The Lakers season has been nothing but a disappointment so far this year, as the team stands in 9th place in the west holding a record 9 games under .500 at29-39. Matters didn’t seem to get much better last night either, as the Kings easily blew out the Lakers, 124-104. That isn’t the only headline from the night though…
Los Angeles Lakers guard Russell Westbrook is having the worst year of his career, receiving death threats, and taking a TON of heat right now. With that being said being trash talked by a team that has barely won 39% of their games the last three calendar years and a team that has not been that relevant since the early 2000s really didn’t help matters.
Westbrook had this to say about the Kings postgame,
“I honestly pay no mind to it. They weren’t talking to me… Nobody over there has done anything in this league… They won a game, happy for them, (I’ll) move on to the next one.”
Woah. Shots fired. But is he wrong? The Wolves have been a relatively quiet team in a small market historically, only winning one playoff game in the last 15 seasons. With a young emerging superstar in Anthony Edwards, a very good PG in D’Lo, and arguably the best shooting 7-footer in NBA history in Karl Anthony Towns obviously, these Timberwolves might just “do something” in this league.
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As if Falcons fans hadn’t suffered enough with arguably the worst loss in the history of professional sports (28-3?), Falcons fans suffered another setback, as the dirty birds traded their franchise quarterback Matt Ryan to the Indianapolis Colts FOR ONLY ONE third-round pick in this years’ 2022 NFL Draft. Yep, that isn’t a typo. Ryan, who holds every significant passing record in franchise history, is an All-Pro, and the 2016 NFL MVP, is without question one of the greatest players to dawn the Falcons uniform. I definitely didn’t expect it to take so little for another team to acquire Ryan via trade, with just a third-round pick not nearly being enough in return if you ask me. Nevertheless, the move indicates that the Falcons are in complete rebuild mode, while signaling to their fan base that any chance of returning to the Super Bowl will not happen any time soon.
With that being said, Falcons fans who are looking for any kind of silver lining to the move need to look no further than the two other professional sports teams that reside in Atlanta. The Braves began a rebuild in 2014, culminating in the Braves’ first World Series championship since 1995. Additionally, the Hawks began a rebuild of their franchise in 2017, and were just two wins away from appearing in the 2021 NBA Finals, which has alluded them since 1961. In the case of the Braves, drafting and developing the likes of Acuna, Albies, Freeman and Fried, accelerated the pace of the rebuild. With the Hawks, a keen eye for talent such as John Collins, Kevin Huerter and Onyeka Okongwu and deft draft day maneuvering to bring Trae Young to the City has helped the Hawks become one of the most promising teams in the NBA.
So, remember this Falcons fans, while the move of Matty Ice does not bode well for the immediate future of the franchise, one only needs to look at the Braves and Hawks to realize that good things could be ahead for the team. And that might also help heal other fresh wounds from the Falcons past. Will the Falcons be able to follow in the Braves and Hawks steps?
Gonzaga (West 1 seed) – The number one seed in the country and for good reason, Gonzaga has been first in every predictive metric for more than a month. The Bulldogs aren’t as good as last year’s team that entered the NCAA tournament with an unblemished record. Thanks to 7-footer (7 ‘1” to be exact) Chet Holmgren, this year’s group is just as dangerous, and there is not a player in the land quite like Holmgren. The Bulldogs are a dominant offensive force that includes fan favorite Drew Timme and Andrew Nembhard as starters from last year’s Final Four team. Gonzaga is extremely solid in transition, and they shoot at a 61% clip from inside the arc. On the defensive side of the coin, this year’s edition of the Zags might possess the program’s best defense since the 2017 Gonzaga team that appeared in the 2017 National Championship. Though the field is wider open than last year, the Bulldogs have a higher ceiling compared to the other powerhouses in the NCAA.
Arizona (South 1 seed)– Tommy Lloyd is having a hell of a first year with the Wildcats, helping the school claim the 1 seed in the tournament. Lloyd became only the third coach in NCAA history to accomplish this in his first year at the helm. The Wildcats might be the most exciting and fun squad to watch in the tournament. How far the Cats can go will most likely come down to the health of PG Kerr Kriisa, who badly twisted his ankle in the semifinals of the PAC-12 tournament. Kriisa plans to give it a shot this week, but Dalen Terry immediately proved he’s capable of stepping in for Kriisa if needed. Then there’s Bennedict Mathurin, a lottery-level talent who takes on all comers. This team shares the ball exquisitely, has a 6-11 workhorse in Azuolas Tubelis, and per KenPom.com, is the second tallest squad in the country. Arizona hasn’t made a Final Four since 2001. There’s a better-than-decent chance that drought ends here.
Kentucky (East 2 seed)– Even though the Wildcats aren’t a No. 1 seed, that doesn’t mean this isn’t one of the three best teams in the country. John Calipari never built a roster like this at Kentucky. National Player of the Year frontrunner Oscar Tshiebwe: transfer. Ever-valuable 3-point sharpshooter Kellan Grady: transfer. Shifty, constructive point guard Sahvir Wheeler: transfer. Ultra-athletic energy guy Jacob Toppin: transfer. And then there’s TyTy Washington, a terrific one-and-done lead guard talent, who will need to have a huge tournament in order to get UK to its 18th Final Four. Tshiebwe’s the best rebounder the sport has seen in decades. It starts with him, and then so many pieces fill in well around him. Kentucky got old, and wouldn’t you know it, the formula works.
