Half of of the NCAA tournament Candy Sixteen field modified into as soon as established on Saturday, with the a total lot of half to employ Sunday. ESPN.com’s panel of faculty basketball experts weighed in on what has impressed them (and what hasn’t) within the round of 32 as a lot as now and what they query to hunt from Sunday’s circulation.
Jeff Borzello, faculty basketball Insider: It has to be Purdue and Carsen Edwards of their 26-level accept over Villanova. The Boilermakers weren’t all that spectacular the past few games, shedding twice to Minnesota and letting Mature Dominion loiter around within the first round. Grand of Purdue’s struggles offensively would maybe perhaps furthermore be attributed to Edwards’ inefficiency in these games. In the four games main as a lot as Saturday, he shot 27 p.c from the sphere (24-for-89) and 24.four p.c from three-level vary (eleven-for-45).
But on Saturday, Edwards went off. He finished with 42 capabilities on 12-for-21 shooting, including 9-for-Sixteen from three-level vary. Villanova merely had no reply for him. When Edwards has it going esteem that offensively, Purdue is profitable of beating someone within the nation. Matt Haarms provided steadiness on the interior, and Ryan Cline made pictures from the perimeter. Defensively, the Boilermakers held Villanova to fewer than one level per possession for the first time within the Wildcats’ past eight games. They’d perhaps furthermore be hitting their crawl heading into the tournament’s 2d weekend.
John Gasaway, faculty basketball writer: Two phrases: Brandon Clarke. The junior scored 36 capabilities on 15-of-18 shooting to head with 5 blocks in Gonzaga’s 83-71 accept over Baylor. He’s arguably the gracious player within the nation no longer named “Zion” or “Ja,” and he showed it Saturday night time. Nor is this some crazy thought from out of left field: Notice Few’s star is projected as a fundamental-round purchase in 2019. Future historians are going to wonder two issues about faculty basketball awards in our era. One, how Ja Morant didn’t accept Ohio Valley Conference freshman of the year in 2017-18, and two, how Clarke didn’t accept West Soar Conference Participant of the 12 months in 2018-19.
By the style, kindly level out for this award goes to Auburn and Bryce Brown. The senior rang up 25 capabilities on 7-of-eleven shooting on his 3s as the Tigers ran past Kansas. That modified into as soon as one spectacular and no longer totally expected leer.
Jordan Schultz, insider/analyst: I belief Kentucky performed a pretty spectacular game in opposition to Wofford. With out PJ Washington — who is a correct pro — John Calipari’s membership modified into as soon as ready to coerce Wofford correct into a depressing offensive game, including a season-worst eight-for-27 (29.6 p.c) shooting efficiency from deep. Freshman blue-chipper Tyler Herro didn’t safe his gracious game offensively, but his sensational effort on defense helped limit Fletcher Magee — who has made extra three-pointers than someone else at faculty basketball historical past — to an zero-for-12 effort from distance.
Kentucky’s self-discipline as an total in opposition to the Terriers’ high-stage sets and ability stood out in a substantial arrangement. We know this team wants to salvage its athletes in establish — an experienced and sound Wofford bunch made certain that didn’t happen — however the younger Cats’ defensive effort ensured that they moved on to the 2d weekend and would maybe perhaps completely pay off in a predominant arrangement keen forward.
Borzello: Morant is a celeb. He’s a celeb now, and he’ll be a celeb in 5 years. Pointless to issue, the NBA is plump of star level guards correct now, so All-NBA or even All-Star would maybe perhaps furthermore be a stretch at that level, but Morant is going to be an above-moderate starter within the NBA.
His aggregate of athleticism and imaginative and prescient is unparalleled at the college stage, and he answered some questions within the NCAA tournament. NBA scouts had some concerns about his turnovers and his outside shooting ability, but Morant totaled 45 capabilities, Sixteen rebounds and 20 assists in two games — while turning the ball over nine conditions and shooting 7-for-eight from three-level vary. He handled Florida Teach’s length and size pretty successfully, and I mediate he’s going to most productive recuperate keen forward.
Gasaway: Morant is going to be within the prime of an NBA profession that will showcase his expertise a ways greater than two swiftly visits to the 2018 and 2019 NCAA tournaments would maybe perhaps furthermore. Scouts rave about his court imaginative and prescient, his take care of and his ability to alternate route. That is all mountainous, and or no longer it is furthermore encouraging that his faculty stats translate so successfully to the subsequent stage. Yes, he dedicated a high option of turnovers usually as a sophomore, and his intensity on defense will want an give a enhance to. But you do now not see this stage of doable popping out of faculty each and day by day. Depending on the franchise and the expertise around him (in particular the skin shooting of his teammates), Morant would maybe perhaps furthermore be deciding on apart opposing NBA defenses off the dribble as the starter for a playoff team.
Schultz: Morant has the total traits to be the NBA’s subsequent mountainous level guard. Maybe we’ll inquire why the team that took Zion Williamson No. 1 overall didn’t employ Morant. I love Zion, but that is how distinctive and certain Morant’s expertise is. Besides the highlight-reel dunks, there would possibly be natty substance to his game. Now now not most productive does he see the bottom, but Morant — who leads the nation in assists with extra than 10 per game — furthermore has the needed basketball acumen to relate pinpoint passes from potentially the most tough of positions. Higher but, he is a undoubtedly willing passer, showing each and each the creativity and undoubtedly feel to dictate his loyal phrases to a defense. Additionally, he is a tough shot-maker, showcasing the aptitude to isolate in 1-four sets and thriving in purchase-and-roll, a staple of any NBA offense.
