UMass football coach Charley Molnar answered readers' questions about where his program is headed.
Review the discussion below.
By Craig Larson, Globe Staff
Is there another Kyle Juszczyk among the 29 football recruits headed to Harvard Stadium in September? Time will tell.
Even as a freshman, Juszcyzk (11 catches, 3 touchdowns in 2009) was a worthy contributor on a 7-3 squad, showing flashes of the toughness, versatility, poise, and ball skills that would eventually attract the attention of pro scouts. That came to fruition last Friday night, when the 6-foot-1-inch, 248-pound fullback/tight end was selected by the Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens in the fourth round of the NFL draft.
Others, such as guard John Collins, the Roxbury Latin product out of Hull who is headed to the Seahawks rookie minicamp next week, may take a bit longer to emerge as an impact player.
Is there the right mix of determination, commitment, and talent in the Class of 2017 to raise another Ivy League banner or two over the next four years? That will certainly not materialize before the Crimson kick off their 2013 season at San Diego Sept. 21, and not likely before the season finale in New Haven on Nov. 23.
But coach Tim Murphy and his staff now have 29 commitments, representing 19 states -- none from Massachusetts, however -- to work with.
There is only one quarterback in the class, but 6-5, 220-pound Joe Viviano (Berwyn, Pa.) chose the Crimson over North Carolina State, Syracuse, UMass, and Yale, among others. And Avon Old Farms outside linebacker John Van Allen selected Harvard over offers from Boston College, Maryland, Duke, and others.
And stepping in for Juszczyk? MaKonnen Ramsey, a 6-4, 252-pound fullback/linebacker from Middleton, Wis., is an intriguing prospect.
OL Kyle Adams (6-3, 275) Succasunna, N.J./Roxbury
CB Kolbi Brown (5-11, 180) The Woodlands, Texas
LB Darien Carr (6-0, 215) Silver Spring, Md./Good Counsel
RB Dominick DeLucia (5-9, 203) Pittsford, N.Y./Pittsford Mendon
RB Bo Ellis (5-9, 185) Homestead, Fla./Gulliver Prep
WR Anthony Firkster (6-3, 220) Manalpan, N.J.
CB Joseph Foster (5-11, 180) Fredericksburg, Va./Massaponas
OL Justin Fox (6-5, 220) Spartanburg, S.C.
TE Ryan Halvorson (6-3, 225) Coronado, Calif./Colonial Forge
RB Philip Hay (6-0, 180) El Dorado, Ark./Parkers Chapel
LB Caleb Johnson (6-4, 220) Slatington, Pa./Northern Lehigh
TE Adam Ledford (6-4, 230) Lawrenceville, Ga./Brookwood
WR Christian Lee (6-0, 140) Mt. Juliet, Tenn./Wilson Central
TE James Martterr (6-3, 235) Akron, Ohio/Archbishop Hoban
DE Miles McCollum (6-3, 245) Dublin, Ohio/Dublin Coffman
DB Raishaun McGee (5-11, 170) Greenwich, Conn./Rye Country Day
LB Dominique Packer (5-11) Conyers, Ga./Heritage
OL Connor Potts (6-6, 300) El Paso, Texas/Franklin
FB MaKonnen Ramsey (6-4, 252) Middleton, Wis.
OL Max Rich (6-7, 310) Portland, Ore./Jesuit
DE Davon Robertson (6-4, 255) Riverside, R.I./Saint Raphael Academy
DB Eric Ryan (6-2, 200) Newington, Conn.
DB Dallas Schray (6-0) Carolton, Texas/Hebron
OL Christian Shigley (6-4, 271) Sammarnish, Wash./Eastside Catholic
WR John Van Allen III (6-3, 207) Hartford/Avon Old Farms
QB Joseph Viviano III (6-5, 220) Berwyn, Pa./Conestoga
DE Langston Ward (6-5, 250) Spokane, Wash./Mead
OL William Nichols (6-5, 260) Scottsdale, Ariz./Pinnacle
LB Jorrion Wilson (6-0, 180) Odessa, Texas/Permian
Boston College announced that five of its football players signed rookie free agent contracts with NFL teams.
Linebacker Nick Clancy signed with the Atlanta Falcons, offensive tackle Emmett Cleary signed with the Indianapolis Colts, defensive back Jim Noel with the Seattle Seahawks, tight end Chris Pantale with the New York Jets, and offensive tackle John Wetzel with the Raiders.
UMass junior point guard Chaz Williams will return to Amherst to play his senior season, coach Derek Kellogg announced Monday. Williams led the Minutemen last season in scoring (15.5 per game), assists (7.3), and steals (2.0).
“I love this program and Coach Kellogg, and I love all the guys on the team," said Williams. "The pieces we have coming back next season was a big reason I decided to stay in school.
"We are trying our hardest to have the arena filled each and every game, and the student support we have makes college basketball so exciting."
Williams transferred from Hofstra after his freshman season, and after red-shirting for the 2010-11 campaign, he has led UMass in scoring, averaging 16.2 points in 70 games over the past two seasons. He has also recorded 473 assists in his time with the Minutemen, the third-highest total among Division 1 players over the last two seasons.
“We’re excited that Chaz has decided to come back for his senior season,” Kellogg said. “We spoke with the folks at the NBA level and discussed the possibilities for what would be best for Chaz and his future, and ultimately he made the decision to return and help get UMass back into the NCAA Tournament while working towards getting his degree.”
The Brooklyn native has been named first-team All-NABC and first-team Atlantic 10 the past two years.
“I just want to thank everybody around the community and at UMass, from the coaches to the fans, for allowing me to do the things I do,” Williams said. “Coach Kellogg was nice enough to allow me to have the opportunity to get feedback from NBA scouts. It was a tough process. I was thinking about taking care of my family, especially my daughter.”
Jerry York is well-known as a creature of habit. A lifelong resident of Watertown, the 67-year-old Boston College hockey coach, five weeks removed from undergoing a second surgery to repair a detached retina in his right eye, often begins his day with a stop at the Dunkin' Donuts in Watertown Square.
