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2018 NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament: Lexington Regional Preview



Last night, the NCAA released the full bracket for the 2018 NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament. The initial bracket is divided into 4 regions: Albany, Knoxville, Lexington, and Spokane. The Lexington regional, hosted by #1 seed Louisville, includes some big names in women’s basketball, including Tennessee and Baylor. So how do these teams match up against each other?


(1) Louisville Cardinals [32-2 overall, 15-1 ACC] vs. (16) Boise State Broncos [23-9 overall, 14-4 Mountain West]

. Louisville Boise State
. Louisville Boise State
Points per game 76.6 69.2
Opponent points per game 56.9 61.4
FG% 0.48 0.431
Rebounds per game 38.3 38.5
Opponent rebounds per game 31.1 32.5
Turnovers per game 14 16

Louisville comes into the NCAA Tournament on a 7 game winning streak. The Cardinals have lost only 2 games this season: a 1-point loss to FSU and an 11 point loss to undefeated UConn. Boise State, meanwhile, has won 10 straight games heading into this matchup… but doesn’t have the strength of schedule that Louisville does. It would be a surprise if Louisville doesn’t win this one.

(8) Marquette Golden Eagles [23-9 overall, 15-3 Big East] vs. (9) Dayton Flyers [23-6 overall, 15-1 Atlantic 10]

. Marquette Dayton
. Marquette Dayton
Points per game 80.3 73.6
Opponent points per game 70.3 61.4
FG% 0.455 0.428
Rebounds per game 38.5 43.2
Opponent rebounds per game 35.3 37.1
Turnovers per game 13 13.3

Marquette is coming off of a Big East Tournament loss to DePaul, after splitting the regular season series with the Blue Demons 1-1 during the regular season. Meanwhile, Dayton was knocked out of the Atlantic 10 Tournament by a #5 George Washington team that the Flyers beat twice during the regular season. Both teams will be looking for redemption in the NCAA Tournament.


(5) Missouri Tigers [24-7 overall, 11-5 SEC] vs. (12) Florida Gulf Coast Eagles [30-4 overall, 13-1 Atlantic Sun)

. Missouri Florida Gulf Coast
. Missouri Florida Gulf Coast
Points per game 69.7 78.4
Opponent points per game 60.4 59.3
FG% 0.459 0.441
Rebounds per game 39.2 36.6
Opponent rebounds per game 30.5 34.8
Turnovers per game 14.8 12.1

Mizzou heads into the regionals after being knocked out of the SEC Tournament by a Georgia team that the Tigers struggled with all season. However, Mizzou has the talent to beat good teams and had a big upset victory over South Carolina earlier this season. Florida Gulf Coast will be coming into this match-up on a high, despite being the underdog. The Eagles are on a 10 game winning streak and just defeated Jacksonville to win the 2018 Atlantic Sun Tournament.

(4) Stanford Cardinal [22-10 overall, 14-2 Pac-12] vs. (13) Gonzaga Bulldogs [27-5 overall, 17-1 WCC]

. Stanford Gonzaga
. Stanford Gonzaga
Points per game 68 72.4
Opponent points per game 61.5 58.8
FG% 0.419 0.437
Rebounds per game 40.9 39.7
Opponent rebounds per game 36.5 34.8
Turnovers per game 14.5 13.5

Stanford has the benefit of hosting the first 2 rounds for these 4 teams. And the Cardinal should be coming into this game ready to fight after suffering a 20 point loss to Oregon in the Pac-12 Tournament. Meanwhile, Gonzaga will be coming into this game with a lot of confidence after winning the WCC Tournament. This should still be a winnable game for Stanford, but they’ll need to shake off their last loss.


(6) Oregon State Beavers [23-7 overall, 14-4 Pac-12] vs. (11) Western Kentucky Lady Toppers [24-8 overall, 12-4 CUSA]

. Oregon State Western Kentucky
. Oregon State Western Kentucky
Points per game 73.6 75.8
Opponent points per game 58.1 62.9
FG% 0.487 0.431
Rebounds per game 42.4 38.2
Opponent rebounds per game 32.2 35.6
Turnovers per game 14.2 11.1

After 2 regular season victories over Arizona State, Oregon State suffered a surprising 6 point defeat by the Sun Devils in the first round of the Pac-12 Tournament. Sometimes teams that have had a longer rest period between tournament games can struggle at first, so the Beavers will need to come into this one fresh and ready to fight. On the other hand, Western Kentucky just beat UAB to become the 2018 CUSA champions. The Lady Hilltoppers are the underdogs here, but don’t count them out just yet.