Thanks to Morant’s elite above-the-rim finishing ability, his explosive first step propels him to the basket, where few NBA guards hang such particular finishing ability. The turnovers assemble no longer distress me, nor does the subpar three-level jumper. Morant is a high-utilization lead guard — a la Russell Westbrook — who shows correct form and steadiness (he improved from 30.7 p.c shooting on 3s as a freshman to 34.four p.c as a sophomore) and is precisely the variety of freakishly talented, downhill lead guard thriving in this day’s spread-oriented pro game.
Gasaway: Can Buffalo fabricate the Mid-American Conference’s first establish within the Candy Sixteen since 2012? Following their Ninety one-seventy four accept over Arizona Teach, the Bulls take a look at esteem a team that would maybe perhaps give Texas Tech a handful on Sunday. Slit Perkins, CJ Massinburg and Jeremy Harris scored a blended 60 capabilities on 18-of-33 shooting, and UB lit up the Sun Devils for 1.23 capabilities per possession. Sustaining these high numbers in opposition to the in style Red Raiders doubtless is now not any longer within the cards, and the Tech defense would possibly maybe be the gracious unit on the court statistically on both facet of the ball for both team. Nonetheless, Chris Beard will deserve to safe his team ready for Buffalo because, on paper, this lines up as a conclude game.
Borzello: Is Justin Robinson totally healthy? Virginia Tech’s star level guard returned Friday after missing 12 games thanks to a foot damage. He performed 28 minutes and finished with nine capabilities and two assists. He clearly wasn’t at plump energy, even though, and grew to turn into it over four conditions. Robinson furthermore had a total lot of stretches within the 2d half wherein he modified into as soon as walking off — extra precisely, limping off — varied knocks to his foot. If he’s 100%, Virginia Tech ought to still take care of Liberty and supplies Duke a speed within the Candy Sixteen. If he’s the rest less, the Hokies are no longer as unhealthy.
Schultz: Huge capabilities by Gasaway and Borzello about Justin Robinson and the Buffalo Bulls. I’m equally recurring about thirteen-seed UC Irvine. With their size, quickness and ability to defend (their opponents shot 38 p.c from the bottom this season) the Anteaters beat up a physical albeit depleted Okay-Teach team. No team in The US guards the 2-pointer greater than Irvine does, which issues because few teams are extra disciplined on all facets of the ball than Oregon.
It has been a revelation staring at the Geese’ transformation without doable high-5 purchase Bol Bol since early January. Dana Altman’s total team modified into as soon as built around Bol’s diverse and uncommon ability field. Let’s take a look at how junior level guard and Pac-12 tournament MVP Payton Pritchard (tallying a team-high four.6 APG) handles the Anteaters’ crammed with life defense. If the ingenious Pritchard can not produce correct appears to be like to be — for himself and others — Oregon will lose this game. If he can, the Geese will come to their 1/three Candy Sixteen in four years. Or no longer it is that straight forward.
Borzello: I will preface it by announcing I don’t mediate any of the three will lose, but when there is one most at possibility, I would high-tail with North Carolina. That has extra to assemble with Washington than the rest else, as I mediate the Huskies are flat-out greater than UCF and Oklahoma, who will accept on Duke and Virginia, respectively. Washington perceived to snap out of their silly-season funk on Friday, stifling the Utah Teach offense and making 10 three-pointers.
If the Huskies can protect watch over tempo and make pictures, they can protect within the sport in opposition to Carolina. That 2-three zone defense is refined to prepare for on fast seek, even supposing Carolina has performed in opposition to Syracuse’s model for years. The Tar Heels ought to still still accept, but it would maybe perhaps furthermore be nearer than expected.
Gasaway: Operate I mediate Duke is going to lose to UCF? Smartly, no, but to borrow the language of Vast Killers, it is miles now not totally crazy, both. Originate with what Houston coach Kelvin Sampson stated after his Cougars misplaced at home for the first and most productive time this season to the Knights: “He takes away half your playbook.” “He,” of course, is Tacko Tumble. The 7-foot-6 senior is now not any longer the supreme discover in quickness, and one can for certain envision the Blue Devils attending to the rim in transition or on power-and-dish circulation. But one ingredient that Tumble does make famous extra 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 issues for Duke in a mode that few opposing players left within the tournament can.
Schultz: Does North Carolina shoot it successfully sufficient to address Washington’s stingy 2-three matchup zone? Mike Hopkins’ defense is constructed around the reigning two-time Pac-12 Defensive Participant of the 12 months, Matisse Thybulle, who leads the nation alongside with his three.5 steals per game and whose presence at the tip of the zone would maybe perhaps furthermore no longer most productive frustrate the smaller Coby White on the perimeter but furthermore hound Luke Maye around the midpost. The Heels convert correct 36.four p.c of their 3s (ranking Seventy fifth nationally), and so they’re going to ought to still be greater in opposition to the in style-season Pac-12 champs. Washington predicates its defense on contesting 3s and using its length and quickness to provide deflections and steals. If North Carolina can lower the zone up, it is miles going to head a lengthy arrangement in figuring out whether this team has sufficient to attend Roy Williams accept his fourth nationwide title — including his 1/three in Chapel Hill — and the seventh at faculty historical past.