Why Michigan-Villanova is a great national championship game matchup
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Why Michigan-Villanova is a great national championship game matchup

The NCAA tournament is down to two: Michigan and Villanova. Those two teams won national semifinals at the Final Four on Saturday, setting up a championship game meeting on Monday. That game will tip at 9:20 p.m. ET on TBS and March Madness Live.

Villanova will be the favorite, probably narrowly, at most sports books. The Wildcats trounced Kansas in their semi, while Michigan ended Loyola-Chicago’s Cinderella run.

These teams’ strengths counter each other perfectly.

Villanova has the best offense in the tournament, and Michigan has the best defense. Both teams are solid on the other end of the floor, too, but that’s where the power is.

Nova’s offense is a blast. The Wildcats are historically in love with the three-pointer, and they used it to run Kansas out of the Alamodome on Saturday. Michigan is as tenacious as any team in the country at defending the three-point line. Only about a quarter of the shots teams attempt against Michigan are three-pointers, one of the lowest marks in Division I.

In general, a lower-scoring game should favor Michigan. The Wolverines can limit almost any offense, but Villanova’s is the hardest challenge they’ve seen yet.

The teams play similar styles. Both move deliberately and prefer to set up in the half-court. Both put a premium on avoiding turnovers. Both space the floor, though Villanova takes the “quick passing to set up threes” game to an entirely different level. Jay Wright and John Beilein, the two head coaches, are among the best to ever do the job.

Both teams present compelling storylines, even beyond the major stakes that accompany any national championship game.

If Villanova wins, that makes two titles in three years. That would be a mini-dynasty. Nobody’s won two titles in that span since Billy Donovan’s Florida went back-to-back in 2006 and 2007. Wright would elevate himself to a status among the best coaches in the history of college basketball, as he’d be the 14th to win multiple NCAA titles in DI.

If Michigan wins, it ends a long quest for both the program and its head coach. The Wolverines have won once before, in 1989, but have been left at or near the alter a couple of times since then. They got to the title game in 2013 before losing to Louisville, in a result the NCAA later vacated over a scandal at Louisville. Michigan fans probably still have nightmares about a bad foul call on guard Trey Burke that helped seal UM’s fate that night.

And then there’s Beilein. He’s been a head coach since 1992. He’s been to the tournament 12 times with three different schools. He’s won 541 games, 24 of them in the Big Dance. He’s gotten close to varying degrees a couple of times, most notably but not only in 2013. It really feels like Beilein should win a title sometime, and here’s his latest best chance.

Either of these teams will be a great champion. Villanova’s going to top off an incredible multi-year run, or Michigan’s going to find redemption. All that’s left is to duke it out.

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Private: Is UConn’s dominance good for women’s basketball?
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Is UConn’s dominance good for women’s basketball?

The UConn women’s team is good at basketball. If their 12 national championships and seven perfect seasons didn’t prove that, perhaps the Huskies’ 111-game winning streak extending into last season did. But the question that sprouts anew in columns across the country every March is: are they good for basketball?

Geno Auriemma’s team puts their unblemished 34-0 record on the line against Duke on Saturday in their 25th consecutive Sweet 16. The Huskies are averaging 89.8 points per game this season to their opponents’ 51.7, for an average margin of victory of 38.1 points.

Although UConn’s primary opponent might be their own search for perfection, a victory is still no guarantee. In the Final Four last year, Mississippi State snapped that 111-game winning streak with a 66-64 overtime upset. But the fact that a team could pile up 111 straight wins is enough for some columnists to write that the Huskies are ruining women’s basketball.

Earlier this month, Auriemma responded to those takes, tweeting, “Success respects success. Regardless how it’s achieved. The great ones know this. They know how hard it is to accomplish. They focus more on self-improvement. They are called ‘Winners.’”

Here’s a collection of answers to the annual March question: Is UConn’s dominance good for the sport?

Yes

David Berri, Forbes

Once upon a time, a men’s college basketball team won consecutive NCAA titles. After a less successful season the next year, this team then proceeded to win seven consecutive titles. And then after losing in the tournament semifinals the next year, this team came back to win another title. Add it all together, and this men’s college basketball team won 10 titles in 12 years. The team I am talking about is obviously the UCLA Bruins. From 1964 to 1975, the Bruins dominated men’s college basketball. And after all this dominance, men’s college basketball was over. Right? Of course not. Men’s college basketball was a popular sport in the 1960s and 1970s, and it is arguably even more popular today.

