April 5, 2020

Lynq Sports

bet on it

By: CBB Staff

A slew of upsets worked their way into the first round of our bracket as player of the year candidate Luka Garza and one of last year’s Final Four teams, Auburn, were knocked out. The round of 32 is where the true contenders get to show their colors as they play their second of two incredibly competitive games in three days. Winners move on to the hallowed grounds of the Sweet 16 while losers get to watch the rest on TV. Who moves on? Who heads home? Find out below, and let us know what you think.

Midwest

#1 Kansas vs #9 Marquette

Kansas continues their quest for their first title since 2008 in this one as they make quick work of the Golden Eagles. Marquette senior guard Markus Howard gets roughly his usual numbers (27.8 PPG), but requires 25+ shots to do so (up from his per game season average of 19.3 field goals attempted) against Kansas’ #2 ranked defense, according to KenPom. Once again, Kansas senior big man Udoka Azubuike (13.7 PPG, 10.5 RPG, 74.8% from the field) meets very little in the way of opposition, easily putting up a double-double while staying out of foul trouble and affecting a handful of Howard’s shots at the rim. Kansas proves once again why they’re the #1 overall seed in this tournament, and their odds to win the title quickly shrink to nearly even money heading into the Sweet 16.

– Mac O’Brien (@kmacobrien)

#4 Wisconsin vs #12 Liberty

The Liberty Flames have never made it to the Sweet 16. Wisconsin had been to the Sweet 16 in four out of their last five NCAA tournaments, last year being the lone exception. The Badgers remember that feeling of defeat, being throttled by Oregon as #5 seed. The Badgers have been playing their best basketball of the season when it matters most. D’Mitrik Trice was simply a maestro with the ball against North Texas and this game against Liberty was no abnormality. Liberty simply has no answer for the two headed big man duo in Micah Potter and Nate Reuvers. It is not a “run and gun” affair, but we all know Wisconsin loves a slow tempo type of game. Ritchie McKay and the Liberty Flames should hold their heads high and not let the double-digit point defeat take away any success they have had this season. Tonight though, it is On Wisconsin.

Jack O’Keefe (@jpokeefe1s)

#3 Duke vs #11 East Tennessee State 

The clock strikes midnight on the would-be Cinderella story of ETSU, as the evil empire squashes the dreams of yet another team that America was starting to fall in love with. Similar to last year’s UCF team, the ETSU Bucs and their nine-man rotation give Duke all they can handle, especially with senior 7-footer Lucas N’Guessan (8.9 PPG on 63.2% shooting from the field) putting Duke freshman sensation Vernon Carey Jr. into foul trouble early. But Tre Jones refuses to end his college career without another Sweet 16 berth, and he uses the Jones family magic to will the Blue Devils past the Bucs in a game that’s too close for comfort for many of the Blue Devils faithful.

– Mac O’Brien (@kmacobrien)

#2 Kentucky vs #7 Providence

Providence was one of the hottest teams in the country down the stretch and quickly became a team nobody wanted to face, but their guard/wing heavy lineup is no match inside for Kentucky’s strong front-line of junior Nick Richards, sophomore EJ Montgomery, senior Nate Sestina, and freshman Keion Brooks Jr. The Friars shooting from deep keeps them within single-digits and in striking distance throughout the second half, but Kentucky’s excellent free throw shooting (#1 in the country at 79.7%) helps them seal the deal late and advance to their NCAA-best 45th* Sweet 16 appearance in program history. (*Next most is UNC with 34 Sweet 16 appearances)

– Mac O’Brien (@kmacobrien)

East

#1 Dayton vs #9 Florida

Dayton and Florida are both very curious cases that emerged this season and their stories are nearly opposite. Florida was talked about as the best team in the country during the preseason and dropped off to the depths thanks to some very shaky SEC play. On the other hand, Dayton wasn’t even really considered a top team. We all know Obi Toppoin was good, but we never knew he could elevate the rest of his team like this. Dayton only lost two games all season and they have a top 15 offense and top 50 defense to thank for it. Florida’s defense looked decent at times but they just don’t have the scoring to keep up with Dayton and their 80 points per game. The 15.5 PPG average winning margin that Daytin produced rears its head again as Florida is unable to replicate its 2006/2007 title runs.

– Zack Lambert (@bigbird8224)

#4 Maryland vs #12 Texas

Shaka Smart has the Longhorns rolling right now. They have a First Four victory over Richmond and now an impressive win over Butler under their belt. Can this magical run continue for the Big-12 representatives? It is going to be one of those, “first one to 60 wins” type of game. Slow and methodical offensive, advantage Maryland. The Terps battle the Longhorns in a back and forth affair going into half down 2. The Terps then ride on the shoulders of their senior point guard, Anthony Cowan, who makes the Terrapin Train run ever so smoothly. A cool double-double for Mr. Cowan prevails and Maryland shuts down the hot-shooting Longhorns in the second half. Junior guard Matt Coleman has 20 points to lead Texas, but it unfortunately does not take the sting away from having their magical run squandered.

