What we realized: The primary Saturday of March was certainly insanity


Saturday’s slate started with the final word bubble battle: Villanova at Windfall, which pitted one crew among the many “first 4 out” in opposition to one clinging to a “final 4 in” spot. The schedule ended with a Gonzaga squad in want of a win to safe an at-large bid touring to face a Saint Mary’s crew trying to full an unbeaten WCC season. In between, there have been dozens of video games with enormous NCAA event implications.

After a few weeks that featured debates close to the highest of the rankings, three of the highest 5 groups on this week’s AP ballot have been heading on the highway, which has been kryptonite for top-25 groups this season. Have been we in retailer for one more wild day of losses by Last 4 contenders? March is right here, and the primary Saturday of the perfect month on the calendar didn’t disappoint.

ESPN’s Myron Medcalf, Jeff Borzello and Joe Lunardi break down the massive storylines from a loaded slate of video games.


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Baylor followers erupt on Rayj Dennis’ steal-and-score

Rayj Dennis comes up with the steal and drives to the rim for two Baylor factors.

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Myron Medcalf: Proper now, Kansas would not appear to be a nationwide title contender. Whereas the return of Kevin McCullar Jr. was a optimistic — coming simply days after Invoice Self stated he did not count on the potential All-American to play the remainder of this season due to a knee damage — the Jayhawks failed to beat the identical points that plagued them of their house loss to BYU on Tuesday. Towards each Baylor and the Cougars, their half-court offense didn’t ship once they wanted it most. On Tuesday, that they had no rhythm and finally blew a 12-point lead within the second half. Towards the Bears, they resorted to hero ball late in an try and climb again.

These offensive woes have been a rising drawback. Hunter Dickinson settles for robust pictures generally. Freshman Johnny Furphy would not all the time look snug. Dajuan Harris Jr., who’s extra impactful as a distributor, generally turns into a scorer by default, as he did in key possessions on Saturday. It is tough to see the Jayhawks having a shot to chop down the nets in April. Which is a uncommon factor for a Kansas crew. However this group appears to be a step under the true contenders proper now.

Jeff Borzello: The continued enchancment of Yves Missi and rising consistency of Ja’Kobe Walter make Baylor’s offense one of the vital harmful within the nation, and a tough out within the NCAA event. Since their three-game dropping streak in January (by a mixed 9 factors, it must be stated), the Bears have gained seven of 10, falling solely at Kansas, at BYU and in opposition to Houston. They’ve the perfect offense within the Large 12 — although they are not as reliant on the 3-point shot as they have been earlier this season — with RayJ Dennis establishing himself because the bellwether of this assault.

Coming into Saturday, Dennis averaged 13.9 factors, 6.3 assists and a pair of.9 turnovers on 44.3% 3-point taking pictures in Baylor’s wins, and 11.4 factors, 7.1 assists, 4.5 turnovers on 23.1% 3-point taking pictures in Baylor’s losses. Towards the Jayhawks, he took over late and completed with 19 factors, 10 assists and simply 3 turnovers.

Joe Lunardi’s bracket affect: One other mammoth matchup with no bracket modifications from the end result. That is typically the case when the “anticipated” occurs, particularly this late within the season with so many different knowledge factors within the ebook. We’ll hold each as 3-seeds, although the Bears (No. 10 total) creep previous the Jayhawks (No. 11) on the general seed listing.


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Medcalf: For the second 12 months in a row, Marquette has to climate a Tyler Kolek damage in March. A 12 months in the past, the Golden Eagles misplaced to Michigan State within the second spherical of the NCAA event, with the star guard nursing a thumb damage he’d suffered within the first spherical in opposition to Vermont. Now, he is coping with an indirect damage that pressured him to overlook this loss. He did not journey with the crew and Shaka Sensible hasn’t supplied any definitive particulars about his potential timetable to return. Indirect accidents are difficult and the recoveries differ. If Kolek returns comparatively quickly and is absolutely recovered, the Golden Eagles will enter the postseason as a crew with Last 4 ambitions. If he stays out or returns however is not absolutely wholesome, the Golden Eagles will face an uphill climb to compete in opposition to high groups within the NCAA event.

Borzello: It is time to begin speaking about Baylor Scheierman as a possible All-American and Large East Participant of the Yr candidate. The versatile lefty is taking part in in addition to anybody within the nation proper now. He entered Saturday averaging 19.2 factors, 9.4 rebounds and 4.3 rebounds over 11 video games, then completed with 26 factors, 16 rebounds and 4 assists in opposition to the Golden Eagles. He had 15 factors within the second half, together with three 3-pointers in a two-minute span late within the sport that helped lengthen Creighton’s lead from two to 12 and clinch the win.