But York's routine, as well as those of his fellow Watertown residents, was shattered in the wee hours last Friday when a wave of violence erupted on the streets, as police engaged two suspects in the Boston Marathon bombings in a gunfight that left one dead and the other at-large.
York was rousted from his slumber at 2 a.m. by a reverse 911 wakeup call from Watertown Police, warning people to remain indoors while authorities searched for the second suspect.
"They called every single resident and told us there was police activity and to stay in the house until further notice,'' York said.
Tim Clark, of BC's sports information staff, texted the coach, warning him, "Don't go for Dunkin' Donuts in the morning!''
Said York, "I don't turn the TV on. I get up in the morning and I'll be in my car and I'll go down to Dunkin' Donuts. But the whole day we were 'shelter in place.' I had never heard of that word, but all of a sudden we were inside and I've got no gun or anything and what are you going to do if the guy walks in? They said don't answer the door.''
While it gave him some comfort to be neighbors with a Watertown Police officer, Ed Kasabian, York remained in confinement until authorities apprehended 19-year-old Dzhokar Tsarnaev, who was hiding beneath the tarp of a boat behind a Franklin Street home, which, York said, was about a quarter of a mile from his house.
"We stayed up all night and watched the TV the whole day -- it was riveting,'' York said. "My brother, Bill, lives about four houses away from where the boat was.''
York did not join the revelers who descended upon Franklin Street to salute the law enforcement officials. "No," said the coach, "but I went out on my back porch and gave out a 'hallelujah!'
"We were really proud of 'em. We talk all about giving more respect to the firemen and we get mad at the police because they give us tickets. But when you need them, they're there. And they risked their lives, too.
"It was so hard for all of us, because you're mad at the terrorists and you want to get them and stuff. But it was a celebration when we finally got them both''
York said his thoughts were with those who lost their lives and were maimed in the explosions, including a pair of 2005 BC graduates. "We sent them out a videostream, wishing them the best of luck,'' York said.
York celebrated in the only way he knew how: by making a delayed coffee run Friday evening to Dunkin' Donuts.
"Oh, no question,'' he said. "Went out for iced coffee that night."
Given the tragic events at the Boston Marathon and their aftermath, Boston College officials have followed the lead of the Red Sox and Bruins by canceling Saturday's Jay McGillis Memorial spring football game.
School officials also announced that Saturday's slate of athletic home games would be canceled.
Athletic director Brad Bates said in a statement, “After consulting with campus, city and law enforcement officials, including the Boston College Police Department, we have decided to cancel all home athletics events scheduled for Saturday, including the spring football game.
"Our first priority is ensuring the safety of our student-athletes, coaches and spectators. Our local law enforcement community has done a phenomenal job this past week, and we do not want our events to serve as a distraction.
“Furthermore, now is a time for reflection to honor those who have been tragically killed and injured this past week and to allow our community to heal. The entire Boston College family stands with those who have been affected by this week's events. Together we will persevere and emerge stronger and more unified than ever.”
A look at Monday’s NCAA Championship game:
Louisville (34-5) vs. Michigan (31-7): Both national semifinal games were outstanding competitions but let’s hope we get some wide-open offense in this one. Louisville met the challenge of Wichita, fighting uphill all night, but the Cardinals gripped the game tightly when it was winning time. Michigan overcame the Syracuse zone with some surprising contributions from its bench. In this game, the Wolverines will have to overcome Louisville’s full-court pressure. Michigan’s guards should be up to the task and they need to look to score against the press. Syracuse’s big guys failed to deliver against Michigan and an opponent can succeed in the paint against the Wolverines. Louisville’s best big man, Gorqui Dieng, has a chance to excel and be the difference in the game. If he can give the Cardinals some quality offense that should be enough.
A look at Saturday’s national semifinals:
Louisville (33-5) vs. Wichita State (30-8): If you want to know whether an upset is possible, go back to Nov. 13. On that night, Wichita beat Virginia Commonwealth, 53-51, in Richmond. VCU doesn’t measure up to Louisville but the Rams are a formidable opponent that plays a similar style to Louisville. The Shockers are capable of slowing the pace and tilting the court in their favor -- turn it into a half-court wrestling match where each basket is precious. This shouldn't surprise you: Louisville was second in the nation in turnover margin (behind VCU). Rick Pitino’s strategy is to force turnovers. Wichita averages 12.6 turnovers per game and all of its key players are good ballhandlers. So you can make a case for Wichita. But what works against the Shockers is the Cardinals have been the most consistent team in the tournament. They’ve played like the overall No. 1 seed, and if they play up to their standards on Saturday, they should win.
Michigan (30-7) vs. Syracuse (30-9): Speaking at an event for Globe subscribers in Boston this week, former UConn coach Jim Calhoun said this is the best zone defense he has ever seen Syracuse play. That’s scary. No wonder Marquette scored only 39 points. Michigan has a lot more offensive skill than Marquette. The Wolverines have All-America point guard Trey Burke, who’s a threat to score or find open teammates. And those teammates, especially Tim Hardaway Jr. and Glenn Robinson III, can score. I would expect they’ll be able to score enough. Syracuse’s advantage will be in the paint. The Orange’s big men are not outstanding but athletic forward C.J. Fair will have a chance to score inside. Michigan must hit the defensive boards and then look to run, another key to beating Syracuse’s zone. If the Wolverines can’t find a way to score consistently, if and they fail to rebound, they’re in big trouble.
A look at Sunday's regional finals in the NCAA Tournament:
4. Michigan (29-7) vs. 3. Florida (29-7): Michigan advanced with a miraculous comeback over No. 1 Kansas Friday. Florida sort of plodded along and beat Florida Gulf Coast. Michigan has the most impressive victory in the tournament too, a vaporizing of VCU. The Michigan guards, Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr., are speedy, smart and dangerous shooters. Florida’s guards, especially Mike Rosario, can match them for the most part. Neither team has a great inside game so it will come down to whose guards gain the advantage. Right now, Michigan’s are playing better.
Louisville (32-5) vs. Duke (30-5): Louisville hasn’t been tested in beating North Carolina A&T, Colorado State and Oregon. The Cardinals full-court press and pell-mell style has set the tone in those three victories. Duke will not be pushed around so easily, the Blue Devils will match any physical play. They also will not be intimidated by the full-court pressure. That doesn’t mean they’re going to win. This will be competitive, maybe even close but Louisville has played like an overall No. 1 seed should. Right now, they’re the best team in the tournament.
As Bob Ryan was speaking to Bill Walton for his Sunday column the conversation veered to Britney Griner, the center for Baylor women's basketball team and the unquestioned best player in the NCAA tournament.
Walton couldn't contain himself: “Brittney Griner is Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. She has size. She has strength. She has skills. She’s a team player. She plays on a really good team. She wins all her games ... She’s Kareem!”
A look at Saturday’s regional finals in the NCAA Tournament.
3. Marquette (26-8) vs. 4. Syracuse (29-9): Both these teams looked overpowering in their regional semifinal victories with Marquette plowing under Miami and Syracuse befuddling Indiana. Marquette is lucky; the Fightin’ McGuires should have lost to Davidson their first game; could have lost to Butler in the second but then crushed Miami with sheer will Thursday. Their best asset is effort, no team plays harder. They also get the ball inside effective especially to Davonte “Twinkle Toes’’ Gardner. Before all this started, they were the worst three-point shooting team in the tournament but they’ve been decent in their three NCAA wins. Syracuse has yet to be seriously challenged as the Orange have regained their shooting touch and have flummoxed all three opponents with their 2-3 zone. When the teams met in the regular season in Milwaukee, Marquette won 74-71 as Gardner scored 26 points, making all seven of high field goal attempts and 12 of 13 free throws. Indiana couldn’t compete with Syracuse near the basket; Marquette has already proven it can. Syracuse blocked 11 Indiana shots but had only three in the loss in Milwaukee. Talent-wise there’s no comparison, Syracuse’s roster is better. So it will be talent vs. effort. I’m liking effort right now.
2. Ohio State (29-7) vs. 9. Wichita State (29-8): That Ohio State is on verge of consecutive Final Four appearances is a surprise but coach Thad Matta has done a tremendous job blending veterans such as Deshaun Thomas and Aaron Craft with younger players he’s developing such as LaQuinton Ross (who hit the game winner Thursday night) and Shannon Scott (just realized he’s Charlie Scott’s son. Scott played for the Celtics and was the first black player at North Carolina). The Buckeyes have hit their stride at the right time; they played together on the offensive end and tough on defense. The big men are just average. Wichita State is also well coached by Greg Marshall and the Wheat Shockers love to get teams in physical battles and half-court games. This will probably be low-scoring but the Buckeyes will be able to meet the physical challenge and advance to the Final Four.
A look at Friday’s regional semifinals in the NCAA tournament.
1. Kansas (31-5) vs. 4. Michigan (28-7): Michigan’s blowout victory over VCU in last weekend might be the most impressive victory in the tournament. The Wolverines are clicking and have an array of offensive weapons, led by point guard Trey Burke. The Wolverines have guarded well, but Kansas is going to present a special challenge. It’s questionable whether Michigan’s young big men can match up with Kansas’ Jeff Withy and Kevin Young. The Jayhawks play some of the best defense in the country, too. If Michigan can at least compete and not get crushed in the paint, they can win this game.
3. Florida (28-7) vs. 15. Florida Gulf Coast (26-10): The Gulf Coast story is tremendous and the Eagles have been highly entertaining in upsetting Georgetown and San Diego State, but here’s some stats courtesy of Ed Ryan, the Globe’s NFL gambling and fantasy football correspondent: Brett Comer of Gulf Coast: 6.5 assists per game, 3.5 turnovers per game. As a team: 512 assists, 525 turnovers.
Only two players on the team have positive assist-to-turnover ratios – Comer and a backup guard, DaJuan Graf. Here’s where the glass slipper breaks. Florida will defend well and has enough toughness to not let Gulf Coast go crazy near the hoop.
1. Louisville (31-5) vs. 12. Oregon (28-8): Florida Gulf Coast is playing over its head, but so is Oregon as freshmen guards Dominic Artis and Damyean Dotson have been flawless. Dotson, a 33 percent three-point shooter, has connected on eight of 15 threes in two victories. Those two will have to keep up with the relentless Louisville full-court pressure, which should eventually wear them down. The Cardinals just need to keep their heads and not make too many Russdiculous plays.
2. Duke (29-5) vs. 3. Michigan State (27-8): This is a classic matchup between two traditional powers and two great coaches. Once again, Tom Izzo has his Michigan State team playing its best in March. Mike Krzyewski has Duke playing well too, especially with the return of versatile forward Ryan Kelly. Expect this to be a chess match, probably in the 60s. It may sound obvious, but because both these teams play such solid defense, the team that gets the best open shots and converts will win.
A look at Thursday's regional semifinals
2. Miami (29-6) vs. 3. Marquette (25-8): Miami will be missing center Reggie Johnson and that could open the lane for Marquette’s heavy big man Davonte “Twinkle Toes” Gardner, who’s a load in the paint and someone who makes his free throws. Johnson could have matched up with him. Now the Hurricanes will have to figure something else out. The guard matchup, Miami’s Shane Larkin and Marquette’s Van Blue, should be highly competitive and it could decide the game. Both of these teams have won their share of close ones. Johnson’s absence will be felt.
1. Indiana (29-6) vs. 4. Syracuse (28-9): The Hoosiers were taken to the limit by Temple; Syracuse advanced through two games easily. The Orange are supremely talented, especially forward C.J. Fair, but they’ve been inconsistent at times. Indiana’s weakness is depth, but what the Hoosiers have is great balance and smart play. Syracuse’s 2-3 zone has been known to baffle opponents, but Indiana has both the smarts and skill to combat it. The Hoosiers will also want to push the pace.
