Just BS Headline Animator

Monday, May 8, 2017

2017 Ohio State Football Draft Picks and their New Teams

By Eric Seger 
New Orleans ran out one of the worst defenses in the NFL last year, especially against the pass. The Saints finished 27th in the league in total defense and dead last at defending the pass. Sean Payton and Co. must have been squealing when Lattimore, the highest-rated cornerback in this year's draft, fell to them at No. 11.
As such, you can all but pencil Lattimore into the starting lineup from Day One. New Orleans allowed 274 passing yards per game in 2016 and is still actively trying to trade with New England for Malcolm Butler, though such a move was deemed "unlikely" before the Draft opened on Thursday night.
New Orleans showed more interest in free agency outside of just Butler but in taking Lattimore are telling the world they expect him to be an impact player right away alongside Delvin Breaux P.J. Williams, Sterling Moore and others at corner.
Like New Orleans, the Colts struggled to stop people last season. Especially through the air, allowing 263 passing yards per game. The natural move for Indianapolis, in a similar way as the Saints, was to jump at the opportunity to scoop up a fantastic talent like Hooker when he fell to pick No. 15.
The Colts must address their cornerback position in the draft too but Hooker was too good of a player to pass up. He shoots to the top line of their depth chart alongside probably Clayton Geathers as the free safety of the future in Indianapolis. Provided he is healthy once camp opens and can stay that way, expect Hooker to roam in the back end of the franchise's defense a bunch this fall. The Colts picked off just eight passes in 2016. Hooker snagged seven by himself in three fewer games at Ohio State last season.
Conley's new threads. Via.
Same draft, different Ohio State defensive back. Oakland's defense ended last year 24th in the NFL against the pass, giving up 258 yards per game through the air. The Raiders also allowed a league-high 61 completions of at least 20 yards in 2016. With young offensive talent like quarterback Derek Carr, wide receivers Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree and a recent trade for some guy named Marshawn Lynch, the Raiders acted quickly to improve the other side of the ball when they took Conley 24th overall on Thursday night.
Conley is set to meet with Cleveland police on Monday to provide his official statement and DNA in an effort to exonerate himself from rape accusations stemming from an incident at a downtown hotel on April 9. The Raiders claim they did their homework on the freshly opened case and Conley even took a polygraph test to further prove his innocence. Provided nothing on the legal side prevents him being on the field, Conley has a chance to be Oakland's top cornerback or at the very least play in the slot like he did some at Ohio State last year.
Samuel became the first offensive player selected from Ohio State pretty early on Friday night. Carolina pounced on him with the 40th overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, pairing him with 2015 NFL MVP Cam Newton and another multi-purpose talent in Stanford's Christian McCaffrey. The Panthers chose McCaffrey with the eighth pick a night earlier.
It's because of that where Samuel's situation gets a little unique. While he undoubtedly was ecstatic to be the eighth pick in the second round of this year's draft — after many projections had him as a late second, early third round choice — his skill set is very similar to McCaffrey's. The question now becomes how the Panthers plan to utilize both of them effectively since each was a Swiss Army Knife for his respective college team — will their presence hinder the growth of the other? Coming off a 6-10 season where they only averaged 23.1 points per game, it's clear Carolina wants the Samuel-McCaffrey blend to become potent.
Heading into the Draft, McMillan's game screamed that of an AFC or NFC North linebacker. A dude who can tackle everything and plays the run well, it seemed to make sense that he would land with an organization that must deal with the elements when the calendar turns cold in November, December and January. However, he landed at the complete opposite end of the spectrum in Miami, who snatched him up with the 54th pick.
