Men's final four predictions from the Ledger, local coaches
With N.C. State, Albany, Tennessee and Cal Poly now officially in the field of 64, it’s time to ask the all important question: Who ya got? The Ledger and local coaches offer final four predictions.
Allyus Fritz – Ledger sports editor: Florida, Michigan State, Oklahoma State, Louisville. Championship Game: Florida 71, Louisville 66
Andy Hallman – Ledger news editor: Florida, Michigan State, Arizona, Louisville. Championship Game: Arizona 69, Michigan State 68.
Tyler Miklo – Fairfield boys' basketball coach: Kansas, Michigan State, Arizona, Louisville. Championship Game: Louisville 71, Michigan State 65.
Mick Flattery – Fairfield boys' basketball coach: Florida, Michigan State, Arizona, Louisville. Championship Game: Michigan State 79, Arizona 72.
Aaron Dose – Cardinal girls' basketball coach: Florida, Michigan State, Creighton, Michigan. Championship Game: Florida 84, Creighton 72.
Jay Olson – Cardinal boys' basketball coach: Florida, Iowa State, Arizona, Louisville. Championship Game: Florida 67, Louisville 62.
Davis Eidahl – Pekin girls' basketball coach: Florida, Iowa State, Arizona, Wichita State. Championship Game: Wichita State 75, Florida 72.
Tournament Predictions from sports editor Allyus Fritz
1. Look for Harvard to upset Cincinnati in the second round. The Crimson went 26-4, with two of their losses coming against Connecticut and Colorado. Cincinnati has had trouble scoring when senior Sean Kilpatrick isn’t shooting well. If Kilpatrick doesn’t lead the Bearcats by example, Harvard could advance to play Michigan State in the third round.
2. The west bracket is completely up for grabs. With Arizona’s Brandon Ashley out for the season with an injury, the Wildcats, Wisconsin, Creighton and San Diego State are arguably the weakest 1-4 seeds in the tournament. Oklahoma State could run through the bracket if it can upset Arizona. The surprise team of the tournament will come out of this portion of the bracket.
3. Lastly, Florida won’t play a difficult game until the Elite Eight, where it will face either Kansas or Syracuse. The senior-laden Gators have been on a mission all season, so don’t expect Albany, Pittsburgh, Colorado, UCLA, or Virginia Commonwealth to upset them. Taking Florida to the final rounds of the tournament is a safe bet.
First Round – Tennessee 78, Iowa 65 OT
Ahead nearly the entire game, Iowa couldn’t finish it off in regulation. Then, the Hawkeyes couldn’t make a shot in overtime.
This NCAA tournament loss is going to sting for a long time.
With forward Jarnell Stokes using his 280 pounds to dominate inside and a highly regarded defense finally locking in, Tennessee pulled off the first amazing comeback of the NCAA tournament on Wednesday night.
Stokes opened overtime with a three-point play that put Tennessee ahead to stay, and the Volunteers’ defense shut down Iowa in overtime for a 78-65 victory, finishing off the First Four with an exclamation point.
“I don’t think we ran out of gas,” said Adam Woodbury, who led Iowa with 16 points. “We made some key mistakes down the stretch and that hurt us.”
Tennessee didn’t lead until Antonio Barton’s 3-pointer put the Vols up 59-57 with 3:05 left regulation. There were five lead changes before Tennessee’s Jordan McRae missed a jumper missed at the buzzer, leaving it tied at 64.
Stokes’ three-point play in overtime was the key moment in his 18-point, 13-rebound performance, putting the Volunteers ahead to stay. It was his 20th double-double this season, the most by a Volunteer since Bernard King had 22 of them in 1976-77.
Tennessee’s highly regarded defense took it from there, holding Iowa (21-13) to one free throw the rest of the way. The Hawkeyes missed all eight of their shots from the field in overtime.
It was a tough ending to a long and stressful day for Iowa coach Fran McCaffery. He started in Iowa with his teenage son, Patrick, who had surgery to remove a thyroid tumor. His assistant coaches led the Hawkeyes through a meeting and their final practice, and McCaffery was back by game time.
Coach Cuonzo Martin and the Volunteers wished him well after the game.
“Their players hugged me and told me they were thinking of me,” McCaffery said. “I was really impressed with their guys and the program Cuonzo has built there.”
McCaffery said test results on the tumor are expected as early as Friday or as late as Monday. His son remained in a hospital overnight but could be discharged on Thursday.
The Vols (22-12) head to Raleigh, N.C., where they’ll play sixth-seeded Massachusetts on Friday in the Midwest Regional. They left Dayton with a lot of momentum — six wins in their last seven games.
“We did a tremendous job toward the end of fighting back,” said McRae, who had 20 points. “We did a great job on our defense. For us to hold them like we did was a great job.”
Iowa got a subpar performance from its leading scorer. Roy Devyn Marble was only 3 of 15 from the field for seven points, matching his season low.
The Hawkeyes were struggling as they headed into their first NCAA tournament appearance since 2006, losing six of their previous seven games. Defense was the biggest problem, often letting them down in the second half.
They opened the game in promising fashion, switching from man-to-man to zone to half-court traps. It worked. They got off to a 16-4 lead and were still ahead 29-26 at halftime.
They kept swatting away the Volunteers’ runs until the last few minutes of regulation.
Marble’s basket tied it at 64, and he was guarding McCrae when he missed his fade-away shot at the buzzer sending it to overtime.
Tennessee got an at-large bid by closing the season with a defensive flourish. The Volunteers won five straight before losing to No. 1 Florida 56-49 in the Southeastern Conference tournament. They gave up 61.1 points per game, second only to Florida in the SEC, and allowed an average of only 47.4 points in the last four games.
In overtime, that defense decided it.