6. Arizona (27-7) vs. 2. Ohio State (28-7): Arizona has been stupendous in routing Belmont and Harvard in its first two games. Ohio State took care of Iona fairly easily, but then needed a controversial call to escape from Iowa State in its second game. The big matchup in this game is Arizona’s high-scoring guard Mark Lyons vs. Ohio State’s Aaron Craft, perhaps the best individual defender in the tournament. If Craft can knock Lyons off his game, the Buckeyes will be well on their way to victory.
9. Wichita State (28-8) vs. 13. LaSalle (24-9): Which underdog do you like? Wichita State was unworldly in upsetting No. 1 seed Gonzaga, but it took seven straight three-pointers in the second half to do it. The Wheat Shockers are a physical team that likes to keep things contained in the half-court on both ends. LaSalle will play four guards, and penetrating with the dribble and finding open shooters is how it succeeds. It will come down to who will dictate the pace. If LaSalle’s guards can get rolling, Wichita might not be able to keep up. If Wichita turns this into a physical confrontation, the Shockers will win.
Holy Cross point guard Bob Cousy defeated UMass forward Julius Erving in the championship game of Boston.com's "New England's Best College Baller Showdown" Monday. The final margin of victory of 219 votes was the culmination of a week-long tournament in which 64 of the best players in New England college basketball history faced off bracket-style.
For the week, more than 144,000 votes were cast as the field was whittled from 64 to one. Along the way, local legends like Jimmy Walker, Marvin Barnes, Ray Allen, Rip Hamilton, Marcus Camby, Tom Heinsohn, Dana Barros, and Terry Driscoll were eliminated. Many more exceptional players fell, and dozens of deserving players were left off the list entirely. Coming up with the top 64 players was both challenging and fun, but with Bob Ryan and Globe sports editor Joe Sullivan's help, we think we got it right.
Cousy, who played for Holy Cross from 1946 to 1950, is considered one of the best point guards in basketball history. He was named first-team All American in three of his four seasons and graduated as the school's all-time leading scorer. His four-year college career, in which he led the Crusaders to the first national championship for any New England school, was enough to edge Erving, who played two seasons at UMass. Erving averaged an absurd 32.5 points and 20.2 rebounds per game.
Thank you to everyone who voted. We hope you had as much fun with the bracket as we did.
Rachel Ramsey had a goal and two assists for Minnesota, which capped a perfect season at 41-0.
It was Boston University's second appearance in the national championship in the last three seasons – the Terriers lost the 2011 title game to Wisconsin. Minnesota, which defeated Boston College in the semifinals, also won the title in 2012, 2005, and 2004.
Mira Jalosuo gave Minnesota a 1-0 lead 11:38 into the first period and Hannah Brandt made it 2-0 with a short-handed goal at the 18:32 mark.
Sarah Lefort put BU on the board just 16 seconds later with a power play goal that made it 2-1.
In the second period, Amanda Kessel and Milica McMillen scored to increase Minnesota's lead to 4-1.
Marie-Philip Poulin and Jenelle Kohanchuk had third-period goals for Boston University (28-6-3).
A look at Sunday’s games in the NCAA Tournament.
1. Indiana (28-6) vs. 9. Temple (24-9): Indiana is the best team in the tournament, the Hoosiers play fast-break basketball and tough man-to-man defense; they’ve got a really good big man in Cody Zeller and plenty of guards. Temple had a great victory over NC State Friday but the Owls are a one-man team in Khalif Wyatt who is capable of carrying the Owls. Indiana needs to send an extra defender at him and let the other Owls beat him. BU transfer Jake O’Brien had a big afternoon against NC State and the Owls need a repeat of that.
2. Miami (28-6) vs. 7. Illinois (23-12): The Hurricanes flexed their muscles Friday in squashing Pacific in an impressive effort. They’re one of the most well-balanced teams in the tournament with impressive inside and outside games. That’s going to be hard for Illinois to defend; the Illini are really no match for the Hurricanes inside.
1. Kansas (30-5) vs. 8. North Carolina (25-10): This should be a high-scoring game as both teams like to get up and down. Kansas didn’t looked great in beating Western Kentucky Friday, but they’ve played well since a three-game losing streak in early February. The Jayhawks are a top-notch shooting team (48 percent) and lead the nation in field goal percentage defense. The Tar Heels have been an underachieving group of McDonald’s All-Americans most of the season; they’re capable of the upset but they’ve failed to show they can put together a complete game.
3. Florida (27-7) vs. 11. Minnesota (21-12): Florida’s been criticized for its failure to win on the road but these game are all on neutral courts. Despite its seed, Minnesota is better than its record. This should be a really good matchup between sets of guards but I believe Florida’s is slightly better. The wild card for Minnesota is center Trevor Mbakwe who is just a shadow of himself because of injuries. If he’s feeling well, he could have a big game and swing it in the Gophers’ favor.
7. San Diego State (22-10) vs. 15. Florida Gulf Coast (25-10): Gulf Coast looked sensational in beating Georgetown but remember this, the Eagles didn’t even win the Atlantic Sun regular-season title. Mercer did. If they play as well as they played against Georgetown, they have a chance but San Diego State should be able to handle their athleticism better than the Hoyas did and just might be a more difficult matchup. Jamal Franklin should have a big game for the Aztecs.
2. Duke (28-5) vs. 7. Creighton (28-7): Creighton showed some toughness in its victory over Cincinnati, matching the Bearcats physically then making free throws down the stretch. Duke will be physical too but the game should be a lot more wide open. Creighton, not known for great defense, needs to tighten up on that end. Overall, the Bluejays match up pretty well and it will be interesting to see how Duke coach Mike Krzyewski defends Doug McDermott.
