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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.

RELATED: DARKHORSE PICKS TO MAKE THE FINAL FOUR

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.

RELATED: NINE FIRST-ROUND UPSETS TO PICK

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.  

NCAA TOURNAMENT: NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP BETTING ODDS

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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March Madness 2019: LSU sinks Maryland on last-second shot to end Terps’ season

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March Madness 2019: LSU sinks Maryland on last-second shot to end Terps’ season

For those who put Maryland in the Sweet 16... our sincerest condolences. 

No. 3 seed LSU beat No. 6 seed UMD 69-67 in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Saturday afternoon. 

With under 30 seconds remaining, Jalen Smith’s 3-point jump shot tied the teams again at 67-67, which stuck for another 25 seconds. LSU’s Tremont Waters’ layup broke that tie and gave the Tigers the win, ending the Terrapins’ hopes of a Sweet 16 game in Washington, D.C.. 

Only three minutes into the game, LSU’s Dorius Days drained a 3-pointer and broke the 4-4 tie, commencing the catch-up game that Maryland was forced to play in the first half, which ended 38-29 LSU.

In the last quarter of the game, the Terps (finally) caught up enough to fight neck-in-neck until the final buzzer. With four minutes remaining, Smith made a 2-point turnaround hook shot to tie up the game 55-55. Under a minute later, Smith’s two free throws gave Maryland the first lead of the game at 57-55. 

Smith racked up the most points for the Terps (15), and LSU’s Skylar Mays had the most for the Tigers (16). UMD shot 33.3 percent, and LSU shot 36.9 percent. Maryland out-rebounded Louisiana both offensively (13-10) and defensively (28-24).

Under head coach Mark Turgeon, this is Maryland’s third first-weekend departure in four tournaments. The Terps made it to the Sweet 16 last in 2016, and as with Saturday’s loss to LSU, 2016 remains to be UMD’s most-recent Sweet 16 appearance. 
 

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No. 12 seed Liberty shocks Mississippi State to earn first-ever NCAA Tournament win

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No. 12 seed Liberty shocks Mississippi State to earn first-ever NCAA Tournament win

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) -- Caleb Homesley scored 22 of his 30 points in the second half and Lovell Cabbil hit a go-ahead 3-pointer with 1:16 to play to send 12th-seeded Liberty to its first NCAA Tournament win in school history, 80-76 over fifth-seeded Mississippi State on Friday night.

The Flames (29-6) were making their fourth tournament trip in school history, but lost twice as a No. 16 seed and once in the play-in game. This year's team had more respect, a higher seeding and capitalized on the opportunity.

Homesley helped rally Liberty from a 10-point deficit in the second half by scoring 14 points in a span of less than five minutes. Cabbil then hit from long range to make it 72-70 and celebrated with an enthusiastic fan section that made the cross-country trip from Virginia for the game.

Liberty did the rest at the foul line to spoil the first tournament trip for Mississippi State (23-11) in a decade.

The Flames advanced to the second round of the East Region to play the winner of the game between Saint Louis and Virginia Tech.

Quinndary Weatherspoon scored 27 points to lead the Bulldogs and Reggie Perry added 21.

Cabbil finished with 18 points and Myo Baxter-Bell added 13.

Mississippi State appeared poised to take control when Peters started a 10-0 run with a 3-pointer and ended it with a layup that made it 63-53 midway through the second half.

The Bulldogs had used their superior size to control the paint on both ends and had broken open a tight game before the Flames responded. Homesley was fouled on a 3-pointer and made all three foul shots. He then hit two from long range to cut it to 67-64.

Homesley also hit a backdoor dunk on a feed from Cabbil to make it a one-point game before hitting a long 3-pointer late in the shoot clock to put Liberty back on top 69-67 with 2:34 to play.

After three free throws from the Bulldogs, Cabbil's 3 provided the final lead change of the night.

BIG PICTURE

Liberty: The Flames showed early that they were poised to match up with a Power 5 team. They made seven 3-pointers in the first half and led by four points before Mississippi State scored the final six to lead 37-35 at the break.

Mississippi State: Coach Ben Howland's first recruiting class for the Bulldogs finished on a down note but had an impressive run building the program. Mississippi State went to the semifinals of the NIT last year and made the tournament for the first time since 2009 this year.

UP NEXT

Liberty advances to play the winner of the game between Virginia Tech and Saint Louis.

Click here to join NBC Sports Washington’s NCAA Tournament Bracket Challenge and compete against Wizards analysts Drew Gooden and Jimmy Patsos for a chance at great prizes.

Grand Prize: if you have the highest-scoring bracket in the NBC Sports Washington Bracket Challenge, you will win a 3-night trip for four people to Universal Resort, including round trip airfare, lodging, admission to Universal Studios and tickets to Blue Man Group.

Secondary Prize: If your bracket scores higher than both Drew Gooden and Jimmy Patsos, you win a coupon code for a free Jersey Mike's sub!

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