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March Madness 2018: Four teams with the easiest path to the Final Four

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March Madness 2018: Four teams with the easiest path to the Final Four

It is one thing to get to the NCAA Tournament; it is another to advance from round to round.

The championship bracket is built to make certain paths to the Final Four easier for teams ranked higher up each respective region. Each No. 1 seed is supposed to have relatively a similar path to the most important weekend of the tournament compared to each other.

Not all seeds though are created equally, even if they read the same.

Not convinced? Which No. 10 seed would everyone want to face? Texas, Butler, Oklahoma, or Providence. No one wants the Friars, and most would want the reeling Sooners.

Even from seed line to seed line there is some discrepancies.

It is common knowledge that it is just as likely a No. 12 seed is going to upset the No. 5 seed as a No. 11 seed is to upset a No. 6. Nearly every season there is one double digit seed that is going to be in the Sweet 16. Rarely do we have a Final Four of exclusively No. 1 seeds.

Some paths to getting to the final four are easier than others. Look at Gonzaga a season ago compared to North Carolina.

Aside from the No. 1 seeds (who are supposed to have the easiest paths) here who is also has a relatively clean route to get to the Final Four. Also notice that none of these teams are from the Midwest.

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No. 2 Cincinnati (30-4, 16-2 AAC)

Final Four Path: South; No. 15 Georgia State, No. 7 Nevada, No. 3 Tennessee, No. 1 Virginia

After just winning the American Tournament Championship, there is no better team in a position to make a run to the Final Four. Even though they are a No. 2 seed, and it may be considered cheating, it is hard not penciling these guys going far and being the South’s representative in the Final Four.

Moving past their First Round opponent, the Bearcats will be lined up with either Nevada or Texas for the right to get into the Sweet 16. Now the Wolfpack are really good team and some may pick them to knock off Cincinnati, but the bottom line is Nevada is down a player (Lindsey Drew) and has a question mark on another (Kendall Stephens).

After that it is likely Tennessee, probably the least tested of all of the No. 3 seeds, and then No. 1 Virginia. The Cavaliers may not even make it this far because their style of basketball has not done them any favors in previous tournaments. If Kentucky or Arizona do not knock off Virginia, then Cincinnati definitely has the personnel themselves.

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No. 5 Ohio State (24-8, 15-3 Big Ten)

Final Four Path: West; No. 12 South Dakota State, No. 4 Gonzaga, No. 1 Xavier, No. 2 North Carolina

Ohio State is a wildcard in this tournament. Falling down the ladder at the very end of the Big Ten conference play, the Buckeyes slipped to a No. 5 seed.

Assuming they get past their First Round matchup in South Dakota State, it is a relatively easy path for a five seed. Gonzaga is not nearly what they were a year ago, although you cannot count out a run from a Mark Few team in March. Gonzaga is from the West Coast Conference and is not as battle tested as Ohio State was this year. While many will point to a 27-point loss back on Nov. 11, the Buckeyes are a transformed team since then.

That leaves the bottom No. 1 seed Xavier in their way, followed by North Carolina who has to get past potentially Providence and Michigan. The three of the hottest teams in the country will battle it out in the bottom half of the bracket.  

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No. 2 Purdue (28-6, 15-3 Big Ten)

Final Four Path: East; No. 15 Cal State Fullerton, No. 7 Arkansas, No. 3 Texas Tech, No. 1 Villanova

The bottom half of the East region has to be the widest open of all the NCAA Tournament. Purdue and Texas Tech should just float to their destined Sweet 16 contest.

Heck the one team, outside of these two that looks the best from this section of the draw is a team playing in the First Four. St. Bonaventure as a No. 11 seed is the third best team in the bottom half of the East.

If they were to get past Texas Tech, that will leave No. 1 Villanova as the last team left on their path to the Final Four. That is assuming the Wildcats get past a dangerous Alabama/ Virginia Tech opponent in the Second Round.

RELATED: FULL FIRST-ROUND TV SCHEDULE

No. 5 West Virginia (24-10, 11-7 Big 12)

Final Four Path: East; No. 12 Murray State, No. 4 Wichita State, No. 1 Villanova, No. 2 Purdue

West Virginia is in the same boat as Purdue. They have the chance to take advantage of a real weak section of the bracket; the top half of the East. While they may be caught in a snake hole with their 5-12 matchup with Murray State, the rest of their opponents may be picked away on their way to the Final Four. At the very least, their opponents will be coming off tough outs.

There is no guarantee that the Shockers get past their No. 13 seed opponent Marshall, who will be deadly with the pace of play they have. There is no guarantee that Villanova can get past Virginia Tech or Alabama. Which, the Virginia Tech/ Alabama First Round matchup should have an over-under of 200 points.

West Virginia could just waltz to the Elite Eight with only Texas Tech or Purdue standing in their way.

 

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Future NBA prospect Omer Yurtseven transfers to Georgetown from NC State

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Future NBA prospect Omer Yurtseven transfers to Georgetown from NC State

The pieces are starting to come together for Patrick Ewing.