A strong college player, NFL brass and analysts struggled to see McMillan as a traditional three-down linebacker at the next level. He looks to hop right into Miami's 4-3 scheme alongside Lawrence Timmons and Kiko Alonso as someone general manager Chris Grier called an "alpha guy." Sounds like a pretty strong endorsement for someone who had to answer questions about his coverage ability and speed during the pre-draft process.
After playing both extremely well in college, the question about Elflein's NFL future depends on if he will play center or guard. A safe pick because of his penchant for hard work and dedication to his craft, Elflein is yet another Ohio State offensive linemen coached by Ed Warinner to not only make it to the NFL but land in the NFC North. Taylor Decker starts for the Detroit Lions at left tackle and Corey Linsley is Green Bay's starting center.
Minnesota's line was decimated by injuries a year ago, so picking Elflein made sense. Head coach Mike Zimmer said he views his third-round draft pick as a center too, so that is where the 2016 Slob King will start his career. He could be snapping and blocking for Teddy Bridgewater as early as the 2017 season opener, provided the star quarterback is healthy after major knee surgery.
The final Buckeye drafted, Brown waited, waited and waited some more before getting a phone call from Jerry Jones and Jason Garrett in Dallas as the 239th overall pick. Ezekiel Elliott vouched for his former teammate with his bosses, as evident by this video when Garrett told Brown that his running back told him "from Day 1" that taking Brown was a good idea.
Going so late in the Draft can be a good or bad thing depending on the roster a certain player joins. Sometimes it is better to sort of "pick your own team" if you go undrafted and have options after the fact. Dallas also drafted Ryan Switzer from North Carolina and has two sure starters in Dez Bryant and slot receiver Cole Beasley. Outside of that, there is room for Brown to make an impact in one of the league's best offenses. If he doesn't, the practice squad might be his best option of staying in the league.
Johnston and Philadelphia had a great relationship starting way back in early March at the NFL Combine. It ended up working out for the best, as he signed with the Eagles on Saturday not long after the Draft concluded.
Johnston is set to compete with incumbent starter Donnie Jones, who is 36 years old and in the second of a three-year contract with Philadelphia. The Eagles finished 11th last season in net punting at 42.6 yards per boot, so it's not like they struggled in the department. Johnston must show he can punt with the more traditional style the NFL likes instead of the rugby style he made famous in Columbus.
Wilson also signed as a free agent and is headed to California with a shot to make a team and realize his NFL dream. Wilson's injury history forced him to work tirelessly to even get a sniff in the pros but as the old adage goes, it only takes one team.
Keenan Allen and Travis Benjamin are already key targets for Philip Rivers on the outside, and Los Angeles drafted Clemson's Mike Williams and Montana's Jamaal Jones this weekend. There is a void for a pass-catching threat out of the backfield a la Danny Woodhead (who now plays for Baltimore after three seasons with the Chargers) so if Wilson shows he can do that, he'll have a shot at making the team.
Well, would you look at that — an Ohio team reached into the Ohio State pool of NFL talent. Corey Smith signed as a free agent with the Bengals on Sunday.
Smith might have to make his mark on special teams, which he did in Columbus at Ohio State. Cincinnati has one of the best wide receivers in the NFL in A.J. Green, drafted Tyler Boyd last year and Washington's John Ross this year in the first round. It looks like Andy Dalton has his three top receivers in line for the foreseeable future, so that hill to climb looks mighty for Smith. But he has a chance.