2. Ohio State (27-7) vs. 10. Iowa State (23-11): Both these teams played well Friday with Ohio State beating Iona and Iowa vaporizing Notre Dame. The Buckeyes, led by forward Deshaun Thomas and guard Aaron Craft, will defend Iowa State more tightly than ND did. However, the Cyclones will looking to score inside with big guys Melvin Ejim and Georges Niang (from Methuen) outplayed the more heralded Notre Dame front line.
12. Mississippi (27-8) vs. 13. La Salle (23-9): The Explorers have been outstanding for 60 minutes and then hanging on for dear life for 30 minutes. They hung on to beat Kansas State after blowing a 19-point lead. The Explorers’ bevy of guards, led by Ramon Galloway, is dynamic and right now they’re playing very well. Jerrell Wright is the lone big man and Ole Miss has some bulk up front. The Rebels also have Marshall Henderson, a wild gunner who can shoot Mississippi in or out of games. The Rebels need to slow the pace and pound the ball inside.
A look at Saturday’s NCAA Tournament games
3. Marquette (24-8) vs. 6. Butler (27-8): This will be another grinder, as many of Thursday afternoon’s games were. Marquette is lucky to be here with their unlikely victory over Davidson. Marquette is a poor outside shooting team and Davidson capitalized on that; Butler will probably do it better. Butler could struggle to score, they did against Bucknell. Figure this game to be in the 50s unless both teams shoot well, then the 60s.
4. Syracuse (27-9) vs. 12. California (21-11): Syracuse looked like it’s getting back in form while vaporizing Montana Thursday. James Southerland has caught fire from behind the arc and forward C.J. Fair is always hard to stop. Cal played one of their best games of the season in handling UNLV and the Bears will need a repeat of that to have a chance. They have to control the pace and figure out how to score against Syracuse’s zone.
1. Louisville (30-5) vs. 8.Colorado State (26-8): Louisville did exactly what a top seed should do, complete squash a 16 seed. The Cards will press full-court and try to create the chaos in which they flourish. Colorado State played a tremendous game, maybe their best of the season, in beating Missouri Thursday. The Rams are the leading rebounding team in the country and they crushed Missouri on the boards 42-19 and Mizzou is the third-ranked rebounding team in the country. The Rams’ guards are experienced too. Louisville must be prepared for a tough fight.
3. Michigan State (26-8) vs. 6. Memphis (31-4): Las Vegas had Memphis as an underdog in its opening game vs. Saint Mary’s but the Tigers led from start to finish and got some great play from guard Joe Jackson and their intimidating big men Tarik Black and Shaq Goodwin. Michigan State rolled over Valpo and looks ready to advance further. Memphis can match Michigan State physically so this has a chance to be a close game.
4. Saint Louis (28-6) vs. 12. Oregon (27-8): Oregon proved its point with a big victory over Oklahoma State: They should have had a better seed. The Ducks had good inside play from big man Arsalan Kazemi and good outside play from freshman point guard Dominic Artis. However, the Ducks have never faced anything like Saint Louis’ defense. The Billkens just strangle opponents’ offenses and they did that in the first-round victory over New Mexico State. The Bills will dictate terms and win this comfortable.
4. Michigan (27-7) vs. Virginia Commonwealth (26-8): VCU's full-court press is a challenge for any team but Michigan has great ball-handling guards especially Trey Burke to be able to handle it. It comes down to this: When VCU forces 20 or more turnovers, they're undefeated; when they don't, they usually lose. Michigan has a simple task, don't turn it over, get some shots and make them.
1. Gonzaga (31-2) vs. 9. Wichita State (27-8): What a contrast on Thursday. Wichita was one of the most impressive of the day in dominating Pitt with their smothering defense and patient offense. Meanwhile, Gonzaga almost became the first No. 1 seed to loss to a 16 seed. They survived but it was ugly. The Zags hadn’t played since March 11 and it looked it. Expect a complete turnabout and big offensive effort.
6. Arizona (26-7) vs. 14. Harvard (20-9): Harvard will need another stellar coaching job from Tom Amaker who used his smaller, quicker lineup to advantage in the upset over New Mexico. The Crimson won’t have a quickness advantage against Arizona and the Wildcats attack the boards. The Crimson need to shoot a high percentage and not get killed on the boards to have another chance at an upset.
Looking at Friday’s games in the NCAA Tournament
Listed by region in order of tip-off time
At Dayton, Ohio
8. North Carolina State (24-10) vs. 9. Temple (23-9): NC State has been maligned all season and it’s true the Wolfpack lack chemistry, but they’re tremendously talented, especially forward C.J. Leslie (14.9). For all their troubles, this is a balanced team with five players averaging in double figures. Temple might have the coaching advantage with Fran Dunphy, but his Owls have failed to win a NCAA game while he’s been on the bench. The steady, clutch Khalif Wyatt (19.8) might change that himself.
1. Indiana (27-6) vs. LIU (21-13) or James Madison (21-14): Indiana may not be the overall No. 1 team, but the Hoosiers should be the favorite to win the national championship. They’ve got it all, one of the best big men in Cody Zeller (16.9 ppg, 8.2 rpg) and one of the hardest-playing guards in Victor Oldipo (13.6) plus ballhandlers and shooters. Maybe they’re not that deep and that could derail them. It won’t pose a problem with either of these two opponents, however.
At Austin, Texas
2. Miami (27-6) vs. 15. Pacific (22-12): Miami is the first team to win the ACC regular season and tournament to not get a No. 1 seed. The Hurricanes lost to Florida Gulf Coast early in the season and Wake Forest late in the season, so they’re capable of a dud, but it’s been a sensational season. The team is well coached by Jim Larranaga (He’s a really loud whistler, listen for it on TV) and the team plays together cohesively on both ends of the floor. This is a true Final four contender. Pacific’s coach Bob Thomason is in his 25th and final season; he’s been here before and will rely on his usual methods, patient offense, tight man-to-man defense. If the Tigers shoot the lights out and Miami plays like it did against Wake, an upset is possible.
7. Illinois (22-12) vs. 10. Colorado (21-11): These teams are really similar. Both had quick starts – Illinois started 12-0 and had a win over Gonzaga, and Colorado began 10-2. Both leveled off during the conference season and both are reliant on a pair of good guards. Neither team has a great inside game. At times this season Illinois guard Brandon Paul (16.6) has played like an All-American and combined with D.J. Richardson (12.4) to be a potent unit. A pair of sophomore guards, Askia Booker (12.4) and Spencer Dinwiddie (15.6), are the difference makers for the Buffs. It might be too simple, but it could be that the team with the most points in the paint wins.
2. Georgetown (25-6) vs. 15. Florida Gulf Coast (24-10): On paper a mismatch, Gulf Coast has no one who can deal with the Hoyas’ Otto Porter, one of the top 10 players in America. Porter has a tremendous all-around game; he will be able to overpower Gulf Coast inside, but he’s also unselfish, a great decision maker (he averages 1.5 turnovers per game), and he can shoot it from outside (he hits 42 percent of his threes, so he only takes good ones). Gulf Coast did beat Miami back in November, so an upset is not impossible.
7. San Diego State (22-10) vs. 10. Oklahoma (20-11): I hate to think ahead, but it sure will be an interesting second-round game if San Diego State’s Jamal Franklin matches up with Georgetown’s Otto Porter. Both of their teams are reliant on their best player. Franklin is a tough 6-5 forward who does most of his damage inside the arc. Franklin leads the Aztecs in scoring (16.7), rebounding (9.5), assists (3.2) and steals. His weakness: He only makes 27 percent of his threes. Oklahoma will try to jam things inside to Romero Osby (15.8) and get to the foul line. The Sooners shot more than 100 free throws than their opponents.
In Kansas City, Mo.
8. North Carolina (24-10) vs. 9. Villanova (20-13): For Carolina, this is a bad season, but remember the Tar Heels still have plenty of talent, and half their losses were to Duke and Miami and another two were to Butler and Indiana. Roy Williams uses as many as 11 players and three of them, James Michael McAdoo, Reggie Bullock, and P.J. Hairston, average about 14 points per game. The Heels will try to wear down Villanova, which isn’t deep, and try to force some turnovers on what can be a shaky backcourt.
1. Kansas (29-5) vs. 16. Western Kentucky (20-15): For the second straight season, Western is in the tournament almost by accident as the Hilltoppers were in the opposite bracket of the Sun Belt tournament from top-seeded Middle Tennessee, which was upset both years. They’ll be no match for the Jayhawks, who lead the nation in field goal percentage defense and will try to turn this into a track meet where Western can’t keep up.
In Austin, Texas
3. Florida (26-7), vs. 14. Northwestern State (23-8): Northwestern State is the highest-scoring team in the country at 81 points per game. Florida doesn’t score as much, but the Gators will be willing to run up and down. They’re going to get the chance. Northwestern presses full-court for 40 minutes. Florida’s outstanding guards Mike Rosario (12.3), Kenny Boynton (12.3), and Scottie Wilbekin (9.0) should be able to deal with the pressure. Northwestern’s chance for an upset is to hope Florida’s guards aren’t focused and start turning the ball over.
6. UCLA (25-9) vs. 11. Minnesota (20-12):To call UCLA enigmatic is accurate, you just never know how well they’re going to play. The bookies in Las Vegas have no faith, they’ve made Minnesota a three-point favorite. The LA Times is writing about the future of coach Ben Howland and it sounds like it’s in jeopardy. The Bruins just don’t have any chemistry and the best example of that is leading scorer Shabazz Muhammad, who has 26 assists in 31 games. He loves to hold onto the ball. Minnesota, meanwhile, is an experienced group and will try to win the physical battle.
2. Duke (27-5) vs. Albany (24-10): The Dookies surprised people by getting upset by Maryland in the ACC tournament, but they’ll shake that off and move on easily. Albany has no one who can contend with Duke center Mason Plumlee, a rugged individual who’s had an All-American season. The Blue Devils are well-balanced with five players in double figures. Albany can’t guard them all. The Great Danes will have to make this a half-court game and hope their leading scorers, Mike Black (14.9) and Jacob Yati (12.1), have big afternoons.
7. Creighton (27-7) vs. 10. Cincinnati (22-11): Quite a contrast because Creighton and its All-American forward Doug McDermott (23.1, second in the country) are one of the most skilled offensive teams in the tournament. The Bluejays plan to push the pace and get up shots quickly. Cincinnati, on the other hand, can be almost painful to watch on offense; the Bearcats make only 40 percent of their shots (Creighton leads the nation with 50 percent shooting). Cincinnati has to turn this into a taffy-pull, a half-court game where defense matters most.
In Dayton, Ohio
2. Ohio State (26-7) vs. 15. Iona (20-13): This has a chance to be a fun game. Iona disdains defense, so Ohio State should score a lot of points. That’s just the way the Gaels like it because they’re second in the nation at 80.7 points per game. It’s pedal to the medal behind two skilled guards in Lamont “Momo” Jones (23 ppg, 116 assists and 110 turnovers) and Sean Armand (16.6). On a really good night, the Gaels are capable of pulling off the upset. Most likely, Ohio State should use its tough man-to-man defense led by guard Aaron Craft to control the game.
7. Notre Dame (25-9) vs. 10. Iowa State (22-11): Iowa State leads the nation in three-point field goals per game, so the Irish will need to guard the arc. The Cyclones are a perimeter-oriented team because they lack size and consistent inside play. Notre Dame has 6-9 center Jack Cooley (12.4 ppg, 10.1 rpg), one of the most underrated players in the country, and 6-10 Tom Knight. It could be a big night under the hoop for the Irish.
In Kansas City, Mo.
5. Wisconsin (23-11) vs. 12. Mississippi (26-8): Wisconsin has a plan that never changes under coach Bo Ryan. The Badgers will run their patient swing offense and try to make it a physical half-court game. Speeding them up is the key to beating them. Mississippi has one of the most flamboyant players in college basketball in guard Marshall Henderson (20.1 ppg) who will work hard to get open shots, hit them and then openly celebrate. Ole Mss won its first SEC tournament championship since 1981 to force its way into the tournament.
4. Kansas State (27-7) vs. Boise State (22-10) or LaSalle (22-9): Kansas State coach Bruce Weber was unfairly fired at Illinois and he’s proven his value by coaxing Kansas State to a co-regular season championship in the Big 12 with Kansas, which had at least double the talent. K State is guard-oriented with the manic Angel Rodriquez (11.7 ppg, 5.2 apg) and Rodney McGruder (15.7), who can jump over any defender to get his shot. Boise was the surprise team in the Mountain West and parlayed that into the school’s first at-large bid. Anthony Drmic, a 6-6 swingman from Australia, is the leading scorer at 17.3 ppg. LaSalle has a quartet of great guards led by Ramon Galloway that will pose a defensive challenge for the Wildcats.
The second round of our "New England's Best College Baller" showdown is underway. You cast more than 126,000 votes during Round 1, whittling the field of the best New England college basketball players of all time from 64 players down to 32.
All of the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds survived. No. 4 Ray Allen easily handled Tyson Wheeler despite Allen's current Enemy of the State status. Northeastern's J.J. Barea squeaked past Harvard's Jeremy Lin by a little less than 200 votes.
Some notable upsets:
-- In the Joe Mullaney region, UConn's Cliff Robinson, a No. 14 seed, took out BC's Terry Driscoll, a No. 3. Somewhere nearby Bob Ryan is questioning the sanctity of this whole thing.
-- BC's Tom Bagley, a No. 14 seed, upset Yale's Tony Lavelli, a No. 3 seed, in the Jim Calhoun region. Lavelli's halftime accordion playing during his brief stint with the Celtics was not enough to win you over.
-- No. 11 Ben Gordon took out No. 6 Taylor Coppenrath in the Jack Leaman region. Real-life Cinderella couldn't pull off the virtual upset here.
-- Craig Smith (No. 12) pulled the upset over Ernie Calverley (No. 5), and George "Trigger" Burke (No. 6) was ousted by that pesky Lamar Odom (No. 11).
The second round brings some great matchups, including an Allen-Billy Curley 4-5 game that could leave blood on the floor of the Conte Forum. Jack "The Shot" Foley vs. Rip Hamilton is a good case of old school vs. new school. I don't envision any of the top seeds having issues, yet.
Cast your votes now. Round 2 closes at 11 p.m. Tuesday.
A look at Thursday’s NCAA Tournament games.
By region in order of tip-off
In Lexington, Ky.
6. Butler (26-8) vs. 11. Bucknell (28-5): A matchup of two really good coaches in Butler’s Brad Stevens and Bucknell’s Dave Paulsen (who used to coach Williams). Neither team will beat itself. This will be an intriguing big-man matchup between Bucknell’s Mike Muscala (19.0 ppg, 11.2 rpg) and Butler’s Andrew Smith (11.1 ppg, 5.7 rpg). Overall, both teams shoot well (45 percent). Butler’s best player is dynamic point guard Rotnei Clark (16.7) but glue-guy extraordinaire Roosevelt Jones is important defensively. In the end Butler’s just too good to lose this game.
3. Marquette (23-8) vs. 14. Davidson (26-7): Marquette has no stars and is a true scrappy unit that exceeds its individual talent with great team play. If anyone comes close to a star it’s “Twinkle Toes’’ Devon Garden who’s a XXXXL if there ever was one at 6-8, 290 but he has great footwork that puts that big body in the right places. He nails his free throws too (84 percent). Vander Blue (14.3) is a guard who doesn’t shoot threes well but gets to the basket. Davidson will make this a close game. Wildcats’ coach Bob McKillop is exceptional; his team shoots well, plays smart and defends tenaciously. Jake Cohen, a 6-10 center, can hurt opponents inside and out. If the game is close, remember the Wildcats lead the nation in free throw percentage at 80.
In San Jose, Calif.
5. UNLV (25-9) vs. 12. California (20-11): Back on Dec. 9 these two teams played a tight game with UNLV winning 76-75. It was also the game in which UNLV star forward Mike Moser was injured. A high-flying, high-scorer, he hasn’t been the same since he returned and it’s changed Vegas from a Final Four contender to maybe a Sweet 16 team. Despite that, the Rebels have the best freshman in the country in rugged forward Anthony Bennett (16.1 ppg, 8.1 rpg) and plenty of offensive threats. They’ve got to play together to be successful. Cal is symbolized by its star Allen Crabbe (18.7), who plays well enough to be Pac 12 player of the year but then can disappears at other times. Crabbe and his teammates need to be focused to have any chance.
4. Syracuse (26-9) vs. 13. Montana (25-6): Some experts see this as a possible upset because of Montana’s guards, Kareem Jamar (14.5 ppg, 4.1 apg) and Will Cherry (13.9). Unfortunately, the Grizzlies lost their leading scorer, Matthias Ward to an injury in February. On paper, Syracuse’s physical presence will overwhelm Montana, the Grizzlies don’t have anyone who will matchup with silky smooth 6-8 forward C.J. Fair or even a pair of 6-4 guards in Brandon Triche and Michael Carter-Williams (watch him dribble, it’s like he’s bending over to pick something off the court).
At Auburn Hills, Mich.
4. Michigan (26-7) vs. 13. South Dakota State (25-9): This is an upset possibility but it will take a huge effort from South Dakota State’s do-everything guard Nate Wolters who leads his team in scoring (22.7), assists (5.8) and also grabs a decent amount of rebounds (5.6), and he only averages 2.3 turnovers. Michigan has to stop him from a career game to avoid the upset. It’ll be interesting how the Wolverines 1-3-1 zone will affect him. Chances are he could get loose for some three-pointers. Michigan could dominate with their great trio of guards, Trey Burke (19.2), Tim Hardaway Jr. (14.8), and Glenn Robinson III (10.7) plus Canadian sharpshooter Nik Stauskus (11.5).
