SARNIA, Ont. — Once again, the SEC is loaded with talent in 2018-19.
Fans in the SEC will be all too familiar with the talent in the league, but several of the team’s top contributors have flown under the radar on a national scale throughout their careers. With the player turnover in the league following the 2017-18 season, there will be new faces of the conference this year.
The Kentucky Wildcats loaded up with several high-profile freshmen, which shouldn’t come as a surprise to anybody. Teams like the Tennessee Volunteers and Mississippi State Bulldogs will rely on experience and talent to get them back to the NCAA Tournament. There is a healthy mix of experience and youth in the conference, which in turn will lead to excitement and an unpredictable race for the SEC title.
Looking ahead to the season, here are 10 names who have flown under the radar so far in their careers on the national scene that you will want to watch over the course of the 2018-19 campaign.
CANMORE, Alta. — The second weekend of the 2017-18 season is officially in the books, and what a Sunday we all experienced to cap it off.
Admittedly, the first week of the season had its moments where it was a bit underwhelming. A lack of upsets left excitement on the table and fans wanting more, but we also got to experience our fair share of exciting basketball and close games. College basketball is unpredictable with each passing game, which is why we take it all in stride.
November 19th brought a little bit of everything to the forefront. A trio of early-season tournaments came to a close, a pair of top ten teams dodged upset bids, and we witnessed our fair share of overtime games that had fans on the edge of their seats right to the final buzzer.
1. The NOT SO Wild West
The complete West Regional was in action on Thursday.
Let’s just someone left the chalk out.
In eight games, just one featured a lower seed prevailing victoriously; #11 Xavier defeated #6 Maryland, 76-65.
Though, is an Edmond Sumner-less Musketeers beating an overrated Terrapins team an upset?
Bracket brainiacs know Xavier OWNS City Beautiful, aka Orlando, Florida. Since November 2015, Chris Mack’s squad is 7-0 with two early season tournament championships (2015 Advocare Invitational and 2016 Tire Pros Tip-Off) in Orange County (Florida). Equally impressive is the individual play of the junior sensation Bluiett, underneath the Florida sun, is averaging 17 points per game in Orlando during his collegiate career.
Despite defeat, mid-major scoring guards lived up to their expectations. #13 Bucknell sophomore Kimbal Mackenzie netted 23 points (7-of-15 shooting), #14 Florida Gulf Coast junior Brandon Goodwin finished with 28 points (12-of-27 shooting) and 7 rebounds and #15 North Dakota senior Quinton Hooker had 25 points (10-of-21 shooting). Though, a common denominator, outside of defeat, is all three had shooting percentages under 50 percent.
Efficient performances are imperative for star mid-major guards if one wants to advance to the next round.
2. #5 Virginia and #4 Florida kill upset fun
When the NCAA Tournament bracket was announced, the Virginia Cavaliers and Florida Gators were immediately put on upset alert. Both lost the first game of their respective conference tournaments and appeared to be sitting ducks (No pun intended, Oregon) for #12 UNC Wilmington and #13 East Tennessee State.
It’s always sunny in Orlando.
The two higher seeds held off competitive showings from their opponents to force a Saturday night showdown for a trip to the Sweet Sixteen.
For a second straight game, Tony Bennett’s Cavaliers struggled to string stops together on the defensive end. Against Notre Dame in the quarterfinals of the ACC Tournament, Virginia gave up 71 points, which is the same amount the Seahawks posted.
Upperclassmen London Perrantes and Marial Shayok outshined the heralded UNC Wilmington duo of C.J. Bryce and Chris Flemmings, combining for 47 points on 17-of-28 shooting as opposed to the latter’s 9-of-27, 26-point total.
One positive Virginia can take away on defense is the blanket they threw on Bryce. The Seahawks leading scorer, normally responsible for about 18 points per game, was limited to 8 points.
While Cavalier Nation had to sweat out 40 minutes, the heartbeat of the Florida faithful raised very little. The Gators exploited East Tennessee State’s lack of athleticism and frontcourt size in route to an 80-65 victory.
Devin Robinson did it all. The junior stuffed the stat sheet via a 27-point, 7-rebound, 2-block performance. Senior Kasey Hill neutralized the impact of Buccaneers guard T.J. Cromer (19 points) with 14 points, 6 rebounds, and 5 assists.
3. #12 Nevada caged by poor shooting
Two years ago, Marcus Marshall and Jordan Caroline both wore maroon.
Marshall, who was the star on Missouri State, and Caroline, a freshman at Southern Illinois, started their collegiate careers within the Missouri Valley Conference.
Then, the mass transfer exodus of 2015 occurred. Marshall and Caroline, along with other big names, like Illinois State’s Reggie Lynch and SIU’s Deion Lavender, grabbed their sneakers and headed elsewhere.
On a day when Lynch’s NCAA Tournament title aspirations evaporated with Minnesota, Marshall and Caroline had a chance to seize a win over #5 Iowa State.
11-of-32 shooting will NEVER get the job done.
Although the tandem scored 36 points, missed field goals turned into wasted possessions for Nevada, resulting in an 84-73 defeat.
The Wolfpack did a very good job causing turnovers — they forced the Cyclones to spin into 14. However, they failed to rebound against Iowa State’s Big 12 bodies, losing the rebounding battle, 38-28, and was taxed to exhaustion due to a lack of depth.
Nevada only went six deep. In comparison, Iowa State played eight with FIVE chipping in at least 12 points. Cyclones senior Monte Morris pushed the envelope for a triple-double, yet was two rebounds and two assists shy (19 points, 8 rebounds, 8 assists).
Iowa State will face arguably the nation’s best frontcourt, #4 Purdue’s Isaac Haas and Caleb Swanigan, on Saturday.