Friday, April 28, 2017

2017 NFL Draft 1st Round Grades - Ohio State Basketball Recruit Tells Why He Decomitted

1) Cleveland Browns: DE Myles Garrett, Texas A&M – The Browns made us sweat a bit, but they went as we thought all along in their selection of the best defensive game-changer in the draft. Players like Garrett don’t come along too often. He’s large and almost impossibly athletic, and he gives the Browns and their new defensive coordinator that crucial pressure piece it has lacked. The rebuild of the defense continues, but it took a big step forward here. Grade: A.
Bears fans didn't seem to happy with Chicago's trade to get Mitchell Trubisky. (AP)
Bears fans didn’t seem to happy with Chicago’s trade to get Mitchell Trubisky. (AP)
2) Chicago Bears: QB Mitchell Trubisky, North Carolina – Teams don’t trade up — and give up two third-round picks (one in 2018) and a fourth-rounder — for a safety. The price the Bears paid for Trubisky is enormous, but if they think he’s a savior in time, it will be worth it. Mike Glennon likely starts this year, and Trubisky (he of 13 college starts) can be brought along at the right pace. But that’s now two QBs in which the Bears are heavily invested that have not played a lot of live football the past few seasons. Grade: C-
3) San Francisco 49ers: DE Solomon Thomas, Stanford – General manager John Lynch is on the job, what, two months now? He nailed his first assignment, fleecing the Bears to swap picks and the 49ers still get the player they likely would have taken had they not been able to trade down. Thomas needs to find a true position, and many believe they’ll use him in the Michael Bennett role as the 49ers transition to a new Seahawks-style defensive scheme under Robert Saleh. Right now, Thomas is a great run defender and could be a great pass rusher one day. Nice, safe pick and a great trade. Grade: A
4) Jacksonville Jaguars: RB Leonard Fournette, LSU – Blake Bortles is officially on watch. The Jaguars considered a QB here but instead drafted the best power runner we’ve seen in some time. Fournette might not have an Ezekiel Elliott-like impact on the Jaguars, but he should help out Bortles, who now is running out of excuses and will need to impress the brass quickly. The AFC South quickly is becoming a power-running haven with Fournette and the Titans’ duo. Fournette should be a terrific back who can carry the ball 20 times a game and wear down defenses. Grade: A-
5) Tennessee Titans: WR Corey Davis, Western Michigan – Our second stunner. It was believed that Davis’ ankle injury was not serious but that his inability to run a 40-yard dash prior to the draft was going to be a concern that might push Davis down. Didn’t happen. The Titans love his competitiveness, his large catching radius, excellent production and red-zone work to be a huge asset for Marcus Mariota, plus Davis likes to block, which is a boon for the power-run game they run. Fascinating choice, but a bit early. Grade: B-
6) New York Jets: SS Jamal Adams, LSU – The Jets had a darned good player fall into their laps, faintly similar to how they took Leonard Williams in the same slot a few years back. That worked out well. Both players were regarded as extremely hard workers and tone setters. Adams will help change the culture that has infected the Jets’ locker room the past few years, and he’s a very good box safety to boot. The fans there will love his hitting and his passion. The Jets will rebuild the D around Williams and Adams, but that’s saying something considering this is now the ninth (!) year in a row their first-round pick has been on that side of the ball. Grade: A-
7) Los Angeles Chargers: WR Mike Williams, Clemson – The run on receivers starts earlier than expected. Williams should give Philip Rivers another big target as Keenan Allen is coming off injury and Antonio Gates heading toward the twilight of his career. Williams made Deshaun Watson look good by high-pointing a lot of passes last season but suffered a serious neck injury that wiped out his 2015 season. Although Williams is not a speed guy, good luck to the AFC West DBs who have to contend with this group that also features emerging tight end Hunter Henry. Grade: B-
8) Carolina Panthers: RB Christian McCaffrey, Stanford – Ron Rivera has spoken frequently this offseason about the need to transform the Panthers’ offense, and we now know how it will change. The Panthers add a do-it-all weapon with an edge in McCaffrey, who can line up in the slot, be a terrific zone runner (and let Jonathan Stewart take the between-the-tackles carries) and impact the return game from Day 1. There is no player on the Panthers who has McCaffrey’s skills; they were too overloaded in big targets and, save for Greg Olsen, most with suspect hands. Olsen, McCaffrey and Cam Newton? Imagine the possibilities. Grade: A-
