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March Madness 2018: Nine teams to be cautious about in the NCAA Tournament

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March Madness 2018: Nine teams to be cautious about in the NCAA Tournament

Winning a NCAA Tournament bracket pool is all about survival. Yes, you want to pick the right upsets in the first round, but you do not want to get overzealous. The most important part of filling out a bracket is advancement strategy.

It's better to be right about the Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight than it is about the 5/12 game.

With the middle of the pack high-major schools receiving a bulk of the at-large bids, there are a bevy of teams you think are good enough to make a deep run, but should be handled with the utmost caution.

Here are the nine teams you shouldn't invest too much in.

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Nine teams seeded No. 5 or higher to stay away from

No. 1 Virginia Cavaliers (South)

First Round Matchup: No. 16 UMBC
Dangerous Potential Matchups: No. 8 Creighton, No. 5 Kentucky, No. 12 Davidson, No. 4 Arizona

Virginia is the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament. They are arguably the best team in the country. Do not put them in your Final Four. Why? Pace of play. Virginia is a defense-first team. They say "defense wins championships." They are very wrong.

NCAA Tournament games are made up of a series of runs, bolstered by momentum. Virginia cannot and will not change their glacially slow pace of play. It's the primary reason the Cavaliers were upset by Syracuse in the 2016 Elite Eight despite leading by 14 points with 10 minutes remaining.

The Cavaliers will also be without De'Andre Hunter, who was ruled out of the NCAA Tournament with a broken wrist. Hunter averaged 9.2 ppg in 19.9 mpg. 

It's highly unlikely that UMBC becomes the first-ever No. 16 seed to defeat a No. 1 seed, but with a sharpshooting Creighton team likely on deck next, with Arizona and Kentucky possible waiting in the wings, it's hard to see how Virginia has enough firepower to make the Final Four.

 

No. 1 Xavier Musketeers (West)

First Round Matchup: Play-in Game Winner
Dangerous Potential Matchups: No. 5 Ohio State, No. 12 South Dakota State, No. 4 Gonzaga

I just mentioned how defense doesn't win championships. But you do have to get stops, and as good as Xavier is on offense, they struggle to get stops. Trevon Blueitt could win a game all by himself, and J.P. Macura has the range and intangibles to be a March Madness sensation. Kerem  Kanter, brother of NBA center Enes Kanter, is an efficient shooter who can get buckets in a hurry.

But there is a reason that 14 teams are ranked higher than the fourth No. 1 overall seed according to KenPom. Xavier allows their opponents to get to the foul line far too often. The NCAA Tournament is the last place you want to give your opponent a chance to score points with the clock stopped. 

Yes, you can put Xavier in the second weekend, but pay heed after that.

MORE NCAA TOURNAMENT: DARKHORSE FINAL FOUR PICKS

No. 2 North Carolina Tar Heels (West)

First Round Matchup: No. 15 Lipscomb
Dangerous Potential Matchups: No. 7 Texas A&M, No. 10 Providence, No. 3 Michigan, No. 11 San Diego State

This might be a bit of a stretch, but hear me out. North Carolina has a really tricky bracket. Yes, they should beat Lipscomb, but the Bison play a very odd, very slow style of play, which could junk up all of North Carolina's moment. After that, they could either face a Providence team that can score in bunches of bunches or a Texas A&M team that while wildly disappointing this season, has one of the best rosters in the country. If they survive the first weekend, they could get Houston and Rob Gray, one of the best scorers in the country, Michigan — a team that just knows how to win in a tournament setting — or San Diego State — and team that drags its opponents into the deepest of the deep waters.

Also, who is North Carolina's go-to player? Is it Joel Barry? It should be, but I don't know if he is. Is it Theo Pinson? It could be, and he;s played very well recently, but the jury is still out.

The West region could go any of a number of ways. Take plenty of time before choosing North Carolina to advance to the Final Four. Things could get weird. 


No. 2 Purdue Boilermakers (East)

First Round Matchup: No. 15 Cal State Fullerton
Dangerous Potential Matchups: No. 10 Butler, No. 3 Texas Tech, No. 1 Villanova

Purdue has a very good path to the Final Four. The East Region features a plethora of highly seeded teams that could get bounced early. Purdue has the best big man in the region in 7-2 center Isaac Haas, but the key to success in March Madness is experience and guard play. The Boilermakers are experienced, but their backcourt is not too terribly dynamic. Creating extra opportunities is not their forte.

