The 2023 NCAA males’s match has already been a bruising expertise for high seeds.
Kansas performed with out its head coach and was eradicated within the spherical of 32 by Arkansas and Eric Musselman (who promptly celebrated by taking off his shirt).
Houston was down 10 on the half towards Auburn (in Birmingham!) earlier than the Cougars rallied for the win.
And Purdue … properly, you understand all about Purdue.
What is occurring right here? Is that this a change within the recreation, random likelihood, seeding error or a bit of all the above? Or are all of us overreacting to a few days of basketball? ESPN’s males’s school basketball consultants Myron Medcalf, Jeff Borzello and John Gasaway have been watching carefully and pondering deeply. They’ve some theories. — John Gasaway
What went incorrect with Kansas?
Jeff Borzello: Devo Davis, principally. One Massive 12 head coach advised me earlier than the match that Kansas’ lack of measurement made it inclined on the basket resulting from its lack of ability to guard the rim. On paper, Arkansas felt unlikely to check that as a result of the Razorbacks do not have a go-to publish participant. However Arkansas took benefit in different methods. Davis and his teammates had been completely relentless whereas attacking the rim within the second half, driving off the bounce and ending in visitors — particularly after Kansas’ Ok.J. Adams Jr. and Ernest Udeh Jr. had been saddled with foul bother. The Razorbacks additionally grabbed 15 offensive rebounds and had 15 second-chance factors.
One other quote from the aforementioned Massive 12 coach struck me on Saturday night time: “Gradey [Dick] and Jalen [Wilson] should make pictures. Certainly one of them making them is not sufficient.” Wilson went to work, however Dick had seven factors on 3-for-9 capturing. Davis was merely elite at each ends of the ground.
Myron Medcalf: Nicely, I are inclined to suppose it is extra about what went proper with an Arkansas workforce that hasn’t performed like this in a constant stretch all season. The Razorbacks — who by no means had any questions on their athletic capabilities — are defending, controlling the offensive glass and making key performs down the stretch in probably the most essential chapter of the season. However Kansas’ Kevin McCullar Jr. fouled out late, and Gradey Dick lastly regarded like a freshman, which put much more stress on Jalen Wilson to do all of it late; and the Jayhawks additionally did not have their head coach.
Norm Roberts did an excellent job getting this Kansas workforce to the second spherical. In these essential moments, nevertheless, Corridor of Famer Invoice Self wasn’t on the sideline to regular his gamers when Arkansas had them on the ropes. I feel that was a big aspect in all of this, regardless of what anybody mentioned about it.
John Gasaway: The place have you ever gone, David McCormack? Arkansas launched 15 makes an attempt from past the arc (and made simply three) but additionally acquired into the inside towards Kansas. That is the place Eric Musselman’s workforce actually acquired the job completed. After permitting the Hogs to seize 15 offensive boards and rating 21 factors on the line, the Jayhawks had been despatched residence after simply two video games. Each the fast exit and its nature are a shock. KU’s inside protection in Massive 12 play was fairly good, however that was no assist towards Arkansas when it mattered most.
Houston survived. How far can this 1-seed go?
Medcalf: I feel Houston can develop into the primary workforce in NCAA historical past to each host and take part within the Remaining 4 and win a nationwide title. (Sure, Butler reached the Remaining 4 in Indianapolis in 2010, however Butler was not the host college.)
For Houston, I simply needed to see if Jamal Shead and Marcus Sasser might play at a excessive stage, though they’re each coping with accidents. Shead had his struggles, however he performed 34 minutes. And Sasser scored 22 factors (7-for-14 capturing) in 31 minutes, though he needed to play via foul bother.
That is not the one proof. When wholesome — or most wholesome — this workforce has a depth that enhances its possibilities. Tramon Mark (26 factors) reminded all that this workforce is larger than Sasser. I do not know if Houston is one hundred pc. Nevertheless it’s shut sufficient to make its nationwide title goals appear tangible. Plus, the Cougars have a whole lot of time to relaxation and prepare for his or her subsequent opponent.