9) Cincinnati Bengals: WR John Ross, Washington – Ross gets his wish to go to Cincinnati, saying he would love to join the Bengals after bonding with head coach Marvin Lewis during the pre-draft process. The Bengals now have a potentially lethal top four pass catchers with A.J. Green, Ross, Tyler Eifert and Tyler Boyd in the slot. This is a unit Ken Zampese can work with for sure. Ross’ medical reports freaked out some teams. Had he been cleared medically, this would not be a reach. Ross is a fantastic receiver in college. But two knee injuries and a shoulder concern, and the Bengals are rolling the dice — the same risk they took with Eifert, who has been in and out of the lineup but great when health. Grade: B
Patrick Mahomes was another surprise QB pick, landing with Kansas City. (AP)
Patrick Mahomes was another surprise QB pick, landing with Kansas City. (AP)
10) Kansas City Chiefs: QB Patrick Mahomes, Texas Tech – The Chiefs last picked a quarterback in Round 1 in 1983 — more than 12 years before Mahomes was born. This is a very un-Chiefs-like move in another respect: when was the last time they traded this far — and this boldly — up? Giving up a first-round pick in 2018, along with a third-rounder this year, to move up means the Chiefs believe Mahomes is a franchise savior. He could be special under the tutelage of Andy Reid, who hasn’t had a raw passer this gifted in a long time. So Alex Smith is the bridge QB, and Mahomes can take over when he’s ready. A breathless start to the draft, and yet another thrilling move here. Grade: B-
11) New Orleans Saints: CB Marshon Lattimore, Ohio State – The Saints explored a Malcolm Butler trade prior to the draft but ended up winning out here in this scenario, as Lattimore fell to them after roundly being projected as the best corner in the draft and a top-10 player. He has a history of soft-tissue injuries — hamstrings to be specific — that will require close management. But when healthy, he’s an excellent cover man with terrific movement skills to contend with the Mike Evanses and Julio Joneses on New Orleans’ schedule. Grade: A-
12) Houston Texans: QB Deshaun Watson, Clemson – When the Texans saw the Chiefs’ bold trade up to land Patrick Mahomes, time was a wastin’. The Texans boldly jumped up 13 spots, giving up next year’s first-round pick, for Watson, who could be a perfect fit for head coach Bill O’Brien and his demand for a tough, thick-skinned, experienced and cerebral quarterback. Tom Savage is still likely to win the starting job from the get-go, but Watson has played in a boatload of big games against some terrific college defenses and will be nipping at Savage’s heels. This is a strong and much-needed move for the Texans. Grade: B+
13) Arizona Cardinals: LB Haason Reddick, Temple – Reddick is versatile, and he gives the Cardinals another pass rusher in a division where he could rack up sacks with suspect offensive lines and some sack-prone QBs. The Cardinals might use him at inside linebacker to start off, and he can blitz from there too — the role Daryl Washington starred in before his suspension. Washington is back, so could the Cardinals find room for both on the field? Perhaps. But with Reddick, Chandler Jones and Markus Golden, the Cardinals are collecting defensive players who can stalk and close. Grade: B+
14) Philadelphia Eagles: DE Derek Barnett, Tennessee – The Joe Douglas effect has already hit the Eagles’ draft. The team’s first-year college scouting director cut his teeth with the Ravens and learned from them: historically, sack production translates from college (especially in the SEC) to the NFL. Barnett might not be an elite athlete, but he has a terrific motor and wills his way to quarterbacks. Opposite Brandon Graham, there should be no dropoff with Barnett essentially replacing Connor Barwin. Grade: B+
15) Indianapolis Colts: FS Malik Hooker, Ohio State – Another first-year general manager had a dream scenario unfold. Chris Ballard came from the Chiefs to rebuild this Colts roster, and he got a whopper of a first pick with his name attached. Hooker is a top-5 talent, and the only concerns were his hernia surgery and one year of starting in the country’s most talented secondary the past few seasons. In five years, Hooker could be the best center fielder in the game. He’s that special. Grade: A
16) Baltimore Ravens: CB Marlon Humphrey, Alabama – Everyone said the Ravens would take a pass rusher, an offensive lineman or a receiver. Despite all the offensive linemen still on the board, Baltimore instead went for a corner — one from a school GM Ozzie Newsome knows well. Typically Newsome builds teams from the inside out, but this is a tough corner with terrific physical skills. The knock on Humphrey is that he got beat too much deep. With Eric Weddle and Tony Jefferson back there, is that a concern now? Grade: B
17) Washington Redskins: DT Jonathan Allen, Alabama – Allen is the best true interior talent in the draft, and he fell for long-term concerns over his potentially arthritic shoulders. But even on a loaded Bama D, he stood out as a disruptor who has a little Geno Atkins in him. In a 3-4 scheme he’ll be asked to hold the point more, but you can’t hold Allen back. He’s smart, strong, instinctive and will be an asset to a defense that could use a little more juice up front. Grade: A