Kansas (Midwest 1 seed)– For the ninth time, Bill Self has coached Kansas to a No. 1 seed. The Jayhawks won the Big 12 Tournament by an average of 15.3 points. Safe to say they’re ready for the big stage. Star shooting guard Ochai Agbaji is built for March. He shoots 40.5% from beyond the arc and 54.2% inside it. He’s a smart player who stirs Kansas’ drink. Another wing, Christian Braun, has developed into an NBA prospect alongside Agbaji because he’s a perfect match to pair with Agbaji’s skillset. Keep an eye on Remy Martin, though. The former Arizona State shooter has embraced his place as a role player for this team, but it’s conceivable he could be the most important sixth man in this tournament. This isn’t a top-five team Self’s had at KU (which speaks to his longevity and greatness as a coach), but it’s certainly one of the five best teams in this field.
Duke (West 2 seed)– From a talent standpoint, you can make a solid case that no team is more naturally gifted than Duke. Mike Krzyzewski and his staff recruited well to assemble a title-possible team in his final season. But as we saw in the ACC championship game and in the weeks leading up to now, Duke’s defense has gotten shakier. Because of that, it’s hard to justify ranking this team in the top five going into the tourney. Duke won’t be able to outscore teams. ACC defensive player of the year Mark Williams is always reliable, but guys like Trevor Keels, Wendell Moore Jr. and Paolo Banchero will need to join forces to bring Duke to a new level in order to make it to New Orleans. To be clear, the offense is of no concern. Banchero’s a mismatch and sharpshooter A.J. Griffin might prove to be one of the five best NBA players to come out of this year’s college class. Moore is efficient, Williams is opportunistic. At its best, Duke is as good as any team in the field.
Auburn (Midwest 2 seed)– Bruce Pearl’s Tigers won the SEC regular season after not being ranked in the preseason AP Top 25. They started 22-1 and were the best team in the country through the end of January. Since? Just 5-4. Auburn never lost at home this season, but was 11-5 away from Auburn Arena. The reason to love ’em: Jabari Smith could be the best pro prospect in this tournament. And Walker Kessler (4.5 bpg) might be the best defender. Auburn’s guard play is an opera, though. Wendell Green Jr. and KD Johnson can giveth just as they can taketh away. Auburn is seldom in the spot where it’s the No. 2 seed. The Tigers will try to overcome a daunting statistic: no national champion since 1985 (when the field expanded) failed to make at least the semifinals of their conference tournament. Auburn lost in the quarters of the SEC to Texas A&M.
Tennessee (South 3 seed)– Elite defensive team. Nobody wants to play Tennessee right now. Vols have won seven straight and 12 out of 13. They pushed hard to move up the overall seed line in the past two weeks, and with good reason. Kennedy Chandler, the freshman point guard, is a future first round pick and is the kind of player who can carry this team on offense on the big stage — but 5-9 Zakai Zeigler has been something of a revelation, too. It’s the best freshman backcourt duo in the country. Rick Barnes’ guys win with defense, though. That’s their M.O. Tennessee ranks third in defensive efficiency, per KenPom. Bluntly: Tennessee is peaking at the right time and this team looks as Final Four-capable as any Barnes has had.
Baylor (East 1 seed)– The reigning national champions lost four starters from last season’s team, but that didn’t prevent Scott Drew from building up one of the toughest squads in the country yet again. Baylor has been resting longer than expected — it was dropped in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 Tournament by Oklahoma — but that might be what the doctor ordered for a team that’s been hampered by injuries most of the season. In fact, even getting to 26-6 is a big feat for Drew’s team. I’m ranking them this high for how good they’ve been in spite of the bad luck. The ongoing foot ailment of leading scorer L.J. Cryer is something to keep an eye on, but this is still a well-balanced team with solid athleticism, reliable defense, good shooting and above-average guard play. Watch the freshman duo of Kendall Brown and Jeremy Sochan as both of these studs can jump out of the gym.
Purdue (East 3 seed)– The Boilermakers were the toast of college basketball through the first month of the season. But defensive issues have consistently plagued this team throughout their Big Ten schedule. The offense is so good though. Jaden Ivey is a superstar, Trevion Williams is arguably one of the best sixth men in the game and Zach Edey is one-of-a-kind. The Boilermakers’ remain a wickedly tricky team. Purdue can score 90-plus on a lot of teams in this bracket. How many can it keep under 70? Or 75? And without a natural point guard, it does put some limitations on this offense. We’ve seen Purdue thrive and struggle in the tournament under Matt Painter. If Ivey goes supernova and Purdue can find some semblance of consistent defense, the Final Four could be in their future. But a bad matchup can knock this team out two or three rounds early.
Villanova (South 2 seed)– With senior point guard Collin Gillespie opting to use the NCAA-wide bonus year of eligibility due to COVID, Villanova has once again operated as a Final Four contender all season long. The Big East Tournament champions are in the groove they need heading into bracket play later this week. Jay Wright’s team isn’t deep, but this is a veteran-laden group that’s not too big, not too small, and never beats itself. The late emergence of Brandon Slater makes this team yet again a Final Four threat, but really, it’s mostly due to Gillespie being one of, if not the best point guards in the college game. Jay Wright treasures this roster for how they always hold themselves accountable.