5. Virginia Commonwealth (26-8) vs. 12. Akron (26-6): VCU is known for its full-court pressure; Akron just lost its starting point guard, Alex Abreu, to suspension after he was arrested for buying marijuana. Sounds like a recipe for disaster. With Abreu, the Zips are a formidable unit that put together a 19-game winning streak. Their 7-0 center Zeke Marshall (13 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 3.7 bpg) can be a force. VCU’s pressure game can make things miserable for opponents especially Briante Weber who averages 2.8 steals per game. Without Abreu that’s almost sure to happen.
At Auburn Hills, Mich.
3. Michigan State (25-8) vs. 14. Valparaiso (26-7): The Spartans will give top effort, defend well (opponents shoot less than 40 percent), and rebound (plus seven margin) but they were a cut below the best in the Big Ten this season. Valpo will have to figure out how to defend the Spartans’ guards, Keith Appling (13.6 ppg, 3.5 apg) and Gary Harris (12.9). Valpo is well coached by Bryce Drew who played for his father Homer at Valpo and hit a buzzer-beating shot against Mississippi that’s still shown by CBS in his tournament teasers. That’s because it was a well-designed play and he appears to be as tactically astute as his father. His best players are two imports, 6-7 Aussie Ryan Broekhoff (15.9) and 6-8 Dutchman Kevin Van Wijk (12.7), who will have to hold their own against the Spartans’ physical big men.
6. Memphis (30-4) vs. 11. Saint Mary’s (28-6): The Tigers have lots of talent on the perimeter with guards Joe Jackson (13.6), Adonis Thomas (11.9), Chris Crawford (10.7), and Geron Johnson (10.5) all serious offensive threats. The big guys, Tarik Black and Shaq Goodwin, are intimidating. They also won 19 straight conference games but when challenged outside the league they lost to VCU, Louisville, Minnesota and Xavier. It makes people doubt. Saint Mary’s would have a season for the ages if it weren’t for Gonzaga, which beat them three times. The Gaels controlled the pace in their first-round matchup and will look to do the same. They need another big game from multi-skilled point guard Matthew Dellavedova.
At Lexington, Ky.
1. Louisville (29-5) vs. 16. North Carolina A&T (20-16): The Cardinals are the overall No. 1 seeded after winning the Big East Tournament in impressive fashion rallying like one of Rick Pitino’s race horses to win going away. The Cardinals have two sometimes stupendous, sometimes erratic guards in Russ Smith (18.1) and Peyton Siva (10.0) plus an intimidating shotblocker in Gorgui Dieng that helps the full-court press. This will amount to scrimmage in preparation for the tough games ahead.
8. Colorado State (25-8) vs. 9. Missouri (22-10): This will be the war on the boards. Colorado State leads the nation with a 12.1 rebounding margin and Missouri is third at 9.6. It will be ColoState’s Colton Iverson and Pierce Hornung vs. Missouri’s Alex Oriakhi and Laurence Bowers. Heck, the guards are both these teams rebound too. To win, Colorado State needs to slow down Missouri point guard Phil Pressey (7 assist per game) who can destroy defenses if he’s allowed to take the ball anywhere he wants. And that’s what he tries to do.
At San Jose, Calif.
4. Saint Louis (27-6) vs. 13. New Mexico State (24-10): Saint Louis is the best defensive team in the country; they like to put pressure on teams in the half-court and squeeze the life out of an offense. Teams just don’t have difficulty scoring against the Billikens; they have trouble just running their offense. New Mexico State would prefer to push the ball inside to their big guys, like 7-5, 360-pound Sim Bhullar and 6-8 Bandia Sy; it will be surprising if they can do it.
5. Oklahoma State (24-8) vs. 12. Oregon (26-8): This is the chance for Oregon to prove the selection committee wrong for their high seed but it’s not going to be easy. Okie State has the second best freshman in the country in Marcus Smart, a sleek slasher who’s not a great shooter but leads by example. His effort and decision making are top-notch. Oregon lost freshman point guard Dominic Artis briefly and slumped. He’s back and healthy. The Ducks’ leading scorer is E.J. Singler, younger brother of former Duke player Kyle Singler.
At Salt Lake City
8. Pittsburgh (24-8) vs. 9. Wichita State (26-8): Pitt has had a good season but remember the only road games the Panthers played were Big East conference games; that didn’t impress the committee or really prepare a team for this tournament. They’re about to go into the grinder. Wichita State is not a skilled offensive team but the Shockers have a philosophy: Solid defense, rebounding and patient offense. Pitt can play that game too so this figures to be low-scoring and close. Not sure if it’s a taffy pull or a rock fight.
1. Gonzaga (31-2) vs. 16. Southern (23-9): Southern has a great season as the program revived to make it back in the tournament. Forward Malcolm Miller is a terrific player but he’s not going to be enough to prevent a rout. The Zags are the most gifted offensive team in the tournament with great outside play from guards Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell and skilled inside play from Kelly Olynyk and Elias Harris.
6. Arizona (25-7) vs. 11. Belmont (26-6): Belmont was a tournament regular from the Atlantic Sun and the Bruins moved to the Ohio Valley this season and won that. The committee was impressed and gave them a decent seed. The Bruins play through two really good guards, Ian Clark (18.1) and Kerron Johnson (13.7). Clark makes 46 percent of his threes. Arizona slumped a bit at the end losing three of their last five but the Wildcats are still really talented especially guard Mark Lyons (14.8) and forward Soloman Hill (13.4).
3. New Mexico (29-5) vs. 14. Harvard (19-9): Harvard’s NCAA bid was a great reward for the unexpected Ivy title. The Crimson would be wise to turn this into a half-court game because they’re going to be giving away size and speed. An upset would be shocking. New Mexico has legitimate Final Four aspirations because of a high-octane offense sparked by guard Kendall Williams, who’s talented enough to score 46 points in one game but also leads the team in assists.