Jack O’Keefe (@jpokeefe1s)

#3 Villanova vs #11 Northern Iowa

Needless to say our team of writers is pretty high on Northern Iowa to be the pseudo-darling of the 2020 March Madness Tournament, but unfortunately for the Panthers, the road ends here. The fact that Northern Iowa ranks in the top 20 in the nation in both FG% and 3P% make it seem like this team would be a tough out for anyone in the entire field. However, Villanova’s play down the stretch of the season and their blowout win in the first round of the tourney pushed this to be a unanimous vote in favor of the Wildcats. Collin Gillespie is a prototype floor general on the outside, while Sadiiq Bey is a rock solid big man that holds it down in the post for Villanova. The interior presence that Bey provides would prove to be crucial to combat the perimeter prowess of Northern Iowa. That, along with the experience the Wildcats possess, sends the Panthers packing while Nova punches its ticket to the Sweet 16. 

– Nick Stavas (@nickstavas)

#2 Florida State vs #10 Utah State

Utah State’s win over WVU means Florida State avoids having to face the Mountaineers’ chaos-inducing press defense. Even with a talented trio of guards in sophomore Devin Vassell, senior Trent Forrest, and junior M.J. Walker, Florida State likely wouldn’t have chosen to face West Virginia’s press, which can wreak havoc on any team in a single-elimination format with less than two days to prepare. Florida State methodically handles Utah State in this one, as Leonard Hamilton has his team ready to play from the jump. Utah State is unable to use its size and length to its advantage—something it has done all season long—as the Seminoles are one of only nine teams with a greater average height than the Aggies. FSU cruises to its third consecutive Sweet 16, making it the first time in program history that the team has achieved that feat.

– Mac O’Brien (@kmacobrien)

West

#1 Gonzaga vs #8 LSU

The Zags cruised to another West Coast Conference Title in the 2019-2020 campaign and finished the season 31-2. They went 17-0 at home and their only conference loss came at the hands of BYU. Sure they play in a subpar conference but a 31-2 overall record is not to be scoffed at. They lead all of college basketball with points scored per game (87.4) and are second in field goal percentage (51.5%). Gonzaga is led by Filip Petrusev, a sophomore out of Serbia putting up 17.5 ppg and averaging 7.9 rebounds. When it comes down to it, the Zags will outshoot the LSU Tigers in this game and advance to the Sweet 16. There isn’t one statistical category that the Tigers have an edge against the Zags so expect Gonzaga to win this one by 10+ points and move on! 

-Trent Pruitt (@the_real_pruitt)

#4 Oregon vs #5 Michigan

Looking to move on to their second consecutive Sweet 16 appearance, the Oregon Ducks run into a red-hot Michigan Wolverines squad. Michigan has also had their fair share of Sweet 16 appearances lately, going in each of the previous three NCAA tournaments. It is the ultimate battle for point guard supremacy: Zavier Simpson for Michigan and Payton Pritchard for Oregon, two seniors who will not want to see their season end. Michigan has not turned the ball over at all this season. They are only averaging 10.2 turnovers a game (14th in Division-I), so it is going to be up to Oregon pushing tempo and making Michigan play faster than they want offensively. How does Oregon do that? Establish an early lead. Thanks to the three-point shot, Oregon builds a sizable cushion throughout much of the contest. Michigan is left playing catch-up, but there is simply not enough time left in the game. The Ducks are soaring into the Sweet 16.

Jack O’Keefe (@jpokeefe1s)

#3 Seton Hall vs #6 BYU

BYU and Seton Hall’s pace would be off the charts fast in this game both putting up around 80 points. Our team believes that the Cougars would pull off the upset sending Myles Powell and Mamu packing. KenPom has BYU ranked higher at 13th with the Pirates at 20th because of the Cougars’ offensive efficiency and effective field goal percentage. BYU shoots the 3 better than any other team in the country and runs up and down the court in transition better than most. Mark Pope’s first year with the program has justified a tenure at Brigham Young after beating down Gonzaga and building possibly the most efficient team in the country. Seton Hall would put up a battle and it would be a close game but we think that the discipline from BYU’s defense at forcing turnovers and ability to score from deep will edge out the Pirates. The Cougars were playing some of their best basketball at the end of the season while the Pirates lost 4 out of their last 7 games. BYU makes their first Sweet Sixteen appearance in almost a decade. 