Texas Tech (West 3 seed)– The best defensive unit in college basketball and it’s not too surprising that’s the case. Mark Adams was exclusively the defensive play-caller under former coach Chris Beard for my seasons. Ascending to the helm of the Red Raiders program, TTU had no drop-off on D this season. They might have to adjust a little now that Big 12 officials won’t be calling their games, but it’s nothing compared to the preparation opponents will have to endure going against one of the most physical teams in the nation. Junior forward Kevin McCullar is this team’s best defender, but really, you’re not allowed on the floor here unless you’re committing to resistance.
Houston (South 5 seed)– Kelvin Sampson’s Cougars have overcome injuries to two of their four most important players; yet the Cougs’ rank among the best teams in the country. Following last years’ Final Four run, Houston has a top-12 defense — but ranks 10th in points per possession. Sampson has a balanced team, led by 6-11 senior Josh Carlton and 6-8 senior Fabian White. Houston is a nightmare to prepare for and will be undervalued again heading into the tournament.
UCLA (East 4 seed)– Mick Cronin’s Bruins were a top-three story in last year’s tournament when they went from the First Four to the Final Four. This team started the season as a preseason top-five club but battled the injuries for much of the season. Despite the injury concerns, the Sons of Westwood have maintained a good reputation. It gave Arizona a fantastic game in the Pac-12 final and now we’ll see what Johnny Juzang and Co. have for an encore. This team ranks 14th in offensive efficiency and 11th in defensive efficiency at KenPom. Six of its eight top minutes-getters are between 6-7 and 6-10. The Bruins remain a problem for most teams.
Illinois (South 4 seed)– The Illini have the pieces, size, experience and talent to make a run to New Orleans. It’s all about putting it together. The only thing stopping this team is itself. Kofi Cockburn returned this season, in part, to atone for last year’s second round exit at the hands of Loyola Chicago. Trent Frazier, a fifth-year senior, is a beloved player who ranks as a top-10 defender in college hoops. Andre Curbelo has whimsy to his game, but he’s among the most gifted passers at the college level. Tempting team here. Illinois was surprisingly upended in the Big Ten Tournament quarterfinals by Indiana and perhaps that upset will get this team’s focus where it needs to be. We’ve seen Illinois look close to elite this season. A Sweet 16, at minimum, is the expectation.
Iowa (Midwest 5 seed)– A year after getting a No. 2 seed with national player of the year Luka Garza, this years’ Hawkeye squad has exceeded all expectations. Keegan Murray has been playing at a First Team All-American level and his 103 points in the Big Ten Tournament set a league record as Iowa won its first Big Ten tourney title since 2006. How hot are the Hawkeyes? They now rate as the No. 2 offense in the nation and Murray might be playing his way into a lottery pick. It’s anyone’s guess whether the recent hot streak will translate to the NCAAs success, but it’s hard to see Iowa not making the Sweet 16 at minimum with how it’s looked in recent weeks. Fran McCaffery might have pulled off his best coaching job ever.
Arkansas (West 4 seed)– The Razorbacks are a sleeper national title contender. There aren’t many two-way players better than J.D. Notae, who was second in the SEC in scoring (18.4 ppg) and is nearly as good of a defender as big man Jaylin Williams (9.6 rpg), an underrated big man nationally. Arkansas will play with a blur, but it’s dangerous because of its flexibility to push the pace while not sacrificing defensive intensity or efficiency. The Hogs will try to make it to the second weekend for a second consecutive season, something that hasn’t been done since 1996.
UConn (West 5 seed)– The Huskies have a lot to like. NBA talent, an array of lengthy, athletic wings who can defend and crash the glass. A coach who’s as entertaining to watch as the team he puts on the floor. Dan Hurley’s getting it done at Connecticut. Huskies lead guard in R.J. Cole plays unafraid and can be unselfish on one play, then ball-dominant the next. While Cole commands the offense, the most important player is 6-9 center Adama Sanogo. His interior presence juxtaposed against SF Tyrese Martin’s shooting ability makes UConn a tantalizing pick to make it to the second weekend.
Wisconsin (Midwest 3 seed)– There are a few teams in my top 30 that weren’t even projected to make this year’s NCAA Tournament back in the preseason. Wisconsin (picked 10th) is one such team. Who could have known that Johnny Davis would become THE breakout player in college basketball? Davis (19.7 ppg, 8.2 rpg) is an NBA lottery talent. It’s not all Davis (Brad Davison and Tyler Wahl don’t get their due as difference-makers for this team), but he’s unquestionably the heart and soul of this squad and he’s good enough to carry Wisconsin into the second weekend. Predictive metrics aren’t high like I am on Bucky, but I’ve seen enough. Greg Gard’s team should win a couple of games.
Providence (Midwest 4 seed)– How much does the Friars’ 85–58 loss to Creighton in the Big East Tournament affect your confidence in this team? That was a beatdown. For most of the season Providence proved it was capable of ending on the winning side of close games. It’s the blowouts that are the problem. NCAA Tournament games tend to be closer early, so long as you’re not a No. 1, 2 or 3 seed. Keep it in mind, Ed Cooley was one of the best coaches in the sport this season and Providence was picked eighth in the Big East back in October. It’s not elite in a single team statistic, but the nucleus of Nate Watson (big), Al Durham (clutch wing) and Justin Minaya (lockdown defender) pushed Providence to its first regular season title in school history.
