NCAA

March Madness 2019: Zion Williamson and the seven best players to watch in the East Regional

zion-rj-barrett-usat.jpg
USA TODAY Sports Images

March Madness 2019: Zion Williamson and the seven best players to watch in the East Regional

The top four teams in the 2019 NCAA Tournament East Region made the Sweet 16 and it allows some of the nation's best players to come to Washington D.C.

Like most of the NCAA Tournament, the East Region rocked chalk to get to four teams in the regional semifinals. No. 1 Duke, No. 2 Michigan State, No. 3 LSU and No. 4 Virginia Tech will play for a right to go to the Final Four on March 29 and 31. 

Of course Zion Williamson and the rest of his Duke Blue Devils are the class of the region and projected champs. No one however, should discredit the talent of the other three teams remaining in the East. Under Tom Izzo, Michigan State has some of the best well-rounded players in the country, LSU is one of the more athletic teams in the NCAA, and Virginia Tech has a plethora of potent scorers. 

Including Williamson, here's who to watch in the East Regional:

Zion Williamson, F, Freshman, Duke

Zion is the face of college basketball this season. He's almost made Duke likable as half the country was torn on who to root for in their UCF matchup in the Second Round. Every game the 6-7 freshman is due to put on a show, whether it is a mammoth dunk, an acrobatic finish at the rim or a thunderous block he never disappoints. Even when he blew out of his shoe, it is impressive. You cannot miss him on the court, he'll make plays and likely be the difference in each contest. 

RJ Barrett, F, Freshman, Duke

Don't be upset that Duke has the top two players on this list. If it were not for Williamson, Barrett would be the most fascinating player on Duke's roster. He does everything Williamson does, but with slightly less flair. He also has a nice stroke from behind the arc (31.3 percent) that his teammate does not. Honestly he is probably the better NBA prospect.  In fact, if it was not for his put-back layup at the end of the UCSF game, Duke would not be here. 

Cassius Winston, G, Junior, Michigan State

Cassius Winston is arguably the best true point guard in this region. He could be better than True Jones, Justin Robinson and Tremont Waters. Not only is Winston a playmaker, but he actively looks to get his teammates involved. If he doesn't have a good scoring night, he'll have 10 assists to compliment his team. On the season he is scoring 18.9 points and dishing out 7.5 assists per contest. Collectively, he's led his team to a 48.6 percent clip on the year. At 6-1 he may be small, but he's no push-over. 

Justin Robinson, G, Senior, Virginia Tech

Since his foot injury it does not appear that Justin Robinson is the same. In his two tournament games he's only recorded nine and 13 points against Saint Louis and Liberty. However, his first 20 games of the year, pre-injury, he was averaging 14 points a game. He also had a 35 point night against Syracuse to boost it. With him the Hokies are an entirely different team, running an offensive scheme and having multiple guys racking up the stat sheet.

Naz Reid, F/C, Freshman, LSU

Like Williamson, Naz Reid does not look like he is a freshman in college. Aside from the Duke freshmen, there may not be a more dominant forward in college basketball than Reid. He has the rare ability to take over a game against high-level competition. In fact, if there is anyone that can matchup against Williamson and Barrett, it is Reid. 

Cam Reddish, F, Freshman, Duke

Another forward from Duke? Yep. Cam Reddish is the third option for this talented Duke team and is another First Round NBA Draft prospect. He's more a shooter than Williamson and Barrett, however, his stretches of shooting are not as consistent. Behind the other two forwards, he's had eight games with 20-plus points and he is due for one with his last being in the season finale. 

Tremont Waters, G, Sophomore, LSU

Tremont Waters already has a game-winner in this NCAA Tournament and he has more coming behind it. A crafty player that can score from all areas of the court, Waters is a gem at 5-11. Defensively he also has the ability to impact the game. Smart and quick he can jump down the court to turn the game on it's head. Would not at all be surprising to see him explode further in this tournament. 

Virginia Tech sends North Carolina to 5th straight loss in double overtime

usatsi_13944134.jpg
USA TODAY Sports Images

Virginia Tech sends North Carolina to 5th straight loss in double overtime

BLACKSBURG, Va. -- Tyrece Radford made a short jumper with 0.4 seconds left in the second overtime and Virginia Tech sent North Carolina to its fifth consecutive loss, 79-77, on Wednesday night.

