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 towards Duke en path to Virginia Tech’s first ACC Championship, Murray State earn their first event bid since Ja Morant was the Racers level guard, and Iowa secured their first Huge Ten Event Championship since 2006.
With Choice Sunday and convention tournaments wrapping up this previous weekend, there’s loads to preview, and SLAM Newswire has received you lined.
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 event.
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 one of the vital dominant groups in school 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 event with a matchup towards No. 16 Georgia St (18-10) within the opening spherical.
Recent off of their twelfth Huge 12 event championship in program historical past, Kansas (28-6) enters the Midwest area as one of the vital battle-tested groups within the event. 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 capturing 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 event championship.
Possessing one of many strongest resumes within the nation, Kansas ranks as the highest seed within the Midwest area, dealing with off towards 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) via a famed season, securing the common season and Pac-12 event championship whereas gathering high quality wins towards 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 motive, as their balanced offensive and defensive schemes have been giving groups hassle 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 Workforce choice, James Akinjo (13.4 factors and 5.7 assists). Snagging wins towards Villanova, Iowa State, Texas, and Kansas contributed to this system’s 10 Quad 1 dubs. The Bears can be matching up towards No. 16 Norfolk St.
Finest Not Be Sleeping
You can’t be caught sleeping towards 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 motive. 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 capturing splits, the Volunteers will face off towards No. 14 Longwood this weekend.
Virginia Tech (23-12) is using excessive after upsetting No. 1 Duke within the ACC Championship sport, grabbing their first event 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 event. 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 event champions. Sophomore All-Huge Ten First Workforce 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 capturing from the ground. Competing within the convention that leads the nation with groups seeded within the event, 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 may have a battle on their arms once they face off towards 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 highway loss to Auburn in late December, the Racers have gone undefeated in convention play and are using 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 in the course of the Racers’ final event 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 event’s first spherical.
Video games You Can’t Miss
With the primary spherical of the event set to start out this Friday, listed here are the video games you’ll be able to’t miss.
No. 3 Texas Tech Vs. No. 14 Montana State
Texas Tech boasts a bevy of veteran gamers who dangle 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 event 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 start out the event 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 stage risk, having simply overwhelmed 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 dropping their respective convention event championships, each groups can be seeking to precise revenge and begin the event 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 event championship beneath 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 Photographs.