Murray St (East 7 Seed)– Murray State has the potential to be a big sleeper and is a top-25 team in the tournament. The Racers have quite some experience (K.J. Williams, Tevin Brown) who on the team led by Ja Morant that upset Marquette in the 2019 NCAA Tournament. Matt McMahon is one of the best mid-major coaches in the country. Sitting at 30-2, Murray State has the best record in the tournament. The Racers are a legitimate threat to win not only one, but two … possibly even three games in this tournament. They haven’t lost a game since December 22nd and can beat teams with different styles and tempos. This is an exciting team to say the least.
Texas (East 6 seed)– Texas has not been NEARLY as good as they were expected to be, but all hope is not lost yet. You must take into account that the Longhorns were consistently projected to be a top 5-10 team back in October as well, and it’s taken a few obstacles and tough Ls for the Longhorns to get to this point. They have a lot of tough losses, and that can be huge heading into the Tournament. The Horns were knocked out immediately in the Big 12 Tournament by TCU. Texas is easily one of the most experienced teams in this tournament, but can it find the consistency that? Seniors Marcus Carr and Andruw Jones are solid, but it’s forward Timmy Allen who needs to have an excellent stretch of games if Texas hopes to make the regional semifinals.
LSU (Midwest 6 seed)– This is the second time in Will Wade’s career that a Will Wade team will be playing in the tournament, but after his firing. Wade was let go by LSU Saturday obviously, so that already puts the Tigers at a disadvantage with the rumors that will come. Will the Tigers be better, or worse without Wade at the helm? We know what the school thinks. The team is fifth in defensive efficiency in the KenPom ranking, yet its defensive rebounding is a glaring weakness for this team, not usually the case considering LSU forces bad shots and plays good on ball defense The Tigers are solid in man-to-man, where we have seen them show flashes of a pretty good team that has the ability to create turnovers one out of every four opponents’ possessions. Cincinnati transfer Tari Eason has been one of the best and most important transfers in the nation this year. In the long run, the Tigers most likely are not going on any kind of magical run, but the squad has won at least one game in the two times it’s played in the NCAA tournament under Wade. But remember, Wade is no longer there.
Alabama (West 6 seed)– A lot of good teams were unable to win a conference tournament game and the Crimson Tide are one of them. A year after a fantastic season where they found themselves as a 2-seed, Bama has arguably been the most confusing team in the field. It has a resume of wins vs a very good Gonzaga team, Baylor, Houston, Tennessee and Arkansas. The thing is, Bama has also suffered losses to Iona, Missouri, Georgia and Texas A&M. Alabama could lose by 10 in the first game, or blow out everyone the team 2 rounds by double digits. Alabama succeeds at getting to the rim and scoring. This team’s major flaw is its poor 3-point shooting (31.1%) but they still take on average 22 a game.
Ohio St (South 7 Seed)-OSU is also another great example of an inconsistent team in this tournament, and their injuries definitely haven’t helped. With that being said, the Buckeyes have a good coach, some NBA talent and one of the top players in the country in Malaki Branham, who has turned himself into being a first round NBA pick. Not to mention, E.J. Liddell is easily one of the 10 best players in the country in my eyes as well. Can Chris Holtmann get this team’s playing good defense again? Honestly, that is hard for me to see happening, but they must be determined to redeem themselves of last year where they were upset as a No. 2 seed by No. 15 Oral Roberts.
Boise St (West 8 seed)– Led by Coach Leon Rice, the Broncos were able to win their first regular season league title since 2015 with a 15-3 record in conference play (Boise State joined the Mountain West in 2011.) Much credit must be given to Rice, as he began experimenting and taking risks by changing his starting lineup and rotation only seven games into the season, when the team was 3-4. Whatever he did clearly worked, as the Broncos went on to win their next 13 games, and 20 of its next 23. Abu Kigab is the team’s most reliable scorer and best on ball-defender.
Virginia Tech (East 11 seed)– The Hokies dramatic ACC Championship win over Duke showed us why this group belongs in the dance, and they are also a pretty good sleeper too. Coach Mike Young has long been regarded as one of the smarter coaches in college basketball as he has built, recruited, and coached up one of the best 3-point teams in the game. Justyn Mutts is an extremely tough player and great defender and Storm Murphy can shoot the 3-ball very well. Cattoor is a 3-pt sniper who takes them like his life is depending on it. Aluma has also become a promising big for VT, who previously struggled at Wake. Easy team to root for if you aren’t a Blue Devil fan, and easily one of the hottest heading into dance.
North Carolina (East 8 seed)– Hubert Davis has had a great first season as head coach of the Tar Heels, helping lead them back into the tournament. Their tournament status wasn’t even completely certain just two weeks ago, but now that UNC is in, can they do any damage this March? Can UNC’s performance in their last game which was also Coach K’s last home game be outdone? Can this squad do anything else significant? UNC is an interesting team who could definitely make a run to the Sweet 16. Junior Bigman Armando Bacot has lived up to the hype this year, becoming one of the best bigs in the NCAA. Brady Manek can also fill it up. A lot of what this team does and can do is dictated by sophomore PG Caleb Love, who has grown into a nice player his sophomore year. His backcourt buddy RJ Davis is a tenacious and fearless player as well.