Radford got the ball with the clock winding down after the Tar Heels tied it with 9.7 seconds left, drove into the lane and made his only field goal of the game from in front of the basket for the Hokies (14-5, 5-3 Atlantic Coast Conference).

Landers Nolley scored 22 points and Jalen Cone 18 for the Hokies.

Garrison Brooks scored 28 points and Justin Pierce had 15 for the Tar Heels (8-10, 1-6), who lost their sixth consecutive conference game for the first time in program history. They also kept coach Roy Williams tied with former UNC coach Dean Smith at 879 victories, tied for fourth among Division 1 head coaches.

The Tar Heels, without top scorer Cole Anthony (19.1 ppg) since early December, also played without No. 3 scorer Brandon Robinson (12.1), who the school said continues to suffer from persistent neck pain after a car accident on Jan. 11.

North Carolina had a chance to win it in regulation, but Brooks' turnaround jumper from just inside the free throw line hit the back rim and missed. They also came up empty at the end of the first overtime with the score at 67-all.

BIG PICTURE

North Carolina: It was an especially difficult night for guard Andrew Platek, who was jeered whenever he touched the ball with chants of "Airball. Airball" after a poor shot early and seemed somewhat affected. The junior had at least two more airballs to the delight of the crowd and then had a rushed attempt to beat the shot clock rejected by the 6-foot-1 Radford in the second half. Platek finished 2 for 11 from the field.

Virginia Tech: The Hokies didn't have an especially good night from 3-point range, one of their bread and butters plays this year, except for freshman Cone. He hit two 30 seconds apart in the final minutes to pull Tech within 59-58 and was 6 for 11 on the night. The rest of the Hokies were 8 for 26. The 5-10 guard is now 40 for 72 (55.5%) for the season.

UP NEXT

The Tar Heels return home to face Miami on Saturday.

Virginia Tech heads on the road to face Boston College on Saturday.

Xavier snaps three-game losing streak with victory over Georgetown

xavier-georgetown-ap-usat.jpg
USA TODAY Sports Images

Xavier snaps three-game losing streak with victory over Georgetown

Freshman KyKy Tandy scored a season-high 18 points, Naji Marshall also had 18 and Xavier snapped a three-game losing streak with a 66-57 victory over Georgetown on Wednesday night.

Tyrique Jones recorded his 10th double-double of the season with 10 points and 13 rebounds for the Musketeers (13-6, 2-4 Big East Conference).

Mac McClung led Georgetown (12-8, 2-5) with 19 points. Freshman Qudus Wahab scored nine points for the Hoyas, who have lost five of seven.

A 13-0 run helped Xavier take control in the first half as Paul Scruggs' 3-pointer put the Musketeers ahead 23-8.

The Hoyas started 3-of-16 shooting and trailed by as many as 15 points in the first half. But four points from McClung during a 7-0 run helped reduce the Musketeers's lead to 10.

Tandy's 3-pointer with 14 seconds left in the half put Xavier ahead 35-23. Georgetown's 23 first-half points tied a season-low, also scoring 23 in a loss at Providence on Dec. 31.

Marshall picked up his third foul with 17:45 left, and McClung's steal and reverse dunk cut the Musketeers' lead to eight. But Tandy's fourth 3-pointer put the Musketeers ahead 62-46 with 4:49 left.

The Musketeers are trying to avoid missing the NCAA Tournament in consecutive seasons for the first time since the 1998-99 and 1999-00 campaigns.

BIG PICTURE

Xavier: Following a 20-point loss at Marquette last week, Xavier coach Travis Steele said who performed the best in practice would start against the Hoyas. There were a couple notable changes. Senior Quentin Goodin, who had started all 18 games this season, did not play. And freshman Zach Freemantle made his first start of the season, scoring four points with seven rebounds.

UP NEXT

Georgetown hosts No. 13 Butler on Tuesday.

Xavier plays at Creighton on Sunday.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports. Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream Capitals and Wizards games easily from your device.

MORE NCAA NEWS: