounding ability of F Kennedy Meeks and F Isaiah Hicks to avoid any potential 2nd chance buckets. They would also be crucial in the paint offensively like they have been all season for the Tarheels. F Justin Jackson also needed be a big part of the offense for the North Carolina considering the nagging injury to Joel Berry II and both of his sprained ankles before the start of the Tournament. Instead of driving more to the basket, Jackson settled for 3-point shots but was 0-9 from behind the arc.

Luckily for North Carolina, Joel Berry II was not as limited as many people thought and turned up big for the Tarheels at the right time. Berry accounted for 22 points (7 for 19 field goal attempts), 3 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 steals and 1 block. He was on fire in the 2nd half when Gonzaga slacked off on pressure to focus on conserving their big men like C Przemek Karnowski and F Zach Collins who were in foul trouble.

In the 1st half, the Gonzaga Bulldogs held the Tarheels to a 31% field goal percentage thanks to them crashing in on driving lanes and smothering the players in the paint. It seemed smart at first because of the fact that the Tarheels are not a good 3-point shooting team but the more the foul count started to go up on the defenders in the paint, the more the Bulldogs eased off.

Outside of G Nigel Williams-Goss and G Josh Perkins, the Bulldogs could not find consistency with their players especially from Karnowski. When he was given many chances to score one-on-one in the 1st half, he was hesitate and often times passed the ball back to the players in the perimeter. Karnowski did not get a field goal until the 2nd half but in the end he finished with an inefficient performance including 9 points (1-8 on field goals), 7-9 on free throws, 9 rebounds, 1 block, 4 turnovers and 4 fouls. Collins did well for the short amount of time he was in the game with 9 points (4-6 on field goals), 7 rebounds and 3 blocks but fouled out late in the critical point of the game.

Overall the Bulldogs accounted for a inefficient 33.9% field goal percentage, a 42.1% from the 3-point perimeter and a 65.4% from the free throw line. The Bulldogs also turned the ball over 14 times and allowed 8 blocks from the Tarheel’s defense. While the Tarheels weren’t any better on offense with a 35.6% field goal percentage, 14.8% from the 3-point arc and 57.5% from the free throw line, they did have more players who played better than Gonzaga. Jackson accounted for 16 points (when he did drive to the basket), 4 rebounds, 1 steal and 2 blocks. Kennedy and Meeks were big in the paint as Hicks accounted for 13 points (5-9 on field goals), 9 rebounds and 2 blocks while Meeks accounted for 7 points (3-5 on field goals), 10 rebounds, 2 steals and 2 blocks.

It was in the 2nd half where Gonzaga found more luck in the 3-point game but also found themselves in more trouble when the Tarheels were focusing in on a more spread out zone defense. Nigel Williams-Goss tried to do it all for the Bulldogs when the game started to come down to the wire. Williams-Goss accounted for 15 points on 5 field goals out of 17 attempts, additionally he had 9 rebounds and 6 assists. Head coach Mark Few tried to exert Williams-Goss more but was a prime target of coverage so he had to settle for an inside game that was deteriorating.

Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Despite the game going back and forth for the majority of the time, the game was sluggish and stopped due to multiple timeouts, challenges and fouls. There were a total of 44 fouls in the game with 52 free throw shot attempts. There was also a lot of transitioning going on in the game which gave the Tarheels a lot of time to get their big men down the opposite side of the court. With the combination of the game slowing down and the transitioning time, Tarheels head coach Roy Williams easily took advantage of the lacking fast tempo to slow down the game and take time off the clock. Gonzaga is a team that thrived off of a fast-pace offense, without it, the Bulldogs could not find consistency on the board.

Roy Williams and the North Carolina Tarheels have won their 6th National title as a program and their first since 2009. They turned a nightmare last year from the the loss to the Villanova Wildcats on a Kris Jenkins buzzer beat to a redemption story as they hoist that trophy one more time. They now turn their attention to the next season where they will rebuild on graduating seniors like Isaiah Hicks and possible early departures for the 2017 NBA Draft in Justin Jackson and the 2017 Final Four Most Outstanding Player in Joel Berry II. Only time will tell on Berry and Jackson but the Tarheels will be loaded with upcoming talent regardless. For Gonzaga, their first National Championship appearance did not end well but they started a program building step in which they hope to be at the National Championship game to redeem a loss like the Tarheels last year.