As I note in Sports Economics, competitive balance doesn’t seem to have that much of an impact on attendance. Studies of Major League Baseball, the National Football League, the National Hockey League and the English Premier League have failed to find evidence that attendance in a league is dramatically impacted by the level of competitive balance.

So is the University of Connecticut bad for women’s basketball? Whether we look at the historical or economic evidence, it seems very clear that the Huskies’ dominating their sport is really not a problem.

Natalie Weiner, Bleacher Report

This is March, which means brackets, buzzer-beaters and breathless pontificating on how the consistent success of the University of Connecticut women’s basketball team is actually bad for the sport. It’s not a new conversation: UConn won its first title in 1995, another one in 2000, then three in a row from 2002 to 2004, and six more since. Since the Huskies became briefly unstoppable in the early aughts, people have offered the same take year after year, lamenting how Geno Auriemma and his team are ruining women’s college basketball with their overwhelming edge in talent, win streaks and large margins of victory.

If this annual dialogue has taught us anything, it’s that the people who insist, despite all evidence to the contrary, that UConn is “bad for women’s basketball” are the ones actually hurting the sport—not the Huskies’ exceptional athletes and coaching staff. What is presented as concern for the welfare of women’s basketball is, in practice, an excuse for ignoring the sport altogether. The trope only endures because of deep-rooted double standards for female athletes and mainstream sports media’s unwillingness to challenge them in any substantive way.

No

Dan Shaughnessy, 98.5 Zolak & Bertrand

I don’t understand the attraction of watching UConn when every game’s like this. Again, the greatest game they had last year was when they lost. They’re the best team the sport has. It’s not their fault that they’re as good as they are. I’ll give you all that. Great. But when you have no competition, it’s bad for the sport. Nothing equates with this. UCLA with Walton and Alcindor doesn’t equate with this, nothing does. Geno will say, ‘Was it bad for golf when Tiger was dominating?’ No. He won one out of every three tournaments. That’s not the same as this.

Phil Mushnick, New York Post

And though the TV folks regularly kiss his fanny and pretend they don’t see what can’t be missed, Geno Auriemma is a consistent, remorseless bully. He’s women’s college basketball’s version of Vlad the Impaler. And he’s here to punish you — stomp you when you’re already thoroughly beaten — in the names of the University of Connecticut and NCAA student athletics. The only thing worse than a bad loser is a bad winner, and Auriemma specializes in annihilations and humiliations. Why win by 40, 50, 60 when you can win by 70, 80, 88, making your opponents appear as small and as worthless as possible?

Two weeks prior in Massachusetts, not far from UConn, a girls’ high school tournament game was won, 93-7, by East Bridgewater, its coach — ostensibly a responsible adult — flooring the gas though up, 48-4, at the half. Unlike at UConn, where the administration indulges Auriemma with look-away passes — he’s the headmaster of Our Ladies of Perpetual Silence — East Bridgewater school superintendent Elizabeth Legault knows right from wrong — and isn’t afraid to speak it. She apologized for the dehumanizing result and for a coach who kicked kids when they already were way down — under the heading of “sports,” no less.

Josh Peter, USA Today

After the Connecticut women’s basketball team beat Saint Francis of Pennsylvania 140-52  Saturday in Storrs, Conn., in the first round of the the NCAA tournament, coach Geno Auriemma was in celebratory spirits. Embarrassment would have been more appropriate.

Auriemma, in unleashing his superior players, exposed what dilutes his accomplishments — the disparity between the best and the rest in women’s basketball is so significant, they could use a mercy rule. Or a coach who knows how to show mercy.

 

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Defending champ UNC blown out by Texas A&M in stunning tourney defeat
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Defending champ UNC blown out by Texas A&M in stunning tourney defeat

CHARLOTTE – For much of this year, the Texas A&M basketball season played out like a long tease. The Aggies started 11-1, with the lone defeat to Arizona. They peaked in December, rising as high as No. 5 in the country in the Associated Press poll.

From there, Texas A&M became a paragon of frustration and fascination, losing seven of nine from late December to late January and fizzling from a Final Four hopeful to a middling and undistinguished NCAA tournament participant. A perfect storm of injuries, suspensions and an improved SEC cast a pall of skepticism over Texas A&M if they could ever rekindle the mojo they’d shown in the early season.

