Could we have now a 2023 Final Four with none No. 1 seeds?
The 2023 NCAA males’s event has already been a bruising expertise for prime seeds.
Kansas performed with out its head coach and was eradicated within the spherical of 32 by Arkansas and Eric Musselman (who promptly celebrated by taking off his shirt).
Houston was down 10 on the half in opposition to Auburn (in Birmingham!) earlier than the Cougars rallied for the win.
And Purdue … effectively, you already know all about Purdue.
What is occurring right here? Is this a change within the sport, random probability, seeding error or a bit of of all the above? Or are all of us overreacting to a few days of basketball? ESPN’s males’s faculty basketball specialists Myron Medcalf, Jeff Borzello and John Gasaway have been watching carefully and considering deeply. They have some theories. — John Gasaway
What went unsuitable with Kansas?
Jeff Borzello: Devo Davis, mainly. One Big 12 head coach informed me earlier than the event that Kansas’ lack of measurement made it inclined on the basket as a result of its incapability to guard the rim. On paper, Arkansas felt unlikely to check that as a result of the Razorbacks haven’t got a go-to submit participant. But Arkansas took benefit in different methods. Davis and his teammates have been completely relentless whereas attacking the rim within the second half, driving off the bounce and ending in site visitors — particularly after Kansas’ Okay.J. Adams Jr. and Ernest Udeh Jr. have been saddled with foul bother. The Razorbacks additionally grabbed 15 offensive rebounds and had 15 second-chance factors.
Another quote from the aforementioned Big 12 coach struck me on Saturday night time: “Gradey [Dick] and Jalen [Wilson] have to make shots. One of them making them isn’t enough.” Wilson went to work, however Dick had seven factors on 3-for-9 capturing. Davis was merely elite at each ends of the ground.
Myron Medcalf: Well, I are likely to suppose it is extra about what went proper with an Arkansas staff that hasn’t performed like this in a constant stretch all season. The Razorbacks — who by no means had any questions on their athletic capabilities — are defending, controlling the offensive glass and making key performs down the stretch in essentially the most essential chapter of the season. But Kansas’ Kevin McCullar Jr. fouled out late, and Gradey Dick lastly regarded like a freshman, which put much more stress on Jalen Wilson to do all of it late; and the Jayhawks additionally did not have their head coach.
Norm Roberts did an excellent job getting this Kansas staff to the second spherical. In these essential moments, nonetheless, Hall of Famer Bill Self wasn’t on the sideline to regular his gamers when Arkansas had them on the ropes. I feel that was a major aspect in all of this, regardless of what anybody stated about it.
John Gasaway: Where have you ever gone, David McCormack? Arkansas launched 15 makes an attempt from past the arc (and made simply three) but in addition obtained into the inside in opposition to Kansas. That’s the place Eric Musselman’s staff actually obtained the job performed. After permitting the Hogs to seize 15 offensive boards and rating 21 factors on the line, the Jayhawks have been despatched house after simply two video games. Both the short exit and its nature are a shock. KU’s inside protection in Big 12 play was fairly good, however that was no assist in opposition to Arkansas when it mattered most.
Houston survived. How far can this 1-seed go?
Medcalf: I feel Houston can turn out to be the primary staff in NCAA historical past to each host and take part within the Final Four and win a nationwide title. (Yes, Butler reached the Final Four in Indianapolis in 2010, however Butler was not the host college.)
For Houston, I simply needed to see if Jamal Shead and Marcus Sasser may play at a excessive stage, regardless that they’re each coping with accidents. Shead had his struggles, however he performed 34 minutes. And Sasser scored 22 factors (7-for-14 capturing) in 31 minutes, regardless that he needed to play by foul bother.
That’s not the one proof. When wholesome — or most wholesome — this staff has a depth that reinforces its possibilities. Tramon Mark (26 factors) reminded all that this staff is greater than Sasser. I do not know if Houston is 100%. But it is shut sufficient to make its nationwide title desires appear tangible. Plus, the Cougars have loads of time to relaxation and prepare for his or her subsequent opponent.