Colorado State (South 6 seed)– The Colorado Rams enter the NCAA tournament in the mist of one of their best seasons in school history, going 25-5 under fourth year coach Niko Medved. CSU finished top-20 in per possession offense and second in the Mountain West. Small-Ball Center David Roddy is a must watch in this tournament. The center’s ability to stretch the floor at his size, move and basically do-it-all is just fantastic when it comes to helping this Rams team win games. Davis can beat teams on the boards, or with 40 points. The multitalented big man is also paired with PG Isaiah Stevens, who is one of the most underrated players in the nation in my eyes.
Loyola Chicago (South 10 seed)– Coach Drew Valentine was able to lead Loyola Chicago to the tournament at only 30 years old, becoming the youngest coach to lead a team in the tournament since JEff Capel was 29 in 2004 at VCU. The Ramblers return four starters from last year’s team that was an eight seed and was able to make a run to the Sweet 16. The Ramblers are 6-2 in their last eight tournament games, which include wins over a 6 seed, 3 seed and even a 1 seed! Loyola Chicago was able to hold their opponents in the MVC Tournament to a very poor 30% from the field and an abysmal 20% from the arc. Loyola Chicago is definitely seeded correctly, and the committee got it right when you also consider their weaker schedule. Sister Jean and the Ramblers once again find themselves with an opportunity to make some magic happen once again this March.
USC (Midwest 7 seed)– As we know, USC was able to make it all the way to the Elite Eight last year. Despite having a good record, the Trojans just are not as good as they were last year when they had Evan Mobley. The argument can be made that they are overrated, since the Pac-12 is only sending three teams to the dance. USC definitely is not nearly on the same level as their fellow conference champion Arizona Wildcats and UCLA. With that being said, Drew Peterson has grown into a borderline star these past three months. The 6-9 junior is a great shooter from deep (41%) and is huge when it comes to USC and their team having success. Isaiah Mobley is a good player as well, standing 6-10 with an inside-out kind of skill set. Don’t just put this team aside as a first round loser, because we saw what they did last tournament.
U San Fran (East 10 seed)– Every March, heroes are born and teams shock the world. San Fran definitely has a good story in the making if they are able to make any noise, who are in the tournament for the first time since 98. Coach Todd Golden has a talented backcourt in guards Khalil Shabazz and Jamaree Bouyea, who are exciting to watch and not easy to contain. This team definitely could win a game or two. Also, 6-9 senior Yauhen Massalski is very good at the rim. Do not overlook this basketball team, they started the season top-35 at KenPom and just worked their way up. They are consistent, and enter the tournament 21st.
Memphis (West 9 seed)– Much credit must be given to Penny Haraway, who completely helped turn his teams season around. The Tigers season was basically considered a complete failure only two months ago in January. BartTorvick.com leaves us with an EXTREMELY interesting stat, claiming Memphis has played like the fifth best team in the nation since February 1st. To make it more impressive, this is also without Emoni Bates, the 5-star prospect who hasn’t been with the Tigers in over a month due to injury complications. Jalen Duren, a freshman, has been HUGE for the Tigers, and this team has a very solid defensive reputation. There is no telling what this team is going to do this tournament, they are definitely one of the most unpredictable teams this March. Even if their March ends early, they are in the tournament for the first time since 2014 and that is a whole lot better than watching from the couch. (i know, I go to Georgia)
Davidson (West 10 seed)– No knock on Bob McKillop’s team for not winning the A-10 auto bid. The Wildcats rank 11th in offensive efficiency at KenPom. They’re a team that’s a model example of the ball not sticking. Michigan State transfer Foster Loyer founds his niche here: he sets up dynamic wing Hyunjung Lee (one of the most reliable shooters in college basketball) and feeds the post with aplomb for 6-10 senior Luka Brajkovic. There’s no Steph Curry on this team, but this Davidson group is the best McKillop’s had since Curry was on campus.
San Diego State (Midwest 8 seed)– Brian Dutcher has done it once again. The Aztecs, who were once a complete pushover and an excuse of a program, have found themselves consistently in the NCAA Tournament now. That reputation is dead and gone, as this SDSU program is fully alive. According to advanced analytics, the Aztecs have been one of the 30 best teams in the country for the third consecutive season. California transfer Matt Bradley has been exactly what SDSU needed and then some. The 6-4 guard is an intense defender and eats rebounds. Bradley is also one of the best ranked 3-point shooters in the Mountain West Conference. This team has much experience as well, and that is exactly why they are in this bracket once again.
Seton Hall (South 8 seed)-As we know, Seton Hall’s HC Kevin Willard is one of the main and most realistic candidates for the Maryland job and for good reason. Willard has led the pirates to the tournament for the fifth time since taking over. If the team wants to make any noise this tournament though, Jared Rhoden (15.9 ppg, 6.8 rpg) and Kadary Richmond are going to have to ball out. This team has been good, but not great all season long. Although the Hall has one six out of their last seven, they never really were able to hang with UConn, who soundly defeated them 62-52 in the conference tournament.
Michigan State (West 7 seed)– If you ask me this is a relatively average and subpar team for Coach Tom Izzo, which means they have all the ability in the world to potentially make a run to the Sweet 16. Last year, the Spartans were a one-and-done in the First Four. Historically, Tom Izzo has almost never had a quick appearance in consecutive NCAA tournaments. Freshman Max Christie is still figuring his game out while Tyson Walker and Malik Hall have developed into phenomenal players. PG A.J. Hoggard holds the #1 assist rate in the country and gets a dime approximately 47% of the time he is on the court.