A perfect storm of a different kind arrived with a flourish on Sunday afternoon in Charlotte. Texas A&M shoved around UNC in its own backyard, taking the Tar Heels’ lunch money before sending them home, 86-65, as the first No. 2 seed to be vanquished in the NCAA tournament. Texas A&M will play No. 3 Michigan in the Sweet 16.

With 5:48 remaining in the second half, A&M star forward Robert Williams put an exclamation point on the victory with a windmill dunk on a breakaway. The already stunned partisan crowd remained in silence, with a small sliver of A&M fans celebrating manically.

A crowd at the Spectrum Center in Charlotte preparing to see history later in afternoon with No. 16 UMBC playing in the first second-round game in NCAA tournament history by that seed ended up seeing an epically bad performance by UNC instead.

After back-to-back seasons of playing in the national title game, North Carolina went home with a whimper in 2018. No. 7 Texas A&M led most of the game and never was legitimately threatened in the second half.

North Carolina kept on shooting 3-pointers, finishing the game an abysmal 6-of-31. UNC was 1 for 13 in the first half and trailed 42-28. The Tar Heels never found any semblance of rhythm or run to make a legitimate push at making it a game, as A&M shredded UNC’s press and shot 51.7 percent for the game. UNC turned the ball over just six times, as A&M’s length and strength forced it into poor shooting.

In what amounted to a road game, A&M proved unbowed by a crowd that was 80 percent pro-Carolina. Led by 6-foot-10 forward Tyler Davis (18 points) and a potential first-round pick in Williams (13 rebounds), A&M dominated the paint, blocked eight shots and toyed with Carolina.

Roy Williams’ Tar Heels couldn’t do much of anything shooting-wise and Texas A&M made them pay for it. (Getty)

Junior forward Luke Maye looked overmatched and outclassed in the paint. The brilliant careers of UNC seniors Joel Berry II and Theo Pinson, who’d led the Tar Heels to the national title last year and a runner-up in 2016, faded to black quicker than anyone could have expected.

With just over a minute remain, screams of “THANK YOU THEO!” and “THANK YOU JOEL!” came from the North Carolina contingent.

Texas A&M showed what can happen with its talented roster when continuity meets consistency. Spitfire guard T.J. Starks played wild at times, but never looked in awe of the moment.

The physical mismatch maybe was best epitomized by one statistic: Texas A&M finished the game with eight blocks, while UNC had zero. Twice during the second half, Davis blocked Maye in the paint. After one, he let out a primal scream that reverberated through the stunned silence of the area. Davis was the best player on the floor for A&M, as the junior from Plano, Texas, had his 18 points on nine shots, three blocks and nine rebounds.

UNC had come into the NCAA with momentum and a seemingly manageable trip to the Final Four. That began with what amounted to essentially two home games here before going out West for the Sweet 16. With skepticism shrouding No. 1 Xavier, the West’s top seed, UNC had been a trendy pick for the Final Four and beyond.

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Private: Syracuse rallies to take down Arizona State
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Syracuse rallies to take down Arizona State

The best thing that happened on Wednesday in the college basketball world had nothing to do with Syracuse, or Arizona State, or Texas Southern.

It was LSU vs. Louisiana.

Or, more specifically, Will Wade vs. Bob Marlin.

It started with something that Marlin, the head coach at Louisiana-Lafayette, said prior to the game. He believed that his team deserved a home game instead of being the No. 6 seed that had to play on the road in the NIT opener.

There’s a lot to digest here:

“Our RPI is much better, our record is much better, we feel like our gym’s better, there are a lot of things that say we should be a higher seed than we were. We’ve got the second-best record in the entire tournament out of 32 teams, but it is what it is.”

“We haven’t gotten an answer yet. There’s a lot of the old-school guys on that committee that just think LSU’s better than we are. They haven’t seen our facilities or looked at the finer print about our team.”

“But we’re excited to play a short trip, and I think LSU will be excited to play. Sometimes, a team that tied for ninth in their league isn’t interested in playing. But they haven’t been very good for a couple of years, so the NIT is a big step for them.”

If you don’t think LSU noticed, you’re wrong. They quite literally had the press conference where Marlin made those comments playing on a loop in their basketball facility with the sound on. The handshake the two hand before the game was cold, and that was just the start of it.

After an intense game, Wade called a timeout up 84-75 with just 12.4 seconds left and … well, you can see how he reacted. In the video above. Here’s another angle of the dust-up, where Marlin had to be held back from charging at Wade:

That led to Marlin blowing off Wade in the handshake line, which did not go over well and resulted in the two teams having their own dust-up that didn’t actually make the TV broadcast:

And that’s when it got really good.

