NCAA Tournament Sweet Sixteen: Friday, March 27th

-We had four games last night, and three of them were great.  The one that wasn’t was the one that I thought West Virginia would win, and that did not happen in a very big way.

-#8 NC STATE VS #4 LOUISVILLE.  I hadn’t really been impressed with Louisville this year, but I was in their win against Northern Iowa.  I thought it was one of the best teams they’ve beaten, and one of the best games they’ve played, all year.  These two are both in the ACC, so they’ve played each other already with NC State winning at Louisville.  The Wolfpack are also coming off an impressive defensive performance and win against a very good Villanova team, so they are certainly up to the challenge.

-#7 MICHIGAN STATE VS #3 OKLHAOMA.  Michigan State has looked as good as anyone in the country these past few weeks, and it wouldn’t surprise me at all if they got all the way to the Final Four.  Oklahoma had to sweat out Dayton, but still came away with the win.  Michigan State took down a Virginia team that appeared to be as good as any of the #1 seeds.  That followed a strong showing in the Big Ten Tournament where they nearly took down Wisconsin.

-#5 UTAH VS #1 DUKE.  Duke is as good as anyone in the country.  Utah is good, but they’re not as good as anyone in the country and they’re probably not as good as Duke.  I wouldn’t be surprised if the Blue Devils won in a fashion to where people are changing the station before the game is over.

-#11 UCLA VS #2 GONZAGA.  The last time these two met in the Sweet Sixteen, it was epic.  This time, it may be an epic blowout for the Zags, although I’m not counting out the possibility that UCLA will win for the simple purpose of annoying me.  As I said yesterday, I do not feel they belonged in the field, and even if they win it all it won’t change my opinion.  All that aside, though, I think they’re in way over their heads today.

CIT Game of the Day – Friday, March 27, 2015: Kent State at Northern Arizona

Kent State at Northern Arizona, 10:00 PM Eastern, Local TV/Fox College Sports-Atlantic/ watchcollegeinsider.com

And then there were six.  After Evansville’s win last night, two of the four spots in the CIT Final Four have been set.  The third will be decided tonight in Flagstaff, Arizona as the Northern Arizona Lumberjacks host the Kent State Golden Flashes.

NAU enters tonight’s game at 21-14 on the season, including wins at Grand Canyon and at Sacramento State in their first two CIT games.  Quinton Upshur has scored 19 and 22 points in his first two CIT games and will be looking to lead his team again tonight.  If he gets enough help from the rest of his teammates, including Kris Yanku, Aaseem Dixon and Jordyn Martin (who had a season best 27 points in the win over Sacramento State), the Lumberjacks have a great chance to advance to the semifinal round.

Standing in NAU’s way is the MAC’s Kent State Golden Flashes.  Kent State enters tonight’s game at 23-11.  The Golden Flashes have already won twice on the road in the tournament, at Middle Tennessee and at Texas A&M-Corpus Cristi.  The Golden Flashes are led by Jimmy Hall who scored 20 and 23 points in his first two CIT games, and added 13 rebounds for the double-double against Corpus Christi.  Hall will need help from the likes of Kris Brewer and Devareaux Manley tonight if Kent State wants to continue its season at least one more game.  If Hall and his teammates can step up, picking up a third straight road win in the CIT is definitely a possibility.

NCAA Tournament Sweet Sixteen: Thursday, March 26th

-#5 WEST VIRGINIA VS #1 KENTUCKY.  Okay, I’m not going to go so far to say that it would surprise me if Kentucky won, but if I had to pick up a straight up winner, I think I’d go with West Virginia.  The reason??  They look a lot like the kinds of teams Kentucky has struggled against.  They’re not an Arkansas type team that Kentucky would put away, but rather a tough defensive half court team that can actually shoot the ball.  They’re better than Ole Miss, Georgia, Florida, Texas A&M and the like that Kentucky has struggled against.  Kentucky may win.  They may win by a lot.  But, this is one of their toughest match ups of the season.

-#7 WICHITA STATE VS #3 NOTRE DAME.  Both teams got here by beating teams they rarely play, but that they should always play.  Notre Dame won an overtime thriller against a very good Butler team to get to a stage of the tournament they’re not used to getting to under Mike Brey.  Wichita State absolutely blew Kansas’s doors off in the second half in what had to be one of the most feel good wins in their program’s history.  I’m excited for this match up and think it’s a toss up.  Notre Dame won the ACC Tournament and has beaten some great teams this year, whereas Wichita State is probably a little undervalued.

-#4 NORTH CAROLINA VS #1 WISCONSIN.  I love how Wisconsin has been playing lately.  UNC has looked really good as well, and is coming off a big win against a pretty good Arkansas team, but as good as they are I just think Wisky is too tough.  They knocked off Arizona in the Elite Eight last year in one of the tournament’s most exciting games, and we could be headed for a rematch this year.

-#6 XAVIER VS #2 ARIZONA.  One of the storylines here is that Sean Miller used to be Xavier’s head coach and Chris Mack was his assistant.  Xavier has looked really good at times this year, and has played well since the start of the Big East Tournament, but Arizona has looked absolutely sensational.  Like I said, an Arizona v Wisky rematch would be exciting

 

OTHER BASKETBALL TIDBITS

-NJIT, our adopted team, and the Team of the People, has advanced to the CIT Quarterfinals with an exciting win over Cleveland State and will be playing at home, again, this Saturday night.

-The Big East, in its current format, has yet to win an NCAA Tournament game against a team seeded better than #10th.