UNC Out Plays Gonzaga to Win National Championship

 

 

The North Carolina Tar Heels avenged their loss in the national championship last year by defeating Gonzaga 71-65, to win their 6th title. Joel Berry II led the way for the Tar Heels with 22 points and was given the Most Outstanding Player award.
“It was just an unbelievable feeling. And this is what we worked for,” Berry said. “And the ups and downs that we’ve had? It’s all worth it. And I can’t even describe my feeling right now, but I am just glad that I was able to do something with this team. And I think we just deserved it.”
 Justin Jackson, who struggled shooting most of the game added 16. Although Jackson struggled most of the game, he came up huge scoring the last 8 points for the Tar Heels.
Nigel Williams-Gross  led Gonzaga with 15, but struggled all night to get into a rhythm. Prezmek Karnowski struggled as well from the field only scoring 1 field goal on 8 shots.
Gonzaga played hard most of the game and actually led for most of it. They did an outstanding job defending the perimeter, as the Tar Heels only shot 14 percent from long range. What made the difference towards the end of the game was there inability to score and distance their selves from North Carolina.
Many fans and experts thought the game was poorly officiated, especially  when the referees failed to review a play with :50 seconds to go in the game. It looked like North Carolina touched it last, but they ruled it in the Tar Heels favor. After the game Mark Few showed respect towards the refs calling them,”three of the best in the country.”
After the game, winning head coach Roy Williams was pounded with question regarding an academic scandal looming at the university.
“I wish it got no attention here, because this should be about the kids,” Williams said. “I wish it got no attention. But I know it’s out there. But the last three or four years have been very hard. I told you, people have questioned my integrity, and that means more to me than anything.”
Roy Williams, who now has won three national championships (2005,2009,2017) is one of five coaches to win three or more championships. Williams has surpassed the late Dean Smith for most championships won at North Carolina as well. When he was asked about Dean Smith, he gave a humbling answer to reporters.

“When I looked up at one of the boards tonight and saw those guys, they had more titles than our North Carolina teams had, not Roy Williams, because I don’t like it that way, but that was a little emotional for a second,” Williams said. “But I really — I don’t know what to say. I mean, because that is — I’m very, very lucky. I’m doing what I’ve always wanted to do is to coach kids and trying to get them to have a common goal and make sacrifices. And it’s number three. But they’ve all been fantastic, and I’ve been very fortunate.”

Gonzaga defeats South Carolina; to Advance to National Championship

Led by Nigel Williams-Gross, who had 23 points, Gonzaga defeated South Carolina to advance to the National Championship game. Gonzaga set the tone early with their defense, by only allowing South Carolina to shoot 37 percent from the field. Mark Few and his squad came to play as they also shot the ball efficiently from the three point line.

 Gonzaga had to over come adversity to win this game, after nearly blowing a 14 point lead late in the second half. Killian Tillie, who only played 12 seconds in the second half, nailed two key free throws to ice the game for Gonzaga. He talked to reporters after the game.
 
“Of course I was [nervous],” Tillie said. “I was kind of nervous when I was on the free throw line. I just didn’t think about anything.”
 
Gross, who led the team in scoring always had the confidence that his team would get far.
 
“We didn’t shy away from it,” Williams-Goss said. “We wanted to win a national championship. That’s what we talked about. That was our goal.”
 
Mark Few, who is the head coach of Gonzaga, did a wonderful job leading and keeping his team on the right path. Many people doubted Gonzaga and thought they were overated, but they proved that was not the case. Few spoke to reporters after the game.
 
“And the story with these guys is it truly is — and I think it’s been kind of under-talked about — is how they came together,” Few said. “We had eight, nine guys that were new to the program. On Sept. 1, I mean when Jordan showed up, that’s when we were finally complete as a team. [Josh] Perkins and [Silas] Melson were the only ones that played the year before significant minutes. But yet from the jump, these guys have jumped into roles. They haven’t fought anything.”
 
Gonzaga will play North Carolina Monday night and they will be in a familiar spot, as they will come into the game as the underdog.