I mean really good.

Because Wade went scorched earth in the press conference after the game. You can see the videos below, but I’m going to pull out a couple of the best quotes:

“By the way, we play in an arena. Not a gym.”

“Well, since they don’t get to play us very often, I thought they should sit there and enjoy the opportunity to play us.”

“I was a little disappointed and thought it would be a two-seven type matchup instead of a three-six-type matchup.”

In the https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7zeyaUssGeY: “Don’t start no stuff, won’t be no stuff.”

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Private: March Madness teams, matchups announced
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March Madness teams, matchups announced

NEW YORK —  The 2018 NCAA men’s basketball tournament gets underway Tuesday in Dayton, Ohio. Villanova, Virginia, Xavier and Kansas will be the number one seeds for this year’s tournament. Sfter a two year absence, Ohio State is returning to the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. Notre Dame and Louisville didn’t make the cut this year.

All 68 contenders will play against the backdrop of an investigation-riddled season in which bribes and payoffs made bigger headlines than dunks and 3-pointers. No fewer than a dozen of the 68 teams in the tournament have been named either in the FBI investigation or in media reports that allege coaches and others have directed payments and improper benefits to recruits and players — thus, breaking rules that go to the core of the amateur-sports code that defines and regulates both the NCAA and the “student-athletes” who make this billion-dollar business run.

NCAA Tournament schedule: The First Four

The NCAA 2018 men’s basketball tournament kicks off Tuesday, March 13. The first game will be #16 seeds, LIU-Brooklyn vs. Radford at 6:40 p.m. ET. with the second game of the tournament immediately following at 9:10 p.m. Game two features the two 11th seed teams, St. Bonaventure vs. UCLA.

Wednesday, March 14 will see the other two #16 seeds NC Central vs. Texas Southern at 6:40 p.m., followed by the other #11 seeds, Arizona State vs. Syracuse at 9:10 p.m. All times Eastern.

The first round begins Thursday, March 15th at 12:15 p.m. See the full tournament schedule, including TV and online stream coverage, on the official NCAA site.

The Final Four is set for March 31 and April 2 in San Antonio. Shortly after that, a commission led by former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is expected to deliver recommendations from an investigation triggered by an FBI probe that led to charges last fall against assistant coaches, agents, employees of apparel companies and others.

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Download your 2018 NCAA Tournament bracket from CBS Sports

Printable NCAA Tournament bracket for March Madness

If you’re more of an analog hoops fan, you can download, print and fill in your brackets early with CBS Sports’ printable bracket. You can download it and print a PDF here.

Need help filling out your bracket? SportsLine ran every possible matchup through a computer simulation 10,000 times. And the CBSSports.com experts’ brackets are online for you to view.

Full list of college teams who made the tournament

32 Automatic qualifiers

Arizona, Bucknell, Buffalo, Cal State Fullerton, Charleston, Cincinnati, Davidson, Georgia State, Gonzaga, Iona, Kansas, Kentucky, Lipscomb, LIU Brooklyn, Loyola Chicago, Marshall, Michigan, Montana, Murray State, NC Central, New Mexico State, Penn, Radford, San Diego State, SFA, South Dakota State, Texas Southern, UMBC, UNCG, Villanova, Virginia, Wright State

36 At-large teams

Alabama, Arizona State, Arkansas, Auburn, Butler, Clemson, Creighton, Duke, Florida, Florida State, Houston, Kansas State, Miami, Michigan State, Missouri, Nevada, North Carolina, North Carolina State, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Providence, Purdue, Rhode Island, St. Bonaventure, Seton Hall, Syracuse, Tennessee, Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, TCU, UCLA, Virginia Tech, West Virginia, Wichita State, Xavier

Tournament team ranking, predictions and upsets

Before you fill out your bracket, our friends at CBS Sports have ranked all 64 teams in the tournament and have expert predictions and analysis to help fill out your bracket like a pro.

SportsLine’s bracket prediction simulator, which went 27-5 for the first round last year, predicts several upsets. It’s algorithm simulates every possible matchup 10,000 time. The team that won over half the simulations was selected to advance.

NCAA Bracket challenge: Play solo or in a group

The CBS Sports NCAA® March Madness ® 2018 Bracket Games is an official NCAA bracket game. You can create a group and compete against friends, family and co-workers. Or join solo and play against other individual players at CBS Sports.com

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Join the NCAA March Madness 2018 Bracket Games

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