18) Tennessee Titans: CB Adoree’ Jackson, USC – The Titans reached for Corey Davis at No. 5 and they reached for Jackson here. They drafted two good players but Jackson is not close to a finished product, and he’s going to make a quicker impact as a returner and a player the Titans could sprinkle in on offense. His coverage skills have improved, but they need more work. He could be a playmaker who also gives up big plays on defense. Grade: C
19) Tampa Bay Buccaneers: TE O.J. Howard, Alabama – The Buccaneers were not planning to take a tight end here, but when Howard fell it became a natural fit. They used a ton of two-TE sets with Cameron Brate and Luke Stocker but Howard is an upgrade over the latter and can be a seam threat for Jameis Winston and also a strong blocker to help the run game. Howard tends to disappear, and now we find out if this was a Lane Kiffin thing. Dirk Koetter and Todd Monken love utilizing the position to its full extent. Grade: A-
20) Denver Broncos: OT Garett Bolles, Utah – The Broncos needed a left tackle, and Bolles played the position at a high level last year — his one year at FBS. He flashed his superb athleticism and mean streak, although Bolles needs work. He turns 25 in a month, too, so he’ll be close to 30 when his first NFL contract ends if it lasts the entire five years. Bolles is intriguing but taking him over the more seasoned Cam Robinson might not turn out to be the best move in the long run. Grade: C+
21) Detroit Lions: ILB Jarrad Davis, Florida – The Lions needed a pass rusher in the worst way but passed on Charles Harris, who was not viewed as a true fit in their scheme. Instead, they find another need: a three-down linebacker who can cover. Davis is an excellent football player when healthy, but he has had a lot of trouble staying on the field in recent years. Davis is a big upgrade and could play outside or inside. Grade: B
22) Miami Dolphins: DE Charles Harris, Missouri – With Cam Wake entering the final stages of his career and Mario Williams shipped off after a bust season, the Dolphins could use the reinforcements. With Wake, Andre Branch, William Hayes and Harris outside — not to mention Ndamukong Suh inside — the Dolphins have a very deep front and can try to get after the Tom Bradys of the world. Linebacker is still an issue, but this was a smart pick. Grade: B
23) New York Giants: TE Evan Engram, Mississippi – Engram over David Njoku is interesting, but there’s not a huge difference athletically between the two. The difference is that Engram really plays a receiver’s game, and he adds an interesting dimension to an offense that has Odell Beckham Jr. and Brandon Marshall in the lead roles, plus Sterling Shepard in the slot. Now this offense looks more like the one Giants head coach Ben McAdoo left in Green Bay in terms of weaponry. The TE position was mostly a wasteland for the Giants last season, but don’t expect him to be blocking defensive ends. He’s a detached pass catcher who can gain yards after the catch well. Grade: B-
24) Oakland Raiders: CB Gareon Conley, Ohio State – Raiders owner Mark Davis has taken a firm stance against domestic violence, and yet Conley recently was accused of a sexual assault, although no charges have been filed. Do the Raiders feel comfortable with this blowing over? Clearly. Conley is a first-round talent, and lots of teams have looked hard into this case. Most felt good about Conley after they did. This is still a potentially frightening risk if charges are brought in the case. Grade: B-
25) Cleveland Browns: SS Jabrill Peppers, Michigan – The Browns moved down from No. 12 to here and now have — are you ready for this? — two first-rounders, three second-rounders, two fourth-rounders and two sixth-rounders in 2018, plus all their remaining picks this year. And now they have Garrett and Peppers, elite prep prospects who were decorated defenders last season. Is Peppers a safety? We’ll find out; he was a slot corner and a linebacker in college and likely can’t play the latter in the NFL. But he’s a Day 1 star as a returner and a fascinating risk. Gotta do something with all these draft choices, right? Still no QB, though. Sad! Grade: B-
26) Atlanta Falcons: OLB Takkarist McKinley, UCLA – The Falcons targeted one of the few remaining pass rushers with high grades on their boards, trading up five slots to ensure they got McKinley. Health is a concern, as he’s coming off surgery to repair his labrum and a cracked glenoid. That could be a 4 to 6 month rehab, but the Falcons can afford for him to wait. He’s a high-energy rusher who can play on either side of the line and is a nice fit in Dan Quinn’s system in time. Grade: C+
27) Buffalo Bills: CB Tre’Davious White, LSU – The Bills needed cornerback help with Stephon Gilmore moving on, but White is a different style of player and likely will help out inside a lot, with the ability to play in the slot. He’s a very reliable corner coming off an excellent season and also should contribute as a punt returner. The White pick is a surprise with Kevin King on the board, but White has good arm length to make up for his lack of height. The is the pick the Bills acquired when they traded down from No. 10, so landing a 2018 first-round also gives them a thumbs up. Grade: B