Borzello: I might be extra involved about Houston if it did not simply go into Auburn’s house state and beat the Tigers by 17. The Cougars have been terrible within the first half, trailed by 10 on the break, had each Sasser and Shead banged up and in foul bother — and nonetheless beat Auburn in convincing trend. Kelvin Sampson’s staff nonetheless has an extremely excessive flooring.
The Cougars can flip up the warmth defensively like few different groups within the nation, they crash the offensive glass at a excessive fee and so they have so many weapons offensively. Sasser regarded tremendous when he was on the ground, Shead regarded tremendous when he was on the ground, Mark stepped up in an enormous means — and that is not even mentioning their lottery choose in Jarace Walker. Houston continues to be the favourite to get to the Final Four.
Gasaway: Say this for Houston’s harm worries: Their injured guys are literally taking part in. That’s a deal UCLA (Jaylen Clark) or Tennessee (Zakai Zeigler) would soak up a heartbeat. Come to think about it, the Cougars would not have minded that association themselves one 12 months in the past. Kelvin Sampson’s staff needed to play the 2022 event with out each Sasser and Mark as a result of season-ending accidents. Nevertheless, UH reached the Elite Eight. Something tells me Houston’s ceiling in its current circumstances continues to be fairly excessive.
Alabama can be coping with accidents. What are the possibilities we may lose no less than another No. 1 seed earlier than the Final Four?
John Gasaway: The chances are high significantly better than they have been shortly as a result of we’re already down to simply two prime seeds left. We’ve additionally seen each of the remaining No. 1 seeds look beatable within the latest previous. The first half Houston performed in opposition to Auburn left the Cougars trailing by 10 factors (although Sampson’s staff did find yourself profitable simply). Alabama appears to have overcome its late-season malaise that included an additional time win at South Carolina and a loss at Texas A&M. We may have a Final Four and not using a prime seed for the primary time since 2011, however proper now, the percentages are in opposition to it.
Myron Medcalf: After watching Arizona, Purdue and Kansas lose, I’m undecided something will shock me. But I additionally imagine there are tiers among the many prime seeds. Houston and Alabama have performed at a stage above the sector. I’d put Kansas in that group, however the Jayhawks did not have their head coach, which I feel mattered. Purdue confronted questions on its depth all season.
Alabama registered 132 factors per 100 possessions in a 21-point win over Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, even with Brandon Miller going scoreless in 19 minutes. I feel Alabama and Houston — supplied the Cougars can keep as near wholesome as attainable — will likely be powerful to knock off earlier than the Final Four. Nothing is unattainable, however I feel they’re in a distinct class.
Jeff Borzello: Alabama and Houston have been the one two 1-seeds I had advancing previous the Sweet 16, so I’ve felt Kansas and Purdue have been susceptible for some time. And I nonetheless suppose each the Crimson Tide and the Cougars will discover themselves within the Final Four. It would not be an enormous shock to see certainly one of them fall, nonetheless.
Houston may have a troublesome Sweet 16 matchup in opposition to both Miami or Indiana, two groups that may actually rating. And then Texas, which blew out Kansas twice in eight days earlier this month, may await within the Elite Eight. I’m much less involved about Alabama, with 2-seed Arizona already knocked out. But San Diego State goes to current a distinct sort of protection than the Crimson Tide have seen in weeks, and neither Baylor nor Creighton can be a pushover within the Elite Eight.
Taking into consideration the previous couple of days, who do you will have going to the Final Four?
Jeff Borzello: I had Alabama, Marquette, Houston and UConn earlier than the event began. After three days of motion, I’ll go together with Alabama, Marquette, Houston and UConn. No wavering over right here!
John Gasaway: I’m driving with my authentic 4, and so they’re all nonetheless right here! (At this writing.) Give me Houston, UCLA, Marquette and Alabama. Fingers crossed.
Myron Medcalf: Alabama, Marquette, UConn, Xavier