North Carolina is Back in National Championship

North Carolina will get to avenge their heart breaking loss in the National Championship last season, as they defeated Oregon 77-76. Kennedy Meeks led the way with 25 points on 11/13 shooting. Justin Jackson had 22 on 13 shots as well. Although both teams shot poorly from the court, the Tar Heels defense made the difference holding the Ducks to only 26 percent shooting from the three point line.
 Oregon rallied late as they surged back and almost pulled off the upset. I do not usually like to blame a loss on one player but, Jordan Bell’s missed offensive rebounds in the final seconds of the game, might have cost the Ducks the game. Bell expressed his feelings to reporters after the game.
“If I had just boxed out, I had two opportunities,” Bell said after the game. “People can tell me whatever they want, but I lost the game for us.”
Joel Berry junior forward on the Tar Heels expressed to reporters after the game why him and his teammates like to dance and celebrate after wins.
“I just kept on telling them, we’re the best team in the country,” Berry said. “And the biggest thing is we’ve just gotta go out there and have fun. … A lot of people say we dance too much or we laugh or smile too much but the thing is we’re enjoying it and at the same time we’re focused. On a big stage like that sometimes you gotta be a little loose to get the anxiety out of the way and the butterflies and just go out there and play.”
Roy Williams the head coach for the Tar Heels is no stranger to wining big games. He knows that his team has to play a lot better in the National Championship if their going to win it all.
“We’re relieved,” Williams said after the game. “We feel very lucky, feel very fortunate we’re still playing, but the fact of the matter is we’re still playing.”
North Carolina will be a huge favorite to beat Gonzaga in the National Championship Monday night.

2017 NCAA Tournament – Final Four Preview

 

The Final Four of the 2017 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament is upon us after an already having wild games and crazy upsets. Many brackets have been ruined from the high amount of upsets that have taken place from the Tournament already. We have seen the #1 Villanova Wildcats (East division) become a highly inefficient team losing to the #8 Wisconsin Badgers in the 2nd round of the Tournament with a 65-62 score. The #2 Arizona Wildcats (West division) lost to the #11 Xavier Musketeers in the Sweet 16 with a close 73-71 score.

The Final Four consists of the last two #1 seeds in the Tournament in the Gonzaga Bulldogs (West division) and the North Carolina Tarheels (South division) , the #3 Oregon Ducks (Midwest division) who knocked off the #1 Kansas Jayhawks in the Elite 8 and the Cinderella team in the Tourney in the #7 South Carolina Gamecocks. The North Carolina Tarheels are by far the most experienced team in terms of reaching the Final Four as they have gone to the Final Four a total of 20 times. This will be the Oregon Ducks 2nd ever time making to the Final Four in the NCAA Tournament, the first since 1939. Finally this the first ever Final Four appearance for either the Gonzaga Bulldogs or the South Carolina Gamecocks.

The Bulldogs vs The Gamecocks- The first match-up of the Final Four will be the #1 Gonzaga Bulldogs taking on the upset hungry #7 South Carolina Gamecocks. The Bulldogs come into the Final Four as the favorites to win it all by BPI (Basketball Power Index) with a 55%. Even though they come from a weak West Coast Conference, they have played consistently as compared to the other teams in the Final Four. In the regular season, Gonzaga ranked 14th in the nation in points per game (83.2), 6th in rebounds per game (40.5 ) and 4th in points allowed per game (60.9). The Bulldogs are one of the most efficient offensives in the Tournament with a average field goal percentage of 50.9% per game. They are a team that does very well in making screens and going around holes on defenses. In this tournament though, Gonzaga has had problems getting 3-point shots to get into the basket. They are 26.2% from behind the 3-point perimeter in this tournament. This can be a problem for their defense handling the Gamecocks’ offense if the Bulldogs cannot keep up.

The #7 South Carolina Gamecocks might have some of the most impressive wins in this Tournament with wins over #10 Marquette (93-73), #2 Duke (88-81), #3 Baylor (70-50) and #4 Florida (77-70). Once again, South Carolina will be the underdog to a higher ranked team in the #1 Gonzaga Bulldogs. The Gamecocks have one of the most aggressive defenses in this Tournament despite only being ranked 30th in points per game (64.8). They have done a great job making predominate small ball offenses look bad like the Duke Blue Devils. They held Duke to only a 41.5% field goal percentage, forced G Luke Kennard to only account for 1 made field out of 6 attempts and forced 5 turnovers from F Jayson Tatum. In the Sweet 16 against the #3 Baylor Bears, they held the Bears to only a 30.4% in field goal percentage and 23.1% from behind the 3-point line.