Following decommitment, four-star recruit makes eye-opening remarks about Ohio State

Scott Phillips,NBC Sports 16 hours ago ReactionsReblog on Tumblr

Thursday, March 23, 2017

2017 NCAA Sweet 16 TV Times and Schedules

Friday, March 24
South Carolina (24-10) vs. Baylor (27-7), 7:29 p.m., TBS
Wisconsin (27-9) vs. Florida (26-8), 9:59 p.m., TBS
Friday, March 24
Butler (25-8) vs. North Carolina (29-7), 7:09 p.m., CBS
Kentucky (31-5) vs. UCLA (31-4), 9:39 p.m., CBS
Thursday, March 23
Michigan (26-11) vs. Oregon (31-5), 7:09 p.m., CBS
Purdue (27-7) vs. Kansas (30-4), 9:39 p.m., CBS
Thursday, March 23
Gonzaga (34-1) vs. West Virginia (28-8), 7:39 p.m., TBS
Xavier (23-13) vs. Arizona (32-4), 10:09 p.m., TBS

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

2017 Sweet 16 Teams, Matchups, Power Rankings

Sweet 16 power rankings: Who are the new favorites to win the national championship?

 Henry Bushnell

Watch out for WVU!!!  If Huggy Bear can keep the pressure on and his men fresh, then I like their chances to make the final four!!!  Just my opinion.

