2021 NCAA Tournament Previews: Friday, Early Evening Games

#4 Oklahoma State (-8.5) vs. #13 Liberty
6:25 pm, TBS
Only Loyola-Chicago was more criminally underseeded than the Cowboys of Ok State.  Hard to imagine what The Committee was thinking here as a 4-seed over West Virginia, but that’s what happened.  And, now they have to endure the pure pain of playing Liberty here.

Oklahoma State
Cade Cunningham will very likely be only the 4th Big XII player since 1960 to be the Top Pick in the NBA Draft (Danny Manning in 1988, Blake Griffin in 2009, and Andrew Wiggins in 2014).  Cunningham is averaging 19.7 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 3.5 apg, 1.4 spg, 0.9 bpg, with shooting percentages of 46/43/86% and has been as good as advertised.  Cunningham is flanked by a legit Number Two in 6’5” JR Ice Likelele (9.8 ppg, 6.9 rpg, 3.7 apg, 1.1 spg, 50% FG, 41% from three), but they have both missed games down the stretch, allowing others to step up, most notably 6’3” SO Avery Anderson (11.7 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 2.0 apg, 1.3 spg, 48% FG, 85% FT), 6’9″ SO Kalib Boone (9.8 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 1.7 bpg, 65% FG), and 6’7″ Matthew-Alexander Moncrieffe (9.2 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 53% FG), who have all really stepped up when Cunningham out.  This is not a one-man show, like many people thought.  And, it’s not a two-man show, like I definitely thought.  This team is legit.  They’ve only lost 3 of their last 13 games – one at Kansas, one at Baylor, and the Big XII title game against Texas.

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2021 NCAA Tournament Preview – Friday, Late Afternoon Games

#2 Ohio State (-16) vs #15 Oral Roberts
3:00 pm, CBS
Contrary to popular belief, the 15/2 upset is not very common.  People think that it is because of 2012, when TWO 15-seeds won, including Lehigh shocking Duke, and then the very next year was Dunk City making the Sweet 16.  But, there has only been one since 2013 and there were only 4 before 2012.  In all, 15-seeds are 8-132 in the first round.  However, if it is gonna happen this year…this might be the one (for the record, I am not picking this or even considering picking it – just saying).

Ohio State
When the Buckeyes beat Penn State on Feb 18, they were 18-4, ranked 4th in the country and were sitting as a projected 1-seed in pretty much all bracketologies.  But, they lost their last 4 reg season games and looked to be sliding.  Until the B1G Tournament, when they beat Minnesota, Purdue, and Michigan before losing in OT to Illinois in the title game.  They look to be back in midseason form.  6’7” SO E.J. Liddell (16.0 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 49% FG, 37% from three) has become a superstar, and 6’3” JR Duane Washington (15.3 ppg, 2.9 apg, 37% from three) is so fun to watch because he’s so smooth with a soft touch.  He and his awesome “no f’s to give” attitude dropped a 30-spot on the Illini  6’1” SR PG C.J. Walker (9.1 ppg, 4.2 apg) is about as rock solid as they come, and 6’7” JR Justice Sueing (10.5 ppg, 5.5 rpg), a Hawaiian who started his career at Cal, has really become a nice player to go with his great judicial name.  One issue with the Buckeyes is the tallest guy on their roster is only 6’8” and that’s SR Kyle Young (8.6 ppg, 5.5 rpg), who is dealing with a high ankle sprain and will not be 100%.  But, if they are up late, they can finish the game because their two primary ballhandlers are RIDICULOUS FT shooters – Washington (90%) and Walker (95%).

Oral Roberts
Now, I’m not going to “mid-major shame” anyone here because I don’t expect everyone – even people who cover college hoops for a living – to pay attention to the little leagues.  They don’t really matter, I get it.  And, that’s fine.  But, don’t pretend to follow them.  Don’t pretend that reading a kenpom page makes you an expert on that team.  And, there are a LOT of professional college basketball writers who act as if they care about mid-major hoops, but don’t pay the least bit of attention.  And, do you know how I know that?  Because I have heard countless people, in the last week, talk about ORU as a threat to OSU.  That is true.  But, they do so while referencing how great of a scorer Max Abmas is.  And, that is also true.  But, when you hear them say “Max Ab-miss,” you know that they’ve never actually seen an ORU game.  The dude plays 37 minutes a game for the Golden Eagles…and his name is clearly pronounced “Ace-miss.”  I have no idea why it’s spelled Abmas, but it’s pronounced “Ace-miss.”  And, Mr. Abmas is the only player in the country who averages more points per game than Luka Garza.  The 6’1″ SO Max Abmas is averaging 24.7 ppg on the strength of 84 three-pointers with ridiculous percentages of 49/46/90%.  WOWOWOWOW!  Abmas also averages 3.2 rpg, 3.3 apg, and 1.5 spg.  And, all of this usage and he only averages 2.0 TO per game.  You will not see a better pure shooter on any team in any tournament in America over the next two weeks plus he averages 3.5 assists per game.  And, yet…he still might not even be the best all-around player on his own team.  6’8″ JR Kevin Obanor (18.6 ppg, 10.0 rpg, 50/46/88%) is an absolute monster!  These two are unbelievable on the mid-major level and lead a top-70 offense.  They are not good at all defensively, but they can score with anyone.