-#1 seeds outside the Power Five are 0-3 in the Round of 32 the last three years.

-The NIT semifinals are set.  Old Dominion will face Stanford and Miami FL will face Temple.

-UCLA is in the Sweet Sixteen despite everyone saying they did not belong.  This does not change the fact that everyone was right.  They could win it all and it still does not justify their inclusion any more than a third place team in baseball being allowed to play in and win the World Series would justify their inclusion.  If anything, it makes it even more unfair because they’ve taken advantage of an opportunity they didn’t deserve in the first place.

CIT Game of the Day – Thursday, March 26, 2015: Evansville at Louisiana-Lafayette

Evansville at Louisiana-Lafayette, 8:30 PM Eastern, watchcollegeinsider.com

Three spots remain to be claimed in the CIT Final Four after UT-Martin knocked off Eastern Kentucky thanks to a three pointer with 3.3 seconds left last night.  The second of those spots goes to tonight’s winner of the contest between the Evansvile Purple Aces (21-12 on the season) and the Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns (22-13).  Evansville reached the quarterfinals thank to wins over Fort Wayne and Eastern Illinois, while Louisiana won at Incarnate Word and at Sam Houston State.  Tonight, the Ragin’ Cajuns get a home game against Evansville with a berth in the semifinals at stake.

Evansville was one of our picks to be a surprise contender in the Missouri Valley Conference heading into the season.  After going 14-19 last season, head coach Marty Simmons has done a great job reloading the program as they look for their 22nd win tonight.  The Purple Aces have look great so far in the CIT, blowing out their first two opponents.  However, tonight’s road test will be their toughest of the tournament so far.

The Ragin’ Cajuns have not been as dominant, having barely sneaked past Sam Houston State by one point last time out.  However, the Sun Belt Conference has certainly proven itself in the postseason so far this year.  Not only is Louisiana in the quarterfinals of the CIT, but the conference champions, Georgia State, made headlines with their win over Baylor in the round of 64 in the NCAA tournament followed by a hard-fought loss to Xavier.  Louisiana-Monroe has also had a great postseason so far, as the Warhawks are in the best-of-three CBI championship series against Loyola-Chicago, starting Monday night.  The Ragin’ Cajuns will look to ride their home court advantage this evening to the next round of the CIT.  With Eastern Kentucky now gone from the field, tonight’s winner will likely be the team to beat as the tournament advances.

CIT Game of the Day – Wednesday, March 25, 2015: Tennessee-Martin at Eastern Kentucky

Tennessee-Martin at Eastern Kentucky, 7:00 PM Eastern, watchcollegeinsider.com

The quarterfinal round of the CIT gets under way today as the Eastern Kentucky Colonels host the Tennessee-Martin Skyhawks in a matchup of Ohio Valley Conference rivals.  Though both teams play in the OVC, they only faced each other once during the season, with EKU prevailing in Martin, TN by a 66-58 score back on January 8.  UT-Martin has advanced to the CIT quarterfinal round with wins over Northwestern State and South Carolina-Upstate, both on the road.  EKU, on the other hand, has ridden their home court into the quarterfinals, knocking off Norfolk State and High Point.

The Skyhawks will be looking for another strong effort from Deville Smith tonight.  Smith put up an amazing triple-double in his team’s first round win over Northwestern State, scoring 21 points while pulling down 12 rebounds and dishing out 11 assists.  If he performs anywhere close to that level tonight, Eastern Kentucky will be in trouble.  EKU is led by Corey Walden, who also had a very strong stat line in his team’s first round win over Norfolk State, scoring 22 points while pulling down 5 rebounds and handing out 8 assists.  Eric Stutz will also be a major factor for the Colonels after scoring 16 points and pulling down 10 rebounds last time out.  Whichever team prevails will advance to the CIT Final Four next Tuesday night with a shot at being one of only four teams that will end its season by cutting down the nets in celebration of a championship.

CIT Game of the Day – Monday, March 23, 2015: Cleveland State at NJIT

Cleveland State at NJIT, 7:00 PM Eastern, watchcollegeinsider.com

Three games tonight will conclude the second round of the CIT, but anyone that has followed HOOPD HD this year will have no doubts as to which one is our choice for the CIT Game of the Day.  Our adopted team continues its season at home tonight as they host the Cleveland State Vikings in what may be their toughest home game yet this season.  The winner of tonight’s game advances to the quarterfinal round and will be only three wins away from cutting down the nets as 2015 CIT champions.

Cleveland State enters tonight’s game at 19-14 overall after a first round CIT win at Western Michigan.  The Vikings came within just a few points of winning the Horizon league regular season title, losing their final game of the season at home to Valparaiso by 3 points, thus giving home court in the Horizon League tournament to the Crusaders.  The two teams met again in the Horizon league semifinals, and Valpo used its home court advantage to pull out a 5 point win en route to the league’s NCAA tournament berth.

NJIT, the nation’s lone independent, enters tonight’s home game at 19-11 overall including a huge home court win last week over New Hampshire in the first round of the CIT.  Tonight’s game will be only the second of the season at home against a top-100 opponent for NJIT.  The other was a win back in January over Yale, though the Bulldogs were without their top player, Justin Sears, for most of that game.  The Highlanders will need to play one of their best games of the season if they want to defeat Cleveland State tonight.  However, they definitely have the ability to win this game as the Fleisher Center should be rocking loud tonight.  The magical story of the Team of the People could definitely continue beyond tonight — but it will not be easy.  And it certainly will be the game of the night in the CIT.