– Quin Pezoldt (@QuintenEveret16)

#2 San Diego State vs #10 Texas Tech

Our team had the Aztecs walking past UC Irvine in the first round but in the round of 32 they hit their first speed bump on the road to becoming the best Mountain West team of the century. In a really slow-paced game, our team puts San Diego State into the Sweet Sixteen (tied for the best the program has done). With the seniority and level-headedness of San Diego State’s team they can be one of few teams ever to slow down a Texas Tech team. The Aztecs have done a great job keeping opponent’s shooting percentages down and we don’t think that will change against a Texas Tech team, who’s number of offensive possessions fell in the middle of the row in the Big 12. The Red Raiders offense would get less opportunities to score from 3 as efficiently as the Aztecs and that could mean all the difference in a lower scoring game. This is a tough #10 seed for Brian Dutcher but he should be able to sneak into the program’s 3rd Sweet Sixteen behind second-team AP All-American, Malachi Flynn.

– Quin Pezoldt (@QuintenEveret16)

South

#1 Baylor vs #9 Rutgers

Our staff had Baylor cruising to a first round victory over the Winthrop Eagle while Rutgers moved on in an upset win over St. Mary’s. For me, there are two questions that must be answered in this matchup. Question number one- Is Baylor the real deal? Despite a 26-4 record in the regular season, haters would say that Baylor played in an extremely top-heavy conference. They also lost three of their last five games. I actually hold some stock in those arguments but I don’t expect those to be a factor until we get to the Sweet 16 or Elite 8. Question number two- Can Rutgers win away from their home gym? Plain and simple, no they can’t. They were just 2-8 on the season away from the RAC over in Piscataway, NJ. Look for this experienced backcourt of Butler and Teague for Baylor to control the game and outperform this mediocre Scarlet Knight team. I have the Bears winning by seven points and advancing to the Sweet Sixteen. 

-Trent Pruitt (@the_real_pruitt)

#4 Louisville vs #5 Ohio State

It wasn’t all too long ago when the Ohio State Twitter account was bragging about being the only school with top ten teams both football and basketball. The Buckeyes would hit a little bit of a rough stretch throughout the regular season but ultimately finished the season ranked #19 with a record of 21-10. Louisville, on the other hand, finished the season 24-7 and have been apart of the National Championship conversation all season. They’re battle tested in a tough ACC and they boast the 18th best 3-point percentage in the country (37.6%). I see Ohio State hanging around most of the game, maybe even holding a lead down the stretch. But ultimately, the Cardinals rely on junior, Jordan Nwora to get the job done down the stretch. Louisville advances to the Sweet 16 in a thriller. 

-Trent Pruitt (@the_real_pruitt)

#3 Michigan State vs #6 Virginia

Excellent 2nd round matchup from 2 teams that spent time in the top 10 of the rankings this year and were both in the Final 4 last year. Michigan State was the preseason number 1 and other than a dip in the middle of the season, the Spartans finished the year strong winning 5 in a row including 4 straight over ranked teams on the way to their 3rd straight Big 10 crown. UVA like usual is about defense, defense, and more defense. They lead the country in adjusted defense, however, they are awful on offense. The Cavs rank all the way down at 234 in the country in adjusted defense. MSU has a much better balanced offense and defense, ranking 10th and 13th respectively in the country. The X-factor in this game will be Cassius Winston who will make smart decisions to free up his teammates and lead the Spartan offense over the mighty Virginia defense. Michigan State advances to Houston.

– Matthew Vale (@MatthewVale15)

#2 Creighton vs #7 Illinois

It’s been a long time since Creighton has had a roster with the potential of the 2019-20 squad, and the fact that the tournament got canceled has to break the heart of Jays fans. An emphatic 17-point win over Seton Hall in the final game of the season sent Creighton buzzing into the Big East tournament before the sports world went up in flames. Senior guard Marcus Zegarowski was the spark plug for the co-Big East champs all season, averaging 16.8 points and five assists per game. Greg McDermott’s team was arguably the best shooting team in the land, ranking 9th in 3-point percentage and 58th in 3-point attempt rate. On the other side, Illinois struggles defending beyond the arch, which would be a major factor in this matchup. There’s no doubt the duo of Ayo Dosunmo and Kofi Cockburn is a force to be reckoned with for the Illini, but the outside shooting and sheer talent on the perimeter gives Creighton the edge in this one. If the Jays catch fire, there aren’t many teams in the country that can beat them. With that said, we’ll send Creighton on to its first Sweet 16 in 50 years. 

– Nick Stavas (@nickstavas)