Pictured: South Carolina G Sindarius Thornwell in the Elite 8 against the Florida Gators

Offensively, the Gamecocks have one of the best players in the Tournament in G Sindarius Thornwell as he scored 29 against Marquette, 24 against Duke and Baylor and 26 against Florida. Outside of Thornwell, the Gamecocks do not have much of a consistent scoring base excluding the fact that the Gamecocks have 4 players who average 10 points or more per game. Both Gonzaga and South Carolina’s defenses will need to be big but the Gamecocks will need a massive performance from someone other than Thornwell.

The Tarheels vs The Ducks- The 2nd Final Four game will be between the #1 North Carolina Tarheels and the #3 Oregon Ducks where many believed this match-up was expected. Though some did not believe the Ducks would make it past the Sweet 16 because of the ACL tear injury to star PF Chris Boucher, who was a huge part of their team input. Boucher suffered the injury during the PAC-12 conference tournament against California in the semi-finals. Boucher led the team with blocks per game (2.5 blocks), 2nd on the team in rebounds (6.5) and accounted for 11.8 points per game.

Since then, the #3 Oregon Ducks have changed their identity from a fast pace balanced offense to a high velocity deep shooting team. Before the Tournament, the Ducks were 38.3% from behind the 3-point perimeter but since their five match-ups in the Tournament they are are 43.5%. G Tyler Dorsey and F Dillion Brooks have been benefiting the most from this new offensive philosophy of small ball Basketball. Brooks accounts 16.3 points per game with a .496% field goal percentage and .410% from the 3-point arc while Tyler Dorsey accounts 14.5 points per game with a .472% field goal percentage and .423% from the 3-point arc. On defense, the absence of Boucher is definitely noticeable in terms of allowing points per game. Before the Tournament, the Ducks only allowed 65.5 points per game but now allow 72.6 points per game. Boucher defended the paint very well and even provided zone defense in the 3-point lane.

Luke May of North Carolina celebrating his game-winner against Kentucky. The Tar Heels move on to face Oregon in the Final Four on Apr. 1. (Photo : YouTube Screencap)

The #1 North Carolina Tarheels are one of the most consistent offenses in the nation especially since they play mostly in a big man philosophy with an actual Center and Power Forward. The Tarheels are 9th in the nation in points per game (85), 1st in rebounds per game (43.7) and 3rd in assists (18.2). Justin Jackson is the team’s leading scorer with an average of 18.2 points per game and a .497 field goal percentage. With the impact from Kennedy Meeks (9.3 rebounds per game) and Isaiah Hicks (5.4 rebounds per game), the Tarheels are the best team in the nation in rebounds and account for a high number of offensive rebounds. 2nd chance buckets are critical to any team no matter how talented they are. Defensively the Tarheels allowed two big comebacks to a fast acting and assisting team in the Duke Blue Devils which is a similar offense that Oregon mostly runs now. The Tarheels defense is ranked 128th in the nation in points allowed per game (70.6).
Gonzaga has been defeating potential bracket busters all throughout the Tournament. Just scoring quick 2-point shots will not just do the trick, they will need to make some 3’s to shake off South Carolina. When you look at the Gamecocks’ wins all throughout the Tournament, you have to really question and analyze if South Carolina’s wins are actually called upsets. South Carolina has the tools to bring down the Bulldogs and continue their unbelievable Cinderella Tournament run. Sindarius Thornwell can make his case for the John R. Wooden Award with a win over Gonzaga and then a National Title but he will need to play very efficient to do so. The Ducks and the Tarheels will be in a classic battle of small ball Basketball versus big man Basketball. Despite the loss of the leading shot blocker and consistent paint scorer, the Ducks are confident they can score at an efficient pace to keep up with North Carolina. They will need to drain some difficult 3-point shots to throw North Carolina, fast pace assists will help Oregon. North Carolina must avoid a potential big comeback like the Duke Blue Devils have done on them twice this season especially since Oregon is a much faster running offense. The Final Four start on Saturday, April 1st.