Indiana (Midwest 12 seed)– Times have been pretty tough for Indiana Hoops the past year. Despite that being said, first-year coach Mike Woodson was able to get the Hoosiers into the tournament. Trayce Jackson-Davis is a must-watch player who is very capable of carrying this team to a win or two if the cards fall into place. This Indiana team is good, but nothing amazing. Good seeing the Hoosiers dancing in March again though.
Michigan (South 11 seed)– Michigan barely made the Tournament, becoming only the fifth team (not including 2021) to make the tournament despite only being a mediocre 3 games or fewer above the .500 mark. Hunter Dickenson has been as good as we thought he would be for the Wolverines this year, scoring 18.3 ppg and grabbing 8.3 boards. Dickenson is another fantastic center playing in this year’s tournament.
Miami (FL) (Midwest 10 seed)- Miami is dancing for the first time since 2018. Jim Larranaga has led the Hurricanes to the tournament a total of 5 times. The Hurricanes have an electric all ACC-guard by the name of Kameron McGust (17.6 ppg, 4.8 rpg), and also have a seventh-year, yeah, seventh-year guard named Charlie Moore and he can hoop. They also have stretch big Sam Waardenburg, who stands 6-10 and shot 43% from the arch. Even though Miami is not a top half of the field team to me, they are definitely a double-digit seed that stands as a threat.
TCU (South 9 seed)- Not many fanbases will cherish this year’s tournament like TCU fans. This is just the second time the program has made the tournament since 1998. Jamie Dixon has been nothing but a plus for the program since being hired in 2016, and the only better offensive rebounding team in the country is the Kentucky Wildcats. For all their rebounding power, they have efficient guards in Mike Miles who averages 15 points a game and Damion Baugh (10.7 ppg. 4.4 apg). Their shooting is a little inconsistent, but not a glaring weakness.
Marquette (East 9 seed)– Shaka Smart is in his first year with the Golden Eagles. This team was heavily doubted coming into the season, being predicted as a bottom four team in the Big East, but here they find themselves, one of seven teams from the Big East in the tourney. Redshirt freshman Justin Lewis is one of the best players in the Big East. Daryll Morsell is also one of the best defenders in the country. Marquette was not playing that good of basketball to start the season, but the team was able to get hot in January stringing together 7 straight and have been inconsistent since. No telling what this team does, most likely loses or either wins a game.
Rutgers (11 seed)– Despite not making the Tournament since 1976, the Scarlet Knights find themselves dancing for the second straight season this March. Although they have 3 terrible losses, a poor non-conference schedule and decent team analytics, the committee decided they value their six quad wins more than that. This team has a very polarizing resume and is hard to explain. A real wildcard.
Creighton (Midwest 9 seed)– Although Greg McDermott lost five starters from his Sweet 16 team a year ago and his freshman PG Ryan Nembhard 27 games into the season, Creighton finds themselves in the tournament once again, and statistically has their best defense in 20 years. The Jays definitely are not going to be just benign in the tournament. In a March full of teams with great bigs, 7-footer yan Kalkbrenner is almost as good as any of them.
UAB (South 12 seed)– A team that is well deserving of a place in the field, being the Conference USA’s autobid. The Blazers are led by 5-11 junior guard Jordan Walker. He is a sniper who has a clutch gene as well. He has a ton of confidence too, stating that he didn’t care who his team was going to play, they were going to win. This team is definitely tempting to put as a dark horse sleeper in brackets this year. They play relaxed, can shoot, and never seem to panic.
Iowa St (Midwest 11 seed)– Definitely overachieved this season. T.J Otzelburgers first year at the helm started with his team being projected to finish last in the Big 12. Instead of playing into the narrative, they easily made the field with a 20-12 record and top-10 defense in the country. The Cyclones grind out possessions, play pestering defense and SR Izaiah Brockington and FR Hunter are a solid duo. Brockington is the favorable shooter, while Hunter is a great defender and playmaker.
Vermont (West 13 seed)– John Becker and the Catamounts are in the tournament for the fourth time since he took over. UVM has been playing fantastic basketball since around the beginning of December, going a whopping 22-1 and losing only one game in overtime to Hartford. The Catamounts are led by two of the best players in the New England area: two-time all America East Player of the Year, FW Ryan Davis and fellow SR Ben Shungu, a solid 41% 3-point shooter. It is definitely tempting to have them as a Cinderella team in this year’s dance, but just not extremely realistic. Vermont was 1-2 in Quad 1 and 2 games this season and played 20 of its games against Quad 4 opponents. With that being said, the team won the America East by an average of 36.7 points. It is safe to stay they are blistering hot entering the tournament.
Wyoming (12 seed)– The Cowboys are dancing for the first time since 2015! This is only the program’s second appearance in 20 years as well. Jeff Linder runs an offensive unlike any other in college hoops based off of purely hard-nosed, tough and relentless basketball really. A lot of teams can handle this intensity, but between forwards Graham Ike and Hunter Maldonado, the Pokes will feed the post repetitively if it is working. Linder is a rising coach in college basketball, and his team will more than likely be ready to play this week.
