The Ramblers of Loyola- Chicago have shocked the world by booking a spot into the Final Four (not to mention they were the first to do so!). They will be joined by Michigan, Villanova and Kansas. It’s no surprise to many that the latter three made it this far, as they are more familiar with the tournament. Loyola however, they haven’t gotten this far in a tournament since they last won it in 1963! That beautiful little tidbit during their Elite 8 match up made their run even more special (oh and Sister Jean of Course!).
Shattering Expectations and Busting Brackets
The Ramblers won the MVC Tournament against Illinois State, making their first tourney in 33 years. They were seeded 11th and faced Miami in the first round. Now, I’m sure most people were absolutely devastated by that buzzer-beater hit by Donte Ingram, in which they knocked of the Hurricanes. But people weren’t too concerned, considering they had to play #3 Tennessee next… big mistake. This time it was a Clayton Custer jumper with about 3 seconds left that crushed more brackets, as the Ramblers won a thriller 63-62. You would think by now people would stop betting against the Ramblers— but no. This team CONTINUED to exceed expectations and bust second-chance brackets by beating #7 Nevada in another thriller 69-68 and #9 Kansas State 78-62. Marques Townes put them up against Nevada with a very late three, and the Kansas State win came a bit easier.
Can the Ramblers Win It All?
After watching this tournament, anything is possible! I mean, we’ve got an 11-seed in the Final Four, along with two 1-seeds and a 3-seed. Villanova, Kansas and Michigan aren’t playing games, and haven’t been throughout their tournament run. They got here the same way the Ramblers did: blood, sweat and tears. Though, I could also say that being a lower seed makes for an easier road. Then again, we did see what happened to Xavier, Arizona, UNC, etc. Let’s look at some bumps that the lower seeds had:
- Michigan was almost sent packing by #6 Houston and Rob Gray. Freshman Jordan Poole saved the day with a 3-pointer. Their highest scorers only had 12 points and they shot poorly from the floor and three: 36% and 27%, respectively. Michigan is lucky they got out alive.
- Villanova had a small hiccup early. They almost didn’t get that 1 seed, in that they had to go into OT against Providence for the Big East Championship Title. After that, it was pretty much smooth sailing. Jay Wright and his guys have reputations to uphold.
- Kansas’ scare came against Duke, and that should be no surprise. They won 85-81 in OT, but I’m sure they knew Duke wasn’t going down without a fight. And even with a team sprawling with freshmen, if their coach is Krzyzewski you better be on your toes.
Personally, I’m done predicting. I’m just going to watch and enjoy what’s left of this tournament. But what does everyone else think???
Also, kudos to Ramblers coach Porter Moser. You did a hell of a job this year. Let’s keep it rolling!
If you did a bracket this year like I did, you may or may not be pulling your hair out. It was an exciting first round in NCAA play, no doubt, with a number of surprise upsets and struggles. In case you missed it, let’s highlight some of them:
- Miami let me down and dropped their match against Loyola-Chicago. Miami had the 1-point lead until Donte Ingram from Loyola hit the buzzer-beater three to win 64-62. Miami’s vice: free throws and turnovers.
- Buffalo handled Arizona the way I thought Arizona was going to handle Buffalo. It wasn’t even close, with Buffalo winning 89-68. They shot 55% from the floor and 50% from three. I mean, if you’re going to play a 4-seed, you have no choice but to play this way. Though, quite frankly, Arizona just didn’t show up.
- Right out the gate URI and OU blessed us with OT, and URI took the win 83-78. It was definitely a nail biter, with both teams wishing they could have performed better. URI only shot 39% from the floor AND three, but somehow still pulled out the win. I know people were hoping to see Trae Young go a bit longer but let’s be real, OU shouldn’t have made it into the tournament in the first place.
- Houston beat San Diego State 67-65, but it wasn’t easy. Houston’s Rob Gray had 39 pts and sealed the deal with a layup, leaving just over a second left. SDS almost tied it at the buzzer, but the shot hit the rim with no hopes of getting a friendly bounce. Hard fought game by both; not even mad about this one.
I know I missed some ‘thrillers’ but… you get the picture!
No Surprises, Just Domination
Tennessee, Kansas, Duke, and Villanova won their match ups outright. I think after the second half we knew there was no need to watch. Michigan and Florida kicked it into high gear in the second half, eliminating any chance for their opponents. Not saying these games were boring— it was exciting to see some good defense and efficient shooting. Oh yeah, and they REALLY helped out my bracket. Why bet against Duke or Villanova?
Day two of the madness kicks off today at 12:15 with Providence and Texas A&M starting us off. How will your bracket look at the end of today? Have fun streaming those games in the office, class or on a lunch break! Good luck to the teams and to all my fellow bracket-makers!
It’s the moment we’ve all been waiting for: NCAA Men’s Basketball! The season tips off tomorrow with a day full of exciting match ups starting at noon. All eyes will be on the defending champion UNC Tar Heels, as well as Coach K’s young squad at Duke.
The Tar Heels open their season at home against Northern Iowa. Their title defense begins with a new look, as they have lost Justin Jackson, Kennedy Meeks and Isaiah Hicks to the NBA. These three players were their top scorers and will be sorely missed, but now it is time for others to step up. Joel Berry is back for his senior year after averaging 14.7 points a game last season (though he will miss the first few games with a hand injury) and junior Luke Maye is back after hitting that game-winning shot in the Elite 8 matchup against Kentucky last season. This team also has six incoming freshman, and head coach Roy Williams will be looking to his juniors and seniors to step up and lead these young guys.
Duke opens their season tomorrow night as well against Elon with a completely new look, as Grayson Allen is the only senior on this roster. The team lost some top scorers to the NBA as well: Luke Kennard, Jayson Tatum, Frank Jackson and Amile Jefferson. Coach K has eight freshmen coming in this year, with the most anticipated being Marvin Bagley III. This kid is 6’11”, 220 pounds and will make a poster out of his opponents without a second thought. But with all the hype surrounding ESPN’s #1 overall recruit, we’ve forgotten that three other incoming freshman are in the top ten on ESPN’s list (Carter Jr., Duval and Trent Jr.). It’s clear that expectations are high for this team, seeing as they came in at #1 on the AP Poll (UNC is #9). The Blue Devils look to shatter expectations this season as they help their freshmen transition into NCAA athletes.
Another player to watch out for is Michael Porter Jr., who came in at #2 on ESPN’s top 100. He will be at unranked Missouri, and they will most likely look to him to provide that spark.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yjwDQd_6BbY (Check out Marvin Bagley III)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gItF3xsbrWU (Check out Michael Porter Jr.)