(3) Tennessee Lady Volunteers [24-7 overall, 11-5 SEC] vs. (14) Liberty Lady Flames [24-9 overall, 16-2 Big South]

. Tennessee Liberty
. Tennessee Liberty
Points per game 77.5 64.8
Opponent points per game 64.4 53.7
FG% 0.448 0.44
Rebounds per game 44 38
Opponent rebounds per game 35.4 28.8
Turnovers per game 16.6 15.8

Tennessee’s season ended with an SEC Tournament loss to South Carolina, but the Lady Vols’ season also included a pair of victories over South Carolina and a win over Georgia. It seems silly to call Tennessee a dark horse pick, but they are certainly one to watch for upsets. Liberty is a team that really picked things up after a slow start to the season, culminating in a Big South Championship victory. The Lady Vols are clear favorites in this match-up, however.


(7) Michigan Wolverines [22-9 overall, 10-6 Big Ten] vs. (10) Northern Colorado Bears [26-6 overall, 14-3 Big Sky]

. Michigan Northern Colorado
. Michigan Northern Colorado
Points per game 75.5 69.7
Opponent points per game 62 63.3
FG% 0.472 0.443
Rebounds per game 39.7 31.7
Opponent rebounds per game 30.6 36.2
Turnovers per game 16.3 13.9

Michigan was a bit up and down at the end of the season, and the Wolverines’ last game was a Big Ten Tournament loss to Nebraska. Michigan does have wins against Marquette, Maryland, and Ohio State this season, but overall has struggled against top teams. Northern Colorado is coming into this game ready to pick up an upset after winning 13 games in a row, including a Big Sky Championship final victory. The question is whether or not the Bears can keep up their winning ways against teams from stronger conferences.

(2) Baylor Lady Bears [31-1 overall, 18-0 Big 12] vs. (15) Grambling State Tigers [19-13 overall, 13-5 SWAC]

. Baylor Grambling State
. Baylor Grambling State
Points per game 86.6 67
Opponent points per game 55.9 67.2
FG% 0.512 0.399
Rebounds per game 48.8 35.6
Opponent rebounds per game 30.1 43.8
Turnovers per game 13.3 17.5

The always strong Lady Bears earned the #2 seed in the region after going 18-0 in the Big-12 and dropping only 1 game all season (to UCLA). Baylor is coming off of a dominating performance in the Big-12 Tournament, where they won each game by an average of 28 points. If anybody is going to beat Louisville to get the the Final Four, chances are it’ll be Baylor. Grambling State is a huge underdog in this match-up, but the Tigers did just defeat the #1 seeded Southern to win the SWAC Tournament.

Who are you rooting for in Lexington? Who do you think will win? Let us know in the comments!

Via Swish Appeal

College & HS

Izzo after loss: “Don’t plan on going any where”



DETROIT — Michigan State coach Tom Izzo had a strong message Sunday for any fan who thinks this year’s Spartans team failed to live up to its potential.

“You know what I would say? Find another team,” Izzo said. “… I would say that I have never, ever been prouder of a team than I am this team.”

Izzo said the Spartans (30-5) had a bad shooting day in their 55-53 upset loss to No. 11 seed Syracuse in the second round of the NCAA tournament on Sunday evening. He said he was motivated to bring Michigan State as a basketball team and a university back to a place of respect and prestige after a tumultuous season filled with off-the-court controversy and questions.

“I don’t plan on going anywhere,” Izzo, 63, said when a reporter asked if this season could drive him to retire. “I’ve got a job to do. I’ve never run from anything in my life. Nothing. I don’t plan on starting now. So, I’ll be here. I took too many bullets this year not to be here. So I’ll be here, and we’ll be back knocking on the door to win a championship. I’m going to make damn sure of that, and I’m going to get the help of my people, my team and my support. I hope I do a better job of handling all the other things.”

Izzo said his pride in this year’s roster comes, in part, from the way they’ve handled the controversy-filled season. An Outside The Lines report published in late-January called into question how Izzo and others within the athletic department and the university have responded to allegations of sexual assault and violence against women in the past. He has declined to answer questions about the report during the past six weeks, saying only that he’s comfortable that he handled those situations properly.

Izzo also drew some criticism for his remarks about former university president Lou Anna Simon during a sentencing hearing for Larry Nassar, the former Michigan State doctor who is serving at least 99 years in prison for sexual abuse and child pornography crimes.

