NCAA Tournament in Review

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NCAA Tournament in Review

Zach Quinn, Staff Writer

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This year’s tournament was a great one and concluded with Virginia redeeming themselves from last year’s upset loss to 16 seed UMBC, winning it all this year. This is the ultimate redemption story and tournament was full of surprises.

These are follow ups from predictions made before the tournament, which you can find here: http://portagenorthernlight.com/7363/showcase/march-madness-predictions/

Points per game (PPG), Assists per game (APG), and Rebounds per game (RPG) are all taken from the tournament alone.

 

East Regional:

Players to Watch: Zion Williamson, Duke Forward / Cassius Winston, Michigan State Guard

Zion Williamson – PPG: 26.0 RPG: 8.5 APG: 1.75

Zion came into the tournament with all eyes on him and his Duke team as they were the number 1 overall team and seed in the tournament. Duke had some close calls in the Round of 32 and Sweet 16, but came out on top. Those 2 games against UCF and Virginia Tech were decided by a total of 3 points. His stats were impressive, but ultimately got saved by his teammates when they needed him the most. In the Round of 32, Zion missed a key free throw to tie the game, but teammate R.J. Barrett got the rebound and laid it in. Duke lead by 1 with 11 seconds left and eventually went on to win the game. Zion is expected to be a one and done and go number 1 in the upcoming NBA Draft.  

Cassius Winston – PPG: 18.4 RPG: 2.0 APG: 6.6

Cassius balled out during his 5 games in the tournament. Being the leader of the team in PPG and APG, he single handedly took MSU to the FInal Four. His best performance came against Duke, when they needed him to have his best game of his career. Scoring 20 points and adding 10 assists while coming up with 4 steals is exactly what they needed him to do. He didn’t try to do too much and it showed. Elevating his teammates performance is what he’s best at and made it happen against Duke. While Cassius couldn’t lead them to a National Title, he is expected to return for his senior year making Michigan State a favorite to win it all next year.

Upsets: Yale over LSU / Belmont over Maryland

Yale lost by 5 and Belmont lost by 2. Both were close games up until the final buzzer, but neither team could pull of the upset.

Cinderella Story: Belmont to Sweet 16

With Belmont losing in the first round to Maryland, they had no chance to go to the Sweet 16. Belmont came up just short to Maryland losing 79-77. They had the tangables to do beat Maryland but just couldn’t get it done.

Best Shot at Winning the East: Duke (but if they don’t) Michigan State

Duke and Michigan State met in the East Regional Championship to clinch a spot in the Final Four. My picks for the Elite 8 in this region were correct and I even took Michigan State to win. They pulled off the upset over Duke in a 40 minute back and forth game to send them to the Final Four.

 

West Regional:

Players to Watch: JA Morant, Murray State Guard / Markus Howard, Marquette Guard

Ja Morant – PPG: 22.5 RPG: 8.0 APG: 10.0

Mr. Triple Double showed up in the first game against Marquette. What might’ve motivated him a little extra in this game was all of the Marquette fans at the game were chanting overrated to Morant. He finished with the line 17 points 11 rebounds and 16 assists. Morant was all over the court and couldn’t be stopped. I bet the Marquette fans wish they didn’t say anything at all after their team lost and Morant went off. He had the tournaments first triple double since Draymond Green did it in 2012. The second game however, his team got blown out by Florida State 90-62 and dropped a game high 28 points but couldn’t get everyone involved like he did in the first game. Morant has decided to leave Murray State and enter into the NBA Draft where he projects as a top 3 pick.

Markus Howard – PPG: 26.0 RPG: 2.0 APG: 2.0

While only playing 1 game in the tournament, Howard played just like many expected him to. He scored 26 points but other than that you wouldn’t of known he was on the court. Markus didn’t do anything else other than score and ultimately hurt the team throughout the game because he took 27 of the teams 74 shots and only made a third of his shots. With him taking so many shots, Murray State played defense by just shutting him down and let other teammates of Howard beat them.

Upsets: Murray State over Marquette / Florida over Nevada

Both of my upset picks were correct with Murray State blowing out Marquette 83-64 and Florida beating Nevada 70-61. Ja Morant was just too much to handle for Marquette and Markus Howard just couldn’t do much offensively. Other than scoring 26, Howard couldn’t help his team in any other way. Florida played a great game and held the Martin brothers to 42 of the teams 61 points. In this game you could just tell that Florida was the better team and ultimately came out on top.