4. The blossom of a perineal mid-major
If there was one school every bracket brainiac despised last season, it was none other than #12 Middle Tennessee. As a 15-seed, the Blue Raiders burned a multitude of brackets by defeating Michigan State in the opening round.
This year, Middle Tennessee had a chance to be its haters’ best friend with a win over #5 Minnesota.
A villain was turned hero.
Led by scary seniors JaCorey Williams and Reggie Upshaw, not to mention junior Giddy Potts, Middle Tennessee stayed one step ahead of Minnesota to defeat its second Big Ten NCAA Tournament opponent in 12 months.
All three members of the trio posted double-digits. Upshaw seized the spotlight with 19 points and 9 rebounds against the Golden Gophers, who are known for their rebounding ability (via Reggie Lynch).
Thursday’s win for Middle Tennessee has solidified their reputation as a bona fide bracket buster. With Belmont and Monmouth falling to the NIT, Middle Tennessee, outside of Wichita State and Gonzaga, may be the most dominant mid-major of the 2016-17 season.
New will meet old on Saturday; past mid-major and current Big East team #4 Butler will face the new kids on the block for a berth to the Sweet 16 on the line.
1. Trevon Bluiett (#11 Xavier)
21 points (7-15), 4 rebounds, 4 assists.
Averaging 17 PPG in games played within Orange County (Fla.).
2. Bryant McIntosh (#8 Northwestern)
25 points (10-16), 4 rebounds, 3 assists.
Made pair of free throws to give Wildcats 1-point lead with 15 seconds left.
3. Reggie Upshaw (#12 Middle Tennessee)
19 points (7-13), 9 rebounds.
Averaging 18.3 PPG and 7.8 RPG since start of Conference USA Tournament.
4. Donte DiVincenzo (#1 Villanova)
21 points (9-15), 13 rebounds.
1st double-double of collegiate career.
5. Dwayne Bacon (#3 Florida State)
25 points (11-17), 9 rebounds.
Has posted double-figures points in 33-of-34 games this season.
Stay tuned for more Wesner 4-point plays as the NCAA Tournament continues to supply madness in March.
The Notre Dame Fighting Irish had a tremendous start to their ACC campaign that included big wins against Syracuse, Miami, Pittsburgh, and Louisville.
However, the Irish have run into a little bit of a dry spell, losing their last three games to Virginia, Georgia Tech at the buzzer, and now the Duke Blue Devils.
Notre Dame has to suffered to 6-4 in conference play and have dropped to fifth place in the ACC standings after a long stint in first place. However, with the ACC as deep as it is, the Irish were bound to lose a few games.
In the last few seasons, the Fighting Irish have been victorious in their series with the Blue Devils, winning both games last season, and winning two out of the three games the season before that, including a huge win to advance to the ACC conference championships in which they went on to win for the first time in program history.
Duke currently sits at 6th in the ACC, losing to Virginia Tech, NC State, Louisville, Florida State and an early season two point loss to the Kansas Jaw Hawks. On the other hand, they have destroyed Georgia Tech, beaten a struggling Michigan State team as well as nationally ranked Florida.
One of the nations most scrutinized players, Grayson Allen has been notorious for his unsportsmanlike behaviour on his opponents. The Duke guard is constantly the centre of attention when it comes to college basketball as every game seems to have a new incident of him kicking or knocking down a player. The fans in South Bend experienced it first hand, and Mike Brey was not pleased.
Notre Dame suffered their first conference loss of the season last night to the top 10 Florida State Seminoles 83-80 but still remain atop the ACC.
The Irish are now 5-1 in ACC play and 16-3 overall despite going 15 for 21 from the three point line; that’s 71.4% in case you prefer percents. They shot better from beyond the arc than the field (46.6%) and were slightly shy from passing their free throw percentage. However regardless of the mesmerizing shooting efforts, Florida State took care of the Irish defensively.
“I think you got to give Florida State a lot of credit”, coach Mike Brey commented following the game, “Their defence bothered us, we turned it over a bunch but they’re athletic and they’re fresh and they move you around”.
Florida State is one of the nations up and coming teams ready to make some noise in March and their performance indicated they are ready to compete in the ACC with the traditional powerhouses.
“The teams that maybe struggled in previous years really at the bottom of the league, they’re much improved and so this is the recipe for 10 bids, 11 bids” stated coach Brey.
The Seminoles have only lost two games this season, one against the TempleOwls at the beginning of the season and another to the #11 North Carolina Tar Heels (now #9) while beating the #21 Florida Gators (now #19), the #12 Virginia Cavaliers (now #16), the #7 Duke Blue Devils (now#18) and now yesterday against the #15 Notre Dame Fighting Irish.
This was the Irish’s last game before returning home after a three game road series that included Miami, Virginia Tech and now Florida State. The Irish pulled off big wins in both Miami and in Blacksburg, Virginia and were hoping to return home 6-0 in ACC play.
For the first time in program history, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish are 4-0 in conference play after ending the Miami Hurricanes 21 home game win streak, beating them 67-62.
This was the 21st meeting between the Irish and the Hurricanes with the Irish now leading the all time series 11-10. Notre Dame had lost both meetings with the Hurricanes last year, losing by nine the first game and 18 points the second.
Miami has had an okay start to the season as they are now 11-4, losing to Syracuse, Iowa State, Florida and now Notre Dame with their most notable wins coming from Stanford and North Carolina State.
Regardless of their win-loss record, Miami possessed a dangerous and athletic roster capable of ending Notre Dame’s streak.
“They’re really physical drivers” said head coach Mike Brey, “they’re athletic and long”.
After three straight home wins against Pittsburgh, Louisville and Clemson, Notre Dame possessed lots of momentum entering this game and looked to find their offensive spark early.