South Dakota State (Midwest 13 seed)– Eric Henderson is definitely destined for a higher-tier job soon, thanks to his 68-21 record through his 3 seasons as the Jackrabbits head coach. The squad has won 21 straight games, the longest streak in the country. There has not been a Summit League to ever win 30 games until this team, and they have done it with their shooting. They are ranked first nationally in effective FG at (59.6%), 3-PT (44.2%) and are second in PPG at (86.7). This team is a must watch in the first round.
Chattanooga (South 13 seed)– The Mocs were dead in the water until senior David Jean-Baptiste was able to knock down one of the most miraculous shots you will ever see to win the SoCon tournament. This team beat VCU on the road and beat a solid Furman team three times this year as well. Sophomore Guard Malichi Smith can do a little bit of everything (20.7 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 3.1) and is touted as one of the best mid-major players in the tournament. Watch out for this team, anything can happen in March
New Mexico State (West 12 seed)– The WAC was able to have a phenomenal mid-major season this year, but once more NMSU made it into the field. They have tournament appearances in 9 of the last 12 seasons. The 26-6 Aggies have good size and are tenacious wing defenders. Jans is definitely good enough to potentially land a bigger job in the coming weeks, and just might if this team can win one game in this tournament.
Richmond (Midwest 12 seed)– Richmond is making their first tournament appearance for the first time since 2011. The Spiders don’t just have one of the oldest and most experienced teams in the nation, these guys have all also played together for longer than four years. Jacob Gilyard is the NCAA all-time leader in steals, and Grant Golden is one of the programs best players ever. These Spiders aren’t easily squashable.
Yale (East 14 seed)– Before James Jones became the coach at Yale, the program went 54 years without a tournament appearance. Now, they have reached the tournament 4 out of the last 7 seasons. Jones is clearly the man they needed to take them where they wanted to be and should probably be coaching at a bigger program. Who says basketball players can’t be geniuses?
Colgate (Midwest 14 seed)– Colgate is making their third tournament appearance in the last four years. Matt Langel, who has been coaching the Raiders for over a decade, took a very undesirable job but was able to turn Colgate into a consistent tournament team. South Dakota State is the only team that shoots threes better than Colgate. Colgate is led by senior Jack Ferguson. You might remember last year when they almost upset Arkansas. They are older and definitely looking to make some noise.
Montana St (West 14 seed)– Montana State is in the tournament for the first time since 1996 and only the fourth time in school history. Charlotte ranks top-60 nationally in 2- and 3-point percentage. Xavier Bishop, 5-8 senior point guard, is a fearless leader and someone to keep your eye on in the first round.
St. Peter’s (East 15 seed – The Peacocks were able to make it back to the tournament for the first time since 2011. Coach Shaheen Holloway has built a name for himself. This basketball team heavily relies on their defense.
Akron (East 13 seed) – The winners of the MAC as a 4 seed are making their third appearance in the tournament. Their coach has been in this position before. You may remember the 2012 Cinderella story when Ohio reached the sweet 16. This team goes where Xavier Castaneda goes.
Longwood (South 14 seed) – 18 years after becoming a D-1 school, the Lancers have reached their first NCAA tournament. Their head coach was formerly a lawyer and CEO of a gas and oil company. Leading the team with his executive prowess, they have lost only one time since Dec. 22 and are ranked 8 in 3-point accuracy. Will this team surprise anyone this March?
Delaware (South 15 seed) – Delaware is making their second tournament appearance in 23 years. They did so as the no. 5 seed in the CAA tournament. Led by freshman and conference tournament MVP, Jyare Davis, the Blue Hens are out to bust some brackets. The team also has Jameer Nelson Jr. son of a former NBA player.
Jacksonville St (Midwest 15 seed)– The only team in the NCAAs that did not win its conference tournament. That’s because Jacksonville State (which is located in Jacksonville, Alabama) won the regular season ASUN title, then lost in the tournament to Jacksonville (as in: Jacksonville, Florida). When Jacksonville lost to Bellarmine (ineligible for NCAAs until 2025 due to recent transition to Division I), Jacksonville State earned the auto bid for winning the regular season. The program went D-I in 1995. This is its second NCAA tourney appearance.
Norfolk St (East 16 seed)– Rob Jones has shown to be an excellent low-major coach that will probably get a bigger job in the next couple of weeks. Norfolk St is making their second tournament appearance straight, representing the MEAC. The Spartans have shown a keen ability to defend the 3-pointer, and better bring it if they plan on shocking the world
CS Fullerton (West 15 seed)– 2nd seeded CS Fullerton was able to take down top-seeded Long Beach State in the Big West Conference The Titan’s who are lead by Dedrique Taylor, came back to defeat the top-seeded Long Beach State in the title game to make it back to the tournament after 4 years.
Georgia St (West 16 seed)– Starter and pivotal Panther bigman Eliel Nsoseme missed the first 11 games of the season as GSU started off the season at 6-5. The Panthers are an experienced team who brought much of its roster from last season back, when they were an offensive team in the Sun Belt conference but also one the worst defensive teams in the conference. This season has been the opposite. Anyways, Nsoseme is a best player on the Panthers and Corey Allen is an efficient scorer who logged back to back 29-point games in the Big South Tournament to help lead Georgia State here.