1. Kansas | Midwest | Thursday vs. No. 4 Purdue
The Jayhawks are the best team in college basketball at the moment, and there can’t be too much argument after they dispatched a very solid Michigan State squad on Sunday. They may very well have two of the top five players remaining in the tournament in Frank Mason and Josh Jackson. They have one of the best coaches in the game — never mind his shoddy NCAA tournament record. They’ll have thousands of fans at their back at the Sprint Center in Kansas City for the Sweet 16 and possibly the Elite Eight. Kansas has flaws, but its strengths shroud any weaknesses.
Frank Mason and Kansas have the shortest Vegas odds to win the national championship. (Getty)
2. Gonzaga | West | Thursday vs. No. 4 West Virginia
The Zags had an eventful first two rounds. The most interesting aspect might have been the contrasting defensive strategies of their two opponents. South Dakota State packed the paint and more or less conceded jump shots to Gonzaga. The plot worked, to the extent that anything was going to work for the Jackrabbits: Gonzaga shot 30 3-pointers, compared to 33 2-pointers, and made only eight (26.7 percent) of the 3s. Northwestern, on the other hand, played straight up; the Zags attempted only 16 3s, shot twice as many free throws as they did in the first round, and jumped out to a 22-point lead before fading and hanging on. Future opponents may take note, though West Virginia isn’t going to alter its style for anybody.
The most impressive aspect of Gonzaga’s two victories was its defense. It made South Dakota State look like a Division II team on that end of the floor. It made Northwestern look like a low-mid-major for a half before the Wildcats found their shooting strokes and got out in transition a bit. Still, they were held under a point per possession. Gonzaga now ranks No. 1 in the nation in adjusted defensive efficiency, and although there will be more troubling matchups down the line, starting with the Mountaineers, its the Zags’ defense that makes them capable of winning a national championship.
3. North Carolina | South | Friday vs. No. 4 Butler
The Tar Heels desperately need Joel Berry back at (or close to) 100 percent. The senior guard wasn’t right in North Carolina’s tight second-round victory over Arkansas. Hampered by an ankle injury suffered in the first round, he went 2-of-13 from the field against the Razorbacks, and the Tar Heels trudged to 0.97 points per possession.
Other things, such as better shooting from Justin Jackson, would help too, of course. But Berry’s struggles, or Jackson’s shoddy shooting, hint at the broader point: North Carolina, if it doesn’t get anything exceptional in the way of perimeter offense, is a dominant offensive rebounding team that is otherwise fairly ordinary. That was the case Sunday. The Tar Heels salvaged a win by chasing down 18 of their 42 missed shots. They attempted three more field goals and 17 more free throws than Arkansas. That’s why they won. But to win four more in a row, they’re going to have to be extraordinary in more than one facet of the game.
4. Arizona | West | Thursday vs. No. 11 Xavier
Arizona won a 74-possession first-round game and a 62-possession second-round game, an example of its adaptability and ability to cope with different styles. North Dakota ranked 34th nationally in adjusted tempo; St. Mary’s ranked 350th out of 351; Arizona beat each in its own way. It also got the easiest available Sweet 16 matchup against a Xavier team that is in above its head.
5. UCLA | South | Friday vs. No. 2 Kentucky
The Bruins’ first two tournament games painted a pretty clear picture of what they’ve been all season. They were pushed by both Kent State and Cincinnati because of their lax defense — Kent State scored 1.14 points per trip even after falling away late — but sprinted to two impressive victories by imposing their will on the offensive end.
UCLA’s second half against Cincinnati was particularly noteworthy. The Bearcats successfully slowed down the game, and had limited UCLA’s offense in the first half, but after the break, the Bruins got going. They didn’t even need to up the tempo. They scored 49 points on just 30 shots. They shot 50 percent from 3 and 81 percent from 2. They tormented one of the best defenses in the country in halfcourt sets and pulled away to a comfortable 12-point win.
6. Kentucky | South | Friday vs. No. 3 UCLA
Kentucky got next to nothing in transition against Wichita State. Two points. That’s it. Yet the Wildcats did just enough in halfcourt sets and on the defensive end to fend off the Shockers and advance. Fast break points have been a telling number for Kentucky throughout the season, but John Calipari has enough talent on his roster to win slow games too.
Also of note: You know who got more time than any other Kentucky player on Sunday? It wasn’t Malik Monk. It wasn’t De’Aaron Fox. It wasn’t Bam Adebayo. No, it was senior forward Derek Willis, who logged all of his 33 minutes as a stretch-four. Calipari benched the offensively challenged Wenyen Gabriel at the end of February, and inserted Willis into the starting lineup to get another shooter on the floor. Gabriel played seven minutes Sunday, fewer than he had in any previous game. Willis’ 33 were the most he’s played in a non-overtime game this year. In halfcourt slogs, Willis’ shooting is far more valuable than Gabriel’s athleticism, and the senior showed why with two 3-pointers and nine points against Wichita State.