In February, assistant coach Dwayne Stephens and star sophomore Miles Bridges were named in a Yahoo! report that detailed documents uncovered during the FBI’s investigation into corruption in college basketball. A brief investigation conducted by Michigan State found that one of Bridges’ family members had violated NCAA rules by accepting a meal with a professional agent. Bridges paid a $40 fine as restitution and did not miss any games for the Spartans.

Izzo said Michigan State has things it needs to fix and that he hopes to be part of the solution with those things. He said the past several months have been among the most trying times of his lengthy career in East Lansing.

“Nobody — not my wife, not my kids, not my team — nobody has any idea what it’s been like,” Izzo said. “I’m going to find a way to self-motivate and deal with and make better this university that I’ve given over half my life to. Understand that everything is not perfect anywhere. Not in your house, not in my house. Not in your job, not in my job. All I can do is try my hardest to make it better. If somebody would give me a chance to bring Michigan State back, I can’t think of anything I’d rather do.

“It’s been punched and kicked. Some of it was for mistakes that were rightfully so. Some of it was not rightfully so. I’m going to sit down with some people, and I’m going to be hopefully part of the solution, not part of the problem. Hopefully, hopefully, they’ll be a lot of people even standing here that will eat their words.”

Izzo said that his vision of bringing Michigan State back means that he wants the university to have “as much honor and prestige as it can have, because I think it’s what this university deserves.”


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College & HS

Cincy blows 22-point lead, stunned by Nevada



NASHVILLE — The upsets in the South Region of the NCAA tournament continued Sunday when No. 7 Nevada stormed back to beat No. 2 Cincinnati 75-73.

Cincinnati held a 22-point lead at one point in the second half and then went ice cold from the field, going on a field goal drought that would last 4 minutes, 51 seconds. It was the second-biggest comeback in tournament history, behind BYU’s comeback from a 25-point deficit against Iona in the 2012 First Four.

The Bearcats’ loss means none of the top four seeds in the South Region will advance to the Sweet 16, the first time that has happened since seeding began in 1979, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

As a result, No. 5 seed Kentucky won’t face an opponent seeded higher than seventh in the South. According to ESPN Stats & Information, the last school to reach the Final Four without facing a top-six seed was Kansas in 2008.

“We got the deer-in-the-headlights look,” Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin said. “The ball stopped dropping for us. We got fouled a lot of times, and it wasn’t called around the rim. And that got in our heads.”

Nevada guard Caleb Martin hit a 3-pointer with 54.1 seconds to tie the score, and then Josh Hall hit the go-ahead jumper with 9 seconds left. It was the first time the Bearcats trailed in the game and capped a stretch of 10:50 that saw them make just 3 of 19 field goals while Nevada made 13-of-19.

According to ESPN Stats & Information, Nevada had a 0.1 percent chance to win when it trailed by 22. Sunday’s win came on the heels of a 14-point comeback against No. 10 seed Texas in the first round, in which the Wolf Pack’s probability of winning was just 8.7 percent.

With Nevada’s win, there have been five game winners in the opening weekend of the tournament, one shy of the most since the tournament expanded in 1985, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

When the game ended, a raucous celebration ensued. At one point, Nevada coach Eric Musselman jumped on a table at press row in front of a section of the school’s fans.

In the locker room, Musselman took off his white dress shirt to celebrate.

“Coach works out every morning, so his shirt comes off a lot,” said Martin, who had 10 points and five rebounds.

Said Musselman of the scene in the locker room: “I’ve never seen anything like it in my life. It’s the happiest I’ve ever seen. It’s the happiest I’ve ever been in my life. I couldn’t be more proud of a team. Every single player in there, I mean, this feeling’s never going away the rest of any of our lives.”

With North Carolina’s loss to Texas A&M earlier in the day, only two of the 2-seeds in the tournament will advance to the Sweet 16, while four teams seeded seventh or lower have made the cut.

Nevada will play No. 11 Loyola-Chicago in Atlanta.


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Minnesota Timberwolves All-Star Jimmy Butler hopes to return before end of regular season



MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Jimmy Butler could return to the court for the Minnesota Timberwolves before the end of the regular season, if he stays on track with his rehabilitation from knee surgery.

Butler spoke to reporters Sunday for the first time since the meniscus injury he suffered Feb. 23 at Houston . He confirmed an initial recovery estimate of four to six weeks. Even on the long end of that timetable, he’d likely have two games with the Timberwolves before the postseason.

Butler said he’s confident in both his ability to heal in time and the team’s ability to hang on to a spot in the playoffs. The Wolves entered their game against the Rockets in a three-way tie for fifth place in the Western Conference, but no room for a slump.


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