Cinderella Story: Buffalo to Sweet 16 / Florida State to Elite 8

Well… This went bad quickly. Buffalo lost to the team that went to the National Championship being Texas Tech and Florida State lost to 1 seed Gonzaga in the Sweet 16. Even though I was one off for each team, both of the games they lost weren’t close games.

Best Shot at Winning the West: Michigan (with a little bias) or Florida State

Both of these teams lost in the Sweet 16 and disappointed me and my bracket. Michigan hurt since I took them to win it all, but they lost to the team who went to the national championship Texas Tech. Florida State lost to Gonzaga who eventually lost in the next round. Michigan didn’t play well at all in their game they lost and neither did Florida State. With Texas Tech winning the West, they reached their first Final Four in program history.

 

South Regional:

Players to Watch: Kyle Guy, Virginia Guard / Duo of Tennessee’s Admiral Schofield, Guard and Grant Williams, Forward

Kyle Guy – PPG: 14.3 RPG: 5.1 APG: 1.5

Guy led his team to strong performances in tight games when they needed him most. The Elite 8 against Purdue was by far his best game of the tournament. He played a physical game and didn’t commit not one foul. In overtime Guy scored 2 points but they were the most crucial points of overtime. Making those two free three throws showed he had ice in his veins and was only a preview of what to come.

Schofield and Williams – PPG: 36.0 RPG: 13.0 APG: 5.0

The duo really showed out in both overtime games they had and leaned on them heavily during that time. In the first overtime victory against Iowa, Grant Williams had 6 of the teams 12 points. Schofield was nowhere to be seen when they team needed him but luckily Williams bailed them out. Against Purdue, the duo combined for 5 of the teams 12 points in overtime and couldn’t make keys shots when they needed them the most. Both are expected to go pro and be first round picks in the upcoming NBA Draft.

Upsets: Oregon over Wisconsin / UC Irvine over Kansas State

Oregon blew out Wisconsin 72-54 and UC Irvine pulled away in the last minute of the game winning 70-64. With the dominant win over Wisconsin, Oregon looked like a team who’s been good all year. Since losing 7’2’’ center Bol Bol, Oregon became a different team and figured out how to win without him. UC Irvine had a good game against Kansas State but couldn’t carry over the same performance against Oregon getting blown out 73-54.

Cinderella Story: Oregon and Villanova to Sweet 16

Oregon came through while Villanova disappoints. Oregon was a team that came out hot in its first 2 games but as expected lost to a great Virginia team. Virginia was just too much for the Ducks, but they should view this year as a success considering all of the adversity they had. The defending National Champions had a year to forget. All throughout the year they didn’t look like a team that could make a run, but knowing their history they always have a shot. Villanova was boiled over by Purdue, getting blown out by 26 points.

Best Shot at Winning the South: Virginia or Tennessee

In my bracket I took Virginia to win the region and they indeed did. Virginia had a close call to Purdue as luck helped them out in the last seconds of regulation. They made a game tying shot to send the game to overtime and pulled through to secure a win and a spot in the Final Four. Tennessee lost to the same Purdue team in overtime where Purdue should’ve pulled away in regulation. Somehow Tennessee came back and sent it to overtime increasing thei  chances to win but just ran out of gas. With Virginia winning the South Region, just like Texas Tech they reached their first Final Four in program history.

 

Midwest Regional:

Players to Watch: Coby White, North Carolina Guard / Fletcher Magee, Wofford Guard

Coby White – PPG: 14.0 RPG: 5.0 APG: 3.3

In all 3 of the games that White’s Tar Heels played in, he was a key factor in each of those 3 games. The game he had against Auburn, White had a horrific shooting performance going 4-15 on total shots and 0-7 on 3’s. With a performance like that, this only hurts your team in the long run and should look to get others involved. He clearly didn’t have it going and kept trying to shoot himself out of it. This is one of the key factors that led them to losing to Auburn by 17 points and getting eliminated from the tournament.

Fletcher Magee – PPG: 16.0 RPG: 1.0 APG: 0.5

Fletcher Magee is now the nations leader in 3 pointers made in a collegiate career. Going into the Seton Hall game, he needed 2 3’s to tie the record, and 3 to break it. He finished with 7 made 3’s and has the record by 5 3 pointers. The second game however against Kentucky, he didn’t hit a single 3 and went 0-12 from behind the arc. He finished with 8 points and was 4-5 on shots inside the arc. If he would’ve played smarter, realizing he didn’t have it that day, he possibly could have led his team to a victory.

