NCAA

March Madness 2019: Zion Williamson and the five biggest storylines in the East Regional

zion_waters_buzz.jpg
USA TODAY Sports Images

March Madness 2019: Zion Williamson and the five biggest storylines in the East Regional

The East Region of the 2019 NCAA Tournament is already loaded with superstars but it is one of the more intriguing regions in the entire tournament. 

Each of the top four seeds advanced to the Regional semifinals, No. 1 Duke, No. 2 Michigan State, No. 3 LSU and No. 4 Virginia Tech. Each team brings in an interesting dynamic to the region. 

Zion Williamson and Duke are the clear favorites, but Michigan State is a more than formidable No. 2. With the fascinating stories of both LSU and Virginia Tech, if one of them gets an upset, it will surely be the talking point of college basketball.

Sweet 16 action begins on Friday, March 29 with No. 3 LSU playing No. 2 Michigan State at 7:09 p.m. on CBS. Following that game, No. 4 Virginia Tech plays Duke at 9:39 pm. also on CBS. 

The winners will play in the Elite 8 on Sunday, March 31 at either 2:00 p.m. or 4:55 p.m. on CBS. 

Can Zion deliver for Duke?

Every night Williamson gives the average college basketball fan a reason to tune in. And every morning you can count on him punch his ticket to SportsCenter's Top 10 plays.

However, can college basketball's biggest star since Blake Griffin carry his team to the title? A reminder: Griffin only took Oklahoma to the Elite Eight. Kevin Durant's Texas squad only made it to the Sweet 16 in one try. 

Even for Duke, the history when led by a likely one-and-done talent isn't great. Marvin Bagley Jr. didn't take home the title in 2018, neither did Jayson Tatum (2017). Jahlil Okafor was the last Duke star to lead his team to a championship on another loaded Blue Devils team where Grayson Allen was on the bench. 

Williamson is phenomenal and in all likelihood will be drafted first in this year's NBA Draft. But, that doesn't come with any guarantees that he can lead his team with future NBA players R.J. Barrett, Cam Reddish and Tre Jones to a title.

Buzz Williams' Lone Dream Run with the Hokies?

Buzz Williams has been linked to several high profile coach openings this offseason. It is reported that Texas A&M has Williams as their top choice to fill their vacancy and also to there is some interest from UCLA. With the Hokies, Williams turned the team around into a Associated Press Top 25 program and pushed them to their first Sweet 16 in over 50 years. 

They were a popular upset pick in the First and Second Rounds with all of the departure rumors. Now, can the Hokies continue their run against stiffer competition with Williams not shutting down these rumors? 

Oh, and last time Williams was in Washington D.C. for the NCAA Tournament, his Marquette team went to the Elite Eight. 

Another Duke-Michigan State Collision Course

The Duke Blue Devils and Michigan State Spartans have had some memorable match-ups in the past several seasons. Once again it appears we are on a path with Mike Krzyzewski and Tom Izzo's teams meeting for a high stakes Final Four contest. 

If the two squads were to meet in the Elite Eight, it would be the eighth time since 2010 that they played each other. Of those eight, two of them were in the NCAA Tournament with Duke taking both contests. 

What could have been for Tremont Waters in D.C.

LSU sophomore Tremont Waters will make his first collegiate appearance at Capitol One when his Tigers play the Michigan State Spartans for a spot in the East Regional Final. Under normal circumstances it is not too peculiar, but for Waters he could have had potentially 30+ games in that same arena. 

Waters once committed to play for the Georgetown Hoyas during his recruiting process. Once John Thompson III got fired, he reopened his recruiting and committed to Louisiana State. 

Who needs Will Wade?

LSU was another popular upset pick in the First Round after the suspension of coach Will Wade. The Tigers, under interim coach Tony Benford, squeaked by No. 14 Yale and No. 6 Maryland to get to the Sweet 16. Now they are no longer the favorite and playing with house money. How far can this talented team truly go? 

MORE NCAA TOURNAMENT NEWS:

Ewing wins big again at MSG, Hoyas knock off No. 22 Texas

usatsi_mcclung.jpg
USA Today Sports Images

Ewing wins big again at MSG, Hoyas knock off No. 22 Texas

Mac McClung scored 19 points to help give coach Patrick Ewing another signature moment at Madison Square Garden, leading Georgetown to an 82-66 victory over No. 22 Texas on Thursday night.

The Hoyas (4-1) used a 12-0 run early in the second half that rallied the crowd and had "Let's go Hoyas!" chants echoing throughout the arena. With his retired No. 33 New York Knicks jersey hanging in the rafters, Ewing helped orchestrate another wild one at his favorite arena.

The Hoyas are trying to make their first NCAA Tournament since 2015 and an early win over a Top 25 team could give that resume a boost.

Ewing walked on the court and waved his arms to implore the crowd to get louder in the waning moments.

That pose is a familiar sight around New York.

Ewing's image is plastered inside and out at the Garden where he forged a Hall of Fame career. The most popular photo in the arena in one with his arms outstretched and his back toward the camera from the May 22, 1994, Game 7 win over the Chicago Bulls in the conference semis. His game-worn jersey and sneakers are encased in glass on the concourse. There's photo of Ewing outside the Garden with his name in bold and the quote, "I always will be a Knick. And I will always be a New Yorker."

The Knicks tweeted a photo montage of Ewing with the Hoyas and Knicks and wrote, "Pat comes full circle."