Lunardi’s bracket affect: There isn’t any change for both crew off this end result. Marquette stays within the backside half of the 2-seeds (No. 7 total) and Creighton is true on the fence of a 3-seed or 4-seed. I am protecting the Bluejays as a 3-seed (No. 12 total) however with Kentucky getting awfully shut within the rearview mirror.


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Mashack does all of it for Tennessee with a 3 and steal resulting in and-1

Jahmai Mashack hits the 3-pointer, then will get a steal resulting in a Jonas Aidoo and-1.

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Medcalf: Along with his crew down by three and 44 seconds to go, Mark Sears launched a rushed, errant 3-pointer that clanked off the rim and price Alabama an opportunity to tie the sport. Nate Oats’ crew did not want a 3 — but when the plan was to launch one there, the Crimson Tide wanted a greater look. And that is the problem with this gifted squad, which possessed probably the most environment friendly offense within the nation coming into Saturday. The Tide can put up ridiculous, superior numbers, and so they may also get in their very own method, surrendering 85 factors or extra in seven of their eight losses.

Alabama performed higher than Tennessee in a number of stretches. It pressured Dalton Knecht right into a 5-for-14 effort. It orchestrated a 12-0 run to finish the primary half and take the lead. After which, it missed 11 of 12 pictures after halftime. In March, everyone knows Alabama can problem any crew in America with its elite offense. However the query stays: For a way lengthy? Good basketball for 40 minutes may assist Alabama get to the Last 4. Good basketball in spurts? That model of Alabama just isn’t a assure to succeed in the second weekend.

Borzello: We knew Tennessee’s protection was elite; we knew it may go toe-to-toe with Alabama’s elite offense (as a result of it already beat the Tide this season by 20). However may it journey to Tuscaloosa? It did. The Tide shot simply 9-for-37 from 3 and made simply two pictures from behind the arc within the second half. However maybe the extra vital growth from Saturday night time was UT maintaining offensively with Alabama with out Dalton Knecht going for 40. The All-American handled foul bother and was held to 13 factors on 14 pictures. However Zakai Zeigler made pictures, Jahmai Mashack made pictures and Josiah-Jordan James was productive. Rick Barnes has choices.

Lunardi’s bracket affect: Tennessee stays alive for a No. 1 seed with an enormous win in Tuscaloosa, however Arizona did the Vols no favors by thumping Oregon to stay forward and hold the spot on the highest line. The Vols — and anybody else chasing Arizona — will want the Wildcats to lose sooner or later to maneuver up. Alabama, in the meantime sits solidly as a 4-seed (No. 14 total) however has slipped behind Kentucky (No. 13) on the seed listing.


Fast hits

A very long time coming

5 years in the past, then-Wisconsin assistant coach Howard Moore’s life modified when he and his household have been concerned in crash with a wrong-way driver. His spouse and daughter, in addition to the motive force of the opposite automobile, have been killed. Moore suffered critical, career-altering accidents. His son additionally suffered minor accidents.

On Saturday, Moore made his first public look because the crash in the course of the Badgers’ house matchup in opposition to Illinois. The college additionally introduced it had determined to call its basketball workplaces after Moore. Overlook basketball. It was good to see Moore on Saturday. Kudos to Wisconsin for honoring him the way in which that it did. — Medcalf

Kentucky‘s all-freshman lineup

John Calipari subbed in Justin Edwards on the 5:42 mark of the second half in opposition to Arkansas, a change that put 5 freshmen on the ground for the Wildcats. They did not make one other substitution the remainder of the sport, because the freshman-only crew outscored the Razorbacks by 12 the remainder of the way in which. I do not count on Calipari to make use of that lineup too typically, nevertheless it’s an incredible signal for the Wildcats that Zvonimir Ivisic is turning into an element and Edwards’ two-way affect is rising. Furthermore, the second — trailing a middling Arkansas crew deep into the second half — did not appear too massive for the younger quintet. — Borzello

The Large East curler coaster

The day’s most vital “bubble sport,” if you’ll, was Villanova‘s double-digit win at Windfall. The Wildcats at the moment are the final crew in our projected NCAA area whereas the Friars sit as the primary crew out. Extremely, the groups instantly on both facet of these two additionally reside within the Large East: Seton Corridor (next-to-last crew in) and St. John’s (second crew out). The Large East curler coaster is simply starting, and it is not going to cease till we attain Madison Sq. Backyard. — Lunardi





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