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2021 NCAA Tournament Preview: Friday, Early Afternoon Games

After a year without the Tournament, this is awesome!  So, let’s get right to the games…

#7 Florida (-1) vs. #10 Virginia Tech
12:15 pm, CBS
I love the first game of the Tournament.  It’s always interesting to think of what two teams are gonna tip us off.  And, this year, it’s a pretty good one.  Or, at least a competitive one.

The Gators come stumbling into this Tournament and, I think, are one of the few major seeding mistakes that the Committee made in what was a rather well-seeded tournament, in general.  This team is not a 7-seed especially after losing 3 of their last 4 with that only win a close one over a bad Vandy team in the SEC Tournament that they easily could have lost.  The big story of the UF season is the loss of Keyontae Johnson after he had a TERRIFYING collapse in a game at FSU in November.  Johnson, the preseason SEC POY, was the best and most important player on this team, and their ceiling is definitely lowered without him.  But, most importantly, it looks like he’s going to be okay.  Before the recent swoon, the Gators had been pretty good considering they lost their best player.  They are top-40 in both offense and defense, and have one of the most unsung stars of the SEC in the 6’5” SO Tre Mann (15.0 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 3.4 apg, 1.5 spg, 45/39/84%), who is a stud on both ends.  He is probably the best player that no one ever talks about.  They also have former McDonald’s All-American in 6’5″ SO Scottie Lewis (7.9 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 1.6 spg), but he has been surprisingly slow to emerge in now his sophomore year in Gainesville.  They have a couple of decent wings in Reisterstown’s own 6’3” JR sharpshooter Noah Locke (10.5 ppg, 41% from three) and 6’1” JR transfer from Cleve State Tyree Appleby (11.2 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 3.4 apg, 1.6 spg),.  And, losing Johnson has forced Mike White to go big and allowed for 6’11” JR transfer from Michigan Colin Castleton (12.7 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 2.3 bpg, 59% FG) to emerge as a really good SEC big.  The Gators are 8-0 this year when Castleton scores 14 or more.

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2021 NCAA Tournament: First Four Preview

So, BSB might actually be back this time.   Doogan and I started this as an alternative to sending each other overly wordy, unabridged emails about sports.  And, since it’s been a long, hard winter for all of us, Doogan and I and our master admin, J, are in need of an outlet for “thoughts.”  So, let’s fire up the BSB machine again and even if it’s just a glorified email exchange, it will be cathartic for the three of us.

And,  is there a better time of year to start back up?  The NCAA Tournament, a Sixers playoff chase, the start of an interesting Phillies season…and, a ton of tennis tournaments and the Summer Olympics for me to write really long posts about to no one but myself!!!

So, let’s get this started with a preview of Thursday night’s First Four games.  I’ll get another one up tomorrow previewing Friday’s First Round games and then we’ll go from there.

#16 Mount Saint Mary’s (+1) vs. #16 Texas-Southern
 5:10 pm, truTV
Alright, alright, I recognize that these 16v16 games are kind of like tennis or the biathalon in that I care about and enjoy them WAYYY more than most of even the most ardent sports fans.  So, I’ll try and be short on them…I will probably fail at that attempt.  This game is one of those classic First Four games (if that phrase even means anything) with a (SWAC/MEAC) team vs. a non-champion from a bad league.  The winner of this game gets to get destroyed on national TV by Michigan on Saturday.

Mount Saint Mary’s
The best story from this game is the 5’7″ point guard on Mount St. Mary’s, Damian Chong-Qui.  Chong-Qui, who turned into the go-to guy just 6 games into the season when they lost Jalen Gibbs for the season, has a ridiculous backstory.  The Sun article is really good, but in summary, when Qui was 4, his family was the victim of a home invasion where his dad was shot once and stabbed five times and lost the use of his left hand.  Just TWO MONTHS LATER, his mother was randomly murdered, being mistaken for someone else.  When he was twelve, Qui’s dad dropped Qui off and went to get dinner for them.  While waiting for food, someone fired shots into a crowd and one of the random bullets struck the older Qui in the back and he is now paralyzed from the waist down.  And, a just year later, his son Damian, won the starting point guard job for powerhouse McDonough despite being only a freshman and standing a mere 4-feet-9-inches tall.  Qui, who says he “doesn’t believe in height” is now a budding star for MSM, averaging 14.9 ppg, 4.1 rpg (again, at 5’7”), and 5.6 apg.  He’s incredible!  They also have a strong, athletic frontline of 6’9″ JR Nana Opuku (10.3 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 2.0 bpg), 6’9″ JR Malik Jefferson (8.4 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 58% FG), and 6’8″ JR Mazie Offurum (9.4 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 2.0 apg).

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