Lonzo Ball Claims He is The Best Player in Draft

This time Lonzo Ball is doing the talking and not his father. Lonzo claims he is better than fellow draft prospect Markelle Fultz.  He claims that he has better “leadership ability” than the Washington standout.
Ball and Fultz are widely considered the best two players in the upcoming draft. Ball officially declared for the draft after loosing in the Sweet 16 to Kentucky.

“Markelle’s a great player, but I feel I’m better than him,” said Ball, who led the Bruins to a pair of blowout victories over Fultz’s Huskies this season.
“I think I can lead a team better than him,” Ball added. “Obviously he’s a great scorer — he’s a great player, so I’m not taking that away from him.”

According to ESPN’S Chad Ford’s mock draft Fultz is the number 1 rated player in the draft followed by Lonzo Ball. Fultz averaged 23.2 points, 5.7 rebounds and 5.9 assists a game.

As far as comparring the two players on the court, here are the numbers. Ball averaged 14.6 points, 6.0 rebounds, 1.8 steals and a Division I-leading 7.7 assists per game this season. Fultz, meanwhile, averaged 23.2 points, 5.9 assists, 5.7 rebounds, 1.6 steals and 1.2 blocks per game for Washington.

But for what it’s worth, UCLA won both meetings against Washington this season. Not by a little, but by a combined 73 points. Overall the records in the regular season for the two teams stack up this way;  UCLA finished 31-5 overall, compared to the Huskies at 9-22.

It should also be noted, that if Lonzo wants to say he is a better leader, then he needs to have big performances in big games. And Ball may actually be to blame for his Bruins losing to the Wildcats as Lonzo had 10 points and eight rebounds in the loss.

So it begs the question. Who would you choose with the number 1 pick in the NBA Draft? Feel free to comment below.

Badgers Experience leads to Sweetness

The Wisconsin Badgers are currently in New York preparing for Friday nights game against the Florida Gators. The winner of Friday nights game will play in the regional final game Sunday. The winner of that game will have punched a ticket to next weekends Final Four.

With the top seeds in the Badgers region being Villanova who the Badgers eliminated themselves last weekend and Duke who was upset by South Carolina on Sunday night the Badgers region became wide open. We will find out this weekend if the Badgers get themselves to Phoenix Arizona but do not count them out.

The biggest reason to not count out Wisconsin is their experience. Four seniors on the roster. All of them have been here before. They understand what is required at this point if you want to keep playing. Not only do they understand what is needed to continue, they so far in the tournament have raised their own performance in the tournaments first weekend to ensure their college careers would reach Madison Square Garden.

Take Bronson Koenig who put in performances last weekend of 28 and 17 points respectively. In Wisconsin’s opening round win over Virginia Tech 8 of his 9 made shots were three pointers. Or Nigel Hayes who struggled hitting free throws all season only to hit 8 of 9 in the game against Virginia Tech.

But that is only part of the story of the current Badger senior class. The other part cannot be qualified on a stat sheet. The Badger senior class has played in 13 NCAA tournament games. I heard one of them commenting in a press conference this week that they have not had a spring break from school over their time in Madison. Why? Because this class of seniors has taken their spring break with their basketball all four year as this senior class reached the final four their freshman and sophomore year and will be at minimum participants in the sweet 16 in both their junior and senior seasons.

That is the Wisconsin wild card. Yes they raise their performance when it is needed most but more importantly they do not get rattled when the pressure mounts to its highest. These seniors have been here and done this. That is why Wisconsin has a legit chance to reach their third final 4 in the last four years.

Storylines Going into the Sweet 16 of the 2017 NCAA Tournament

 

It is only been the 1st two rounds of the 2017 NCAA Tournament and already it has been shaken up heavily. There have been many high seeded teams upset and a number of Cinderella taking their place high into the Tournament. These are some of the top storylines going into the Sweet 16 of the 2017 NCAA Tournament.

1. The underdogs are taking as top teams of the East division

Before the Tournament is over with, either the #8 Wisconsin Badgers, the #4 Florida Gators, #3 Baylor Bears or the #7 South Carolina Gamecocks will be in the Final Four. In the 1st round, we saw heavily favored #6 SMU Mustangs upset by a #11 USC Trojans, who were one of the last four teams in the Tournament. The 2nd round was where the chaos took over.

Not only did we see a #4 Florida Gators team beat the #5 Virginia Cavaliers, but the Gators completely overwhelmed them on defense with a 65-39 score. The Gators held the Cavaliers to a outstandingly poor 29.6% field goal percentage and a 6.7% from the 3-point range on. The Gators will be playing the Wisconsin Badgers, who shocked the College Basketball world and defeated the #1 seed Villanova Wildcats in a close 85-82 game. The Badgers were able to score 34 total points from the paint and held the Wildcats’ highly efficient offense to a 41.2% field goal percentage.

The #7 South Carolina Gamecocks have managed to make a huge upset of their own by defeating the #2 Duke Blue Devils in the 2nd round with a 88-81 score. The Gamecocks relied on their press man-to-man heavy defense to throw the rhythm of the Blue Devils offense off balance. Duke G Luke Kennard, who is usually a consistent scorer, managed to only score 11 points off 1 made shot out of 6 attempts (8 free throws). The Gamecocks also scored 65 points in the 2nd half. The Gamecocks will be going against the #3 Baylor Bears who are ranked 21st in points allowed per game (63.5 points).

2. #7 Michigan Wolverines and #11 Xavier are this year’s Cinderella teams

Before the Tournament started, there was hope that the #7 Michigan Wolverines and the #11 Xavier Musketeers were going to make it far into the Tourney. Now that hope has turned into chance with a date in the Sweet 16. The Michigan Wolverines have played two of the most talented offenses in the nation against the #10 Oklahoma State Cowboys (5th in points per game – 85.7) and the #2 Louisville Cardinals (21st in rebounds per game – 39.5). Every game, the Wolverines had to adjust on offense but found a way to not only keep the tempo but win their tough games. It took 1 point to beat Oklahoma State (92 to 91) and 4 to beat Louisville (73 to 69) but the Wolverines always had the toughest mentality through their adjusted game plans.

The #11 Xavier Musketeers had their toughest game with a 11 point win over the #6 Maryland Terps in the 1st round. Otherwise, Xavier had no problems beating a highly inefficient #3 seed Florida State Seminoles who did not place much effort against Xavier with a 91-66 score. The Musketeers will face one of the toughest opponents in the tournament in the #2 seed Arizona Wildcats, who has an aggressive and consistent defense.

Throughout the 1st two tournament games, both the Wolverines and the Musketeers have turned into some of the best 3-point shooting teams. Xavier is 50% from the 3-point range in the Tournament (2nd of all 16 teams left) and Michigan is 47.8% from 3-point range (3rd place).

 

From left to right: Kentucky G De’Aaron Fox and UCLA G Lonzo Ball

3. #3 UCLA Bruins v.s #2 Kentucky Wildcats

One of the biggest games of the Sweet 16 will be a rematch of a game from December 3rd, 2016 when the UCLA Bruins handed the #1 Kentucky Wildcats their first loss of the season. Both of these teams come into this game with a highly explosive offense. The Wildcats are ranked 9th in the nation in points per game (85.2 points) while UCLA is ranked 1st in the nation in points per game (90.2 points) and assists per game (21.6 assists). UCLA averages a field goal percentage of 52.1% per game while Kentucky averages a FG% of 47.4%. UCLA is smarter with the ball on offense, finding holes in that Wildcats defense will not be too much of a problem. G Malik Monk and the Wildcats offense must be able to match the scoring level as UCLA which can be a problem if Kentucky isn’t focused and can’t enact a fast tempo.

4. #1 Gonzaga could potentially be the next #1 seed to go down

With three #1 seeds left in the Tournament, all eyes are on their opponents to see which potential upset will be in the mix. One to look at is the #1 Gonzaga Bulldogs in the West division where they will be playing the #4 West Virginia Mountaineers. Although the Bulldogs have statistically accounted for more points per game than West Virginia (83.9 to 82.1), rebounds per game (43.8 to 40.1) and field goal percentage (51.2% to 45.9%), they have done so in the West Coast Conference. As opposed to the competition of the teams in the Big 12 conference where West Virginia is from, the West Coast Conference is below average. The Mountaineers are 1st in the nation in steals per game (10.38 steals) and account for 4.7 blocks per game. All while playing for a Big 12 conference against high power offenses Kansas and Oklahoma State consistently. West Virginia can definitely put the defensive pressure on Gonzaga but they will need to find more offensive players to score often to keep the tempo running.