New Yorkers and Georgetown fans haven't forgotten the big man: Ewing walked off the court hugging and high-fiving fans on his way to the locker room.

Matt Coleman made all six 3-pointers and scored 22 points for the Longhorns (4-1). Texas lost with former Longhorn and injured Nets center Kevin Durant watching courtside. Former Longhorn and Nets center Jarrett Allen also rooted on Texas from a courtside seat.

Texas moved into the Top 25 this week at No. 22 with wins over California Baptist and Prairie View. The Longhorns are ranked for the first time this season and for the first time since November 2018.

The Hoyas made the charge to open the second half kept the pressure on to advance to the title game of the four-team tournament.

Ewing had beckoned Qudus Wahab up from the bench for a late first-half pep talk. Ewing had a few things to say to his 6-foot-11 freshman center and they ended the conversation with a fist bump.

Ewing's motivation eventually worked on his big man. Wahab had a thunderous dunk for a 54-52 lead and the active Hoyas defensive forced another turnover under Texas' basket. Ewing waved on the fast-break like a third base coach sending a runner home, and Terrell Allen scored to get the Garden fans up and going wild for the momentum shift. Ewing pumped his fist and the Hoyas were pushing for an upset.

The Longhorns shot only 37 percent from the floor and had 12 turnovers.

Jamorko Pickett scored 15 points and James Akinjo had 14 for the Hoyas.

BIG PICTURE

Georgetown: Former Hoyas star Alonzo Mourning was at the game to watch them knock off a ranked team for the third time under Ewing.

Texas: The Longhorns are sure to fall out of the Top 25 and now have to win a consolation game to salvage something out of their trip to New York.

UP NEXT

The Hoyas play the winner of No. 1 Duke vs. Cal on Friday in the 2K Empire Classic benefiting Wounded Warrior Project championship. Texas gets the loser of that game.

MORE NCAA NEWS: 

Maryland vs. Nebraska: Terps look to end Nebraska's bowl hopes

jackson_josh_terps.jpg
USA TODAY Sports Images

Maryland vs. Nebraska: Terps look to end Nebraska's bowl hopes

Maryland (3-7, 1-6 Big Ten) returns to action after a much-needed bye week to host the Nebraska Cornhuskers (4-6, 2-5 Big Ten) in the last home game of the season. Kickoff from Maryland Stadium is set for 3:30 p.m. on BTN.

Here are six things to know for Saturday's game.

Expect multiple quarterbacks for Maryland

Head coach Mike Locksley said both Josh Jackson and Tyrrell Pigrome will play against Nebraska saying the team needs both to win. Jackson was the undisputed starter at the start of the season, but injuries and inconsistent play have forced several quarterbacks into action this season.

In addition to Jackson and Pigrome, Locksley also said the team has packages for freshman quarterback Lane LeGendre as well.

As the old adage goes, however, if you have two quarterbacks, you have none. And now the Terps have three!

The bottom line is that if any of the four quarterbacks Maryland has played this year was playing all that well, there would be no need for the quarterback carousel.

Defensive woes plague both teams

Of course Rutgers has the worst defense in the Big Ten. That's a given. But both Maryland and Nebraska are hot on their heels ranking 13th and 12th respectively in total defense within the conference.

The Terps have given up 400 yards or more in seven of their last nine games. The passing defense does not just rank low within the conference, it ranks 114th nationally giving up 268.7 yards per game.

Nebraska quarterback Adrian Martinez has been shown to be inconsistent when challenged by a good defense, but Maryland's woeful pass rush could provide the sophomore quarterback too much time to pick apart the secondary.

A chance to rebound on offense

Maryland's defense is bad, but so is Nebraska's. The Cornhuskers gave up 322 yards on the ground to Minnesota and 320 to Wisconsin. They also gave up over 300 yards through the air to Indiana and Purdue. These are not the famous "Blackshirts." Whatever teams have wanted to do offensively against Nebraska, they have been able to.

But do the Terps have the offensive weapons to take advantage? Quarterback is a question mark. Dontay Demus has played well, but he seems to be the only reliable receiving option and neither Javon Leake nor Anthony McFarland have been able to run the ball with any sort of consistency this year.

The opportunity is there for a big game for the Terps if and only if someone steps up and puts the offense on its shoulders.

The Terps are trending in the wrong direction

After opening the season 2-0, Maryland is just 1-7 in its last eight. In conference play, the Terps have been outscored 303-121 and 48 of those 121 points came against Rutgers.

Granted, Maryland's last three games were against Minnesota, Michigan and Ohio State. That's a tough stretch, but the Terps were largely non-competitive in all three of those games.

Nebraska will likely be missing one of its playmakers

Standout freshman receiver Wan'Dale Robinson did not practice Wednesday due to an injury and seems unlikely to play on Saturday. In nine games, Robinson has done a little bit of everything for Nebraska with 85 carries, 40 receptions and 11 kickoff returns in nine games. He has scored five total touchdowns for the Cornhuskers and his loss will be a big one for the offense.

Nebraska's season is on the line

At 4-6, this is a must-win game for Nebraska which needs to win both of its remaining games to reach bowl eligibility. That ship officially sailed for Maryland in the loss to Ohio State, but the Terps still have the chance to play spoiler to Nebraska in their final home game of the season.

MORE NCAA NEWS: