1/2 of the NCAA tournament Sweet Sixteen field turned into established on Saturday, with the quite lots of half to employ Sunday. ESPN.com’s panel of college basketball experts weighed in on what has impressed them (and what hasn’t) within the spherical of 32 as much as now and what they demand to explore from Sunday’s motion.
Jeff Borzello, college basketball Insider: It has to be Purdue and Carsen Edwards in their 26-point retract over Villanova. The Boilermakers weren’t all that spectacular the past few games, dropping twice to Minnesota and letting Peculiar Dominion lollygag around within the first spherical. Worthy of Purdue’s struggles offensively will seemingly be attributed to Edwards’ inefficiency in these games. In the 4 games leading as much as Saturday, he shot 27 % from the sphere (24-for-89) and 24.4 % from three-point differ (eleven-for-45).
But on Saturday, Edwards went off. He accomplished with Forty two components on 12-for-21 shooting, including 9-for-Sixteen from three-point differ. Villanova merely had no acknowledge for him. When Edwards has it going treasure that offensively, Purdue is edifying of beating any individual within the nation. Matt Haarms offered steadiness on the within, and Ryan Cline made images from the perimeter. Defensively, the Boilermakers held Villanova to fewer than one point per possession for the first time within the Wildcats’ past eight games. They are going to be hitting their roam heading into the tournament’s 2nd weekend.
John Gasaway, college basketball creator: Two phrases: Brandon Clarke. The junior scored 36 components on 15-of-18 shooting to head with 5 blocks in Gonzaga’s eighty three-71 retract over Baylor. He’s arguably the becoming participant within the nation now not named “Zion” or “Ja,” and he showed it Saturday night. Nor is that this some crazy thought from out of left field: Imprint Few’s superstar is projected as a first-spherical soak up 2019. Future historians are going to wonder two things about college basketball awards in our era. One, how Ja Morant did now not retract Ohio Valley Convention freshman of the year in 2017-18, and two, how Clarke did now not retract West Fly Convention Participant of the Year in 2018-19.
By the reach, superior bellow their own praises for this award goes to Auburn and Bryce Brown. The senior rang up 25 components on 7-of-eleven shooting on his 3s because the Tigers ran past Kansas. That turned into one spectacular and never fully anticipated sight.
Jordan Schultz, insider/analyst: I believed Kentucky performed a pretty spectacular sport against Wofford. With out PJ Washington — who is a salubrious official — John Calipari’s club turned into in a relate to coerce Wofford into a miserable offensive sport, including a season-worst eight-for-27 (29.6 %) shooting performance from deep. Freshman blue-chipper Tyler Herro did now not occupy his ideally qualified sport offensively, however his sensational effort on defense helped restrict Fletcher Magee — who has made more three-pointers than any individual else in college basketball history — to an zero-for-12 effort from distance.
Kentucky’s discipline as a complete against the Terriers’ high-level devices and skill stood out in a immense reach. Everyone knows this team desires to opt up its athletes in keep — an skilled and sound Wofford bunch made certain that did now not happen — however the younger Cats’ defensive effort ensured that they moved on to the 2nd weekend and can certainly pay off in a necessary reach transferring forward.
Borzello: Morant is a superstar. He’s a superstar now, and he’ll be a superstar in 5 years. Of course, the NBA is stuffed with superstar point guards magnificent now, so All-NBA and even All-Superstar may possibly well be a stretch at that time, however Morant goes to be an above-reasonable starter within the NBA.
His combination of athleticism and imaginative and prescient is unparalleled on the college level, and he answered some questions within the NCAA tournament. NBA scouts had some concerns about his turnovers and his exterior shooting capacity, however Morant totaled 45 components, Sixteen rebounds and 20 assists in two games — whereas turning the ball over nine instances and shooting 7-for-eight from three-point differ. He dealt with Florida Suppose’s length and dimension reasonably effectively, and I mediate he’ll easiest opt up higher transferring forward.
Gasaway: Morant goes to be within the high of an NBA career that will showcase his skills a ways higher than two hastily visits to the 2018 and 2019 NCAA tournaments may possibly well. Scouts rave about his court docket imaginative and prescient, his tackle and his capacity to commerce route. That is all gargantuan, and or now not it is also encouraging that his college stats translate so effectively to the next level. Yes, he dedicated a high desire of turnovers every so in most cases as a sophomore, and his depth on defense will need an upgrade. But you create now not explore this level of doable popping out of college on daily basis. Looking out on the franchise and the skills around him (in particular the exterior shooting of his teammates), Morant will seemingly be selecting aside opposing NBA defenses off the dribble because the starter for a playoff team.
Schultz: Morant has the complete traits to be the NBA’s subsequent gargantuan point guard. Per chance we’ll search knowledge from why the team that took Zion Williamson No. 1 total did now not retract Morant. I love Zion, however that is how grand and decided Morant’s skills is. With the exception of the spotlight-reel dunks, there’s colossal substance to his sport. Now now not easiest does he explore the bottom, however Morant — who leads the nation in assists with more than 10 per sport — also has the necessary basketball acumen to inform pinpoint passes from the most sturdy of positions. Better yet, he is a truly willing passer, displaying every the creativity and feel to dictate his real terms to a defense. Additionally, he is a elaborate shot-maker, showcasing the aptitude to isolate in 1-4 devices and thriving in take-and-roll, a staple of any NBA offense.