5. #1 Kansas Jayhawks v.s #4 Purdue Boilermakers

The battle of old-school Basketball versus new-school Basketball takes place once again with the Big Men system of the Purdue Boilermakers taking on the small ball mentality of the Kansas Jayhawks. The Boilermakers rely on their big men and their aggressive style of play from PF Caleb Swanigan and C Isaac Haas. While the Kansas Jayhawks rely on their fast tempo, quick shooting style of ball from G Frank Mason III and F Josh Jackson. 2 of the 3 leading scorers for the Boilermakers are Swanigan and Haas where they slow down the tempo. The Jayhawks offense led by Frank Mason III is an explosive, fast tempo team that often takes quick shots for threes. Kansas will need to out rebound Purdue more often, especially on the offensive side of the ball. Kansas averages more rebounds per game than the Boilermakers (38.9 to 37.9). Tempo and pacing, even on defense, will be a big factor to deciding this game.

TOP SEEDED WILDCATS UPSETED

8th seeded Wisconsin overcame foul troubled and knocked out the top ranked and defending national champion Villanova 65-62 to advance to the Sweet Sixteen for the 4th straight year.
 
Wisconsin dominated defensively, as they held Villanova to 41 percent shooting from the field. The top seeded Wildcats only made 5 three pointers, while shooting only 31% from long range.
 
Nigal Hayes led the way for the Badgers scoring 19 points, including a key layup with 11.4 seconds left in the game.  Bronson Koenig added 17 points, as he shook off foul trouble early on.
 
According to Head Coach Greg Gard, he told reporters that ranking does not matter. “Seeds don’t matter,” Wisconsin coach Greg Gard said. “I told these guys I don’t care where we’re seeded. We have to win six games. Let’s start with these two this weekend.”
 
For the WildCats, who came into the tournament as the top seeded team, this loss is shocking and disappointing.  The Wildcats were trying to become the first team to repeat as champions since 2007, but now they are the first top seed bounced in the tournament.

Geek Madness Insight; Who Wins it all?

We had 3 of our “Geeks” who answered 3 March Madness questions for our fans. None of these 3 geeks actually cover basketball for us, but most of us are all around sports fans, just like you. Let’s see what they know, and if there insights shine a light while we watch the games or they should just stick to the sports they cover.

Who Wins it all?

North Carolina. I just think their path is the easiest for a one seed, and I like their talent and their ability to beat anyone. I have them facing Duke for the title, and I think they just edge the Blue Devils this time.

Jake Ausman, is from the small town of Elk Mound, WI. He has a passion for sports and is currently studying to be a sports broadcaster. Please follow me at JacobAusman1 on Twitter so you can see more of my takes on fantasy, NFL, WWE, and more. Jake is currently covering WWE Raw for CleatGeeks and you can read his latest article here. Swag on.

My Final Four sees Duke, Arizona, North Carolina and Kansas making it, with Arizona facing North Carolina in the championship game. Arizona has flown a little under the radar from the “experts” on the East Coast who don’t see many of their games, but they can flat-out play. However, UNC has lived with the sting of a buzzer-beating loss in the 2016 championship game for a year, they have talent all over the floor and a coach that knows what to do this time of year.

The title comes back to Chapel Hill with North Carolina.

Father of 6, weaver of words, all-around sports fan and would-be professional golfer, if I could just chop about 10 strokes off my score every round. Trying to be a positive point in your day. Chris Potts is currently the lead Golf writer for CleatGeeks. You can read his latest golf story here.

This year the final four has to go through Arizona. Why? Because this year the final four actually takes place in Arizona at the downtown arena where the Phoenix Suns play which is TalkingStick Arena. They will make it to the final four from the west bracket, and when they do, the home court advantage will be to much for the other 3 teams to overcome. I have them beating Butler in the finals and cutting the nets not far from where they play all their home games. Plus Shawn Miller may be the most underrated coach in NCAA basketball.

Michael Ballentine is the Founder, Editor, and Creator of CleatGeeks.com you can follow his insights on a variety of sports topics and get all the latest articles and insights on our Twitter page @cleatgeeks.

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