7. West Virginia | West | Thursday vs. No. 1 Gonzaga
The Mountaineers are exactly the type of team that could give Gonzaga trouble. One through five, they’re as quick and agile as any club in college basketball. They won’t just challenge the Zags on the perimeter, they’ll challenge them 30 feet away from the hoop, 47 feet away from the hoop and 90 feet away from the hoop. If Bob Huggins has his way, and especially if he decides to try Nathan Adrian at the five, he could force Mark Few to take Przemek Karnowski out of game. West Virginia poses a unique challenge to everybody it faces, and has the tools to get to the Final Four.
8. Michigan | Midwest | Thursday vs. No. 3 Oregon
Contrary to popular Rick Pitino’s belief, the Wolverines are, in fact, not the Golden State Warriors. But they are scoring 1.23 points per possession over their last seven games, significantly more than the Warriors have ever averaged over a full season. Furthermore, the seven-game stretch has included games against two top-10 defenses and four top-25 defenses. So yeah, Michigan has been pretty good. The Warriors comparison is obviously silly, but the point is that Michigan’s offense has been tearing up college basketball in March. It features five 3-point threats at any given moment, but doesn’t sacrifice size. It’s good enough to carry Michigan to the Final Four.
9. Florida | East | Friday vs. No. 8 Wisconsin
The Gators might have had the best opening weekend of anybody, all things considered. They fended off a talented East Tennessee State team, then absolutely overwhelmed Virginia. The final score, 65-39, was not deceiving at all. The Gators are up to No. 3 in Ken Pomeroy‘s rankings, and are fully acclimatized to life without injured center John Egbunu. They’re the favorite in the East region.
10. Oregon | Midwest | Thursday vs. No. 7 Michigan
Don’t be put off by the scare from Rhode Island. Oregon is coping with the loss of Chris Boucher just fine. It came back to beat a really hot Rams team with an excellent second half, and Tyler Dorsey’s explosion is a great sign. The Ducks also have the defensive personnel to deal with Michigan’s bevy of weapons on Thursday.
11. Purdue | Midwest | Thursday vs. No. 1 Kansas
P.J. Thompson’s late 3 saved Purdue from an offseason full of complaints about how the Boilermakers can’t close out games in the tournament. Instead, the Boilermakers are on to Kansas City, where, even in what more or less amounts to a true goad game, they’re only five-point underdogs to the national title favorite. Caleb Swanigan will be a handful for Kansas.
12. Wisconsin | East | Friday vs. No. 4 Florida
Wisconsin’s late-season slide coincided with a calf injury that dogged Bronson Koenig for much of the latter half of conference play. With Koenig back at or near 100 percent, Wisconsin’s offense is clicking once more. The Badgers always grind out quality possessions, and Ethan Happ is always potent in the paint, but it’s Koenig’s shot-making that has been the difference. He had 28 points in a first-round victory over Virginia Tech, and had 17 points on 11 shots in the upset of Villanova despite sitting out a sizable portion of the second half with four fouls.
13. Baylor | East | Friday vs. No. 7 South Carolina
The Bears could potentially reach the Final Four without playing a team seeded higher than seventh. The misfortune of the No. 1, 2 and 6 seeds in the East has been Baylor’s good fortune. Scott Drew’s team still isn’t anything special, though. Its miniature offensive outburst in its first two NCAA tournament games came against two poor defensive squads. The Bears have to show a bit more to be considered title contenders.
14. Butler | South | Friday vs. No. 1 North Carolina
Butler has been quietly impressive. Not too many casual fans honed in on the Bulldogs’ games against Winthrop or Middle Tennessee, but the Blue Raiders are a good team, and Butler disposed of them without too much of a disturbance. The Bulldog guards locked up Middle Tennessee’s Giddy Potts and shut him out over 35 minutes, a remarkable feat given Potts’ scoring record.
15. South Carolina | East | Friday vs. No. 3 Baylor
After his team shot 71.4 percent in the second half of an upset of Duke, Frank Martin tried to refute the idea that his Gamecocks are a poor offensive unit. All power to him, but he’s wrong. They’ve had a couple breakout games this season, but have had just as many duds. South Carolina can beat Baylor, but chances are it won’t do so playing how it played against Duke; Friday’s game is more likely to resemble a wrestling match than a high-level offensive shootout.
16. Xavier | West | Thursday vs. No. 2 Arizona
Xavier entered the tournament as one of the worst at-large teams in the field. It beat one drastically over-seeded team and one calamitously erratic team. Fair play to the Musketeers for exceeding expectations — it’s not like they haven’t played well; they have — but they’re the weakest team remaining.