Purdue ranks 219th in adjusted tempo, and 348th in average possession length on defense. On top of that they rank 228th in defensive turnover possession.

In short, the Boilermakers allow their opponents to create on offense, don't maximize the game clock and struggle to force turnovers. If they aren't hot from beyond the arc and need to dig themselves out of a hole, like in 2016 against Arkansas-Little Rock, Purdue could be headed home early ... again. 

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No. 2 Cincinnati Bearcats (South)

First Round Matchup: No. 15 Georgia State
Dangerous Potential Matchups: No. 7 Nevada, No. 3 Tennessee, No. 6 Miami, No. 4 Arizona

This could be the year Cincinnati finally makes it to the Final Four. The Bearcats have had serviceable tournament teams each of the past couple of years. But with the field being way down, 2018 could be the time for Mic Cronin's squad to put it together.

The problem? The South Region is loaded with talent. It's also loaded with teams that can score in bunches. Cincinnati will beat you up, rough you up and take your lunch money. But they may not score 60 points.

Their defensive numbers are spectacular, but who can lead the charge if they get down big? Who can make the big shot? I don't have those answers, and Cincinnati doesn't either.

Also, they play Georgia State in the first round. R.J Hunter isn't there anymore, but his dad Ron Hunter is still on the sidelines and knows a thing or two about pulling off a major upset. 

 

No. 3 Tennessee (South)

First Round Matchup: 
Dangerous Potential Matchups: 

Tennessee is experienced and very big. You can't find many coaches better than Rick Barnes. But Tennessee is not incredibly talented and while this may just be a random, unconnected March trend, barnes' teams have rarely had a great ammount of NCAA Tournament success relative to their seeds.

Their pod could go any of a number of ways. They could face a No. 14 or a No. 11 seed en route to the second weekend. 

RELATED: FULL FIRST-ROUND TV SCHEDULE

No. 4 Wichita State (East)

First Round Matchup: No. 13 Marshall
Dangerous Potential Matchups: No. 5 West Virginia, No. 12 Murray State, No. 9 Alabama, No. 1 Villanova

Wichita State is typically the team responsible for bouncing a top seed from the tournament. Not this year.

They get Jon Elmore and a Marshall team that wants to create chaos on offense and defense. Wichita State wants no part of that pace. If they do survive Marshall, they could face West Virginia. West Virginia makes Marshall's frenetic pace look like refrigerated honey.

The Shockers have a really good roster with a lot of different types of players. But their path is just way too daunting. 

Don't invest in the Shockers. 



No. 5 Kentucky Wildcats (South)

First Round Matchup: No. 12 Davidson
Dangerous Potential Matchups: No. 4 Arizona, No. 13 Buffalo, No. 1 Virginia

Kentucky has a ton of talent. But they don't have any experience and they have virtually no outside shooting. They also have to face a Davidson team that is the polar opposite of them in the very first game. Bob McKillop can coach circles around John Calipari, and if Davidson can survive on the glass, I'm not so sure Kentucky has the shooting to keep up.

If Kentucky does survive Davidson, they will we rewarded with No. 4 Arizona or No. 13 Buffalo. The Bulls would be an easier opponent but not a free pass. Arizona would pose a major threat. This is not Kentucky's year.

RELATED: NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP ODDS
 

No. 5 Clemson (Midwest)

First Round Matchup: No. 12 New Mexico State
Dangerous Potential Matchups: No. 4 Auburn, No. 13 Charleston, No. 9 NC State, No. 1 Kansas

Clemson enters the 2018 NCAA Tournament having lost five of their last eight games and have to face No. 12 New Mexico State, a heavy upset favorite.

Clemson is poor on the offensive glass, isn't great at forcing turnovers and does not maximize pace of play.

They also don't have a real difference-maker on offense. Is Clemson a good basketball team? Sure. But there isn't a lot that stand out about them.

Click here to join NBC Sports Washington’s NCAA Tournament Bracket Challenge and compete against Tony Massenburg and Walt Williams for a chance to win big.

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WANT MORE COLLEGE HOOPS? Join @TroyMachir for the March Only podcast, a month-long podcast with some of the best and brightest minds in college basketball. Subscribe on iTunes and listen below.

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.

MORE NCAA: TOP BUZZER BEATERS IN NCAA TOURNAMENT HISTORY

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.

MORE NCAA: BEST BUZZER BEATERS IN NCAA TOURNAMENT HISTORY

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."