On Monday the Georgetown Hoyas picked up perhaps the biggest (literally and figuratively) target of the transfer market, Omer Yurtseven.

From North Carolina State, the transfer from Istanbul Turkey will have two years remaining of eligibility. Due to NCAA transfer rules, he is not allowed to play for the 2018-19 season.

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Standing at 7-0, the center helped power the Wolfpack to an NCAA tournament bid this past season. Averaging 13.5 points, 6.7 rebounds, and 1.8 blocks a contest, Yurstseven earned All-ACC Third Team honors in the 2017-18 season. He also touted a 58.3 shooting percentage and was not afraid to pull it up from deep either (22 made three-pointers).

NC State lost in the first round of the NCAA Tournament to No. 8 Seton Hall, but he was limited due to foul trouble with only two points and two rebounds in 14 minutes of play.

Initially, he is the option to fill the void that Jessie Govan will leave, whether that is during this offseason or next. Already the team has lost power forward Marcus Derrickson

Yurtseven will just be another frontcourt talent for Ewing with the Hoyas.

It was widely reported that he was considering playing options, both in the United States and abroad before this announcement. Easily he has the talent to go in first round of the NBA Draft whichever year he declares.

On the same day, the Hoyas also announced the signing of four-star guard James Akinjo.

After historic season, Virginia's Tony Bennett named AP Coach of the Year

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After historic season, Virginia's Tony Bennett named AP Coach of the Year

SAN ANTONIO -- Virginia coach Tony Bennett isn't going to waver from his foundation, whether it's the philosophy that built the Cavaliers into a contender or the big-picture perspective that helps him handle the sting of a historically improbable loss.

Both ends of that approach are fully on display now as he is named The Associated Press men's college basketball coach of the year.

Bennett won the honor Thursday after his Cavaliers set a program single-season record for wins, dominated the Atlantic Coast Conference and reached No. 1 in the AP Top 25 for the first time since the Ralph Sampson era. Yet that wildly successful season ended abruptly in the most unexpected way: with the Cavaliers falling to UMBC to become the first No. 1 seed to lose to a 16-seed in NCAA Tournament history.

"They experienced things a lot of guys don't," Bennett said in an interview with the AP. "That kind of success? Oh my gosh. And then that kind of loss? ... But again, their body of work deserves to be celebrated.

"And then so much of what society looks at -- it begs the question -- is it just about how you do in March? Or is it about the whole thing? It's a fair debate (on) what matters. But I told them: I wouldn't trade this team for anything. Even the experiences, as hard as they are, this is part of the process."

Bennett was the runaway winner for the award, which is being presented at the Final Four. He earned 50 of 65 votes from AP Top 25 writers with ballots submitted before the start of the NCAA Tournament.

Tennessee's Rick Barnes was second with five votes after leading the Volunteers to 26 wins and an NCAA bid despite being picked to finish 13th in the 14-team Southeastern Conference. First-year Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann was third with four votes.

This marks the second time Bennett has won the award, the other coming in 2007 when he was at Washington State.

In Bennett's ninth season, the Cavaliers (31-3) went from being picked to finish sixth in the ACC to winning the regular-season race by four games -- the first to win the ACC by that wide a margin since 2000. It then won the ACC Tournament to complete a 20-1 run against league opponents.

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Virginia also reached No. 1 in the AP Top 25 for the first time since December 1982 and stayed there the final five weeks of the regular season, the last two unanimously.

And yet, the 48-year-old coach knows much of the focus will be on how things ended: that 74-54 loss to the Retrievers while playing without ACC sixth man of the year De'Andre Hunter.

Dealing with a roster of players in pained disbelief, Bennett said he has told them that they have "an unbelievable captive audience" waiting to see how they would handle it.

"I said how you respond to this will matter to your mom and dads, to your brothers, your sisters, your friends," Bennett said. "If they see that you're not fake about it, that yeah, of course you're going to be discouraged and down after a loss like that, but that you're OK. You can live with it.

"I said: you don't know the power that that's going to have in their life and in your life."

Bennett said he appreciated other coaches offering support, which included Syracuse Hall of Famer Jim Boeheim noting: "If I could hire a coach in this country and I could get Tony Bennett, there would be nobody in second place."

He said he's still reviewing what worked and what didn't, but "certainly you don't overreact" by changing everything that had brought the Cavaliers to this point.

This is, after all, a program that has been a 1-seed three times in the past five seasons with three ACC regular-season titles.

And Bennett won't be deterred from chasing more, even if it means stumbling a few more times on the way to reaching his goals.

"You better have something beyond the opinion of man or just how you feel, because this stuff is fleeting," Bennett said.

"So that's where obviously my faith is everything to me. You hear people talk about their faith in the lord and the relationship with the people that they care about, their family and their trusted friends. Those things stand the test of time. And that's what you have to draw from. And then you move on."