Upsets: New Mexico State over Auburn / Northeastern over Kansas

Not much to say here. New Mexico State lost to Auburn who went on to win the Midwest and Northeastern got destroyed by Kansas. New Mexico State lost by 1 point to the Midwest Region winners and making just 1 of the 3 free throws in the last 15 seconds of the game, this could’ve turned out a completely different way. I don’t have anything to say about the Northeastern Kansas game. In 1 word about the game I would say “disappointment”.

Cinderella Story: New Mexico State to Sweet 16

Oh what could’ve been. They were so close to beating Auburn that it was possible for them to be a Cinderella story. New Mexico State should feel good about how they played and in the upcoming year they should be another sleeper team to look out for.

Best Shot at Winning the Midwest: North Carolina or Winner of Potential Houston and Kentucky Game

Auburn beat both North Carolina and Kentucky to reach the Final Four. They beat North Carolina by a whopping 17 points but had to squeak out a victory in overtime against the winningest program in basketball: Kentucky. The Auburn Kentucky game was a great Elite 8 game and one of the better games of the tournament. While Auburn squeaked out the win, Kentucky played a better game but sometimes the better team doesn’t win.

 

Final Four:

Michigan vs Michigan State, Part 4

The rematch never happened. MSU made it here while Michigan lost by more than 20 to Texas Tech who eventually played and beat MSU. The Texas Tech and MSU game was a back and forth contest. That’s the best type of game for a Final Four game as you want them to be competitive and not blow outs. 3 pointers were the big talk of the game as a total of 47 3 point shots were attempted. Even though 15 of those 47 were made, it just felt like every possession someone was chucking up a 3. With Texas Tech’s win, they reached their first National Championship game.

Virginia vs North Carolina, Part 2

Virginia had one of the better runs in the tournament in getting to this point. In their first game against 16 seeded Gardner Webb, Virginia fans were nervous that they might get upset again like last year to another 16 seed after finding themselves down 6 at half. But after their brutal first half, Virginia took whatever talk or motivator from halftime and rode it to the Final Four. North Carolina just couldn’t get it done in the Sweet 16 and lost to a super hot Auburn team by 17 points. They played well but Auburn just couldn’t be stopped. So we got a game of Virginia and Auburn and it was one of the most controversial Final Four games in history. 8 seconds left in the game, a missed double dribble call that would’ve sealed the game from Auburn wasn’t called and gave Virginia time to call timeout and set up a play to potentially tie or win the game. With 1 second left in the game, Kyle Guy took a 3 from the corner trying to win the game but missed. But what happened right after the shot is what everyone was talking about. A foul was called on Guard, Samir Doughty which sent Guy to the line for 3 free throws to either lose, tie, or win the game. He made the first, then the second, then the third, to take the lead by 1 with a second left to play. Kyle Guy had the ice in his veins making all 3 of the free throws and sending them to their first National Championship in school history.

 

National Championship:

Michigan vs Virginia

Oh how so close I was. Taking Virginia to get to the National Championship was the correct pick, but not having them win makes me a little upset. Even though Michigan didn’t make it to the final, regardless; this was still a great game to watch as both Texas Tech and Virginia showed no sign of slowing down at any point in the game. At the end of the first half, Virginia hit a buzzer beating 3 point shot to send them into halftime with a 3 point lead 32-29. Virginia came out of the half on fire and kept a steady lead almost throughout the whole 2nd half. With 6 minutes left in the game Virginia was up by 8 points and looked like they were going to coast to the end of the game. Texas Tech couldn’t get the 2 shots to get back into the game but instantly with 3:30 left in the game it was all tied up at 59. With 35 seconds left in the game Texas Tech took their first lead in the game since the first half leading 66-65. After 2 free throws, Texas Tech was up by 3 with 22 seconds and Virginia needed a 3 to send it to overtime. With 12 seconds left in the game De’Andre Hunter got a wide open look in the corner and hit the 3 to send the game to overtime all tied up at 68. At the 3 minute mark in overtime, Virginia was down 73-70 and then proceed to go on an 11-0 run. Texas Tech was shocked and couldn’t hit a key shot to get them back into the game. Virginia closed out the game and won the National Championship 85-77.

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