Bryant (South 16 seed)– Bryant is making their first NCAA Tournament since their program was founded in 2008. Peter Kiss is the most important player on the roster by a country mile. Kiss is a very solid, two-way player who could potentially be considered a “mid-major star”. The former Rutgers and Quinnipiac role player leads the country in scoring with 25.1 points a game, grabs 5.8 rebounds, and swipes 3.3 steals a game as well. In the NEC conference title, Kiss dropped 34 points and was all over the place, getting five steals. His game seems to rise as the stakes get higher.
Wright St (South 16 seed)– The Raiders were able to rally back from a 16-point deficit in their Horizon League Conference title game to earn an automatic bid into the tournament after blowing a 24-point lead in the championship game last year and not making it. With that being said, Wright State has the least effective bench in the tournament, ranking 356th in bench minutes, meaning Tanner Holden, Grant Basile, Keaton Norris, Trey Calvin and Tim Finke will absolutely get their time to shine in this tournament. Wright State is very unlikely to make any noise or anything since they are not a good 3-point shooting team, and rarely shoot them in the first place.
Texas So. (Midwest 16 seed)– The Texas Southern Tigers are the team out of the SWAC for the 6th time in the last 8 years. The Tigers have been rolling, going 3-2 since Jan. 18. There might not be a deeper team in the tournament, Texas Southern’s bench plays 46.5% of the entire team’s minutes, which is 1st in the KenPom rankings. They have a deep rotation and everybody gets minutes.
Texas A&M CC (Midwest 16 seed)– Former Purdue Assistant Steve Lutz has only been with the program for less than a year, but they find themselves in the NCAA tournament and champs of the Southland Conference. It’s the school’s first appearance since 2007. This team is inconsistent on offense and may well be a quick one-and-done, but teams like these embrace their shot at the tournament as much as anyone else.
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Liverpool will try to extend their lead as they sit atop first place in Group B in the UEFA Champions League against Porto on Tuesday at 3 p.m EDT. Pool opened up play with a back and forth 3-2 victory over AC Milan in their first group match. Meanwhile, Porto played to an uneventful 0-0 draw against Atletico Madrid. Liverpool is playing solid right now and they are back to full strength.
The Nationals are on a 10-game road trip and started it off well winning the first 3 out of 4 games on the trip, after that, they have managed to lose their last 3 games. RHP Josiah Gray will take the mound for DC, and the right-hander struggled vs the Rockies at home last week 5 ER, 3 H, 4 BB in 5 ⅓ innings. I’m expecting the Rockies to hit the ball pretty well tonight and take down the struggling Nationals.
At the beginning of the season, everyone and their brother had the Cowboys finishing 1st in the NFC East and the Eagles finishing most likely last. That narrative changed though. After we saw a solid outing by Philly Week 1 against the Falcons, these teams are a little closer than one would think in my eyes. The Eagles fast start was key, being able to bring in a healthy offensive and defensive front was critical, but they aren’t nearly as healthy anymore.
Fletcher Cox, a staple on the Eagles defense for years, has been dealing with an illness this week and the loss of Brandon Graham is not good at all. Not to mention, starting LT Brandon Brooks is out for the week. The Cowboys definitely are not contenders yet, but last week they captured a very resilient win. With this being said, take Dallas -3.5 or -3 if confident.
Final score prediction: Cowboys: 31 Eagles: 27 (58 points total)
Can the Bears stay within striking distance against a very deep and talented Cleveland Browns team. Probably not, Rookie Quarterbacks are 0-4 so far this season against the spread. Nagy has never developed a good quarterback as the Bears HC so I doubt Field’s first start will be anything other than sub-par. Take the Browns.
WTF @ Bills U45.5 (-110)
The Bills are solid on both sides of the ball, but still another animal when it comes to offense. Going into Week 3, it is inevitable to say that the defense has played better than Josh Allen & company have on offense. As we know, Washington’s front 7 has struggled the first 2 weeks, but it’s only a matter of time until the beast awakes, and I think it will be tomorrow. Their front 7 is ELITE, to say the least. Heinicke is better than advertised as well, and has shown it multiple times in the past year. With that being said, I believe the Bills will keep WFT’s line in check. The game is supposed to be very windy, so I wouldn’t be surprised if a kick or two are offline. Ultimately, take the under.
Saints +3 (-120)
Mac Jones will be a good quarterback in the NFL for a while, but he is still a rookie. Although he is the perfect pair for the Pats & their staff, ultimately I believe he is not ready to beat anyone remotely good. I believe Sean Payton will be able to formulate a game plan to shut down the Patriots offense although Jameis is always unpredictable…. Take New Orleans +3
Titans -5.5 (-110)
If Wentz can’t play (ankle) which looks like the case, Jacob Eason or Brett Hundley will be taking snaps under center vs the Titans. We all know Vrabel is an elite NFL coach, and Derrick Henry has rushed for over 100 yards in his last 4 contests for a total of 429 yards and 4 TDs. Take the Titans -5.5.
Cardinals -7.5 (-110)
Maybe my bet of the week. The Cards were looking like arguably the most impressive and dangerous teams in Week 1. Arizona averages a high 36 points a game, and the Jaguars allow 30 a game. I think that Jacksonville made a mistake in bringing back Urban, and the ship just might start sinking soon. Expect Arizona to run away with this one. Take the Cards (-7.5)