Borzello: I’d be extra involved about Houston if it did not simply go into Auburn’s residence state and beat the Tigers by 17. The Cougars had been terrible within the first half, trailed by 10 on the break, had each Sasser and Shead banged up and in foul bother — and nonetheless beat Auburn in convincing style. Kelvin Sampson’s workforce nonetheless has an extremely excessive ground.
The Cougars can flip up the warmth defensively like few different groups within the nation, they crash the offensive glass at a excessive fee and so they have so many weapons offensively. Sasser regarded advantageous when he was on the ground, Shead regarded advantageous when he was on the ground, Mark stepped up in a giant method — and that is not even mentioning their lottery choose in Jarace Walker. Houston continues to be the favourite to get to the Remaining 4.
Gasaway: Say this for Houston’s damage worries: Their injured guys are literally enjoying. That is a deal UCLA (Jaylen Clark) or Tennessee (Zakai Zeigler) would absorb a heartbeat. Come to think about it, the Cougars would not have minded that association themselves one yr in the past. Kelvin Sampson’s workforce needed to play the 2022 match with out each Sasser and Mark resulting from season-ending accidents. Nonetheless, UH reached the Elite Eight. One thing tells me Houston’s ceiling in its current circumstances continues to be fairly excessive.
Alabama can be coping with accidents. What are the probabilities we might lose at the very least yet another No. 1 seed earlier than the Remaining 4?
John Gasaway: The probabilities are a lot better than they have been shortly as a result of we’re already down to only two high seeds left. We have additionally seen each of the remaining No. 1 seeds look beatable within the current previous. The primary half Houston performed towards Auburn left the Cougars trailing by 10 factors (although Sampson’s workforce did find yourself successful simply). Alabama appears to have overcome its late-season malaise that included an additional time win at South Carolina and a loss at Texas A&M. We might have a Remaining 4 and not using a high seed for the primary time since 2011, however proper now, the chances are towards it.
Myron Medcalf: After watching Arizona, Purdue and Kansas lose, I am unsure something will shock me. However I additionally imagine there are tiers among the many high seeds. Houston and Alabama have performed at a stage above the sector. I would put Kansas in that group, however the Jayhawks did not have their head coach, which I feel mattered. Purdue confronted questions on its depth all season.
Alabama registered 132 factors per 100 possessions in a 21-point win over Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, even with Brandon Miller going scoreless in 19 minutes. I feel Alabama and Houston — supplied the Cougars can keep as near wholesome as attainable — can be powerful to knock off earlier than the Remaining 4. Nothing is inconceivable, however I feel they’re in a unique class.
Jeff Borzello: Alabama and Houston had been the one two 1-seeds I had advancing previous the Candy 16, so I’ve felt Kansas and Purdue had been susceptible for some time. And I nonetheless suppose each the Crimson Tide and the Cougars will discover themselves within the Remaining 4. It would not be an enormous shock to see one among them fall, nevertheless.
Houston can have a troublesome Candy 16 matchup towards both Miami or Indiana, two groups that may actually rating. After which Texas, which blew out Kansas twice in eight days earlier this month, might await within the Elite Eight. I am much less involved about Alabama, with 2-seed Arizona already knocked out. However San Diego State goes to current a unique kind of protection than the Crimson Tide have seen in weeks, and neither Baylor nor Creighton could be a pushover within the Elite Eight.
Taking into consideration the previous couple of days, who do you’ve going to the Remaining 4?
Jeff Borzello: I had Alabama, Marquette, Houston and UConn earlier than the match began. After three days of motion, I will go together with Alabama, Marquette, Houston and UConn. No wavering over right here!
John Gasaway: I am driving with my unique 4, and so they’re all nonetheless right here! (At this writing.) Give me Houston, UCLA, Marquette and Alabama. Fingers crossed.
Myron Medcalf: Alabama, Marquette, UConn, Xavier