Thanks to Morant’s elite above-the-rim ending capacity, his explosive first step propels him to the basket, the keep few NBA guards maintain such particular ending capacity. The turnovers cease now not anguish me, nor does the subpar three-point jumper. Morant is a high-usage lead guard — a la Russell Westbrook — who shows factual form and steadiness (he improved from 30.7 % shooting on 3s as a freshman to 34.4 % as a sophomore) and is strictly the selection of freakishly proficient, downhill lead guard thriving in this day’s spread-oriented official sport.
Gasaway: Can Buffalo opt up the Mid-American Convention’s first spot within the Sweet Sixteen since 2012? Following their 91-seventy 4 retract over Arizona Suppose, the Bulls inquire of treasure a team that can provide Texas Tech a handful on Sunday. Prick Perkins, CJ Massinburg and Jeremy Harris scored a mixed 60 components on 18-of-33 shooting, and UB lit up the Solar Devils for 1.23 components per possession. Sustaining these high numbers against the favored Pink Raiders seemingly is now not in actuality within the cards, and the Tech defense would be the becoming unit on the court docket statistically on either facet of the ball for either team. Nonetheless, Chris Beard will deserve to occupy his team ready for Buffalo due to, on paper, this lines up as a finish sport.
Borzello: Is Justin Robinson fully wholesome? Virginia Tech’s superstar point guard returned Friday after lacking 12 games due to of a foot injury. He performed 28 minutes and accomplished with nine components and two assists. He clearly wasn’t at beefy strength, although, and turned it over 4 instances. Robinson also had just a few stretches within the 2nd half in which he turned into strolling off — more precisely, limping off — varied knocks to his foot. If he’s A hundred%, Virginia Tech may possibly well merely serene tackle Liberty and give Duke a trot within the Sweet Sixteen. If he’s the relaxation much less, the Hokies are now not as harmful.
Schultz: Mountainous components by Gasaway and Borzello about Justin Robinson and the Buffalo Bulls. I am equally weird about Thirteen-seed UC Irvine. With their dimension, quickness and capacity to defend (their opponents shot 38 % from the bottom this season) the Anteaters beat up a physical albeit depleted Ok-Suppose team. No team in The United States guards the 2-pointer higher than Irvine does, which matters due to few groups are more disciplined on every sides of the ball than Oregon.
It has been a revelation searching on the Geese’ transformation without doable high-5 take Bol Bol since early January. Dana Altman’s complete team turned into built around Bol’s various and rare skill dwelling. Let’s explore how junior point guard and Pac-12 tournament MVP Payton Pritchard (tallying a team-high 4.6 APG) handles the Anteaters’ active defense. If the inventive Pritchard can’t keep factual looks — for himself and others — Oregon will lose this sport. If he can, the Geese will reach to their zero.33 Sweet Sixteen in 4 years. It be that uncomplicated.
Borzello: I will preface it by announcing I create now not mediate any of the three will lose, however if there’s one most in hazard, I would amble with North Carolina. That has more to cease with Washington than the relaxation, as I mediate the Huskies are flat-out higher than UCF and Oklahoma, who will take on Duke and Virginia, respectively. Washington looked as if it may possibly possibly most likely well snap out of their slack-season funk on Friday, stifling the Utah Suppose offense and making 10 three-pointers.
If the Huskies can preserve an eye on tempo and create images, they are able to comprise within the game against Carolina. That 2-three zone defense is sophisticated to tackle for on short peep, although Carolina has performed against Syracuse’s version for years. The Tar Heels may possibly well merely serene serene retract, however it will seemingly be nearer than anticipated.
Gasaway: Cease I mediate Duke goes to lose to UCF? Effectively, no, however to borrow the language of Big Killers, it is miles now not in actuality fully crazy, either. Launch with what Houston coach Kelvin Sampson acknowledged after his Cougars misplaced at home for the first and easiest time this season to the Knights: “He takes away half your playbook.” “He,” in spite of all the pieces, is Tacko Tumble. The 7-foot-6 senior is now not in actuality the closing notice in quickness, and one can absolutely envision the Blue Devils getting to the rim in transition or on drive-and-dish motion. But one element that Tumble does create mighty more problematic is straight-line drives ending in a dunk over the opponent — or, for that topic, lobbing over the opponent for a dunk. Tumble can complicate things for Duke in a reach that few opposing avid gamers left within the tournament can.
Schultz: Does North Carolina shoot it effectively sufficient to tackle Washington’s stingy 2-three matchup zone? Mike Hopkins’ defense is constructed around the reigning two-time Pac-12 Defensive Participant of the Year, Matisse Thybulle, who leads the nation alongside with his three.5 steals per sport and whose presence on the tip of the zone couldn’t easiest frustrate the smaller Coby White on the perimeter however also hound Luke Maye around the midpost. The Heels convert suited 36.4 % of their 3s (rating seventy fifth nationally), and so they may possibly deserve to be higher against the reasonable-season Pac-12 champs. Washington predicates its defense on contesting 3s and the employ of its length and quickness to keep deflections and steals. If North Carolina can lower the zone up, this may possibly per chance well amble a protracted reach in figuring out whether this team has sufficient to serve Roy Williams retract his fourth national title — including his zero.33 in Chapel Hill — and the seventh in college history.